Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do You Want Coverage With That?

And the latest Obamacare susccess story is:
The new health care law could make it difficult for companies like McDonald's to continue offering limited insurance coverage to their low-wage workers.

The world's largest hamburger chain provides its hourly workers with low-cost plans known as "mini-meds" or limited benefits plans. These plans typically cover things like doctor's office visits and prescription drugs. But they don't provide comprehensive coverage, and they often come with a cap on how much the insurer pays in annual benefits that is much lower than a major medical insurance plan.

Next year, the health care law passed by Congress will require insurers to pay minimum percentages of 80 percent and 85 percent of the premiums they collect toward medical care, figures that may be hard to meet for some of these limited plans.

On Thursday, McDonald's denied a report that it's considering dropping health care coverage for some employees because they won't meet those limits.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that McDonald's has warned regulators it could drop its plan for some 30,000 workers unless the government waives a new requirement in the health care overhaul. The paper cited a memo from McDonald's to federal officials.

McDonald's said Thursday in a statement it has been speaking with federal agencies to understand the law, but the company called reports that it planned to drop health care coverage for employees "completely false."
But maybe not. This is the devil in the details that Obamacare's supporters won't talk about-how companies will be able to continue to afford already existing health care plans under Obamacare rules. Of course, since McDonalds are evil killers, they don't matter...

Turn That &%$#! Down

It's good to know they're on top of the important things:
Legislation to turn down the volume on those loud TV commercials that send couch potatoes diving for their remote controls looks like it'll soon become law.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill late Wednesday to require television stations and cable companies to keep commercials at the same volume as the programs they interrupt.

The House has passed similar legislation. Before it can become law, minor differences between the two versions have to be worked out when Congress returns to Washington after the Nov. 2 election.
So, I guess this means we won't have to listen to their election-year pitches as loudly as we used to, either...

This Is Not An Ex-Species

It seems scientists have once again overestimated the danger to endangered species:
Conservationists are overestimating the number of species that have been driven to extinction, scientists have said.

A study has found that a third of all mammal species declared extinct in the past few centuries have turned up alive and well.

Dr Diana Fisher, of the University of Queensland, Australia, compiled a list of all mammals declared extinct since the 16th century or which were flagged up as missing in scientific papers.

‘We identified 187 mammal species that have been missing since 1500,’ she wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

‘In the complete data-set, 67 species that were once missing have been rediscovered.

More than a third of mammal species that have been classified as extinct or possibly extinct, or flagged as missing, have been rediscovered.’

Mammals that suffered from loss of habitat were the most likely to have been declared extinct and then rediscovered, she said.

Species spread out over larger areas were also more likely to be wrongly classified as extinct.

The mistakes cannot be blamed on primitive technology or old fashioned scientific methods.
But they can be blamed on the same mindset that brought us climategate...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Earth 2?

Well, not quite. But still pretty cool:
US astronomers said Wednesday they have discovered an Earth-sized planet that they think might be habitable, orbiting a nearby star, and believe there could be many more planets like it in space.

The planet, found by astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, is orbiting in the middle of the "habitable zone" of the red dwarf star Gliese 581, which means it could have water on its surface.

Liquid water and an atmosphere are necessary for a planet to possibly sustain life, even it it might not be a great place to live, the scientists said.

The scientists determined that the planet, which they have called Gliese 581g, has a mass three to four times that of Earth and an orbital period of just under 37 days.

Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet and has enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere, according to Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and one of the leaders of the team that discovered the planet.
Maybe we can send some of the Democrats there if they lose...

Nancy's House

Surprise, surprise: The Most Ethical Congress Evah? Not so much:
Republicans, trying to win back control of the House, now cite ethics charges against Reps. Charles Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California to argue that the speaker broke her word to run the most ethical Congress.

Rangel, former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, is charged with financial and fundraising misconduct, and has acknowledged some ethical lapses.

Waters, a senior member of the Financial Services Committee, is contesting allegations that she sought federal aid for a bank where her husband is an investor.

Republicans on the House ethics committee demanded Tuesday that the Rangel and Waters trials be completed before the November elections.

Recent news reports also revealed that Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., awarded Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to relatives. The foundation has close ties to the Congressional Black Caucus, although it is run separately as a tax-exempt organization.

And last week former lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti, who helped defense clients secure government contracts, pleaded guilty to illegally funneling more than $380,000 in campaign contributions to House members controlling the Pentagon's budget. Three top Democrats he worked with - Jim Moran of Virginia, Peter Visclosky of Indiana and the late John Murtha of Pennsylvania - directed $137 million in defense contracts to the lobbyist's clients.

While no member of Congress has been criminally charged or found to have violated House rules, outside ethics watchdog groups have criticized the lawmakers' conduct.
I think any time a politician promises "Reform", they are usually asking for trouble, because too often they have to put their own house in order first-and fail to do so.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

EPA Granted Sweeping Powers, Women And Minorities Hardest Hit

So much for job creation:
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, released today a new EPW Minority staff report titled, “EPA’s Anti-Industrial Policy: Threatening Jobs and America’s Manufacturing Base,” which chronicles a series of EPA proposals that could destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, many in the industrial heartland, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine the global competitiveness of America’s manufacturers.

The report reviewed the following proposals:

New standards for commercial and industrial boilers: up to 798,250 jobs at risk;
New standards for Portland Cement plants: up to 18 cement plants at risk of shutting down, threatening nearly 1,800 direct jobs and 9,000 indirect jobs;
The Endangerment Finding/Tailoring Rules for Greenhouse Gas Emissions: higher energy costs; jobs moving overseas; severe economic impacts on the poor, the elderly, minorities, and those on fixed incomes; 6.1 million sources subject to EPA control and regulation; and
The revised National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone: severe restrictions on job creation and business expansion in hundreds of counties nationwide.
How onerous is this? Even several Democrats have come out against this. Of course, I'm sure that once everyone is freezing they'll be thinking that at least it's good for the environment.

Post-Recovery Blues

I guess "Recovery Summer" really is over:
Americans' view of the economy turned grimmer in September amid escalating job worries, falling to the lowest point since February.

The downbeat report, released Tuesday, raises more fears about the tenuous U.S. economic recovery. It also further underscores the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street; consumers' confidence fell further even as stocks rebounded in September.

The Conference Board, based in New York, said its monthly Consumer Confidence Index now stands at 48.5, down from the revised 53.2 in August. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting 52.5.

The reading marked the lowest point since February's 46.4. It takes a reading of 90 to indicate a healthy economy - a level not approached since the recession began in December 2007.
But don't worry. As Obama says, stop whining! Even though others disagree.

Democracy! Bacon! And Sexy!

Canadian men, start your engines:
A Toronto judge has struck down Canada’s prostitution laws, effectively decriminalizing activities associated with the world’s oldest trade.

“These laws, individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Justice Susan Himel of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice said in Tuesday’s landmark decision.

The long-awaited judgment had been on reserve for nearly a year.

Himel said that while she has concluded the laws amount to a serious violation of the Charter, she has imposed a 30-day “stay” on her decision to give lawyers for the federal and provincial governments, as well as the women at the centre of the case, an opportunity to make fuller submissions on whether her decision to invalidate the laws should be placed on hold for an even longer period of time.

Rona Ambrose, minister for status of women, said the Conservative government is “very concerned” about the court decision and is considering an appeal.
But, for the sake of lonely Canucks, hopefully not too soon...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tapping The Dark Age

Should we be worried?
The Obama administration is developing plans that would require all Internet-based communication services -- such as encrypted BlackBerry e-mail, Facebook, and Skype -- to be capable of complying with federal wiretap orders, according to a report published Monday.

National security officials and federal law enforcement argue their ability to eavesdrop on terror suspects is increasingly "going dark," The New York Times reported, as more communication takes place via Internet services, rather than by traditional telephone.

The bill, which the White House plans to deliver to Congress next year, would require communication service providers be technically capable of intercepting and decrypting messages, raising serious privacy concerns, the Times said.

The proposal has "huge implications" and poses a test to the "fundamental elements of the Internet revolution," vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, James Dempsey, told the Times.

"They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function," he was quoted as saying.

Officials contend, however, that without new regulations their ability to prevent attacks could be hindered.

"We're not talking expanding authority," FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni told the Times. "We're talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."
Of course, that's what they always claim, and I really don't have a problem with modernizing wiretapping laws-as long as it's done, you know, legally. But then the question always comes down to of where does it end, and who's doing the tapping-and why.

Coffee Grounds

The Coffee Party doesn't seem to be a great success:
The Coffee Party USA — which was founded on Facebook and is holding its first national convention in Louisville this weekend — bills itself as a more thoughtful and reasoned alternative to the tea party.

Saturday night the organization held a panel discussion, part of its three-day “Restoring American Democracy” convention, that included bloggers, college professors and communications strategists talking about what they can do to make politics more inclusive.

They also discussed how to draw more disenfranchised voters back into the democratic process.
The discussion before about 350 people at the Galt House touched on policy, politics and values and how to bridge the partisan divide.

“You can always find ways to discredit everyone you have a problem with, but if you do that, you have no one to talk to at the table,” said Annabel Park, a 42-year-old documentary filmmaker who organized the group in January. “We have to develop a trust among each other, as well as with the government.”
Maybe that's part of their problem. Most Americans don't inherently trust the government...

Assassination Art

And so here we have another "Artist" with too much time on his hands:
A Brazilian artist has provoked outrage by unveiling a series of drawings in which he depicts himself assassinating nine world leaders.

The charcoal drawings by Gil Vicente became a focus of controversy when they went on display at the opening of the Sao Paulo Art Biennial on Saturday.

The former US President George W Bush is shown kneeling on the ground with his wrists bound behind him as Vicente pushes a pistol into his temple.

The Queen faces the onlooker with her hands clasped before her, apparently unaware that the artist is behind her pointing a gun at her back.

Pope Benedict XVI confronts the assassin with his hands raised, while the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Solva is trussed like a joint of meat with a butcher’s knife at his throat.

Other world leaders depicted in the violent series include the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The series, called Inimigos (Enemies), is meant to highlight alleged crimes for which the leaders have been directly or indirectly responsible by imagining that they are being made to pay the price.

"Because they kill so many other people, it would be a favour to kill them, understand? Why don't people in power and in the elite die?" he said.
Well, Ima Dinnerjacket I can understand. What I can't understand is why mentally disturbed individuals are given a pass because they're deemed "Creative".

Sunday, September 26, 2010

E.T.'s Ambassador

Well, it's good to know they'll be ready:
THE United Nations was set today to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth’s first contact for any aliens that may come visiting.

Mazlan Othman, the head of the UN's little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa), is to describe her potential new role next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference centre in Buckinghamshire.

She is scheduled to tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before - and that means the UN must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any “first contact”.

During a talk Othman gave recently to fellow scientists, she said: “The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials.

"When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”
Because they've been so well coordinated in the past...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Carnivore Tales

Try as they might, the would-be supermoms still can't get Americans to eat their vegetables:
Despite two decades of public health initiatives, stricter government dietary guidelines, record growth of farmers’ markets and the ease of products like salad in a bag, Americans still aren’t eating enough vegetables.

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a comprehensive nationwide behavioral study of fruit and vegetable consumption. Only 26 percent of the nation’s adults eat vegetables three or more times a day, it concluded. (And no, that does not include French fries.)

These results fell far short of health objectives set by the federal government a decade ago. The amount of vegetables Americans eat is less than half of what public health officials had hoped. Worse, it has barely budged since 2000.

“It is disappointing,” said Dr. Jennifer Foltz, a pediatrician who helped compile the report. She, like other public health officials dedicated to improving the American diet, concedes that perhaps simply telling people to eat more vegetables isn’t working.

“There is nothing you can say that will get people to eat more veggies,” said Harry Balzer, the chief industry analyst for the NPD Group, a market research company.

The government keeps trying, too, to get its message across. It now recommends four and a half cups of fruits and vegetables (that’s nine servings) for people who eat 2,000 calories a day. Some public health advocates have argued that when the guidelines are updated later this year, they should be made even clearer. One proposal is to make Americans think about it visually, filling half the plate or bowl with vegetables.

But clear guidance probably isn’t enough. Health officials now concede that convincing a nation that shuns vegetables means making vegetables more affordable and more available.

“We have to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Dr. Foltz said. And the choices need to become ingrained.
Ingrained how? Will Michelle Obama be granted the authority to ban cheeseburgers from McDonalds? And the key word here is choice. We still have that, fortunately.

Let Them Eat Stimulus

Jimmy Buffett says people are too angry:
“I hope we get over it pretty soon, because it’s not productive,’’ Buffett said. “We will come back regardless of how people feel about Washington, but it is not helpful to have people as unhappy as they are about what’s going on in Washington.”

More than three-quarters of U.S. investors view Obama as anti-business and are pessimistic about his policies, a Bloomberg survey this month indicated.

The U.S. unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, even after an $814 billion stimulus measure enacted last year and other government actions.

The Federal Reserve has kept the benchmark overnight lending rate target close to zero and said this week that it was prepared to ease policy further.

“The truth is we’re running a federal deficit that’s 9 percent of gross domestic product,” Buffett said. “That’s stimulative as all get out. It’s more stimulative than any policy we’ve followed since World War II.”

Buffett also said that the economy remains in a recession, by his definition, because most people and businesses still aren’t doing as well as they were before the financial crisis.
Um, maybe that's why they're angry, Mr. Buffett. And, of course, not everyone supports being stimulated:
U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration weakened the country’s economy by seeking to foster growth instead of paying down the federal debt, said Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of “The Black Swan.”

“Obama did exactly the opposite of what should have been done,” Taleb said yesterday in Montreal in a speech as part of Canada’s Salon Speakers series. “He surrounded himself with people who exacerbated the problem. You have a person who has cancer and instead of removing the cancer, you give him tranquilizers. When you give tranquilizers to a cancer patient, they feel better but the cancer gets worse.”
Or, to use another example, when you keep giving drugs to a drug addict...

Black Gold, Dutch Tea

Is Greenland the new Alaska?
The success of a massive deep-water drilling rig operated by Cairn Energy, a Scottish company, could mean that the world's newest oil-and-gas rush is underway, this time in one of the globe's most remote, rugged and pristine locations. For Americans used to hearing about huge fossil fuel deposits in Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Russia and other locations that are politically unstable or intermittently antagonistic toward the West, this could come as welcome news. Greenland is a lightly inhabited arctic wilderness administered for now by the unthreatening Scandinavian country of Denmark. The territory is counting on oil and mineral development to fund a gradual move toward independence, and the discovery is being cheered in Nuuk, Greenland's capital.
Domestic production does have a way of boosting a country's economic success...

Hip To Be Socialist

So, here we have an exchange between Andrew Brietbart and Bill Maher, and Maher is (for once) caught off guard when called out:

As Allahpundit notes:
Because libertarianism tends to operate in popular debate as a critique of mainstream conservatism (even though, of course, economically it’s a much sharper critique of liberalism), it’s a useful way of endorsing certain elements of the GOP agenda without endorsing the entire rotten GOP brand, essentially shorthand for saying, “I like capitalism but I’m too thoughtful to be a Republican.” None of which is meant to impugn committed libertarians like the Reason crew, just guys like Maher who dig the label and the slight charge of dissident chic that it carries so much that they’re reluctant to part with it, even after they’ve (d)evolved into center-left Democrats.
In other words, Maher was libertarian when it was cool for liberals to be so. Now that libertarianism is the new Republicanism, Maher has to go where the "Cool" dissidents are.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Low Lowdown

Desperation, or just more dirty tricks?
Insiders on Capitol Hill are buzzing about an upcoming New York Times exposé that will detail an alleged Boehner affair. Sources say the Times is looking for the right time to drop the story in October to sway the election, similar to how the Times reported during the 2008 presidential campaign on an alleged John McCain affair that supposedly had taken place many years before and that was flatly denied by the woman in question.

"Catching Boehner with a mistress is the only way to destroy him politically before the election," a source said.

A rep for Boehner's office said, "This is bull[bleep]. The American people oppose Washington Democrats' job killing, so their desperate liberal allies are resorting to outright lies. It's low, and it's dirty."
Until more concrete evidence comes out, I'm going to have to agree. Scandal mongering is too often the last act of a desperate rival.

Fairey Tale

Add another one for whom the thrill is gone:
Maybe it was inevitable that Hope would fade. Fairey's blue-and-red image was altered from an Associated Press photograph of Obama, and the artist is embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit over use of that picture. (He didn't discuss the case with National Journal.) Fairey, who at 40 is no kid himself, said it's easy to see why young voters are down on Obama and the Democrats. He lamented that health care reform was watered down, Tea Party activists have been emboldened, and his man has fallen short on bold campaign promises like closing Guantanamo Bay.

"There's a lot of stuff completely out of Obama's control or any of the Democrats' control," Fairey allowed. "But I think there's something a little deeper in terms of the optimism of the younger voter that's happening. They wanted somebody who was going to fight against the status quo, and I don't think that Obama has done that."

To be sure, Fairey still supports Obama, and he says he would use his talents to assist the president's re-election efforts in 2012. But he said that he couldn't design the same Hope poster today, because the spirit of the Obama campaign hasn't carried over to the Obama presidency.

"To say I feel disappointment is within the context that I know he's very intelligent, very capable, very compassionate," Fairey said. "I think he has the tools, and he does not trust his instincts in how to apply them."
With all due respect to Fairey, if he was all that capable, wouldn't he have realized that his ideas wouldn't take with most Americans-and therefore prevent his current decline?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Don't Work And Drink

It sounds like some Chrysler employees have found a new use for their company's bailout money:
Chrysler said it has suspended some plant workers caught by a Detroit television station drinking alcohol and smoking what appeared to be marijuana during breaks.

Chrysler manufacturing chief Scott Garberding told WJBK-TV in a report that aired Wednesday night that the automaker identified some of the workers from Detroit's Jefferson North plant on tape and was pursuing the others. Garberding and other Chrysler executives came to the Fox affiliate's studio to view the footage.

Garberding told the station a few workers were suspended indefinitely without pay pending further investigation. He did not say how many.

"For us, this behavior is totally unacceptable and will be dealt with swiftly," he said. "What's difficult about this is these few people who exhibited bad behavior have painted a bad picture of what's an outstanding assembly plant filled with outstanding and committed Chrysler employees."

President Barack Obama visited Jefferson North and other auto plants in July to argue that his administration's $60 billion bailout of Chrysler and General Motors was paying off through increased car sales and progress on battery-powered vehicles.

Chrysler received about $15 billion in government help and was placed under control of Italian automaker Fiat as part of its bankruptcy.
Well, I have to admit, if I was working for Fiat I'd probably drink, too...

Political Retardation

Forgive me if I think this is well, retarded:
Disabilities advocates are applauding Congress for passing legislation that eliminates the term "mental retardation" from federal laws.

The measure, passed by the House by voice vote Wednesday night, changes the phrase "mentally retarded" to "an individual with an intellectual disability" in existing health, education and labor law.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, sponsor of the bill with Republican Sen Mike Enzi, of Wyoming, said it would make language in federal law consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health arm of the United Nations and the White House.

"Rosa's Law," named after a Maryland girl with Down Syndrome, passed the Senate last month and now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
I think "Intellectual disability" is a good way to describe most of Congress...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Coates Comes Clean?

Well, this could be interesting:
In a dramatic development that could shake the political leadership of the Justice Department, career lawyer Christopher Coates has sent a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights offering to testify Friday on matters related to the controversial New Black Panthers voter-intimidation case.

Ten months ago, Coates, the award-winning former chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, was subpoenaed by the Commission to testify about the case. He was subsequently instructed by DOJ officials to ignore the subpoena. Within the past hour, commissioners were informed that Chairman Gerald Reynolds had spoken with Coates and that the chairman would reconvene the Commission’s ongoing hearing on Friday at 9:30 a.m. to hear Coates’s testimony.
Apparently not everyone in Obama's Justice Department is interested in sweeping this under the rug, no matter how hard they tried.

Mr. Colbert Goes To Washington

Well, at least he'd be funnier than Al Franken:
Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert is slated to testify at a congressional hearing Friday on immigration titled “Protecting America’s Harvest.”

One Republican source said Colbert will be testifying “in character,” the Bill O’Reilly-like muse Colbert uses for his show.

A House Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, confirming Colbert would testify, said the hearing matter was a “serious issue . . . this is not a TV stunt.”

Some Republicans have already expressed unhappiness with Colbert witnessing at the hearing, thinking it would make light of a serious issue.

The hearing is before the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee.
Apparently he will be appearing in character. The scary part is, some of those in attendance might think he's the real thing.

The Pledge

So the Republicans have unveiled their big agenda, and, at 21 pages, it is rather substantial. NRO has a rundown:
The pledge divides its policy commitments into five parts. The first concerns jobs. The Republicans promise to stop tax increases, to require congressional approval of regulations with a large economic impact, and to give small businesses a tax deduction. To our minds, this section of the pledge is the least impressive. The first two policies would merely prevent government from destroying jobs, and the rationale for the third is elusive. (We like small businesses, but other companies generate jobs, too.) Still, these are better economic policies than we are getting from the administration or the current congressional leadership.

The longer-range policies are more compelling. The second section of the pledge promises budget restraint. Domestic discretionary spending would be cut back to “pre-bailout, pre-stimulus” levels, and then its growth would be capped — generating hundreds of billions in savings. The legislative budget, which has grown unjustifiably in recent years, would also be pruned back: Republicans know they cannot cut spending elsewhere if they will not cut spending on themselves. TARP would be ended, as would the federal entanglement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A federal hiring freeze would be instituted. And Congress would make “a full accounting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” If that means putting their long-term unfunded liabilities on budget, it would be an important first step toward reform.

Third comes health care, where the Republicans say they “will immediately take action to repeal” Obamacare. They also plan to work toward their own health-care reforms, including medical-malpractice reform, freedom to buy health insurance across state lines, and better-funded high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions. They also promise to enact a law banning federal funding of abortion. That would strengthen the existing Hyde amendment, which applies only to a portion of federal spending and has to be renewed every year. (Here, too, the pledge goes beyond the Contract, which steered clear of all “social issues.”)
It's a lot less focused on social issues than some will like, however. As Allahpundit notes:
This isn't a truce, but it’s waaaay further towards the libertarian end in its priorities than the social con end. Sign o’ the times. Hope it plays well with the southern base, or at least that they’re buying DeMint’s argument that fiscal conservatism and social conservatism are inextricably linked.
If it means a step towards the more libertarian side of things, that's a good thing IMO. Of course, we'll see how serious they are if they do get to hold the reins again, but this looks like a good start.

The Amazing Colossal Government

Via Instapundit, an explanation as to how big government got that way:
Rising spending is facilitated by how we finance entitlement programs; under a “pay-as-you-go” approach, legislators promise benefits before funding them producing an inexorable upward creep in total costs. This contrasts with private-sector pensions, which are generally pre-funded. Rather than amassing assets to fund obligations as they are generated, entitlement programs generate benefit obligations today, which are paid for out of tax revenues tomorrow. For instance, by working today I become entitled to Medicare benefits in retirement, but those benefits will be financed by taxes future workers will pay.

All our entitlement programs promise overgenerous benefits relative to current taxes, and in theory can be resolved either by raising taxes or reducing benefits. But because beneficiaries have been told they paid for and earned their benefits, they present a pseudo-moral case for raising taxes rather than reducing benefits. (A true moral case would exist if beneficiaries actually had paid taxes sufficient to fund their benefits.) Pay-as-you-go financing biases policy toward promising rising benefits over time and biases politics toward raising taxes to whatever level necessary to pay them.
In other words, creating an entitlement culture has resulted in those who expect to be taken care of not having to consider the costs for those who are paying for it. And, if the costs keep rising as they have been, that care might not be there for the next generation that will need it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bloggin' In The Years: 1980

As we approach a historic, possibly game-changing election, Governor Ronald Reagan asks the voters a question:

I think I know what choice a lot of people are going to be making...

Big Brother's Paymaster

Oh, this is a great idea:
The UK's tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

Currently employers withhold tax and pay the government, providing information at the end of the year, a system know as Pay as You Earn (PAYE). There is no option for those employees to refuse withholding and individually file a tax return at the end of the year.

If the real-time information plan works, it further proposes that employers hand over employee salaries to the government first.

"The next step could be to use (real-time) information as the basis for centralizing the calculation and deduction of tax," HMRC said in a July discussion paper.

HMRC described the plan as "radical" as it would be a huge change from the current system that has been largely unchanged for 66 years.
What could go wrong?

Filibuster Filler

While I disagree with the result, I appreciate the way it was handled:
The Senate on Tuesday dealt a significant blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to repeal the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.

In a 56-43 vote, Senate Democratic leaders fell short of the 60 votes they needed to proceed to the 2011 defense authorization bill, which included language to repeal the Clinton-era “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Every Senate Republican present and three Democrats voted to block debate on the bill.

Republicans objected to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) plan to hold votes on several amendments to the bill that reflected Democratic priorities, including an immigration measure seen as boosting Reid’s own reelection campaign. Reid also would have limited amendments offered by the GOP.
Democracy in action. And it should remind conservatives of why they still need John McCain:
McCain, who led the GOP filibuster, blamed Reid for the standoff. He mentioned the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” language and the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants if those children serve in the military or attend college. Reid had pledged to bring up the DREAM Act as an amendment to the defense bill.

McCain said the move was a “blatant and cynical attempt to galvanize the Hispanic vote” and to “energize the gay and lesbian vote, in the case of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

“Obviously, we need a defense authorization bill. We need one very badly, and I hope that at some point we’ll address it,” McCain said at a Capitol Hill press conference.
While I do hope Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be repealed, and would like to see a path to citizenship for those who deserve it, these should be seperate issues. Tacking them onto a defense spending bill is the kind of social engineering that only causes headaches later on. Kudos to McCain for not going along with it.

The Pontiff's Payoff

The next time Pope Benedict complains about materialism, he might want to check his own books first:
Italy’s finance police have seized €23m held by the Vatican in an Italian bank while the pope’s top two bankers have been placed under investigation for suspected money laundering.

Police confirmed Italian media reports that they had confiscated the funds held by the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) – the Vatican’s bank – in an account at Credito Artigiano, an Italian bank, following suspicions raised by the Bank of Italy over two attempted transfers.

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, formerly Bank Santander’s head of operations in Italy and a professor of ethical finance, was appointed head of IOR a year ago. According to sources close to the Vatican, one of his main mandates was to bring the bank in line with international norms and regulations on tax havens and money laundering.

The second official being investigated is Paolo Cipriani, the bank’s director-general.

The Vatican expressed its full confidence in Mr Gotti Tedeschi. In a statement it expressed surprise at the investigation and said it remained committed to financial transparency.

The Credito Valtellinese group, which owns Credito Artigiano, said it had no comment.
If they did, their partners would probably make them swim with the fishes...

Suffer The Children

Because they're the ones who have to bear the burden of "Reform":
Some of the country's most prominent health insurance companies have decided to stop offering new child-only plans, rather than comply with rules in the new health-care law that will require such plans to start accepting children with preexisting medical conditions after Sept. 23.

The companies will continue to cover children who already have child-only policies. They will also accept children with preexisting conditions in new family policies.
Of course, reform's defenders know where to cast the blame:
Nonetheless, supporters of the new health-care law complain that the change amounts to an end run around one of the most prized consumer protections.

"We're just days away from a new era when insurance companies must stop denying coverage to kids just because they are sick, and now some of the biggest changed their minds," Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now, an advocacy group, said in a statement. "[It] is immoral, and to blame their appalling behavior on the new law is patently dishonest."
Except that, well, actually they can:
Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for AHIP, noted that insurers will be accepting children with preexisting conditions in other types of plans.

But, he said, extending such coverage in child-only policies "provides a very powerful incentive for a parent to wait until their child becomes very sick before purchasing coverage."

Zirkelbach added that in 2014, when similar protections kick in for all individuals with preexisting conditions, virtually all Americans will be required to get health insurance.

With no such mandate currently in place, however, the result over the next several years could be that the pool of children insured by child-only plans would rapidly skew toward those with expensive medical bills, either bankrupting the plans or forcing insurers to make up their losses by substantially increasing premiums for all customers. And Zirkelbach said the effect could be compounded if only a few plans remain in the market.
As the always astute Ed Morrisey points out:
No one will buy a $3000 plan for comprehensive insurance for a child who is healthy, not unless it comes as part of an insurance plan for the whole family. They might buy a catastrophic insurance plan for a few hundred dollars for use just in case the child gets sick, but that kind of plan won’t exist any longer under ObamaCare. Now that the mandates for coverage exist for pre-existing conditions, parents no longer need to bother with that, anyway, as they are now in a no-risk position. They can just wait to see if their child gets sick enough to need insurance, and then buy it.

Most younger people take one visit to a clinic each year, which would cost arounbd $150, for a physical, a far cry from the thousands they will have to pay for ObamaCare exchange policies. They are being used to subsidize older members of the risk pool in order to keep insurers from going bankrupt under the weight of ObamaCare mandates for coverage.
Controlling the market so that only a few benefit at the expense of everyone else will only ensure that those who really need the service won't be able to afford it-unless the government gives it to them, of course.

Town Hall Bust

I'm surprised this isn't happening more often:
The mayor, former city manager and most of the city council in a Los Angeles suburb were arrested on Tuesday and charged with misappropriating $5.5 million in public funds in what a prosecutor said amounted to treating the city's coffers like "their own piggy bank."

Eight current and former Bell officials were arrested, including former City Manager Robert Rizzo, 56, whose nearly $800,000 salary ignited a furor over public pay and pensions across California.

Rizzo who was cast by law enforcement as the "unofficial czar" of a city government gone bad.

The salary revelations by a newspaper in July sparked investigations up and down the state, and have made government accountability into an issue in the governor's race for financially foundering California.

Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez, City Council members George Mirabal, Teresa Jacobo and Luis Artiga, former City Council members George Cole and Victor Bello and former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia all were arrested.

The charged City Council members were being paid nearly $100,000 a year for their part-time jobs overseeing the affairs of the blue-collar city with a population of roughly 40,000.
Hey, corruption is expensive...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Big Brother Was Watching You

By now, this should surprise no one:
The FBI overstepped its authority in investigating left-wing domestic groups after the September 11, 2001 attacks and then misled Congress about its actions, an inspector general's report said Monday.

The report said the FBI improperly used the cover of "terrorism" to investigate a number of domestic activist groups from 2001 to 2006 including Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the pacifist Thomas Merton Center.

The Justice Department inspector general's report, requested by Congress four years ago, said the FBI classified these investigations as "domestic terrorism cases" but had little to back this up.

It said this was based on "potential crimes" including trespassing and vandalism "that could alternatively have been classified differently."

The report also said the FBI "made false and misleading statements to Congress" about the investigations including surveillance of an anti-war rally, and said that the agency should review whether "administrative or other action is warranted" for this.
The past continues to come back to bite the present. Of course, it's not as if we've learned a whole lot since then.

"Is This My New Reality?"

A former Obama supporter asks the President the question:

A lot of people want to know the same thing...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Decline And Rebirth Of The American Dream

Victor Davis Hanson says it's not impossible, if we learn from the past:
As a general rule, the more freedom of the individual and flexibility of markets — with lower taxes, less bureaucracy, constitutional government, more transparency, and the rule of law — the more likely a society is to create wealth and rebound from either war or natural disasters.

These truths transcend space and time, and they trump race and nationality, weather and climate, resources and geography. The notion that we are doomed and the Chinese fated to prosper is not written in stone. It is simply a matter of free will, theirs and ours. They must deal with a new era of coming suburban blues, worker discontent, unions, environmental discretion and regulation, an aging and shrinking population and greater personal appetites, social protest, and nonconformity — in the manner that industrializing Western nations did as well in the early twentieth century.

In our hands

We in turn can easily outdistance any country should we remain the most free, law-abiding, and economically open society as in our past. A race-gender-ethnic-blind meritocracy, equal application of the law, low taxes, small government, and a transparent political and legal system are at the heart of that renewal. America could within a decade become a creditor nation again, with a trade balance and budget surplus, drawing in the world’s talent and capital in a way not possible in the more inflexible or less meritocratic China, Japan, or Germany. Again that is our choice, not a superimposed destiny from someone else.

Unfortunately, we are mired — as in the case of many complex societies that become ever more top-heavy and bureaucratic, when salvation alone is found in becoming less so — in a new peasant notion of the limited good. Anything produced is seen to come at the expense of others. Absolute wealth is imaginary, relative wealth is not. We would rather be equal and unexceptional than collectively better off with a few more better off still.
Borrowing from failed economic models overseas, and the mindset that goes with them, is not the key to America's future renewal and prosperity. We have gone through boom and bust cycles in the past, including the trauma of the Great Depression and the wearying inflation and recession of the 1970s. It's typically those who have benefitted from their own acquirred wealth who seem to think they have the authority to tell others not to attain their own. We can still turn ourselves around, if we listen to history instead.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

When The Professor Speaks, Nobody Listens

Doctor Zero explains why Obama's cerebral approach won't work anymore:
Let me put this bluntly: virtually no one in America gives a damn what Barack Obama says about anything at this point. What could be more predictable, and less interesting, than Obama’s opinion on any given subject? Who wants to contemplate the economic wisdom of a guy who looted the Treasury for a trillion dollars, with less benefit than we could have achieved by stuffing hundred dollar bills into random cereal boxes? Who’s excited to hear about the next plan to convert taxpayer dollars into Democrat campaign funds? Who’s hungry for another hour of tedious excuses about permanently broken markets and the titanic dead hand of George W. Bush? Who wants a lecture on ethical business practices from the titular head of the party that gave us Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters? What use is another hollow foreign-policy speech from a man who sees no global adversary to rival the menace of Arizona? Even Obama’s supporters don’t hear anything he says any more. There’s nothing left to hear.
This is the problem with having a professor for President-eventually, the students try to find ways of getting out of his class.

The War On Appliances

I suppose the one thing you can say about the following is that they're honest about their agenda:
Assistant Secretary of Energy Cathy Zoi said Thursday that the U.S. Department of Energy has a “mandate” to issue regulations to determine what household appliances are available to Americans in the future.

Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the recently reestablished Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), Zoi pointed to four tactics the Obama administration intended use to advance the “deployment of clean energy.” The first three were government subsidies for private-sector green energy projects, special tax incentives for green energy projects and low-interest government-backed loans for green energy projects.

“The fourth one, which the secretary and I love,” said Zoi, “is where we have a mandate. Where we can actually just issue regulations and do market transformation.”

Zoi was referring to authority the department has under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 as amended by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That law gives the DOE the power to set efficiency standards for energy-consuming products.

“That’s an existing statute that this department of energy is going to make work really hard,” Zoi said. “We’ve already issued appliance standards that are going to save the American public somewhere between $250 billion and $300 billion over the next 20 years just by getting the crummy stuff off the market."
Because obviously the masses can't decide for themselves...

The First Casualties Of "Reform"

Here it comes:
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut requested a wide range of premium increases, which will take effect Oct. 1, to cover the costs of new benefits required by federal health reform. Higher prices mostly affect new members shopping for a health plan on the individual market rather than people who have group plans through an employer or some other organization.

The Connecticut Department of Insurance approved Anthem’s request without changes, including a boost of as much as 22.9 percent just to comply with one provision: eliminating annual spending limits per customer. But it’s unclear how much more customers will pay because of the variety of plans and the complexity of other factors, such as a person’s age.

New provisions mandated by federal law to start Thursday include allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, eliminating annual and lifetime limits on the amount of money an insurer spends per customer and mandating that insurers cover the full cost of preventive services, such as mammogramsand colonoscopies.

The looming question is how much those new mandated benefits, along with rising medical costs, will raise prices for health insurance next year. Insurers will submit a new batch of rate requests in October and November to take effect in 2011.
No word on whether or not Kathleen Sebelius will swoop in and deal with this. So where were the lower costs supposed to come from, again?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bloggin' In The Years: 1973

Get rid of the cops? Nicholas Von Hoffman agrees with Murray Rothbard on this one:
In place of the tax-supported bandits in blue like the chaps who made off with dope from the actual French Connection, Rothbard would allow people to use the money they saved on bribes, extortion and taxes to hire private police. Where does that leave poor people? No worse off than they are now.

As it is, more and more people are depending on voluntary citizens patrols or private police for protection.

Rothbard would go even further. He'd sell the streets to neighborhood groups, cooperatives, and so forth. In that way, commercial cops would be subject to community control, would not only be doing what cops are supposed to do but they'd be operating on private property so they could keep anybody out the ownders didn't want around.
A free-market police force? I wonder if Dirty Harry needs a job...

Keeping Zombies Alive

Long after the bailout debacle, the pattern of zombie banks remains the same:
The largest banks, such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, still have too-big-to-fail guarantees, or at least that’s the logical perception. While most of those lenders have repaid their bailout cash, the majority of small banks that received money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program have not.

Weakened Banks

Hundreds of small banks remain grossly undercapitalized, unable to raise new funds, and yet continue to operate. That’s partly because the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. doesn’t have enough money or staff to seize all the banks that it should.

Meanwhile, executives who lie about their companies’ financial condition still have little to fear. Criminal prosecutions for such transgressions are rare. On those few occasions when the Securities and Exchange Commission sues a large company for fraud, chances are that its bosses will get off scot-free or, if they’re unlucky, with a wrist-slap.

It’s no wonder many investors now conclude the whole game is rigged. It would be easy to limit the blame to government and crony capitalists. Ultimately, though, we are responsible for the leaders we choose. As long as the American people remain unwilling to bear the full economic consequences of the last financial crisis, there will be no end to the bailout culture.
After all, the zombies still need to feed...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

About Those Tax Cuts...

The Democrats are becoming more divided over the Bush tax cuts:
Thirty-one House Democrats, most of whom face tough re-election bids this fall, have signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urging them to extend expiring tax breaks for all income levels, including the wealthy.

Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders have made it clear they support President Obama's proposal to vote on a bill that only renews tax breaks for those making $250,000 and under. But with the midterm elections less than two months away, leaders have not yet decided whether they will schedule a vote on the legislation before voters go to the polls.

The letter–written by Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, Illinois Rep. Melissa Bean, Virginia Rep. Glenn Nye and Michigan Rep. Gary Peters–states that after listening to economists, small businesses and families over recent weeks they are concerned that "raising any taxes right now could negatively impact economic growth."

"We believe in times of economic recovery it makes good sense to maintain things as they are in the short term, to provide families and businesses the certainty required to plan and make sound budget decisions. Providing this certainty will give small businesses, the backbone of our economic recovery, confidence and stability," the lawmakers wrote.
Well, they can start by not burying them in paperwork.

Sore Losermen, The "R" Version

Ed Morrisey on why the GOP establishment dropped the ball in Delaware:
The Republican Party establishment and the center-right commentariat have no problem lecturing conservatives when it comes to unifying behind establishment candidates that win primaries — and conservatives have had no problem uniting for the sake of a Republican nominee in a general election. However, when given a chance at reciprocity this year, and not just in Delaware, the establishment figures have a poor record of getting behind the candidate chosen by the Republican voters in the states. The GOP is in danger of becoming the Sore Loser Party and destroying its credibility with grass-roots activists in the process...

The GOP has made the “rules” of primaries clear. The primaries are the manner in which voters hold candidates accountable for their records. After the voters make their choice, though, the debate is supposed to be over. The GOP has demanded loyalty from various constituencies at the end of the process, in which incumbents or anointed candidates such as Castle almost invariably win.

Suddenly, though, those rules don’t apply to the GOP establishment — or at least the establishment seemed ready to reject them yesterday. That’s precisely the same kind of elitist attitude that Americans get from Washington DC, and why the Tea Party exists in the first place. A day later, at least a few Republicans seemed to grasp that, including Senator John Cornyn and Michael Steele. If the rest don’t learn the lesson that DocZero gives in today’s post about bottom-up change instead of top-down diktats, the GOP establishment may be positioning itself for irrelevance in the long run.
I think they were really flummoxed by what happened, although given the national trend this year, and what happened in Alaska and Utah, they shouldn't have been. When it comes to party leadership support, some candidates, it seems, are more equal than others no matter which letter they have after their names.

The Heart Of The Matter

I wonder if this explains some liberals:
If you relate more to downtrodden, withdrawn Eeyore than to upbeat, spunky Piglet in the Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons, you may have a harder time recovering from any heart problems, according to a new review of heart health studies.

The findings don't mean that people should try to change who they are, said study researcher Johan Denollet, a medical psychology professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. But the results highlight the importance of behavioral therapies in addition to traditional treatments for heart disease, he said.

People with Type D personalities are often anxious, irritable, pessimistic and secretive when it comes to sharing feelings, Denollet said. These traits aren't known to cause cardiovascular problems, but the review shows that patients who have heart disease and a Type D personality are less likely to benefit from treatments and may be more likely than people of other personality types to have further heart problems after an initial episode.

"A lot of these people keep these emotions built up for a long time, in addition to chronic stress, which can be harmful to the cardiovascular system," Denollet told MyHealthNewsDaily. In part, that's because stress can lead to bad habits like smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, he added.
Nobody likes a depressed jackass...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Boy

Harry Reid is certain that his will be named best in show:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday predicted to The Hill that Democratic Senate candidate Chris Coons will safely win the Nov. 2 general election against GOP nominee Christine O'Donnell.

Reid talked up the New Castle County executive following a memorial ceremony on the Capitol's east steps to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. O'Donnell on Tuesday night won the GOP nomination to face Coons in November — a result that has split the national Republican Party.

But Reid said Coons would have won even if Rep. Mike Castle (R) had prevailed over O'Donnell.

"I'm going to be very honest with you — Chris Coons, everybody knows him in the Democratic caucus. He's my pet. He's my favorite candidate," Reid said.
Or, Reid could join Coons in the doghouse...

The Day After

Well, as Robert Redford said at the end of "The Candidate," "What do we do now?" Some are decidedly unhappy:
“We were looking at 8 to 9 seats in the Senate, we are now looking at 7 to 8 in my opinion,” said a visibly-unhappy Karl Rove on Fox News after the race was called for O’Donnell Tuesday night. “This is not a race we’re going to be able to win.”

Other senior Republicans were even more direct about what the nomination of O’Donnell, who is widely viewed as a flawed candidate with little general election appeal, meant.

“This makes the road much steeper for Republicans to win back the Senate because this was a seat they had counted on,” said former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a former House campaign committee chairman.
But shouldn't the focus now be on at least trying to win the Great Race? Michael Steele has it right:
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: I don't know if she can win until we try. How can you claim defeat before you attempt victory? This makes no sense. It makes no sense. So stop it. Stop it.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: That's your message to them? Stop it?

STEELE: That's my message. Stop it. Let's get behind our nominees and win the election. Then we can have a meeting and sit down and talk about all that stuff. Let me tell you, victory is going to be a sweet thing and I don't think you want to have that meeting where you're going to start parsing out who's up, who's down, who wins, who loses.
As for rest of the GOP establishment, they should be happy that they at least got one win in New Hampshire, ironically due in part to...Sarah Palin.

As a bonus, here's Redford in the aforementioned scene:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crossing the Delaware

The big news tonight was that Christine O'Donnell pulled it off. The GOP establishment is not too happy. Whatever you might think of O'Donnell, I think this reaction will be a big mistake for them, and will send an even bigger message to voters that they just don't get it. I also agree with most of this, with the observation that this happened because the Republican establishment wouldn't play nice with the Tea Partiers.

You Can Have Your Cough Medicine And Drink It, Too

Well, good:
Cough and cold medicines that contain dextromethorphan should remain available without prescription, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended Tuesday.

Dextromethorphan or DXM is found in many over-the-counter cough suppressant products, such as NyQuil, Robitussin and Tylenol Cold Tablets. When taken in large doses and when mixed with other drugs it can create a state of euphoria.

The Drug Enforcement Administration asked the FDA, back in 2007, to look at how the government could curb abuse of DXM, because a growing number of teenagers were using it to get high. In rare cases, death did occur.

The FDA advisory panel recognized that abuse was a concern in adolescents, but decided that dextromethorphan did not pose enough of a threat to the general public health. It voted 15 to 9 against having DXM fall under the Controlled Substance Act, which would have allowed states to consider it for prescription-only status.

The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of its advisory committees, but it usually follows their guidance.
For once, common sense wins out over nannystating based on teenage stupidity. I hope this is the start of a trend.

The Big Non-Green Machine

Leave it to Harry Reid to be as hypocritical as ever:
The Heartland Institute reports that while the Senate Majority Hypocrite "and other high-profile environmental activists blasted carbon-based fuels at the Reid-sponsored summit, Reid and other bigwigs were caught on film driving to and from the summit in several SUVs."

"I was absolutely astonished, not to mention appalled, that Harry Reid would retain a fleet of gas-guzzling SUVs so that he and a few aides would not have to walk the mere 100 yards to address environmental activists," said Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James M. Taylor, who took the attached photo. "If greenhouse gas emissions are such a problem, you would think Reid might have actually made the short stroll through the parking lot, or at least retain Priuses rather than large SUVs for the summit," said Taylor.

Reid's arrogance is routine in Washington where pols ride in Secret Service-provided GMC Yukons and Chevy Suburbans while denouncing SUVs as wasteful transportation to the peasants.
Unfortunately for Reid and his crowd, the peasants are paying attention...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Channeling Bill

Since Professor Obama turned people off, he's now going the Clinton route:
President Obama told a small crowd in Fairfax, Va., on Monday that he would stand in the hot sun with them and “feel their pain.”

He was meeting with a Fairfax family for a backyard discussion on the economy in an effort to improve voter perceptions about his empathy with ordinary people.

Unlike former President Clinton, who famously felt the pain of voters during a recession, Obama has not connected emotionally with voters over their worries and fears.

Voters two years ago appreciated Obama’s cool, professorial demeanor; it earned him praise, as in “No drama Obama,” and drew favorable contrasts with both President George W. Bush and the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

But it is widely perceived as less appealing now, as the administration has struggled to revive the economy and convey an impression of strong management.

Democratic strategists worry the president is seen as too aloof, and that this gets in the way of the administration’s message that the economy is slowly but surely recovering. An Associated Press/GfK poll late last month showed that only 41 percent of those surveyed approve of the way Obama is handling the economy.

Democratic strategists worry this disconnect will lead to losses for Democrats at the polls in November, when the party fears it could lose control of the House and Senate.

“The problem is he doesn’t seem like he’s always trying to be empathetic,” said one Democratic strategist.

“They have been missing the need for the emotional connection people need in times like this — but they’ve needed it for two years,” another Democratic strategist said.
Maybe voters will feel his pain in a couple of years...

Mission Accomplished?

If the war is over, somebody forgot to tell the ones who are still fighting:
The hype around the change of mission, which allowed President Barack Obama to say he was fulfilling a pledge to start ending the unpopular war, set off complaints among some soldiers left behind who were no longer viewed as combat troops.

U.S. military convoys are still shot at and bombed, and bases are mortared, despite a change in the name of the U.S. mission from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.

"That doesn't really change a thing, it is still dangerous," said 22-year-old Specialist Byron Reed, on his second deployment in Iraq, as he prepared to escort a convoy to Camp Speicher from Balad air base in Salahuddin province.

U.S. soldiers said there had been little change in their mission since September 1. Most U.S. military units switched their focus to training Iraqi troops and police when they pulled out of towns and cities on June 30 last year.

While overall violence has dipped sharply in the past two or three years, Iraq is still a fragile place and al-Qaeda-linked insurgents and Shi'ite militia are active. Furthermore, tension has been heightened by the failure of politicians to form a new government six months after an inconclusive election.

"We do present a big target for the enemy, we still get attacked, just not as frequently," said Lieutenant Colonel David Gooch, an infantry battalion commander, at Balad, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad.
So, if Obama says it's over, will the MSM still remember those who are still there?

Big Mommy

Michelle Obama is pushing the health agenda, apparently so that other Moms won't have to:
First lady Michelle Obama is prodding the nation's restaurants to add more healthy options to menus, label those items more prominently and market nutritious foods to kids.

Speaking to the National Restaurant Association on Monday, Mrs. Obama pleaded with restaurants small and large to take a little butter or cream out of their dishes, use low fat milk and provide apple slices or carrots as a default side dish on the kids' menu.

Mrs. Obama said that Americans are spending half their food dollars outside the home and eating a third of meals in restaurants. She asked the restaurants to rethink the food they offer and reformulate their menus to help combat childhood obesity.

"We have to do more, we have to go farther, and we need your help to lead this effort," she told the restaurateurs and executives.
Of course, the issue here isn't whether we've turned into a nation of lardasses thanks to our fast-food diets-we have. The issue here is whether or not it's Michelle's-or the government's-business as to what other peoples' kids eat. Because it starts with the kids and moves its way upwards.

Win One for Justin

How are the Democrats trying to score votes this year? By going for the hitherto untapped Bieber base:
"We're trying to leverage Bieber fever," Campus Progress's Sara Haile-Mariam told POLITICO. "Most of his fans are 12 years old — we acknowledge that." Still, they hope that Bieber fans will “tell their parents. ... The hope is to create something that goes viral and gets young people to be aware of the election."

Of course, Haile-Mariam admits that part of the motivation was less purely political. "We consider ourselves big Bieber fans," she confessed, adding that they hope Bieber will give some link love to their project via his Twitter page (and his more than 5 million followers).
I don't know which is sadder-going after the voters' kids, or their taste in music.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tokin' On Allah

Forget about burning the Koran. One moron decided to smoke one instead:
Near the end of his tongue-in-cheek 12-minute video “experiment”, a bleary-eyed Stewart comments that “the Bible is more conducive to good burning than the Koran,” which he says produces a harsher smoke because of the quality of the paper “not the words written on it.”

"It's just a book, who cares," Mr Stewart told the Brisbane Times.

"Like you can burn a flag and no one cares, people get over it so with respect to books like the Bible, the Koran, or whatever, just get over it.

"I mean, it's not as though they're burning your copy, they're burning somebody else's.

PLEASE EXPLAIN. By this morning (13/9/10), however, Stewart was sounding a good deal less confident.

“I'm screwed,” he wrote on the Brisbane Atheists website.

“I think I will lose my job over this. Damn it.”
For the record, here's his brand of stupid as recorded for posterity:

Your Money Back (For A Price)

A look at the cost of legalized bribery:
According to the Heritage Foundation's 2010 Index of Dependence on Government, the number of Americans receiving a government check jumped nearly 14 percent in 2009 - the largest single-year increase since 1970 and 49 percent higher than in 2001. In May, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the portion of personal income Americans received from private sector paychecks declined to a record low of 41.9 percent, while income from government programs climbed 17.9 percent. And with nearly half of American wage earners now paying no federal income taxes, the burden of increasing levels of government spending on housing, health care, welfare, education and other entitlements is being borne by a shrinking pool of taxpayers.

However, as government control and dependency increases, American competitiveness at home and abroad decreases. The United States was ranked No. 1 by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum in 2008, but slipped to second place last year and is now fourth -- behind Switzerland, Sweden and Singapore. In his 1835 classic "Democracy in America," Alexis de Tocqueville prophetically warned, "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Now that the politicians have made that discovery, the issue is what will the public do about it this November.
Indeed. Unfortunately, some people are OK with being bribed...

Not So Gaga

Camille Paglia isn't impressed by the Gaga Generation:
Gaga has borrowed so heavily from Madonna (as in her latest video-Alejandro) that it must be asked, at what point does homage become theft? However, the main point is that the young Madonna was on fire. She was indeed the imperious Marlene Dietrich’s true heir. For Gaga, sex is mainly decor and surface; she’s like a laminated piece of ersatz rococo furniture. Alarmingly, Generation Gaga can’t tell the difference. Is it the death of sex? Perhaps the symbolic status that sex had for a century has gone kaput; that blazing trajectory is over…

Compare Gaga’s insipid songs, with their nursery-rhyme nonsense syllables, to the title and hypnotic refrain of the first Madonna song and video to bring her attention on MTV, Burning Up, with its elemental fire imagery and its then-shocking offer of fellatio. In place of Madonna’s valiant life force, what we find in Gaga is a disturbing trend towards mutilation and death…

Gaga is in way over her head with her avant-garde pretensions… She wants to have it both ways – to be hip and avant-garde and yet popular and universal, a practitioner of gung-ho “show biz”. Most of her worshippers seem to have had little or no contact with such powerful performers as Tina Turner or Janis Joplin, with their huge personalities and deep wells of passion.
I don't like Gaga that much either, but Madonna was as manufactured as they come, albeit in a much more entertaining (and, IMO, sexier) fashion. Tina, who had her biggest success at the same time as Madonna, was definitely "Real," however:

Bloggin' In The Years: 1922

Some of the ladies of Rochester, New York, as recorded by Kodak with an experimental color film:

The Flames Of Stupidity

Good grief. So Pastor Jones calls off his own book burning, but the stupidity continues, with this and this leading to this:
Assailants stabbed a Christian worshipper in the stomach and pounded a minister in the head with a wooden plank as they headed to morning prayers Sunday outside Indonesia's capital.

Neither of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks. But suspicion immediately fell on Islamic hard-liners who have repeatedly warned members of the Batak Christian Protestant Church against worshipping on a field housing their now-shuttered church.

In recent months, they have thrown shoes and water bottles at the church members, interrupted sermons with chants of "Infidels!" and "Leave Now!" and dumped piles of feces on the land.

Local police Chief Imam Sugianto said Asia Sihombing, a worshipper, was on his way to the field when assailants jumped off a motorcycle and stabbed him in the stomach.

"I was trying to help get him onto a motorcycle so we could get him to a hospital," she told reporters in the industrial city of Bekasi, 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Jakarta.
You reap what you sow. It also makes me feel that George Carlin might have been right:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

God Retires

Stephen Hawking, who knows his stuff, expresses an opinion that some on the right will no doubt find uncomfortable:

Nine Years Later

As "Debate" continues about the Ground Zero mosque (which isn't actually on Ground Zero), some prescient postings by Glenn Reynolds from the Instapundit archives show what we've learned-and haven't learned-since that day.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Obamacare Blame Game

Team Obama has a message for those eeevil insurance companies that won't go along with the Great Plan:
President Barack Obama's top health official on Thursday warned the insurance industry that the administration won't tolerate blaming premium hikes on the new health overhaul law.

"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter to the insurance lobby.

"Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections," Sebelius said. She warned that bad actors may be excluded from new health insurance markets that will open in 2014 under the law. They'd lose out on a big pool of customers, as many as 30 million people nationwide.

The letter to America's Health Insurance Plans was the latest volley in a war of words over who gets the blame for rising premiums. Polls show that many people expect their costs to go up as a result of the law, but there's also widespread mistrust of the insurance industry.

An HHS official said the letter is a pre-emptive move, after the department learned that several smaller carriers around the country are blaming the new law for rate increases this year.

The industry's top lobbyist responded that the health care law is a factor behind higher rates, but not the only one.

"Health insurance premiums are increasing because of soaring prices for medical services, the impact of younger and healthier people dropping their insurance during the weak economy, and additional benefits required under the new law," said Karen Ignagni, president of the insurers' trade group. "It's a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs."

Sebelius asked Ignagni to help stop "misinformation and scare tactics."
Um, isn't that exactly what you're doing, Ms. Sebelius?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Drunk Diplomacy

Friends don't let other friends speak drunk:
The outburst by Sha Zukang at a retreat for top UN officials in the Austrian ski resort of Alpbach left senior UN officials cringing in embarrassment as others tried to convince him to put down the microphone, according to Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine.

"I know you never liked me Mr. Secretary-General – well, I never liked you, either," said Mr Sha as Mr Ban looked on, smiling and nodding awkwardly during the 15-minute toast attended by the UN's top brass.

Mr Sha, who was appointed the UN undersecretary general for Economic and Social Affairs in 2007, also made no secret of his fractious relationship with Mr Ban, although did say he'd grown to respect the South Korean.

"You've been trying to get rid of me," said 62-year-old Mr Sha according to the senior UN official present, "You can fire me anytime, you can fire me today."

Later in his impromptu speech Mr Sha turned to an American colleague, singling out Bob Orr, from the executive office of the secretary-general.

"I really don't like him: he's an American and I really don't like Americans," he said.

A second senior UN official who was at the dinner said: "It went on for about ten or fifteen minutes but it felt like an hour."
In other words, like a typical U.N. speech...

Mosque Madness

This just keeps getting weirder. First, this:
The pastor planning to burn Qurans on the Sept. 11 anniversary said Thursday that he plans to call off the event if the Muslim group seeking to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site agrees to move the project.

“We would consider that a sign from God,” the Rev. Terry Jones told reporters.

It was unclear whether such a commitment from the Muslim group was forthcoming, though some reports said Jones and the leader of the mosque project had spoken earlier Thursday.

“I have his word that he will move the mosque to a different location,” Jones said.
On the other hand:
A representative for Imam Faisal tells CBS News that any agreement with Florida pastor Terry Jones is false.

Imam Faisal released a statement that reads: "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Qurans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."

In addition, the Florida imam says no deal has been reached to move the site of an Islamic community center near ground zero in exchange for a Florida minister to call off plans to burn Qurans.

Imam Muhammad Musri tells The Associated Press that what he offered was a meeting among the Rev. Terry Jones, the New York imam planning the Islamic center and himself to talk about the Islamic community center location.
And now, guess which wingnuts want to get involved?
Westboro Baptist Church, the small Topeka, Kan., church that pickets funerals of American soldiers to spread its message that God is punishing the country for being tolerant of homosexuals, has vowed to hold a Quran burning if Gainesville's Dove World Outreach Center calls its off.

"WBC burned the Koran once – and if you sissy brats of Doomed america bully Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center until they change their plans to burn that blasphemous tripe called the Koran, then WBC will burn it (again), to clearly show you some things," the church announced in a news release this week.
So the insanity continues. Even The Donald got involved. If Jones wanted publicity, he may have gotten a lot more than he bargained for.

Medicine Men

What are they, on drugs?
Sheriffs in North Carolina want access to state computer records identifying anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled substances.

The state sheriff's association pushed the idea Tuesday, saying the move would help them make drug arrests and curb a growing problem of prescription drug abuse. But patient advocates say opening up people's medicine cabinets to law enforcement would deal a devastating blow to privacy rights.

Allowing sheriffs' offices and other law enforcement officials to use the state's computerized list would vastly widen the circle of people with access to information on prescriptions written for millions of people. As it stands now, doctors and pharmacists are the main users.

Sheriffs made their pitch Tuesday to a legislative health care committee looking for ways to confront prescription drug abuse. Local sheriffs said that more people in their counties die of accidental overdoses than from homicides.

For years, sheriffs have been trying to convince legislators that the state's prescription records should be open to them.

"We can better go after those who are abusing the system," said Lee County Sheriff Tracy L. Carter.

Others say opening up patients' medicine cabinets to law enforcement is a terrible idea.

"I am very concerned about the potential privacy issues for people with pain," said Candy Pitcher of Cary, who volunteers for the nonprofit American Pain Foundation. "I don't feel that I should have to sign away my privacy rights just because I take an opioid under doctor's care." Pitcher is receiving treatment for a broken back.
There are certainly legitimate reasons for the police to look at medical records if they;re looking for known felons. But this sounds like the sort of carpet-bombing approach that could easily get innocent people caught in the crossfire.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

They Can't Help Themselves

The first step in confronting an addiction is admitting that you have a problem:
On March 16, when confronted by members of the Jefferson Area Tea Party, Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., made a startling confession:

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned up here (in Washington) and I didn’t really need to come up here to learn it, is the only way to get Congress to balance the budget is to give them no choice, and the only way to keep them out of the cookie jar is to give them no choice, which is why – whether it’s balanced budget acts or pay as you go legislation or any of that – is the only thing. If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing”

Incumbents running for reelection are expected to posture, inflate their accomplishments and embellish the truth. But the Yale-educated Democrat’s attempt to placate angry Tea Partiers by telling them that “If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing” is shockingly, even brutally honest.
Or, maybe just pathetic...

Bloggin' In The Years: 1966

Are Marvel Comics heroes really conservative icons?
Marvel Comics are funny as well as epic. Their characters are human, as well as superhuman, and their dialogue is peppered with wisecracks. The characters refuse to be stuffed shirts—and when an unwary Marvel hero assumes a “holier than thou” attitude, his colleagues are not the slightest bit reluctant to take him down a peg.

But despite their lightheartedness, the heroes are indeed heroic, and the villains villainous. This in itself is not amazing—but the fact that the heroes run to being such capitalistic types as arms manufacturers (Tony Stark, whose alter ego is Iron Man), while the villains are often Communists (and plainly labeled as such, in less than complimentary terms) is a breath of fresh air in a world such as ours, where all too often “good guys” and “bad guys” are portrayed as being indistinguishable.

And it is in their frank recognition of the difference between good and evil that makes Marvel Comics, at least in my opinion, “right wing” in tone. The “Bullpen Gang,” as the Marvel staffers refer to themselves in print, is not afraid to say that good and evil are mutually incompatible. Furthermore, they equate good with freedom and evil with totalitarianism, whether Communist, Nazi, or inhuman in origin.
Hmm. I wonder if the country would be ready for a Captain America/Spiderman ticket for the Republican Party...

Never Mind The Revolution

Has Fidel Castro finally conceded defeat? Jeffrey Goldberg comments:
I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," he said.

This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments. Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, "Never mind"?

I asked Julia to interpret this stunning statement for me. She said, "He wasn't rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under 'the Cuban model' the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country."
Hugo Chavez will not be pleased. Meanwhile, here's the original Emily.

They're Still Fired

Guess who's upset that Trump is actually firing people: The American Federation of Government Employees, a union for federal workers, s...