Monday, January 31, 2011

A Mighty Wind

You may literally need to watch your ass in Africa:
Breaking wind is set to be made a crime in an African country.

The government of Malawi plan to punish persistent offenders 'who foul the air' in a bid to 'mould responsible and disciplined citizens.'

But locals fear that pinning responsibility on the crime will be difficult - and may lead to miscarriages of justice as 'criminals' attempt to blame others for their offence.

One Malawian told the website 'My goodness. What happens in a public place where a group is gathered. Do they lock up half a minibus?

'And how about at meetings where it is difficult to pinpoint 'culprits'?

'Children will openly deny having passed bad air and point at an elder. Culturally, this is very embarrassing,' she said.

Another said: 'We have serious issues affecting Malawians today. I do not know how fouling the air should take priority over regulating Chinese investments which do not employ locals, serious graft amongst legislators, especially those in the ruling party, and many more.'
It does seem that the real gasbags are the ones in charge...

Legal Smackdown

Obamacare is unconstitutional:
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the reform law's so-called individual mandate went too far in requiring that Americans start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty.

"Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void," he wrote, "This has been a difficult decision to reach and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications."

Referring to a key provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Vinson sided with governors and attorneys general from 26 U.S. states, almost all of whom are Republicans, in declaring the Obama healthcare reform unconstitutional.

"Regardless of how laudable its attempts may have been to accomplish these goals in passing the act, Congress must operate within the bounds established by the Constitution," Vinson, who was appointed to the bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan, ruled.
There's that pesky Constitution, getting in the way again...but here's the kicker:
In ruling against President Obama‘s health care law, federal Judge Roger Vinson used Mr. Obama‘s own position from the 2008 campaign against him, arguing that there are other ways to tackle health care short of requiring every American to purchase insurance.

“I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that ‘if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,’” Judge Vinson wrote in a footnote toward the end of the 78-page ruling Monday.

Judge Vinson, a federal judge in the northern district of Florida, struck down the entire health care law as unconstitutional on Monday, though he is allowing the Obama administration to continue to implement and enforce it while the government appeals his ruling.

The footnote was attached to the most critical part of Judge Vinson‘s ruling, in which he said the “principal dispute” in the case was not whether Congress has the power to tackle health care, but whether it has the power to compel the purchase of insurance.
This is what happens when you make promises you don't intend to keep...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Evolution Revolution

Well, this isn't good news:
Researchers from seven countries have collaborated to analyze how a single strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria has morphed over 30 years and spread across the world, in an attempt to overcome the development of antibiotics and vaccines.

The research is the first detailed genetic picture of the evolution of a specific strain of pneumonia, resulting in a family tree of sorts. The researchers analyzed samples from North and South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Their findings appear in the current issue of the journal Science.

In looking at more than 240 samples, they found that since 1984, when the strain was first identified in Spain, it has turned over about three-quarters of its genome.

Over time, the bacteria mutated to better resist antibiotics and vaccines. The researchers found that it underwent both recombination, in which the DNA shuffles around, and base substitutions, in which individual nucleic acids in a DNA sequence change.

That means that certain samples they tested are not treatable with existing vaccines, which target certain gene clusters that have now changed.
This would seem to be all the more reason to allow pharmaceutical companies-which the left likes to blame in part for higher drug prices-to do their thing and come up with new treatments. After all, Obama said he wanted "Innovation," didn't he?"

Big Brother Is Storing You

I really hope this isn't a sign of things to come from our new Congress:
The House Republicans' first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing.

A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users' activities for later review by police.

One focus will be on reviving a dormant proposal for data retention that would require companies to store Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for two years, CNET has learned.

Tomorrow's data retention hearing is juxtaposed against the recent trend to protect Internet users' privacy by storing less data. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission called for "limited retention" of user data on privacy grounds, and in the last 24 hours, both Mozilla and Google have announced do-not-track technology.

A Judiciary committee aide provided a statement this afternoon saying "the purpose of this hearing is to examine the need for retention of certain data by Internet service providers to facilitate law enforcement investigations of Internet child pornography and other Internet crimes," but declined to elaborate.

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the free-market Cato Institute, says the push for legislation is an example of pro-regulatory Republicans. "Republicans were put in power to limit the size and scope of the federal government," Harper said. "And they're working to grow the federal government, increase its intrusiveness, and I fail to see where the Fourth Amendment permits the government to require dragnet surveillance of Internet users."
The country's in the very best of hands...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Big Sis's House

Private screeners are out:
A program that allows airports to replace government screeners with private screeners is being brought to a standstill, just a month after the Transportation Security Administration said it was "neutral" on the program.

TSA chief John Pistole said Friday he has decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports, saying he does not see any advantage to it.

Though little known, the Screening Partnership Program allowed airports to replace government screeners with private contractors who wear TSA-like uniforms, meet TSA standards and work under TSA oversight. Among the airports that have "opted out" of government screening are San Francisco and Kansas City.

The push to "opt out" gained attention in December amid the fury over the TSA's enhanced pat downs, which some travelers called intrusive.

Rep. John Mica, a Republican from Florida, wrote a letter encouraging airports to privatize their airport screeners, saying they would be more responsive to the public.

At that time, the TSA said it neither endorsed nor opposed private screening.

"If airports chose this route, we are going to work with them to do it," a TSA spokesman said in late December.
Not anymore, apparently. Because the government always knows what's best for you...

Credit Crunch

The IMF is concerned:
U.S. officials must act quickly to control government deficits or face slower growth and even more difficult choices in the future, the International Monetary Fund said Thursday in a report criticizing the tepid U.S. response to its rising public debt.

The IMF warning comes as federal officials grapple with a congressional projection this week that the annual deficit will reach a historic $1.5 trillion this year. This was the latest report to raise concerns about how massive government debts in developed countries could undermine the global economic recovery.

"The U.S. has a lot of credibility. This does not imply their credibility can last forever," IMF fiscal affairs director Carlo Cottarelli said as he released the IMF study. It concluded that the United States is falling behind on a promise it made to other top economic countries to halve its budget deficit by 2013.

"This is a problem many years in the making and will take a concerted effort by Democrats and Republicans working together to find a solution," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in answer to a question about the IMF report.

He noted that President Obama called for a freeze on discretionary spending during this week's State of the Union address. IMF officials have welcomed the step but said that spending cuts in pension and health entitlement programs are also needed.
And therein lies the problem for Obama, who wanted us to emulate Europe. What does he say now?

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Witches Of Romania

Even witches have to pay their taxes:
While witches enjoy popular support in Romania, many in the government view them as swindlers whose presence makes their country seem superstitious and backwards. In 2003, two witches in northwestern Romania were charged with fraud when their cures failed to work. Police encouraged villagers not to believe the claims of witches. Tensions grew as Romania prepared to enter the EU. British newspapers reported that more witches were learning English and raised concerns that disgruntled witches would flee Romania and set up shop in western EU nations. Andrei Chiliman, mayor of the First District in the capital of Bucharest, called for taxing witches. He also demanded greater resources to prosecute witches with fraud. He remarked, “If money from witchcraft can buy the kind of houses they have, it means witches must owe the State huge amounts of money. All we want to do is recover money and stop the fraud.”

Romania became an EU member in 2007. When public health concerns became an area of “shared competence” with the EU, it became possible for many witches to register as “alternative health care providers.” This greatly vexed Romania’s overworked community of doctors and further aggravated those who saw witches as a national embarrassment.
Of course, the witches fought back:
2011 began in Romania under a volley of curses. A group of witches conducted a ritual to curse the government in which mandrake was thrown into the Danube. The most outspoken opponent of the law has been the witch Bratara Buzea, 63. Buzea has a right to be mistrustful of the government. In 1977, she was herself imprisoned for her craft under Ceausescu. She has announced a particularly deleterious curse. The ritual, for which she will need the help of several fellow witches, apparently involves cat excrement and a dead dog. Her view of Romania’s need for revenue sounded not unlike the Tea Party in America, “They want to take the country out of this crisis using us? They should get us out of the crisis because they brought us into it.”
In America, we use more literal cursing for our elected officials...

Keeping the Internets Safe For Democracy

As the situation in Egypt unfolds, suddenly shutting down the Web doesn't sound like such a great idea after all:
In Egypt, it appears that the government demanded that its four major ISPs shut down service. Could the U.S. government get away with asking Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and the like to shut down their networks to stop citizens from organizing protests? Anything is possible, of course, but at this point, it seems unlikely.

The current administration has already condemned the shut down in Egypt. In a Friday tweet, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration is "very concerned about violence in Egypt - government must respect the rights of the Egyptian people & turn on social networking and internet."

PJ Crowley, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, also tweeted that the "events unfolding in #Egypt are of deep concern. Fundamental rights must be respected, violence avoided and open communications allowed."

President Obama, meanwhile, made net neutrality and the concept of an open Internet part of his campaign, and continues to support the idea. The administration also relied heavily on social networking and the Web to reach voters, so efforts to restrict the Web for anything other than public safety would be surprising.
Not to mention a bit hypocritical. Of course, that hasn't stopped this administration in the past...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Great Society Rewind

President Obama, living in the past:
Barack Obama is stuck in the 1960s. And it's not just because his style of liberalism -- spend, spend, spend! -- is reminiscent of that era. Liberals since the New Deal have enjoyed spending. It's because he likes to spend money as if we are in the middle of the greatest economic boom in the history of the nation, as if there's plenty of cash to go around. The country could afford, in the 1960s, to send a man to the moon and to create brand new entitlement programs. Real GDP increased, on average, by 4.4 percent every year for the whole decade. But those days are long gone. As much as getting a great return on an "investment" in infrastructure improvement is appealing, it's always a bad idea to invest one's spare cash when the creditors are about to bust down the door. Ever dime should go to deficit reduction -- not two for new spending, one for the deficit.
Perhaps by invoking the past (as he now seems to be doing by claiming admiration for Reagan) Obama hopes that Americans will remember the glory days of his 2008 campaign and forget about the present. Sorry, Mr. President, but I don't think that's going to work.

People For The Ethical Treatment Of Bad T.V. Shows

Oh, this makes perfect sense:
Despite advertiser defection (and declining ratings), MTV is standing by controversial scripted series Skins.

Reports claiming the network is pulling the plug on creator Bryan Elsley’s adaption of his UK hit prompted a statement from the network.

“MTV stands by the US adaptation of Skins and the vision of its creator Bryan Elsley,” the network said in a statement. “Skins has earned the loyalty of fans across the globe for its thoughtful and honest portrayal of teen life today. An internationally acclaimed scripted drama, the show has been honored with a long list of prestigious awards."

And if MTV’s sales team continues to see a sponsor exodus, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have graciously offered the step into the breach — and generate some publicity of its own.

The non-profit organization has offered up a 30-second spot featuring Pink and Ricky Gervais giving voice to a computer-generated alligator and rabbit who make the case that “exotic skins and fur belong on their original owners.”

“In light of the uproar surrounding the explicit content of MTV's new teen drama, Skins, and the show's resultant loss of sponsors, PETA is offering the network a chance to get some positive media attention as well as save animals' skins,” the org said in a statement.
Well, it does show kids with less clothing...

Favoritism Under Fire

So, why are some Obamacare opponents more equal than others?
The Obama administration’s waivers to temporarily exempt certain companies, unions, and charities from rules established by the new health care law are a “perfect example of special interests” having influence in the administration and will be looked into by Congress, Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee told

"You’re going to find out that by the president doing that with the secretary of HHS, he violated one of his main principles when he ran for office--and that was that special interests were not going to have an in in his administration,” said Grassley. “And this is a perfect example of special interests having an in in his administration when they get those waivers.”
.... previously reported that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued waivers to 222 entities – companies, unions and charitable organizations. Among those entities, 45 were labor union organizations. A total of 1,507,418 enrollees were affected by the waivers. More than one-third of the enrollees affected, 512, 315 people, were insured under union health care plans.

Three locals of the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has spent heavily on elections in favor of Democrats, were among the biggest beneficiaries of waivers, reported.

The largest beneficiary of waivers is the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), representing New York City public school teachers, with a plan that affects 351,000 enrollees. The UFT is a member organization of the American Federation of Teachers, a major contributor to Democrats. In addition, 10 locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers – also a major Democratic contributor – received HHS waivers.
They told me that if Republicans won, we'd have an administration that catered to special interests, and they were right!

Rediscovering The Gipper

Obama, now channeling Reagan?
At a glance, it's hard to imagine a President who had less in common with Reagan than the Ivy League lawyer from Hawaii who seeks larger federal investments, a bigger social safety net and new regulations for Wall Street and Big Oil. But under the surface, there is no mistaking Obama's increasing reliance on his predecessor's career as a helpful template for his own. Since the November elections, Obama has brought corporate executives into the White House, reached out to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and made compromise his new watchword. He signed a surprise $858 billion tax cut that would have made Reagan weep with joy and huddled with Reagan's former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein for lessons learned when the Gipper governed amid economic troubles. Over the Christmas break, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tweeted that Obama was reading a Reagan biography, and just to confirm the bond, Obama recently wrote an homage to Reagan for USA Today. "Reagan recognized the American people's hunger for accountability and change," Obama wrote, conferring on Reagan two of his most cherished political slogans.
Time will tell if Obama is serious in his study of the Great One, but if he can actually learn something from Ronnie then he's most likely on track for re-election. If not, then he joins Reagan's predecessor.

Filibuster Follies

The filibuster lives:
Lost in the hubbub over President Obama's State of the Union speech was the quiet death of liberal Democratic hopes to "reform" the Senate filibuster. Those hopes officially expired at 10:20 p.m. Tuesday, as lawmakers prepared the leave the Capitol after the president's speech, when the Senate adjourned for the first time this year.

For months, some Democrats had been working on a plan to use a parliamentary maneuver called the "nuclear option" to put an end to minority Republicans' ability to block Democratic initiatives. Under that scenario, on the first day of its session -- and only on the first day -- the Senate would be able to change its rules regarding filibusters with a simple majority vote. Normally, it takes 67 votes to change the Senate's rules, but on the first day, Democrats believed, they could kill the filibuster with just a 51-vote majority.

Why did Democrats give in? Two reasons. One, they know they might soon need the filibuster themselves -- not in a few years, but in a few months. Republicans now have 47 votes in the Senate. If they can peel away four Democrats on any given piece of legislation -- say, the repeal of a portion of Obamacare -- they could be stopped only by a Democratic filibuster. The Democrats who are now denouncing the filibuster when it's used by Republicans might soon be employing it themselves to fend off GOP challenges to Obamacare and other Obama initiatives.

The second reason is that Democrats saw the folly in changing a hallowed Senate rule with just 51 votes. The 2012 elections are coming up; there are far more vulnerable Senate Democrats than Republicans. Two years from today, Republicans might well control the Senate. If Democrats set a precedent for changing the rules now with just 51 votes, what will happen the next time Republicans are in charge? "What do they do if we take the majority?" asks the Hill aide. "What's to stop us from changing the rules with 51 votes?" The answer is nothing, if Democrats crossed that line first.
It pays to think ahead...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Plan Remains The Same

Details? Who needs details?
President Obama's statement in yesterday evening's State of the Union speech that "the rules have changed" will likely surprise many taxpayers hoping for more specifics on how much they'll save – or pay – due to his fiscal policy proposals. According to a line-by-line analysis of his State of the Union speech by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), all the quantifiable items in President Obama's speech taken together would increase federal spending by more than $20 billion, but the large number of items whose impact is unclear could dramatically affect this total.

"President Obama's speech last night hinted at tax reform, and spending restraint, but also opened the door to tax increases and major spending initiatives," said NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady. "Americans heard encouraging words about more efficient government, but little in the way of specifics about spending priorities. This leaves taxpayers wondering not only whether the federal budget deficit is headed upward or downward, but also by how much."
Well, catching up to Sputnik is expensive...

The Engine Of Unemployment

I guess this means we're still in a jobless recovery:
The unemployment rate rose in 20 states last month as employers in most states shed jobs.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate rose in 20 states and fell in 15. It was unchanged in another 15 states. That's nearly the same as in November, when the rate rose in 21 states, fell in 15 and was the same in 14.

The report is evidence that the job market is barely improving even as the economy grows. Most economists expect hiring to pick up this year, although the unemployment rate will likely remain high.

Employers in most states didn't add any net new jobs last month. The number of jobs on employer payrolls fell in 35 states in December, the department said. Only 15 states reported gains. Layoffs have slowed dramatically in the past year, but hiring has yet to pick up.
The more "Change" comes, the more things seem to stay the same...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State Of The Boredom

Jennifer Rubin wasn't impressed with the speech:
In a nutshell: Obama proposed a ton of new domestic spending, promised to freeze discretionary spending (attained by savaging defense), abstained from offering specifics on entitlement reform and largely ignored major foreign policy changes. Moreover, the delivery was so listless that this State of the Union address likely garnered less applause than any address in recent memory.

But the mystery is solved: There is no new Obama, just a less snarly one. But it was also a flat and boring speech, too long by a third. Can you recall a single line?
After having watched as well, I also have to ask: Where was the emotion? There was little applause, the biggest laughs came for the smoked salmon line, and it was hard to tell the Democrats and Republicans alike from their lack of reaction. Is this what they meant by "The new tone?"

Rahmbo: First Run, Part II

He was out. Now he's back in:
The Illinois Supreme Court will consider Rahm Emanuel's appeal.

Earlier today, the court granted Emanuel a partial stay, putting him back on the mayoral ballot. Now judges will hear his case.

There will be no oral arguments, only the same briefs as heard by the Illinois Appellate Court, sources say.

"It has never happened before," says Burt Odelson, attorney for Emanuel challengers. Odelson says he's done election law for 30 years and has never seen judges not take new briefs.

Ballots are being printed today, so today's court order granting Emanuel's partial stay came just in time.

According to the order, “Board of Election is directed that if any ballots are printed while this court is considering the case the ballots should include the name of petitioner Rahm Emanuel as a candidate for the mayor of City of Chicago."
Dead voters everywhere in the Windy City are breathing sighs of relief...

Send In The Clown

It worked for Al Franken, so why not another comedian?
Liberals want Keith Olbermann to run for retiring Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) seat.

The ploy to coax the former MSNBC host into the Democratic Senate primary was hatched by activists attending a conference in Pennsylvania over the weekend.

Facebook and Twitter pages are already active and a website is expected to go up in the coming days.

"We’re using our full set of campaign tools but they won’t go active until we get a little downtime while we’re in D.C.," a blogger by the name of Stranded Wind wrote on the liberal website Daily Kos.

Olbermann left his show "Countdown" on Friday. He revealed over the weekend that he would return to his blog on, Baseball Nerd, but has remained quiet about any other plans.
Well, if they want another "Tool," he's available...

The Bucks End Here

I'm sure this will be spun by the Obama administration and the MSM as how those evil Republicans hate the people:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) issued a new threat against a federal bailout for ailing state governments Monday as GOP leaders girded for a confrontation with President Obama over spending.

Heading into Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Cantor showed no desire for increases in virtually any area of the federal government, and he doubled down on his opposition to new proposed spending on infrastructure and education, even in areas, like transportation, where he acknowledged there were deficiencies.

Cantor flatly rejected any changes in the law that would allow state governments struggling with record budget deficits brought on by the economic recession and rising pension costs to restructure debt, including allowing them to declare bankruptcy.

“I don’t think that that is necessary, because state governments have at their disposal the requisite tools to address their fiscal ills,” the majority leader said, before going a step further.

“I think some ... have mentioned this Chapter 9 equivalent for states is somehow going to stave off some kind of federal bailout — we don’t need that to stave off a federal bailout. There will be no bailout of the states,” Cantor said. “States can deal with this and have the ability to do so on their own.”
Unfortunately they lack the will, as California and Illinois, among others, have shown. But maybe this can be an incentive for them to finally start behaving responsibly.

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Taxless

Taxes are for little people...or, maybe not:
Actor Alec Baldwin has joined a list of elite New Yorkers targeted by tax collectors who think they're fibbing about where they really live to dodge New York City income taxes.

In recent years, auditors have confronted hundreds of super-wealthy New Yorkers over the residency rules - including star Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter.

Facing shrinking revenues, the state has ramped up its pursuit of suspected tax dodgers, hiring 189 new auditors and - for the first time - making filers swear under oath on tax forms as to how many days they "spend in New York City."

If it's more than 183 days and the filer has a residence in the city, the tax bill goes up.
Of course, I'm sure Mr. Baldwin will be more than willing to pay his "Fair share..."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Slipping Through The Security Cracks

As Wired reports, terrorists know how to exploit them:
Here’s how terrorists get past airport security: Don’t bother to go through it. According to preliminary reports, a suicide bomber — possibly two — killed at least 31 people and wounded about 130 more at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Monday, all without going through any kind of pat-down or scanner.

How? Russia’s Novosti news service cites eyewitnesses claiming “two terrorists blew themselves up as passengers emerged from the international arrivals zone.” If so, then they picked the softest target that airports have: a place where lots of people congregate, in anticipation of their loved ones’ arrival, without passing through machines to detect chemicals or metallic objects.

If Novosti’s early account is correct, then the terrorists who carried out the Domodedovo attack have demonstrated that it’s not necessary to get an explosive on board an airplane to kill and injure lots of people and throw air travel into turmoil. That’s important to consider as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security installs expensive and privacy-infringing “naked scanners” at airport security gates and keeps traveler liquids off of flights.

Terrorists of all affiliations have proven that they’ll aim for whatever targets security officials don’t or can’t harden: In 2004, two Chechen terrorists boarded a plane at Domodedovo, killing 88 passengers in a suicide bombing and prompting airport officials to toughen security measures; now they hit the airports rather than the planes.
Security is only as effective as the planning behind it is. Going overboard on scanning and searches isn't the answer. Preventing the attackers from carrying out their plans in the first place is.

Kill Switch, Volume Two

Here we go again:
A controversial bill handing President Obama power over privately owned computer systems during a "national cyberemergency," and prohibiting any review by the court system, will return this year.

Internet companies should not be alarmed by the legislation, first introduced last summer by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), a Senate aide said last week. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"We're not trying to mandate any requirements for the entire Internet, the entire Internet backbone," said Brandon Milhorn, Republican staff director and counsel for the committee.

Instead, Milhorn said at a conference in Washington, D.C., the point of the proposal is to assert governmental control only over those "crucial components that form our nation's critical infrastructure."
I'm sure there's nothing to worry about...

Fannie And Freddie Thank You For Your Support

Guess who's still footing the bill for Fannie and Freddie's former bosses?
Taxpayers have spent more than $160 million defending executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, infuriating lawmakers who want to know why taxpayers are footing the bill for heads of agencies that have already cost Americans at least $150 billion.

According to The New York Times, the bulk of those legal expenses -- $132 million -- went to pay for the defense of former top executives named in civil lawsuits accusing them of fraud and in various securities suits and government investigations into accounting irregularities that occurred years before the subprime lending crisis erupted.

Of the payments, $24 million went to defend former Fannie CEO Franklin Raines and two other executives.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services oversight subcommittee, told Fox News that he wants to know why the U.S. would defend executives who were fired from the lenders.

"The question I think that doesn't pass the smell test is: why are we paying the legal fees for former employees?" Neugebauer asked. "What kind of litigation is pending that would cause us to think we need to continue to put taxpayers' money in legal fees for people that actually got fired?"

Neugebauer said his committee wants to hold hearings on why the U.S. continued to pick up the tab for these defenses after the two lenders went into conservatorship.
Well, somebody has to feed the lawyers...

Setting Up Shop

It looks like Iran will soon have its man in Lebanon:
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a billionaire Sunni businessman, was poised to take the lead of Lebanon's new government after winning the backing of a Hezbollah-led majority in parliament.

An independent bloc in the legislature said Monday it would support Mr. Mikati, a parliamentarian representing the northern city of Tripoli. The move delivered Hezbollah and its allies enough votes for a victory in an election scheduled to conclude on Tuesday, in what would be the final blow to the party of Saad Hariri, the U.S.-backed former prime minister.

Hezbollah drove the collapse of Mr. Hariri's government by leading the withdrawal of ministers from his cabinet nearly two weeks ago.

While the rules of Lebanon's political system will keep Hezbollah from taking control of the government, its apparent victory in the contest for the premiership showed it has enough allies to increasingly dictate policy.

The events Monday aroused sectarian rivalries and increased the risk of sectarian violence. In many Sunni neighborhoods of the capital and in cities inhabited mostly by Sunnis, small groups of pro-Hariri demonstrators burned tires and blocked roads on Monday evening. The army dispersed the protesters peacefully.

Mr. Hariri's bloc called for peaceful demonstrations Tuesday in Martyrs Square, facing the grave of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.

Many Sunnis said they resented that Shiite supporters of Hezbollah and their allies had pushed out Saad Hariri, calling it a "soft coup." In Lebanon, the prime minister is always a Sunni.

Hezbollah, the Iranian- and Syrian-backed militant political party, has stressed that it forced the change in government through democratic means, not violence.

The Obama administration Monday warned Lebanon's political leaders that continuing U.S. support for their country will be difficult if Hezbollah takes a dominant role in government.

The larger the role for Hezbollah, the "more problematic" for relations with Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. The U.S. considers Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization.
Is manipulating another country's elections in your favor considered imperialism when a country like Iran does it? Or is that a charge reserved for the West?

Waiving Reform Away

If you've got the cash, the Obama administration's got you covered:
Three local chapters of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), whose political action committee spent $27 million supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, have received temporary waivers from a provision in the Obamacare law.

The three SEIU chapters include the Local 25 in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

The waivers allow health insurance plans to limit how much they will spend on a policy holder’s medical coverage for a given year. Under the new health care law, however, such annual limits are phased out by the year 2014. (Under HHS regulations, annual limits can be no less than $750,000 for 2011, no less than $1.25 million in 2012 and no less than $2 million in 2013.)

So far, the Obama administration has issued waivers to 222 entities, including businesses, unions and charitable organizations. Of that total, 45 were labor organizations.

A total of 1,507,418 enrollees are now included in the waivers. More than one-third -- 512,315 – of the enrollees affected were insured by union health plans.
But remember, it's about Hope and Change-or at least knowing who your friends are.

Rahmbo Interrupted

Rahm Emanuel can't run:
Rahm Emanuel, who left Chicago to join the Obama administration as White House chief of staff, should not appear on the Feb. 22 mayoral ballot in the city because he does not meet the residency standard, according to a ruling issued by a state appellate court Monday.

Emanuel told a news conference he would appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court and would ask for an injunction so his name would appear on the mayoral ballot.

"I have no doubt at the end we'll prevail in this effort," Emanuel said. "We'll now go to the next level to get clarity."

Emanuel, a former congressman, has been the front-running candidate in the race to succeed retiring Mayor Richard Daley. The latest poll by the Chicago Tribune showed Emanuel at 44%, more than double his closest rival, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

In a 2-1 ruling Monday, the appellate panel said Emanuel does not meet the residency requirement of having lived in Chicago for a year prior to the election. The judges reversed a decision by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, which had unanimously agreed that Emanuel was eligible to run for mayor.

"We conclude that the candidate neither meets the [Illinois] Municipal Code's requirement that he have 'resided in' Chicago for the year preceding the election in which he seeks to participate nor falls within any exception to the requirement," the majority judges wrote.
Rahm's going to appeal. But it's interesting that even Chicagoland doesn't seem to want him. They seem to have higher standards...

The Global Food Balloon

Is it getting ready to burst?
Inflation fears—fueled by spiraling food, oil and raw material prices—are mounting around the globe, prompting the head of the European Central Bank to signal that it could raise interest rates in the future even though some countries have been weakened by the Continent's debt crisis.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal ahead of this week's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jean-Claude Trichet warned that inflation pressures in the euro zone must be watched closely, and urged central bankers everywhere to ensure that higher energy and food prices don't gain a foothold in the global economy.

Mr. Trichet's warning comes at a time when inflation concerns are mounting among investors around the world. Fast-growing emerging markets such as China and Brazil are seeing rising inflation at home, and their demand for globally traded commodities is pushing prices higher elsewhere.
Runaway inflation contributed to the rise of dictatorships in the 1930s, and we all know how well that turned out. As the article notes:
Global inflation isn't just coming from volatile commodities that track the ups and downs of the world economy. Fast-growing emerging nations are taking increasingly aggressive actions to beat back rising food prices as they grow more worried about threats to stability.
More here. If countries can't produce enough bread and butter, how long will it be before they turn to bullets?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bloggin' In The Years: 1981

After more than a year in captivity, the hostages return to freedom:

Fit To The End

The healthiest man in the world, gone:
Jack LaLanne, whose obsession with grueling workouts and good nutrition, complemented by a salesman’s gift, brought him recognition as the founder of the modern physical fitness movement, died Sunday afternoon at his home in Morro Bay, Calif. He was 96.

The cause was respiratory failure resulting from pneumonia, said his son Dan Doyle.

A self-described emotional and physical wreck while growing up in the San Francisco area, Mr. LaLanne began turning his life around, as he often told it, after hearing a talk on proper diet when he was 15.

He started working out with weights when they were an oddity, and in 1936 he opened the prototype for the fitness spas to come — a gym, juice bar and health food store — in an old office building in Oakland.

“People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” he remembered. “The doctors were against me — they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.” But Mr. LaLanne persevered, and he found a national pulpit in the age of television.
Here he is, on the importance of happiness:

He made a lot of people happy. R.I.P.

Back Scratchers

The real reason Democrats don't like budget cuts? They cost them support:
The federal employee unions gave nearly $5 million to Democratic House and Senate candidates between 2001 and the 2010 campaign, according to data cited by MAPLight from the Center for Responsive Politics compared to just over $1 million to Republicans.

In other words, Democrats got 82 percent of the campaign cash contributed by federal employee unions.

The two ways to look at these facts? The conventional wisdom focuses on the fact the GOP is proposing spending cuts that will have a negative impact on federal employees, who deliver vital services like Social Security checks.

That approach typically ignores any evidence that even with a 15 percent reduction in the 2.0-million-plus federal civil service, the Social Security checks would continue to be delivered on time, and the federal government could continue providing all of the essential services it does at current workforce levels.

But there's another way of looking at these numbers. Democrats depend upon campaign contributions from unions, and that increasingly means from federal employee unions, who represent the only growth sector for the labor movement.

And how do Democrats keep the campaign cash rolling in from the unions? By continually supporting bigger federal budgets and more federal regulations as the justification for an ever-growing federal workforce, which in turn produces more dues-paying union members and more campaign cash for their Democratic benefactors in Congress and the executive branch.

Thus, any effort by Republicans to limit government spending and growth will justifiably be seen by Democrats and unionized federal workers as a threat, regardless of the merits of the case being presented by the GOP.

Or to put it in a slightly more direct light, it's not about keeping those Social Security checks coming for the old folks that most worries Democrats and federal employee union leaders, it's keeping the fatter paychecks coming for the bureaucrats so their unions can continue writing big campaign contrbution checks to Democrats.
Won't somebody please think of the campaign donors!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bloggin' In The Years: 1824

I have been privelaged to have received a transcript of the following quote by former President Jefferson:
Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object.
And yet, we still have a Republic, imperfect as it is. But Republics only last so long as those that claim to respect the rights of both the Aristocrat and the Democrat continue to do so in fact as well as in name. To allow either one to deny the other is to lead down the path of Caesar and Napoleon.

Ghost Workers

Why jobs that were supposed to be created weren't:
The years between the brief 2001 recession and the 2008 financial collapse gave us solid growth in our gross national product, soaring corporate profits, and a low unemployment rate—but job creation lagged stubbornly behind, more so than in any economic expansion since World War II.

The Great Recession wiped out what amounts to every U.S. job created in the 21st century. But even if the recession had never happened, if the economy had simply treaded water, the United States would have entered 2010 with 15 million fewer jobs than economists say it should have.

Somehow, rapid advancements in technology and the opening of new international markets paid dividends for American companies but not for American workers. An economy that long thrived on its dynamism, shedding jobs in outdated and less competitive industries and adding them in innovative new fields, fell stagnant in the swirls of the most globalized decade of commerce in human history.
Being unprepared for what happens when expectations aren't fulfilled and general short-sightedness hasn't helped. It's one of the reasons why anything Obama says is likely to fall flat to anyone who actually pays attention to jobs and business. As a result, putting a light bulb maker in charge of finding the answer isn't likely to work, either.

Odd Todd

Well, this isn't good news for Palin's presidential prospects (if any):
The National Enquirer is running a thinly-sourced report claiming that Todd Palin, husband of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has been busted in a sex scandal involving a massage therapist -- and supposedly a former prostitution ringleader -- who he was allegedly romantically involved with.

From The Enquirer:

Political bloggers are digging into incredible claims that the "First Dude" - father of the couple's five children - cheated on his wife with a female massage therapist who was busted for prostitution!
Todd Palin's spokespeople have, of course, denied the allegations, but The Enquirer now claims that there are "official documents" and "physical evidence" concerning the connection between the "First Dude" and Shailey Tripp, an Alaska woman who was once arrested on prostitution charges stemming from a Craigslist "massage" service.

"According to the tenants in the building of her offices, they saw Todd come and go often and heard noises that sounded like someone was having sex. It was the same tenants who called the police on her," an anonymous source wrote The Enquirer in an email.
So far this seems relegated to the rumor far. After all, this is the National Enquirer we're talking about here. On the other hand, they did break the John Edwards scandal. We'll see if this goes anywhere...but it doesn't look good.

Mad Ad Men

Becaue they know what's important:
The U.N. health agency says world leaders will discuss efforts to clamp down on junk food marketing to children when they meet in New York on Sept 19-20.

The World Health Organization says heads of state will use the U.N. General Assembly meeting to talk about limiting the number and type of ads that children are exposed to.

WHO says 43 million preschool children around the world are overweight or obese. Experts talk of a "fat tsunami" that is already causing millions of premature deaths each year.

Bjorn-Inge Larsen of the Norwegian Directorate of Health told reporters Friday that he expects voluntary measures limiting junk food advertising to eventually evolve into laws banning the practice in the same way that has occurred with tobacco.
I guess it's official: candy bars are the new cigarettes. Which will make them even more popular as contraband among the kids...

Friday, January 21, 2011

The New Jobs Boss

Needless to say, Obama's choice for top economics advisor is fraught with contradictions:
Mr. Immelt's closeness to the Democratic administration is a departure from GE's heritage as a conservative company whose past leaders helped school Ronald Reagan in small-government conservatism—a heritage Mr. Immelt and GE celebrated over the past year in honor of the centennial of Mr. Reagan's birth.

Mr. Immelt didn't contribute to Mr. Obama's presidential run, according to campaign records. But he declared against the backdrop of the economic crisis and the upheaval of the 2008 election: "We are all Democrats now."

Under Mr. Immelt, GE chased government stimulus spending in the U.S. and globally, in part to counter the troubles at its finance unit. GE lobbyists and Mr. Immelt pushed hard for tens of billions of dollars in green-energy projects contained in the $787 billion stimulus bill Mr. Obama signed in early 2009.

GE's own job-creation record has been spotty in recent years. Between 2001 and 2009, it cut 24,000 jobs from its U.S. work force, according to company filings. GE said 2010 figures aren't available. GE officials said they didn't know whether jobs went up or down last year, but pointed to some recent additions of jobs thanks to new manufacturing projects announced this year.

Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union, criticized Mr. Obama's appointment of Mr. Immelt.

"Did he tell the president that last year he shut down three GE plants, all of which were money makers for the company, and moved the work overseas?" Mr. Buffenbarger said. "The president keeps proving to me on a daily basis just how gullible he is in terms of real-world things like manufacturing technology and the preservation and creation of jobs."
Remember, when a Democrat is in bed with a giant corporation, it's for the good of the country. When a Republican does it, it's evil.

Olbermann, Over And Out

He's gone:
Keith Olbermann, the highest-rated host on MSNBC, announced abruptly on the air Friday night that he is leaving “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” immediately.

The host, who has had a stormy relationship with the management of the network for some time, especially since he was suspended for two days last November, came to an agreement with NBC’s corporate management late this week to settle his contract and step down.

In a closing statement on his show, Mr. Olbermann said simply that it would be the last edition of the program. He offered no explanation other than on occasion, the show had become too much for him.

Mr. Olbermann thanked his viewers for their enthusiastic support of a show that had “gradually established its position as anti-establishment.”

In a statement, MSNBC said : “MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC’s success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”
It's the end of an era, and now this just leaves Chris Matthews as the network's most recognizable voice. But Olbermann certainly left his mark:
Mr. Olbermann’s outspoken, and sometimes controversial, support of liberal positions and Democratic candidates redefined MSNBC from a neutral news channel to one with that openly sought to offer viewers on the left their own voice, much as Fox News has done so successfully for an audience of viewers with conservative opinions.

Mr. Olbermann challenged Fox News publicly on numerous occasions, especially the top-rated cable host Bill O’Reilly, whom he regularly tweaked and frequently placed in the top circle of infamy on a segment Mr. Olbermann called “The Worst Person in the World.”

Ratings for his show grew, though he never really approached the level of popularity Mr. O’Reilly has achieved. But he helped grow the MSNBC liberal brand by his frequent invitations to one guest, Rachel Maddow, who was eventually offered her own show on MSNBC.
Well, at least now they have plenty of others to carry on the propaganda. So you could say that Olbermann did his job, such as it was.

The Powers Behind The Throne

Democrats need to ditch the unions:
If the Democrats want to be competitive in 2012, they must move decisively back to the center. And unless they're able to break the stranglehold that government-employee unions have on the party on policy, as well as in financial and political support, it will be virtually impossible for Democrats to restore fiscal health to states like New York and California.

Working-class families are fleeing the Democratic Party en masse, a trend that is likely to continue if their own economic situation remains weak in the face of ever-higher taxes, deficits and debt. These working-class voters see that public employees are continuing to receive more generous benefits and enjoy greater job security than they are. Support for the Democratic Party is now well below 40% with working-class voters who are unionized, and as low as 33% with whites who are not college educated.

By providing Democratic candidates the bulk of their campaign funding, public unions have essentially bought control of the party. This is particularly true when it comes to the politicians who control union contracts and pensions at the state and municipal level.
Sometimes, you really do have to bite the hand that feeds you, no matter how painful it might be.

Where Have All The Protesters Gone?

Reason TV wants to know:

It does seem that protest is only hip when a Republican is in office...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

States Versus The State

The opposition to Obamacare keeps growing:
Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Wyoming and Maine won permission to join a Florida lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health-care reform legislation.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida, yesterday granted the states’ motion for permission to be added to the lawsuit filed last year by then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollom, bringing the total of plaintiff states to 26.

“The addition of six new states to our bipartisan legal challenge reflects broad, nationwide concern about the constitutionality of this sweeping and unprecedented federal legislation,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a press statement.
With state budgets nearing the breaking point, many states are now realizing just how much mandatory health care will cost them. And their opposition could cost Obama more than he bargained for.

Kind Words And A Gun

How the 2nd amendment protected civil rights workers:
Many civil rights activists—including those who publicly engaged in non-violent forms of resistance—kept guns for self-defense. T.R.M. Howard, the Mississippi doctor and mutual aid leader who founded the pioneering Regional Council of Negro Leadership, slept with a Thompson submachine gun at the foot of his bed. During the murder trial that followed the horrific lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till, Howard escorted Till’s grieving mother and various others to and from the courthouse in a heavily-armed caravan.

Similarly, John R. Salter, one of the organizers of the famous 1963 sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in Jackson, Mississippi, said he always “traveled armed” while working as a civil rights organizer in the South. “I’m alive today because of the Second Amendment and the natural right to keep and bear arms,” Salter said.
Of course, today's white liberals would claim they know best how to protect African American activists...

Canadian Cajones

Canada still has some:
The Harper government sent a diplomatic note to Iran Wednesday, as Heritage Minister James Moore lashed out at Tehran for its part in a campaign that cancelled the screening of a movie critical of the Iranian regime at Library and Archives Canada.

On Wednesday morning, the Minister instructed Library and Archives Canada to show Iranium, a documentary critiquing Iran’s nuclear program, after it cowed to numerous threats of protest and an official request from the Iranian embassy in Canada to not present the film Tuesday night, as scheduled.

In its diplomatic note to Tehran, the government said Canada is a free country and that freedom of expression is a core value that won’t be compromised.

“This movie will be shown, the agreement will be kept and this movie Iranium will be shown at Library and Archives Canada. We will not be moving it to a different facility, we’re not bending to any pressure,” said Mr. Moore on the CBC’s Power and Politics.

“People need to be kept safe, but we don’t back down to people who try to censor people by threats of violence.”
They've got their own censors for that...still, good for Harper and his people in this case.

Higher Educashun

College really does seem to be a slacker's paradise, after all:
Nearly half of the nation's undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don't make academics a priority, a new report shows.

Instructors tend to be more focused on their own faculty research than teaching younger students, who in turn are more tuned in to their social lives, according to the report, based on a book titled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Findings are based on transcripts and surveys of more than 3,000 full-time traditional-age students on 29 campuses nationwide, along with their results on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test that gauges students' critical thinking, analytic reasoning and writing skills.

After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.

Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.

"These are really kind of shocking, disturbing numbers," says New York University professor Richard Arum, lead author of the book, published by the University of Chicago Press.

He noted that students in the study, on average, earned a 3.2 grade-point average. "Students are able to navigate through the system quite well with little effort," Arum said.
Well, that's easy enough to do when you don't have to, like, do anything...

Born In The U.S.A. (Honest)

Oh, good:
Officials in Hawaii have tracked down papers indicating that President Obama was indeed born in their state, according to its new governor.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who took office in December, told Honolulu's Star-Advertiser on Tuesday that "our investigation" indicates there is a recording of his birth.

"It actually exists in the archives, written down," he said.

The new Democratic head of the state vowed when he took office that he would do his best to end the debate over Obama's birth, which began in 2008 during the presidential campaign.

"We'll do what we can as quickly as we can to make it inevitable that only those who wish the President ill, only the ones with a political agenda, will be the ones doing this kind of thing," Abercrombie told CNN in December. "The President is entitled to the respect of his office and he's entitled to have his mother and father respected."

During that interview, Abercrombie said his goal to combat birthers was a personal one.

"It's a matter of principle with me," the 72-year-old said. "I knew his mom and dad. I was here when he was born. Anybody who wants to ask a question honestly could have had their answer already."

On Tuesday, he again promised he would do "what I can do" to publicly verify that records show Obama was born in Hawaii and is a citizen of the United States, making him eligible to be President.
He's not really helping himself here, as the conspiracy theorists will always say he's hiding something. Which raises the question of why he's still getting involved in this in the first place...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Error Of Their Ways

Surprise, surprise:
A climate change study that projected a 2.4 degree Celsius increase in temperature and massive worldwide food shortages in the next decade was seriously flawed, scientists said Wednesday.

The study was posted on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was written about by numerous international news agencies, including AFP.

But AAAS later retracted the study as experts cited numerous errors in its approach.

"A reporter with The Guardian alerted us yesterday to concerns about the news release submitted by Hoffman & Hoffman public relations," said AAAS spokeswoman Ginger Pinholster in an email to AFP.

"We immediately contacted a climate change expert, who confirmed that the information raised many questions in his mind, too. We swiftly removed the news release from our Web site and contacted the submitting organization."

Scientist Osvaldo Canziani, who was part of the 2007 Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was listed as the scientific advisor to the report.
Well, we all know how much a Nobel Prize is worth these days, don't we?

Liars And Damned Liars

Well, the "new civility" didn't last long:

And now, in the aftermath, Mr. Cohen isn't sorry:
"I didn't see anything wrong with it. Goebbels was the great propagandist of probably the 20th century, and his whole theory was if you tell the lie over and over again people will believe it," Cohen told CNN.

Still, Cohen said he didn't believe he was comparing Republicans to Nazis.

"I wasn't trying to say, never would say, haven't said and wouldn't say that the Republicans are akin to the party that he [Goebbels] was a part of, but they [Republicans] did lie and they've said the lie over and over again," Cohen said.

"The fact is that the government takeover of health care is a lie," he said.

"I don't think I was comparing the Republicans to Goebbels. I was saying that lies are lies and Goebbels was the great perpetrator of lies and that's a danger, and if you look at Goebbels you can see the lie that he told about Jews which he constantly did, became considered fact in Germany that the Jews were evil, and people got involved and didn't stand up."

Cohen also denied his comments ignored his party leadership's pleas to tone down the rhetoric following the shooting of their colleague, Gabrielle Giffords.

"I think civility is not lying, and if you can't come up and say that somebody is lying when they're lying, then the lie becomes the truth. That's not uncivil to say somebody lied," he said.

But, after several questions about the appropriateness of evoking a Nazi to make that point, Cohen did say that "there are no Nazis in Congress, there are some liars, but no Nazis."
No, just liberals and those who lie for them.

Change We Can Believe In

The House Republicans have delivered:
The House voted on Wednesday to repeal the sweeping healthcare law enacted last year, as Republicans made good on a central campaign pledge and laid down the first major policy marker of their new majority.

The party-line vote was 245-189, as three Democrats joined all 242 Republicans in supporting repeal.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the healthcare law on the books would increase spending, raise taxes and eliminate jobs.

“Repeal means paving the way for better solutions that will lower the costs without destroying jobs or bankrupting our government," Boehner said in remarks on the floor before the vote.

“Let’s stop payment on this check before it can destroy more jobs or put us into a deeper hole.”
And now, on to the Senate. We'll see how things go from here, but so far it looks promising.

The Ex-Governator

Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the importance of his own importance:
In a recent sit-down the former governor granted to the Austrian newspaper Krone, Schwarzenegger estimates that his seven years as governor cost him about $200 million – $70 million of that in lost movie roles.

Schwarzenegger also laments the fact that Hollywood salaries have dropped since he left the business.

He said his abysmal popularity rankings were “just a snapshot” and that “they would have rocketed to the top” had he not been forced out of office by term limits.

He acknowledged the sorry state of the California’s budget, and his approval ratings that had plummeted to below those of Gray Davis, whom he unseated in a recall election.

Schwarzenegger said if he’d known how hard California would be hit by the recession, he would have started cutting state spending much earlier.
Well, it's nice to know being governor didn't affect his ego...

The Last Rock Concert

Don Kirshner is gone:
Don Kirshner, the music publisher of Brill Building hits like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’ ” who later served as a deadpan Ed Sullivan for Kiss, the Ramones and others with his 1970s television show, “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” died on Monday in Boca Raton, Fla., where he lived. He was 76.

The cause was heart failure, his family said.

The Brill Building age of pop, named after the Manhattan building where many of its songwriters labored, lasted from the mid-1950s to the mid-’60s and is celebrated for the people behind its innocently aching music: producers like Phil Spector, writing teams like Carole King and Gerry Goffin (“The Loco-Motion”).

But the guiding force behind many of those people was Mr. Kirshner, whose hustle, hit-trained ear and good timing helped shape pop in the days when Tin Pan Alley’s song-craft traditions were being mingled with the rhythms of rock.

As a pioneering musical matchmaker, Mr. Kirshner discovered many of the era’s best songwriters, prodded them for hits and shopped the results to top artists. Later in the 1960s he married bubblegum to television with two manufactured, semifictitious bands: the Monkees and the cartoon Archies.

“He had a great sense of commerciality and song, the ability to hear a song and know it’s a hit,” said Charles Koppelman, a veteran music executive who began his career in Mr. Kirshner’s company, Aldon.
Farewell to a pop music pioneer. Here he is, introducing KISS:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bloggin' In The Years: 1998

Matt Drudge may have just gotten the scoop of his career:
The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication. A young woman, 23, sexually involved with the love of her life, the President of the United States, since she was a 21-year-old intern at the White House. She was a frequent visitor to a small study just off the Oval Office where she claims to have indulged the president's sexual preference. Reports of the relationship spread in White House quarters and she was moved to a job at the Pentagon, where she worked until last month.

The young intern wrote long love letters to President Clinton, which she delivered through a delivery service. She was a frequent visitor at the White House after midnight, where she checked in the WAVE logs as visiting a secretary named Betty Curry, 57.

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that tapes of intimate phone conversations exist.

The relationship between the president and the young woman become strained when the president believed that the young woman was bragging about the affair to others.

NEWSWEEK and Isikoff were planning to name the woman. Word of the story's impeding release caused blind chaos in media circles; TIME magazine spent Saturday scrambling for its own version of the story, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. The NEW YORK POST on Sunday was set to front the young intern's affair, but was forced to fall back on the dated ABC NEWS Kathleen Willey break.

The story was set to break just hours after President Clinton testified in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.
A decade ago, or even five years ago, it might have been easier for Newsweek to sit on a story like this. No longer. Now we'll see how the mainstream media plays catch-up in the Internet age-and whether or not President Clinton can keep his job.

Generous Hypocrisy

Via Althouse, Andrew Sullivan promises to be nicer to Sarah Palin:
...there is no conceivable way in which, in my judgment, her presence on the national stage can improve our discourse, help solve our problems or improve public life. But that does not forbid one from noting the great example she has shown in rearing a child with Down Syndrome, whatever his provenance, or noting her effectiveness as a demagogue, or from admiring her father's genuineness or her skill in exploiting new media. I've consistently tried to do this without undercutting my still-raw amazement that an advanced democratic society could even contemplate putting such an unstable and irresponsible person in a position of any real power.

Generous anger: a classically Orwellian term. Because it is a new phrase, a fresh idea, and yet instantly understandable. And necessary.
So, will he be more or less generous when spinning conspiracy theories about her kids?

The Price Of Sleaze

John Edwards is in trouble:
A federal grand jury meeting in Raleigh, N.C., is combing through records and testimony involving several political organizations and individuals connected to Edwards and trying to determine if the former North Carolina senator and 2004 vice presidential nominee broke any laws. A recently issued subpoena focuses on a web of these political groups allied with Edwards, according to subpoena details provided to AP that offer a glimpse into the investigation being conducted behind closed doors.

The case largely stems from money spent to keep Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed paternity so Edwards could continue pursuing the White House without the taint of the affair.

Investigators are looking chiefly at whether funds paid to Hunter and Young — from outside political groups and Edwards' political donors — should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid, according to several people involved in the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe. And they're also looking closely at whether any entities linked to Edwards operated illegally.

While it could not be learned if federal prosecutors have found violations of a specific statute, federal election laws require disclosure of the money spent on campaigns for federal offices, limit the amounts of such donations and prohibit the conversion of campaign funds to personal use.
Well, at lest he'll be the best-looking scumbag in Club Fed.

The Chinese Way

A NASA scientist is upset that democracy got in the way of the climate-change crusade:
According to Mr. Hansen, compared to China, we are "the barbarians" with a "fossil-money- 'democracy' that now rules the roost," making it impossible to legislate effectively on climate change. Unlike us, the Chinese are enlightened, unfettered by pesky elections. Here's what he blogged on Nov. 24:

"I have the impression that Chinese leadership takes a long view, perhaps because of the long history of their culture, in contrast to the West with its short election cycles. At the same time, China has the capacity to implement policy decisions rapidly. The leaders seem to seek the best technical information and do not brand as a hoax that which is inconvenient."

Has this guy ever heard of the Gang of Four? Or the Cultural Revolution, which killed those who were inconvenient? Or the Great Leap Forward, which used the best technical information to determine that a steel mill in every backyard was a good idea?

Mr. Hansen has another idea to circumvent our democracy. Because Congress is not likely to pass any legislation making carbon-based energy prohibitively expensive, he proposed, in the South China Morning Post, that China lead a boycott of our economy:

"After agreement with other nations, e.g., the European Union, China and these nations could impose rising internal carbon fees. Existing rules of the World Trade Organization would allow collection of a rising border duty on products from all nations that do not have an equivalent internal carbon fee or tax.

"The United States then would be forced to make a choice. It could either address its fossil-fuel addiction ... or ... accept continual descent into second-rate and third-rate economic well-being."

The WTO, in fact, has not "ruled" that it can impose environmental tariffs of any kind, much less those of such magnitude that they would destroy the world's largest economy.
At any rate, aren't we already in second-rate economic well-being? And that's with the leadership we have now.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Don't Hate Me Because I'm Smart"

As if attractive snobs needed another reason to feel superior:
A study in England conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics found that attractive men and women generally have higher IQs.

"Physical attractiveness is significantly positively associated with general intelligence," said LSE lead researcher Satoshi Kanazawa, in the latest issue of the journal Intelligence.

The study indicated attractive men have IQs that are 13.6 points above the average, while beautiful women are 11.4 points higher than average.

Since intelligent men are more inclined to achieve more success, they are "more likely to marry beautiful women," Kanazawa said. "Given that both intelligence and physical attractiveness are highly heritable, there should be a positive correlation between intelligence and physical attractiveness in the children's generation."

The study included 52,000 people from both the United Kingdom and United States.

However, Kanazawa insists this should not be considered justification for believing beautiful people are better than everyone else.

"Our contention that beautiful people are more intelligent is purely scientific," he said. "It is not a prescription for how to treat or judge others."
No; they do that already, don't they?

The Forgotten Class

The Peoples' Republic seems to be increasingly at odds with the people:
China has 20% of the world’s population, but just 6% of the farmable land. If the central government begins to implement price controls, shortages are inevitable. A recent reported from World Economic Forum warned that shortages could “cause social and political instability, geopolitical conflict, and irreparable environmental damage.” The central government seems to have few options to control food inflation without causing a major disruption in the rest of the economy.

Chinese soldiers and their families are mostly from rural China, the majority of whom have not benefited from China’s rising economy, with 600 million still earning less than $6 a day. Indeed, in many aspects, quality of life has deteriorated for those without connections, a prerequisite for wealth in the eyes of most Chinese according to polls. Many do not view competition for material goods as healthy, pollution and waste have worsened exponentially, housing prices have skyrocketed, and now food prices surging. Businessweek reported that ordinary Chinese are increasingly yearning for a return to Mao style communism – “a more equal” society, with Conqing Party Boss Bo Xilia gaining support and pushing for membership to the inner circle.

To summarize, banks have ignored PBOC orders, the military is doing their own thing, and food prices are surging with few solutions available to the central government. They have a fixed asset bubble, a likely onslaught of bad loans in the offing, and millions of jobs tied to construction. Many Chinese are worse off and the military is more sympathetic to ordinary Chinese than the noveau riche. Inflation is nearing levels associated with social unrest. The situation is a powderkeg.
If the sleeping dragon of China's unrest awakens, will the rest of the world be ready?

Rare Praise

Oh, my. Dick Cheney offers some praise for Obama:
In his first interview since undergoing major heart surgery last July, Cheney said he thinks Obama has been forced to rethink some of his national security positions now that he sits in the Oval Office.

"I think he's learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate. So I think he's learned from experience. And part of that experience was the Democrats having a terrible showing last election."

Cheney also asserted that Obama has learned that the prison at Guantanamo Bay simply cannot be closed, despite the promises he made while campaigning for the White House.

"I think he's learned that he's not going to be able to close Guantanamo," Cheney said. "That it's — if you didn't have it, you'd have to create one like that. You've got to have some place to put terrorists who are combatants who are bound and determined to try to kill Americans."
How times have changed. If Obama has been able to learn from his experiences, that might actually be a good thing for him-if he can live down moments like this.

Al Qaida And Their Forty Thieves

Things are tough all over:
Followers of one of the fastest-growing radical Muslim terror groups are being told to steal, embezzle and seize property – especially from Americans – in order to finance their jihad.

While Muslim teaching generally forbids theft, the new edition of Inspire magazine -- launched by the group behind the air cargo printer bombs in October, the underwear bomb plot in December 2009 and the most recent pre-Christmas alert -- is now telling followers that such crimes are justifiable, especially if the U.S. government and U.S. citizens are targets.

In the fourth edition of the magazine, launched by Al Qaeda in Yemen in July, American-born radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki encourages his disciples to fund more attacks through crime. The Middle East Media Research Institute provided Fox News with its copy of the magazine.

“In an attempt to deal with the cash-shortage jihadist groups are facing, Al-Awlaki gives religious justification to any actions used by jihadists to obtain money. In the article, titled ‘The Ruling on Dispossessing the Disbelievers’ Wealth in Dar Al-Harb,’ he deals with the issue by ruling that Western countries are considered Dar Al-Harb, i.e. the territory of war, countries on which the rules of war apply,” says an analysis from media research group.
Well, it's not like they can get a bailout...

Brother, Can You Spare A Bond?

How the bond market essentially became a long con:
As it turned out, the housing-bond market was a Ponzi scheme not all that different than what Bernie Madoff pulled off for so long. Eventually, the cash couldn't flow in fast enough to keep inflating the bubble. Once the folks who couldn't afford their mortgages could no longer flip out of the market, the whole thing burst.

The municipal-bond market's assumption is that cities and states won't default on their debt because they need to keep selling bonds to build roads and bridges. Investors will keep buying munis because they think the state will always make good on its obligations (and with the added incentive that these bonds are free of state, local and federal taxes).

But suppose taxes are so high that people leave cities or states in droves, depleting the pool of revenue need to pay bondholders? Suppose these states have so many other obligations -- from federal mandates, massive "guaranteed" pensions to government workers and more -- that they can't or won't make the vast cuts needed to keep paying on their bonds?

Investors are now including that worry in their calculations of risk and price; the places where government has choked off the private economy and tax revenues the most -- such as New Jersey, California and New York -- are suffering the worst. The states in which the private economy flourishes have little trouble issuing debt even in this turbulent market.
When you scare away the people who could have made your state better, this is what happens. Unfortunately, said states don't seem to have learned their lesson.

Health Care Heresy

David Cameron proposes the unthinkable:
Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday waded into terrain where past British governments have foundered, promising fundamental changes to the country's expensive and over-stressed public health care system.

Cameron said the reforms would cut red tape and improve treatment, but critics claim they will cause chaos and could lead to backdoor privatization of the much-criticized but widely popular National Health Service.

The British leader, whose Conservative Party heads the country's coalition government, said he would save money and cut red tape by giving control over management to family practitioners rather than bureaucrats, and allow private companies, charities and social enterprises to bid for contracts within the public health service.

Making health care more efficient has proved an elusive goal for successive British governments. The previous Labour administration vowed to reduce waiting times for treatment, and succeeded — but at the cost, say critics, of wasteful bureaucracy.

In a speech outlining the government's plans to overhaul public services, Cameron promised to get rid of "topdown, command-and-control bureaucracy and targets." He said that with an aging population and growing demand for new medical treatments, "pretending that there is some easy option of sticking with the status quo and hoping that a little bit of extra money will smooth over the challenges is a complete fiction."
Real reform, allowing patients more choice...sound familiar?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Falling Behind

When it comes to our economy, at least we're better off than...oh, wait:
Ben Bernanke and his allies on the FOMC expect the unemployment rate to still be close to 8% two years from now. At this rate of improvement, it could take four to five more years for the job market to normalize fully.

Still, while aware of just how tough the jobs picture looks, many tried-and-true Yankees might assume that countries around the world suffer with unemployment rates just as elevated as ours.

Not true.

As our buddies at Bespoke point out, the reality is that the US ranks pretty poorly compared to the rest of the world.

“The Eurozone is at similar levels to the US, but when most of the countries that have a higher unemployment rate than the US are collectively referred to as PIGS, it's not very encouraging,” Bespoke emphasizes.
And our "discourse" doesn't seem to be much better, either...

Bite Me

Don Surber on the sudden call for "Discourse":
Last week, the left quickly blamed the right for the national tragedy of a shooting spree by a madman who never watched Fox News, never listened to Rush Limbaugh and likely did not know who Sarah Palin is.

Fortunately, the American public rejected out of hand that idiotic notion that the right was responsible.

Rather than apologize, the left wants to change the tone of the political debate.

The left suddenly wants civil discourse.

Bite me.

The left wants to play games of semantics.

Bite me.

The left wants us to be civil — after being so uncivil for a decade.

Bite me.

So screw you and your civil discourse.

I don’t want to hear it.

I have been screamed at for 10 years.

It’s my turn now. I am not going to scream back. But I refuse to allow anyone to dictate what I say or how I say it. I refuse to allow the same foul-mouthed, foul-spirited foul people who dumped on me to now try to tell me what I may or may not say.

My free speech matters more than the feelings of anyone on the left. You don’t like what I say? Tough.

I will not allow people to label my words Hate Speech or try to lecture me on civility. I saw the lefty signs. The left’s definition of civil discourse is surreal.

We have a terribly unfit president who has expanded government control beyond not only what is constitutional but what is healthy for our freedom.

Indeed, this call for civil discourse is itself a direct threat to my free speech.

So screw you.
Tell us how you really feel...more on liberal "Civility" here.

Haitian Homecoming

How bad are things in Haiti? Baby Doc is back:
Haiti’s exiled former dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, returned unexpectedly to his homeland Sunday for the first time since he was deposed in a coup in 1986.

Although the reason was not immediately clear, his return, reported by news agencies and radio stations in Haiti, appeared to take the Haitian government completely by surprise.

He returned as Haiti remains in a political crisis over a disputed election last fall and the country continues to recover from a devastating earthquake a year ago last week.

Mr. Duvalier, known as “Baby Doc,” had ruled Haiti after the 1971 death of his father, the authoritarian Fran├žois Duvalier, known as “Papa Doc.” The son had been living in France in exile.

Reuters reported that he was met at the airport in Port-au-Prince by enthusiastic supporters.
He then took one look around, and immediately went back to France.

Turkey Call

The Turkish Prime Minister puts the sick man that is now Europe on notice:
The financial crisis has laid bare Europe’s need for greater dynamism and change: European labor markets and social-security systems are comatose. European economies are stagnant. European societies are near geriatric. Can Europe retain power and credibility in the new world order without addressing these issues?

Meanwhile, as a candidate for EU membership, Turkey has been putting its imprint on the global stage with its impressive economic development and political stability. The Turkish economy is Europe’s fastest-growing sizable economy and will continue to be so in 2011. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecasts, Turkey will be the second-largest economy in Europe by 2050. Turkey is a market where foreign direct investment can get emerging-market returns at a developed-market risk. Turkey is bursting with the vigor that the EU so badly needs.
He has a point. Europe needs new economic blood and thinking as it tries to save its welfare states with austerity measures and bailouts. Sooner or later, something will have to give.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Things That Aren't So

How dumb was the media's lust for blood in Arizona? So much so that Time Magazine said this:
Those who say right-wing rhetoric was the one factor tipping Loughner misunderstand the complex nature of psychosis. "No single variable explains violence in schizophrenia," write Swanson and eight colleagues in a 2006 paper published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. "Rather, violent behavior occurs within a social-ecological system involving a 'whole person' with a particular life history and state of health." In short, saying Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck caused Loughner's actions is, to put it charitably, completely idiotic.
And the New York Times said this:
Within hours of the shooting, there was a full-fledged witch hunt to link the shooter to the right.

“I saw Goody Proctor with the devil! Oh, I mean Jared Lee Loughner! Yes him. With the devil!”

The only problem is that there was no evidence then, and even now, that overheated rhetoric from the right had anything to do with the shooting. (In fact, a couple of people who said they knew him have described him as either apolitical or “quite liberal.”) The picture emerging is of a sad and lonely soul slowly, and publicly, slipping into insanity.
Unfortunately, somebody forgot to tell Bill Maher. But then, being wrong never stopped him before.

The Other Side Of Anger

In an ironic twist, a victim is revealed to be another unbalanced individual:
Merely a week after a crazed gunman shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head and left several others dead and wounded at a local political event, a Tea Party spokesman in the same area received a public death threat at a town hall meeting– from one of Jared Loughner’s victims.

Local station KGUN is reporting that Eric Fuller a 63-year-old military veteran who was shot in the back last Saturday while attending Rep. Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event, became enraged by the statements of some of the participants at the town hall events and threatened the life of Tea Party spokesman Trent Humphries.

Fuller is being charged with threats, intimidation, and disorderly conduct according to authorities. He has been profiled by CBS and has publicly blamed Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Sharron Angle for inciting the violence that caused the events of last Saturday. The town hall meeting is scheduled to be aired tomorrow on ABC– whether this incident will make it to broadcast is yet to be seen, though, oddly, ABC News has yet to report on this incident.
Maybe they don't want to be accused of being part of a "Climate of Hate..."

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...