Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rich Party, Poor Voter

They told me that if Republicans ran, we'd have a party that only cared about the wealthy, and they were right!
Entire forests have been felled explaining why the working class abandoned the Democratic Party, but that's not the real story. It's true that Southern whites of all classes have increasingly voted Republican over the past 30 years. But working-class African Americans have been (and remain) among the most reliable Democratic voters, and as Larry Bartels has shown convincingly, outside the South the white working class has not dramatically changed its voting behavior over the past half-century. About 50 percent of these moderate-income whites vote for Democratic presidential candidates, and a bit more than half self-identify as Democrats. These numbers bounce up and down a bit (thus the "Reagan Democrat" phenomenon of the early '80s), but the overall trend has been virtually flat since 1948.

In other words, it's not that the working class has abandoned Democrats. It's just the opposite: The Democratic Party has largely abandoned the working class.
....
...Politicians don't respond to the concerns of voters, they respond to the organized muscle of institutions that represent them. With labor in decline, both parties now respond strongly to the interests of the rich—whose institutional representation is deep and energetic—and barely at all to the interests of the working and middle classes.
True enough. The real problem for the Democrats, however, isn't that liberalism has lost its voice-it's that liberalism has lost its appeal, and it's largely the Democrats' own fault.

Save Our Nanny State

Across the pond, calls to save the NHS haven't exactly caught on:
It isn’t hard to see why. The NHS might be of profound symbolic importance to left-wing activists, but to the general public, to the masses who make up its clientele, it is a patronising, snooping and increasingly politically motivated institution. Save it? Why, exactly?

The middle classes, who tend to live in parts of Britain where public services in general are in quite good nick, have done pretty well from the NHS. The rest of Britain, those who have been notable by their absence on “Save our NHS” protests, has not. For them, the NHS is no longer a glorious postwar invention – it is the institution which lectures them endlessly about their eating, drinking and smoking habits.
....

Is it any wonder that the public is not out on the street alongside those NHS fanboys who are fighting tooth and nail to protect their favourite state body? These protests illustrate brilliantly the chasm separating many liberal campaigners from ordinary members of the public, where the former sees the welfare state as the saviour of the masses while the latter knows very well that much of the welfare state is an aloof and pernicious thing.
The former always thinks it knows what's best for the latter...

Cyber Wars

The Pentagon wants to raise the stakes:
The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.

The Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country’s military.

In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.
This sounds a bit risky, as explained here. But that day may be coming soon.

Be Careful What You Vote For

That'll leave a mark:
Eighty-two House Democrats joined every Republican in rejecting a bill to raise the federal debt ceiling to $16.7 trillion, and the measure failed by a vote of 97 to 318, with seven members (all Democrats) voting “present.”

The Obama administration has argued for such a “clean” vote on the debt ceiling without strings attached (such as additional legislation to reduce the debt).
....

No doubt, this is political gamesmanship by the GOP meant to call the Democrats bluff and show that a stand-alone vote on the debt limit has no chance of passage. But it still is another demonstration that Democrats are reluctant to vote for anything that could open them up to criticism, even when it means voting for policies for which they had previously expressed support.
So much for trying to bluff their way past the debt ceiling. Now Team Obama actually has to deal with it.

Weinergate Update

Try as he might, Anthony Weiner can't seem to get away from his slowly growing scandal. CNN, to their credit, calls him out on it:

The Expanding Imperial Presidency

An argument that it's actually gotten worse under Obama:
Civil libertarians once looked to this president to right the constitutional balance. But what Obama has wrought is the same old "Terror Presidency" with new rhetoric.

Gen. Michael Hayden, President George W. Bush's CIA director, notes a "powerful continuity" between the two administrations on national security powers. Even former Vice President Dick Cheney now grudgingly praises Obama for leaving most of the Bush framework intact.

In some areas, "44" has gone even further than "43." Bush claimed "inherent power" to attack other countries at will, but never fought a war without congressional authorization.

Our new "decider" launched a war in Libya without so much as a by-your-leave to Congress. "It's nice to have a neocon back in the White House," The Washington Times enthused as the Tomahawks began to fly.

Your mileage may vary, though—especially if you worry about domestic spying. Last week's Patriot Act fight, in which the administration leaned on congressional allies to quash debate, highlighted how much Obama has "grown in office."
....

Will these vast powers be abused? We may never know, given Obama's legal position that the "state secrets privilege" goes beyond protecting "sources and methods"—it lets him quash entire lawsuits, barring the courthouse door to citizens fearing their rights have been violated.

There's a strange disconnect in the talk-radio right's view of Obama: Apparently, he's a crypto-socialist with sinister designs on our liberties, yet it's vitally important that he have the authority to wiretap Americans at will and assassinate them while they're abroad.
There seems to be a much bigger disconnect with the MSM and traditional liberals, who so far seem to have given Obama a wide berth here. It's a path they may come to regret.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Green Versus Green

Scientists looking for better ways to go green face the law of unintended consequences:
World-class research into future sources of green energy is under threat in Britain from an environmental tax designed to boost energy efficiency and drive down carbon emissions, scientists claim.

Some facilities must find hundreds of thousands of pounds to settle green tax bills, putting jobs and research at risk.

The unexpected impact of the government's carbon reduction commitment (CRC) scheme is so severe that scientists and research funders have lobbied ministers for an exemption to reduce the bills.

Among the worst hit is the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, a facility for research into almost limitless carbon-free energy. The lab faces an estimated £400,000 payment next year, raising the spectre of job losses and operational cuts. "Considering our research is aimed at producing zero-carbon energy, it seems ironic and perverse to clobber us with an extra bill," a senior scientist at the lab said. "We have to use electricity to run the machine and there is no way of getting around that."

The laboratory operates the Joint European Torus (JET), the largest fusion reactor in Europe. It has led the way in research on fusion energy. The Culham lab faces a significant bill because, while energy savings can be made in other areas of the site, the machine incurs a large electricity bill when it is running.

The Prospect union is urging the government to exempt energy use where the focus of research contributes directly to public good and government policy.

"This [tax] will have a negative impact on important research into low carbon energy sources and that cannot be the right consequence of a policy the government is pursuing to promote a low carbon economy," said Sue Ferns, head of research at Prospect. "There is a potential for the scheme to impact on employment and it adds to pressures to run the equipment less. Even if it doesn't lead to substantial job losses, these are world-class scientists and every job, every piece of research makes a difference."
Except for that research which goes against the green police, apparently...

Le Jerks

Ah, those sophisticated French:
Sexism in France's National Assembly has got so bad that Chantal Jouanno, the sports minister and a former French Karate champion, said she can no longer turn up to parliament in a skirt without a volley of cat calls.

One female cabinet minister said that male politicians were so incorrigible that "if all those who mix power and sex had to account for their actions, half of our (male) politicians would be in trouble".

A Socialist woman MP said that when she turned up in tight-fitting clothes to a parliamentary commission, a male MP from Mr Sarkozy's UMP party exclaimed: "Dressed like that, don't be surprised if you get raped." "A kind of infantilisation of women reigns in parliament that I had never seen before," said Sandrine Mazetier, Socialist MP for Paris."

The trigger for the backlash was the arrest of Mr Strauss-Kahn, a former French presidential hopeful, who faces charges of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a New York chambermaid.

"This scandal will do more for feminism than all the articles of law," predicted Chantal Brunel, who leads France's gender parity watchdog.
DSK seems to have made the French pols a tad defensive, at that...

Golden Days

Maybe Ron Paul was on to something:
Utah has passed a law intended to encourage residents to use gold coins made by the Mint as cash, but with their value based on the weight of the precious metals in them, not the face value - if, that is, they can find a merchant willing to accept the coins on that basis.

The legislation, called the Legal Tender Act of 2011, was inspired in part by Tea Party supporters, some of whom believe that the dollar should be backed by gold or silver and that Obama administration policies could cause a currency collapse. The law is the first of its kind in the United States. Several other states, including Minnesota, Idaho and Georgia, have considered similar laws.

Mr. Jurkowsky said the new law “is of no real consequence,” and is purely symbolic, but supporters say it is more than political pocket change. They say that it is just a beginning, that one day soon Utah might mint its own coins, that retailers could have scales for weighing precious metals and that a state defense force could be formed to guard warehouses where the new money would be made and stored.

“This is an incremental step in the right direction,” said Lowell Nelson, the interim coordinator for the Campaign for Liberty in Utah, a libertarian group rooted in Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. “If the federal government isn’t going to do it, then we here in Utah ought to be able to establish a monetary system that would survive a crash if and when that happens.”
Maybe they're nuts-or maybe they took a look at what's happening overseas and took a little pre-emptive action. It's more than what our own government seems to be doing, at any rate.

Unexpecting The Expected

A look at why the MSM always seems so shocked by bad economic news on Obama's watch:
It's obviously going to be hard to achieve the unacknowledged goal of many mainstream journalists -- the president's re-election -- if the economic slump continues. So they characterize economic setbacks as unexpected, with the implication that there's still every reason to believe that, in Herbert Hoover's phrase, prosperity is just around the corner.

A less cynical explanation is that many journalists really believe that the Obama administration's policies are likely to improve the economy. Certainly that has been the expectation as well as the hope of administration policymakers.

Obama's first Council of Economics Advisers chairman, Christina Romer, whose scholarly work is widely respected, famously predicted that the February 2009 stimulus package would hold unemployment below 8 percent. She undoubtedly believed that at the time; she is too smart to have made a prediction whose failure to come true would prove politically embarrassing.

But unemployment zoomed to 10 percent instead and is still at 9 percent. Political pundits sympathetic to the administration have been speculating whether the president can win re-election if it stays above the 8 percent mark it was never supposed to reach.
So, if Obama loses because of the economy, will that also be "Unexpected?"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Tale Of Two Disaster Areas

First, President Obama, in Joplin:
The president was chipper as he walked through the streets of some of the hardest hit parts of the town, stopping to talk with folks on the street who had lost everything, their demolished homes, personal effects turned debris and cars and trucks twisted and bent like toys.

And the people of Joplin, who voted against Obama in a big way, turned out to welcome and applaud the president for coming to their devastated town.

With the hot sun beating down and high humidity, Obama and his entourage walked the streets of ruin, stopping to chat with families gathered outside where their homes used to be.

At one lot where Obama met with survivors, the only thing left of the house that once stood behind them was the base of a red brick chimney. It was adorned with an American flag.

"The main thing I want to communicate to the people of Joplin is this is just not your tragedy," Obama said. "This is a national tragedy, and that means there will be a national response."
At least he showed concern. Then there's Cordova, Alabama:
James Ruston's house was knocked off its foundation by tornadoes that barreled through town last month and is still uninhabitable. He thought help had finally arrived when a truck pulled up to his property with a mobile home from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Then he got the call: Single-wide mobile homes, like the FEMA one, are illegal in the city of Cordova.

The city's refusal to let homeless residents occupy temporary housing provided by FEMA has sparked outrage in this central Alabama town of 2,000, with angry citizens filling a meeting last week and circulating petitions to remove the man many blame for the decision, Mayor Jack Scott.

Ruston and many others view the city's decision as heartless, a sign that leaders don't care that some people are barely surviving in the rubble of a blue-collar town.

"People have to live somewhere. What's it matter if it's in a trailer?" asked Felicia Boston, standing on the debris-strewn lot where a friend has lived in a tent since a tornado destroyed his home on April 27.

Scott has heard all the complaints, and he isn't apologizing. He said he doesn't want run-down mobile homes parked all over town years from now.

"I don't feel guilty," he said. "I can look anyone in the eye."
....

The city's stance prompted an outcry that's not getting any quieter, especially with other cities with similar laws granting waivers. About 200 people attended a community meeting last night where some tried to shout down Scott.

"There are trailers all over here but (Scott) wants to clean all the trash out. He doesn't like lower-class people," said Harvey Hastings.
Keeping out the riff raff is a dirty job...

Selective Scandals

Via Big Government: why is the MSM ignoring WeinerGate?
After all, this isn’t just any story. Regardless of how it all eventually breaks, what we have here is either the story of a high profile, recently married New York Congressman who’s seriously considering a Mayoral run in Manhattan, tweeting his “junk” to a young woman two decades his junior — and lying to the media about it. Or we have a story involving a high-profile Congressman’s Facebook and Twitter account being hacked with pornographic pictures.

So ask yourself: how does the MSM justify all but ignoring something so juicy? And then if you’re still not convinced of the story’s newsworthiness, remind yourself that these events are not unfolding in one of those odd, square-shaped states our journalist-class fly over every once in a while. This is a New York story that involves the trifecta of politics, sex, and a rising political star. Furthermore, the icing on the cake is Bill and Hillary Clinton. Last July, in a ceremony officiated by former President Clinton himself, Rep. Weiner married Hillary’s top aide, Huma Abedin.
Good question. Any takers, MSM?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Black Gold Rush

They really do do things bigger in Texas. Witness the latest oil boom:
CATARINA, Tex. — Until last year, the 17-mile stretch of road between this forsaken South Texas village and the county seat of Carrizo Springs was a patchwork of derelict gasoline stations and rusting warehouses.

Now the region is in the hottest new oil play in the country, with giant oil terminals and sprawling RV parks replacing fields of mesquite. More than a dozen companies plan to drill up to 3,000 wells around here in the next 12 months.
....

The oil rush is already transforming this impoverished area of Texas near the Mexican border, doubling real estate values in the last year and filling restaurants and hotels.

“That’s oil money,” said Bert Bell, a truck company manager, pointing to the new pickup truck he bought for his wife after making $525,000 leasing mineral rights around his family’s mobile home. “Oil money just makes life easier.”

Based on the industry’s plans, shale and other “tight rock” fields that now produce about half a million barrels of oil a day will produce up to three million barrels daily by 2020, according to IHS CERA, an energy research firm. Oil companies are investing an estimated $25 billion this year to drill 5,000 new oil wells in tight rock fields, according to Raoul LeBlanc, a senior director at PFC Energy, a consulting firm.

“This is very big and it’s coming on very fast,” said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of IHS CERA. “This is like adding another Venezuela or Kuwait by 2020, except these tight oil fields are in the United States.”
Is this the golden age of shale? One can only hope...

The Cornpone Candidate

Oh, brother:
It was an odd setting for a policy pronouncement, but on the sidewalk outside the Historical Building here, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney embraced ethanol subsidies. It came just days after and blocks from where his rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Tim Pawlenty, said the subsidies should be phased out.

“I support the subsidy of ethanol,” he told an Iowa voter. “I believe ethanol is an important part of our energy solution for this country.” Iowa leads the nation in the production of corn, a main source of ethanol.

Mr. Romney and a crowd that had come to see his first Iowa speech of the year had been evacuated from the Historical Building by a fire alarm. Amid the tumult, a woman asked if he was going to take any questions. He said given the circumstances, the question and answer part of the program appeared out of the question. So she presented him a typed out note demanding his position on ethanol, one she had intended to present at the presidential forum that had just abruptly ended.
It might be a popular position in Iowa, but Romney may have also given Tim Pawlenty more ammo to go after him in the primaries. Saying the popular thing isn't so popular these days, after all.

California Fail

Walter Russell Mead on what it takes to reach an epic fail point:
Virtually every important civil institution in society has to fail to get you to this point. Your homes and houses of worship are failing to build law abiding citizens, much less responsible and informed voters. Your schools aren’t educating enough of your kids to make an honest living. Your taxes and policies are so bad that you are driving thousands of businesses away. Your management systems must be fouled and confused to the max for you to create something so dysfunctional, so wildly beyond your means, that the Supreme Court of the United States (wisely or foolishly is another question) starts to micromanage your jails.

California used to be the glory of this country, the dream by the sea, the magic state. Now it produces so many criminals it can’t pay to keep them locked up.

This is partly a blue social model thing. California’s public unions are sucking the state dry — like a parasite killing its host. Too many Californians buy the ideology of entitlement best described by that great Louisiana prophet of the blue social model Huey Long: “If you aren’t getting something for nothing, you’re not getting your fair share.”
Well, once the crooks start stealing again, they can just claim that's what they're getting...

The Bear Is Still There

A warning on why we should be concerned about Russia's retro cold war mentality:
There’s a tendency to dismiss the Russian military as hollow today, and that tendency is dangerous. The Russian military is hollow – but nations with hollow militaries rely more, not less, on strategic nuclear arms for their concepts of national security. It doesn’t matter to the performance of a nuclear warhead whether the army that fields it is feeding its soldiers dog food or not. The force build-up Russia has undertaken since 2007 has been weighted toward the “strategic nuclear triad” of the Cold War, and principally toward two legs of it: land-launched ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). (The third leg is strategic bombers.) While the US has allowed our strategic nuclear forces to stagnate, Russia has been updating hers.

Going back down the path of MAD because Russia wants it and Americans don’t bother to understand that it’s happening is a terrible idea. Russia isn’t the only nuclear-armed non-ally out there. China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are all nuclear armed; Iran is moving heaven and earth to become so; and unstable nations like Burma and Venezuela are hanging out with just the rogue elements that can put them on the list as well. In 2011, we should be putting everything we can behind establishing missile defense, rather than MAD, as the global basis for security.
The current administration seems content with the status quo-which is what Russia wants. The Cold War may have long since ended, but when it comes to defensive strategy, who's really winning?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Working Man

Lech Walesa gives Obama the cold shoulder:
Poland's former president and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa has snubbed an invitation to meet with President Barack Obama.

Mr Walesa, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, had been invited by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski to attend a gathering of Poland's leading political figures with the U.S. President in Warsaw on Saturday.

'It's difficult to tell journalists what you'd like to say to the president of a superpower. This time I won't tell him, I won't meet him, it doesn't suit me,' Walesa told news station TVN24.

Mr Obama will leave the G8 summit in Deauville, France, and travel to Warsaw this evening on the last stop on his European tour.
Maybe Mr. Walesa didn't want to be advised on "sharing the wealth" the way he used to be...

Grappling With Gropers

Utah joins a growing Grope Rebellion:
Utah looks likely to be the next state to follow the example set by Texas in attempting to make TSA grope downs a felony.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman has introduced a bill into the Utah House of Representatives that would ensure TSA agents would have to abide by the same Fourth Amendment limits that police do when performing searches on Americans.

“It is a work in progress,” Wimmer told the Utah Daily Herald. “What it would do right now is simply say TSA agents are not exempt from the requirement of reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pat down a citizen.”

Like the bill that was recently unanimously passed in the Texas House, Wimmer’s legislation would make it an offense to touch the private parts of the person on the receiving end of the pat-down.
....

A number of other lobby groups, state and local authorities around the country have also resolved to either block the TSA body scanners or kick the TSA out of airports altogether, including New Jersey, where Republican state Senator Mike Doherty has vowed to push for legislation that will ban both the scanners as well as invasive groping techniques.

Should several more states follow the same example set by Texas, the TSA and the Justice Department will have a major job on their hands threatening half the country with no fly zones and convincing Americans that it is the prudent course of action.
This sounds like it would be a good time to finally get rid of them. Are they ready to start looking for real jobs?

Department Of Embarrassment

A liberal Democrat breaks ranks with the Obama administration over its treatment of for-profit schools:
The liberal Democrat in question is Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY10). He has a problem with the way the Obama Department of Education has gone about drafting its new “Gainful Employment, or “GE” rules. These rules are directed at for-profit schools, and would limit the financial aid they can extend to students. Rep. Towns voices his objections to the GE rules in a letter, dated May 24, 2011, to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), who is the Democrats’ ranking member on the committee. Towns writes:
I am writing to ask you to initiate an investigation and to hold a balanced, non-partisan public hearing concerning the process by which senior officials at the Department of Education (“DoE”) drafted the proposed “Gainful Employment” (“GE”) regulation.

The GE regulation, if implemented as proposed, would apply virtually exclusively to college programs at career colleges – and not to private not-for-profit or most public college or community college programs. Since a majority of students who attend career colleges are minorities or from economically disadvantaged families, the DoE’s proposed GE regulation would disproportionately hurt some of the most vulnerable populations.

Thus, DoE has a special obligation to ensure that its rule-making regulatory process — whereby unelected federal officials are empowered, in effect, to make policy into law — is even-handed, open-minded and transparent in all respects at all times.
The letter, linked here, goes on to list serious allegations that the GE was drafted “with a predetermined agenda to harm career colleges,” and even appeared to intentionally mislead career colleges. Towns also accuses DoE of drafting the GE regulation in secret meetings.
There's that pesky transparency again...

Shaken And Scared

Say what?
Italian government officials have accused the country's top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people.

A shocked spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) likened the accusations to a witch hunt.

"It has a medieval flavor to it -- like witches are being put on trial," the stunned spokesman told FoxNews.com.
Ineed it does. Then there are the facts:
Earthquakes are, of course, nearly impossible to predict, seismologists say. In fact, according to the website for the USGS, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully.

"Neither the USGS nor Caltech nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake," reads a statement posted on the USGS website. "They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future."

John Vidale, a Washington State seismologist and professor at the University of Washington, agreed that earthquake forecasting is simply impossible.

"We're not able to predict earthquakes very well at all," he told LiveScience.
In America, this case would probably result in a not guilty verdict if not thrown out entirely. But in the EU? Let the burning at the stake begin...

Taxi Driver

Remembering Jeff Conaway:
Jeff Conaway, the personable actor who won television fame on the sitcom “Taxi” and movie success in the musical “Grease” three decades ago and who later publicly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 60.

He died of complications of pneumonia at Encino Tarzana Medical Center after being taken off life support on Thursday, a talent representative, Phil Brock, said.

Mr. Conaway was found unconscious at his home in the Encino section of the city on May 11 and was kept in a coma medically without ever regaining consciousness, Mr. Brock said. He said Mr. Conaway had been struggling with back problems and treating himself with painkillers while in weakened health.
I fondly remember him as the would-be actor from Taxi, and his role as a security chief on Babylon 5. Here he is in the former:

Balancing Act

The public seems to understand something that Team Obama doesn't:
According to a recent Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller, a large majority of the public backs an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget, a reform some lawmakers say is on the table in the debt ceiling debate.

65 percent of the public supports the amendment with 27 percent opposed; 8 percent are undecided.

81 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents support the amendment. Even a plurality of Democrats, the party that typically resists spending cuts, back the amendment by a 45 percent to 44 percent margin.

“Americans are concerned about our nation’s deepening deficit and as a result, an overwhelming number support a balanced budget amendment,” said Alia Faraj-Johnson, Partner and Executive Vice President of Ron Sachs Communications, the organization that commissioned the poll.

A large plurality – 46 percent to 21 percent — also say they would be “more likely” to vote for a presidential candidate who backs the amendment, the poll shows.
The problem with such an idea is that, as with all amendments, it would be notoriously difficult to get passed. Holding down the debt ceiling would be easier. Still, it shows how concerned people are.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ping Pong Putoff

When you've already won a Nobel prize for doing nothing, what else is there?
Barack Obama has snubbed Britain’s most eminent scientists by refusing to attend a Royal Society banquet in his honour at which he was to be awarded with a prestigious medal.

The US President rejected the invitation from the world-leading group of scientists and instead chose to visit a south London state school.

Sources close to the state visit said members of the Royal Society were “deeply offended” by the snub and had accused Mr Obama of being obsessed with his “street cred”.

The US President was offered the chance to receive the King Charles II medal, which is awarded in “exceptional circumstances” to heads of state who have “made an outstanding contribution to furthering scientific research in their country”.
I wonder if this counts as "furthering scientific research..."

Don't Ask About Climate Change Club

There goes that darned accountability again:
Freedom of information laws are being misused to harass scientists and should be re-examined by the government, according to the president of the Royal Society.

Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian that some climate scientists were being targeted by organised campaigns of requests for data and other research materials, aimed at intimidating them and slowing down research. He said the behaviour was turning freedom of information laws into a way to intimidate some scientists.

Nurse's comments follow the launch of a major Royal Society study into how scientists' work can be made more open and better used to inform policy in society. The review – expected to be published next year – will examine ways of improving access to scientific data and research papers and how "digital media offer a powerful means for the public to interrogate, question and re-analyse scientific priorities, evidence and conclusions".
Hmm. I wonder if he considers something like this to be a form of intimidation. Or is it just "re-examination?"

Patriot Act Games

Somewhat disappointing from a civil libertarian perspective, but otherwise not too surprising:
The Senate voted Thursday to extend the government's Patriot Act powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

Following the 72-23 vote, the House was expected to quickly approve the legislation for President Obama's signature to beat a midnight deadline when three terror-fighting tools would expire. The action comes a month after intelligence and military forces hunted down Usama bin Laden.

"Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security," White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said in a statement. "As long as Congress approves the extension, the president will direct the use of the autopen to sign it."

The measure would add four years to the legal life of roving wiretaps, court-ordered searches of business records and surveillance of non-American "lone wolf" suspects without confirmed ties to terrorist groups.
Needless to say, this gave Harry Reid the opportunity to talk tough:
Earlier, the Senate struggled to find a way to stage a final vote in the face of continued resistance from a single senator, Republican freshman Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Paul argued that in the rush to meet the terrorist threat in 2001 Congress enacted a Patriot Act that tramples on individual liberties. He had some backing from liberal Democrats and civil liberties groups who have long contended the Patriot Act gives the government authority to spy on innocent citizens.
....

"When the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we would be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday. In unusually personal criticism of a fellow senator, he warned that Paul, by blocking swift passage of the bill, "is threatening to take away the best tools we have for stopping them."

The nation itself is divided over the Patriot Act, as reflected in a Pew Research Center poll last February, before the killing of bin Laden, that found that 34 percent felt the law "goes too far and poses a threat to civil liberties. Some 42 percent considered it "a necessary tool that helps the government find terrorists." That was a slight turnaround from 2004 when 39 percent thought it went too far and 33 percent said it was necessary.

Paul, after complaining that Reid's remarks were "personally insulting," asked whether the nation "should have some rules that say before they come into your house, before they go into your banking records, that a judge should be asked for permission, that there should be judicial review? Do we want a lawless land?"
Apparently when it comes to waging kinetic action, some do.

The New Law Of The Land?

Once again, an activist judge attempts to overturn a legislative vote:
In a move that hastens a larger showdown, a Dane County judge has struck down Gov. Scott Walker's legislation repealing most collective bargaining for public employees.

In a 33-page decision issued Thursday, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said she would overturn the legislation because GOP lawmakers on a committee broke the state's open meetings law in passing it March 9. The legislation limits collective bargaining to wages for all public employees in Wisconsin except for police and firefighters.

On March 18, Sumi had placed a temporary hold on the law, but Thursday's ruling voided it entirely - at least until the Supreme Court decides whether to act in the case.

"It's what we were looking for," said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat.

Ozanne sued to block the law after Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) filed a complaint saying that GOP legislative leaders had not given proper notice to the public in convening a conference committee of lawmakers from both houses to approve Walker's budget-repair bill.

Steve Means, the No. 3 official at the state Department of Justice, said the agency and GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen have been surprised at Sumi's handling of the case, and in a letter Wednesday agency attorneys asked whether Sumi would recuse herself from it.

"Obviously, we're disappointed in the ruling. We do think it reflects a number of legal errors, but it's for the appellate courts at this point," Means said.

Means said courts have no authority to overturn the acts of lawmakers except as granted by the state constitution. He said that Sumi had made her decision without holding a trial or making clear beforehand that no trial would be held.
Meanwhile, state Republicans are trying to make sure she doesn't get away with it:
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) responded in a statement. "There's still a much larger separation-of-powers issue: whether one Madison judge can stand in the way of the other two democratically elected branches of government. The Supreme Court is going to have the ultimate ruling, and they're still scheduled to hear the issue on June 6. This overdue reform is still a critical part of balancing Wisconsin's budget."

Ozanne agreed that the court case is still far from settled.

"It's not over yet. I'm positive of that," Ozanne said. "The supremes are the supremes. They can do what they want."

In a letter sent to Sumi Wednesday, state Department of Justice lawyers questioned Sumi's decision to file a brief on May 18 with the high court. State Department of Justice lawyers said that Sumi's brief had taken positions on key issues before Sumi in the Ozanne case, such as whether a court can prevent legislation from taking effect.

The Department of Justice letter says that Sumi can no longer be considered impartial in the light of the brief and asks whether she will recuse herself from the Ozanne case.

"I'm not going to say she didn't have the right," Means said of Sumi's decision to file the brief. "She did, but that carries some consequences."

GOP lawmakers such as Fitzgerald also have said they would consider passing the law a second time as part of the 2011-'13 state budget if it was necessary to ensure that it takes effect.

"Act 10 was passed and signed into law in accordance with the rules of the state Legislature," said Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), Scott Fitzgerald's brother. "I remain confident that the Wisconsin State Supreme Court will rule accordingly and Act 10 will become law."
Which may yet happen anyway. Let the union temper tantrums begin again...

Sick Generation

Unfortunately, this sort of thing keeps happening:
After mostly disappearing in the late '90s, measles have made a national comeback with the largest outbreak in 15 years, mostly caused by unvaccinated travelers who bring the disease back home, the CDC said this week.

This year so far, there were 118 reported measles cases in the country, including two in Washington. That's nearly twice as many as the country's total for all of last year, and the highest number for that time period since 1996.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that most of the patients had brought the disease home from Southeast Asia or Europe, currently in the grip of a major epidemic. The vast majority – 89 percent – were unvaccinated. Patients included 24 kids whose parents claimed a religious or personal exemption from vaccinations and 47 people who had to be hospitalized.

After declaring measles eliminated at the end of the last century -- largely due to high vaccination rates -- health experts are now worried that the disease's surge partly stems from a growing anti-vaccine movement that's led to big pockets of unvaccinated people.
As far as I'm concerned, the right to be anti-vaccination stops when other peoples' health is involved. You do not have the right to make other peoples' kids sick, regardless of what some bogus researcher or celebrity know-nothing says.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stay Classy, Ed

Ed Schultz is suspended:
MSNBC has suspended Ed Schultz for one week without pay for calling Laura Ingraham a ‘right-wing slut’ on his radio program Tuesday.

“Remarks of this nature are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” MSNBC said in a statement Wednesday evening.

Schultz will address the remarks on his television show Wednesday night, and begin his leave immediately afterward, MSNBC said.

"MSNBC management met with Ed Schultz this afternoon and accepted his offer to take one week of unpaid leave for the remarks he made yesterday on his radio program," MSNBC said.

The Daily Caller first noted the epithet in the midst of Schultz's critique of Ingraham’s criticisms of the president’s trip to Ireland.
Take heart, Ed-maybe the network really is taking civility seriously...

Obligatory audio:

Soft Landing

Go to jail, get a taxpayer-funded severance package:
The former head of the International Monetary Fund accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid will receive a $250,000 severance payment -- paid in part courtesy of the American taxpayer -- unless U.S. lawmakers can stop the "golden parachute" from landing in the French politician's bank account.

The IMF claims it has no discretion in the matter of Dominique Strauss-Khan, who was already pulling down nearly $500,000 as managing director when he resigned after being arrested in New York. The one-time severance, along with a much smaller annual pension, was part of his contract.

But considering the heavy financial stake the United States has in the global lender, some lawmakers are trying to exert pressure on an organization that has come under increased scrutiny over how its vast international resources are being used.

"The scandal at the IMF is putting that organization in the public eye again and American taxpayers -- who pay the largest share of the IMF's bills -- are raising a lot of important questions," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., House Republican Conference vice chairwoman, told FoxNews.com in a written statement.

"What does it say about the IMF that its managing director has a higher annual salary than the president of the United States, that he stays at $3,000-per-night hotel rooms, and that he gets a quarter of a million dollars in severance pay while awaiting charges for [attempted] rape?" McMorris Rodgers asked.
That the rich really are different from the rest of us, unfortunately.

School Of Home Free Marketing

It's an idea that's raising some hackles in traditional academia: paying students to become entrepreneurs instead:
The winners were announced today for a new fellowship that has sparked heated debate in academic circles for questioning the value of higher education and suggesting that some entrepreneurial students may be better off leaving college.

Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, will pay each of the 24 winners of his Thiel Fellowship $100,000 not to attend college for two years and to develop business ideas instead.

The fellows, all 20 years old or younger, will leave institutions including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University, to work with a network of more than 100 Silicon Valley mentors and further develop their ideas in areas such as biotechnology, education, and energy.

More than 400 people applied for the fellowship, and 45 of them were flown out to San Francisco in late March to present their ideas to Thiel's foundation and the network of Silicon Valley mentors.
Doing the job that universities won't do?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hard Times=Less Crime

Recession continues, criminals hardest hit:
In all regions, the country appears to be safer. The odds of being murdered or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in the United States. Small towns, especially, are seeing far fewer murders: In cities with populations under 10,000, the number plunged by more than 25 percent last year.

The news was not as positive in New York City, however. After leading a long decline in crime rates, the city saw increases in all four types of violent lawbreaking — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — including a nearly 14 percent rise in murders. But data from the past few months suggest the city’s upward trend may have slowed or stopped.

Criminology experts said they were surprised and impressed by the national numbers, issued on Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and based on data from more than 13,000 law-enforcement agencies. They said the decline nationally in the number of violent crimes, by 5.5 percent, raised the question, at least in some places, of to what extent crime could continue to fall — or at least fall at the same pace as the past two years. Violent crimes fell nearly the same amount in 2009.

“Remarkable,” said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. “Given the fact that we have had some healthy declines in recent years, I fully expected that the improvement would slow. There is only so much air you can squeeze out of a balloon.”

There was no immediate consensus to explain the drop. But some experts said the figures collided with theories about correlations between crime, unemployment and the number of people in prison.
Of course it could be that more people have less stuff worth stealing...

The Keymasters

Just another upgrade-or something more sinister?
Facebook’s managers are deploying a new software upgrade that will dismantle myriad groups of like-minded political activists unless they get a special software-key from the company.

But Facebook managers are providing very limited information about which groups are being favored with the new key, prompting some activists to complain about possible political favoritism among Facebook managers, and many other activists to experiment with techniques and tricks to get the needed upgrade-key.

“Who is being given the upgrade?” asked Pamela Geller, the New York organizer of a 15,000-member group opposed to Islamist political groups. Without the special key, groups lose access to their members, she said. “I’ve seen people really freaking out.”
....

The new software-upgrade will automatically archive all groups. Once archived, each group’s past activity will be still be visible on Facebook, but the groups’ administrators will lose access to their lists of group members. That means the administrators lose contact with everyone in their groups, and will be forced to recruit all those members again – unless Facebook provides them with the special upgrade software.

With the upgrade, group-administrators can keep in contact with their original members, and get to use the upgraded software to help the group become more active.
Ah, but who gets the upgrade? It does seem rather selective in some cases.

If You Don't Drill It, They Will Come

Whoops:
When union workers and environmental activists picked a Hastings-area site to protest inaction on a Marcellus Shale severance tax, they made one mistake.

Marcellus activity isn't occurring within miles of it.

Service Employees International Union officials issued an apology Monday, saying they mistakenly set up their protest Thursday - and a makeshift tollbooth asking the industry to pay its fair share - next to a surface well property that has been around for years and isn't set up for shale drilling.

"There is no Marcellus Shale drilling on that property, and we've contacted the property owners and apologized. It was a mistake, and there was no malice intended even when we thought it was a Marcellus well," said Neil Bhaerman, a SEIU Healthcare spokesman. "It was an honest mistake that we are going to take extra care to ensure never happens again."
Maybe next time they can picket at a factory that doesn't exist...

He's Still Super-Serial

Al Gore tries to motivate for Mother Earth:
Al Gore, 45th vice president of the U.S., Nobel Laureate and author of An Inconvenient Truth, told Hamilton’s Class of 2011 that the climate crisis is “the most serious challenge that our civilization has ever faced,” and that while the grassroots movement in support of solving the climate crisis is the most powerful in the history of the world, “it will be the generation of you in this graduating class that will really bring about change.” Gore also addressed the political state of our democracy and how decisions made on false assumptions have led to major national challenges.
....

In his address Gore said, “We have a debate in our nation as to whether the climate crisis is real. Every national academy of science of every major nation on the planet says it is. Every professional scientific association in every field related to the study of climate says it is. Ninety-eight percent of all climate scientists say it is. Mother Nature has weighed in. If you will think about the events of the last 12 months, 20 million people were displaced in a nuclear armed country when Pakistan suffered the largest flood in its history.” Gore cited examples of the effects of climate change on Australia, the Mississippi Valley, Texas and Russia, where they faced floods, fires and droughts.

Gore noted that “the scientists are now in a shift, theoretically saying that if asked, could these events could have occurred in the absence of a man-made global warning?; the answer is almost certainly no.” But how are we in our democracy supposed to establish the reality of the climate crisis with sufficient resolution to justify the bold and difficulty steps that must be taken in order to solve the climate crisis? Though some damage will be difficult to unwind, there is no doubt that we can if we choose to, solve the climate crisis.”
Except that there might not be a crisis, after all. Unless it's one of gaining new converts to the climate change cause.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Evil Days Ahead?

Ray Lewis seems to think so:
Lewis said a lockout would impact more than just NFL players.

“What we’re going through right now, we’re affecting way more than us,” he said. “Too many people live through us. People live through us. Walk in the streets the way I walk in the streets.”

And according to Lewis, one of the major results of lockout would be an increase of evil, which he says will come in the form of more crime.

“Do this research if we don’t have a season — watch how much evil, which we call crime — watch how much crime picks up if you take away our game.”
At least he didn't say there will be cats and dogs, living together:

Free Money

Say it ain't so-stimulus recipients apparently got away with literally robbing the government blind:
Thousands of companies that cashed in on President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package owed the government millions in unpaid taxes, congressional investigators have found.

The Government Accountability Office, in a report being released Tuesday, said at least 3,700 government contractors and nonprofit organizations that received more than $24 billion from the stimulus effort owed $757 million in back taxes as of Sept. 30, 2009, the end of the budget year.

The report said the tax delinquents accounted for nearly 6 percent of the 63,000 contractors and grantees examined and cautioned that the real number might be higher because the known tax debt does not measure such factors as income underreporting.

Among the examples was an engineering firm that received a $100,000 stimulus act contract but owed $6 million in taxes. The IRS called it "an extreme case of noncompliance." A social services nonprofit that received more than $1 million in stimulus funds owed taxes of $2 million.

The GAO referred those two cases and 13 others to the IRS for further investigation.
Like Obamacare waivers, taxes seem to be selective with this administration...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fourth Amendment Review

Who says the Fourth Amendment still matters? Indiana's own top cop:
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller on Friday joined the chorus of Hoosiers protesting a controversial Fourth Amendment ruling recently decided by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Zoeller released a statement saying he will support a rehearing of the case due to concerns that the court ruled too broadly when it found citizens have no right under common law to reasonably resist police who unlawfully enter their homes.

The Barnes v. State ruling came last week and was the first major opinion penned by Justice Steven David – Gov. Mitch Daniels’ appointment.

“We believe however that a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” David wrote. “Nowadays, an aggrieved arrestee has means unavailable at common law for redress against unlawful police action.”
....

Zoeller said he will argue for keeping Barnes’ convictions but scaling back the legal impact of the case upon future cases, consistent with judicial restraint.

“In our brief and argument to the Indiana Supreme Court last fall, my office did not advocate for the type of ruling the court issued last week. I believe a reconsideration is appropriate. A rehearing and a new ruling would afford the Supreme Court the opportunity to clarify any misperceptions regarding people’s Fourth Amendment right to be secure in their homes against unreasonable searches and seizures – even against unlawful entry by police,” said Zoeller, a Republican.

“While there is no right to commit battery against police, I believe the individual has the right to shut the door, stand his ground and communicate with police without engaging in an altercation. In balancing the perils of domestic violence with respect for law enforcement, I will continue to advise our police clients to respect people’s Fourth Amendment rights.”
At least somebody in Indiana is paying attention. Good for Mr. Zoeller.

The Spanish Revolution

It's a rout in Spain:
Spain's ruling Socialists suffered a crushing defeat to conservatives in local and regional elections Sunday, yielding power even in traditional strongholds against a backdrop of staggering unemployment and unprecedented sit-ins by Spaniards furious with what they see as politicians who don't care about their plight.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the result was due punishment of his government for the state of the economy — the jobless rate is a eurozone high of 21.3 percent. But he said he had no plans to move up general elections, which must be held by March of next year, and pledged to press on with job-creating reforms despite the loud outcry of opposition to his party.

The win for the conservative opposition Popular Party puts it in even a stronger position to win the general elections and return to power after eight years of Socialist rule.
....

Zapatero attributed the results to the state of the economy, which is struggling to shake off nearly two years of recession, and conceded many Spanish families are suffering. But he did not mention snowballing protest rallies that have riveted Spain for the past week and filled squares in Madrid and other cities. Organizers voted Sunday to keep at it another week at least.

"It is reasonable to expect that the Socialist party be punished today at the polls. We accept this and we understand it," Zapatero said at a gloomy Socialist Party headquarters, flanked by top ministers including Finance Minister Elena Salgado. She has spearheaded government efforts to prevent Spain's bloated deficit and shaky banking sector from dragging Spain further into the European debt crisis and need a bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
And they would have gotten away with their socialist utopia, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids...

"I'm The Greatest"

He's the best. Why? Becuse he says so:
Former President Jimmy Carter isn't letting modesty stand in the way of his assessment of his post-presidential life.

"I feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents," Mr. Carter said in an interview with NBC News.

The former president released a statement not long after the interview aired to clarify the comments.

"What I meant was, for 27 years the Carter Center has provided me with superior opportunities to do good," he said.

During the interview, Carter said his active role as an ex-president has allowed him "to fill the vacuums in the world," both domestically and internationally.
If he says he's important, it must be true, right?

Tattoo Who?

Well, this is ironic-fair use for thee, but not for me?
In “The Hangover Part II,” the sequel to the very successful what-happened-last-night comedy, the character played by Ed Helms wakes up with a permanent tattoo bracketing his left eye. The Maori-inspired design is instantly recognizable as the one sported by the boxer Mike Tyson, which is part of the joke. (Mr. Tyson makes an appearance in both films, playing himself.)

But S. Victor Whitmill, a tattoo artist formerly of Las Vegas and currently from rural Missouri, doesn’t quite see the humor. Mr. Whitmill designed the tattoo for Mr. Tyson, called it “tribal tattoo,” and claims it as a copyrighted work.

He has gone to Federal District Court in St. Louis to ask a judge to stop Warner Brothers Entertainment from using the tattoo in its posters or in the movie, which would amount to stopping the film from being released, as well as to demand monetary damages for what he calls “reckless copyright infringement” by the studio.
....

Warner Brothers responded on Friday in a brief to Judge Catherine D. Perry, stating that any delay in releasing the film would have huge economic costs. It also argued that there was no legal precedent for Mr. Whitmill’s assertion of copyright, saying he had put forward a “radical claim that he is entitled, under the Copyright Act, to control the use of a tattoo that he created on the face of another human being.”

Copyright and trademark law can be hard to understand intuitively — for example, the idea that you can “own” a photograph or a letter, but not own the right to reproduce its content. The example of a tattoo, where “ownership” means having it become part of your body, actually does little to clear up the matter.

The wrinkle in the “Hangover” lawsuit is that Mr. Whitmill has taken pains to leave Mr. Tyson out of it. “This case is not about Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson’s likeness, or Mike Tyson’s right to use or control his identity,” the complaint says. “This case is about Warner Bros. appropriation of Mr. Whitmill’s art and Warner Bros. unauthorized use of that art, separate and apart from Mr. Tyson.”
Somewhere, a lot of YouTube users are laughing...

Meet the New Autocrat

You knew he just couldn't stay away:
RUSSIAN Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has decided to run for the presidency next year, raising the possibility of a power struggle with his protege Dmitry Medvedev, the incumbent Kremlin leader, say highly placed sources.

The once-close relationship between Mr Putin, the tough-talking former KGB officer who has inspired a personality cult, and Mr Medvedev, a softly spoken Twitter enthusiast, has become increasingly fractious amid speculation in Moscow that the younger man wishes to stand again.

Insiders familiar with both leaders said Mr Putin, who served eight years as president before becoming Prime Minister three years ago, had begun to lose confidence in Mr Medvedev's loyalty.

Under the constitution, Mr Putin's move to reclaim the presidency could see him rule for two consecutive six-year terms until 2024, when he will be 72. If so, he would have served as prime minister or president for 24 years in all.
So does this make him the Jay Leno to Medvedev's Conan?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What Waivermania Hath Wrought

Why favoritism equals failure:
The now-familiar monthly trickling down of new waivers is, at best, a tacit admission that Obamacare is a failure. So far, seven entire states and 1,372 businesses, unions and other institutions have received waivers from the law. The list includes the administration’s friends and allies and, of course, those who have the bestlobbyists.

More than 50 percent of the Obamacare waiver beneficiaries are union members, which is striking because union members account for less than 12 percent of the American work force. The same unions that provided more than $120 million to Democrats in the last two elections and, in many cases, openly campaigned in favor of the government takeover of your health care, now celebrate that Obamacare is not their problem.
....

Why did these particular businesses receive waivers? The administration that calls itself the most transparent in history won’t say. Nor will it explain why it has denied at least 79 requests from others. Worse still, Health and Human Services has decreed that it will not even accept waiver requests from individuals, so if you choose to purchase your insurance directly, you have no recourse.

Americans deserve and, in fact, are guaranteed by our Constitution a level playing field. We were never promised equality in results, but we do deserve to play by the same rules and to be judged by the same standards. When a new law like Obamacare is so deeply flawed that its supporters openly violate these American bedrock principles to sustain it, it’s time to repeal that law.

I will repeat the same question I’ve been asking since the first health care waiver was granted: If Obamacare is such a great law, why does the White House keep exempting its best friends from it?
An excellent question-one I'm sure Obama will eventually get around to answering...

The New Independents

Spain experiences a generation gap as the kids reject the status quo:
Up until now, anti-government protests in Spain have been relatively few and far between, partly because of the strong ties that labor unions have with the ruling Socialists. But Spain’s nascent youth democracy movement is a spontaneous grassroots groundswell that is not left versus right but rather young versus old. The youth movement is highly inclusive and its members — who represent all of Spain’s socio-economic classes — have expressed disgust with both the governing Socialists and the main opposition conservative Popular Party. A ubiquitous protest slogan has been: “PSOE y PP, la misma mierda es,” which loosely translated means “Socialists and Conservatives, they are the same crap.”

The protesters do have a point. For example, corruption in Spain is endemic and politicians from both major parties have been implicated in scandals in all of Spain’s 48 provinces. The Justice Ministry currently is investigating more than 700 cases of high-level corruption, including 264 cases involving Socialists, 200 involving Conservatives, and hundreds more involving smaller regional parties.

Spain’s ailing economy too is a symptom of much broader problem, including the inability of the social welfare economic model to create jobs, as well as a highly paternalistic labor market that benefits an older generation seeking to preserve the status quo. Although Spain’s economic crisis has affected workers in all age groups, youth unemployment is more than double the overall jobless rate of 21.2 percent, the highest in the industrialized world. Around half of Spain’s youth are unemployed and the other half that is working often does so under highly exploitative employment conditions.
The socialist ideal is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain...

Making The Grade

Via Instapundit: Republican professors are apparently more racist in their grading than their Democratic counterparts:
The evidence suggests that student grades are linked to the political orientation of professors: relative to their Democratic colleagues, Republican professors are associated with a less egalitarian distribution of grades and with lower grades awarded to Black students relative to Whites.
But what does this really mean? That liberal college professors are perhaps more willing to give African-Americans higher grades? It's not as if there weren't enough of them to go around. One could argue that science and engineering courses are actually more egalitarian, if that's the case.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Last Night On Earth

In case you missed it, Doomsday is scheduled to begin tomorrow. In honor of the event:



Endgame

And that, as they say, would appear to be that:
A grueling statewide recount concluded Friday that Justice David Prosser defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg to win another 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a race driven by the debate over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to curb the union rights of the state's public employees.

The recount that began on April 27 ended Friday afternoon after Waukesha County officials finished tallying their last remaining precincts. Unofficial results showed Prosser had 752,697 votes - 7,006 more than Kloppenburg's 745,691.

State election officials plan to meet on Monday to verify the results. Kloppenburg will then have five days to challenge the results in court.

Kloppenburg issued a statement Friday before the final results were released saying her campaign would review recount records and decide whether to appeal. The statement said the campaign had uncovered "numerous anomalies and irregularities," but did not elaborate.
Translation: Wisconsin's version of Al Gore will most likely appeal. And appeal, and appeal, and appeal...

Internal Revenue Screwup

Who didn't see this one coming?
Four years ago, Congress decided that the IRS should get into the banking business, authorizing it to give out no-interest loans to first-time homebuyers. That put the agency in the position of both collecting loan payments and issuing tax refunds to the roughly 1 million taxpayers who took advantage of the program.

This year, the odd arrangement overwhelmed IRS systems, and an unspecified number of taxpayers have been forced to wait four months or more for their tax refunds. In fact, many are still waiting.

"This is frustrating for taxpayers, and it's frustrating for us," said IRS spokesman Terry Lemons. "We deeply apologize."

Making matters worse, taxpayers caught up in the vortex say they've been promised delivery dates for their refunds repeatedly, only to be disappointed or to discover their returns have been placed back into "error" status.
I think "Error" status pretty much sums up the IRS as a whole...

About That Pesky War Powers Act...

In seeking to justify our continued kinetic action in Libya, President Obama has suddetnly rediscovered Congress:
Facing criticism from Congress that authority for U.S. military action in Libya is about to expire under the War Powers Act, President Obama asked congressional leaders late Friday for a resolution of support for continuing the military involvement.

"It has always been my view that it is better to take military action, even in limited actions such as this, with congressional engagement, consultation and support," Obama wrote in a letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate. "Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort."

The War Powers Act requires the White House to seek approval of Congress within 60 days of notification of military activity, a law put in place during the political fallout of the Vietnam War. Friday marked the 60th day since the administration announced the U.S. role in Libya.

Several members of Congress have questioned the legitimacy of the military involvement without congressional action.

Conservative senators led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote a letter to Obama earlier this week pressing for his compliance with the act.

From the political left, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has said he would seek to put a resolution before the House next week "to force a vote on our adventure in Libya and to attempt to bring Congress to a realization of the serious erosion of constitutional authority."
Who says Obama can't get bipartisanship from Congress?

Update: And he apparently still doesn't need them, either.

The Clown Stays

Ronald McDonald is going nowhere:
McDonald's Corp. CEO Jim Skinner came out swinging Thursday when asked about Ronald McDonald and whether the burger chain hooks children with junk food.

Skinner, speaking at the company's annual shareholder meeting at McDonald's headquarters outside Chicago, said that newspapers ads Wednesday calling for Ronald's retirement had prompted an outpouring of support to his office, with parents and customers asking Skinner "to defend their right to choose."

A group called Corporate Accountability International paid for the ads, which said Ronald is encouraging unhealthy eating habits and contributing to childhood obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.

At the meeting, shareholders defeated a proposal the group had helped craft asking McDonald's to issue a report on its responses to childhood obesity. The proposal received 6 percent support, according to preliminary results released by the company.

Nick Guroff, a spokesman for Corporate Accountability International, called it "an extreme success for a first introduction" and said the results will force McDonald's executives "to take these concerns — as much as they diminished them at their shareholder meeting and otherwise — very seriously."

When Deborah Lapidus, an organizer with the activist group, said McDonald's is interfering with political efforts to curb marketing unhealthy food to children, Skinner replied that "this is about choice."

"We believe in the democratic process and our government officials believe in the democratic process," he said to applause from the audience of McDonald's shareholders. "This is about choice, this is about personal, individual right to choose in the society we live in. That's where we play, that's where you play, and we have every right to do so."
Dare we hope that this marks the beginning of the pushback against the self-appointed Food Police? All revolutions start somewhere...

"Ooooh, Yeah!"

Remembering the Macho Man:
It was Mr. Savage, along with fellow World Wrestling Federation headliner Hulk Hogan and a few others, who in the 1980s made professional wrestling into a pop-culture touchstone. Their matches attracted millions of television viewers for over-the-top confrontations that mixed violence with cartoonish dramas and implausible costumes. Some said the outcomes were fixed.

Outfitted by a designer who had worked with rock acts Jimi Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge, Mr. Savage wore outlandish duds featuring feathers and gold lamé, giant goggles and often a neon cowboy hat.

He played a jealous lover who assaulted anyone who came near his manager (and wife), "Miss Elizabeth." In interviews, he liked to conclude his comments with a lusty "Oooohhh yeaaaaah!"

Backing up the bravado was an impressive record that included a score of championships, including two stints as world heavyweight champion.

In one celebrated match, Mr. Savage in 1987 took on Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac, Mich., Silverdome, an event The Wall Street Journal hailed as Woodstock for Middle America. The two wrestlers had been feuding since a year earlier, when, using innovative tactics, Mr. Savage went after Mr. Steamboat's throat with the ring bell, crushing his larynx. In the 1987 match, Mr. Steamboat pinned the Macho Man, getting his revenge.
RIP, Macho Man:

The Kids Are All Turning Right

Obama is apparently no longer the change they were waiting for:
A very large proportion of recent university graduates have soured on President Barack Obama, and many will vote GOP or stay at home in the 2012 election, according to two new surveys of younger voters.

“These rock-solid Obama constituents are free-agents,” said Kellyanne Conway, president of The Polling Company, based in Washington, D.C. She recently completed a large survey of college grads, and “they’re shopping around, considering their options, [and] a fair number will stay at home and sit it out,” she said.

The scope of this disengagement from Obama is suggested by an informal survey of 500 post-grads by Joe Maddalone, founder of Maddalone Global Strategies. Of his sample, 93 percent are aged between 22 and 28, 67 percent are male and 83 percent voted for Obama in 2008. But only 27 percent are committed to voting for Obama again, and 80 percent said they would consider voting for a Republican, said New York-based Maddalone.

That’s a drop of almost 60 points in support for Obama among this influential class of younger post-grad voters, who Maddalone recruited at conferences held at New York University and Thomson-Reuters’ New York headquarters.
....

Overall, roughly one-third of young voters have some college education, and one-half have college degrees, said Conway. Many are underemployed or unemployed, they’re worried about their debts and economic trends, and they’re worried about the value of their educations, she said. In 2012, she said, “I suspect a fair number will return to Obama, but maybe not enough, and not in the [swing] states where he needs them,” she said.
You could say that the mood has gone from "Yes we can" to "Uh, maybe we shouldn't..."

The Sheriff Speaks

The sheriff involved in a controversial SWAT team shooting sounds off:
A Tucson, Ariz., SWAT team defends shooting an Iraq War veteran 60 times during a drug raid, although it declines to say whether it found any drugs in the house and has had to retract its claim that the veteran shot first.

And the Pima County sheriff scolded the media for "questioning the legality" of the shooting.

Jose Guerena, 26, died the morning of May 5. He was asleep in his Tucson home after working a night shift at the Asarco copper mine when his wife, Vanessa, saw the armed SWAT team outside her youngest son's bedroom window.
....

In a statement, the sheriff's office criticized the media, saying that while questions will inevitably be raised, "It is unacceptable and irresponsible to couch those questions with implications of secrecy and a coverup, not to mention questioning the legality of actions that could not have been taken without the approval of an impartial judge."

Mike Storie, a lawyer for the SWAT team, said at a press conference Thursday that weapons and body armor were found in the home as well as a photo of Jesus Malverde, who Storie called a "patron saint drug runner," according to KGUN.

Storie defended the long delay in allowing paramedics to enter the home, saying of the SWAT team, "They still don't know how many shooters are inside, how many guns are inside and they still have to assume that they will be ambushed if they walk in this house."
So now he was apparently a dangerous drug dealer? And even if that had been the case...why weren't the paramedics allowed to treat him? Something just doesn't add up here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Canned From Cannes

Memo to directors: stream-of-consciousness ramblings can get you in trouble:
The Cannes film festival expelled Danish director Lars Von Trier on Thursday for jokingly calling himself a Nazi and Hitler sympathizer, leaving the world's biggest cinema showcase in a state of shock.

The expulsion, the first in 64 years, followed a hastily convened meeting of its board of directors.

"Using the Cannes film festival to say such intolerable things in front of the media is to tarnish its image," said festival president Gilles Jacob.

"The festival had no choice but to react very strongly," he told a small group of reporters. He described the meeting as "tense" and said the decision to withdraw Von Trier's accreditation was not unanimous.

Von Trier told Reuters in a telephone interview that he was shocked by the decision, which he believed stemmed from the fact that his meaning had been misunderstood.

"I'm beyond the point of being disappointed, I am just very tired of the whole thing," the 55-year-old said. "It has come as quite a shock for me, I must say." He said politics and culture should be kept apart and found apologizing "a little distasteful" because it was easy and achieved nothing.
In a free society, artists do have the right to be controversial. But they usually have a point about it. Where was Von Trier's?

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Fourth Amendment

This has not been a good time for those who care about Constitutional rights. In the latest twist, the RIAA wants the power to literally act as the Copyright Police:
The Recording Industry Assn. of America, in effect, wants to give law enforcement officials the power to enter manufacturing plants without notice or court orders to check that discs are legitimate and carry legally required identification marks.

The proposal by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) is raising questions among U.S. constitutional law scholars as it quietly moves through the Legislature.

"I can understand why this makes people nervous," said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. "We have the 4th Amendment that generally requires probable cause [for a search]. This is a huge exception."
Sorry, but I'm having trouble seeing where. At any rate, there may be a more basic reason for pushing this bill:
Net sales of CDs fell 82% in the last decade, while the number of copies shipped dropped 76%, according to the RIAA. Sales and rentals of movie discs last year declined 19% from a peak of $20.2 billion in 2006, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, an industry-funded advocacy group.

To be sure, other factors have caused sales to fall. In recent years, for instance, music downloads and video streaming have taken the biggest bite out of disc sales. But piracy continues to cause financial losses.
Naturally, it doesn't seem to occur to the RIAA that they might be behind the times. Dinosaurs can't contemplate their own demise, after all.

Obama And Israel

Some are accusing Obama of abandoning Israel, but isn't he really just saying what past presidents already thought?
I'm amazed at the amount of insta-commentary out there suggesting that the President has proposed something radical and new by declaring that Israel's 1967 borders should define -- with land-swaps -- the borders of a Palestinian state. I'm feeling a certain Groundhog Day effect here. This has been the basic idea for at least 12 years. This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. So what's the huge deal here? Is there any non-delusional Israeli who doesn't think that the 1967 border won't serve as the rough outline of the new Palestinian state?
And Walter Russell Mead adds:
President Obama has deep-sixed the ‘realism’ that marked the first two years of his approach to the Middle East. He has returned to the foreign policy of George W. Bush.

The United States is no longer, the President told us in words he could have borrowed from his predecessor, a status quo power in the Middle East. The realist course of cooperating with oppressive regimes in a quest for international calm is a dead end. It breeds toxic resentment against the United States; it stores up fuel for an inevitable conflagration when the oppressors weaken; it stokes anti-Israel resentment when hatred of Israel becomes the only form of political activism open to ordinary people; it strengthens the hold of extremist religion and strangles the growth of liberal forces.

More, he attacked Iran. All that talk about avoiding polarization with Iran is gone. Instead, President Obama singled out Iran as an oppressive, tyrannical regime supporting terror and running an “illicit nuclear program” as well.

He also followed Bush in attacking some US allies, calling on Bahrain and Yemen to make changes. It was a speech that enraged almost every powerful actor in the Middle East and put America out on a limb. Like Bush, Obama is willing to confront some of America’s closest allies (the Saudis, who back the crackdown in Bahrain). Like Bush, he hailed Iraq as an example of democracy and pluralism that can play a vital role in the transformation of the region. Like Bush, he proposes to work with opposition groups in friendly countries.

His policy on Israel-Palestine is also looking Bushesque. Like Bush, he wants a sovereign but demilitarized Palestinian state. Like Bush, he believes that the 1967 lines with minor and mutually agreed changes should be the basis for the permanent boundaries between the two countries — and like Bush he set Jerusalem and the refugees to one side.

The President is nailing his colors to the mast of the Anglo-American revolutionary tradition. Open societies, open economies, religious freedom, minority rights: these are revolutionary ideas in much of the world.
In other words, he really does seem to be embracing his inner neo-con here. So couldn't it be argued that this is another case of Bush's policies winning out again?

Le Scandal

The former head of the IMF might be in serious trouble, but perhaps so is his would-be replacement:
France’s ruling UMP party is facing further disrepute as the latest in a string of scandals threatens to tarnish the reputation of the party's golden girl, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.

Earlier this week, France’s public prosecutor called for a full scale judicial inquiry into Lagarde’s involvement in the legal dispute between the business mogul Bernard Tapie and the French bank Credit Lyonnais. Tapie accused the bank, which was state-owned at the time, of misleading him while dealing with the sale of his Adidas shares in 1993. He sued the state for compensation, claiming the final sale price was higher than he had been led to believe. Credit Lyonnais, meanwhile, maintained that it had done nothing wrong.

In 2007, Lagarde intervened to bring a swift end to the long-running battle. She offered to take it out of court by appointing a special panel of judges to arbitrate the case. The two-decade-long dispute ended a year later with a €285 million settlement in favour of the flamboyant tycoon.

Furious over the huge reparations awarded to Tapie, members of the opposition Socialist Party argued that the case should not have been settled by private arbitration since public money was at stake. Since then, they have clamoured for an inquiry.
Leave it to the French to replace one (alleged) criminal with another...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sorkin's Snobbery

It really doesn't get much more basic than this:
As the saying goes, the problem with free speech is that you get what you pay for. Obviously there are great writers and thinkers publishing on the web and there have also been times when citizen journalists have made a positive contribution to the public discussion, but I think the cost/benefit is way out of whack. Like saying that graffiti is good because somewhere in there is a Banksy.

Not to be unoriginal but Beck and Limbaugh are eye-poppingly awful. It would be easier to buy their love of America if they didn't have such hate for Americans. They're my generation's Joe McCarthy--tarring anyone who disagrees with them with schoolyard epithets and, of course, being "un-American" or even on the side of America's enemies--but they reach a much, much larger audience than McCarthy did. They appeal to the worst in the worst among us and squander an opportunity--all those eyes and ears--to inspire. I'm a fan of the two-party system and a fan of debate. It's only by having smart people ("elites") who disagree with each other that we arrive at what we hope is the best solution to a problem. The effort gets choked to death when one side says the other is fundamentally evil. Neither the right nor the left has a monopoly on incivility and imbecility but--with my eyes and ears being connected to my brain like everyone else's--I find the right trades in it a lot more than the left.

Yes, I've seen Olbermann and Matthews and Schultz and Maddow but they simply don't compare to Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and Coulter. And Ingraham and Breitbart and Palin and Gingrich. (And with Fox News No. 1 on cable and Limbaugh No. 1 on the radio, where did we get the idea that the media was controlled by the left?)
Gee, I don't know-maybe from CNN, MSNBC, the NY Times...maybe from the fact that before Fox News came along, there was no conservative news media?

Dishonest Disclosure

The IRS is now apparently involved in harrassing the Obama administration's political opponents, er, seeking greater "transparency":
Since the Supreme Court restored the First Amendment rights of businesses and unions in last year's Citizens United ruling, Democrats have been searching for a way to claw back control over political speech. The latest bureau to get the memo is the Internal Revenue Service, which may retroactively tax top donors to political advocacy groups.

In the crossroads, er, cross-hairs, are nonprofit groups that register under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code and spent millions on political advertising in the last election cycle. Big donations to those groups, the agency now says, should have been subject to gift taxes and may be owed retroactively. In a letter to one donor, the IRS noted that it "had received information that you donated cash to . . . an IRC Section 501(c)(4) organization . . . and your contribution should have been reported on your 2008 federal gift tax return."
....

IRS spokesman Michelle Eldridge said in a statement last week that the letters are the idea of career IRS employees, not the White House, and that they are part of a larger investigation of gift tax compliance. Count us skeptical that a new targeted enforcement plan, likely coordinated between at least two of the highly compartmentalized divisions of the IRS, was just cooked up by some career guys.

But even if the Obama Administration doesn't deserve primary credit for this idea to chill political activity, it will still serve the Democrats' purpose in time for 2012 fundraising. A tax probe of donations given by a specific class of political donors is a boldfaced attempt to punish and discourage political speech.

The IRS also says the investigations into a few deep-pocketed donors isn't the prelude to a broader offensive against the groups. Nah, that would mean they were taking their cues from liberal campaign finance groups like Democracy 21, which has been flogging this idea as a way to impose greater disclosure requirements. Last September, Montana Democrat Max Baucus wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman to suggest he start investigating the political groups.

We wish we were shocked, but the plan is merely the latest play by Democrats to crack down on donors who support their opponents. In 2010 they tried and failed to pass the Disclose Act, which would have forced disclosure on business donations but left unions alone.
Well, in all fairness, the Democrats already know who their supporters are. They just don't want anyone else to find out...

Zombie Alert

It's finally happened-the CDC is addressing the zombie threat:
The post, written by Assistant Surgeon General Ali Khan, instructs readers how to prepare for "flesh-eating zombies" much like how they appeared in Hollywood hits like "Night of the Living Dead" and video games like Resident Evil. Perhaps surprisingly, the same steps you'd take in preparation for an onslaught of ravenous monsters are similar to those suggested in advance of a hurricane or pandemic.

"First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house," the posting continues. "This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored)."

Other items to be stashed in such a kit include medications, duct tape, a battery-powered radio, clothes, copies of important documents and first aid supplies.

"Once you've made your emergency kit, you should sit down with your family and come up with an emergency plan," the posting continues. "This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your doorstep. You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake or other emergency."

The idea behind the campaign stemmed from concerns of radiation fears following the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan in March. CDC spokesman Dave Daigle told FoxNews.com that someone had asked CDC officials if zombies would be a concern due to radiation fears in Japan and traffic spiked following that mention.

"It's kind of a tongue-in-cheek campaign," Daigle said Wednesday. "We were talking about hurricane preparedness and someone bemoaned that we kept putting out the same messages."
And remember, you've got to shoot them in the head.