Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So Long Solar

Well, this is, as the MSM so often says about the economy, "unexpected":
Solyndra, a Fremont-based solar panel manufacturer that flared then sputtered, abruptly ceased operations on Wednesday and immediately laid off all 1,100 of its workers.

The shutdown marks a high-profile collapse of a company that received more than $1.6 billion in federal and private funding in recent years.

"This was an unexpected outcome and is most unfortunate," Brian Harrison, Solyndra's president and chief executive, said.

The company received $535 million in taxpayer money from the U.S. Department of Energy and $1.1 billion in private venture capital funding.

"We have always recognized that not every one of the innovative companies supported by our loans and loan guarantees would succeed," said Dan Leistikow, a spokesman for the Department of Energy. "But we can't stop investing in game-changing technologies that are key to America's leadership in the global economy."

Solyndra workers who were laid off on Wednesday were dismissed without layoff packages.

"They are getting no severance," said Dave Miller, a Solyndra spokesman. "They are getting nothing."
More than five hundred million for not so much as a by-your-leave. That's Hope and Change for you.

Speech Or No Speech

Obama blinks:
President Obama has accepted House Speaker John Boehner's request to postpone his planned jobs speech by a day, after the White House announced Wednesday that it was scheduling the address for the same night as a GOP 2012 primary debate in California.

“Today, the President asked to address the Congress about the need for urgent action on the economic situation facing the American people as soon as Congress returned from recess," Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

"Both Houses will be back in session after their August recess on Wednesday, September 7th, so that was the date that was requested. We consulted with the Speaker about that date before the letter was released, but he determined Thursday would work better," he said.

"The President is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy, so he welcomes the opportunity to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8th and challenge our nation's leaders to start focusing 100% of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people," he said.
The Eternal Campaign will have to wait for at least a day. Ann Althouse responds:
This proposal isn't going to amount to anything, is it? It's political grandstanding. There's something dreadful about locking all the members of Congress in place where they're supposed to sit silently — God forbid anyone yells "you lie!" or whatever — or cheer and laud the President. Frankly, I don't think it's presidential, because — in America — we have 3 branches of government, and the President's forays into the Capitol should be rare, dignified rituals of a nonpartisan nature.
It used to be that way. Of course, those were the days when we had actual Presidents, not a Campaigner-In-Chief.

Star Wars: Revenge Of The Fanboys

Is nothing sacred?
Previously, it was reported that the version of “Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace” included in this release would replace the puppet version of the Yoda character with a computer-generated creation. Then on Tuesday, an online report by Devin Faraci suggested a revelation almost as troubling as the news that Luke and Leia had been brother and sister all along: in a climactic scene from “Return of the Jedi,” when Darth Vader hurls the evil Emperor to his demise on the Death Star, he would now shout “No!” (In all previous versions of “Jedi,” Vader has committed this crucial deed in silence.)

On Wednesday, a press representative for Lucasfilm confirmed that this change will be included in the Blu-ray release, writing in an e-mail: “Yes — Darth says NO.”

Though it may sound like a minor detail among the millions in the “Star Wars” movies, this alteration has not sat well with many admirers of the film franchise. Among the angered fans is Simon Pegg, the “Shaun of the Dead” star and geek-culture icon, who wrote on his Twitter account that he always “loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice” and called the change a “clueless revision.”
I get using new technology that wasn't available when the originals were released to spruce them up. But something like this...I just don't know.


Bad Medicine

Don't people ever learn?
More than 150 cases of measles have been reported in the United States already this year and there have been similar outbreaks in Europe, a sign the disease is making an alarming comeback. The reappearance of the potentially deadly virus is the result of unfounded fears about a link between the measles shot and autism that have turned some parents against childhood vaccination, says Gregory Poland, M.D. (Link), of Mayo Clinic. In the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings (, Dr. Poland urges doctors to review extensive scientific research that has found no connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.

Fears about the MMR vaccine were sparked in 1998 by researcher Andrew Wakefield, M.D., in the British medical journal The Lancet (Link). Dr. Wakefield's study was later found fraudulent by the British General Medical Council and the paper was retracted. Even so, suspicions about the vaccine -- as well as its additives such as thimerosal -- have persisted, gaining steam with the public through celebrity advocates and widespread media coverage.

"A rising portion of the population is deciding not to immunize their children because of this controversy, and these children are now susceptible to the measles (Link) virus," says Dr. Poland, Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine and director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group.

"The results have been devastating," Dr. Poland says. "The campaign against the vaccine has caused great harm to public health across multiple nations, even though it has no scientific basis. There have been over 20 studies, spanning two decades, conducted in several countries. Not one has found scientific evidence of a connection between autism spectrum disorders and MMR vaccine."
It bears repeating: The right of ignoramouses to their beliefs ends when other peoples' children are put at risk. Unfortunately, stupidity can spread as quickly as any virus.

The Big Parade

It looks like everyone's welcome, after all:
The Marathon County Labor Council has reversed a decision that excluded Republican politicians from participating in the Labor Day parade in Wausau.

Labor Council President Randy Radtke earlier said Republican elected officials were not invited because they supported changes to collective bargaining for public employee unions. Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple responded by threatening to withhold financial support for the parade unless everyone was allowed to participate.

WSAW-TV says Radtke released a statement Wednesday which said the Labor Council didn't want community groups and school bands affected, so Republicans will be allowed in the parade.

Tipple told WLS Radio's Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft show Tuesday that the city provides an insurance premium, a stage setup and police traffic control for the parade. Tipple said the city would have required the Labor Council to reimburse the city for those expenses if it didn't reverse its decision.
I guess the thought of having to pay their own way sank in...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pulpit Power

What's this? The New York Times actually critical of MSNBC's one-sided approach?
MSNBC long ago cast itself as the liberal counterpoint to Fox News. Its star muckraker, Keith Olbermann, left MSNBC and took his show to Current TV in June, but other progressive hosts, particularly Rachel Maddow, have continued to attract viewers — not nearly as many as routinely watch Fox News, but more than for less partisan shows on CNN. MSNBC, which found success by preaching to the converted, has now hired an actual preacher.

More importantly, in a cable universe in which former Gov. Eliot Spitzer can get his own cable show on CNN (however briefly) some two years after having to leave office because he hired prostitutes, it’s hard to quibble over Mr. Sharpton’s reputation 20 years ago. And in the evening at least, MSNBC is less a news provider than a carousel of liberal opinion — potential conflicts of interest are swept aside in the swirl of excitable guests.

Unfortunately, so is conflict. There is almost no real debate on any of these evening shows: a conservative is brought on and put on the spot, then in a different segment two people who agree with the host on a given issue answer the host’s questions, usually, with words like “you’re so right.”
When the New York Times, of all places, thinks MSNBC is too biased, something's wrong. The question is, will the channel's bosses care?

The New Red Green

Quasi-capitalist socialists discover that going green isn't the moneymaker it was made out to be:
Beijing appears to be rethinking its singular focus on electric vehicles as a way to reduce fuel consumption and seems ready to revise its alternative-energy vehicle estimates as it becomes increasingly evident that the city's electric vehicle targets were completely unrealistic.

Beijing – and in some ways, the whole of China – had set out to leapfrog conventional engine technology by developing and manufacturing huge amounts of electric vehicles. In particular, the city had hoped its push to develop plug-ins would give it an advantage over the West in electric vehicle technology. But hopes and dreams don't always jive with reality.

Plug-in vehicle sales in China have been poor and, even though no formal decision has been taken to abandon the nation's grand electric vehicle scheme, some higher-ups in Beijing are reportedly rethinking the policy.
It's just too bad the quasi-socialists over here aren't...


The first one falls:
Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson has been reassigned to a lesser post in the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney for Arizona was also pushed out Tuesday as fallout from Operation Fast and Furious reached new heights.

Melson's step down from his role as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the position of senior adviser on forensic science in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Programs is effective by close of business Tuesday, administration officials announced. U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota B. Todd Jones will replace Melson.

U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke, one of the officials closely tied to Fast and Furious, is also a casualty in a shakeup tied to the botched gun-running program. Burke was on the hot seat last week with congressional investigators and, according to several sources, got physically sick during questioning and could not finish his session.

The purge of those responsible for the firearms trafficking scandal continued as new documents reveal a deeper involvement of federal agencies beyond ATF.
He's still getting paid, however. But the investigation is continuing. In the meantime, another one goes down.

Public School's Out

When given a choice, parents enroll with their feet:
Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were recently on the brink of closing for lack of pupils.

It’s a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say that violates separation of church and state.

Supporters respond that parents, not government, decide where the vouchers will be spent.

Under a law signed in May by Governor Mitch Daniels, more than 3,200 Indiana students are receiving vouchers to attend private schools, and nearly 70 percent of them are switching to Catholic schools.
It will be interesting to see if the teachers' unions will respond with the same sort of overreaction and tactics that were on display in Wisconsin. I don't imagine that would go over too well in Hoosier territory.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bachmann Desperation Overdrive

Now this is low, but unfortunately not unexpected:
An edited video that makes it appear as if Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann asked an Iowa crowd, "Who likes white people?" is quickly spreading around the Web. However, if you watch the full, unedited version of the video, it's clear the Minnesota congresswoman said something very different.

Bachmann made a campaign stop at the Midwest Spirit Christian Music Festival on Aug. 5 in West Des Moines to give a speech about her Christian faith. It was raining during her the appearance, so when Bachmann took the stage, she asked, "Who likes wet people?" referring to the still-damp masses who stuck around for her talk.

"Yeah, that's right. Because we have the God of the winds and the rain don't we?" she said immediately after--a key phrasing that was edited out of the shorter clip. "We serve a mighty God."
There seems to be quite a bit of that going around...

Tax Man

Oh, my: Warren Buffett needs to pay his own fair share:
It turns out his firm, Berkshire Hathaway, hasn’t paid what it’s already owed for years.

That’s right: As Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson notes, the company openly admits that it owes back taxes since as long ago as 2002.

“We anticipate that we will resolve all adjustments proposed by the US Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for the 2002 through 2004 tax years ... within the next 12 months,” the firm’s annual report says.

It also cites outstanding tax issues for 2005 through 2009.

Obvious question: If Buffett really thinks he and his “mega-rich friends” should pay higher taxes, why doesn’t his firm fork over what it already owes under current rates?

Likely answer: He cares more about shilling for President Obama -- who’s practically made socking “millionaires and billionaires” his re-election theme song -- than about kicking in more himself.
Those who can afford to do so usually do...

Labor Day Pains

The mayor of Wausau responds:
The City is a co-sponsor of the Labor Day parade event, because we provided the payment for the insurance premium for the event, and we agreed to erect a stage and provide city services at no cost to the Marathon County Central Labor Council.

The banning of a political party from participation at any event co-sponsored by the City is against public policy and not in the best interest of all the citizens of the City of Wausau. And therefore, we encourage the event organizer to invite all interested parties, or reimburse the city for other costs.
In other words, pay up or shut up.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hypers Of The Storm

Like Irene, all of the media hype has gone with the wind:
Cable news was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon. National news organizations morphed into local eyewitness-news operations, going wall to wall for days with dire warnings about what would turn out to be a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest possible ranking. “Cable news is scaring the crap out of me, and I WORK in cable news,” Bloomberg correspondent Lizzie O’Leary tweeted.

I say this with all due respect to the millions who were left without power, to those communities facing flooding problems, and of course to the families of the 11 people (at last count) who lost their lives in storm-related accidents.

And I take nothing away from the journalists who worked around the clock, many braving the elements, to cover a hurricane that was sweeping its way from North Carolina to New England.

But the tsunami of hype on this story was relentless, a Category 5 performance that was driven in large measure by ratings. Every producer knew that to abandon the coverage even briefly—say, to cover the continued fighting in Libya—was to risk driving viewers elsewhere. Websites, too, were running dramatic headlines even as it became apparent that the storm wasn’t as powerful as advertised.
Preparing for the worst is one thing; feverishly hoping for it to happen is something else again. This video probably sums it up best:

All That Glitters

Dumb, yes. But criminal?
Less confrontational than spattering fur coats with red paint to promote animal rights, or throwing pies at opponents, glitter bombing generally doesn’t yield dry cleaning bills. But glitter bombs have staying power. Weeks after the incident, the victim will probably still be brushing off pesky, iridescent pieces of the stuff, a tangible reminder of an issue that won’t go away.

Admittedly, this works both ways. “This morning I rolled out of bed,” Mr. Espinosa said weeks after his first bombing, “and found a piece of glitter still on me.”

Not everyone is convinced that glitter bombing (or “glittering,” for those who emphasize its nonviolent overtones) is a kinder, gentler form of pranksterism. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, told Fox News, “The people ought to be arrested who did this.”

When Mr. Gingrich was glittered, he said, “Nice to live in a free country.” Since then, his position has hardened.

“Glitter bombing is clearly an assault and should be treated as such,” he said in an e-mail. “When someone reaches into a bag and throws something on you, how do you know if it is acid or something that stains permanently or something that can blind you? People have every right to their beliefs but no right to assault others.”

The legality of glittering isn’t clear. “I don’t think you’d get much disagreement that like so much else in the law, it’s all a matter of degree,” the First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams said in an e-mail. “Touching someone’s body can be criminal. But it’s awfully unlikely that there would be a prosecution if it’s just a bit of glitter. But in theory, the more that’s dropped, the more likely is prosecution.”
For the record, here's Newt getting "bombed":

Not-So-Free Speech

Eugene Volokh is concerned about the implications of this case when it comes to the powers that be and free speech:
What’s happening — in this case and in some others, such as the abortive Renton prosecution related to videos that mocked certain police officers — is something that I warned about in this 1996 University of Chicago Legal Forum article: Narrow speech restrictions, such as restrictions on telephone harassment, stalking, and other unwanted contact, are now being broadened from essentially one-to-one contact (an insulting phone call, coming up to someone to berate them, sending continued unwanted mail or e-mail) to one-to-many contact (blog posts, tweets, messages readable by everyone in a chat room or on a discussion list, and so on).

The old narrow restrictions might well be constitutional (see, e.g., Rowan v. U.S. Post Office Department), but precisely because they deal with essentially one-to-one speech — restricting such unwanted speech to an unwilling listener leaves the speaker free to keep talking to other, potentially willing listeners. But they are now being expanded to cover not just insults said to a person, but also insults said about the person to the public at large. To be sure, such one-to-many speech can be just as offensive as one-to-one speech (and perhaps sometimes more so). But it is much more constitutionally valuable, precisely because it can reach potentially willing listeners. And suppressing it unconstitutionally blocks communication to such potentially willing listeners.

And of course this case is yet another illustration that the various proposed anti-bullying bans, which — like the federal statute — on their face apply to a wide range of speech will indeed often be applied to speech about government officials (consider the Berea, Renton, and Hawthorne incidents discussed here) and other public figures (consider the Berea incident as well as this one). I think even speech on matters of private concern should generally be constitutionally protected. But these laws can apply to speech on matters of public concern as well, and are indeed being so applied.
Making genuine threats might be one thing. But it seems that there should be a line between that and prosecuting somebody for being a jackass.

The Over-Priveleged Age

Mark Steyn on the real problem facing the developed world's "Poor":
The problem for the Western world is that it has incentivized non-productivity on an industrial scale. For large numbers at the lower end of the spectrum (still quaintly referred to by British reporters as “working class”), the ritual of work — of lifetime employment as a normal feature of life — has been all but bred out by multigenerational dependency. At the upper end of the spectrum, too many of us seem to regard an advanced Western society as the geopolitical version of a lavishly endowed charitable foundation that funds somnolent programming on NPR.

America, Britain, Canada, and Europe are operating on a defective business model: Not enough of us do not enough productive work for not enough of our lives. The numbers are a symptom, but the real problem, in the excuses for Manchester, in the obsequies in Ottawa, in the ambitions of Vermont, is the waste of human capital.
The safety nets of the twentieth century were meant for an industrialized society that relied on a large number of workers from the lower ranks, at a time when there was no protection for people who were truly poor. But while society became post-industrial and the nature of work changed, the system didn't. Institutionalized welfare states that encourage people not to work or promise them care from cradle to grave inevitably start to break down from their own weight. Unfortunately, the media elites in both England and America don't seem to want to admit this.

Green Like Me

It's come to this:
One day climate change skeptics will be seen in the same negative light as racists, or so says former Vice President Al Gore.

In an interview with former advertising executive and Climate Reality Project collaborator Alex Bogusky broadcasted on UStream on Friday, Gore explained that in order for climate change alarmists to succeed, they must “win the conversation” against those who deny there is a crisis. (RELATED: Bill McKibben: Global warming to blame for Hurricane Irene)

“I remember, again going back to my early years in the South, when the Civil Rights revolution was unfolding, there were two things that really made an impression on me,” Gore said. “My generation watched Bull Connor turning the hose on civil rights demonstrators and we went, ‘Whoa! How gross and evil is that?’ My generation asked old people, ‘Explain to me again why it is okay to discriminate against people because their skin color is different?’ And when they couldn’t really answer that question with integrity, the change really started.”

The former vice president recalled how society succeeded in marginalizing racists and said climate change skeptics must be defeated in the same manner.

“Secondly, back to this phrase ‘win the conversation,’” he continued. “There came a time when friends or people you work with or people you were in clubs with — you’re much younger than me so you didn’t have to go through this personally — but there came a time when racist comments would come up in the course of the conversation and in years past they were just natural. Then there came a time when people would say, ‘Hey, man why do you talk that way, I mean that is wrong. I don’t go for that so don’t talk that way around me. I just don’t believe that.’ That happened in millions of conversations and slowly the conversation was won.”

“We have to win the conversation on climate,” Gore added.
How? With a history of false data? Sorry, Al, but questioning the science doesn't quite rank up there with burning a cross on somebody's lawn...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Guitar Men

There seem to be more questions over why Gibson Guitars was raided:
It’s worth pointing out that Henry E. Juszkiewicz, Gibson’s Chief Executive Officer, is a donor to a couple of Republican politicians. According to the Open Secrets database, Juszkiewicz donated $2000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN07) last year, as well as $1500 each to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Juszkiewicz also has donated $10,000 to the Consumer Electronics Association, a PAC that contributed $92.5k to Republican candidates last year, as opposed to $72k to Democrats. (The CEA did, however, contribute more to Democrats in the 2008 election cycle.)

When warrants as ridiculous such as these are issued and executed, there appears no other reason than because the company or individual at hand is being targeted, not because there is any sort of wrongdoing. As a company, Gibson is a legendary. They’ve done nothing wrong, except, apparently, deigning to have a Republican CEO.

The plot thickens, however.

One of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Company. The C.E.O., Chris Martin IV, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the DNC over the past couple of election cycles. According to C.F. Martin’s catalog, several of their guitars contain “East Indian Rosewood.” In case you were wondering, that is the exact same wood in at least ten of Gibson’s guitars.
It does look a tad suspicious that one company would be raided while the other was left alone for committing the same "Offense."

Friday, August 26, 2011

All Bluster, No Bite?

It looks as if Hurricane Irene won't be the apocalyptic event everyone was so concerned about:
Irene is reminder of how much mystery remains in the science of hurricane intensity forecasting. All of the meta-conditions were ripe for her to become a monster. But disruptions in the storm’s own internal structure — the least well understood part of a hurricane — have prevented Irene from getting her act together well enough to take full advantage of the favorable environment. Those fears of a Category 4 monster were not unjustified hype. There was every reason to believe they’d be realized. They just…weren’t. So it goes with hurricanes sometimes. (Phew!)
Indeed, and it might be more prudent to pay more attention to those who actually know what's going on. It might explain why most New Yorkers aren't taking Bloomberg as seriously. Not that anyone ever really has to begin with...

The War On...Guitars?

It's come to this: the government is now going after politically incorrect guitars:
If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent—not to mention face fines and prosecution.

John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a blues and ragtime guitarist, says "there's a lot of anxiety, and it's well justified." Once upon a time, he would have taken one of his vintage guitars on his travels. Now, "I don't go out of the country with a wooden guitar."

The tangled intersection of international laws is enforced through a thicket of paperwork. Recent revisions to 1900's Lacey Act require that anyone crossing the U.S. border declare every bit of flora or fauna being brought into the country. One is under "strict liability" to fill out the paperwork—and without any mistakes.

It's not enough to know that the body of your old guitar is made of spruce and maple: What's the bridge made of? If it's ebony, do you have the paperwork to show when and where that wood was harvested and when and where it was made into a bridge? Is the nut holding the strings at the guitar's headstock bone, or could it be ivory? "Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever," Prof. Thomas has written. "Oh, and you'll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration."
Gibson's response can be found here. One can only imagine how many people who own guitars this could affect. Can you say, "Unenforceable?"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Walker's Win Revisited

How the Democrats came undone in Wisconsin:
Having failed to prevent enactment of the Walker agenda voters had endorsed, unions and their progressive allies tried to recall six Republican senators. If three had been recalled, Democrats would have controlled the Senate, and other governors and state legislators would have been warned not to challenge unions. Fueled by many millions of dollars from national unions and sympathizers, progressives proved, redundantly, the limited utility of money when backing a bankrupt agenda: Only two Republicans were recalled — one was in a heavily Democratic district, the other is a married man playing house with a young girlfriend. Progressives also failed to defeat a Supreme Court justice.

An especially vociferous progressive group calls itself “We Are Wisconsin.” Evidently not.

During the recall tumult, unions barely mentioned either their supposed grievance about collective bargaining, or their real fears, which concern money, particularly political money. Teachers unions can no longer bargain to require school districts to purchase teachers’ health insurance from the union’s preferred provider, which is especially expensive. This is saving millions of dollars and reducing teacher layoffs. Also, unions must hold annual recertification votes.
It was a rare moment in national politics-common sense and the facts prevailed.

Good Night Irene

A state of emergency has been declared:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday declared a state of emergency to prepare for the potential impact of Hurricane Irene, which could hit the state this weekend.

The formal declaration allows the state to aid counties, cities and towns "more effectively and quickly," get help from the national Emergency Management Assistance Compact and get federal help earlier, the Democratic governor said in a statement.

"We are communicating with our federal and local partners to track the storm and to plan a coordinated response, and we will deploy resources as needed to the areas expected to be hit the hardest," Cuomo said.
Is it time to panic yet? Uber weather nerd Brendan Loy has updates. In the meantime, heed the warning signs:

Winning Through Losing

Why Steve Jobs is a winner, even when he lost:
Jobs failed better than anyone else in Silicon Valley, maybe better than anyone in corporate America. By that I mean Jobs did what only the greatest entrepreneurs can do: learn from their failures. I don’t mean learn from their mistakes. I mean learn from their abject, humiliating, bonehead, epic fails.

All those successes were made possible by failure after failure after failure and the lessons learned from those failures.

There’s a moral here for a Washington culture that fears failure too much. In today’s Washington, large banks aren’t permitted to fail; nor are large auto firms. Next up will be too-big-to-fail hospital systems. Steve Jobs is a reminder that failure is a good and necessary thing.
Unfortunately, politicians don't seem to realize this...

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

It's a gem of a find:
Astronomers have spotted an exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our galactic backyard.

The new planet is far denser than any other known so far and consists largely of carbon. Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.

"The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest it is comprised of carbon -- i.e. a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star every two hours in an orbit so tight it would fit inside our own Sun," said Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

Lying 4,000 light years away, or around an eighth of the way toward the center of the Milky Way from the Earth, the planet is probably the remnant of a once-massive star that has lost its outer layers to the so-called pulsar star it orbits.
A space motherlode? Meanwhile, in its honor:

Obama's Katrina?

Hurricane Irene looks to be turning into a monster of a storm, with the potential for a major disaster in the making:
What about the nasty storm making its way up the East Coast? What’s the potential it causes enough economic damage and disruption to nudge the American economy back into a downturn? Well, I suppose the worst-case scenario would be a direct strike on New York City. That would be pretty bad...

Back in 2005, the economy was growing at a 3-4 percent clip. Today, it’s less than 2 percent. Maybe even less than 1 percent. It seems pretty clear a devastating hit on the Big Apple might well send the economy back into recession. And given the current fragility of consumer and business confidence, how likely is it that the economy would quickly bounce back into growth in a quarter or two?
Not a pleasant thought. But I'm sure Obama will find some way to blame Bush, or the Republicans, or Congress, or...

The Old Long-Timers

Looking forward to retirment? You might need to think again:
Many older people are finding themselves in a position they never expected to be in at retirement age: still working or in need of a job.

And the laundry list of reasons just keeps growing. Already battered nest eggs took another beating this month with the market's wild swings. With interest rates essentially at zero since 2008, income from Treasurys and certificates of deposit is pretty paltry. And the Federal Reserve recently said it would likely keep rates "exceptionally low" through mid-2013. On top of that, housing prices are still in the doldrums, leaving homeowners with much less equity to tap.

More than three in five U.S. workers in their 50s and 60s plan on working past 65 — and 47% of that group say they'll do so because they'll need the money or health benefits, according to a 2011 study from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
In this economy, I suppose it's a sign of success that some people are still working...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Devil In The Details

Remember when then-candidate Obama made his pledge about keeping your health insurance? Well:
Nearly one in 10 midsize or large employers expects to stop offering health coverage to workers once federal insurance exchanges start in 2014, according to a survey from a large benefits consultant.

Towers Watson also found in a survey completed last month that an additional 20% of companies are unsure about what they will do.

Another big benefits consultant, Mercer, found in a June survey of large and smaller employers that 8% are either "likely" or "very likely" to end health benefits once the exchanges start.

Employer-sponsored health insurance has long been the backbone of the nation's health insurance system. But the studies suggest some employers, especially retailers or those paying low wages, feel they will be better off paying fines and taxes than continuing to provide benefits that eat up a growing portion of their budget every year.
Gee, who didn't see this coming? For the record, here's Obama, making said promise:

The Long And The Winded

Joe Biden's version of brevity:
At Sichuan University on Sunday, after Biden delivered a 4,600-word speech, a student asked him about the importance of public speaking. "That is a very good question," Biden said -- as he launched into an 863-word answer.

In the midst of those 863 words, Biden paid a tribute to brevity -- in an incoherent sentence of 68 words.

The White House transcribed this Bidenesque brilliance as follows: "And so language, the ability not only to master the ability to put your ideas into words succinctly on a platform to communicate ideas to your own people, it is even more impressive when you have the capacity to do that and communicate your ideas, especially as future business and political and moral leaders of the world in the language of the people to whom you are speaking."

Vacation Bills

Livin' large on the taxpayers' dime?
The Obamas' summer break on Martha's Vineyard has already been branded a PR disaster after the couple arrived four hours apart on separate government jets.

But according to new reports, this is the least of their extravagances.

White House sources today claimed that the First Lady has spent $10million of U.S. taxpayers' money on vacations alone in the past year.

Branding her 'disgusting' and 'a vacation junkie', they say the 47-year-old mother-of-two has been indulging in five-star hotels, where she splashes out on expensive massages and alcohol.

The 'top source' told the National Enquirer: 'It's disgusting. Michelle is taking advantage of her privileged position while the most hardworking Americans can barely afford a week or two off work.

'When it's all added up, she's spent more than $10million in taxpayers' money on her vacations.'
Frugality for thee, not for me! And it's in keeping with the First Lady's hypocrisy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Debt Racer

Consider it an "accomplishment":
The latest posting by the Treasury Department shows the national debt has now increased $4 trillion on President Obama's watch.

The debt was $10.626 trillion on the day Mr. Obama took office. The latest calculation from Treasury shows the debt has now hit $14.639 trillion.

It's the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.

The national debt increased $4.9 trillion during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush. The debt now is rising at a pace to surpass that amount during Mr. Obama's four-year term.
And it's still rising. Well, it all has to go somewhere...

DSK Dismissed, Cont'd

It's official-DSK is for all intents and purposes a free man:
The criminal case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, officially ended Tuesday after a Manhattan judge dismissed all charges at the prosecution’s request.

Prosecutors in the office of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, told the judge, Michael J. Obus of State Supreme Court, that they could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt because of serious credibility issues with the hotel housekeeper who had accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her as she entered his suite to clean it.

The judge initially had issued a stay on his decision until an appellate court could hear the housekeeper’s motion to remove Mr. Vance and appoint a special prosecutor. The appeals court denied the request, concurring with Justice Obus that the argument had no legal basis.

Justice Obus’s order of dismissal brought some semblance of vindication to Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, after his stunning arrest more than three months ago. He was taken into custody May 14 aboard an Air France jet at Kennedy International Airport and then paraded before news cameras, disheveled and in handcuffs.

For his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, a 33-year-old Guinean immigrant, the result caps a precipitous fall. Prosecutors initially portrayed her as a credible and powerful witness, only to say that her myriad lies about her past — which included a convincing, emotional but ultimately fraudulent account of being gang raped by soldiers in Guinea — ended up undermining the case.
We may never know what really happened, but it seems the prosecution should have done its homework here. Meanwhile, DSK keeps walking.

Viva Las Stimulus

By stimulus standards, this should actually be considered a success story:
A federal stimulus grant of nearly $500,000 to grow trees and stimulate the economy in Nevada yielded a whopping 1.72 jobs, according to government statistics.

In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service awarded $490,000 of stimulus money to Nevada's Clark County Urban Forestry Revitalization Project, aimed at revitalizing urban neighborhoods in the county with trees, plants, and green-industry training.

According to, the U.S. government's official website related to Recovery Act spending, the project created 1.72 permanent jobs. In addition, the Nevada state Division of Forestry reported the federal grant generated one full-time temporary job and 11 short-term project-oriented jobs.

It also resulted in the planting of hundreds of trees -- which critics say is about the only good thing that came out of this stimulus project.

"Looking at the failure of the stimulus to live up to its promises, not just in Nevada, but throughout America, I think the question becomes ‘is there any good use of stimulus money?'" said Douglas Kellogg, communications manager for National Taxpayers Union, in an email to

A Nevada state official has a simple explanation for the low job growth.

"If the question is ‘was this a job-creating project?’ the answer is 'no, it wasn't,'" said Bob Conrad, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "It was one of a number of projects that we do believe helped improve natural resources in the state."
So, at least the trees got paid, as it were...

Shake, Rattle And Roll

Did anybody else feel that?
A 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island, New York City and Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where President Barack Obama is vacationing.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was half a mile deep. Shaking was felt at the White House and all over the East Coast, as far south as Chapel Hill, N.C. Parts of the Pentagon, White House and Capitol were evacuated. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

It was centered near Louisa, Va., which is northwest of Richmond and south of Washington.
It was apparently felt all over the place. This isn't as unusual as some people might think.

Monday, August 22, 2011

DSK, Dismissed

It looks like DSK will walk:
Prosecutors sought on Monday to dismiss the criminal charges in a sexual-assault case against former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, saying persistent lying by the hotel maid who accused him of trying to rape her in his posh suite made it impossible for them to determine what really happened.

In a 25-page court document, Manhattan prosecutors described the lies and inconsistencies they said had shattered the housekeeper's credibility, delved into DNA evidence they said showed sexual contact but not necessarily a forced encounter and discussed why they saw medical findings as inconclusive.

They said they "simply no longer have confidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty."

With that, the district attorney's office asked a judge to put an end to a case that created a cross-continental sensation. A formal dismissal is expected at Strauss-Kahn's court date Tuesday, though the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, is asking the judge to boot the DA's office off the case and put it on hold until a special prosecutor can be appointed.
Should anybody really be surprised at this point? Ultimately, it was the prosecution's own witness who torpedoed their case:
Early on, prosecutors stressed that Diallo had provided "a compelling and unwavering story" replete with "very powerful details" and buttressed by forensic evidence; his semen was found on her uniform. The police commissioner said seasoned detectives had found her credible.

But then prosecutors said July 1 they'd found the maid had told them a series of troubling falsehoods, including a persuasive but phony account of having been gang-raped in her native Guinea. She said she was echoing a story she'd told to enhance her 2003 bid for political asylum, but there's no mention of it on her written application, prosecutors said in Monday's filing. She told interviewers she was raped in her homeland under other circumstances.

She also wasn't consistent about what she did after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn, first telling a grand jury she had hovered in a hallway, then saying she had continued cleaning a nearby room and then Strauss-Kahn's before bumping into her supervisor and obliquely telling her about the encounter, according to Monday's filing. Then, when electronic key-card records showed she had been in the nearby room for less than a minute, she said had only popped into it to retrieve cleaning supplies and denied having said otherwise, prosecutors said.
So, now DSK walks, and may even have a comeback back home. This is what's known as counting your chickens before they're hatched.

Standard Shuffle

I question the timing:
Standard & Poor’s said late on Monday that its president, Deven Sharma, will step down and leave the company by the end of the year. He will be replaced by Douglas Peterson, a top executive at Citigroup.

The decision by Mr. Sharma to resign comes as the ratings agency is under pressure from several fronts, including outrage over its downgrade of the United States’s credit rating; an inquiry by the Justice Department into its ratings of subprime mortgage securities; and a push by activist investors to break up its parent company, McGraw-Hill.

The management change had been in the works for months and was unrelated to either the Justice Department’s inquiry or to the emergence of the activist investors, Jana Partners and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Like I said, I question the timing...

Recession Real Estate

If you're in the market for a house, Baltimore has a deal for you:
Almost exclusively a city phenomenon — very few homes in Baltimore's suburbs sold for less than $10,000 — it's a market that has expanded rapidly. More city homes sold for less than $10,000 between January and June than in all of 2009 and 2010 combined. Dozens of city neighborhoods had at least one such sale this year.

As very cheap homes change hands, average sale prices in Baltimore have plummeted. Seventy city neighborhoods saw average prices drop more than 20 percent versus a year ago, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. That's half of the neighborhoods with enough sales to allow for comparison.

Fewer than 10 percent of suburban communities around Baltimore experienced an average price decline that large. Prices in the region dropped 6 percent on average.

But with the city's faster-falling prices have come more buyers. Sales rose in more than half of the city's neighborhoods compared with the first six months of last year. Sales rose in fewer than 40 percent of suburban communities.
Who says the Obama economy can't create bargains?

Expert Opinons

I'm guessing these folks won't be part of Obama's next economic team:
The majority of economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics believe that the federal deficit should be reduced only or primarily through spending cuts.

The survey out Monday found that 56 percent of the NABE members surveyed felt that way, while 37 percent said they favor equal parts spending cuts and tax increases. The remaining 7 percent believe it should be done only or mostly through tax increases.

As for how to reduce the deficit, nearly 40 percent said the best way would be to contain Medicare and Medicaid costs. Nearly a quarter recommended overhauling the tax system and simplifying tax rates and exemptions. About 15 percent said the government should enact tough spending caps and cut discretionary spending.

The latest survey by the NABE was conducted in the two weeks ending Aug. 2, the day that the Senate passed and President Obama signed legislation to cut spending by more than $2 trillion and raise the nation's debt ceiling.
I wonder if Obama will blame them next for not listening to him...

All's Fairness

The FCC does something worthwhile in getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine once and for all:
While the commission voted in 1987 to do away with the rule — a legacy to a time when broadcasting was a much more dominant voice than it is today — the language implementing it was never removed. The move Monday, once published in the federal register, effectively erases the rule.

Monday’s move is part of the commission’s response to a White House executive order directing a “government-wide review of regulations already on the books” designed to eliminate unnecessary regulations.

Also consigned to the regulatory dustbin are the “broadcast flag” digital copy protection rule that was struck down by the courts and the cable programming service tier rate. Altogether, the agency tossed 83 rules and regs.

Genachowski said in a statement that the move was aimed at promoting “a healthy climate for private investment and job creation.” Both the Obama administration and the FCC have come under criticism by business groups over laws and regulations such as health care reform and net neutrality rules.
The Doctrine is dead. All hail freedom of speech.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rough Waters

It must be more of the new tone:
On Saturday in Inglewood, Calif., Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters had some harsh words for the tea party.

“I’m not afraid of anybody,” the California congresswoman told constituents in footage that appeared on ABC affiliate KABC in Los Angeles, not backing down from comments made about President Obama earlier in the week. “This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned — the tea party can go straight to hell.”

That proclamation was met with cheers from the audience, including attendees sporting purple SEIU T-shirts.
It's easy to be bold when you're surrounded by your fellow thugs...

End Game

The rebels have arrived:
Rebel leaders in Tripoli said Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s compound was effectively surrounded, the rebel flag is now flying from many buildings across the capital and that the opposition is now only waiting for rebel reinforcements to arrive before beginning a final assault.

Two rebel organizers contacted by telephone in Tripoli said Gaddafi opponents had secured control of at least five central neighborhoods, including Souk al-Jumaa, Tajaura, Fashloum, Arada and Zawiyat al-Dahmani.

Anti-Gaddafi rebels, who have spent months quietly organizing for this moment, are now within a mile and a half of Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound and are hoping to launch an assault on the headquarters as soon as rebel reinforcements arrive, said an activist who uses the name Tony.
Meanwhile, the Syrians are complaining, even as Gaddafi's own guards surrender. The regime does seem to be imploding.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Fowl Arrangement

Unecessary bird protection pays:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is paying $112 million in tax money to farmers and ranchers in 11 Western states to restore the habitat of the Sage Grouse, a bird that has not been listed as either threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species law because the government says there are too many of them.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week that the USDA would dedicate $21.8 million to pay eligible ranchers and farmers in the state of Wyoming to encourage conservation practices that preserve the numbers of Sage Grouse.

That will bring to $112 million the total amount that the USDA has distributed over the last two years to eligible farmers and ranchers in 11 states as part of its Sage Grouse Initiative.
Now here's where the unecessary part comes in:
Environmental groups have been petitioning the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the past decade to list the Sage Grouse as a threatened or endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. However, despite these attempts, the federal government has continued to deny the Sage Grouse classification as a threatened or endangered species because there are too many of them.

“The Sage-Grouse population as a whole remains large enough and is distributed across such a large portion of the western United States that Fish and Wildlife Service biologists determined the needs of other species facing more immediate and severe threat of extinction must take priority for listing actions,” a 2010 Department of the Interior news release stated.

“Based on accumulated scientific data and new peer-reviewed information and analysis, the greater Sage-Grouse warrants the protection of the Endangered Species Act but that listing the species at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first. The greater Sage-Grouse will be placed on the candidate list for future action, meaning the species would not receive statutory protection under the ESA and states would continue to be responsible for managing the bird.”
The subsidized bird is the word...

The Moving Finger Of Blame

Obama has found a new target for his woes:
A vacationing U.S. President Barack Obama accused Congress on Saturday of holding back the U.S. economic recovery by blocking "common sense" measures he said would create jobs and help growth.

In remarks recorded on Wednesday on his campaign-style bus tour in Illinois and aired during his holiday in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Obama said the stalled construction, trade and payroll tax bills could give a boost to the economy.

"The only thing preventing us from passing these bills is the refusal by some in Congress to put country ahead of party. That's the problem right now. That's what's holding this country back," the president said in his weekly radio address, which is also transmitted on the Internet.
With all due respect, it doesn't look like it's entirely Congress's fault...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Adventures In Bureaucracy Land

A reporter takes Obama up on his "advice" in dealing with officialdom:
Here's a rundown of what happened when I started by calling the USDA's general hotline to inquire about information related to the effects of noise and dust pollution rules on Illinois farmers:

Wednesday, 2:40 p.m. ET: After calling the USDA’s main line, I am told to call the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Here, I am patched through to a man who is identified as being in charge of "support services." I leave a message.

3:53 p.m.: The man calls me back and recommends in a voicemail message that I call the Illinois Farm Bureau — a non-governmental organization.

4:02 p.m.: A woman at the Illinois Farm Bureau connects me to someone in the organization’s government affairs department. That person tells me they "don't quite know who to refer you to."

4:06 p.m.: I call the Illinois Department of Agriculture again, letting the person I spoke with earlier know that calling the Illinois Farm Bureau had not been fruitful. He says "those are the kinds of groups that are kind of on top of this or kind of follow things like this. We deal with pesticide here in our bureau."

"You only deal with pesticides?" I ask.

"We deal with other things … but we mainly deal with pesticides here," he says, and gives me the phone number for the office of the department’s director, where he says there are "policy people" as well as the director's staff.

4:10 p.m.: Someone at the director's office transfers me to the agriculture products inspection department, where a woman says their branch deals with things like animal feed, seed and fertilizer.

"I'm going to transfer you to one of the guys at environmental programs."

4:15 p.m.: I reach the answering machine at the environmental programs department, and leave a message.

4:57 p.m.: A man from the environmental programs department gets back to me: "I hate to be the regular state worker that's always accused of passing the buck, but noise and dust regulation would be under our environmental protection agency, rather than the Agriculture Department," he says, adding that he has forwarded my name and number to the agriculture adviser at IEPA.

On Thursday morning, POLITICO started the hunt for an answer again, this time calling the USDA's local office in Henry County, Ill., where the town hall took place.

9:42 a.m.: Asked if someone at the office might be able to provide me with the information I requested, the woman on the phone responds, “Not right now. We may have to actually look that up — did you Google this or anything?”

When I say that I’m a reporter and would like to discuss my experience with someone who handles media relations there, I am referred to the USDA’s state office in Champaign. I leave a message there.

10:40 a.m.: A spokeswoman for the Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service calls me, to whom I explain my multiple attempts on Wednesday and Thursday to retrieve the information I was looking for.

“What I can tell you is our particular agency does not deal with regulations,” she tells me. “We deal with volunteers who voluntarily want to do things. I think the reason you got that response from the Cambridge office is because in regard to noise and dust regulation, we don’t have anything to do with that.”

She adds that the EPA would be more capable of answering questions regarding regulations.

Finally, I call the USDA’s main media relations department, based here in Washington, where I explain to a spokesperson about my failed attempts to obtain an answer to the Illinois farmer’s question. This was their response, via email:

“Secretary Vilsack continues to work closely with members of the Cabinet to help them engage with the agricultural community to ensure that we are separating fact from fiction on regulations because the administration is committed to providing greater certainty for farmers and ranchers. Because the question that was posed did not fall within USDA jurisdiction, it does not provide a fair representation of USDA’s robust efforts to get the right information to our producers throughout the country.”

So, still no answer to the farmer’s question.
Well, Obama would say that at least he got an answer...

The Final Days?

If true, then this is a good thing:
Rebel soldiers fought running street battles on Friday with troops loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in the heart of this strategically important city, just a half-hour’s drive from the Libyan capital of Tripoli, and there were new signs that worried foreigners in Tripoli were urgently trying to leave.

The fighting centered on the city’s central Martyrs Square, where snipers and other Qaddafi loyalists have taken up positions in a hotel, a bank building and a government administrative office. While a rebel tank roamed around the square shooting at the loyalist positions, shells and rockets rained down from Qaddafi forces positioned on the eastern side of the city.

Neither side seemed to gain an advantage in the fighting. While NATO aircraft could be seen overhead, they did not attack any targets.

But rebel forces maintained complete control of the sprawling oil refinery here that they seized Thursday after three days of fighting. They also consolidated their hold on the vital highway from Tunisia to Tripoli and were staffing checkpoints on other roads leading out of Tripoli toward rebel-held areas.
So, is this the beginning of an endgame? If so, it could be a vindication for Obama's strategy...but we'll see.

Ron Who?

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't ignoring you:
As pundits debate whether Paul is getting the attention he deserves, a PEJ analysis of campaign coverage this year indicates he is the 10th leading election newsmaker— trailing far behind non-candidates Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and as well as floundering Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich.

From January 1-August 14, Paul has been a dominant newsmaker in only 27 campaign stories. (To be considered a dominant newsmaker, someone must be featured in at least 50% of a story.) That is less than one-quarter of the media attention generated by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (120 stories), who is the top newsmaker among Republican candidates. And he has received 25% as much coverage as Bachmann, the Minnesota Congresswoman (108 stories).

Paul’s coverage also lags far behind Trump (94 stories), who dallied with a run before opting out in mid-May and Palin (85 stories), who has given no indication to date that she will enter the race. In addition, Paul trails longshot candidate and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (44 stories) and Texas Governor, Rick Perry (33 stories) who only announced his candidacy on August 13.
Note this: Paul is getting less coverage than two people who aren't even running. For whatever reason, Paul won't win the nomination, especially with goofballs like this on his side. But this business of treating him like the Invisible Candidate just doesn't sound right.

Old Reds

Twenty years after the coup that began the collapse of the Soviet Union, many are now nostalgic for the bad old days:
Among those in favor of the Soviet Union, not surprisingly, is Mr. Gorbachev, who had tried to reform and preserve the Soviet Union but was thwarted by the coup and then by Mr. Yeltsin and the momentum of events.

“Some say over and over that the Soviet Union’s collapse was inevitable,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday. “But I keep saying that the Soviet Union could have been preserved.”

Addressing journalists, he said: “You criticize Gorbachev: weak, Jell-O, more or less in those terms. But what if that Jell-O wasn’t in that position at that time, who the hell knows what might have happened to us.”

According to the polling agency, those who wish to return to the Soviet past are mostly members of the vestiges of the Communist party, elderly people, and people who live in small towns and villages.
In other words, Russia has turned into the cranky old neighbor who keeps telling those kids to keep off of his lawn...

The Fading Of The Green

It's the "Green Economy" that never was:
A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.

Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development.

Job training programs intended for the clean economy have also failed to generate big numbers. The Economic Development Department in California reports that $59 million in state, federal and private money dedicated to green jobs training and apprenticeship has led to only 719 job placements — the equivalent of an $82,000 subsidy for each one.

“The demand’s just not there to take this to scale,” said Fred Lucero, project manager at Richmond BUILD, which teaches students the basics of carpentry and electrical work in addition to specifically “green” trades like solar installation.
Well, some folks did well. Just not those that mattered...

Losing The Latin Love

And the latest group to fall out of love with Obama is:
Hispanic-Americans are souring on the Obama presidency, according to a Gallup poll that shows just 49 percent of them approve of his job performance.

That’s a huge decline since spring of 2009, when Obama registered the 85 percent approval among Latinos.

Since that high water mark, Obama’s job performance ratings with Hispanics has been sliding downward. It reached a nadir of 45 percent in late July but has made a slight comeback since then, according to

The survey was conducted before Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano’s announcement Thursday that the department no longer will depart illegal aliens who meet certain criteria, such as attending school, having family members in the U.S. military, or who are primarily responsible for other family members’ care.
So much for pandering.

Non-Recovery Fair

It must be more hope and change:
Thousands of unemployed waited overnight, camping out in their business suits and office heels and braving the tormenting heat in Atlanta to stand in line for a job fair Thursday. Authorities treated 20 people for heat exhaustion as they struggled to keep the line moving and get people moved inside.

The incredible turnout at the job fair comes on the heels of the state labor commissioner's announcement that Georgia's jobless rate rose.

The state unemployment rate increased to 10.1 percent in July from the 9.9 percent in June. The unemployment rate for African-Americans stands at 15.9 percent, far above the national rate of 9.1 percent.
It's just one more reason why African-Americans may finally be tiring of The One. But is that fair? After all, it's not like he was just using them for votes, right?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Your Campaign Donations At Work

What's the use of having a Federal agency if they can't campaign for you?
New documents obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request show that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spent over one million taxpayer dollars promoting Obamacare in coordination with the 2010 mid-term elections.

The documents include correspondence between HHS officials and representatives from The Ogilvy Group, the public relations firm hired to drive web traffic to an HHS site promoting Obamacare as "the Affordable Care Act."

On October 25, 2010, HHS New Media Communications Director Julia Eisman sent an email to Ogilvy Senior Vice President Imani Green, reading, "Given the high performance, we're wondering if we should we consider reallocating resources from the lesser performing words and put more $$ to ‘Obamacare’ - at least for the next 7 days." Seven days from October 25, 2010, was November 2nd, Election Day.
I'm sure it was just a coincidence...

Look To The Green Skies

Things must be really slow at NASA these days:
It may not rank as the most compelling reason to curb greenhouse gases, but reducing our emissions might just save humanity from a pre-emptive alien attack, scientists claim.

Watching from afar, extraterrestrial beings might view changes in Earth's atmosphere as symptomatic of a civilisation growing out of control – and take drastic action to keep us from becoming a more serious threat, the researchers explain.

This highly speculative scenario is one of several described by scientists at Nasa and Pennsylvania State University that, while considered unlikely, they say could play out were humans and alien life to make contact at some point in the future.

The authors warn that extraterrestrials may be wary of civilisations that expand very rapidly, as these may be prone to destroy other life as they grow, just as humans have pushed species to extinction on Earth. In the most extreme scenario, aliens might choose to destroy humanity to protect other civilisations.

"A preemptive strike would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions," the report states.

"Green" aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. "These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets," the authors write.
Does this mean that Al Gore is an alien?

Kid Stuff

Personally, I find it a a little weird:
Kanon Tipton, known by some as the world's youngest preacher, is a Youtube sensation whose precocious speeches have been watched on the internet by more than four million people.

He shot to fame aged just 21 months when, barely able to talk, a video of him mocking the style of church preachers was uploaded online by his parents.

And borne into a family of Pentecostal preachers - his father and grandfather have taken the microphone before him - he has not stopped since.

In his first clip, Kanon merely mumbles and imitates the tone of voice and hand movements made by the preachers he must have absorbed as a baby.

Now, aged four, he dresses in a suit and tie to perform, shouting about Jesus and 'the red-hot revival' with a handkerchief in hand to wipe away his sweat.

'The Lord is here tonight — and his name is Jesus!’’ he can be heard chanting in one video. 'There’s only one God.'
Well, here he is in action and you can judge for yourself:


It wasn't your father's ping pong diplomacy:
A wild brawl broke out between Georgetown and a Chinese men's basketball team Thursday night, putting an immediate end to a supposed goodwill game that coincided with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the country.

The benches cleared and fights erupted all over the court with about 9 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The rest of the exhibition between Georgetown and the Bayi Rockets was called off.

Biden did not attend the game. On Wednesday, he watched the Hoyas beat the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons 98-81.

The Washington Post reported Georgetown and Bayi players tackled and threw punches at each another. Chairs and water bottles were tossed as the Hoyas headed to the locker room with the score 64-all in a testy, foul-plagued matchup.

"Tonight, two great teams played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said in a statement. "We sincerely regret that this situation occurred."

Georgetown and the Rockets are scheduled to play again Sunday night in Shanghai.
Hopefully this isn't a sign of things to come between America and its bank...

Palin Paranoia

It must be the new tone:
A father and son were arrested by the FBI in Allentown this morning on charges of making harassing phone calls to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's family, lawyers and the lawyers' employees.

Craig Christy and his son Shawn, of McAdoo, Schuylkill County, were arrested without incident just after 11 a.m., according to an FBI statement.

Both men were to have initial appearances in federal magistrate court in Allentown later this afternoon.

It was unclear whether Palin herself received any calls from the Christys.

The announcement said indictments for the Christys were returned by a federal grand jury in Alaska on Wednesday.
Remember, all is civility...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

And Investigations For All

Here it comes:
The Justice Department is investigating whether the nation’s largest credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, improperly rated dozens of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis, according to two people interviewed by the government and another briefed on such interviews.

The investigation began before Standard & Poor’s cut the United States’ AAA credit rating this month, but it is likely to add fuel to the political firestorm that has surrounded that action. Lawmakers and some administration officials have since questioned the agency’s secretive process, its credibility and the competence of its analysts, claiming to have found an error in its debt calculations.

In the mortgage inquiry, the Justice Department has been asking about instances in which the company’s analysts wanted to award lower ratings on mortgage bonds but may have been overruled by other S.& P. business managers, according to the people with knowledge of the interviews. If the government finds enough evidence to support such a case, which is likely to be a civil case, it could undercut S.& P.’s longstanding claim that its analysts act independently from business concerns.

It is unclear if the Justice Department investigation involves the other two ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, or only S.& P.
I'm guessing that's a "No"...

Oh, Frack Off

Stop fracking! It's for the womenfolk:
A state lawmaker is explaining his remark that suggests the impact of Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry includes the spread of sexually transmitted disease “amongst the womenfolk.”

Democratic Rep. Michael Sturla of Lancaster County was expected to discuss the remark at a previously scheduled hearing Wednesday on gas drilling.

His remark was made in comments e-mailed to a reporter in which he accused a Corbett administration official of downplaying the seriousness of community impacts created by drilling.

The state Republican Party on Tuesday evening called the remark offensive and incredibly stupid.
They do say that drilling, like politics, is a dirty business...

Corn Drive

Corn. It's really not for people anymore:
For the first time ever, more of the corn crop may go into gas tanks than into the stomachs of cattle and poultry destined for kitchen tables.

The prediction drew little response last week when it was released by the USDA in its Crop Production and Supply/Demand Report for the 2011 crop season. The USDA kept its prediction for ethanol production demand for corn at 5.05 billion, but lowered demand projections for livestock feed by 100 million bushels to 5 billion bushels.

That fuel now tops livestock as the primary user of corn struck at least one observer as noteworthy.

“That’s a first-time-ever type of change,” University of Missouri Extension economist Ron Plain said in a statement released by the university.

“For forever,” Plain said, “ feed was the largest single use of corn.”

The news comes as criticism that pro-ethanol subsidies and policies are raising food prices globally seems to be reaching a crescendo. Critics didn’t seem to latch onto the USDA’s market prediction, however.

A spokesman for Iowa’s ethanol industry termed the USDA’s market prediction “a footnote.”

“Every credible study has clearly found the effects of ethanol policies is negligible on the price of corn,” remarked Monte Shaw, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.
Tell that to the people who actually have to eat...

Dude, Where's My GPA?

A former student challenges his peers to "Share the wealth":
Oliver Darcy, a recent college graduate, proposes that students with good grades contribute their GPA to their academically sluggish friends. He argues that this is how the federal government takes wealth from the country’s high wage earners and distributes it to the low income earners.

“They all earn their GPA,” said Darcy in an interview with "Fox and Friends." “So we asked them if they’d be interested in redistributing the GPA points that they earned to students who may be having trouble getting a high GPA.”

Darcy, who films his encounters with teachers and fellow students, doesn’t have much luck selling this theory.

He said many students on college campuses support high taxes on the rich, but when put into relative terms, cringed at the thought of spreading around their academic wealth.

In a video posted on, one student said, “If I do give GPA points to students that don’t deserve it, it isn’t fair, I work for what I have.”
What's the matter with kids these days...

No Worries

President Obama has some words of reassurance:
“I don’t think we’re in danger of another recession, but we are in danger of not having a recovery that’s fast enough to deal with a genuine unemployment crisis for a whole lot of folks out there,” Mr. Obama told CBS News Senior Business Correspondent Anthony Mason. “And that’s why we need to be doing more.”

“What is absolutely true is confidence matters,” Mr. Obama replied. “We should not have had any kind of brinksmanship around the debt ceiling.”

“I wish [House Speaker John Boehner] had taken me up on a grand bargain to deal with our long term debt and deficit,” he said. “We still have the opportunity to fix that. It’s not too late. I will be putting forward a plan that will be similar to the plan I put forward to the speaker.”
Except that he already agreed to the last one. But first things first-it's vacation time (again.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mum Of The Year

Meet the end result of the welfare state:
A SCHOOLGIRL who posed aged 12 for controversial bikini pictures in a magazine is now pregnant at 15 - to the joy of her mum.

The shots of Soya Keaveney outraged parents, who blasted mum Janis for fuelling the youngster's obsession with a modelling career.

But now that dream is on hold after Soya got pregnant by a 17-year-old boyfriend who is allowed by Janis to stay overnight at the family home.

Jobless single mum Janis, 48, said she was delighted because the council will now have to give her a bigger house.

She added: "Our three-bedroom place was already overcrowded with her sisters Coco and Ritzy, her brother Tarot, Soya's boyfriend Jake and one of her sister's babies.

"Once the new baby comes the council will have to find us a place with four or five bedrooms."
Well, at least she won't be rioting. She's getting what she wanted out of government...

Hope, No Change

It must be a sign of the times: Hope just isn't selling the way it used to:
As the economy limps, our leaders snipe, and the rough beast of our divided government slouches toward next year’s presidential election, the political memorabilia tills have a tale to tell: For the president, it’s a scary one.

Downtown shopkeepers and cart vendors near the Mall said last week that Obama-related sales had significantly slowed — in part because of a traditional August tourism lull, in part due to the president’s sagging approval ratings.

Freddie Vinoya, a manager at Honest Abe’s Souvenirs at 1000 F Street NW, said that customers used to purchase more than three dozen Obama “Hope” T-shirts a week.

“It’s still a best-seller, but not nearly as much,” said Mr. Vinoya, 34, a resident of Accokeek. “Sometimes, they hate Obama now. That’s why they buy the [Bush-themed] ‘Miss Me?’ shirts. We got those in last December.”
Campaigning like you're going to your own funeral doesn't help. either...

Sue 'Em If You've Got 'Em

The tobacco companies aren't taking the FDA's scare tactics without a fight:
Four of the five largest U.S. tobacco companies sued the federal government Tuesday over new graphic cigarette labels that include the sewn-up corpse of a smoker and a picture of diseased lungs, saying the warnings violate their free speech rights and will cost millions of dollars to print.

The companies, led by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., said the warnings no longer simply convey facts to allow people to make a decision whether to smoke. They instead force them to put government anti-smoking advocacy more prominently on their packs than their own brands, the companies say. They want a judge to stop the labels.

"Never before in the United States have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally-charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products," the companies wrote in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.
The government couldn't ban tobacco outright, so they did the next best thing. But government-sponsored fear has a way of backfiring...

Better Living Through Poverty

You can't deny it's not truthful advertising:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that the reason so many people are on food stamps is the administration has done a better job helping states get "the word out" about the decades-old program.

Though food stamps date back to 1939, Vilsack said in an interview that several large states, like California and Texas, had "underperformed" in connecting eligible Americans with the program. Times have changed, he claimed.

"The reason why these number have gone up is that we've done a pretty good job of working with states that had done a poor job in the past in getting the word out about this program," he told MSNBC. "We're now working with them to make sure that people who are eligible get the benefits."

The number of people on food stamps has been growing to record levels for 30 straight months. The latest report from the Agriculture Department showed nearly 46 million people -- or one in seven Americans -- were enrolled as of May in what's formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
I guess this means that the Obama administration has finally decided that they're out of the job creation business...

Green Bust

Who says the government can't create jobs? Problem is, they're for people who don't actually work:
Last year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced the city had won a coveted $20 million federal grant to invest in weatherization. The unglamorous work of insulating crawl spaces and attics had emerged as a silver bullet in a bleak economy – able to create jobs and shrink carbon footprint – and the announcement came with great fanfare.

McGinn had joined Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to make it. It came on the eve of Earth Day. It had heady goals: creating 2,000 living-wage jobs in Seattle and retrofitting 2,000 homes in poorer neighborhoods.

But more than a year later, Seattle's numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

"The jobs haven't surfaced yet," said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

"It's been a very slow and tedious process. It's almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There's been no real investment for the broader public."
Work is for little people!

Out To Sea

Is this the new frontier?
Pay Pal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has given $1.25 million to an initiative to create floating libertarian countries in international waters, according to a profile of the billionaire in Details magazine.

Thiel has been a big backer of the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to build sovereign nations on oil rig-like platforms to occupy waters beyond the reach of law-of-the-sea treaties. The idea is for these countries to start from scratch--free from the laws, regulations, and moral codes of any existing place. Details says the experiment would be "a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons."

"There are quite a lot of people who think it's not possible," Thiel said at a Seasteading Institute Conference in 2009, according to Details. (His first donation was in 2008, for $500,000.) "That's a good thing. We don't need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don't think it's possible they won't take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it's too late."

The Seasteading Institute's Patri Friedman says the group plans to launch an office park off the San Francisco coast next year, with the first full-time settlements following seven years later.
I'm all for people trying new things that the government's attempts to control people, but I have to wonder if this is really the start of a new society, or just a place to put society's misfits. Other than Congress, that is...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Revenge Of The Amazonians

Not surprisingly, the Amazon Sales Tax has turned out to be a big bust for the once-Golden State:
Prior to passage of the bill obligating collection and remittance in such circumstances, prominent online retailers including and had threatened to terminate relationships with affiliates, if the legislation became law. Now that it has, and affiliate relationships are being severed, something critics of the legislation say was entirely foreseeable is occurring: Online businesses and entrepreneurs are leaving the state, thus risking an actual reduction, as opposed to marginal increase, in California’s tax revenue.

Backers of the legislation seemed to believe that affiliates would be happy to work with other retailers who also operate affiliate programs, or that online retailers targeted by the law would not end affiliate relationships and the threat was idle.

In neither case do those assumptions now seem correct.
That's what happens when your bluff gets called...

Unfair Play

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