Friday, September 30, 2011

Buffett Balks

Seems like Warren Buffett isn't that enthusiastic about paying his fair share:



“Well, the precise program which will — I don’t know what their program will be. My program would be on the very high incomes that are taxed very low. Not just high incomes. Somebody making $50 million a year playing baseball, his taxes won’t change. Make $50 million a year appearing on television, his income won’t change. But, if they make a lot of money and pay a very low tax rate, like me, it would be changed by a minimum tax that would only bring them up to what other people pay.”
Glad that's been cleared up...

Poaching The Preacher

A turncoat goes down:
In a significant and dramatic strike in the campaign against Al Qaeda, the Defense Ministry here said American-born preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, a leading figure in the group’s outpost in Yemen, was killed on Friday morning.

In Washington a senior Obama administration official confirmed that Mr. Awlaki was dead. But the circumstances surrounding the killing remained unclear.

It was not immediately known whether Yemeni forces carried out the attack or if American intelligence forces, which have been pursuing Mr. Awlaki for months, were involved in the operation.

A Defense Ministry statement said that a number of Mr. Awlaki’s bodyguards also were killed.
There's no doubt that this clown was a willing propaganda tool, but he was still an American citizen. In the end, the world is most likely a better place without him. But was it the right way?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stamp Of Approval

Who says poverty can't be profitable?
In its quest to promote taxpayer-funded entitlement programs, the Obama Administration has actually rewarded one state with a $5 million bonus for its efficiency in adding food-stamp recipients to already bulging rolls.

It’s part of the administration’s campaign to eradicate “food insecure households” by improving access and increasing participation in the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Incidentally, the program was recently changed to SNAP to eliminate the stigma that comes with a name like food stamps. Just a few months ago the federal agency that administers the program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), launched a multi-million-dollar initiative to recruit more food-stamp participants even though the number of recipients has skyrocketed in the last few years.

This week Oregon officials bragged that the USDA has given the state $5 million in “performance bonuses” for ensuring that people eligible for food benefits receive them and for its “swift processing of applications.” The money comes on the heels of a separate $1.5 million award from the feds for making “accurate payments of food stamp benefits to clients.” So welfare recipients are clients?
Well, everyone who cooperates with Obama is treated as such...

Booby Prize

When you're a dictator, what else is there except to award yourself a prize?
On Friday the United Nations' cultural arm may be forced to create a prize named after Equatorial Guinea's notoriously corrupt president, due to a resolution passed in June by the presidents staying at the lavish resort.

If that happens President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a man whose regime is accused of gross human rights violations, will be associated with an organization whose stated mission is the promotion of peace and human rights through cultural dialogue.

During the AU summit this summer, Obiang succeeded in getting the body to pass a motion calling on UNESCO to approve a prize named in his honor.

Armed with this resolution, the 13 African delegates on UNESCO's executive board are threatening to force a vote on the UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo Prize for Research in the Life Sciences as early as Friday when the board meets in Paris, said five officials taking part in the discussion.

The $3 million prize was first proposed in 2008 and UNESCO initially agreed to create it, only to suspend it as outrage erupted over the provenance of the money and accusations of abuses by Obiang against the people of his Maryland-sized nation.
So, who is this esteemed leader?
Obiang seized power in a coup 32 years ago after toppling the former leader, who was executed. The United Nations Rapporteur on Torture toured the country's prisons in 2008 and determined that torture is systematic, including using electroshocks through starter cables attached to the detainees' body with alligator clips.

In February, the government imposed a blackout on news regarding the Arab Spring uprising. A disc jockey who dared refer to Libya during his music program had his microphone cut off minutes into his show and the program was pulled off the air for two months.

Another concern is the provenance of the $3 million that Obiang has said he will donate to endow the prize. The Obiang family has become fabulously wealthy during the president's reign and is accused of pilfering the nation's oil wealth.

The United States Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held hearings to discuss how Obiang's son used lawyers, realtors and bankers to help him transfer $110 million of suspect funds to the U.S. The money was used to purchase a $30 million mansion in Malibu and a $38 million plane, according to a separate Justice Department inquiry.

On Thursday, French officials in Paris seized 16 luxury cars, including a Bugatti Veyron worth more than $1.3 million allegedly belonging to Obiang's son, in a probe into claims that the Equatoguinean leader had misspent public funds in France. And earlier this month, a lawyer close to former French President Jacques Chirac claimed in a memoir that Obiang had tried to give the French government suitcases of cash in order to secure favor.
Now this is embarrassing. Chirac could have been bought a lot more cheaply...

The Call Of The South

You can call it the Second Great Migration:
Americans, black and white alike, are moving in record numbers to a part of the country where taxes are low, unions are irrelevant, and people love their guns and their faith. And yet we have heard hardly a peep about this great migration from our nation’s public intellectuals.

Why? Because their ideological prejudices won’t permit them to admit the obvious. They’d prefer to focus their research on the pre-1970s South because they are more comfortable with — and more invested in — that old narrative, while this new one marches on right under their noses. And their keyboards.
They ignore the migration at their own risk. As does President Obama:
He should ask Americans like me who’ve moved South why we did it. And he should be especially interested in understanding why African Americans are fleeing his home city of Chicago for the South, too.

If he dared to ask, he’d learn that we are all fleeing liberalism and chasing economic freedom, just as our immigrant parents and grandparents did.

But he won’t bother asking. Our ideological academic-in-chief is content to expand the size and scope of the federal government and ignore the successes of our economic laboratories known as the states. He is pursuing 1960s-style policies that got us Detroit, while ignoring those that got us 21st-century Dallas.
For people who claim to be about the future, Obama and other like-minded liberals certainly seem stuck in the past...

The Buck Stops Here?

Joe Biden finally admits what many on his side have long denied:
Vice President Joe Biden said in a live interview with Miami public radio station WLRN Thursday that the Obama administration - not the Bush administration - now has ownership of the struggling U.S. economy.

Biden said Americans have "good reason to be upset" because they lost jobs because of the recession, "something they didn't have a thing to do with creating."

"Even though 50-some percent of the American people think the economy tanked because of the last administration, that's not relevant," said the vice president. "What's relevant is we're in charge."
....

Biden said it is "totally legitimate" for the 2012 presidential election to be "a referendum on Obama and Biden and the nature and state of the economy." He said Americans will need to make a choice between what the Obama administration is offering to address the problem and what is being offered by the eventual Republican nominee.
Is that an acknowledgment that Americans might make a different choice than they did in 2008?

Here's Biden, in his own words:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Scandal Sheet

A couple of updates on the two scandals that should be getting a lot more attention from the MSM, or would if Obama were a Republican. First, Solargate:
Solyndra LLC had such steep financial problems in late 2010 that the company violated terms of its loan-guarantee agreement with the Department of Energy and technically defaulted on its $535 million loan, according to people familiar with the matter.

The failed solar-panel maker, which is under numerous criminal and congressional investigations, ran so short of cash in December 2010 that it was unable to satisfy certain terms of its U.S. loan agreement, these people said. The agreement required Solyndra to provide $5 million in equity to a subsidiary building its factory but cash-flow problems prevented those payments.

WSJ's Ryan Tracy reports a new Congressional report says warnings about Solyndra's competitive abilities came out before the government awarded the company a $535 million loan guarantee and the company's subsequent collapse.
The Energy Department ultimately restructured the loan agreement to help keep the company afloat and Solyndra continued to draw money from its loan.
And yet, the Obama adminstration is still at it, while a former employee of a certain company also got a payday.

Next, we come to Gunrunner:
Gun Rights Examiner has obtained a copy of a January 20, 2011 email from Barry Orlow, Associate Chief Counsel (Field Operations and Information) for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, calling top management’s attention to a January 19 column posted by this columnist, “Open Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee staff on 'Project Gunwalker'.”

Written to inform the committee of whistleblower allegations and to arrange for their protection, the ultimate goal of the open letter was to prompt a full congressional investigation.

Orlow was named by House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa in July for sending intimidating warning letters to witnesses about what they could not talk about, with the result that “at least one witness wanted to back out of testifying to his committee after receiving the letter.”
Said letter can be found here. When you've got an anti-gun agenda, this is the result-a Federal agency that is supposed to uphold the law protecting those with said agenda instead.

That Pesky Democracy

It's no laughing matter:
If it was a joke, North Carolina Democratic Governor Bev Perdue needs to polish her delivery.

Newly released audio contradicts the claims of Perdue’s press team that her call Tuesday for suspending Congressional elections was a joke or hyperbole. In the recording, her tone is matter-of-fact and her comments are part of a serious speech.

“Listen to the Governor’s words: She wasn’t joking at all,” North Carolina GOP spokesman Rob Lockwood told The Daily Caller. “The congressional Democrats are wildly unpopular in North Carolina, so she may have been trying to invent a solution to save their jobs from public accountability.”

“If it was a joke, what was the set-up?,” Lockwood adds. “What was the punch-line? Where was the pause for laughter? It took them three hours to say it was a ‘joke,’ but when that flopped it became ‘hyperbole.’ We’ll just call it an unconstitutionally bad idea.”
Well, you could argue that she was just following her party leader's example. Opposition can be so frustrating...

Have A Coke And A Smile, Comrade

It says something about our economic polices when they're more socialist than the socialists:
Coca-Cola now sees the US becoming a less friendly business environment than China, its chief executive has revealed, citing political gridlock and an antiquated tax structure as reasons its home market has become less competitive. Muhtar Kent, Coke’s chief executive, said “in many respects” it was easier doing business in China, which he likened to a well-managed company. “You have a one-stop shop in terms of the Chinese foreign investment agency and local governments are fighting for investment with each other,” he told the Financial Times. Mr Kent also pointed to Brazil as an example of an emerging economy that is making itself attractive to investment in ways that the US once did.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not China will remain that way. But it does seem highly ironic that a former Cold War rival is now more open for business than America.

World Food Police

Mayor Bloomberg wants it to be an international effort:
Speaking on the government's role in diet and health last week, Bloomberg told the UN General Assembly, “There are powers only governments can exercise, policies only governments can mandate and enforce and results only governments can achieve. To halt the worldwide epidemic of non-communicable diseases, governments at all levels must make healthy solutions the default social option. That is ultimately government’s highest duty.”
....

Shortly after the address, the UN adopted a political declaration on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

Among the items included in the declaration are having governments intervene with the advertising of foods deemed unhealthy to “Promote the implementation of the WHO (World Health Organization) set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, including foods that are high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt,” according to the document.

The political declaration also touches upon taxation of unhealthy food and intervening in it’s production itself to promote, “the development and initiate the implementation, as appropriate, of cost-effective interventions to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fats, and eliminate industrially produced trans-fats in foods, including through discouraging the production and marketing of foods that contribute to unhealthy diet.”
Because, of course, government always knows what's best...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The List

Guilty until never innocent?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is permitted to include people on the government’s terrorist watch list even if they have been acquitted of terrorism-related offenses or the charges are dropped, according to newly released documents.

The files, released by the F.B.I. under the Freedom of Information Act, disclose how the police are instructed to react if they encounter a person on the list. They lay out, for the first time in public view, the legal standard that national security officials must meet in order to add a name to the list. And they shed new light on how names are vetted for possible removal from the list.

Inclusion on the watch list can keep terrorism suspects off planes, block noncitizens from entering the country and subject people to delays and greater scrutiny at airports, border crossings and traffic stops.
....

The 91 pages of newly disclosed files include a December 2010 guidance memorandum to F.B.I. field offices showing that even a not-guilty verdict may not always be enough to get someone off the list, if agents maintain they still have “reasonable suspicion” that the person might have ties to terrorism.

“If an individual is acquitted or charges are dismissed for a crime related to terrorism, the individual must still meet the reasonable suspicion standard in order to remain on, or be subsequently nominated to, the terrorist watch list,” the once-classified memorandum says.

Ginger McCall, a counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said: “In the United States, you are supposed to be assumed innocent. But on the watch list, you may be assumed guilty, even after the court dismisses your case.”

But Stewart Baker, a former Homeland Security official in the Bush administration, argued that even if the intelligence about someone’s possible terrorism ties fell short of the courtroom standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it could still be appropriate to keep the person on the watch list as having attracted suspicion.

Mr. Baker noted that being subjected to extra questioning — or even kept off flights — was different than going to prison.
Yes, being treated like a suspect for life can still make you feel like a criminal, even if the law says you're not.

German Reset

The Germans don't like being lectured to:
German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said it would be a folly to boost the EU's bail-out machinery (EFSF) beyond its €440bn lending limit by deploying leverage to up to €2 trillion, perhaps by raising funds from the European Central Bank.

"I don't understand how anyone in the European Commission can have such a stupid idea. The result would be to endanger the AAA sovereign debt ratings of other member states. It makes no sense," he said.

Mr Schauble told Washington to mind its own businesss after President Barack Obama rebuked EU leaders for failing to recapitalise banks and allowing the debt crisis to escalate to the point where it is "scaring the world".

"It's always much easier to give advice to others than to decide for yourself. I am well prepared to give advice to the US government," he said.
It's OK to be arrogant when a Democrat is in the White House...

"We'll Get Around To it Eventually"

The fierce urgency of Obama's jobs plan apparently isn't that important to Harry Reid:
Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Monday night that when the Senate returns from a weeklong vacation, the chamber will work instead on a bill that would push to label China a currency manipulator, which would make retaliatory steps in order.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important for a jobs measure than China trade,” Mr. Reid said.

Mr. Obama two weeks ago sent Congress legislation he said would create jobs by extending and expanding temporary tax cuts and boosting infrastructure spending, which he offset by increasing taxes over the long term.

The president has been traveling the country demanding that Congress act immediately, but even his own party has not been keen to rush the legislation.
Well, when it comes to vacation time, you could say that they're just following Obama's lead...

Ford Caves?

Crushing of dissent! Crushing of dissent!
Ford Motor Company has shelved a television commercial indirectly criticizing its competitors for accepting government bailouts to avoid bankruptcy in the wake of media criticism and, reportedly, a call from the White House.

The ad, first uploaded to YouTube months ago, was part of a series featuring real-life customers who were thrust into press conferences where actor/reporters asked them to explain their decisions to buy a Ford.
....

An industry source said the White House did not pressure Ford to remove the ad, but Howes suggested it was pulled in response to the call, an assertion the White House again denied this afternoon.

Regardless of the motivation, Ford's decision points to the increasingly congested intersection of automobiles and politics. The industry undoubtedly benefited from government intervention, and Ford undoubtedly benefited from its ability to avoid a bailout.
You'd think the Obama administration was scared of criticism, or something. But here's the original for posterity:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Environmental Employment Agency

Because somebody's got to do it:
The Environmental Protection Agency has said new greenhouse gas regulations, as proposed, may be “absurd” in application and “impossible to administer” by its self-imposed 2016 deadline. But the agency is still asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats — at a cost of $21 billion — to attempt to implement the rules.

The EPA aims to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act, even though the law doesn’t give the EPA explicit power to do so. The agency’s authority to move forward is being challenged in court by petitioners who argue that such a decision should be left for Congress to make.

The proposed regulations would set greenhouse gas emission thresholds above which businesses must file for an EPA permit and complete extra paperwork in order to continue operating. If the EPA wins its court battle and fully rolls out the greenhouse gas regulations, the number of businesses forced into this regulatory regime would grow tremendously — from approximately 14,000 now to as many as 6.1 million.

These new regulatory efforts are not likely to succeed, the EPA admits, but it has decided to move forward regardless. “While EPA acknowledges that come 2016, the administrative burdens may still be so great that compliance … may still be absurd or impossible to administer at that time, that does not mean that the Agency is not moving toward the statutory thresholds,” the EPA wrote in a September 16 court briefing.
Bureaucrats need work, too...It must be part of Obama's jobs plan.

Futurama
Bureaucrat's Song
www.comedycentral.com
Comedy CentralFunny TV ShowsRoast of Charlie Sheen

Doctors Without Orders

There seems to be a growing rebellion among the medical profession's rank and file:
According to a new survey, the majority of doctors do not believe that the AMA represents their views and interests. Much of that dissatisfaction stems from the organization’s support for President Obama’s contentious health care reform package.

That shouldn’t be surprising. The AMA declares that its core mission is to “help doctors help patients.” But ObamaCare undermines that pursuit by making life harder for physicians and driving down the quality of care available to patients.

The survey — conducted by physician recruitment firm Jackson & Coker — is a brutal indictment of both the AMA and ObamaCare. Just 13% of doctors agree with their trade association’s support of the health reform law.

Some doctors are even dissociating themselves from the AMA. Of those who have terminated their membership, 47% cited the organization’s continued backing of the health care law as the primary reason. Increasingly doctors are turning to associations like Docs4PatientCare and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that actually do represent their interests.
The AMA and labor unions seem to have a lot in common...

"Are You Talking to Me?"

You'd think he was taking the African-American vote for granted, or something:

Negative Mass

We are all independents now:
A record-high 81% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed, adding to negativity that has been building over the past 10 years.

Majorities of Democrats (65%) and Republicans (92%) are dissatisfied with the nation's governance. This perhaps reflects the shared political power arrangement in the nation's capital, with Democrats controlling the White House and U.S. Senate, and Republicans controlling the House of Representatives. Partisans on both sides can thus find fault with government without necessarily blaming their own party.

The findings are from Gallup's annual Governance survey, updated Sept. 8-11, 2011. The same poll shows record or near-record criticism of Congress, elected officials, government handling of domestic problems, the scope of government power, and government waste of tax dollars.
Hope and Change! Plus, this.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Lights Are Going Out...

What hath the Euro wrought?
The current euro crisis has frayed nerves so much that Europeans have become more aggressive and even nationalistic again.

The polite tone cultivated for decades by E.U. partners has disintegrated into a tirade of insults. Germans have called the Greeks lazy, corrupt and just plain stupid. The news media in Germany gleefully point out Greek billionaires who pay no taxes, workers who retire at 50and harbors filled with the yachts of the idle rich. German politicians have suggested that Greece sell some islands to repay its debt. In return, Greeks have pulled out the Nazi card, claiming that the Germans owe them billions in wartime reparations.
....

This is perhaps the most important implication of the way the euro was set up. Rather than being kept free of politics, as was originally intended, management of the currency has become a political football knocked back and forth by the growing resentments between richer and poorer Europeans. The poorer countries reject the austerity measures necessary to meet German standards. The Germans refuse to take the steps necessary to build a true economic community. The result is a standoff.
Related thoughts by Mark Steyn here.

Hey Joe

Joe Klein meets America:
...what Klein finds is what concerns most people he met are not the contested social issues like abortion, evolution or immigration. Instead, he writes, the talk was “all about too much government: too much governing regulation, too many people dependent on government.” One of the mayors complains to Klein about Social Security disability payment, which he says is giving drug addicts and drunks “three times the amount my father-in-law does on Social Security retirement.” And another person tells him that children with ADD can get Social Security disability payments also. Says the woman: “I don’t believe we have any legal or moral obligation to pay any money to people too drunk to work or lazy to work.”

Another gripe was the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which one builder explained prevented him from receiving bank loans he always used to be able to get, known as “character loans,” since he had a good repayment record. Now, a deal fell through because he needed a quick loan, and Dodd-Frank prohibited him from moving on the process for a six week period. By then it was too late. Similarly, another businessman told Klein how for similar reasons, he could not expand his nursing home business. He even heard the same complaint from a banker who is the mayor of Hope, Bill Clinton’s home town. Not a Tea Party supporter like the people in Texarkana, this banker explained how impossible it was to give anyone home loans anymore.

Surprisingly, Klein writes- and one must say you do not expect to find this from Klein:

It seemed to me that the closer the Tea Party folks got to home, the more legitimate their beefs were. On the most basic, local level, their concern about waste and corruption seemed a good thing, a valuable revival of citizen concern after a long period of apathy. And the federal government does tend to impose layer upon layer of new regulations without keeping track of how they’re working.

Anything President Obama has done to address these problems, Klein adds, “hasn’t reached Texarkana. I found myself in sympathy with much that the Miller County Patriots were saying,” referring to the name of the local Tea Party group. Until, that is, “one man called the President a socialist who wanted government to run everything,” and that since he went around the world apologizing for the United States, he didn’t think Obama was a patriot.

So Klein concludes: “When they’re talking about character loans, I’m all ears. Whey they’re fantasizing about socialism, I’m not.”
The problem is, it's not just a fantasy...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bloggin' In The Years: 1580

Michael de Montaigne, on the subject of Native Cannibalism in the New World:
After having treated their prisoners well for a long time, giving them all the provisions that they could one, he who is the chief calls a great assembly of his acquaintances. He ties a rope to one of the arms of the prisoner and on the other end, several feet away, out of harm's way, and gives to his best friend the arm to hold; and the two of them, in the presence of the assembled group, slash him to death with their swords. That done, they roast him and eat him together, sending portions to their absent friends. They do this, not as is supposed, for nourishment as did the ancient Scythians; it represents instead an extreme form of vengeance.
....

I am not so concerned that we should remark on the barbaric horror of such a deed, but that, while we quite rightly judge their faults, we are blind to our own. I think it is more barbaric to eat a man alive than to eat him dead, to tear apart through torture and pain a living body which can still feel, or to burn it alive by bits, to let it be gnawed and chewed by dogs or pigs (as we have no only read, but seen, in recent times, not against old enemies but among neighbors and fellow-citizens, and--what is worse--under the pretext of piety and religion. Better to roast and eat him after he is dead.
This is, of course, not to defend Cannibalism, but it does raise the Subject of how our Diets reflect our Culture. Is an "enlightened" Vegetarian then, not as much of a Cannibal as the supposed Savage?

The Non-Transformative President

The era of Hope and Change is officially over:
A majority of Americans rates President Obama “about the same” or “worse” than his predecessor, George W. Bush, according to a new Gallup poll.

When a random sample of 1004 adults were asked to compare the 43rd and 44th presidents, 34 percent of respondents said Obama had been a worse president than Bush, while 22 percent said he was about the same.

Forty-three percent, a plurality, said they preferred Obama’s handling of the presidency.

The poll, conducted Sept. 15-18, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It did not specify criteria for making the comparison between presidents.

Predictably, Democrats were most supportive of Obama, while Republicans favored Bush in the poll. The response from independent voters might be most telling for Obama: a troublesome 67 percent said they considered him about the same or worse than Bush.

The findings underscore the challenges Obama faces in his bid for a second term, with many voters dissatisfied with the direction of the country and their own economic situations.
The more things Change...

Down On The Farm

Farmers, grab your pitchforks:
According to Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler, you do not have a fundamental right to consume the food you grow or own or raise. The Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the pioneers in defending food sovereignty and freedom, recently argued before Judge Fiedler that you and I have a constitutional right to consume the foods of our choice. Judge Fiedler saw no merit to the argument and ruled against the FTCLDF. When they asked him to clarify his statement, these were his words:

“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;”

“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;”

“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice…”
According to this "logic," generations of American farmers, from Washington and Jefferson on down, have been breaking the law. Yeah, this makes sense...

Friday, September 23, 2011

No Pandering Left Behind

I actually agree with this, at least in principle:
President Barack Obama is giving states the flexibility to opt out of provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, a move he says is designed to energize schools but Republicans challenge as outside his authority.

The law, a Bush-era education initiative passed with bipartisan support, has grown increasingly unpopular as more schools risk being labeled a failure.

Under the plan Obama was to outline Friday, states would be allowed to ask the Education Department to be exempted from some of the law's requirements if they meet certain conditions. That includes enacting standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting evaluation standards for teachers and principals.

"To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change," Obama said in a statement Thursday. "The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level."
States should have more control when it comes to education. I just wish Obama felt the same way about health care...

Zombie Benefits

Pay off your dead:
The federal government has doled out more than $600 million in benefit payments to dead people over the past five years, a watchdog report says.

Such payments are meant for retired or disabled federal workers, but sometimes the checks keep going out even after the former employees pass away and the deaths are not reported, according to the report this week from the Office of Personnel Management's inspector general, Patrick McFarland.

In one case, the son of a beneficiary continued receiving payments for 37 years after his father's death in 1971. The payments — totaling more than $515,000 — were only discovered when the son died in 2008.

The government has been aware of the problem since a 2005 inspector general's report revealed defects in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund. Yet the improper payments have continued, despite more than a half dozen attempts to develop a system that can figure out which beneficiaries are still alive and which are dead, the report said.
The dead are just too good for business...

So Sue Me

I know we live in a litigious society. But, this?
Lawyers should be allowed to win financial damages from companies that refuse to hire unemployed people, according to a coalition of Democratic legislators, progressive advocates and entrepreneurial trial lawyers.

The existence of even a few advertisements excluding unemployed applicants in the national marketplace justifies a federal law creating a novel market for legal skills, say the advocates.

“We don’t know for sure how extensive it is … [but] if it is on one [job advertisement] website, that’s too extensive for me,” the bill’s chief backer, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, told the TheDC.

Brown waved away concerns by business leaders that the law would raise their costs and risks. “I don’t think think its going to mean a lawyers’ employment act,” he said.
Don't give them any ideas...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Warp Speed

Has the Universe's speed limit been broken?
Neutrinos sent through the ground from Cern toward the Gran Sasso laboratory 732km away seemed to show up a tiny fraction of a second early.

The result - which threatens to upend a century of physics - will be put online for scrutiny by other scientists.

In the meantime, the group says it is being very cautious about its claims.

"We tried to find all possible explanations for this," said report author Antonio Ereditato of the Opera collaboration.

"We wanted to find a mistake - trivial mistakes, more complicated mistakes, or nasty effects - and we didn't," he told BBC News.
God might not like to play dice with the Universe, but he/she/it seems to like messing with our heads...

Great Recession II?

Why the current world economic crisis is cause for concern:
The continuing inability of Europe to cope with the euro troubles, the political impasse over economic policy in the United States, and the deer-in-the-headlights immobility of Japan do not inspire confidence. The emerging economies — China, India, Turkey and Brazil — face increased difficulties of their own and will not pull the global economy out of the dumps. That large corporations are sitting on cash hoards or buying back stock rather than making new investments is bad news; that consumers are cutting down debt and doing what they can to increase their savings is good news for the long term, but bad news now. And it seems clear that two years of frantic efforts in Washington have failed to breathe new life into the nation’s housing market.
....

More to the point, we need policy discussions more than we need political ones. This is not just about how big the deficit should be; it is about whether the international financial system will survive the next six months in the form we now know it. It is about whether the foundations of the postwar order are cracking in Europe. It is about whether a global financial crash will further destabilize the Middle East and, if so, what we and the Europeans are going to do about it. It is about whether the incipient signs of a bubble burst in China signal the start of an extended economic and perhaps even political crisis there. It is about whether the American middle class is about to be knocked off its feet once again and indeed whether the middle class as we’ve known it will survive. It is about whether sovereign governments can still underwrite economic performance and financial stability in the leading economies of the world.
The fact that we haven't seen much discussion of policy from either Obama or the would-be Republican contenders is troubling. Like it or not, we are part of a global economy, and what happens over there will almost certainly have an impact over here.

Talk To The Hand

So, here's the photo that's gotten so much attention:


Rush Limbaugh takes note:
Okay, this photo is not Photoshopped. It is a legitimate photo, it's taken by Getty, and it's posted on the Getty page with the Getty watermark. It is a huge protocol boo-boo, you don't wave. It says here the caption: "US President Barack Obama waves while standing with other leaders during the Open Government Partnership event at the United Nations September 20 in New York City." So this was yesterday. Some of the people at this thing, it looks like the Star Wars bar scene. By the way, I just got the Star Wars movies on Blu-ray, all six of them. It is amazing. Anyway, this is hilarious. This is Alfred E. Neuman. Folks, this picture sums it up. It just totally sums it up. You are never supposed to wave in these pictures. This guy's face is totally covered by Obama's hand.

Now, some people are suggesting that this was a setup, that the photographer had just asked the group, "Who wants to see Obama get reelected?" So he's waving, and he's the only guy in the room waving, the only explanation that I have heard. All the wire services are running this picture as well. It's embarrassing.
It's a conspiracy! Because Obama would never want to hog the spotlight for himself, right?

Statehood On Hold

It looks like the Palestinians have blinked:
The Palestinian Authority won’t push for an immediate vote on full United Nations membership after support for its statehood bid fell below the threshold needed to get past the Security Council.

The Palestinians have said eight of the council’s members - - Russia, China, Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Lebanon and India -- will back them. The U.S.’s veto pledge notwithstanding, that still leaves the Palestinians one vote short of the nine needed for membership.

The U.S. and Israel have leaned on council members favoring the statehood initiative to abstain from voting, leaving the Palestinians fighting to retain support. Allowing the UN’s administrative process to delay the consideration in the 15- member body will permit the Palestinians to save face and buy diplomats time to look for an alternative that restarts peace talks.

“We will give some time to the Security Council to consider first our full membership request before heading to the General Assembly,” Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath told reporters yesterday. “If we fail, we will keep knocking on the door. We do not have a time limit.”
In other words, better luck next time. Also, this probably wasn't the best way for them to try and make their case...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bad Wood

You can keep your axe:
Federal officials say that people who unknowingly possess musical instruments made with illegal wood products do not face prosecution.

In a letter to Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, officials with the U.S. Justice Department and the Interior Department say enforcement efforts are focused on those "removing protected species from the wild and making a profit by trafficking in them."

The letter responds to correspondence from Blackburn raising concerns over recent raids on Gibson Guitar Corp. factories in Memphis and Nashville.
I guess they realized that getting a whole lot of musicians-including big-name stars-mad at them wouldn't be a good idea...

OnSpy

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't watching you:
If you're the owner of a fairly new General Motors product, you may want to take a close look at the most recent OnStar terms and conditions. As it turns out, the company has altered the parameters under which it can legally collect GPS data on your vehicle.

Originally, the terms and conditions stated that OnStar could only collect information on your vehicle's location during a theft recovery or in the midst of sending emergency services your way. That has apparently changed. Now, OnStar says that it has the right to collect and sell personal, yet supposedly anonymous information on your vehicle, including speed, location, seat belt usage and other information.

Who would be interested in that data, you ask? Law enforcement agencies, for starters, as well as insurance companies. Perhaps the most startling news to come out of the latest OnStar terms and conditions is the fact that the company can continue to collect the information even after you disconnect the service. If you want the info to be cut off all together, you'll have to specifically shut down the vehicle's data connection.
Of course, many companies use tracking software for various sales and research purposes-but how many of them were "saved" by the Obama Administration?

Give Us Free

Why forgiving student loans is such an overwhelmingly bad idea:
Imagine what would happen if you forgave $50,000 in debt. How much of that would get spent in the next month or year? Probably just a couple of grand (if that). Much of it would go into the bank. But give $1,000 to each of 50 poor people, and nearly all of it will get spent, yielding a larger stimulus. Moreover, it’s not likely that college grads are the ones who are liquidity-constrained. Most of ‘em could spend more if they wanted to; after all, they are the folks who could get a credit card or a car loan fairly easily. It’s the hand-to-mouth consumers—those who can’t get easy access to credit—who are most likely to raise their spending if they get the extra dollars.
....

This is a bunch of kids who don’t want to pay their loans back. And worse: Do this once, and what will happen in the next recession? More lobbying for free money, rather than doing something socially constructive.
Well, that is asking quite a lot of college students these days...

Let Them Eat Muffins

Good grief. I know living large is expensive, but still:
U.S. Justice Department agencies spent too much for food at conferences, in one case serving $16 muffins and in another dishing out beef Wellington appetizers that cost $7.32 per serving, an audit found.

“Some conferences featured costly meals, refreshments, and themed breaks that we believe were indicative of wasteful or extravagant spending,” the Justice Department’s inspector general wrote in a report released today.

The inspector general reviewed a sample of 10 Justice Department conferences held between October 2007 and September 2009 at a cost of $4.4 million, a period that included the administrations of Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. The Justice Department spent $73.3 million on conferences in fiscal 2009, compared with $47.8 million a year earlier, according to the report.

The muffins were served at an August 2009 conference of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the beef Wellington was offered at a February 2008 meeting hosted by the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys. A March 2009 conference of the Office on Violence Against Women served Cracker Jack, popcorn and candy bars at a single break, costing $32 per person, according to the report.
Of course, this is the same Justice Department that's been running guns into Mexico, which does tend to work up an appetite...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Down To The Wire

It looks like that's where the vote on Palestine is headed:
The U.S. and its European allies plan to delay a U.N. Security Council vote on Palestinian membership well beyond this week in a bid to revive direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis and sidestep an American veto, said officials briefed on the talks.

President Barack Obama will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to dissuade the Palestinians from seeking U.N. recognition at the Security Council.
....

Officials also said Mr. Abbas could seek enhanced observer states at the U.N. through a vote at the General Assembly, which would allow the Palestinians to join such international groups as the U.N. Human Rights Committee and the International Criminal Court. If so, the U.S. and Europeans would try to water down the resolution in a way that might keep the peace process alive. Officials are calling this option "GA Light."

U.N. officials said this week that Mr. Abbas was taking a large diplomatic risk by going to the Security Council, as it was unclear if he could garner the nine votes—of a total 15 members—needed to pass the resolution. Falling short would be an embarrassment for Mr. Abbas and let the U.S. avoid employing a veto.
The U.S. is hoping that they'll have enough time for this to die down. As for failure, that might be what Abbas wants, as it could give him a convenient target to blame. Meanwhile, Congress is coming up with its own response. It will be very interesting to see what Obama's will be.

Troll Busters

Well, good:
The legal woes of Las Vegas-based copyright-trolling firm Righthaven continued Sunday when one of its creditors moved to seize its assets.

The development comes a week after the deadline passed for the former litigation factory to pay defendant Wayne Hoehn $34,000 in legal fees for successfully defending himself against a Righthaven copyright lawsuit. Righthaven had asked U.S. District Judge Philip Pro of Nevada to stay the fee award, saying it might slip into bankruptcy if forced to pay.

No stay was granted. So Hoehn’s attorney, Marc Randazza, asked Judge Pro on Sunday to “authorize the U.S. Marshalls to execute Hoehn’s judgment through seizure of Righthaven’s bank accounts, real and personal property, and intangible intellectual property rights for levy, lien, auction or other treatment appropriate for satisfaction of Hoehn’s judgment.”
It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of thugs...

Transparent Campaign

Finally: It's the change we've been waiting for:
Obama administration officials are talking up open government, transparency and accountability, but are doing it anonymously in apparent contradiction of the goal.

Two senior officials briefed reporters on Monday on the eve of the unveiling of President Barack Obama's Open Government Partnership, which seeks to promote responsible leadership and stewardship of natural resources around the world. But under rules set by the State Department, the officials could not be identified by name.

Reporters questioned whether the conditions of the briefing would meet the standard for the partnership but were told by a third senior anonymous official that the conditions were intended to prevent the president from being pre-empted at his own event.
I guess it's better late than never, although I do wish they'd actually practics what they preached...

Solyndra's Silence

It speaks volumes:
Solyndra LLC's chief executive and chief financial officer will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and decline to answer any questions put to them at a Congressional hearing on Friday, according to letters from their attorneys obtained by Reuters.

In the letters sent to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, attorneys for Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison and CFO W. G. Stover said they advised their clients not to provide testimony during the hearings.

The bankrupt company's $535 million federal loan guarantee is being investigated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Needless to say, this is raising the ire of Republicans. "What are they hiding," indeed.

Money Men

He claims to despise them, but he'll gladly take their money:
Hours after delivering a White House speech that called on wealthy Americans to pay higher taxes, President Barack Obama dined with some of these very Americans in New York. He was expected to raise more than $2 million for his reelection campaign.

He didn’t mention his plan to tax the rich, at least not in front of reporters. But he did allude to the controversy around his plan.
....

The fund-raiser was held at the Upper East Side home of Jane Hartley, CEO of the Observatory Group LLC, an economic and political advisory firm, and Ralph Schlosstein, president and CEO of the investment banking firm Evercore Partners Inc.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama proposed a $3.6 trillion deficit reduction package, much of which would come from higher taxes on families earning over $250,000.

Among the guests: Peter Orszag, Mr. Obama’s first budget director, now at Citigroup.

Other co-hosts include Roger Altman, founder and chairman of Evercore, and deputy Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton; Tom Bernstein, president of Chelsea Piers, and his wife, Andi; and Michael Kempner, a New Jersey-based public relations and lobbying executive.

Tickets to Monday’s dinner were $35,800 per person, with $5,000 going to the Obama campaign and the rest going to the Democratic National Committee. That’s the maximum contribution allowed by law.
Meanwhile, Warren Buffett, who's become a popular target in Obama's campaign, is actually paying more than Obama says he is. Of course, when you're a liberal Democrat, too much is never enough...

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Third Smoking Gun?

Oh, my. More evidence just seems to keep turning up in the Gunwalker scandal:
CBS News has obtained secretly recorded conversations that raise questions as to whether some evidence is being withheld in the murder of a Border Patrol agent.

The tapes were recorded approximately mid-March 2011 by the primary gun dealer cooperating with ATF in its "Fast and Furious" operation: Andre Howard, owner of Lone Wolf Trading Company in Glendale, Arizona. He's talking with the lead case ATF case agent Hope MacAllister.

The tapes have been turned over to Congressional investigators and the Inspector General.
....

Law enforcement sources and others close to the Congressional investigation say the Justice Department's Inspector General obtained the audio tapes several months ago as part of its investigation into Fast and Furious.

Then, the sources say for some reason the Inspector General passed the tapes along to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona: a subject in the investigation. It's unclear why the Inspector General, who is supposed to investigate independently, would turn over evidence to an entity that is itself under investigation.
I think the phrase "Covering their asses" comes to mind here...

Attack Of The Critics

Summing up Obama's disasterous September:
House Democrats want to see a primary challenge. His team can’t get its story straight on Solyndra. His big announcement of the American Jobs Act fell so flat that he had to do a followup speech this morning that got even less attention. His secretary of state – a figure of highest integrity and deep loyalty to Obama who would never try to get the inside track on him if she thought she could pull it off – is more popular than he is and is being discussed as a replacement candidate for 2012. ABC’s Jake Tapper notes that Obama staffers’ claims of having been misquoted by themselves in Ron Suskind’s critical new book are mostly not credible. (Best response: Treasury Secretary Geithner channeling Pee Wee Herman’s “I don’t have to see it; I lived it.”) The president can’t even belabor that saying about Warren Buffett’s secretary without bringing down the wrath of the nation’s administrative assistants.

And these aren’t even the biggest Obama fiascos of September. For that you’ll have to look to AttackWatch.com, which was ill-conceived to begin with (Nobody ever won an election by acting like a victim); has a stupid name (What decent person would watch an attack? You’re supposed to fight back against an attack); and drew a wave of negative attention. Among the critical raves: “immediately spammed with tweet after tweet heavy on sarcasm regarding the president's stimulus and jobs creation plans”; “stellar ... for all the wrong reasons”; “most people have made a mockery out of the Web site”; “a terrific content-generating resource for right-wing bloggers”; and, from observer ironchefofmunchies, “the laughing stock of the internet.”

The Attack Watch debacle wasn’t just bad for Obama but bad for comedy, producing heaps of subtle-enough-to-level-cities sarcasm like “"#attackwatch I saw someone purposely squeeze the Charmin in the grocery store" and “There's a new Twitter account making President Obama look like a creepy, authoritarian nutjob.” This Attack Watch parody ad beats you senseless with its comedy stylings, and the inevitable Hitler response went up without any subtitles.
Comedy isn't pretty. Especially when it's unintentional, and self-inflicted.

Mamma Mia

I wonder if they'll blame Congress:
Standard and Poor's downgraded its unsolicited ratings on Italy by one notch to A/A-1 and kept its outlook on negative, a major surprise that threatens to add to concerns of contagion in the debt-stressed euro zone.

The single currency skidded over half a cent to $1.3606 after S&P said the cut reflected its view of Italy's weakening economic growth prospects.

Italy's fragile governing coalition and policy differences within parliament will likely limit the government's ability to respond decisively to the challenging domestic and external macroeconomic environment, the agency said.

"In our opinion, the measures included in and the implementation timeline of Italy's National Reform Plan will likely do little to boost Italy's economic performance, particularly against the backdrop of tightening financial conditions and the government's fiscal austerity program," said S&P.
It doesn't help that Burlosconi has his own problems to deal with these days...

Swipe That

It's come to this: A song celebrating welfare cards (Warning: NSFW):

As Goes Greece...

Why the idea of a default in Greece is so worrisome:
“Due to financial trading relationships and off-balance sheet exposure to European banks, the U.S. banking system will not go unscathed,” said Michelle Meyer, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist, in a note to clients Friday. “If the crisis in Europe escalates, it could be the shock that pushes the U.S. economy into recession ."

While this is not the base case predicted by Bank of America [BAC 6.99 -0.24 (-3.32%) ], the firm does still prepare its clients for this possibility by laying out how the Greece crisis could quickly become a “Lehman event.” After all, a 50 percent haircut on Greek sovereign debt would mean a very manageable $60 billion, or just two percent, of total bank foreign claims for U.S. banks, according to the report. But that’s just director exposure.

There are five major ways the U.S. is connected: trading counterparty risk and derivative ownership with heavily-exposed European banks, overall market confidence, central bank funding, money-market funds and trade flows.

“Investors become less willing to buy sovereign debt, boosting borrowing costs, which adds to the debt burden and increases chance of an ultimate default,” wrote Meyer. “If banks either take losses or lose funding, bank credit could dry up, weakening the real economy."
And, yet, there are still those who want to prop up the phony one...

More Is Less

So, it turns out that Obama's new tax plan really is about punishing the wealthy:
Jack Lew today couldn’t say how an additional tax on millionaires and billionaires will create jobs — and barely confirmed that he thinks such a tax will at least contribute to deficit reduction. The director of the Office of Management and Budget appeared this morning on Fox News’ “Happening Now” to defend the president’s just-announced proposals to trim the deficit — proposals that are a part of his overall jobs plan. Fox’s Jenna Lee asked Lew how the tax will reduce the nation’s high rate of unemployment.

“Today’s plan puts into place a balanced, fair approach to doing the $4 trillion of deficit reduction we need to get to a point where our deficit as a percentage of the economy is at a sustainable level,” Lew told her. “Whichever way you go is a hard choice. There’s a Republican budget in the House that would make severe changes in Medicare and turn it into a voucher program. It would reduce spending on things like education and research and development to the point where we couldn’t invest in what we need for the future.”
Better to tax the super rich, Lew suggested.

“We believe there’s a fundamental unfairness to have middle class people paying higher marginal tax rates than millionaires and billionaires,” Lew said. “We’re not saying we should have a confiscatory tax rate; we’re saying it’s just not fair to have a world where it’s so unbalanced.”
Except that, maybe it really isn't:
“We’re not saying that there’s anything wrong with people earning a lot and being very successful,” he concluded lamely. “What we’re saying is it’s not fair to say those people should pay lower taxes than people who are earning much less.”

But while the president says Warren Buffett is paying less in taxes than his secretary, it’s not exactly accurate to say all millionaires and billionaires pay lower taxes than people who are earning less.

In 2009, 236,883 people reported more than $1 million in income — and paid $177 billion in federal income taxes, according to an infograph on Fox. That represents 0.2 percent of all federal tax returns, but makes up more than 20 percent of all income tax payments.
So, it sounds like a lot of the "Wealthy" are already paying their fair share, and then some-and everyone else would pay more, if Obama's plan went into effect. But remember-there's nothing wrong with being successful...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Can't They All Just Get Along?

Why anti-capitalist protests may be running out of steam:
In earlier times, the communists and the anarchists hated each other; they are natural enemies. But in recent decades they have formed an uneasy and deeply unstable alliance; since they both hate the status quo of American capitalism, they feel they ought to band together and smash the system as a unified front, and worry about how to pick up the pieces later.

But the Day of Rage revealed that this alliance can never succeed, because it can never offer a consensus philosophy; it’s impossible to draw the sympathy of the great masses when you offer two completely divergent philosophies as your “unified message.” In truth, there is no unified message, and there never can be; that’s why the “Day of Rage” organizers couldn’t even decide on what their one single demand would be at the protest.

I feel this is a turning point in the anti-capitalist movement; the failure of the much-hyped Day of Rage proved that the communists and the anarchists never will be able to smooth over their differences, and the far-left will necessarily fracture in two. The anarchists will break free of their socialist bedmates and drift more toward honest extreme libertarianism and anti-authoritarianism; while Team Marx will no longer feel the need to temper their collectivist message with a bunch of dishonest slogans about freedom and independence.
Like the Communists of old, they will now be able to be honest about their totalitarian goals...

No Marches Today

Why African-American activists are so skittish about going after Obama:
Nearing 17 percent, joblessness among blacks is at a three-decade high and almost twice the size of the overall unemployment rate. The black caucus wants the president to do more.

But the group’s efforts are freighted with political sensitivities, given Obama’s unique role as the first African-American occupant of the White House and the sometimes untethered animosity that his election has triggered.

“If (former President) Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House,” Cleaver said. “There is a less-volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president.”
Simply put, it's because Obama is black. It's the reason that dare not speak its name, and it's also keeping the leaders of the black community from engaging in an honest discussion over Obama's policies. But I guess if they were more honest, they wouldn't be involved in politics...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Buffett Table

Haven't we seen this before?
President Obama on Monday will call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers, according to administration officials.
....

Mr. Obama, in a bit of political salesmanship, will call his proposal the “Buffett Rule,” in a reference to Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained repeatedly that the richest Americans generally pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than do middle-income workers, because investment gains are taxed at a lower rate than wages.

Mr. Obama will not specify a rate or other details, and it is unclear how much revenue his plan would raise. But his idea of a millionaires’ minimum tax will be prominent in the broad plan for long-term deficit reduction that he will outline at the White House on Monday.

Mr. Obama’s proposal is certain to draw opposition from Republicans, who have staunchly opposed raising taxes on the affluent because, they say, it would discourage investment. It could also invite scrutiny from some economists who have disputed Mr. Buffett’s assertion that the megarich pay a lower tax rate over all. Mr. Buffett’s critics say many of the rich actually make more from wages than from investments.
At any rate, I'm still waiting for Mr. Buffett to start handing over his own fair share...

Lessons Of Solyndra

Why the Solyndra gambit failed:
...just months after the stimulus legislation passed, the real problem with the bill was that it conflated two objectives: creating jobs and building a clean-energy infrastructure. As we pointed out, both are very important and worthwhile, but they are very different and require very different policies.

By its nature, stimulus spending needs to be fast and immediate. The switch to clean energy will take decades of work and investment. The development of new energy sources will take patience and thoughtful investments. By conflating job creation with technology objectives, the stimulus bill made a Solyndra almost inevitable.
It didn't help that they ignored the warning signs, either...

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Lost

Peggy Noonan describes what went wrong for Obama:
How did it happen? It still comes down to three big mistakes: the president's spending decisions, his health-care bill, and the White House's strange inability to understand the breadth and depth of the economic crisis. Spending was both high and same-old-same-old: The 2009 stimulus and the budget proposals were Democratic wish lists. This at the exact moment voters were coming to fear that we are losing America, the strong country of old, and the first thing we must do to right things is stop the hemorrhagic spending in Washington. The health-care bill was huge, expensive, vaguely menacing and lacking in any serious reform. Most amazingly, the White House failed to understand what the financial crisis was. They did not understand it was systemic, world-wide, would last years, and would change everything. They seemed to think it would pass. But the crisis rendered old campaign promises null and demanded new approaches.

History will write of this era when history has the time and the distance. The president would have been helped by wise old aides with wise old heads, people who somewhere along the line had had to meet a payroll. Instead he was surrounded by bright, committed, energetic naïfs who didn't know what they didn't know. They knew Democratic Party politics. They did not know national politics. To know that you have to know the nation's mood.
Overreach, and hubris. A recipe for disaster, and defeat.

Gene Gardens

Another reason why Americans aren't like like Europeans: We're not as scared of so-called "Frankenfood":
A study by Iowa State University researcher Wallace Huffman shows that when consumers are presented with produce enhanced with consumer traits through intragenic means, they will pay significantly more than for plain produce.

The research is published in the current issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economic.
....

"What we found was when genes for enhancing the amount of antioxidants and vitamin C in fresh produce were transferred by intragenic methods, consumers are willing to pay 25 percent more than for the plain product (with no enhancements). That is a sizable increase," said Huffman, distinguished professor of economics.

Improving plants by using intragenic methods is very similar to cross breeding plants, a process very commonly used by backyard gardeners trying to improve their irises, and was the main method used by hybrid seed corn businesses prior to genetic modification.
Science marches on, and has the potential for profit. Maybe that's what opponents of GM crops are really afraid of?

Girls Not Allowed?

The Obama White House is apparently for men only:
A new book claims that the Obama White House is a boys’ club marred by rampant infighting that has hindered the administration’s economic policy and left top female advisers feeling excluded from key conversations.

“Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” by journalist Ron Suskind due out next Tuesday, details the rivalries among Obama’s top economic advisers, Larry Summers, former chairman of the National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. It describes constant second-guessing by Summers, now at Harvard, who was seen by others as “imperious and heavy-handed” in his decision-making.

In an excerpt obtained by The Post, a female senior aide to President Obama called the White House a hostile environment for women.

“This place would be in court for a hostile workplace,” former White House communications director Anita Dunn is quoted as saying. “Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace for women."
It makes you wonder why Hillary is staying on...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Under Pressure

Does the Obama administration have room for another scandal?
The four-star Air Force general who oversees Air Force Space Command walked into a highly secured room on Capitol Hill a week ago to give a classified briefing to lawmakers and staff, and dropped a surprise. Pressed by members, Gen. William Shelton said the White House tried to pressure him to change his testimony to make it more favorable to a company tied to a large Democratic donor.
....

According to officials familiar with the situation, Shelton’s prepared testimony was leaked in advance to the company. And the White House asked the general to alter the testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days. Shelton chafed at the intervention, which seemed to soften the Pentagon’s position and might be viewed as helping the company as it tries to get the project launched, officials said.

“There was an attempt to influence the text of the testimony and to engage LightSquared in the process in order to bias his testimony,” Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) said in an interview. “The only people who were involved in the process in preparation for the hearing included the Department of Defense, the White House, and the Office Management and Budget.”
Unfortunately, this seems to be a recurring pattern...

Quitting The Cult

The science still isn't settled:
Dr. Ivar Giaever, a former professor with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday, Sept. 13, from the premier physics society in disgust over its officially stated policy that "global warming is occurring."

The official position of the American Physical Society (APS) supports the theory that man's actions have inexorably led to the warming of the planet, through increased emissions of carbon dioxide.

Giaever does not agree -- and put it bluntly and succinctly in the subject line of his email, reprinted at Climate Depot, a website devoted to debunking the theory of man-made climate change.

"I resign from APS," Giaever wrote.

Giaever was cooled to the statement on warming theory by a line claiming that "the evidence is incontrovertible."

"In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?" he wrote in an email to Kate Kirby, executive officer of the physics society.
Well, yes, that is what the powers that be want you to say...

Ceiling Crashers

Well, this figures:
Three congressional Democrats are introducing a bill Wednesday that would abolish the federal debt ceiling. The lawmakers say that the recent debate to raise the ceiling and avoid default had a "disastrous" effect on the U.S economy, and that the legislation would keep parties from using a potential default as a hostage in future budget debates.

"The debt ceiling is truly arbitrary and has nothing to do with the deficit," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement last Wednesday. "The debt ceiling does not prevent the United States from incurring new debts. That occurs when Congress decides to authorize more spending than revenues. The debt ceiling prevents the president from borrowing money to pay those debts when they come due."
But isn't constant borrowing part of the problem?

Welcome To The Club

Solyndra's not alone in failing to live up to the hype:
At least four other companies have received stimulus funding only to later file for bankruptcy, and two of those were working on alternative energy.

Evergreen Solar Inc., indirectly received $5.3 million through a state grant to open a $450 million facility in 2007 that employed roughly 800 people. The company, once a rock star in the solar industry, filed for bankruptcy protection last month, saying it couldn't compete with Chinese rivals without reorganizing. The company intends to focus on building up its manufacturing facility in China.

SpectraWatt, based in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., is also a solar cell company that was spun out of Intel in 2008. In June 2009, SpectraWatt received a $500,000 grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as part of the stimulus package. SpectraWatt was one of 13 companies to receive the money to help develop ways to improve solar cells without changing current manufacturing processes.

The company filed for bankruptcy last month, saying it could not compete with its Chinese competitors, which receive "considerable government and financial support."
....

Another winner of stimulus who ultimately lost is Mountain Plaza Inc. Despite declaring bankruptcy in 2003, the company received $424,000 from the Tennessee Department of Transportation as part of a grant aimed at installing "truck stop electrification" systems that allow idling truckers to plug-in during extended stops and turn off their exhaust-belching, environment polluting diesel engines.

Mountain Plaza had filed for bankruptcy protection again in June 2010. TDOT, which received a $2 million stimulus grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the project, said it didn't learn about the bankruptcy until October, but it is closely monitoring the project.

Elsewhere, Olsen's Crop Service and Olsen's Mills Acquisition Co. also failed despite Olsen's Mills receiving $10 million to increase employment, add equipment and machinery, refinance existing debts and work capital for operations and acquire land. The payout -- part of a $64 million package to nine rural businesses in Wisconsin for economic development loan assistance -- was delivered in January 2010, after Olsen's Mills filed for bankruptcy protection for defaulting on a $60 million bank loan.
If this is an example of green job success, I'd hate to see what failure looks like...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Now Means Not Yet

So, how important is President Obama's jobs bill? Apparently important enough that it needs to be passed out of love, but not important enough that it has to be passed right away:
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has said he will put the bill on the legislative calendar but has declined to say when. He almost certainly will push the bill — which Mr. Obama urged Congress to pass “right now!” — until after his chamber’s recess at the end of the month; Mr. Reid has set votes on disaster aid, extensions for the Federal Aviation Administration and a short-term spending plan ahead of the jobs bill.
....

While Mr. Reid, who is known for trying to protect Democrats from casting tough votes, may be delaying the bill to insulate his party, the White House has a tacit agreement with Senate Democrats that Mr. Obama be permitted to take his American Jobs Act around the country to try to sell it to voters. The White House is to brief Democratic senators on the granular aspects of the proposal on Thursday.
Reid, like the President, knows that the bill won't pass. But it still has to be voted on in the of the fierce urgency of campaigning.

Hype And Fear

If the goal of Team Obama was to inspire fear in the hearts of its opponents, it's not working:
As the 2012 presidential campaign heats up, President Obama’s campaign team has set up a new Web site, AttackWatch.com, to challenge negative statements about the president made by Republican presidential candidates and conservatives.
....

While the initiative is reminiscent of a similar online effort launched during the 2008 campaign, called Fight the Smears, the intimidating design and language of the new site seems to be what’s causing a bigger ruckus.

Fight the Smears looked and felt far less scary, quoting Obama at the top of its page in a classic hope-change statement: “What you won’t hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon — that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge but enemies to demonize.”

Attack Watch, on the other hand, uses the shorter tag­line, “Get the Truth. Fight the Smears.”

It’s safe to say that in its 24 hours of existence, Attack Watch has already backfired, becoming a tool for conservatives to use against Obama 2012. A tweet by conservative author Brad Thor summed up the critics’s argument: “Wow, not only are Obama & Co. incredibly thin-skinned, they're paranoid.”
What's next, an enemies list?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flying High

Where would we be without the TSA?
Three federal Transportation Security Administration officers and two other law enforcement officers were arrested on charges of accepting cash or gift cards in exchange for permitting prescription drug dealers to move tens of thousands of highly addictive painkiller pills and cash proceeds from the illegal sales through airports and highways.

The TSA officers, based at airports in Florida and New York, and a Westchester County, N.Y., police officer allowed the oxycodone through airport security, authorities said Tuesday. A Florida state trooper accepted cash and checks for ensuring dealers could freely transport the pills and cash proceeds by car through that state, prosecutors said.

“Prescription pain medication abuse is rampant in New England and this trafficking group allegedly preyed upon the addictions of individuals to line their pockets, while the law enforcement officers are alleged to have sold their badges and abused their authority to further the illegal activities of the organization,” said Steven W. Derr, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England.

The TSA officers, Christopher Allen, 45, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; John Best, 30, of Port St. Lucie, Fla.; and Brigitte Jones, 48, of the Bronx, N.Y., were charged with conspiring to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute oxycodone. The New York police officer, Michael Brady, 36, and the Florida trooper, Justin Kolves, 28, face the same charges; their hometowns were not released.

Kolves also flew from Florida to New York to provide protection for what he thought was an oxycodone sale in Connecticut, authorities said.

The five, who were among 20 people arrested in connection with the alleged scheme, face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Where I'm sure they'll experience what they've been giving airline passengers...

Electronic Trail

I'm sure they were just keeping tabs:
Newly uncovered emails show the White House closely monitored the Energy Department's deliberations over a $535 million government loan to Solyndra, the politically-connected solar energy firm that recently went bankrupt and is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

The company's solar panel factory was heralded as a centerpiece of the president's green energy plan -- billed as a way to jump start a promising new industry. And internal emails uncovered by investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee that were shared exclusively with ABC News show the Obama administration was keenly monitoring the progress of the loan, even as analysts were voicing serious concerns about the risk involved. "This deal is NOT ready for prime time," one White House budget analyst wrote in a March 10, 2009 email, nine days before the administration formally announced the loan.
Too bad the Dealmaker In Chief didn't seem to listen...

"We've Got A Real Plan"

At least, that's what liberal Democrats on the Hill are claiming:
At a news conference, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said Obama’s proposal was a good start, but that their own agenda would do even more to put people to work.

The CPC platform focuses on six areas for job creation and calls for a national infrastructure bank, green technology investment, new public-sector spending for job creation and closing tax loopholes and subsidies for big American businesses as well as discouraging large bonuses for CEOs of big corporations.

The framework includes a $227 billion jobs bill sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) that aims to create 2.2 million jobs through funding for school improvement, police and firefighter services, local healthcare providers, the Early Head Start program and park-improvement services.

Schakowsky’s proposal would be funded by separate legislation, also sponsored by her, that raises taxes on millionaires and billionaires. Her legislation would also cut subsidies for major oil companies and close tax loopholes for corporations that hire employees outside the United States.
In other words, it's a copy of the plan Obama originally had-which had no more chance of passing than his current plan does, and which this wouldn't, either. But then again, political reality has never been the Left's strong suit...

The LOL Presidency

It's come to this:



Sometimes honesty isn't always the best policy...

The U Word

Ah, leftist "Diversity" in action:
Police say union supporters have directed racial slurs and racist symbols at replacement workers and security personnel outside an American Crystal Sugar plant in North Dakota.

Traill County Sheriff Mike Crocker says there have been racial statements made to security people outside of the company's Hillsboro facility. He says he recently saw a monkey-like figure hanging from a noose attached to a large inflatable rat outside the plant. He says it was removed the next day.

The Grand Forks Herald reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/oQfZWj) that many of the replacement workers are from Southern states, and some are minorities.

Union representative Mark Froemke calls the behavior "totally unacceptable" and says the union will not tolerate racism.
Unless it's coming from his side, of course...

Poorhouse Nation

How's that hope and change working out?
The ranks of America's poor swelled to almost 1 in 6 people last year, reaching a new high as long-term unemployment left millions of Americans struggling and out of work. The number of uninsured edged up to 49.9 million, the biggest in more than two decades.

The Census Bureau's annual report released Tuesday offers a snapshot of the economic well-being of U.S. households for 2010, when joblessness hovered above 9 percent for a second year. It comes at a politically sensitive time for President Barack Obama, who has acknowledged in the midst of a re-election fight that the unemployment rate could persist at high levels through next year.

The overall poverty rate climbed to 15.1 percent, or 46.2 million, up from 14.3 percent in 2009. The official poverty level is an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four.

Reflecting the lingering impact of the recession, the U.S. poverty rate from 2007-2010 has now risen faster than any three-year period since the early 1980s, when a crippling energy crisis amid government cutbacks contributed to inflation, spiraling interest rates and unemployment.

Measured by total numbers, the 46 million now living in poverty is the largest on record dating back to when the census began tracking poverty in 1959. Based on percentages, it tied the poverty level in 1993 and was the highest since 1983.
And yet, the Democrats still think that doing more of the same is the answer.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Just The Facts

For the too good to not check files:
Former President? Of what? Not of the US, a fact that seems to have escaped the layers of fact-checkers and editors at Reuters — and did for at least two hours. They finally fixed it around 11 am ET.
Here's the pre-edited image, now available for posterity:

Late Bloomer Boomers?

The generation that once said don't trust anybody over thirty may finally be growing up:
Baby boomers who came of age during the social and political upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s tended to call themselves Democrats, and as time passed, that identification strengthened. In 1969, far more in the 18- to 29-year-old age cohort — the front end of the baby boom — called themselves Democrats (35%) than Republicans (21%). A decade later, when they were 28 to 39 years old, their identification with the Democratic Party over the GOP was even stronger (45% to 19% in Gallup's surveys).

But starting in the 1980s, attitudes of the baby boomers began changing. Polls found them becoming more family oriented and, over time, more conservative. If this transformation continues, leading more of them to embrace the GOP, it could affect the 2012 election.
This was the generation that came of age with a lot of disposable income, and made more of it during the Yuppie years. Now, with the prospect of seeing that income taken away from them, many seem to be siding with the Party that says it wants to let them keep it.

Regulation Politics

Why getting government to do something about regulations is so hard:
The rate at which regulatory burdens are growing has accelerated under the Obama administration, according to a Heritage Foundation backgrounder. During its first 26 months, the Obama administration imposed 75 new major regulations with reported costs to the private sector exceeding $40 billion. During the same period, six major rulemaking proceedings reduced regulatory burdens by an estimated $1.5 billion — for a net increase of more than $38 billion.

“No other President has burdened businesses and individuals with a higher number and larger cost of regulations in a comparable time period,” Heritage’s James Gattuso and Diane Katz write. “President Bush was in his third year before new costs hit $4 billion. President Obama achieved the same in 12 months.”
....

Unfortunately, while voters understand regulations have increased recently, they don’t understand that the executive branch is exclusively to blame. A majority say that Congress creates regulations, when, in fact, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats do. No wonder the American people think that, though. After all, legislating is the responsibility of the legislative branch — and not the province of the executive branch.

But the American people’s misconception about who writes regulations means constituents won’t be calling Congressional offices anytime soon to demand Congressional oversight of regulation. Still, that doesn’t mean the American people don’t want Congress to approve regulations before they go into effect. In fact, 65 percent favor a requirement that regulations be approved by Congress and the President before they are enforced.
It's that misconception which has kept the executive branch from being held fully accountable. It doesn't help when the head of said branch reinforces that misconception by blaming the legislative.