Saturday, March 31, 2012

One Week

Summing up Obama's very bad week:
So, in one week, Mr. Obama got caught whispering promises to our enemy, incited a race war, raised serious questions about his understanding of the Constitution, and then got smacked down over his proposed budget that was so wildly reckless that even Democrats in Congress could not support it.

It was as if you lumped Hurricane Katrina and the Abu Ghraib abuses into one week for George W. Bush. And added on top of that the time he oddly groped German Chancellor Angela Merkel and got caught cursing on a hot mic.

Even then, it wouldn’t be as bad as Mr. Obama’s week. You would probably also have to toss in the time Mr. Bush’s father threw up into the lap of Japan’s prime minister. Only then might we be approaching how bad a week it was for Mr. Obama.
I know that some people will say it could have been worse. One has to wonder what might happen if it were...

Buffett Time

Obama once again pitches his idea of "fairness":
The plan, scheduled for a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate on April 16, stands little chance of passing in Congress. But it is a prominent symbol of the efforts the president and congressional Democrats are making to portray themselves as champions of economic fairness. Republicans dismiss the idea as a political stunt with little real effect on the budget.

"We don't envy success in this country. We aspire to it," Obama said in his Saturday radio and Internet address. "But we also believe that anyone who does well for themselves should do their fair share in return, so that more people have the opportunity to get ahead — not just a few."

Obama calls the plan the "Buffett Rule" for Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has complained that rich people like him pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than middle-class taxpayers. Many wealthy taxpayers earn investment income, which is taxed at 15 percent. Obama has proposed that people earning at least $1 million annually — whether in salary or investments — should pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.
So much for encouraging people to "aspire to success."

People For People

Earth Hour has a new rival:
A free-market think tank is trying to get some traction with its alternative: the Human Achievement Hour, when people are encouraged to leave lights on to show their appreciation for inventions "and the recognition that future solutions require individual freedom not government coercion."

In one corner is the conservation group WWF, which helped start Earth Hour in 2007 and expects that landmarks that will participate this year will include the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

In the other corner is the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which isn't expecting to match Earth Hour's reach but aims to make a point when they battle from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. this Saturday in time zones around the globe.

"Gather with friends in the warmth of a heated home, watch television, take a hot shower, drink a beer, call a loved one on the phone, or listen to music," the institute says on its website.

"If you’re going to vote you need at least two choices," says Michelle Minton, the Competitive Enterprise Institute fellow who came up with HAH in 2009. "While I believe that a lot of people celebrating Earth Hour truly just want a clean and healthy environment for themselves and their families -- a completely reasonable opinion, which I share -- I felt their support was being used by the environmentalist movement to spread a message that is much less positive."

"Many environmentalists see humans as fundamentally destructive and want to force individuals to conserve," she adds. "Earth Hour is an attempt to convince lawmakers that the majority of the population wants them to clamp down on progress."
Humans are a part of nature, too...something that the enviro-extremists have forgotten.

Bad Words

And now, for your edification, a complete list of the words that the NYC Department of Education wants banned from tests:
Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)

Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs

Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)

Bodily functions

Cancer (and other diseases)

Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)

Celebrities

Children dealing with serious issues

Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)

Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)

Crime

Death and disease

Divorce

Evolution

Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes

Gambling involving money

Halloween

Homelessness

Homes with swimming pools

Hunting

Junk food

In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge

Loss of employment

Nuclear weapons

Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)

Parapsychology

Politics

Pornography

Poverty

Rap Music

Religion

Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)

Rock-and-Roll music

Running away

Sex

Slavery

Terrorism

Television and video games (excessive use)

Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)

Vermin (rats and roaches)

Violence

War and bloodshed

Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)

Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.
George Carlin would have had a field day with this:

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Ill Winds Of Climate Change

It's come to this:
Comparing skepticism of man-made global warming to racist beliefs, an Oregon-based professor of sociology and environmental studies has labeled doubts about anthropogenic climate change a “sickness” for which individuals need to be “treated”.

Professor Kari Norgaard, who is currently appearing at the ‘Planet Under Pressure’ conference in London, has presented a paper in which she argues that “cultural resistance” to accepting the premise that humans are responsible for climate change “must be recognized and treated” as an aberrant sociological behavior.

Norgaard equates skepticism of climate change alarmists – whose data is continually proven to be politicized, agenda driven and downright inaccurate – with racism, noting that overcoming such viewpoints poses a similar challenge “to racism or slavery in the U.S. South.”
If you can't convert 'em, "cure" em. But where's the cure for arrogance and dishonesty?

Olbermann Undone

He's out:
Keith Olbermann and Current TV have severed ties, the progressive cable channel announced on Friday. In an open letter to Current viewers, the company’s founders, former Vice President Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, said the network’s values are “no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann.”

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who had recently filled in, will replace Olbermann starting Friday night, premiering his new program “Viewpoint.”

Olbermann in a statement apologized to his viewers for Current’s “failure.”

“Editorially, Countdown had never been better,” he said.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Current decided to let Olbermann go because the progressive pundit “did not respect the viewers of Current.” The basis of his firing included, according to the source: “sabotaging the network” and attacking Current and its executives.”
So, what's next for Keith? After the inevitable lawsuit, that is.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bag Men

Why the nannystate argument against the dreaded plastic bag has failed:
“Moving consumers away from plastic bags only pushes people to less environmentally friendly options such as paper bags, which require more energy to produce and transport, and reusable bags, which are not recyclable,” the vice president of sustainability and environmental policy for Hilex Poly, the company who launched the Bag the Ban group, told the New York Times of the Seattle ban.

An analysis by the United Kingdom’s Environment Agency revealed in 2006 that plastic bags have a lighter environmental footprint than paper alternatives.
So, once again, green policies are actually worse for the environment than the greens want to admit. But try telling them that.

Budget Busters

The President's budget gets defeated again:
Before taking up their own budget plan for next year, House Republicans pushed a version of President Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget to the floor for a vote, and it was it was unanimously defeated, 414-0.
....

GOP lawmakers forced the vote on Obama’s plan as a tactical move aiming at embarrassing Democrats. The Democrats have defended Obama’s budget priorities, but they largely voted “no” Wednesday night.
Republicans said Democrats were afraid to vote for Obama’s proposed tax increases and extra spending for energy and welfare. Democrats said Republicans had forced a vote on a version of Obama’s budget that contained only its numbers, not the policies he would use to achieve them.
Er, aren't those numbers the result of the policies that Democrats want? It sounds more like they're embarrassed by the fact that they knew their version wouldn't get passed in the first place, poor things.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Be A Pepper

Joe Biden knows his soft drinks:

Back To The Drawing Board

Liberals struggle over what to do in the event of life after Obamacare:
For many progressive activists and voters, the decision by the court in June could reopen a debate that they thought they had lost two years ago. Rather than be dismayed if the court overturns the health care law, some liberals may see it as an unexpected opportunity.
Politically, there is almost no chance of a new effort to achieve universal health care coverage before the election in the fall. But if the current law is overturned, eventually there would be a new push from Democrats to achieve the goals they have pursued for decades.

Still, it’s far from clear how progressives might regroup if the court rules against the mandate, as Tuesday’s questions from the justices suggested they might.
As noted in the article, the options available to them will be limited-and not politically popular. In other words, it's back to wishful thinking if Obamacare is struck down.

Don't Do The Right Thing

The consequences of the lynch mob mentality:
Late last week, Spike Lee re-tweeted the address of ‘George Zimmerman’ to his quarter of a million followers.

Except it was the wrong address. It was the address of an elderly Florida couple whose son... William George Zimmerman (no relation to shooter) - lived briefly there in 1995. Now the 70-year-old school cafeteria lunch lady with a heart condition and her 72-year-old husband have been forced to move out of danger into a hotel temporarily after receiving hate mail, threats, harassing visits from reporters and fearful inquiries from neighbors.

The woman’s other son Chip Humble told the Orlando Sentinel, "It's scary because there are people who aren't mentally right and will take this information and run with it. To endanger people who are innocent because people are angry is not the answer. That's not how we're going to heal. It's not [going] to help the Martin family for someone else to be hurt."

The O’Reilly Factor contacted Spike Lee’s production company “40 Acres and a Mule.” Instead of issuing a statement or an apology, the executive office told Factor producer Jesse Watters that Spike Lee had “no comment.”
Of course he's keeping his mouth shut. His lawyers will be doing all the talking once the lawsuits and criminal investigations begin.

Posthumous Posturing

There is no false outrage that can't be solved with a lawsuit:
The father of Toulouse school shooter Mohamed Merah has threatened to sue the French government for killing his son in a shootout rather than capturing him alive, and has vowed not to "shut up" despite a scathing reaction from French officials.

In an interview with the television network France 24, Benalel Merah said police could have used "sleeping gas" to take his son "like a baby," and accused the police of acting hastily.

"Why did they kill him?" asked Benalel Merah. "He could have been sentenced to many years in prison or even a life sentence. There is no death penalty in France."

Merah told French media he would "hire the biggest-named lawyers and work for the rest of my life to pay their costs. I will sue France for having killed my son."
The scary part is, given the times in which we live, he might actually get away with it...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scalia's Say

Justice Scalia takes Verrilli to school:



The arguments for Obamacare seem to keep getting harder and harder for Team Obama to defend...

Selling The Outrage

Victor Davis Hanson on how the Trayvon Martin case has set back race relations:
The net result of the demagoguery will be more racial polarization, as African-Americans believe that young black males are unfairly stereotyped by society and treated less fairly by police, while non-African-Americans will only be further convinced that the African-American leadership is not concerned with the vastly inordinate rates of black violent crime, given the small percentage of the African-American community within the general population, much less the much higher rates of black-on-white crime – and as both sides argue either for more money to be invested in social programs, or that too much has already been spent in counter-productive fashion.

So far all that is clear is that there is a growing anger among African-Americans about a failure to immediately arrest the shooter that in turn is provoking an even greater backlash against the antics of Al Sharpton, the creepy bounty offered by the New Black Panther Party, and others who inflame for their own careerist advantage, and no one — not the president, not the media, not the civil rights leadership, not the politicians — seems willing or able to call for a time-out until all the facts are reviewed and released. We have collectively regressed to the days of Rodney King and the L.A. riots and the O. J. Simpson trial — or to something far worse. Hope and change came and went.
And you can thank "progressives" for allowing and encouraging the damage.

French Twist

It seems that DSK might have had a sideline:
Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was formally warned Monday that he is under investigation for "aggravated pimping" for his alleged participation in a prostitution ring in France, prosecutors said.

He is not allowed to have contact with other people involved in the investigation, nor is he permitted to talk to the media about the case. Strauss-Kahn was released under a 100,000-euro bail, according to prosecutors.
....

Strauss-Kahn faces allegations of habitual involvement in a prostitution racket. Specifically, "aggravated' means on a regular and involved basis, and "pimping" means actually facilitating a prostitution operation, not just being a customer.
Once a dirty old man, always a dirty old man?

The Apartment

It seems that Charlie Rangle has some 'spalining to do:
Rep. Charlie Rangel has agreed to pay a $23,000 civil fine for effectively taking campaign contributions in the form of a rent-regulated apartment turned campaign office, according to Federal Election Commission documents.

An FEC letter dated Friday says that Rangel, a 21-term New York Democrat, accepted “excessive in-kind contributions” in the form of leasing a rent-stabilized Harlem apartment at a price below market rate from the property owner.
....

According to an analysis by The New York Times, Rangel paid $630 per month for the 10th floor apartment-turned-campaign office, while the market-rate for similar units in the building rented for $1,700 a month or higher.

In an e-mail to POLITICO Tuesday, Rangel spokeswoman Hannah Kim said simply, “People settle not because they’re guilty but because they don’t want to go through the arduous process and expense to show they’re not guilty.”
Except, of course, when they are...

Fly The Crazy Skies

Another day, another insane pilot:
A JetBlue flight captain had to be tackled by passengers today after he ran up and down a packed flight screaming about "terrorism" and "al Qaeda" in a terrifying mid-air outburst.

“Say your prayers!” the crazed pilot screamed as he ran up and down the aisle, a passenger told The Post.

“Someone next to me said he was saying something about bombs,” recounted the passenger, Tiffany Lee, a 26-year-old Las Vegas resident.

The Amarillo Globe-News also quoted passengers on board saying the pilot was screaming about al Qaeda.

"Iraq, al Qaeda, terrorism — we're all going down," he yelled, according to witnesses.

Laurie Dhue, a former FOX News Channel anchor who was on board the flight, told the network passengers could hear the pilot using the words "Afghanistan" and "Israel" during the tirade.

The crazed captain’s outburst came after he was booted from the cockpit, passengers said.

He banged on the cockpit door asking to be let back in before passengers subdued him, said authorities.

Four passengers, including a retired NYPD sergeant jumped up and held the man down, Fox 5 reported.
Maybe the airlines should adopt a new slogan: "You don't have to be crazy to work here-but it helps..."

Fraud For Fraud's Sake

A con artist gets caught:
A Utah college professor helped create and cultivate a fake identity as a tea party activist for nearly two years, using a fictional Facebook account to deceive thousands of conservatives as part of an elaborate “performance art” project, The Daily Caller has learned.

In an attempt to trick national news outlets, Lacey Bassett, masquerading as tea party activist Anna Jones, claimed last week that her Facebook page had been hacked and vandalized. TheDC’s investigation, however, indicates that Bassett organized the vandalism herself.
....

The phony tea party activist remained relatively quiet during the past year, responding only occasionally to followers’ comments and Facebook posts. But on Friday, she announced on the same Facebook page that she had been the victim of a hacker.

“I am sorry to inform you that my facebook page was hatched [sic] last night by a horrible “performance” artist Mona Del Hirst,” she wrote.

“The page was hatched from 6-10 last night. All correspondence durning that time period was done durring an art show where she opened up my page for drunk gallery viewers to post on. I am furious for the invasion of privacy and I am pressing charges.”

At the time, Monadelhirst.com, a website corresponding to the name of the ”performance artist” supposedly behind the Internet vandalism, consisted of an announcement of a March 22 performance. It advertised an “online guerrilla art attack on tea party activist Anna Jones” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in a special “one-night only” show in a vacant Utah warehouse.
She did it to herself. But remember, it was all for the "art."

Testing Taboos

From the you can't make this stuff up if you tried department:
In a bizarre case of political correctness run wild, educrats have banned references to “dinosaurs,” “birthdays,” “Halloween” and dozens of other topics on city-issued tests.

That’s because they fear such topics “could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.”

Dinosaurs, for example, call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists; birthdays aren’t celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Halloween suggests paganism.

Even “dancing’’ is taboo, because some sects object. But the city did make an exception for ballet.

The forbidden topics were recently spelled out in a request for proposals provided to companies competing to revamp city English, math, science and social-studies tests given several times a year to measure student progress.
It's always about the unpleasantness of getting someone else upset. But at this rate, nobody will be able to talk about anything. Who will get upset then?

The Decline And Fall Of Obamacare

Ouch:
CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, following Supreme Court arguments on President Obama's health care law, said on CNN that based on what he heard inside the Court, things didn't look good for proponents of the law.

"This was a train wreck for the Obama administration," he said. "This law looks like it's going to be struck down. I'm telling you, all of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong... if I had to bet today I would bet that this court is going to strike down the individual mandate."

Toobin added that he felt that U.S. Solicitor General David Verrilli simply wasn't prepared for the conservative justices.

"I don't know why he had a bad day," he said. "He is a good lawyer, he was a perfectly fine lawyer in the really sort of tangential argument yesterday. He was not ready for the answers for the conservative justices."

Toobin also said he thought Justice Kennedy, the perennial swing vote, was a "lost cause" for supporters of the health care reform law.
If this is any indication of where the case is headed, it looks like the administration has a tough road ahead of it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Any Questions?"

Only one: Is anyone still taking Herman Cain seriously anymore?

A Tax By Any Other Name

Via Althouse, the Solictor General appears to acknowledge that the penalty for not buying government insurance is in fact a tax:
GENERAL VERRILLI: If they pay the tax, then compliance with the law.

JUSTICE BREYER: Why do you keep saying tax?

GENERAL VERRILLI: If they pay the tax penalty, they're in compliance with the law.
....

So is your point that the tax -- so, what we want to do is get money from these people. Most of them get the money by buying the insurance and that will help pay. But if they don't, they are going to pay this penalty, and that will help,too. And the fact that we put the latter in brings it within the taxing power. And as far as [the Anti-Injunctions] Act is concerned about the injunction, they called it a penalty and not a tax for a reason. They wanted it to fall outside that, it's in a different chapter, et cetera. Is that what the heart of what you are saying?

GENERAL VERRILLI: That's the essence they called it a penalty. They didn't give any other textural [sic] instruction in the Affordable Care Act or in the Internal Revenue Code or that that penalty should be treated as a tax for the Anti-Injunction Act purpose.
In other words...it's a tax, they just don't want to enforce it like one.

Copyright Trayvon Martin

The period of mourning is apparently over:
The mother of Trayvon Martin has filed two applications to secure trademarks containing her late son’s name, records show.

Sabrina Fulton is seeking marks for the phrases “I Am Trayvon” and “Justice for Trayvon,” according to filings made last week with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In both instances, Fulton is seeking the trademarks for use on “Digital materials, namely, CDs and DVDs featuring Trayvon Martin,” and other products.

The March 21 USPTO applications, each of which cost $325, were filed by an Orlando, Florida law firm representing Fulton.
Now that more information is coming out, and it appears that Martin wasn't such an angel after all, the real outrage is being left to others. There's only so much of it to go around...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bloggin' In The Years: 1429

Joan of Arc has put the English on notice:
Jhesus-Maria, King of England, and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of the Kingdom of France, you, Guillaume de la Poule, count of Suffort, Jean, sire of Talbot, and you, Thomas, sire of Scales, who call yourselves lieutenants of the Duke of Bedford, acknowledge the summons of the King of Heaven. Render to the Maid here sent by God the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good towns which you have taken and violated in France. She is here come by God’s will to reclaim the blood royal. She is very ready to make peace, if you will acknowledge her to be right, provided that France you render, and pay for having held it. And you, archers, companions of war, men-at-arms and others who are before the town of Orleans, go away into your own country, by God. And if so be not done, expect news of the Maid who will come to see you shortly, to your very great injury. King of England, if you do not so, I am chief-in-war and in whatever place I attain your people in France, I will make them quit it willy-nilly. And if they will not obey, I will have them all slain; I am here sent by God, the King of Heaven, body for body, to drive you out of all France … (Written this Tuesday of Holy Week, March 22, 1429.)
Even if she is insane, or posessed, they will say that the Maid was brave, at least.

Fatal Idealism

Walter Russell Mead on why the environmental movement has only managed to hurt itself:
One of the biggest intellectual failures of the global green movement against climate change is the persistent failure of its leaders and spokespeople to grasp the way their own advocacy fatally undermines their credibility. They blame cunning, unscrupulous and well funded enemies for disasters that their own inaccuracies, overstatements and disingenuous advocacy have brought on their movement.
....

The Via Meadia diagnosis of this phenomenon:

The climate movement’s proposals (above all, the global carbon treaty that in theory will subject the economic output of every country on earth to global controls) are radical, costly and virtually certain to fail.
To be enacted, these unpromising measures require an unprecedented degree of consensus, as every major country on earth would have to accept, ratify and then enforce the climate treaty the movement seeks.
The climate movement must therefore be, in Dean Acheson’s words, “clearer than truth” in order to stampede public and elite opinion around the world into a unique and unparalleled act of global legislation.
Because many in the climate movement believe that this treaty is literally a matter of life and death for the human race, the moral case both for stretching the evidence and attacking critics of that agenda as aggressively as possible looks strong to weak minds.
The absence of any central authority or quality control in the climate movement (and the tendency of unbalanced foundation execs and direct mail contributors to provide greater support to those ready to take more aggressive action and espouse more alarming ideas) gives more radical and less responsible voices undue prominence and entangles the whole movement in dubious claims.
The increasing obstacles encountered by such a poorly conceptualized and poorly advocated agenda cause the embittered and alarmed advocates to circle the wagons and become both more extreme in their rhetoric and less guarded in their claims when precisely the opposite approach would work better.

What we have here is a death spiral: the worse things get for the movement, the more scrupulously and cautiously it needs to behave, but the more incautiously and emotionally it becomes — leading to more failure and worse advocacy.
The greens only have themselves to blame for alienating people with advocacy over accuracy.

Malaise And Molasses

David Boaz offers the following as to why the recovery isn't living up to expectations:
The Federal Reserve is holding an international conference of central bankers to reassure themselves that their “easy-money policies” are working and won’t cause too much inflation this time.
The IRS is ramping up audits of the most successful people in the economy. If you make more than $5 million in a year, you can pretty much expect a time-consuming audit.
“Federal regulators are preparing a drive to tell workers at nonunionized businesses they have many of the same rights as union members, a move that could prompt more workers to complain to employers about grievances ranging from pay and work hours to job safety and management misconduct.”
“The Department of Energy has placed nearly one-third of its clean-energy loan portfolio on an internal ‘watch list’ for possible violations of terms or other concerns, according to a copy of the list obtained by The Wall Street Journal, highlighting how such concerns have spread beyond the now-bankrupt Solyndra LLC.”
The European Union is beefing up its permanent bailout fund to keep failed businesses alive.
States are circling Amazon and other online retailers, about to pounce with new taxes.
The Labor Department has “stepped up pressure” on PulteGroup, demanding thousands of records on its contracts with employees and subcontractors.
That’s one day’s stories about new government assaults on wealth creation and new political transfers of wealth.
You can imagine what the rest of the year will look like...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Green Shield

Accountability is for little people:
The Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to help mobilize as much as $100 billion a year to lower global greenhouse gases, is seeking a broad blanket of UN-style immunity that would shield its operations from any kind of legal process, including civil and criminal prosecution, in the countries where it operates.

There is just one problem: it is not part of the United Nations.

Whether the fund, which was formally created at a UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa last December, will get all the money it wants to spend is open to question in an era of economic slowdown and fiscal austerity.

Its spending goal comes atop some $30 billion in "fast start-up" money that has been pledged by UN member states to such climate change activities.

A 24-nation interim board of trustees for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is slated to hold its first meeting next month in Switzerland to organize the fund's secretariat and to get it running by November, as well as find a permanent home for the GCF's operations.

The board expects to spend about $6.7 million between now and June of next year.

But before it is fully operational, the GCF's creators -- 194 countries that belong to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- want it to be immune from legal challenges and lawsuits, not to mention outside inspections, much like the United Nations itself cannot be affected by decisions rendered by a sovereign nation's government or judicial system.
Of course, we all know how hones the UN has been with its money in the past, right?

Energy Independence Day

How freedom from overseas oil may have finally arrived:
Across the country, the oil and gas industry is vastly increasing production, reversing two decades of decline. Using new technology and spurred by rising oil prices since the mid-2000s, the industry is extracting millions of barrels more a week, from the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the prairies of North Dakota.

At the same time, Americans are pumping significantly less gasoline. While that is partly a result of the recession and higher gasoline prices, people are also driving fewer miles and replacing older cars with more fuel-efficient vehicles at a greater clip, federal data show.

Taken together, the increasing production and declining consumption have unexpectedly brought the United States markedly closer to a goal that has tantalized presidents since Richard Nixon: independence from foreign energy sources, a milestone that could reconfigure American foreign policy, the economy and more. In 2011, the country imported just 45 percent of the liquid fuels it used, down from a record high of 60 percent in 2005.

“There is no question that many national security policy makers will believe they have much more flexibility and will think about the world differently if the United States is importing a lot less oil,” said Michael A. Levi, an energy and environmental senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “For decades, consumption rose, production fell and imports increased, and now every one of those trends is going the other way.”

How the country made this turnabout is a story of industry-friendly policies started by President Bush and largely continued by President Obama — many over the objections of environmental advocates — as well as technological advances that have allowed the extraction of oil and gas once considered too difficult and too expensive to reach. But mainly it is a story of the complex economics of energy, which sometimes seems to operate by its own rules of supply and demand.

With gasoline prices now approaching record highs and politicians mud-wrestling about the causes and solutions, the effects of the longer-term rise in production can be difficult to see.

Simple economics suggests that if the nation is producing more energy, prices should be falling. But crude oil — and gasoline and diesel made from it — are global commodities whose prices are affected by factors around the world. Supply disruptions in Africa, the political standoff with Iran and rising demand from a recovering world economy all are contributing to the current spike in global oil prices, offsetting the impact of the increased domestic supply.

But the domestic trends are unmistakable. Not only has the United States reduced oil imports from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries by more than 20 percent in the last three years, it has become a net exporter of refined petroleum products like gasoline for the first time since the Truman presidency. The natural gas industry, which less than a decade ago feared running out of domestic gas, is suddenly dealing with a glut so vast that import facilities are applying for licenses to export gas to Europe and Asia.
Hopefully this is a trend that will continue.

Friday, March 23, 2012

In His Own Words

Jon Corzine, he of the faulty memory, gets busted:
Jon S. Corzine, MF Global Holding Ltd. (MFGLQ)’s chief executive officer, gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in one of the brokerage’s JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) accounts in London, according to an e-mail sent by a firm executive.
Edith O’Brien, a treasurer for the firm, said in an e-mail sent the afternoon of Oct. 28, three days before the company collapsed, that the transfer of the funds was “Per JC’s direct instructions,” according to a copy of a memo drafted by congressional investigators and obtained by Bloomberg News…
“Over the course of that week, MF Global (MFGLQ)’s financial position deteriorated, but the firm represented to its regulators and self-regulatory organizations that its customers’ segregated funds were safe,” said the memo, written by Financial Services Committee staff and sent to lawmakers.
Vinay Mahajan, global treasurer of MF Global Holdings, wrote an e-mail on Oct. 28 that said JPMorgan was “holding up vital business in the U.S. as a result” of the overdrawn account, which had to be “fully funded ASAP,” according to the memo.
It will be interesting to see how good his memory is now...

Blame It On The Hoodie?

Amidst all the outrage over the Trayvon Martin shooting, both genuine and manufactured, comes this observation from Geraldo:
“When you see a kid walking down the street, particularly a dark skinned kid like my son Cruz who I constantly yelled at when he was going out wearing a damn hoodie or those pants around his ankles,” Rivera said. “Take that hood off. People look at you and what’s the instant identification? What’s the instant association? Its crime scene surveillance tapes. Every time you see someone stick up a 7-Eleven, the kid is wearing a hoodie. Every time you see a mugging on a surveillance camera or get the old lady in the alcove, it’s the kid with a hoodie. You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta — you’re going to be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace. That’s what happens. It is an instant reflexive action.”

Rivera compared the people’s reflex to hoodies to the reflex Fox News contributor Juan Williams revealed when he saw a Muslim on an airplane, which ultimately cost him his gig at National Public Radio.

“You cannot rehabilitate the hoodie. I understand that the reaction might be overzealous or even irrational in some extent, I mean, when you look at the statistics,” Rivera said. “But you’re not going to rehabilitate the hoodie. Stop wearing it! You know the old Johnny Cash song, ‘Don’t take your gun to town, son. Leave your gun at home.’ There are some things that are almost inevitable. I’m not suggesting Trayvon Martin had any kind of weapon or anything, but he wore an outfit that allowed someone to respond in this irrational, overzealous way and if he had been dressed more appropriately, I think unless it’s raining out or you’re at a track meet, leave the hoody home.”
It's a legitimate reaction IMO, and certainly more genuine than what certain progessional hustlers have been saying.

Just Keeping Track

If you've done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to fear, right?
The U.S. intelligence community will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines.

Until now, the National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism.

Giving the NCTC expanded record-retention authority had been called for by members of Congress who said the intelligence community did not connect strands of intelligence held by multiple agencies leading up to the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.

"Following the failed terrorist attack in December 2009, representatives of the counterterrorism community concluded it is vital for NCTC to be provided with a variety of datasets from various agencies that contain terrorism information," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement late Thursday. "The ability to search against these datasets for up to five years on a continuing basis as these updated guidelines permit will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively."

The new rules replace guidelines issued in 2008 and have privacy advocates concerned about the potential for data-mining information on innocent Americans.

"It is a vast expansion of the government's surveillance authority," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said of the five-year retention period.

The government put in strong safeguards at the NCTC for the data that would be collected on U.S. citizens for intelligence purposes, Rotenberg said. These new guidelines undercut the Federal Privacy Act, he said.

"The fact that this data can be retained for five years on U.S. citizens for whom there's no evidence of criminal conduct is very disturbing," Rotenberg said.
Who tracks the trackers?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Find And Tell

Using students as surrogate spies?
Eighth-graders at Liberty Middle School in Fairfax County were assigned to research the backgrounds and positions of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul and find any “weaknesses,” according to The Daily Caller.

The students were then required to draft a strategy paper, mapping out how to exploit those weaknesses and then research how to forward it to the Obama campaign.

“This assignment was just creepy beyond belief -- like something out of East Germany during the Cold War,” a father of one of the students who asked for anonymity told The Daily Caller.

The teacher, Michael Denman, gave the assignment to his Civics honors class, which he broke up into four groups, with each one assigned a GOP candidate to investigate.

“My classmates don’t actually know a lot, but a few of us tended to agree that the most recent instruction on this project just didn’t seem right,” one of the students told the news website. Mr. Denman didn’t tell us where to find the information, just to research on them.”
Well, the Endless Campaign does need its "volunteers..."

Another Satisfied Customer

Oh, my. John Edwards apparently paid a visit to the millionaire madam's establishment:
According to “On The Inside” sources, Edwards allegedly hooked up with one of Gristina’s high-end hookers in 2007 when the dashing pol from North Carolina brought his then high-flying presidential campaign to the Big Apple.

The one-night fling allegedly took place at an Upper East Side hotel suite and was arranged by an aide with help from a New Yorker familiar with Gristina’s prostitution ring, sources said.

The prostitute claiming to have slept with Edwards provided a detailed, first-hand account of their encounter to investigators in the Manhattan District Attorney's office in 2008 after they began probing Gristina’s operation, sources said.

“Most of the women don’t have any idea about the identities of the men they sleep with,” a source explained. “How would they know a money man from Wall Street or the face of a lawyer or banker who shows up?

“But the face of the national politician?” the source rhetorically asked. “She knew.”

Investigators found the woman credible, but never notified federal authorities, seeing no reason to involve the feds in a low-level local infraction, sources told DNAinfo.

At the time, investigators were shocked at the allegation because Edwards was then considered the All-American persona.
An apparently "lonely" All-American boy...

When In Doubt, Drill

When it comes to energy prices, President Obama is still overlooking at least one alternative that already exists:
Obama has been touting an "all of the above" policy, which focuses less on what he calls the "fuel of the past" and more on things like alternative energy and improved efficiency. He will tout this approach again on Thursday at stops in Oklahoma and Ohio.

But will those other efforts work any better than would aggressively pursuing more oil production?

An IBD review of the president's energy proposals finds that, if they have any effect on oil consumption and prices at all, it won't be for decades.
....

In the end, reducing dependence on foreign oil and lowering prices in the near term will likely still require a significant increase in domestic production.

The administration argues that it's already boosting oil production, but that this hasn't had any effect on prices. However, the oil production increase has been modest — just 14% over the past three years off of historically low levels. Plus, even with these gains, oil production in 2011 was below the level set way back in 1948. And it's 41% below the country's peak oil production in 1970, according to the EIA.

Obama's own Jobs Council, meanwhile, has urged a more aggressive effort to go after the country's abundant oil supplies — in addition to pursuing other forms of energy.

"Further expanding and expediting the domestic production of fossil fuels both offshore and onshore," the report said, "will reduce America's reliance on foreign oil and the huge outflow of U.S. dollars."
But that goes against the official plan, doesn't it?

The Restless Dragon

Hmmm:
U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring China’s Internet say that from March 14 to Wednesday bloggers circulated alarming reports of tanks entering Beijing and shots being fired in the city as part of what is said to have been a high-level political battle among party leaders - and even a possible military coup.

The Internet discussions included photos posted online of tanks and other military vehicles moving around Beijing.

The reports followed the ouster last week of senior Politburo member and Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, who was linked to corruption, but who is said to remain close to China’s increasingly nationalistic military.
Some more here.

Blown Away

Why wind power isn't all that it's cracked up to be:
Contrary to what many think, the cost of both onshore and offshore wind power has not been coming down. On the contrary, it has been going up over the past decade. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged this in its most recent renewable-energy report. Likewise, the U.K. Energy Research Center laments that wind-power costs have “risen significantly since the mid-2000’s.”

Like the EU, the United Kingdom has become enamored with the idea of reducing CO2 through wind technology. But most academic models show that the cheapest way to reduce CO2 by 20 percent in 2020 would be to switch from coal to cleaner natural gas. The average of the major energy models indicates that, downscaled for the United Kingdom, achieving the 20 percent target would imply a total cost of roughly $150 billion over the coming decade, and $28 billion every year after that. Of course, these figures include reductions in areas other than electricity, as well as higher energy prices’ total cost to the economy.

Nonetheless, the lesson is clear: If the goal is not just to cut CO2 emissions, but also to use renewables to do it, the models show that the cost balloons to $297 billion for this decade and $57 billion every year after 2020. In effect, insisting on wind power means using energy that is far from competitive, does not help to avert climate change, and costs an extra $145 billion for the U.K. alone.
The cost of "clean" always seems to outweigh the benefits...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Axelrod On Defense

David Axelrod tries to explain why Obama can't get a budget passed:
Baier said, "You know, people sit home and say, I have to do a budget. I have to do a budget about my family spending. Why can't Senate Democrats do a budget if they control the Senate and they need 51 votes to put it through?"

Yet again, Axelrod punted. "Because they also don't have to deal with the theater of politics in making their budgets. We obviously have to budget and we do budget and deal with our budgetary challenges. The president has cut domestic spending, discretionary spending, by $1.2 trillion in order to accommodate the budget and the demands of our budget. And we're going to continue to do the things to live within our means while still moving our economy forward."
It's all about theater! Well, kabuki theater, anyway. But which side is really responsible? The side that at least wants a budget, or the side that wants to pin blame?

Environmental Persecution Agency

Sometimes the little guys win one:
In an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court ruled the EPA cannot impose fines that could be as much as $75,000 a day without giving property owners the ability to challenge its actions.

The ruling allows the couple to challenge the EPA head-on in court, but the real battle begins now. The case has brought attention to the EPA's reach. While the court only allowed a challenge to be brought, in a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito noted that the law allowing EPA to demand compliance is overly broad.

"The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear. Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the act, and according to the federal government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency's mercy," Alito wrote.

"The court's decision provides a modest measure of relief," he added. "But the combination of the uncertain reach of the Clean Water Act and the draconian penalties imposed for the sort of violations alleged in this case still leaves most property owners with little practical alternative but to dance to the EPA's tune. Real relief requires Congress to do what it should have done in the first place: provide a reasonably clear rule regarding the reach of the Clean Water Act."
If nothing else, this ruling should put the EPA on notice that property rights still matter. Good for Alito on this one.

Disorder In The Court

The coming high court circus:
The frenzy generated by the Supreme Court’s arguments on the healthcare reform law next week is likely to dwarf anything the court has ever seen.

Lawmakers and interest groups plan to stage protests and events outside the court nearly nonstop, creating a circus-like atmosphere for a case that could redefine the limits of federal power.

A throng of lawyers and reporters, meanwhile, are practically beating down the court’s doors to try and secure a seat inside the chamber to witness the historic arguments on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Many legal experts say the ruling on the healthcare law could be one of the most consequential in the court’s history. The oral arguments in the case are the longest in 45 years, and the legal and political stakes are enormous. The court is expected to deliver its ruling in June, just months before the presidential election.
It would be ironic if Obama wouldn't have Obamacare to worry about as an election issue if the Court struck it down, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jesus Is My Healthcare Provider

John Kerry jumps on the "God loves universal healthcare" bandwagon:
He said the world faces problems of Biblical proportion. Among the most important issue is bringing the world's populations out of poverty. One of out every 16 verses in the Bible, he said, deals with caring for the poor. Yet too many Christians forget that helping the poor was such an important focus of Jesus' message, he said.

He said Christians should be very concerned about environmental abuses. Speaking on a warm afternoon one day before the end of winter, he said there is no question that the Earth is suffering from global warming.

He also said Christians should support universal health care.

“Jesus did not help just the sick who could afford to pay for it,” he said.
It's so nice to know that liberal Democrats know what Jesus wants for the rest of us...

The Rule Report

It turns out that the "Buffett rule" wouldn't help that much, after all:
A bill designed to enact President Barack Obama's plan for a "Buffett rule" tax on the wealthy would rake in just $31 billion over the next 11 years, according to an estimate by Congress' official tax analysts obtained by The Associated Press.

That figure would be a drop in the bucket of the over $7 trillion in federal budget deficits projected during that period. It is also minuscule compared to the many hundreds of billions it would cost to repeal the alternative minimum tax, which Obama's budget last month said he would replace with the Buffett rule tax.

The alternative minimum tax, originally aimed at ensuring that wealthy Americans pay taxes despite deductions and other breaks, has begun affecting upper middle-class families. Congress acts every year to minimize its impact.

The Buffett rule has become a leading symbol of Obama's and congressional Democrats' election-year efforts to persuade voters that they are the party championing economic fairness. Republicans have mocked it as one aimed at scoring political points that would have little real budgetary impact.

The plan is named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has said taxes on the rich are too low. Obama has proposed requiring that people earning at least $1 million annually pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes, but has provided few details.
Not surprising for a plan that would have just as little impact...

Blonde Math

Warning: The following may make your head hurt:

Law Of Confusion

Part of Obamacare's enduring unpopularity (see below) may be due to what a confusing mess it is:
Two years after congressional Democrats squeezed out enough votes to pass President Obama’s health care overhaul, confusion still reigns among the states, insurers and average Americans struggling to comply with the hundreds of pages in the law.

Some states say they can’t move forward until the government issues more rules to clarify exactly what kinds of services need to be covered, while other states dispute that, saying enough information is available to plow ahead.

Insurance companies are biting their nails over how the requirements will affect their bottom lines.

Business owners say they can’t begin to comply with the law because it is too baffling. “Most of ‘em don’t have a clue what’s fixin’ to happen,” said Grady Payne, owner of a business based in Fort Worth, Texas.

Analysts, however, say many questions have been answered and that businesses should invest the time to find the answers.
Of course those who helped write it understand it-they're just about the only ones that can.

Debt Ownership

It's Obama's now:
The latest posting from the Bureau of Public Debt at the Treasury Department shows the National Debt now stands at $15.566 trillion. It was $10.626 trillion on President Bush's last day in office, which coincided with President Obama's first day.

The National Debt also now exceeds 100% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, the total value of goods and services.

Mr. Obama has been quick to blame his predecessor for the soaring Debt, saying Mr. Bush paid for two wars and a Medicare prescription drug program with borrowed funds.

The federal budget sent to Congress last month by Mr. Obama, projects the National Debt will continue to rise as far as the eye can see. The budget shows the Debt hitting $16.3 trillion in 2012, $17.5 trillion in 2013 and $25.9 trillion in 2022.

Federal budget records show the National Debt once topped 121% of GDP at the end of World War II. The Debt that year, 1946, was, by today's standards, a mere $270 billion dollars.

Mr. Obama doesn't mention the National Debt much, though he does want to be seen trying to reduce the annual budget deficit, though it's topped a trillion dollars for four years now.
Which is probably why he doesn't want to talk about it, except to blame others.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Obamacare Comes Undone

How bad is it for President Obama's signature legislation? This bad:
Two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. Supreme Court should throw out either the individual mandate in the federal health care law or the law in its entirety, signaling the depth of public disagreement with that element of the Affordable Care Act.

This ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that Americans oppose the law overall by 52-41 percent. And 67 percent believe the high court should either ditch the law or at least the portion that requires nearly all Americans to have coverage.

The high court opens hearings on the law’s constitutionality a week from today.

The law has never earned majority support in ABC/Post polls – and this update, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a strong sense its critics are dominating the debate. Seventy percent of Americans report hearing mainly negative things about the law lately; just 19 percent say the buzz has been positive. Even among its supporters, 53 percent are hearing more negatives than positives. Among opponents this soars to 88 percent.

Intensity of sentiment is more negative as well: Forty-one percent strongly oppose the law, while only a quarter strongly support it.
That might be why Team Obama is ignoring its anniversary and are even downplaying it as a success story. Perhaps because they know in their hearts that it hasn't been?

Salt Wounds

Mayor Bloomberg continues war on salt; homeless hardest hit:
The Bloomberg administration is now taking the term “food police” to new depths, blocking food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city’s homeless.

In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans.
....

DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A new interagency document controls what can be served at facilities — dictating serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and condiment recommendations.

The city also cites food-safety issues with donations, but it’s clear that the real driver behind the ban is the Bloomberg dietary diktats.

Diamond insists that the institutional vendors hired by the shelters serve food that meets the rules but also tastes good; it just isn’t too salty. So, says the commissioner, the homeless really don’t need any of the synagogue’s food.
Like the rest of New York, the city's homeless just don't know what's good for them...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Idiots In Bloom

It's springtime, which means the Occupiers have come out of hibernation:
The movement was mainly quiet during the winter, but organizers said they were aiming for a springtime resurgence.

“It’s just a reminder that we’re here,” Brendan Burke said, as the crowd marched past the New York Stock Exchange. “It’s an opportunity to remind Wall Street that we aren’t going anywhere.”

In several respects, Saturday’s march was similar to the inaugural one. The crowd was small but spirited and marched past the bronze sculpture of a bull at Bowling Green, which had served as a mustering spot for the first march. Marchers were accompanied by police officers on foot and on scooters who at one point blocked access to Wall Street, just as they did on Sept. 17.

And, as they did that day, the marchers made sudden turns that appeared to surprise the police and walked along Wall Street for at least a brief time.

At one point, several demonstrators stood on the steep steps of Federal Hall and chanted “1-2-3-4, I declare class war.”
But I thought that's what they were against? I suppose their views change with the seasons...

The Candidate Is Out

It must be the weekend for meltdowns:
Boise Police arrested Cynthia Clinkingbeard, 58, Boise, on Friday after she reportedly walked into a store at Eagle Road and Chinden Boulevard and threatened employees with a gun.

The website of the Idaho Secretary of State lists Clinkingbeard as a Democratic candidate in the May 15 primary race for the First District congressional seat.

Clinkingbeard was a doctor specializing in edocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, until the State of Idaho Board of Medicine revoked her license in 2005.

On Friday, police were called at 9:15 p.m. by employees of the store who told dispatchers a woman, later identified as Clinkingbeard, had walked into the store, made strange, threatening remarks to three employees before pulling out a handgun. The caller told dispatchers Clinkingbeard then left the store, continuing to make threats, and drove off in a car.
Must've heard the news about Joe Biden...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kony Crackup

This isn't exactly a good way to bring attention to your cause:
The director of a video gone viral that calls for the arrest of fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony has been hospitalized in California for exhaustion following an "unfortunate incident," his group said on Friday.
....

"Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better," Ben Keesey, head of Invisible Children, said in a statement.

"The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday," he added, without giving details.

Asked about media reports that Russell had been detained, a San Diego police spokeswoman said a 33-year-old white man had been taken to a medical facility for evaluation and treatment on Thursday morning after police received reports that he was acting "bizarrely."

But San Diego Police spokeswoman Lieutenant Andra Brown said she could not release the identity of the person detained.

She said people called police to say that the man, who was not arrested, was running into traffic and yelling while in "various stages of undress."
George Clooney must be proud. Meanwhile, TMZ has released the following (Warning: NSFW or children!)

Girls Gone Mild

How social media is taming the spring break frontier:
Today’s spring breakers — at least some of them — say they have been tamed, in part, not by parents or colleges or the fed-up cities they invade, but by the hand-held gizmos they hold dearest and the fear of being betrayed by an unsavory, unsanctioned photo or video popping up on Facebook or YouTube.

Late one March evening at Rick’s Bar on rum-soaked Duval Street, college students alternated Jell-O shots with iPhone shots.

“We are very, very reserved,” said Mia Klein, 22, a University of Connecticut senior from Amityville, N.Y., who stood around a table at Rick’s with friends and cups of beer. “You don’t want to have to defend yourself later, so you don’t do it.” The “it” being get sloppy, word-slurring drunk in an unvetted crowd.

“People do regret it later,” chimed in her friend and sorority sister Kelsey Tynik, who had just finished checking e-mail amid the screaming house music.
Your cell may help keep you out of a cell...

An Inconvenient Reality

Why Obamacare's defenders can't handle the truth:
A Congressional Budget Office report issued this week says that 3 to 5 million people could move from employer-based health care plans to government-based programs as the Affordable Care Act takes effect. And in the worst-case scenario, it could be as many as 20 million.

For Obama, it’s an inconvenient truth at a really inconvenient time — coming less than two weeks before the Supreme Court begins oral arguments on the law and just as the administration touts the law’s early benefits on its second anniversary.

And it’s not the only hard truth Obama and the law’s supporters are facing. No matter what they said about rising health care costs, those costs aren’t actually going to go down under health care reform. The talk about the law paying for itself is just educated guesswork. And people aren’t actually liking the law more as they learn more about it — and some polls show they are just getting more confused.

But it’s Obama’s signature promise — “If you like it, you can keep it” — that’s most likely to get thrown back in his face.
It's always the devil in the details that comes out in the end.

Friday, March 16, 2012

They'll Be Watching You

Skynet is getting a new home:
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
Yeah, but it was bad when he did it...

Journalistic Standards In Action

The line between fakery and journalism keeps getting thinner:
The public radio show This American Life has retracted an entire storyline told by comedian and self-described Apple fanboy Mike Daisey that aired in early January after Daisey's translator said he made up significant details of the tale.
....

So why didn't This American Life talk to Cathy Lee earlier, before they aired the episode? In a press release, the show says Daisey told them he lost her cell phone number. "At that point, we should've killed the story," show host Ira Glass said in the release. "But other things Daisey told us about Apple's operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn't think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake."

This American Life said it did "weeks of fact checking to corroborate Daisey's findings," when airing his original episode.
A new episode explaining how the show was duped will air Friday at 8 p.m. According to Schmitz, Daisey admits on the show that he never talked to poisoned workers.

Daisey, however, stands by his original storyline. "It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity," Daisey said on his blog. On the show, he struck a more contrite note. "I'm not going to say that I didn't take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard," Daisey says, according to the press release. "My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it's not journalism. It's theater."
It's lying for lying's sake...

The Coming Crisis

Paul Ryan, acting as a surrogate Presidential candidate:

The One's The One

It's the new campaign ad, er, "documentary":
The story narrated by Mr. Hanks starts with elation on election night in 2008 and quickly segues to despair with the beginning of the Great Recession.

David Axelrod, the president’s senior campaign strategist, likens watching the president’s first major economic briefing to a horror movie. “All I was thinking at that moment was: ‘Can we get a recount?’” he says.

Adds Mr. Hanks, “Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt had so much fallen on the shoulders of one president.”
....

The film ends with a note of optimism: More than 3.5 million private sector jobs added, billions in new investments by General Motors, 17 million children who cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

“Let’s remember how far we’ve come,” Mr. Hanks says in a line that sums up a major theme of the president’s re-election campaign, “and look forward to the work still to be done.”
I'll pass, thanks...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Falling Flat

Once again, it's "those Republicans are just so ignorant":
“Lately, we’ve heard a lot of professional politicians — a lot of the folks who, you know, are running for a certain office, who shall go unnamed — they’ve been talking down new sources of energy. They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels,” Obama said. “They were against raising fuel standards because apparently they like gas guzzling cars better. We’re trying to move towards the future, and they want to be stuck in the past.”

Those same people, Obama said, would’ve thought the Earth was flat, that television wouldn’t last, that the automobile was only a passing fad.

“If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society,” he said. “They would not have believed that the world was round.”
Well, let's see what this bastion of conservatism has to say. Of course, in spite of what he says, it's not like Obama's been serious about domestic production, anyway, is it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Who Are You?

Enquiring minds want to know:
Officials of the University of California system have proposed asking incoming freshmen to identify their sexual orientation, a move that might cement such declarations as an emerging topic in the college admissions process.

ABC News reports that the Academic Senate of the University of California system initiated the proposal to ensure that services are provided for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
The question will not be asked on applications to the schools because students may feel uncomfortable filling out the forms in front of their parents, according to Robert Anderson, chair of the senate.

“Sexual orientation is a part of diversity and cannot be ignored,” Anderson said after the proposal was passed, according to the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin.

“It’s past time for this,” he told ABC News.
Elmhurst College, in Illinois, announced last year that it would ask students about their sexual orientation on its admission application, making it the first college believed to make such a move. Students who identified themselves as gay were eligible for a diversity scholarship.
It's for diversity! Never mind why it's any of the schools' business what somebody's orientation is in the first place...

"O" Say Can You See

You could call it the Obama standard:
A flag depicting an image of President Barack Obama was taken down from Lake County Democratic Party headquarters today after several veterans complained it was a "desecration."

A short confrontation at the Democratic office ended when party chairwoman Nancy Hurlbert took down the controversial flag, which had been flying under an American flag on the same flagpole.

"It's a cult of personality to show his face, like Stalin or Mao," said John Masterjohn, a former Marine and retired schoolteacher from Leesburg. "It's despicable. They don't realize how sick they are."
Perhaps Living Colour said it best:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Highway Stars

I'm sorry, but did somebody say crony capitalism?
George Soros, T. Boone Pickens, Kevin G. Douglas and companies under their control stand to reap the rewards of billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies contained in a Democratic-sponsored measure set for a vote this week.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), would amend the much-ballyhooed highway bill to include the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions act, or NATGAS act. The act would provide subsidies for individuals, corporations and public entities that purchase natural gas vehicles or build natural gas distribution facilities.

The act would subsidize three different enterprises controlled by Soros, Pickens and Douglas, who consistently rank among the most generous political donors, according to Federal Election Commission Records.
It does help to have friends in low places...

The Antisocial Network

Guess which side really can't tolerate dissent?
In a new study, the Pew Center for the Internet and American Life Project confirmed what most intelligent Americans had long sensed. That is, whenever they are challenged or confronted on the hollow falsity of their orthodoxy — such as, say, uniting diverse Americans — liberals tend to respond defensively with anger, even trying to shut off or silence critics. The new research found that instead of engaging in civil discourse or debate, fully 16% of liberals admitted to blocking, unfriending or overtly hiding someone on a social networking site because that person expressed views they disagreed with. That’s double the percentage of conservatives and more than twice the percentage of political moderates who behaved like that.
To hold yourselves up as the champions of free speech, it would seem prudent to practice what you preach, wouldn't it?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Revenge Of The Uploader?

If he's going down, he's taking them with him:
The boss of the recently shut-down Megaupload file-sharing site claims that his records show plenty of US government users, including members of the Senate and the Department of Justice.

"Guess what – we found a large number of Mega accounts from US Government officials including the Department of Justice and the US Senate," Kim Dotcom (formerly Schmitz), the portly potentate of Megaupload, told the Torrentfreak blog. "I hope we will soon have permission to give them and the rest of our users access to their files."

No doubt government officials will claim that these accounts are for "research processes", or owned by a few "bad apples", but it does seem that Dotcom is willing to name names when his case comes the trial. Megaupload was one of the largest sites of its type, and the fallout could be very interesting if lists of users are made public.
Does anyone who worked on the case want to step forward?

Fisker Fraud?

Fisker's funders may be in trouble:
The Securities and Exchange Commission has notified the brokers who raised most of the private financing for taxpayer-backed electric automaker Fisker Automotive that charges may be brought against them, in connection with a private offering in 2009.
....

Last month an investor, Daniel Wray, sued Fisker and Advanced Equities for their alleged failure to perform fiduciary duties and for fraud. He alleged that after he bought $210,000 of preferred stock between 2009 and 2011, in January Fisker and Advanced Equities demanded more than $83,000 “due to Fisker’s urgent need for equity capital,” or else he would lose privileges that came with his purchase of earlier stock.

“The lawsuit says Fisker and…Advanced Equities Inc., knew their promises to him were false all along,” reported the Orange County Register. “The suit seeks restitution, compensatory and punitive damages from Fisker and Advanced Equities.”

It is not known whether Wray’s lawsuit or a related complaint was the reason the Wells Notices were served on Daubenspeck and Badger. Advanced Equities’ attorney, Amal Amin, told Crain’s, “It’s confidential and we’re not going to discuss it.” Both of the investment firm’s partners denied wrongdoing.
So, on top of their cars not working, the company may have robbed its investors. Nice going, guys...

Lack Of Evidence

Things are getting better? Obama's critics beg to differ:
“We got good news, but we didn’t get such strong news to hold out a promise to those Americans that are looking for work and are discouraged,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former Congressional Budget Office director, said on a conference call hosted by the Republican National Committee. “I think that promise becomes the heart of the economic performance of the rest of the year. What confidence will people have in the president and his policies?”

There is ample evidence, Republicans point out, to refute the claim that Obama’s policies have done anything to earn such confidence.

The U.S. economy, for starters, remains embroiled in the longest jobs recession since the Great Depression. Forty-nine months have passed since the country hit peak employment in January 2008, surpassing the previous record of 47 months following the post-9/11 recession in 2001, during which unemployment never rose above 6.3 percent. By contrast, February marked the 37th consecutive month the unemployment rate has exceeded 8 percent. That is the longest streak in the post-World War II era.
Not exactly a roaring comeback.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Our Sizes, Ourselves

Turnabout is fair play?
Before getting a prescription for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs, men would have to see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency, if state Sen. Nina Turner has her way.

The Cleveland Democrat introduced Senate Bill 307 this week.

A critic of efforts to restrict abortion and contraception for women, Turner says she is concerned about men’s reproductive health. Turner’s bill joins a trend of female lawmakers submitting bills regulating men’s health. Turner said if state policymakers want to legislate women’s health choices through measures such as House Bill 125, known as the “Heartbeat bill,” they should also be able to legislate men’s reproductive health. Ohio anti-abortion advocates say the two can’t be compared.

Heartbeat bill sponsor Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, said comparing his bill to Turner’s would be like comparing apples to bananas. The Heartbeat bill would prohibit abortion once a heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

“I understand some women think my bill is a personal affront,” Wachtmann said. “Protecting the unborn — to compare this to Viagra is not even related.”
But both are related to choice, so it is a fair question as to how far the would-be regulators are willing to go.

Tipping Point?

Any way you look at it, it's bad:
President Obama and U.S. officials offered their condolences for the alleged shooting of civilians by a U.S. service member in Afghanistan amid fears the incident could trigger another wave of anti-American violence in the region and fuel a push to abandon the war-worn country.

Tensions between the U.S. and Afghanistan had appeared to be easing after Americans burning Korans last month sparked deadly protests across the country.

"This is a fatal hammer blow on the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan. Whatever sliver of trust and credibility we might have had following the burnings of the Koran is now gone," said David Cortright, the director of policy studies at Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an advocate for a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Residents said Sunday's attack began around 3 a.m. in two villages in Panjwai district, a rural region outside Kandahar that is the cradle of the Taliban and where coalition forces have fought for control for years. The villages are about 500 yards from a U.S. base in a region that was the focus of Obama's military surge strategy in the south starting in 2009.

Villagers described cowering in fear as gunshots rang out as a soldier stalked house after house firing on those inside. They said he entered three homes in all and set fire to some of the bodies. Eleven of the dead were from a single family, and nine of the victims were children.

A U.S. official says the American soldier accused in the killings is a soldier from Washington who was assigned to a remote special operations site.

U.S. officials say the soldier acted alone, leaving his base in southern Afghanistan and opening fire on sleeping families in two villages.
The Afghans are already angry, so will more apologies even matter? At any rate, our longest war just got a lot messier.

Let Us Pray

They told me that if Republicans ran for President, we'd see a fundamentalist in the White House, and they were right:
On Wednesday, White House officials summoned dozens of leaders of nonprofit organizations that strongly back the health law to help them coordinate plans for a prayer vigil, press conferences and other events outside the court when justices hear arguments for three days beginning March 26.

The advocates and officials mapped out a strategy to call attention to tangible benefits of the law, like increased insurance coverage for young adults. Sensitive to the idea that they were encouraging demonstrations, White House officials denied that they were trying to gin up support by encouraging rallies outside the Supreme Court, just a stone’s throw from Congress on Capitol Hill. They said a main purpose of this week’s meeting, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, was to give the various groups a chance to learn of the plans.

For months, Democrats in Congress and progressive groups have urged the White House to make a more forceful defense of the health care law, which is denounced almost daily by Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.
A prayer vigil? The defense is starting to sound a bit desperate here...

Kony's War

And now, from the newest king of the kook brigade:



Personally, I think some of her movies are the real crime...

Homeschool Daze

Newsbusters fact-checks Bill Maher's bigoted ass:
Maher believes homeschoolers receive less of an education than those in public schools.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

The 2009 Homeschool Progress Report found "homeschoolers scored 34–39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests. The homeschool national average ranged from the 84th percentile for Language, Math, and Social Studies to the 89th percentile for Reading."

The average is 50.

Homeschoolers also score higher on the popular college entrance exam ACT.
....

58.9 percent of homeschool grads report that they are "very happy" with life compared with 27.6 percent for the general U.S. population. 73.2 percent find life "exciting" compared with 47.3 percent.

Also of note, 98.5 percent read at least one book in the past six months compared to only 69 percent of the general population. 99.6 percent know how to use the internet versus 37 percent of the general population.

Yet this is what Maher considers a "Christian madrassa" preventing children from knowledge and reason.

What a dunce!
Bill Maher's prejudice is rapidly becoming his undoing...

Taxed Too Much Already

Pay your fair share? Most people seem to feel we already are:
Most voters still say this country is overtaxed, and half think any federal tax increase should be submitted to the public for a vote.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% of Likely U.S. Voters believe America is overtaxed. But that’s down from 66% two years ago and 64% last year. One-out-of-three (33%) now believe the country is not overtaxed, while another 12% are not sure.
Redistribution isn't so popular when you can't afford it...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Buffett Non-Rule

I guess this means that Warren Buffett doesn't feel so guilty, after all:
NetJets Inc., the private-plane company owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), was countersued by the U.S. over $366 million in taxes and penalties.

NetJets in November sued the U.S., saying the federal government had wrongly imposed taxes, interest and penalties totaling more than $642.7 million.
....

The federal government, in a revised answer and countersuit filed yesterday in federal court in Columbus, rejected NetJets’ claims and alleged that four of the company’s units owe unpaid taxes and penalties.

NetJets Aviation Inc. owes more than $302.1 million, and another unit, NetJets International, is liable for $52.9 million, the U.S. said. Executive Jet Management Inc. owes $10 million while NetJets Large Aircraft owes $1.19 million, the U.S. claimed.
Well, it is their fair share, after all...

Friday, March 09, 2012

PC Proofreading

Mona Charen isn't thrilled with Apple's new proofreading program:
Pages just hates gender specific expressions and is constantly on guard for them. In a column titled “Assad’s Useful Idiots” I had written that Vogue magazine “apparently immune to shame, ran a fawning profile of the dictator’s wife.” Proofreadress was on it. “Gender specific expression. A gender neutral word such as ‘spouse’ may be appropriate.” Really Proofreadress? Spouse is a legal word, good for real estate transactions and rhyming with house in Les Miserables’ “Master of the House.” But as a substitute for wife, it’s ungainly and odd. Wife is a perfectly good word — in fact, it’s a perfectly good status, one that I’m glad to enjoy.
Proofreadress was also unhappy about the next paragraph of that column, when I quoted Vogue to the effect that Asma al-Assad was “glamorous, young and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.” Uh-oh. “Gender specific expression. Consider replacing with ‘women,’ ‘people’ or ‘individuals.’” It was a quote, of course, and therefore untouchable. But imagine writing “the freshest and most magnetic of first individuals.”
Remember when proofreading was about actual editing, and not political correctness?

Adjusting For The Unexpected

Gallup fact-checks the official unemployment results:
In mid-February, Gallup reported that its U.S. unemployment rate had increased to 9.0% from 8.3% in mid-January. The mid-month reading normally provides a relatively good estimate of the government's unadjusted unemployment rate for the month.

Assuming the government's unadjusted rate increases -- from its 8.8% in January -- to at least match Gallup's mid-month measurement for February, then the government should also report an increase in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February. If the government's unadjusted unemployment rate increases to the degree that Gallup's has from mid-month to mid-month, then the government's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate could show an even larger increase.

However, the extent of the seasonal adjustment also makes a difference. Last February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics applied a seasonal adjustment factor of 0.5 points to its unadjusted unemployment rate for the month. If that same seasonal adjustment is applied to Gallup's mid-month unemployment rate of 9.0%, it would produce a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.5%. Alternatively, if it was applied to Gallup's full-month unemployment rate of 9.1%, it would produce a seasonally adjusted rate of 8.6%. Gallup therefore forecasts an increase in the unemployment rate.
....

Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup's unemployment and underemployment measures show a substantial deterioration since mid-January. In this context, the increase in unemployment as measured by Gallup may, at least partly, reflect growth in the workforce, as more Americans who had given up looking for work become slightly more optimistic and start looking for work again. So while there may be positive signs, the reality Gallup finds is that more Americans are looking for work now than were doing so just six weeks ago.
Or, as the Obama administration might put it, "Actively underemployed."

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Gone To Pot

I really, really hate having to agree with Pat Robertson:
Mr. Robertson’s support for legalizing pot appeared in a New York Times article published Thursday. His spokesman confirmed to the Associated Press that Mr. Robertson supports legalization with regulation. Mr. Robertson was not made available for an interview.
“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink it at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?”
Mr. Robertson said he “absolutely” supports ballot measures in Colorado and Washington state that would allow people older than 21 to possess a small amount of marijuana and allow for commercial pot sales. Both measures, if passed by voters, would place the states at odds with federal law, which bans marijuana use of all kinds.
It's just too bad that he sounds like a nut the rest of the time...