Thursday, June 28, 2012

Abounding Failure

Another green company goes bust:
Abound Solar Inc., a U.S. solar manufacturer that was awarded a $400 million U.S. loan guarantee, will close its doors and file for bankruptcy because its panels were too expensive to compete with Chinese products, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Abound, based in Loveland, Colorado, borrowed about $70 million against the guarantee, the Energy Department said today in a statement. Calls to Abound executives weren’t returned today.

The failure would follow that of Solyndra LLC, which shut down in August after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the same Energy Department program. Abound stopped production in February to focus on reducing costs after a global oversupply and increasing competition from China drove down the price of solar panels by half last year.

“When the floor fell out on the price of solar panels, Abound’s product was no longer cost competitive,” Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, said in a statement on the agency’s website.
Darn that free market, killing government-supported industry-and from a still officially Communist country, no less...

Decision Day

So, here it is:
In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding. . . . Yes, to answer a common question, the whole ACA is constitutional, so the provision requiring insurers to cover young adults until they are 26 survives as well.
What does it mean? For one thing, Obama lied:
Obama “promised up and down that this bill was not a tax,” McConnell said. “Well, the Supreme Court has spoken.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Supreme Court’s ruling on the 2010 healthcare law reveals that the individual mandate is constitutionally acceptable when seen as a tax, even though Democrats tried to argue that it wasn’t a tax to help get it passed.

“The President of the United States himself promised up and down that this bill was not a tax,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “This was one of the Democrats’ top selling points, because they knew it would never have passed if they said it was a tax.”
The good news for Obamacare opponents is that the Medicaid expansion mandate was struck down. As for the rest, it has now become a huge campaign issue. And thus the battle continues...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Convention Calamity

The Democratic National Convention is increasingly looking like a disaster waiting to happen:
North Carolina, still a swing state when the Democrats decided to hold their national convention in Charlotte, is looking increasingly red, but that's not the only factor that has Democrats regretting their plan. Here, three reasons Democrats should brace for a rocky nominating convention when it kicks off in Charlotte this Labor Day weekend. (Hey, at least they'll have liquor.)

1. Anger on both sides of the gay-marriage issue could spill over into protests
Literally the day before President Obama came out in support of gay marriage, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly passed a sweeping measure outlawing even civil unions for same-sex partners. That's creates quite the quandary for the president, says Chadwick Harvey at PolicyMic. If he trumpets his nod to gay marriage, anti-gay protesters could come out in force — but a failure to mention it could "cause a stream of protests through the city streets of Charlotte from the gay and lesbian community." Some gay-rights groups even want the Democrats to move the convention from "a state that does not promote liberty and equality." Things could get ugly, quickly.

2. Unions could sit out the convention, with their dollars
Although the Charlotte host committee denies that the Democrats are having trouble raising cash for their convention, two sources say planners are about $27 million short of their $36.6 million goal, says Hans Nichols at Bloomberg. The likely reason: Democrats decided to bar corporations from directly funding the convention, choosing to accept only personal donations of $100,000 or less. Democrats were hoping labor unions would cough up the difference, but unions are opting out "because Charlotte lacks unionized hotels" and North Carolina is a union-unfriendly "right to work" state. Hmmm, says Malkin in the New York Post: "Disgruntled leftists. Disgruntled centrists. Disgruntled unions. Disgruntled corporate donors" — sounds like a great party.

3. The no-shows could be a downer
Several prominent Democratic lawmakers have already said they're skipping their own party's convention, and "if historical precedent is a guide... Obama should be worried," says Alex Roarty in National Journal. In 2008, such defections on the GOP side "amounted to an early alarm bell." And while it's not too surprising that Sen. Joe Manchin and two of his West Virginia colleagues are staying away, given Obama's unpopularity in their state, Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) is a big Obama supporter. (McCaskill told reporters that she's "never gone to a convention when I've had a contested election" and that the chatter about her skipping is "dumb.") Obama's 2012 slogan may be "Forward," says Malkin, but "'Back Away!' is quickly becoming the dissenting Democrats' rallying cry." Given their attitude, "the DNC promises to be a public-relations nightmare."
In hindsight, it does seem that a little foresight might have been in order here...

Karl Who?

They know not whom they protest against:
Organized protesters set out to counter the issue of money in politics while marching over a mile through Washington DC last week. The heat index was a blistering 90 degrees, which seemed to add to the marchers’ aggression for their target, former Bush Administration Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. While Rove has been out of the White House for over five years, he has remained active in fundraising for and promotion of conservative causes, particularly through his non-profit, Crossroads GPS.

Many of the protesters took issue with the success of Rove’s 501c4, stating it should be “illegal” even though they were themselves proud representatives of 501c4s. This conflation begs the question: Do these organized protesters even know why they are marching? Or do they even know who they are marching against?
From the video, apparently not...

Silent Rage

Will Obama keep his cool come Thursday?
The health care law is his legacy. He poured his credibility and his political capital into passage of the law, only to see it become an electoral albatross. And yet, it is also a source of personal pride for the president, who routinely reads letters from Americans about their health care struggles.

It is hard to imagine that any politician would not fly into a rage if his critics succeeded in virtually erasing that effort.

It is a good bet that he will not.

Mr. Obama has demonstrated little willingness to show anger publicly during his three and a half years in the White House. Even in some of the most trying moments for his administration — and he has had his fair share — his demeanor in front of the cameras has been more cool than hot.
....

But more often, the president is described by aides as having become angry in private.

As noted by New York Magazine earlier this year, Mr. Obama’s top aides at times characterized their boss as “furious,” “incensed,” “outraged,” “enraged,” “fuming mad,” “seething,” and “irate.”

(His aides themselves have no trouble expressing their anger. Take that from any number of journalists who have firsthand knowledge.)
Of course, Obama may not have a reason to get angry, as long as his party can still make hay out of losing. But is that really a winning strategy in the long run? After all, somebody may still have to pay for the cost of maintaining the "legacy" if it survives.

Bits And Pieces

Now that they've decided that the Keystone pipeline isn't such a bad thing after all, the Obama administration is kinda, sorta, letting it go forward:
The Army Corps of Engineers on Monday told TransCanada, which wants to build a 1,700-mile pipeline to carry heavy crude from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, that it could begin construction on the portion of the proposed pipeline that would end at the gulf port of Nederland, Tex. The Corps of Engineers is still reviewing permits for a section of the pipeline beginning at a major oil depot in Cushing, Okla., and linking up with the final leg ending at the gulf.


TransCanada said Tuesday that it welcomed the permits and was awaiting approvals from the two other Corps of Engineers districts that must rule on the remaining 400 miles of pipeline route beginning in Cushing.
I guess a win is a win-but if anyone really thinks this is just about the review process during what has turned out to be a tough election year for Team Obama, then I've got some Solyndra stock I'd like to sell them...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pride And Punishment

It was apparently a good day to be gay, except for:
San Francisco police have arrested veteran gay rights advocate Larry Brinkin in connection with felony possession of child pornography.

Brinkin, 66, who worked for the San Francisco Human Rights Commission before his retirement in 2010, was taken into custody Friday night. He spent the night in jail before he was released on bail, according to a spokeswoman for the sheriff's department.

The district attorney's office will decide Tuesday whether to file charges. "We're still reviewing the case," district attorney's spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman said Monday.

Police say that Brinkin had pornographic images, some that appear to show children as young as 1 and 2 or 3 years old being sodomized and performing oral sex on adult men, in e-mail attachments linked to his account, according to a search warrant served by San Francisco police.

Representatives of America Online contacted authorities after coming across e-mail attachments from one of its subscriber's accounts containing what they believed to be child pornography.
Of course, the vast majority of gays are NOT like this-but those that are don't seem to get a great deal of notice or condemnation from those with an agenda.

Meet The New Message

As they say, is that all you got?
Four years after he tapped into a deep longing for change, President Obama is shifting back to the message that got him elected, running against Washington Gridlock and promising that his re-election can “break the stalemate” that has at times paralyzed the government over which he presides.

Obama first tested this new messagae in Cleveland earlier this month, but he developed it fully Monday during campaign stops in New Hampshre and Massaschusetts, where he stopped looking back to make the case for his accomplishments, and moved away from dwelling in te problems of the present. Instead, Obama looked to the lame duck Congressional session this fall and beyond,
taking a sledgehammer to Washington, the town his party controlled for his first two years in office.

“What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different visions of which direction we should go,” Obama told supporters, laying out the choice lawmakers will face in “taxmaggedon” — the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the host of other spending and revenue bills that Congress must take up by the end of the year.
Forward...into the past? Maybe this is why he's so worried about his campaign's fortunes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Counterfeit President

Obama may complain about cynicism, but there's a reason for that:
Nowhere is the Obama model of massive borrowing, vast increases in the size of the state, more regulations, and class warfare successful — not in California or Illinois, not in Greece, Spain, or Italy, not anywhere. Culturally, Obama might at least have played the Jimmy Carter populist and eschewed the elite world that had so mesmerized Bill Clinton. Instead, Obama proved a counterfeit populist and became enthralled with the high life of rich friends, celebrities, high-priced fundraisers, and family getaways to Martha’s Vineyard, or Costa del Sol. He somehow has set records both in the number of meet-and-greet campaign fundraisers and the number of golf rounds played. As Obama damned the fat cats and corporate jet owners, he courted them in preparation to joining them post officium.
There's a difference between pretending to be a man of the people and actually being one...

Rangle's Last Run?

According to Politico, he just wants some respect:
Hitting the trail last week, Rangel — who survived a tough reelection fight in 2010 despite the ethics case and a suggestion from President Barack Obama at the time to “end his career with dignity” — displayed an almost missionary zeal to prove his detractors wrong. Betrayal and disrespect — Rangel believes he deserves better after such a long record of service — appear to be fueling his bid at least as much as securing another two years in the House.
Hmm. If I were him, I might not want to run on that record too much...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Worrying And Waiting

As the waiting game goes on, presumably to finally end this week, Obamacare's supporters are suddenly a lot less confident than they used to be:
In passing the law two years ago, Democrats entertained little doubt that it was constitutional. The White House held a conference call to tell reporters that any legal challenge, as one Obama aide put it, “will eventually fail and shouldn’t be given too much credence in the press.”

Congress held no hearing on the plan’s constitutionality until nearly a year after it was signed into law. Representative Nancy Pelosi, then the House speaker, scoffed when a reporter asked what part of the Constitution empowered Congress to force Americans to buy health insurance. “Are you serious?” she asked with disdain. “Are you serious?”

Opponents of the health plan were indeed serious, and so was the Supreme Court, which devoted more time to hearing the case than to any other in decades. A White House that had assumed any challenge would fail now fears that a centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s presidency may be partly or completely overturned on a theory that it gave little credence. The miscalculation left the administration on the defensive as its legal strategy evolved over the last two years.

“It led to some people taking it too lightly,” said a Congressional lawyer who like others involved in drafting the law declined to be identified before the ruling. “It shouldn’t strike anybody as a close call,” the lawyer added, but “given where we are now, do I wish we had focused even more on this? I guess I would say yes.”

Looking back, Democrats said they had had every reason for confidence, given decades of Supreme Court precedents affirming Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce, and lawyers who defended the law said they had always taken the challenge seriously even if politicians had not. But they underestimated the chances that conservative judges might, in this view, radically reinterpret or discard those precedents.
It's called hubris, and has been the undoing of grand schemes in the past.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Highway To Heaven

If you wanna get to Heaven...be a criminal?
A study published in the scientific journal PLoS One by University of Oregon’s Azim Shariff and University of Kansas’s Mijke Rhemtulla finds that people who believe in hell are less likely to commit a crime while people who believe in heaven more likely are to get in trouble with the law.

The two professors collected data for belief in hell, heaven and God from the World and European Values Surveys that were conducted between 1981 until 2007 with 143,197 participants based in 67 countries. They compared the data to the mean standardized crime rate in those countries based on homicides, robberies, rapes, kidnappings, assaults, thefts, auto thefts, drug crimes, burglaries and human trafficking.

“[R]ates of belief in heaven and hell had significant, unique, and opposing effects on crime rates,” Shariff and Rhemtulla found in the study. “Belief in hell predicted lower crime rates … whereas belief in heaven predicted higher crime rates.”
If this is true, then Jerry Sandusky must be one of the biggest believers in the country...

The Decline And Fall Of the Eurozone

Why the Grand Experiment is ultimately doomed:
The euro is significantly closer to failure and Europe is closer to a meltdown after the leaders of the four biggest eurozone leaders met in Rome and made no progress whatever. The “Fab Four” (Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, France’s Francois Hollande, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Italy’s Mario Monti) reaffirmed a pre-existing agreement to make some mostly symbolic adjustments to European policy, whomping up an air souffle that the Club Med countries plus France can claim is a “growth” package, but it is mostly made of old money and spin.

Other than that, they seem to have just wasted time repeating the stale old things they have been saying to one another for more than two years. The Latin caucus told Germany how very nice it would be if Germany would pay more money to reduce their borrowing costs and Germany thanked the Latins for the advice but declined to share its ATM card and PIN with its hungry friends.
Let them eat bailouts!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Conviction

Jerry Sandusky guilty:
Jerry Sandusky was found guilty Friday night on 45 of 48 counts of child sexual molestation and faces up to 442 years in prison.

A jury of Sandusky's Centre County, Pa., neighbors determined that the former Penn State defensive coordinator sexually abused children over a 15-year period, using his stature as a local coaching hero and his position with the Second Mile charity to target and then violate at-risk kids from the area.

The jury deliberated for about 20 hours after a trial that stretched across eight days at Centre County Courthouse. The jury foreman read the counts and said "guilty" on six consecutive counts before saying "not guilty" for the first time. He read all 48 counts.
Goodbye, and good riddance.

Graduation Day

Welcome to the real world:
A Harvard University Institute of Politics survey in March and April found that more than three out of four college students expect to have a somewhat or very difficult time finding a job. And 45% expect student loans to affect their financial circumstances “a lot” after they graduate.

Their pessimism is based on the experience of the 20-somethings just ahead of them. A Rutgers University study this spring of 444 graduates who received bachelor’s degrees from 2006 to 2011 found that 51% were working full time. The rest were in graduate school, unemployed, working part time or no longer in the job market.

One in four were living with parents. Those who got jobs beginning in 2008, the height of the Great Recession, earned a starting salary, on average, 10% less than those graduates who entered the job market in 2006 and 2007, according to the Rutgers survey. All this has happened as the total amount of student loan debt in the USA surpassed $900 billion.
Where did Hope and Change go? Into somebody else's pocket...

Blogging In The Years: 1936

The government attempts to explain how its new Social Security scheme will be paid for:
The taxes called for in this law will be paid both by your employer and by you. For the next 3 years you will pay maybe 15 cents a week, maybe 25 cents a week, maybe 30 cents or more, according to what you earn. That is to say, during the next 3 years, beginning January 1, 1937, you will pay 1 cent for every dollar you earn, and at the same time your employer will pay 1 cent for every dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. Twenty-six million other workers and their employers will be paying at the same time.

After the first 3 year--that is to say, beginning in 1940--you will pay, and your employer will pay, 1.5 cents for each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. This will be the tax for 3 years, and then, beginning in 1943, you will pay 2 cents, and so will your employer, for every dollar you earn for the next 3 years. After that, you and your employer will each pay half a cent more for 3 years, and finally, beginning in 1949, twelve years from now, you and your employer will each pay 3 cents on each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. That is the most you will ever pay.
As with most other government programs, this pledge should be taken with a large grain of salt. The bigger question is, what to do when the money begins to run out for our grandchildren?

Executive Defense

Why are they doing it?
The mystery remains, however, why Democrats on Capitol Hill — who may well face a Romney administration next year, have an institutional interest in preserving Congress’s ability to conduct oversight and are struggling not to go down with the Obama campaign (which is taking on water at an alarming rate — should defend the president on this one. Whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath or this is much to do about nothing, why prolong ad elevate the scandal?

The defense of Obama’s flimsy executive privilege claim is bad politics and bad law (unlike Obama’s immigration edict, which is good politics and bad law). The impulse in politics is to circle the wagons whenever “your side” is attacked. Hence the left-wing blogosphere and congressional Democrats, who regard Republican executive imperialism as akin to an anti-democratic coup, find nothing wrong with the administration’s stonewalling. This is the triumph of political partisanship over principle. Liberals certainly don’t believe in the flimsy use of executive privilege, except, of course, if Obama is wielding the privilege and there’s an election coming up.
You know your argument is bad when Jon Stewart isn't buying it.

Flipping Reagan

How do a group of gay activists show their respect? By giving a guy who's no longer around to defend himself the finger:
“It’s not a gesture that I would use in the White House when representing our city and our community,” opines Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal (center), who opted for a sarcastic thumbs-up pose in front of the portrait of George W. Bush over the more vulgar one demonstrated by his Reagan-loathing peers, Matthew “Matty” Hart (left), the national director of public engagement at Solutions for Progress, and self-taught photographer turned toast-of-the-town Zoe Strauss (right).

“I have friends who work in that building,” Segal explains. “I’m not going to do something that could embarrass them or that could somehow damage a campaign that is so important. ‘Be on your best behavior,’ my staff told me.’ I think they know me too well.”
....

But his counterparts couldn’t seem to care less. Hart posted his photo on Facebook with the caption, “Fuck Reagan.” Strauss simply posted hers without commentary. After all, the murderous facial expression and double-barreled bird-flipping seem to speak for themselves. Comments ranged from “you forgot to add with a chainsaw” on Hart’s “Fuck Reagan” note, to my personal favorite, “star wars … up yours,” on Strauss’s. ...

“Yeah, fuck Reagan,” reiterates Hart one week after the reception. “Ronald Reagan has blood on his hands. The man was in the WhiteHouse as AIDS exploded, and he was happy to see plenty of gay men and queer people die. He was a murderous fool, and I have no problem saying so. Don’t invite me back. I don’t care.”
I'm sorry, but the real fools seem to be the ones who were posing...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dodd-Frank's Downfall?

One can only hope:
The State National Bank of Big Spring, Texas, today filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to hear its case challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Competitive Enterprise Institute and the 60 Plus Association are also joining this community bank as plaintiffs in the same action, requesting the Court to invalidate the law because of the unprecedented, unchecked power it gives the government.
“No other federal agency or commission operates in such a way that one person can essentially determine who gets a home loan, who can get a credit card and who can get a loan for college,” said Jim Purcell, CEO of State National Bank. “Dodd-Frank effectively gives unlimited regulatory power to this so-called Consumer Financial Protection Board, also known as CFPB, with a director who is not accountable to Congress, the President or the Courts. That is simply unconstitutional.”
Many attempts at "reform" are...

Wait For It

The word from SCOTUS on Obamacare is...not yet:
The Supreme Court did not rule on President Obama's healthcare law Thursday, raising tensions before a decision next week.

The ruling was possible Thursday but not expected. The court traditionally holds its biggest decisions until the last day of the term, and the healthcare case is among the most highly anticipated decisions in decades, overshadowing the current term.

The next possible day for a decision is Monday, but justices will add more days to the schedule later next week.
The Court did hand down two other big rulings, the first on unions and the second on network fines. Is this an indication of how the Court might rule on Obamacare?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An EPA Cutoff?

We'll see how well this plays out:
The House GOP on Wednesday advanced a 2013 spending bill with deep cuts and limitations to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill cuts EPA by $1.4 billion, about 17 percent, compared to current funding. The GOP points out that this brings the EPA below fiscal 1998 funding.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who hails from coal country, said he is especially proud of the measure, which was advanced from subcommittee to the full spending panel on a voice vote.

“This represents the strong concerns of this Congress over the EPA’s unprecedented effort to drive certain industries to extinction with a cocktail of burdensome regulations, questionable guidance policies, and arbitrary enforcement measures — all designed to shut down the permitting process for energy exploration and production,” he said.
The EPA needs some reigning in, if only to remind them that their job is to actually protect the environment, not advance a radical anti-business or anti-human agenda. Here's hoping it survives more or less intact.

Gungate

So the House Republicans voted, and now:
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday invoked executive privilege to withhold from a Congressional oversight committee some documents and communications among his advisers regarding the failed gun enforcement operation known as “Fast and Furious,” in which weapons purchased in the United States were allowed to cross into Mexico.

It was the first time since Mr. Obama took office that he has asserted the privilege, and it sharpened considerably the long-festering dispute between Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Representative Darrell Issa of California, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The panel had been threatening to find Mr. Holder in contempt for refusing to hand over some documents.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a letter to Mr. Issa that the president was claiming privilege over the documents, although he suggested that there might yet be a way to negotiate the release of some of the contested documents.

“We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious,” the Justice Department letter said. “Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues.”

But Mr. Issa said that the House had received no letter from Mr. Obama himself or a log specifying what was being withheld. He also raised doubts about whether executive privilege covered internal deliberative documents that did not relate to confidential communications involving the president himself.
I guess this officially makes it a scandal. So much for transparency.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Whatever We Need

Like, whatever:
United Nations Development Programme head Helen Clark told AFP in an interview: “So the issue is how to get human development that will see it continue to rise for the world’s poorest people and people in developing countries. Because frankly human development in the West – we don’t need more cars, more TV, whatever. Our needs are by and large satisfied, although the recession has put a lot of strains on that.”
We also don't need the New Imperialists at the UN telling people what they need and don't need. So, whatever, lady.

A Cure For Violence

Guns sales go up, crime goes down:
Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that violent crime decreased 4 percent in 2011. The number of murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults all went down, continuing a pattern.

“This is not a one-year anomaly, but a steady decline in the FBI’s violent-crime rates,” said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association. “It would be disingenuous for anyone to not credit increased self-defense laws to account for this decline.”

Mr. Arulanandam pointed out that only a handful of states had concealed-carry programs 25 years ago, when the violent-crime rate peaked. Today, 41 states either allow carrying without a permit or have “shall issue” laws that make it easy for just about any noncriminal to get a permit. Illinois and Washington, D.C., are the only places that refuse to recognize the right to bear arms.
Not everybody wants gift cards...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sorkin's Folly

The New Yorker, of all places, has some unkind words for Aaron Sorkin's latest effort:
if you enjoyed “The West Wing,” Sorkin’s helpful counterprogramming to the Bush Administration, your ears will prick up. The pilot of “The Newsroom” is full of yelling and self-righteousness, but it’s got energy, just like “The West Wing,” Sorkin’s “Sports Night,” and his hit movie “The Social Network.” The second episode is more obviously stuffed with piety and syrup, although there’s one amusing segment, when McAvoy mocks some right-wing idiots. After that, “The Newsroom” gets so bad so quickly that I found my jaw dropping. The third episode is lousy (and devolves into lectures that are chopped into montages). The fourth episode is the worst. There are six to go.

Sorkin is often presented as one of the auteurs of modern television, an innovator and an original voice. But he’s more logically placed in a school of showrunners who favor patterspeak, point-counterpoint, and dialogue-driven tributes to the era of screwball romance. Some of this banter is intelligent; just as often, however, it’s artificial intelligence, predicated on the notion that more words equals smarter. Besides Sorkin, these creators include Shonda Rhimes (whose Washington melodrama, “Scandal,” employs cast members from “The West Wing”); Amy Sherman-Palladino, of “The Gilmore Girls” (and the appealing new “Bunheads”); and David E. Kelley, who created “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal.” Sorkin is supposed to be on a different level from his peers: longer words, worldlier topics. And many viewers clearly buy into this idea: years after Sorkin’s terrible, fascinating “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” was cancelled, I still occasionally run into someone who insists that Americans were just too stupid to get it.

As Dan Rather might put it, that dog won’t hunt. Sorkin’s shows are the type that people who never watch TV are always claiming are better than anything else on TV. The shows’ air of defiant intellectual superiority is rarely backed up by what’s inside—all those Wagnerian rants, fingers poked in chests, palms slammed on desks, and so on. In fact, “The Newsroom” treats the audience as though we were extremely stupid.
One thing that "The West Wing" didn't do was treat the audience like dummies. It sounds like Sorkin has finally just decided to say openly what many in Hollywood already think of those rubes in flyover country.

Ride Now, Lobby Later

Are they really this desperate?
Amtrak is sending emails to inform customers that they will get a discount on their train tickets if they donate money to organizations that will then lobby for more Amtrak subsidies.
....

Okay, let me see if I get this straight. First, a commercial business (Amtrak) is 100 percent owned by the federal government. It means that whatever money it needs to cover its cost that isn’t paid for by selling services to customers, it gets in subsidies from taxpayers. Second, Amtrak is effectively calling for actions by its customers that will indirectly increase the amount you and I will have to pay in subsidies (that’s the 10 percent discount on Amtrak rail fares) and increase lobbying efforts for the company to get more subsidies.
It's not exactly a winning business model...

Strikeout

Roger Clemens is a free man:
The verdict, which was rendered by a panel of eight women and four men who are largely uninterested in baseball, came on the second full day of deliberations. It was a major, especially painful, defeat for the government in its second failed attempt at convicting a player whose legal problems highlighted baseball’s continuing drug woes. As the counts of not guilty were announced in the courtroom, Clemens bit his lip and appeared to wipe tears from his eyes.

When it was clear he had been acquitted, Clemens hugged his wife and their three sons.

Last spring, Clemens’s initial trial ended in a mistrial on only the second day of testimony when prosecutors bungled by showing the jury inadmissible evidence. Critics said the prosecution of an athlete like Clemens — a seven-time Cy Young Award winner — was a waste of government time and money, but the United States attorney’s office in Washington pressed forward anyway.
If it wasn't a waste of time and money, it wouldn't have been worth the government's time...

Censorship Overspill

Supposedly democratic governments seem to be increasingly worried:
Western governments, including the United States, appear to be stepping up efforts to censor Internet search results and YouTube videos, according to a "transparency report" released by Google.

"It's alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect -- Western democracies not typically associated with censorship," Dorothy Chou, a senior policy analyst at Google, wrote in a blog post on Sunday night.

"For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn't comply with either of these requests."

In the last half of 2011, U.S. agencies asked Google to remove 6,192 individual pieces of content from its search results, blog posts or archives of online videos, according to the report. That's up 718% compared with the 757 such items that U.S. agencies asked Google to remove in the six months prior.
If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the Internets...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hey, We Tried

Austan Goolsbee says that Obama should come clean:
Goolsbee: “I think Matt’s right that we ought to come forward — and both sides — and the president should have a mea culpa, that we have gotten into a place that was very different from what the campaign wanted it to be from 2008, one in which — and, look, I think you could blame more the Republicans, but I’m sure the Republicans would say more you blame the president, but we got to — we got to back away from that. Otherwise, we’re not going to be able to confront this pretty serious challenge at the time when we — when we could do it.”

Earlier in the show ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd suggested that President Obama should issue a mea culpa to help address the partisan divide in Washington that, Dowd argued, is a partial result of Obama pushing a partisan health care law after running on a message of unity during the 2008 campaign. Here’s what Dowd said this morning:
Dowd: “I think — I think the president — the only thing I’d say about the president — I think his message is right, but he should start with a mea culpa, because the president in 2008 ran on this exactly same message. President Bush ran on this and didn’t do it and basically made the country more polarized.”
Things have apparently come full circle...

"Can't We All Just Get Along?"

Rodney King, symbol of the 1992 L.A. Riots, dead at 47:
The police in Rialto, Calif., said they received a 911 call at 5:25 a.m. Sunday from Mr. King’s fiancĂ©e, Cynthia Kelley, who reported finding him at the bottom of his swimming pool. Mr. King, 47, had been living in Rialto, a small middle-class city, for several years.

Police arrived and removed Mr. King’s body from the pool and tried to resuscitate him. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m.

Lt. Dean Hardin of the Rialto police said that officers were investigating the case as a drowning and that there are no signs of foul play. The San Bernardino County coroner’s office will perform an autopsy.

In the two decades since the riots, Mr. King has been in and out of jail and rehabilitation centers, mostly for drug and alcohol abuse. He has been arrested multiple times for driving under the influence, and spent short stints in prison in the late 1990s for assaulting his ex-wife and daughter. In recent years he has appeared on the television shows “Celebrity Rehab” and “Sober Living” on VH1.
It looks like the rehab didn't take...also, found at the bottom of a swimming pool? A tragic, yet how California, ending...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Atom Smashers

Via Hot Air, a historical palet cleanser, as Obama gets his wrong again:
It wasn’t Americans who “unlocked the mystery of the atom.” There were multiple scientists from several cultures involved in identifying the particles that make up the atom, but none of them were American. G. Johnstone Stoney, the physicist who first postulated a minimum unit of electrical charge (which he called the electron) was an Englishman of Irish descent. J. J. Thomson, the man who confirmed Stoney’s conjecture, was also a Brit. Other scientists contributed to our understanding of subatomic particles and their role in the overall structure of the atom and include Ernest Rutherford, James Chadwick, Wolfgang Pauli—a New Zealander, another Englishman, and an Austrian, respectively.
It's probably more accurate to say that we were the first to use the atom successfully in both war and peace-but they got there before us. As an addendum, here's a classic WKRP clip wherein the atom is explained:

Much Ado About Fracking

When it comes to fracking, the hype and hysteria doesn't quite match reality:
The controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas does not pose a high risk for triggering earthquakes large enough to feel, but other types of energy-related drilling can make the ground noticeably shake, a major government science report concludes.

Even those man-made tremors large enough to be an issue are very rare, says a special report by the National Research Council. In more than 90 years of monitoring, human activity has been shown to trigger only 154 quakes, most of them moderate or small, and only 60 of them in the United States. That's compared to a global average of about 14,450 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater every year, said the report, released Friday.

Most of those are caused by gas and oil drilling the conventional way, damming rivers, deep injections of wastewater and purposeful flooding.

Only two worldwide instances of shaking — a magnitude 2.8 tremor in Oklahoma and a 2.3 magnitude shaking in England— can be attributed to hydraulic fracturing, a specific method of extracting gas by injection of fluids sometimes called "fracking," the report said. Both were last year.

"There's a whole bunch of wells that have been drilled, let's say for wastewater and the number of events have been pretty small," said report chairman Murray Hitzman, a professor of economic geology at the Colorado School of Mines. "Is it a huge problem? The report says basically no. Is it something we should look at and think about? Yes."
The bottom line is, there's not a whole lot of shaking going on. That's not stopping some people from their anti-fracking crusade, but this will be good news for those who are willing to take a more reasonable approach.

The Audacity Of The Executive

Obama's immigration order continues a trend:
As with other Obama decisions to ignore parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, not prosecute medical marijuana, and allow some states to opt out of No Child Left Behind provisions, the immigration order became perhaps the boldest decision yet by a president seeking reelection, critics say, to ignore laws passed by Congress in order to achieve a political objective, setting a troubling precedent for the power of the presidency.

In some ways, it’s part of the evolution of an “imperial Presidency,” a term used by historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. to describe Richard Nixon’s challenges to traditional checks and balances. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, also used a broad definition of presidential power to issue so-called signing statements where he declared parts of new laws unconstitutional and thus unenforceable by the commander-in-chief.

But whereas Bush reserved most of those powers for issues of national defense in wartime, Obama has expanded the president’s power into issues that are live wires in America’s political and cultural battlefields – gay marriage, marijuana, education, immigration – while reshaping the powers of the Oval Office in his wake. At some point, critics say, the question becomes: Who can check the President?
Apparently, no one-and for the Left, apparently that's fine.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Deciders

One ego strokes the other:
Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation’s future.
“You’re the tie-breaker,” he said. “You’re the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes.”
Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama’s remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour…
The president and Mrs. Obama also headlined a second glitzy fundraiser in Manhattan Thursday night that included a performance from singer Mariah Carey and remarks by singer Alicia Keys. The 250-person dinner yielded the Obama campaign at least $2.5 million.
Yep, they're regular folks, just like Joe Biden.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

About Those Tax Cuts...

It seems they weren't entirely bad, as another Democrat goes off message:

Head Games

Is the head story dead yet?
HBO has apologized for using a model head of former President George W. Bush in a grisly decapitation scene for its hit drama "Game of Thrones."

The tenth episode of the first season of "Game of Thrones," now out on DVD, features the younger Bush's head on a stake. Commentary on the DVD notes that his head appears in a "couple of beheading scenes."

The show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss stated that George W. Bush's was used as physical inspiration to create a head for a scene in which King Joffrey shows Sansa Stark her deceased father's head on a stick.

"It's not a choice, not a political statement!" one of the writers insisted during the DVD commentary. "We just had to use what heads we had around."
In all fairness to the producers, it probably was unintentional. Besides, Hollywood types seem to have a problem remembering that the guy has been out of office for some time now...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Food Kings

And thus it begins...
The board hand-picked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that must approve his ban of selling large sugar-filled drinks at restaurants might be looking at other targets.

The New York City Board of Health showed support for limiting sizes of sugary drinks at a Tuesday meeting in Queens. They agreed to start the process to formalize the large-drink ban by agreeing to start a six-week public comment period.

At the meeting, some of the members of board said they should be considering other limits on high-calorie foods.

One member, Bruce Vladeck, thinks limiting the sizes for movie theater popcorn should be considered.

"The popcorn isn't a whole lot better than the soda," Vladeck said.

Another board member thinks milk drinks should fall under the size limits.

"There are certainly milkshakes and milk-coffee beverages that have monstrous amounts of calories," said board member Dr. Joel Forman.
First they came for the sodas...

Carbon Skies

China isn't happy about the European Union's carbon rules:
China will take swift counter-measures that could include impounding European aircraft if the EU punishes Chinese airlines for not complying with its scheme to curb carbon emissions, the China Air Transport Association said on Tuesday.

The warning came as the U.N.'s aviation body expressed concern about the growing threat of bilateral reprisals.

Chinese airlines, which have been told by Beijing not to comply with the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme, refused to meet a March 31 deadline for submitting carbon emissions data.

A new stand-off looms after EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the carriers would have until the end of this week to submit their data or face enforcement action.

"Chinese airlines are unanimous on this. We won't provide the data," Wei Zhenzhong, secretary general of the China Air Transport Association, said on the sidelines of an International Air Transport Association (IATA) meeting in Beijing.

EU member states can fine airlines for non-compliance or carry out other reprisals including impounding aircraft.

"We would not like to see a situation of 'you hold up my planes and I hold yours'," Wei said.
And what, pray tell, would the EU do then? Welcome to the New Imperialism...

Chopper Wars

The bad news? Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syria. The bad news? We're buying helicopters from the same Russian company:
The Pentagon on Tuesday defended plans to buy attack helicopters from a Russian arms firm for the Afghan government even though the same company has supplied weapons to Syria's regime.

US senators have voiced dismay at the deal with Rosoboronexport, but defense officials said the contract with the firm was the only way to bolster Afghanistan's fleet of Russian-made choppers.

"We're not buying helicopters for the Syrian regime. We're buying helicopters in support of the Afghan Air Force," press secretary George Little told reporters.

Senator John Cornyn, in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday, expressed outrage at the purchase of Mi-17 helicopters for Afghanistan from Rosoboronexport.

"I remain deeply troubled that the DoD (Department of Defense) would knowingly do business with a firm that has enabled mass atrocities in Syria.

"Such actions by Rosoboronexport warrant the renewal of US sanctions against it, not a billion-dollar DoD contract," Cornyn wrote.

The United States plans to buy 21 Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan military from Russia's Rosoboronexport by 2016. The contract totals $375 million by 2016, with an option to buy additional aircraft worth $550 million.

Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby said: "This particular contract is the only method legally available to the department to provide those aircraft and, just as importantly, safe and reliable spare parts and equipment to support those aircraft for the Afghan military."
Isn't that what we have American helicopter manufacturers for?

Wishful Thinking

Joy Behar displays more of that liberal civility we've heard so much about:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Can We Criticize?

The latest bold new critic of Obama's policies speaks out:
Rivers agreed with the notion that the president’s policies were unfairly harsh to the rich, saying, “I think if I work very hard, I should be able to gather the fruits of my labor. And I think if you’re not about to work, you should get minimal and leave me alone. I think if you don’t wear a helmet and you fall off your bike, you pay for the doctor.”

Despite her comments Rivers added that she’s not interested in “making a political statement” and explained why she hates politics so much.

“They’re all a bunch of garbage,” said Rivers. “I’m definitely in favor of a monarchy because they’re there, they look good, and they always have good gift shops when you leave the palace. … I feel that it’s just all about party affiliation and it’s all about voting the way your party wants to vote and it’s not at all about what we should be about.”
Well, you could argue that we already have a drama queen in the White House...

Doing Fine?

Team Obama's message on the economy isn't working:
Democracy Corps, the political consulting group run by Greenberg and Carville, showed several Obama campaign commercials to focus groups in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Several of the group members, who were "all independents or weak partisans and ticket-splitters" and included both Obama and McCain voters from 2008, became irritated when shown Obama ads touting economic improvement. They don't see that improvement in their own lives, the report says, and they don't believe Obama when he claims things are better.

"The spots that simply talk about progress on the economy did not do well," Greenberg and Carville write. "The first offered a graphic depiction of job decline during the early months of the recession and job growth under President Obama. The second highlighted progress on jobs in the automobile industry. These ads did not win over most Obama voters….Half the participants in the groups had voted for Obama, but less than a quarter gave [the auto ad] a positive rating. The spot displaying the job growth graph did not fare much better: only about one-third (12 out of 34) gave this a positive rating."

"It's like how things are getting better? Where?" asked one non-college-educated woman in Columbia, Ohio. "I don't see it. Makes me mad." Even Obama's oft-made claim that he saved the auto industry angered some. "The auto industry spot, surprisingly, produces a lot of resentment," Greenberg and Carville write. "Women in particular did not see how it related to them, and even some men working outside manufacturing thought it left them out." As one woman in Ohio said: "Good job for the autoworkers, but where does that leave my grandchildren?"

After extensive interviews with the groups, Greenberg and Carville conclude that Obama's current campaign message -- that he inherited a terrible economy but that now things are getting better -- is disastrously wrong. "We will face an impossible headwind in November if we do not move to a new narrative," Greenberg and Carville write, "one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class."
Isn't what they want to do what people are afraid of?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Emily Explains

Meet the anti-Julia:

Crosstown Traffic

It appears the Commerce Secretary was involved in an accident:
Bryson was driving a Lexus in the 400 block of South San Gabriel Boulevard shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, when he allegedly rear-ended a Buick as it was waiting for a train to pass, according to a statement released by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the San Gabriel Police Department.
After briefly stopping to talk to the three men inside the Buick, Bryson left the location in the Lexus and then struck the Buick a second time, authorities said. The men followed Bryson’s car and called 911 to ask for police assistance.
Bryson continued to drive his Lexus into Rosemead, which is patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. There, he allegedly crashed into a second vehicle near the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and Hellman Avenue.
There authorities found him alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his car.
Bryson was treated at the scene by Los Angeles County firefighters. Authorities said drugs or alcohol do not appear to have played a role in the crash. They said Bryson was cooperative. He was cited for felony hit and run but was not booked into jail because he had been admitted to the hospital. His condition was not known.
It was apparently a medical condition. And, to top it all off, he wasn't even driving an American car.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Vicious Truth

Lanny Davis goes after Team Obama:

Save Our Wind Farms?

From the man known as Bush's Brain, really?
Renewal of federal tax credits for wind energy can save U.S. jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil, according to Karl Rove, an adviser to former President George W. Bush.
“We’ve got a growing economy that’s increasing energy consumption and wind energy should be part of the solution,” Rove said today on a panel at a wind conference in Atlanta. Extending the so-called production tax credit “should be a priority.”
A bill to extend through 2016 the 2.2-cent-a-kilowatt-hour credit for electricity produced by wind turbines, biomass, geothermal and landfill-gas plants has stalled in congress along with about 100 other expiring tax-related incentives.
With all due respect to Mr. Rove, there may be a reason for that. As with solar energy, it may be in our future, but it won't come from failed subsidies. Here's hoping Mr. Rove explains himself further.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Owl City

I don't think Wyatt Earp would have put up with this:
Tombstone is trying to repair a 26-mile pipeline that has brought mountain spring water into the city since 1881. It was damaged during last summer's Monument Fire and monsoon rains that brought mud, water and boulders crashing down the denuded slopes.

The Miller Peak Wilderness Area, where owls nest in the trees above Tombstone's pipeline, was hit particularly hard. Sections of pipeline simply vanished, and Tombstone's reservoir ran dry by August.

Kevin Rudd, project manager for the Tombstone pipeline, said the repaired pipeline needs to be shored up or it surely will be washed away when the monsoon rains return next month. Planned tasks for the shovel brigade include reinforcing the spring and diverting its flow by using boulders, sand, downed trees and other flood debris.

As for the owl, nobody could say for certain after the fire whether it would return. But it's the big reason why the Forest Service wouldn't simply hand Tombstone a permit to use heavy construction equipment to fix the pipeline. Tombstone responded by taking the feds to court. Since then, the conflict has escalated, taking on a life of its own.

Tombstone now asserts that it owns 25 springs in the Huachuca Mountains and shouldn't have to ask anyone for permission to maintain its own water line. The Forest Service says Tombstone holds permits for just five springs, and it argues the city is trying to exploit a natural disaster to expand its water system.
Because we all know how well the Feds have responded to natural disasters in the past...

The Endgame Quote?

How and why Obama stepped in it:
Now, it is not the case that the president is finished because he said, “The private sector is doing fine” — even though those were the very words he spoke yesterday, the week after a jump in the unemployment rate and a downward revision of the GDP.

It’s just one quote, after all, and a lot can happen in five months. And while it’s inarguably a huge gift to the Romney campaign — one worth approximately three George Clooneys and six Sarah Jessica Parkers — the president’s rival is certainly capable of making blunders that will hand back some of the advantage.

No, “The private sector is doing fine” may prove to be the pivotal moment for the 2012 campaign because of what it demonstrates about the president’s ideas as he heads into the fight of his life.
It wasn't exactly a crowning moment in his campaign. Plus, this:
Democrats seem to be inching away from their man, undermining and diminishing the president with a thousand tiny cuts. Not even his strongest alleged ally, Bill Clinton, can stay on message. Of course, Clinton has never really been Obama’s friend, despite his assertions to the contrary. Does Clinton think that Obama has been a good president? Of course not. He thinks that he was a good president and that his wife would have been better than Obama. . . . In the political jungle, where people tend to be more Darwinian than divine, he is wounded and the pack is beginning to turn. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who could be a hockey mom if he wore lipstick, recently told CBS’s Charlie Rose that Hillary Clinton would have been a better president. Yes, that is blood you smell.
Oh, how they continue to turn...

Friday, June 08, 2012

You're Not All That

Finally, a teacher who tells it like it is:
A straight-talking English teacher at Wellesley High School set out to take students down a notch in his speech to the class of 2012, by telling them they’re nothing special.

“You are not special. You are not exceptional,” David McCullough Jr. told graduating seniors from the affluent Massachusetts town last weekend.
....

"Yes, you've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped," McCullough said in his speech. “Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You've been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You've been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. ... But do not get the idea you're anything special. Because you're not."
In other words, get over yourselves already...

"I Am Not A Leaker"

President Obama is shocked that there is leaking going on in his establishment:

To Extend Or Not To Extend

What hath Bill Clinton wrought?
Senate Democratic leaders are politically paralyzed on how to proceed on the Bush-era tax rates.

With five months to go before the election, President Obama and key congressional Democrats remain at odds on whether the threshold for extending the George W. Bush-era rates for families should be $250,000 per year or $1 million annually. Obama backs the former while most Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), support the higher threshold.
....

Democratic leaders maintain they are content to play defense, but are worried that some vulnerable Democrats might defect and support a temporary extension of all the Bush-era rates, which would undercut their negotiating position.

Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.), two Democrats facing tough races this year, on Thursday declined to rule out support for an across-the-board extension of the rates.

“If you want to do something in the spirit of compromise, you don’t start out by saying, ‘I refuse to do this’ or ‘I refuse to do that,’ ” said McCaskill. “It’s not my preference to extend tax cuts to multimillionaires — that’s not my preference — but I want to keep every option open in the spirit of compromise.”

Said Nelson, “I can’t get into a hypothetical.”

Democrats from Republican-leaning states are also undecided.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who is up for reelection in 2014, said he is undecided about whether to support another temporary extension of the Bush tax rates for all income brackets.
Suddenly, going after the wealthy doesn't seem to be all that popular...

Obamacare Numbers II

Confirmed: Obamacare actually is unpopular:
According to the CNN/ORC International survey, 51% of Americans say they oppose the health care law, while 43% say they favor it. It’s important to note, however, that of those who disagree with the law, only a third oppose it because it’s too liberal, while one in six oppose it because it doesn’t go far enough.

The breakdown falls in line with the poll’s last results in March, when the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments over the law’s constitutionality.

At issue is the fate of the law’s individual mandate that requires most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face a financial penalty. During the court’s March hearings, justices showed they were sharply divided in their views on the case.

As for immigration, the new survey indicates three-quarters of Americans support the contentious Arizona law that allows police to arrest or detain suspected illegal immigrants during the enforcement of other laws.

Asked if they support the measure, 75% of respondents say they are in favor of it, while 24% say they are against it, the poll shows.
So will it now be "increasingly" unpopular, or just "unexpectedly?"

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Filibuster Frustration

Harry Reid is fed up:
A frustrated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he and other Democrats would likely push for changes to Senate filibuster rules if the Democrats hold the Senate in November, and blamed Republican obstructionism for forcing these changes.

"I'll just bet you … if we maintain a majority, and I feel quite confident that we can do that, and the president is reelected, there is going to be some changes," Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. "We can no longer go through this, every bill, filibusters on bills that they agree with. It's just a waste of time to prevent us from getting things done."
....

Republicans immediately noted that Reid specified that he would press for these changes only if the Democrats hold the Senate, and said that seemed to imply that Democrats would favor current filibuster rules if they were suddenly in the minority. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added that those who oppose Democratic plans for the economy are grateful for the ability to disrupt these plans.

"Americans saw what happened when Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate: Obamacare, Stimulus and massive new job-killing regulations were rushed through Congress," said McConnell aide Don Stewart.
In other words, Harry is upset that there's no more free ride...

Health Care Numbers

Obamacare is becoming increasingly unpopular:
More than two-thirds of Americans hope the Supreme Court will overturn some or all of the 2010 health care law, according to a new poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News. Just 24 percent said they hoped the court “would keep the entire health care law in place.”
....

Forty-one percent of those surveyed said the court should strike down the entire law, and another 27 percent said the justices should overturn only the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.

These numbers have not changed much in recent months and appeared to be largely unaffected by the more than six hours of arguments in the Supreme Court in March.
There was greater Republican opposition to the law than Democratic support. About two-thirds of Republicans in the recent survey said the entire law should be overturned, while 43 percent of Democrats said all of the law should be upheld.

More than 70 percent of independent voters said they wanted to see some or all of the law struck down, with a majority saying they hoped to see the whole law overturned. Twenty-two percent of independents said they hoped the entire law would survive.
It will be a telling legacy for Obama indeed if his signature domestic achievement is consigned to history-along with, perhaps, his presidency in November.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Devices Of Reform

One reason why Obamacare should be repealed: Paying for it will cripple innovation:
My colleague Robert Book has written a compelling analysis of Obamacare’s medical-device tax, which concludes that it will destroy about 14,000 and perhaps up to 47,100 jobs. The 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices is a savage blow to innovation. Note that this tax is on sales, not profits. It cuts into the top line, not the bottom line. If not repealed, this tax will start hitting medical-device makers on January 1, 2013.
Another colleague, Benjamin Zycher, has come at the tax from a different angle: In an analysis that concludes that the tax will lead to a reduction in research and development by about $2 billion every year, Zycher estimates how many patients will suffer early deaths because of the throttling of innovation.
Fortunately, there seems to be plenty of opposition to the tax. Unfortunately, the powers that be seem determined to keep it.

The Night Life In Tunisia

In the place where the Arab Spring began, the revolution has given way to the prohibitionists:
The other night we stopped at a Tunisian hotel, a clean and modest place with features that reminded me of an old Holiday Inn where my family stayed as a kid. At first it seemed the main difference was that, being in Tunisia, the hotel was next door to the ancient ruins of a magnificent Roman temple.

Over dinner in the hotel restaurant, one of my traveling companions ordered a beer, only to have a staff member in his red blazer inform us sadly that the hotel did not serve alcohol. Later, the staff member whispered more of the story: If we had only arrived sooner, he would have been able to serve the beer.

A few days before our visit, he said, conservative religious activists came to the hotel and objected to the serving of alcohol, particularly on Friday, the Muslim holy day.

These activists have been making news all over Tunisia, pressing bars and liquor stores to close. Hoping to avoid trouble, the hotel cut off liquor sales entirely. A cocktail shaker stood sad and unused on the shelf behind the vacant bar.

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has gone from battling dictatorship to battling a broad range of issues, including alcohol.
First, they came for the beer drinkers...

The Bradbury Chronicles

Ray Bradbury, RIP:
By many estimations Mr. Bradbury was the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. His name would appear near the top of any list of major science-fiction writers of the 20th century, beside those of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein and the Polish author Stanislaw Lem.

In Mr. Bradbury’s lifetime more than eight million copies of his books were sold in 36 languages. They included the short-story collections “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man” and “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” and the novels “Fahrenheit 451” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

Though none won a Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Bradbury received a Pulitzer citation in 2007 “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
He deserved it. Farewell to one of the last surviving masters from science fiction's Golden Age.

The Day After

The post-recall meltdown begins, per here, and here. Plus, perhaps the ultimate reaction:



They weren't the only ones who seemed to have trouble coping. Meanwhile, the "Walker Effect" seems to be spreading.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

In The End, Extend

The Bush tax cuts should be extended, says...Bill Clinton?
Former President Bill Clinton told CNBC Tuesday that the US economy already is in a recession and urged Congress to extend all the tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year.

In a taped interview aired on "Closing Bell," the still-popular 42nd president called the current economic conditions a "recession" and said overzealous Republican plans to cut the deficit threaten to plunge the country further into the debt abyss.
....

However, Clinton did say that Congress would be best off agreeing, at least for the time being, to extend all the tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year, including the so-called Bush tax cuts named after Clinton's successor, George W. Bush.

Those across-the-board cuts have been criticized by Democrats who say they were skewed toward upper-income earners.
Artur Davis was right-it's not Clinton's Democratic Party anymore...

Drink Your Non-Poison

James Lileks goes after Bloomberg and the Food Police:
Let's get one thing clear: when the TV talk-show people lavish praise on the idea, it has nothing to do with some abstract notion of the costs of obesity. They just don’t like fat people. Fat people, at best, are a rebuke their own finicky vanity - I look good, why can’t you? - and at the worst, aesthetically unpleasant. If they all went away, the trim pert types woudl miss them after a while, and realize that people no longer came pre-packaged in a style that made them easy to dismiss.

A thin woman with three children by three men who can't get by is an object of concern. A fat women with two kids who can't get by is a toad, and probably a smoker.

A culture that redefines food choices as moral issues will demonize the people who don’t share the tastes of the priest class. A culture that elevates eating to some holistic act of ethical self-definition - localvore, low-carbon-impact food, fair trade, artisanal cheese - will find the casual carefree choices of the less-enlightened as an affront to their belief system. Leave it to Americans to invent a Puritan strain of Epicurianism.
....

As I said, it’s not about health. If it was, no one would mention the cost of obesity. It’s an issue only because the rest of us have to pay for it? If that’s the case, then there’s no end to the restrictions we can conjure up and impose with equal parts of sadness and resolution.
Have a nannystate, and a smile...

The Smell Of Cheese

The Wisconsin Democrats seem to be getting desperate:
With only about four hours into the Election Day voting, members of the Milwaukee Democratic Party claim that calls are going out to voters telling them if they'd signed the recall, they didn't need to vote today.

Milwaukee County Dem Chair Sachin Chheda said that Walker supporters can't get through the day without "cheating."

“This latest lowlife sleaze comes on the heels of countless reports from around the state of various Republican dirty tricks on behalf of Walker," Chheda said in a statement. "For instance, reports surfaced last weekend that Walker supporters are paying homeowners to post Walker signs on their lawns."

A state GOP source dismissed the claims, saying it was expected from Dems who have made voter suppression claims part of their playbook.

"That’s just what they do, they’re simply setting the stage for a close election," the source said. "The story doesn't exist until they provide evidence."
Making stuff up at the last minute isn't the mark of confidence...

Monday, June 04, 2012

Bullet Train In Vain

Californians are now having second thoughts about their high-speed train:
A new poll shows almost three fifths would oppose the bullet train and halt public borrowing if given another chance to vote.

Almost seven in 10 said that, if the train ever does run between Los Angeles and San Francisco, they would "never or hardly ever" use it.

Not a single person said they would use it more than once a week, and only 33 per cent said they would prefer the bullet train over a one hour plane journey or seven hour drive. The cost of a ticket, estimated at $123 each way, also put many off.
It sounds like Californians are figuring out what Marge once did.

Weed Clippings

Andrew Cuomo, libertarian?
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will ask state lawmakers Monday to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of cannabis, according to The New York Times, in a bid to save young men from minorities who find themselves charged with a crime after being stopped and frisked.

Lawmakers representing minority neighborhoods in New York City urged the Democratic governor to take action, arguing that such young men are forced into the justice system unnecessarily and find their future job prospects hampered.

The governor inserting himself into the debate would be controversial and follows a dispute over hailing livery cabs from the street and fingerprinting of food stamp applicants. On the stop-and-frisk issue, Cuomo would find himself at odds with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

His expected push follows a directive last September from police chief Raymond Kelly for officers to overlook such drug discoveries -- which resulted in only a small decrease in such charges.

Many such discoveries are made as youths are stopped and searched for other reasons -- but the drug find means they get a criminal record.

"For individuals who have any kind of a record, even a minuscule one, the obstacles are enormous to employment and to education," New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman said.

"When it's really a huge number of kids in the community who go through this, and all have the same story, the impact is just devastating."
Tacking the drug charge on someone who's wanted for a more serious crime doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, and for those for whom it might be their first offense, it makes less so. Now, if only Cuomo could do something about Bloomberg and his nanny state...

Gun Shy

This is why we have a Second Amendment:
Venezuela has brought a new gun law into effect which bans the commercial sale of firearms and ammunition.

Until now, anyone with a gun permit could buy arms from a private company.

Under the new law, only the army, police and certain groups like security companies will be able to buy arms from the state-owned weapons manufacturer and importer.
....

Hugo Chavez's government says the ultimate aim is to disarm all civilians, but his opponents say the police and government may not have the capacity or the will to enforce the new law.
They must really be worried about Hugo's health if they're this scared of their own people...

Left Behind

So, which group is getting hurt the most by Obamanomics?
Nationally, unemployment in May rose from 8.1 percent to 8.2. This is bad, especially considering how much time has passed since our economic troubles began, but it is less than catastrophic. As the Root reports, for African-Americans, however, the news was much, much worse. Unemployment among Blacks rose from 13.0 percent to 13.6 percent.

This is serious news for a population that is already under great economic strain, but it is in line with some trends we’ve been following here. One is that state and local employment has been particularly hard hit in the last year. The emergency funding provided by the federal stimulus has been running out faster than state and local tax revenue has recovered. Because unlike the feds most state and local governments have to balance their budgets each year, cuts in revenue translate more quickly into cuts in spending, and that leads to minority unemployment in many cases.

The decline of the blue social model is a challenge to the survival and dignity of the Black middle class. Heavily invested in government employment and well represented in organizations like the Postal Service, African Americans are vulnerable to changes in the structure of government and the cutbacks now rippling through traditionally stable employers like the USPS.
If the goal of income equality is to make everyone equally poor and dependent on the government, then the Obama administration seems to be achieving it...

Farm Belt Tightening

Well, good:
The Senate is expected to begin debate this week on a five-year farm and food aid bill that would save $9.3 billion by ending direct payments to farmers and replacing them with subsidized insurance programs for when the weather turns bad or prices go south.
The details are still to be worked out. But there’s rare agreement that fixed annual subsidies of $5 billion a year for farmers are no longer feasible in this age of tight budgets and when farmers in general are enjoying record prosperity.
About 80 percent of the bill’s half-trillion-dollar cost over the next five years represents nutrition programs, primarily food stamps now going to some 46 million people. About $100 billion would be devoted to crop subsidies and other farm programs.
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee last month approved a bill that would save $23 billion over the next decade by ending direct payments and consolidating other programs. The bill would strengthen the subsidized crop insurance program and create a program to compensate farmers for smaller, or “shallow,” revenue losses, based on a five-year average, for acres actually planted.
Agricultural subsidies have been the bane of farm belt politics and policies, so it's good to see that some of our elected officials are at least taking a serious look at the problem.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Black Gold, Baghdad Tea

At least one aspect of Iraq's economy seems to be doing well:
Despite sectarian bombings and political gridlock, Iraq’s crude oil production is soaring, providing a singular bright spot for the nation’s future and relief for global oil markets as the West tightens sanctions on Iranian exports.

The increased flow and vital port improvements have produced a 20 percent jump in exports this year to nearly 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, making Iraq one of the premier producers in OPEC for the first time in decades.

Energy analysts say that the Iraqi boom — coupled with increased production in Saudi Arabia and the near total recovery of Libya’s oil industry — should cushion oil markets from price spikes and give the international community additional leverage over Iran when new sanctions take effect in July.

“Iraq helps enormously,” said David L. Goldwyn, the former State Department coordinator for international energy affairs in the Obama administration. Even if Iraq increased its oil exports by only half of what it is projecting by next year, he said, “You would be replacing nearly half of the future Iranian supply potentially displaced by tighter sanctions.”
Needless to say, this won't make some people happy, heh.

Remembering...Richard Dawson

With the passage of time, we lose more of those we knew. RIP, Richard Dawson:
Richard Dawson, the wisecracking British entertainer who was among the schemers in the 1960s sitcom "Hogan's Heroes" and a decade later began kissing thousands of female contestants as host of the game show "Family Feud" has died. He was 79.

Dawson, also known to TV fans as the Cockney POW Cpl. Peter Newkirk on "Hogan's Heroes," died Saturday night from complications related to esophageal cancer at Ronald Reagan Memorial hospital, his son Gary said.

The game show, which initially ran from 1976 to 1985, pitted families who tried to guess the most popular answers to poll questions such as "What do people give up when they go on a diet?"

Dawson won a daytime Emmy Award in 1978 as best game show host. Tom Shales of The Washington Post called him "the fastest, brightest and most beguilingly caustic interlocutor since the late great Groucho bantered and parried on 'You Be Your Life.'" The show was so popular it was released as both daytime and syndicated evening versions.

He was known for kissing each woman contestant, and at the time the show bowed out in 1985, executive producer Howard Felsher estimated that Dawson had kissed "somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000."

"I kissed them for luck and love, that's all," Dawson said at the time.
Dawson was a trooper, and one of the consummate game show hosts. Here he is in his prime:



Watching And Waiting

The era of inertia:
The economy seems so gripped by uncertainties that many employers have decided to manage with the staff they have. They aren't convinced their customer demand will keep growing. Or they worry that Europe's festering debt crisis could infect the global economy. Or they aren't sure what Congress will do, if anything, about taxes and spending in coming months.

All that helps explain why U.S. employers added just 69,000 jobs in May, the fewest in a year and the third straight month of weak job growth.

"If you're anxious, you sit on your hands," said Chad Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers.

The U.S. government is also nearing its debt ceiling. It was just last summer that a bickering Congress rattled markets by nearly allowing the government to default on its debt.

State and local spending levels are uncertain or shrinking as governments try to shrink their own debts. The result is smaller budgets for schools, transportation projects and services.

Companies also complain that changes in environmental regulations and business subsidies are too hard to predict and plan for.
But hey, at least there's more economic "equality."

Saturday, June 02, 2012

In Search Of

One of history's most famous disappearances, finally solved?
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), a non-profit foundation promoting aviation archaeology and historic aircraft preservation, reported new details Friday leading researchers to this conclusion: Earhart and Noonan, low on fuel and unable to find their next scheduled stopping point – Howland Island – radioed their position, then landed on a reef at uninhabited Gardner Island, a small coral atoll now known as Nikumaroro Island.
Using what fuel remained to turn up the engines to recharge the batteries, they continued to radio distress signals for several days until Earhart’s twin-engine Lockheed Electra aircraft was swept off the reef by rising tides and surf. Using equipment not available in 1937 – digitized information management systems, antenna modeling software, and radio wave propagation analysis programs, TIGHAR concluded that 57 of the 120 signals reported at the time are credible, triangulating Earhart’s position to have been Nikumaroro Island.
And all this time I thought they were lost in the Delta Quadrant...

Panic Time?

Well, this is good news:
The head of the World Bank yesterday warned that financial markets face a rerun of the Great Panic of 2008.
On the bleakest day for the global economy this year, Robert Zoellick said crisis-torn Europe was heading for the ‘danger zone’.
Mr Zoellick, who stands down at the end of the month after five years in charge of the watchdog, said it was ‘far from clear that eurozone leaders have steeled themselves’ for the looming catastrophe amid fears of a Greek exit from the single currency and meltdown in Spain.
....

Mr Zoellick warned that the coming months could be as bad as the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008.
He said: ‘Events in Greece could trigger financial fright in Spain, Italy and across the eurozone. The summer of 2012 offers an eerie echo of 2008.
‘If Greece leaves the eurozone, the contagion is impossible to predict, just as Lehman had unexpected consequences.’
When you have an unsustainable welfare state, they do tend to collapse under their own weight...

Let's Get Real

A sign of the times?
Reality TV shows are making increasing numbers of people convinced that they're the stars of their own, unwanted television programs.
Psychiatrists are treating more people for so-called 'Truman Show' delusions -- named after the 1998 movie starring Jim Carrey as a man who spends his entire life unwittingly at the center of a fictional world that's being broadcast to millions of homes.
The startling cases often afflict successful people who develop paranoid fantasies that they're being filmed at all times and that the world that's in front of them isn't real.
....

Drs Joel and Ian Gold, researchers at New York University and McGill University in Montreal, respectively, recently published a series of case studies about suffers of 'Truman Show' delusions.

Their article in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, followed five patients who believed their lives were the center of a secret TV show.
Of course, with all the CCTV cameras around these days, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't recording you...

Friday, June 01, 2012

Super PAC Man

As they say, that was then:
Though President Barack Obama called super PACs a “threat to democracy” before embracing them last February in his own reelection effort, he and members of his inner circle had no trouble meeting with the kind of people who contribute to them. At least 16 individuals who gave money to some of the major outside spending groups had meetings with White House officials–including Obama himself.

The group of 16 includes major Democratic donors, bundlers for Obama’s campaign and a few individuals who have official roles in the administration. Some have frequent access to both the president and his inner circle, visitor logs released by the White House show. Six of them have given to Priorities USA Action, the super PAC started by former White House officials that’s supporting the president’s reelection effort, while others have given to groups working to elect congressional Democrats.

As the money race continues in the 2012 election, big donors, fundraisers and friends of Obama are steering money to super PACs. An analysis of White House visitor logs shows the names there intersect with those on lists of contributors to major Democratic super PACs–including Priorities USA Action; Women Vote!, a super PAC working to elect Democratic women to the House and Senate; the House Majority PAC and the Majority PAC, which are focusing on supporting Democrats for the House and Senate, respectively; and American Bridge 21st Century, which was established in November 2011.
Yesterday's threat to democracy is today's campaign contribution...