Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Centennial

Happy 100th birthday, Milton Friedman. As a bonus, here's Friedman explaining the value of free markets on Donahue in 1979:

The Real Issues

What voters really want:
Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for the next president to address. Americans assign much less importance to increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and dealing with environmental concerns.
....

Supporters of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney likely disagree on how best to address the major issues facing the country, but they both rate job creation and reducing government corruption among their top priorities for the next president.
Who says Democrats and Republicans can't find common ground?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lying In The Wind

You'd think he'd remember what happened to Jayson Blair:
Jonah Lehrer resigned from the New Yorker Monday after Tablet Magazine revealed that he fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in his book, "Imagine: How Creativity Works."

The seemingly prodigious young writer drew criticism last month when he admittedly recycled his own writing in blog posts for the New Yorker, including lines taken almost verbatim from previously published Wall Street Journal essays.
Now, Michael C. Moynihan, a writer for the Jewish magazine Tablet, revealed that Lehrer concocted Bob Dylan quotes and later lied to Moynihan because he "panicked."
"Three weeks ago, I received an email from journalist Michael Moynihan asking about Bob Dylan quotes in my book 'Imagine,'" Lehrer, 31, said in a statement. "The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes. But I told Mr. Moynihan that they were from archival interview footage provided to me by Dylan's representatives. This was a lie spoken in a moment of panic. When Mr. Moynihan followed up, I continued to lie, and say things I should not have said."

"The lies are over now. I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize to everyone I have let down, especially my editors and readers. I also owe a sincere apology to Mr. Moynihan. I will do my best to correct the record and ensure that my misquotations and mistakes are fixed. I have resigned my position as staff writer at The New Yorker."
Heck, if he's going to just make stuff up, there are plenty of other places in the MSM for him to work...

Panther Politics

It's a culture of interference:
A federal court in Washington, DC, held today that political appointees appointed by President Obama did interfere with the Department of Justice’s prosecution of the New Black Panther Party.

The ruling came as part of a motion by the conservative legal watch dog group Judicial Watch, who had sued the DOJ in federal court to enforce a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents pertaining to the the New Black Panthers case. Judicial Watch had secured many previously unavailable documents through their suit against DOJ and were now suing for attorneys’ fees.

Obama’s DOJ had claimed Judicial Watch was not entitled to attorney’s fees since “none of the records produced in this litigation evidenced any political interference whatsoever in” how the DOJ handled the New Black Panther Party case. But United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton disagreed. Citing a “series of emails” between Obama political appointees and career Justice lawyers, Walton writes:

The documents reveal that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims in that case, which would appear to contradict Assistant Attorney General Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in that decision.
At Obama's Justice Department, you can investigate-just not too much...

The Big Empty

Suppose they gave an Olympics and nobody came?
Yesterday spectators who bought tickets for the Olympic Park, because all venues inside were sold out of lower-priced tickets, had the frustration of watching pictures on the big screen of unfilled seats.

But a prickly Lord Coe insisted the ticketing process had worked.
He even dismissed pictures of empty seats as ‘holiday snaps’ before admitting troops and students could be used to fill gaps.

‘We take it seriously,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to see swathes of those seats empty and that’s why we will make sure, where we can, people are in those seats when they are not used.’

The London 2012 chairman added: ‘Let’s put this in perspective. Those venues are stuffed to the gunwales. The public are in there.’
Or at least their paid stand-ins...

All The News That's Fit To Fake

The New York Times gets punked:
The New York Times, which famously insists on the accuracy of its reports, was red faced Sunday after being fooled by a hoax online editorial posted under the name of ex-boss Bill Keller.

The editorial, titled "WikiLeaks, a Post Postscript," was purportedly published over the weekend by the Times and in every way appears to be the real thing from Keller, who until last September was the paper's executive editor.

The article appeared on a web page built to replicate the Times' popular website, right down to perfectly working links to the rest of the site.

It was so realistic that none other than the newspaper's technology editor Nick Bilton posted the link on his Twitter account, calling the apparent defense of Julian Assange's controversial organization an "important piece."

Not so.

"THERE IS A FAKE OP-ED GOING AROUND UNDER MY NAME, ABOUT WIKILEAKS. EMPHASIS ON 'FAKE.' AS IN, NOT MINE," Keller, now a writer on the paper, tweeted to set the record straight.

Bilton followed up, tweeting: "I just deleted a tweet sent late last night that was from a fake NYT Bill Keller account."
Well, it's not like they're all that hard to fool to begin with...

Breast Feeding Follies

Mayor Bloomberg has found a new cause:
Mayor Bloomberg is pushing hospitals to hide their baby formula behind locked doors so more new mothers will breast-feed.

Starting Sept. 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use — the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation.

Under the city Health Department’s voluntary Latch On NYC initiative, 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals have also agreed to give up swag bags sporting formula-company logos, toss out formula-branded tchotchkes like lanyards and mugs, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.

While breast-feeding activists applaud the move, bottle-feeding moms are bristling at the latest lactation lecture.

“If they put pressure on me, I would get annoyed,” said Lynn Sidnam, a Staten Island mother of two formula-fed girls, ages 4 months and 9 years. “It’s for me to choose.”

Under Latch On NYC, new mothers who want formula won’t be denied it, but hospitals will keep infant formula in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications.

With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll also get a talking-to. Staffers will explain why she should offer the breast instead.

“It’s the patient’s choice,” said Allison Walsh, of Beth Israel Medical Center. “But it’s our job to educate them on the best option.”
Of course it's about "education," even if that education isn't the best option for everyone...

The Dishonesty Of Chick-fil-a Hawks

Summing up the thinly veiled bigotry of intolerance:
If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.
At least let people see you for what you really are...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Doctors Are Out

In spite of Obamacare's promises, America continues to face a doctor shortage:
Health experts, including many who support the law, say there is little that the government or the medical profession will be able to do to close the gap by 2014, when the law begins extending coverage to about 30 million Americans. It typically takes a decade to train a doctor.

“We have a shortage of every kind of doctor, except for plastic surgeons and dermatologists,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, the dean of the new medical school at the University of California, Riverside, founded in part to address the region’s doctor shortage. “We’ll have a 5,000-physician shortage in 10 years, no matter what anybody does.”

Experts describe a doctor shortage as an “invisible problem.” Patients still get care, but the process is often slow and difficult. In Riverside, it has left residents driving long distances to doctors, languishing on waiting lists, overusing emergency rooms and even forgoing care.

“It results in delayed care and higher levels of acuity,” said Dustin Corcoran, the chief executive of the California Medical Association, which represents 35,000 physicians. People “access the health care system through the emergency department, rather than establishing a relationship with a primary care physician who might keep them from getting sicker.”
The cost of "free" coverage is that you can't afford to get sick...

Plug And Drive

Are hybrids winning the green car wars?
The high costs of batteries continue to block EVs and PHEVs from making major inroads.

More PHEVs are headed to market. For'd new PHEV will go 20 miles on battery. With half the battery range of a Chevy the C Max Energi's price comes in comes in at several thousand dollars lower than the Volt.

As Ford detailed last night, its first plug-in hybrid will retail for $33,750, has a combined gasoline + electric range of 550 miles, is expected to get a combined EPA rating of 95MPGe, and will go on sale later this year.

A McKinsey report predicts a 70% decline in electric battery prices by 2025.

The 23-kilowatt-hour battery used in Focus Electric, Ford Motor Co's first electric passenger car, can cost between $12,000 and $15,000, Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said at a conference in April. That suggests Ford paid as much as $652 per kilowatt hour.

Even if true, that's 13 years from now. A 70% price decline would put the electric Focus's battery cost in 2025 near $3600 at the low end.
Which is as good a reason as any to keep your gas guzzler...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What Would Keynes Really Do?

Why Keynesians aren't really Keynesians:
The short answer to why neo-Keynseians are in favor of tax increases now is because they are first and foremost political creatures.
....

Simply put, the push to change tax rates on the wealthy isn't about revenue, or about getting the government on anything approaching sound fiscal footing.

Rather, it's largely a symbolic gesture that is political in nature and effect. That it goes against basic Keynesian theory yet is espoused by neo-Keynesians tells us more about them than it does about good ol' J.M. Keynes.

That said, it's time for the limited-government crowd to get its act together. The time for simply saying the answer to every problem is to reduce rates is at best half-right. The GOP - and many conservatives and libertarians - for too long refused to focus on the spending part of the equation. More than Democrats, the Republicans sanctified deficit spending, to the point that under Bush spending rose far faster than revenues did. And you just didn't hear enough folks on the right complaining, because it was politically expedient for them not to. Libertarians were the ones playing Cassandra. And while liberals and conservatives like to blame libertarians for all the ills of the planet, they are the ones responsible for a federal government that is not simply an embarrassment of debt but a real impediment to economic growth.
It's true that there have been big spenders on both sides-but the real issue, as always, is who has to pay, and it typically isn't the ones calling for the spending.

When Meat Matters

Attention vegans: not eating meat may result in your country's athletes losing the gold:
“They have showed significant decline in their strength and fitness” coach Yu Juemin said of his squad after Sunday's defeat to the US. “We are wary of meat tainted by lean-meat powder, and we didn't eat any during the game period,” Yu told the Shanghai Daily newspaper.

All Chinese athletes have been warned by the country's Sports Ministry to avoid meat contaminated with the powder, also known as clenbuterol, because it's banned by the International Olympic Committee as a performance-enhancing substance.

China bans the use of clenbuterol in livestock because of the chemical's noxious long-term effects on human health, but many pork farmers still administer it because it produces leaner meat. The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a warning last year about clenbuterol-tainted meat in China as well as Mexico, where it is also rampant.

As a result, the Chinese volleyball team only eats meat at its training camp, where the food can be tested for contamination. When players go elsewhere in the country, they have to forego pork, beef and lamb — as they did in the lead-up to the volleyball World Grand Prix finals tournament.
In this case, meat might also be considered a performance-enhancing substance...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Betting Fools

You stay classy, PETA:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has started taking "bets" on its website over when Sen. Charles Grassley will die, after the Iowa Republican scolded the Department of Agriculture for advocating a vegetarian diet.

The USDA drew the ire of rural state lawmakers over a newsletter urging department employees to embrace "Meatless Mondays." The USDA later retracted the newsletter and said it wasn't properly vetted, but Grassley vented on Twitter that he plans to "eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation."

PETA, on its website, accused Grassley of fighting for Americans' right to be "sick and fat."

"We're taking bets (place yours in the comments section below) on how long it will take Sen. Grassley to succumb to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or some other meat-related disease," the post said.
I'd like to take bets on how many people outside of the likes of Bill Maher take PETA seriously. I'm betting it would be a pretty small turnout...

The Real Fair Share

In his drive to make the "wealthy" pay more, President Obama seems to have left out some facts:
Take, for example, his continually repeated story that he has not and will not raise taxes on anybody earning less than his fantastical benchmark of The Evil Rich Who Aren’t Paying Their Fair Share – $250,000.00 yearly income.

Unless Congress acts before year-end, the tax rate on dividends, currently 15 percent, can more than double, to 39.6 percent. Obama would have you think those impacted by this hike are fat cat oil barons sitting around the country club, brandy snifters and cigars in hands, sneering at the economic suffering of the little people. According to an Ernst & Young study, the facts are much different. More than two-thirds of the households with dividend income on their tax returns have household incomes below $100,000.00. Also, over half of these investors are over age 50 – including, of course, many retirees trying to live on these dividends.
And therein lies the problem with "Fair Share" politics-the idea, and the cost, eventually applies to everyone.

This Is...His Last Day

The head of CNN is stepping down:
After more than 30 years at this company and nearly 10 years as the leader of this great news organization, I have decided to leave my role at CNN on December 31, 2012.

For some time, I’ve been talking with Phil Kent about wanting to make a change, and he supports my decision. I’ve told Phil that I will cooperate with any transition timeline that he and Time Warner want to implement. Phil requested that I work out the year and be available after that if needed, which I’ve agreed to do.

I am proud of what we have accomplished together over these last 10 years – innovative programming, the development of great talent in front of and behind the cameras, expansion in digital and mobile, significant investment and expansion in international coverage, financial success and, most importantly, great and trusted journalism. Thank you for the role you have played in our successes.

CNN needs new thinking. That starts with a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan, one who will build on our great foundation and will commit to seeing it through. And I’m ready for a change. I have interests to explore and I want to give myself time to do it.
New thinking, and perhaps better reporting, as well...

Digging Through The Dirt

If you want to find a record of Obama's accomplishments on the Democratic Party's own site, you're out of luck:
A review of the DNC’s homepage shows a majority of ads mocking Romney from “Romney’s Guide To International Diplomacy” following his comments that London might not be ready for the Olympics with the Twitter hashtag “RomneyShambles,” to attack ads highlighting “Mitt Romney’s $ecret $tash” of money in Swiss bank accounts and his tenure at Bain Capital.

But a visitor will have to dig through the site to find Obama’s signature accomplishments.

July 11 is the last post on the homepage to mention the president’s signature health care law, but in that instance, it’s a blog post about why Republicans shouldn’t have voted to repeal “Obamacare” for the 33rd time. Before that, users have to go back to last month to find the DNC page proclaiming a health care victory following the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law as constitutional.
It may be about campaigning-but what does it say about the campaign when it wants to hide its own candidate's record?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chasing The Change

As is the case elsewhere, making the wealthy pay their fair share doesn't seem to be working out for Maryland:
Change Maryland is citing new job figures that show Maryland losing more than 10,000 jobs this year – more than any state in the nation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Maryland lost 11,000 jobs in June alone -- the third worst performance in the nation.

Change Maryland says the state’s high taxes and fees make it one of the most highly taxed states in the nation and have chased away jobs and job creators. The “millionaires' tax,” which imposed a top rate of 6.25 percent on people making $1 million or more, expired in 2011, but there is talk of reviving it.
....

Governor O'Malley responded that the state has lost only 1,200 jobs this year, and that Change Maryland’s numbers don’t include January, which showed strong job gains. The state had 25,000 more jobs in June compared to the same month in 2011, the governor said.

What’s more, he said, the state had 6,000 more millionaires in 2011 than it did in 2007, bringing its total millionaire count to 157,779, according to data from Phoenix Marketing International. The state has the highest percentage of millionaires in the country, according to Phoenix.

In another blog post responding to this week's numbers, O'Malley's office said that while the state would like employment to be higher, its 6.9 percent unemployment rate is lower than the nation’s. He said the state's economic indicators show "positive trends."
Positive in the sense that things haven't gotten any worse, I suppose...

Evasive Involvement

Jay Carney won't say either/or when it comes to White House involvement in leaks that weren't really designed to make the President look good:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For Those About To Rock

If this is true, it takes cyber warfare to a new level of awesomeness:
A computer malware has allegedly attacked computer systems in Iran forcing them to play AC/DC's Thunderstruck at full volume in the middle of the night, according to a computer security researcher.

Mikko Hypponen, lead researcher at the Finnish computer security firm F-Secure, reported in his blog that a scientist working at the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) sent him an e-mail about his systems getting hit by a cyber-attack.

"I am writing you to inform you that our nuclear program has once again been compromised and attacked by a new worm with exploits which have shut down our automation network at Natanz and another facility Fordo near Qom," reads the email.

"According to the email our cyber experts sent to our teams, they believe a hacker tool Metasploit was used," it continued.
Tony Stark would have been proud...

Chicken Hawks

So now, along with Rahmbo, we have the mayor of Beantown telling Chick-fil-a to take a hike. Fortunately, the Boston globe isn't drinking the Koolaid:
If the restaurant chain denied service to gay patrons or refused to hire gay employees, Menino’s outrage would be fitting. And the company should be held to its statement that it strives to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender.” But beyond the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, the religious beliefs of the company’s top executive don’t appear to control its operations…
If the mayor of a conservative town tried to keep out gay-friendly Starbucks or Apple, it would be an outrage.
Ironically, Menino is citing the specific location along the Freedom Trail as a reason to block Chick-fil-A. A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents. History will render judgment on the views of Chick-fil-A executives. City Hall doesn’t have to.
I hope Chick-fil-a takes these goofballs to court, because they'd have a case. Having an opinion isn't discrimination. Keeping someone from doing legal business in your community because of that opinion is.

Frakking Tales

In the war over frakking, its opponents are highly illogical:
In the debate over natural gas drilling, the companies are often the ones accused of twisting the facts. But scientists say opponents sometimes mislead the public, too.

Critics of fracking often raise alarms about groundwater pollution, air pollution, and cancer risks, and there are still many uncertainties. But some of the claims have little — or nothing— to back them.

For example, reports that breast cancer rates rose in a region with heavy gas drilling are false, researchers told The Associated Press.

Fears that natural radioactivity in drilling waste could contaminate drinking water aren't being confirmed by monitoring, either.

And concerns about air pollution from the industry often don't acknowledge that natural gas is a far cleaner burning fuel than coal.

"The debate is becoming very emotional. And basically not using science" on either side, said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor studying groundwater contamination who has been praised and criticized by both sides.
Of course, when it comes to radical environmentalists, reason and real science need not apply...

Outpatient Outsourcing

Guess which industry is headed overseas due to increased costs at home?
After years of shipping data-processing, accounting and other back-office work abroad, some healthcare companies are starting to shift clinical services and decision-making on medical care overseas, primarily to India and the Philippines.

Some of the jobs being sent abroad include so-called pre-service nursing, where nurses at insurance firms, for example, help assess patient needs and determine treatment methods.

Outsourcing such tasks goes beyond earlier steps by healthcare firms to farm out reading of X-rays and other diagnostic tests to health professionals overseas. Those previous efforts were often done out of necessity, to meet overnight demands, for instance.

But the latest outsourcing, which have contributed to the loss of hundreds of domestic health jobs, is done for financial reasons. And the outsourcing of nursing functions, in particular, may be the most novel — and possibly the most risky — of the jobs being shifted.
The era of Obamacare, outsourcing one health service at a time...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Cost To Be Well

Who pays for "free" care? The people who, according to Obama, didn't build that:
Business owners will pay $4 billion more in taxes under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) than the Congressional Budget Office had previously expected.

“According to the updated estimates, the amount of deficit reduction from penalty payments and other effects on tax revenues under the ACA will be $5 billion more than previously estimated,” the CBO reported today. “That change primarily effects a $4 billion increase in collections from such payments by employers, a $1 billion increase in such payments by individuals, and an increase of less than $500 million in tax revenues stemming from a small reduction in employment-based coverage, which will lead to a larger share of total compensation taking the form of taxable wages and salaries and a smaller share taking the form of nontaxable health benefits.”

In short, CBO revised the Obamacare tax burden upward by $4 billion for businesses and $1 billion to $1.5 billion for individual workers.
Perhaps business owners should ask Obama if he'll pick up the tab, since he believes that the government did everything else for the business owners...

Land Of The Sun

Some forms of domestic energy are more equal than others:
The Obama administration will open public lands in six western states to more solar projects as part of a solar energy road map it publicized Tuesday.
The Interior Department set aside 285,000 acres in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah for the initiative. Firms can apply for waivers to develop projects on an additional 19 million acres.
Calling the announcement a “proud moment,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters in a conference call Tuesday that it reaffirms Obama’s commitment to solar power. He noted public lands hosted no solar projects when Obama took office.
Perhaps that's because we already had existing alternatives?

Movin' On Up

George Jefferson, RIP:
Actor Sherman Hemsley, best known for his role as George Jefferson on "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," has died at the age of 74 of natural causes at his home in El Paso, Texas. TMZ initially reported the news; it was later confirmed by People magazine.

Hemsley got his big break on "All in the Family." His character, the wise-cracking George Jefferson, was so popular, that Hemsley was soon given his own spinoff. "The Jeffersons" ran for 11 years and had one of the best, most beloved theme songs in television history. Following the end of the "Jeffersons" run, Helmsley starred in another sitcom, "Amen," in which he played the paternal Deacon Frye.

Hemsley’s role on “The Jeffersons” was a landmark. As Entertainment Weekly put it, George Jefferson was the “first black character presented as an arrogant, intolerant bigot -- the black Archie Bunker -- George was also one of TV’s first upper-income blacks, appearing nearly a decade before 'The Cosby Show' began its own long run.”
Mr. Hemsley may be gone, but won't be forgotten:

Big Gulp Science

Bad news for Bloomberg:
The proposed "soda ban" that would limit the sale of large, sugar-sweetened beverages in New York City could reduce calorie consumption, but only if at least 40 percent of people make changes in their drink consumption, a new study suggests.
....

If 40 percent of consumers switched to a single 16-ounce beverage, overall calorie consumption would still decrease by close to 10 calories. If 30 percent switched, no decrease would occur, the researchers said.

"In most but not all of our simulations, the policy appears to be associated with a decrease in calories from sugar-sweetened beverages purchased at fast-food restaurants," the researchers wrote in the July 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The policy appears to be associated with politically correct nannystating, as well...

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Obama Economy

It's officially his now:
Two-thirds of likely voters say the weak economy is Washington’s fault, and more blame President Obama than anybody else, according to a new poll for The Hill.

It found that 66 percent believe paltry job growth and slow economic recovery is the result of bad policy. Thirty-four percent say Obama is the most to blame, followed by 23 percent who say Congress is the culprit. Twenty percent point the finger at Wall Street, and 18 percent cite former President George W. Bush.
....

The poll, conducted for The Hill by Pulse Opinion Research, found 53 percent of voters say Obama has taken the wrong actions and has slowed the economy down. Forty-two percent said he has taken the right actions to revive the economy, while six percent said they were not sure.
I guess all that money Team Obama spent hasn't paid off...

Liberalism Is Dead, Long Live Conservatism?

Has Obama killed liberalism? Some people certainly think so:
Conservatives are seizing on a new report that poverty is reaching the highest levels since the 1960s-era War on Poverty began and also the lack of calls for gun control following last Friday's mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater showing the new Batman movie.

"Certainly liberalism is dead," said R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., author of a new book, "The Death of Liberalism."
....

Tyrrell is head cheerleader of the effort to hang the fading of liberal policy on the president, writing in his book that Obama is the "pallbearer" of liberalism.

In an interview, Tyrrell, the founder and editor of the conservative American Spectator, suggested that the war on poverty and gun control have failed from a lack of new ideas and misguided focus on side issues.

"Consider, there are unprecedented levels of poverty under Obama despite an enormous proportion of the federal programs now being devoted to eliminating poverty and the Messiah simply calls on the electorate to redouble its expenditures--very dramatic!" he told Secrets with his trademark flair.
Personally I think liberalism has been dying for a long time, but Obama has certainly hastened its demise...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Poorhouse Nation

Poverty isn't just for poor people anymore:
The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest level since 1965.

Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor. More discouraged workers are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out. Suburbs are seeing increases in poverty, including in such political battlegrounds as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where voters are coping with a new norm of living hand to mouth.
Ironically, 1965 was the year that Johnson's Great Society programs began. You could say it's come full circle...

The People Have Spoken

At least when it comes to gun control:
According to a Gallup poll in 1990, 78 percent of those surveyed said laws covering the sale of firearms should be stricter, while 19 percent said they should remain the same or be loosened.

By the fall of 2004 support for tougher laws had dropped to 54 percent. In last year's sounding, 43 percent said they should be stricter, and 55 percent said they should stay the same or be made more lenient.

In terms of electoral politics, Harry Wilson, a Roanoke College professor and author of a book on gun politics, said violent crime has been declining in recent years and, "It becomes increasingly difficult to make the argument that we need stricter gun control laws."

Additionally, he said in some regions, gun control "can be a winning issue for Democrats. But nationally, it's a loser ... and they have figured that out." Attempts to emphasize the issue will "really motivate the opposition. And in a political campaign, nobody wants to do that," he said.
Depsite the hue and cry from Michael Bloomberg and others, the right to keep and bear arms survives, as it should.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Part Of The Plan?

Was Justice Roberts crazy in upholding Obamacare? Or crazy like a fox?
The unseen long game is that sustaining Obamacare as a tax helps preserve the Republicans' ability to adopt two items on their own political wish list: the Paul Ryan plan to privatize Medicare and George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

Consider the Ryan plan. It would convert Medicare into a voucher that seniors could use toward buying medical insurance from either Medicare or private insurers. The voucher amount would equal the cost of the second-cheapest plan, so if traditional Medicare is not one of the two cheapest plans, individuals would have to buy a private plan to avoid paying extra.

In short, under the Ryan plan, Medicare would become a mandate to make contributions into a Medicare trust that you would later draw from to buy yourself medical insurance, which could be from a private insurer, and might have to be so in order to avoid paying a penalty. This looks a lot like Obamacare's mandate to buy yourself medical insurance. There are two seeming differences, but neither is telling.
....
...Roberts could have held Obamacare outside the taxing power only if he held that functionally it could not be treated as a tax. If so, then the Ryan or Bush plans are even less like a tax (no matter what label they bear) because if you don't make your required Medicare or Social Security contributions, you are subject to the full panoply of coercive IRS penalties, including criminal punishment. In contrast, Obamacare merely requires those with significant earned income to either obtain insurance or pay a small tax.

Maybe Roberts was not thinking about any of this. But a traditional judicial tool involves considering how any holding would affect a range of future possible cases. So this possibility strikes me as far more plausible than imaging he caved to political pressure, especially since Obamacare has (so far) not been that popular with the public anyway.
So, Roberts may have offered a way out of Obamacare right underneath Obama's nose. Obamacare supporters should be careful what they wished for...

Rich Man, Poorer Rich Man

Well, it seems that those uncaring, out of touch wealthy types are going through hard times, too:
Between 2007 and 2009, after-tax earnings by Americans in the top one percent for income fell 37 percent. On a pre-tax basis they fell 36 percent in the same period.

That may sound like a minor haircut for One Percenters compared to people who lost their jobs. But when you take into account federal transfers, assistance and taxes paid, the incomes of the bottom 20 percent grew by 3 percent, while it fell a modest 2 percent for the middle 20 percent.

In other words, the incomes of the top one percent fell 18 times more than the incomes for the middle class at the start of the recession.
The Occupiers got what they wanted. We are all going to be equally poor...

The Borrowers

Why a new agency created to enforce Dodd-Frank is bad for your business:
the CFPB—which will cost taxpayers almost half a billion dollars per year—is useless in some ways and deeply harmful in others. Some abuses that it was designed to curb have already been handled by existing federal agencies, while others are beyond its power to fix. The agency is equally incapable of remedying the worst ailment facing the American financial “consumer”: crushing debt, much of it purveyed by the federal government. Yet at the same time, Congress has given the CFPB the formidable power of banning abusive, unfair, deceptive, or discriminatory financial practices relating to Americans’ everyday financial interactions. Though that may sound appealing, remember how the government, by trying to do essentially the same thing with mortgages, lured poorer people into financial contracts that they couldn’t afford. The CFPB may do for credit cards and other financial products what the government did for mortgages: make the poor think that borrowing lots of money is perfectly reasonable. The CFPB, in sum, is Washington’s new weapon in its war for more debt.
In other words, it's a new Washington cash cow in a herd of such beasts.

The Side Effect Effect

Just because you're a hypochondriac, doesn't mean you might not actually be making yourself sick:
You can think of the nocebo effect as the evil twin of the placebo effect — the body’s healing response to the act of taking a pill or receiving medical care, even if the pill itself is inert. The most familiar example of the placebo effect is what happens in trials of experimental drugs. One group of volunteers is randomly assigned to take the drug in question; another group is assigned to take placebo — a fake drug designed to look just like the real one. Neither the volunteers nor the staff know which group is which. If the drug group improves significantly more than the placebo group, the drug is judged to be effective. This kind of test — the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial — has been the gold standard of drug development in medicine for half a century.

One of the most interesting findings in the new report from Germany is about the underappreciated — and under-studied — role of nocebo effects in clinical trials.
....

If you tell a group of trial volunteers that they’re testing a new drug that may relieve the pain of migraines, a significant number of volunteers will experience pain relief after taking the drug — even if they’ve been randomly assigned to the placebo group and are receiving nothing but sugar pills. The placebo effect in action.

But here’s where it gets interesting. If you tell the volunteers that the side effects of this new medicine may include dry mouth, tingling in the hands and feet, and slight dizziness, some volunteers will experience precisely these side effects — in both groups. In fact, some volunteers who are taking nothing but sugar pills will be made so uncomfortable by these symptoms that they will choose to drop out of the trial early.
In some cases, you might just want to avoid the pills altogether...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fat Cat Country

Reason TV disucsses how the government makes people fat:

The Batman Shootings

Needless to say, the scapegoating began early. As those who kept their heads pointed out:
To be clear: there is such a thing as political violence. But what is troubling is the immediate assumption by some people, usually those who are part of the political class, that every massacre can be ascribed to political motivations. Acting on this assumption, they contort things in order to make them fit a convenient political template.

This effort to interpret everything through a political and partisan lens – to reduce everything to a political and partisan interpretation – is itself a disfigurement of reality. Life is a complicated and endlessly variegated thing. Politics has a role in all our lives; but for it to play such a dominant role in people’s imagination is surely not a healthy thing. And for people to immediately and instinctively take every human event – no matter how tragic and how painful — and place it in the maw of our politics is wrong and even repulsive. It exploits people’s sorrow and grief in order to score cheap political points and frame stupid political argument.
Some more here, and here. The bottom line is that this guy was a nutcase, whatever excuses nannystaters might use for their own agendas.

Meet The New Socialists

Well, I hope any French citizen who actually wants to be successful in their own country likes living under the new regime:
French lawmakers Thursday backed a series of measures abolishing tax breaks and taxing the wealthy as the new Socialist government pursued efforts to kickstart the economy with a tax-and-spend programme. …
Lawmakers later voted to back an emergency rise in the ISF wealth tax applying to taxpayers with a net worth of more than 1.3 million euros ($1.6 million) and which is expected to bring in an extra 2.3 billion euros in revenues this year.
They also approved a tightening of the inheritance tax to reduce the exemption ceiling from 159,000 euros per child to 100,000 euros, the creation of a three percent surtax on cash dividends and the doubling of a tax rate on financial transactions to 0.2 percent. …
More fiscal steps promised by Hollande, including a 75 percent tax rate on annual incomes in excess of a million euros, are expected to be introduced next year.
Of course, those who saw the writing on the wall are getting out of Dodge, which means that those who are left will have to cough up the euros to "save" France. But who will save France from its lawmakers?

Saving Clinton's Legacy

House Republicans aren't taking Obama's destruction of welfare reform lying down:
A coalition of Republicans in the House and Senate vowed to preserve the work requirements at the heart of welfare reform after the Obama administration announced last week it would illegally gut the 1996 law. Lawmakers could vote in the coming days on a plan that prohibits the administration from implementing its unilateral action.
....

The 1996 reforms, a signature achievement of the Clinton administration, have helped millions of Americans escape poverty. They were also a key step to reducing dependence on government. Child poverty rates in female-headed households are lower today than before the reforms, according to the lawmakers.

In addition to being questionable policy, the Obama administration’s action is also illegal, according to an analysis of the HHS memorandum by The Heritage Foundation’s Todd Gaziano and Robert Alt. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has yet to respond to a request from Camp and Hatch explaining the legal justification. She has ignored their July 16 deadline and has refused to answer. Now, through legislation, they will attempt to block any action on her part.
The rule of law does matter, after all...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Questions And No Answers

Harry Reid tries not to explain why Democrats didn't raise taxes when they had the chance:



Transcript of the exchnge here. I guess it depends on when raising taxes is politically popular...

Border Rolls

This must be an example of that smart diplomacy:
The Mexican government has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.

USDA has an agreement with Mexico to promote American food assistance programs, including food stamps, among Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and migrant communities in America.

“USDA and the government of Mexico have entered into a partnership to help educate eligible Mexican nationals living in the United States about available nutrition assistance,” the USDA explains in a brief paragraph on their “Reaching Low-Income Hispanics With Nutrition Assistance” web page. “Mexico will help disseminate this information through its embassy and network of approximately 50 consular offices.”
....

When asked for details and to elaborate on the program, USDA stressed it was established in 2004 and not meant for illegal immigrants.

“The partnership with the Mexican embassy was established in 2004,” a USDA spokesman wrote The Daily Caller in an email. “USDA does not perform outreach to immigrants that are undocumented, and therefore not eligible for SNAP.”
It doesn't seem to be for lack of trying...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Solar Shutdown

Another subsidized solar plant goes out of business:
A designer and manufacturer of concentrated photovoltaic solar power systems, Amonix received $6 million in federal tax credits for the North Las Vegas plant and a $15.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2007 for research and development.

Rene Kenerly, a former material and supply manager at Amonix, said the plant has been idle since May 1, when he was laid off. At its peak, the plant had about 700 employees working three shifts a day to produce solar panels for a utility in Amarosa, Colo., he said.

"I don't think they had a lot of training," Kenerly said. "There were a lot of quality issues. A lot of stuff was coming back because it had some functionality issues."

The Amonix plant was highly touted by political leaders and economic development officials when it opened in May 2011. Company executives said they would employ as many as 300 assembly line workers paid $12 to $14 an hour, plus benefits.
This seems to be turning into a trend...

State Of The States

States face the coming fiscal cliff:
State finances have been a persistent black cloud over the economy. Every month, as the private sector adds jobs, the public sector — particularly state and local government — continues to cut them. That trend has continued even as state revenues have been rising. The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government has reported that overall state revenue collection has been rising for eight straight quarters, and that in most states collections have surpassed their pre-recession peaks. That's good news, to a degree. "There's no doubt that rising revenue is welcome from states," said Boyd. But we should temper our enthusiasm. As he notes: "After adjusting for inflation, state revenues are still not at the peak."
Sounds like the public sector is part of the problem...

Don't Believe The Hyperbole

Explaining the problem with "official" climate change studies:
The earth’s climate and oceans are extremely complex systems, and computer models predicting unprecedented accelerations in sea level are venturing into a realm of speculation that may prove to be the opposite of true science, regardless of the fact that it is scientists who program these models. Scientists often place appropriate disclaimers in their papers to convey this uncertainty, but these qualifiers rarely make it into the press coverage, leaving readers with the illusion that the results are more solid than they actually are.
....

The East Coast study concludes with a statement that the “authors declare no competing financial interests.” The journal that published this study defines such interests as “those of a financial nature that” could potentially influence “the objectivity, integrity or perceived value of a publication.” Yet, the authors of East Coast study are employed by the U.S. Geological Survey, which is a federal agency funded by tax dollars. This could certainly be described as a competing financial interest given that federal government stands to reap trillions of dollars through global warming legislation.

Tellingly, Obama administration Treasury Department documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act describe “emissions allowances under a cap and trade system” as “valuable assets” that are “analogous to revenue under an equivalent tax policy.” These documents specify that such legislation “could generate federal receipts” ranging from $100 to $300 billion every year.

If the scientists who conducted these studies worked for an oil company, the academic community would require them to declare this as a competing interest, and the press would mention it in every story that cited the study. Why should the standard be any different for scientists funded by governments?

So, will global warming flood the coasts of the United States? Despite what many media outlets and some scientists would lead us to believe, no one really knows. What we do know, however, is that a number of previous claims that global warming will cause flooding, starvation, and extreme weather have thus far proven unfounded.
The science still isn't settled...

The Great Wealthy North

Hope and change? Canada is now wealthier than the U.S.:
For the first time in recent history, the average Canadian is richer than the average American, according to a report cited in Toronto's Globe and Mail.
....

To add insult to injury, not only are Canadians comparatively better-off than Americans, they're also more likely to be employed. The unemployment rate is 7.2 percent—and dropping—in Canada, while the U.S. is stuck with a stubbornly high rate of 8.2 percent.
It sounds like they've learned what our current leadership has forgotten...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Electric Sticker Shock

The Chevy Volt has been a bust:
The Chevy Cruze is basically a Volt without the dead-weight, flammable 400-lb. electric battery. Which makes it $17,000, rather than the Volt’s $41,000.

Chevy in June sold 18,983 Cruzes - more than ten times the number of Volts. And that’s down 1/3 from last June’s 24,648.

But that feeble Volt tally has the Press all revved up.

And speaking of the Volt’s ridiculous $41,000 sticker price:

According to multiple GM executives there is little or no profit being made on each Volt built at a present cost of around $40,000. Furthermore, the $700 million of development that went into the car has to be recouped.

Get that? GM makes “little or no profit” on the Volt.
I guess profit is in the eye of the press...

The Sequestered Economy

What happens when Congress won't do its job:
A new economic impact analysis concludes that 2.14 million American jobs could be lost if the Budget Control Act’s sequestration mandate takes effect on January 2, 2013. That is the date that budget cuts of $1.2 trillion start throughout government unless Congress and the administration agree on a solution.

Dr. Stephen S. Fuller, Dwight Schar Faculty Chair and University Professor and Director for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, in conjunction with Chmura Economics and Analytics, conducted the study on behalf of the Aerospace Industries Association.

“The results are bleak but clear-cut,” said Fuller. “The unemployment rate will climb above 9 percent, pushing the economy toward recession and reducing projected growth in 2013 by two-thirds. An already weak economy will be undercut as the paychecks of thousands of workers across the economy will be affected from teachers, nurses, construction workers to key federal employees such as border patrol and FBI agents, food inspectors and others.”
Meanwhile, Harry Reid and company still won't vote on a budget. How's that working out for ya, guys?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Energy Explosion

If there's a bright spot in our continued economic malaise (see below), it's our wealth of resources:
The energy abundance that helped propel the United States to global leadership in the 19th and 2oth centuries is back; if the energy revolution now taking shape lives up to its full potential, we are headed into a new century in which the location of the world’s energy resources and the structure of the world’s energy trade support American affluence at home and power abroad.

By some estimates, the United States has more oil than Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran combined, and Canada may have even more than the United States. A GAO report released last May (pdf link can be found here) estimates that up to the equivalent of 3 trillion barrels of shale oil may lie in just one of the major potential US energy production sites. If half of this oil is recoverable, US reserves in this one deposit are roughly equal to the known reserves of the rest of the world combined.
....

Additionally, our natural gas reserves are so large that the US is likely to become a major exporter, and US domestic supplies for hydrocarbon fuels of all types appear to be safe and secure for the foreseeable future. North America as a whole has the potential to be a major exporter of fossil fuels for decades and even generations to come.

Since the 1970s, pessimism about America’s energy future has been one of the cornerstones on which the decline theorists erected their castles of doom; we are now entering a time when energy abundance will be an argument for continued American dynamism.
North Dakota is a good example of what can happen to a local economy when that resource is allowed to be tapped. Now, if it can be allowed to happen for the rest of the country...

Booker's Battle

Corey Booker, a Democrat who makes sense:
The so called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence. We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential. I see the BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars being poured into the criminal justice system here in New Jersey and it represents big overgrown government at its worst. We should be investing dollars in programs and strategies that work not just to lower crime but work to empower lives.
It anguishes me how we seem to be so content with national and state recidivism rates of around 60% and how a staggering number of young black men are involved in the criminal justice system.
My police in Newark are involved in an almost ridiculous game of arresting the same people over and over again and when you talk to these men they have little belief that there is help or hope for them to break out of this cycle.
And yet, his own party seems intent on wanting that cycle of dependency and poverty to continue...

Stagnation

The future doesn't look so good:
After the latest round of data we have decided to lower our projection for Q3 to 1.5%. The strength in inventories reported this morning suggests that businesses may have got caught offsides when final demand weakened this past spring. That inventory build should weigh on production growth in the third quarter as already-cautious businesses seek to work down stockpiles. Added to this downside, the weakness in June real consumer spending will make the arithmetic for Q3 consumption a little more challenging.

Finally, the decline in gasoline prices — which had been seen as an important support to the economy — has partly reversed itself in recent weeks, thereby lessening the impetus to growth from that source. For 2012 as a whole, we are now looking for growth of around 1.7% on a Q4/Q4 basis, about the same as last year and 0.2%-point below our tracking last week. On a year-ago basis real GDP has been growing at a below-trend pace since early last year. If our forecast is anywhere near correct, that pattern will persist for at least another year, and perhaps even longer.
The clock seems to be ticking louder...

LOST At Sea

The Sea Treaty is dead in the water:
A treaty governing the high seas is all but dead in the Senate as two Republican senators announced their opposition Monday, giving conservative foes the necessary votes to scuttle the pact.

Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire -- both mentioned as possible running mates for likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- said they had serious concerns about the breadth and ambiguity of the Law of the Sea treaty and would oppose it if called up for a vote.

The Constitution requires two-thirds of the Senate -- 67 votes -- to ratify a treaty; Portman and Ayotte bring the number of opponents to 34 along with Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.

The development was a blow to the Obama administration, military leaders and the business community led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who had argued that the treaty would improve national security and enhance U.S. standing in the world. They had pressed for ratification of the treaty, which was concluded in 1982 and has been in force since 1994. The United States is the only major nation that has refused to sign the pact.
....
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had told Congress in May that the treaty could be a boon to business as U.S. oil and natural gas companies now have the technology to explore the extended continental shelf, which could be more than 1 1/2 times the size of Texas and rich in resources.

But Portman and Ayotte were not swayed.

"Proponents of the Law of the Sea treaty aspire to admirable goals, including codifying the U.S. Navy's navigational rights and defining American economic interests in valuable offshore resources," the two said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "But the treaty's terms reach well beyond those good intentions. This agreement is striking in both the breadth of activities it regulates and the ambiguity of obligations it creates. "

The two also raised concerns about authorization of international and judicial entities. "The United States would be binding itself to yet-unknown requirements and liabilities. That uncertainty alone is reason for caution," Portman and Ayotte wrote.
The devil was in the details, and it looks like some people were paying attention.

The Teller Of Tales

So, what's President Obama's biggest accomplishment?
During an interview with CBS's Charlie Rose that aired on Monday morning, President Obama said his proudest achievement over the past three and a half years is stabilizing the economy, not his signature health care reform law.

“My proudest achievement is actually stabilizing the economy to avert a great depression, because if I don’t do that nothing else matters,” Obama said. “And the central question becomes building on what we've done. Where do we go from here?”

The president added that the biggest mistake of his first term was thinking the job was just about getting the policy right. In his second term, he said, he needs to do a better job of explaining his policies and inspiring the American people.

“That’s important,” Obama said about enacting good policy. “But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”
I guess this means that the story is still more important than the facts, which tend to get in the way of a good tale...

T&A Men

Another government agency's dirty laundry goes public:
Treasury Department officials have been cited for soliciting prostitutes, breaking conflict-of-interest rules and accepting gifts from corporate executives, according to the findings of official government investigations.

The revelations of unethical behavior at Treasury are detailed in little-noticed documents posted this month on governmentattic.org, which publishes agency responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

While it is not uncommon for departments within the executive branch to have personnel issues, it is unusual for these types of documents to become public. They provide a rare glimpse of internal probes within the Treasury Department, exposing different episodes of misconduct.

Investigators at the Treasury's Office of Inspector General (OIG), which responds to tips and official referrals from within the department, found that employees had engaged in unethical, and perhaps criminal, conduct.
When you've got a culture of entitlement that starts at the top, the rot spreads downward...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Big Dreams

You've got to admit, Anthony Weiner has chutzpah:
The disgraced former congressman — who’s sitting on a $4.5 million campaign war chest — is mulling a bid for citywide office next year and “seriously considering” a mayoral run, multiple sources told The Post.

The cocky pol is also open to the post of public advocate as a backup plan, said sources, who described the Queens Democrat as “desperate” to get back into politics.

Weiner, 47, has even spoken to former staffers about going back to work for him, according to another source.

And he wants to run soon because the public match on his campaign funds are due to expire after the 2013 election.

“I’ve heard he is seriously thinking about getting into a citywide race in 2013 and would like it to be mayor,” said a source with ties to Weiner. “In his mind, he’s trying to figure out how to run for mayor.”
Who knows? After a decade of Bloomberg's nannystating he might actually provide an alternative-but what kind of campaign package would he have?

Who Helped Who?

So here's President Obama, talking about business:
Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
I'm sure that would have been news to everyone from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Shipping Wars

Alaska is fighting back against EPA overreach:
The state of Alaska sued the Obama administration on Friday to block environmental regulations that would require ships sailing in southern Alaska waters to use low-sulfur fuel.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, challenges the new federal regulations, which require the use of low-sulfur fuel for large marine vessels such as cargo and cruise ships.

The rule is scheduled to be enforced starting on August 1 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard for ships operating within 200 miles of the shores of southeastern and south-central Alaska, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit faults the EPA, the Department of Homeland Security and others for using a marine treaty amendment as the basis for the new federal regulations without waiting for ratification of that amendment by the U.S. Senate.

The Alaska Department of Law said in a statement that the low-sulfur-fuel requirement would be costly, jacking up prices for products shipped by marine vessel and harming Alaska's cruise industry.

"Alaska relies heavily on maritime traffic, both for goods shipped to and from the state, and for the cruise ship passengers who support thousands of Alaskan jobs," Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty said in a statement.

"There are reasonable and equally effective alternatives for the Secretary and the EPA to consider which would still protect the environment but dramatically reduce the severe impact these regulations will have on Alaskan jobs and families."
Of course, this is Obama's EPA, where reason need not apply...

Scam Alert

As opposed to Obamacare itself, I suppose:
Federal trade regulators warned Friday that scam artists are using the healthcare law to ask for consumers' personal information over the phone.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that the illegal activity began after the Supreme Court ruled on June 28 to uphold the vast majority of the law.

Scam artists "say they're from the government" and use the Affordable Care Act as a hook to verify information, according to an FTC alert.

"They might have the routing number from your bank, and then use that information to get you to reveal the entire account number," the alert stated. "Or, they'll ask for your credit card or Social Security number, Medicare ID, or other personal information."
Don't worry; the actual government will be doing that before too long...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Burning For The Gold

Lost amid all the huffing and puffing that Harry Reid did over Chinese-made Olympic uniforms is this little tidbit:
Few outlets have noted that Ralph Lauren himself is a prominent contributor to President Obama and the Democratic Party.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Lauren has given $7,300 to Obama since 2008, and more than $35,000 to the Democratic National Committee.

Obama’s own ties to outsourcing have come under scrutiny of late. His much-vaunted green energy loan program awarded billions of taxpayer dollars to foreign-owned companies and firms that manufacture their products overseas.

It is unclear whether the DNC will be returning Lauren’s donation. DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse did not immediately return a request for comment.
You don't want to burn the hand that feeds you...

Reform Comes Undone

Remember when Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over? Well:
Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of unilaterally gutting welfare reform after the Department of Health and Human Services quietly notified states that they may seek a waiver for the program's strict work requirements.

HHS made the announcement in a policy memo Thursday, news that slipped well below the radar amid a raucous day on the presidential campaign trail. But a few prominent GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill picked up on the change, and accused the administration of overhauling one of the most important bipartisan agreements of the past several decades.
....

The hard-fought welfare reform agreement in 1996 was struck between the Bill Clinton administration and a Republican-led Congress. It is still considered a signature legislative achievement from that period.
It was legislation that worked. So what happens now? Maybe a new soap opera?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blaming The Messaging

President Obama apparently feels that his problem is that he didn't speechify better:
“When I think about what we’ve done well and what we haven’t done well,” the president said, “the mistake of my first term – couple of years – was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that’s important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”


Pressed by Rose about what he felt he needed to explain better to the American people, the president corrected that he wanted to do more “explaining, but also inspiring.”
In other words, he still thinks it's about being able to give a good speech-not about actually doing the job...

Anarchy In The Middle Class

When the average person becomes an anarchist:
TV has given us the illusion that anarchy is people rioting in the streets, smashing car windows and looting every store in sight. But there’s also the polite, quiet, far deadlier anarchy of the core citizenry—the upright citizenry—throwing in the towel and deciding it’s just not worth it anymore. If a big enough proportion of the populace—not even a majority, just a largish chunk—decides that it’s just not worth following the rules anymore, then that society’s days are numbered: Not even a police-state with an armed Marine at every corner with Shoot-to-Kill orders can stop such middle-class anarchy.
Having to pay for the policies of the elite can cause a revolt, as well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bytelines

Skynet gets into journalism:
While computers cannot parse the subtleties of each story, they can take vast amounts of raw data and turn it into what passes for news, analysts say.

"This can work for anything that is basic and formulaic," says Ken Doctor, an analyst with the media research firm Outsell.

And with media companies under intense financial pressure, the move to automate some news production "does speak directly to the rebuilding of the cost economics of journalism," said Doctor.

Stephen Doig, a journalism professor at Arizona State University who has used computer systems to sift through data which is then provided to reporters, said the new computer-generated writing is a logical next step.

"I don't have a philosophical objection to that kind of writing being outsourced to a computer, if the reporter who would have been writing it could use the time for something more interesting," Doig said.

Scott Frederick, chief operating officer of Automated Insights, another firm in the sector, said he sees this as "the next generation of content creation."
I suppose it can't be any more artificial than what the MSM already produces...

Biofuel For The Fire

At long last, an end to King Ethanol?
The biofuels industry is at loggerheads with House Republicans, who are eyeing its funding for elimination in the farm bill.

Biomass and biofuels groups warn that the loss of $800 million in guaranteed federal support would stall progress in developing the fuel source and cause job losses in rural communities that can least afford it.

The industry claims interest groups such as fossil fuel producers and livestock owners have hijacked the process as the House Agriculture Committee begins a markup of the bill this week.
....

Biofuel groups are lobbying the committee to restore the funding, but might have a tough time making the case to the GOP members of the House Agriculture Committee. Of the 23 Republicans on the panel, 16 are freshman members who are eager to prove their fiscal bona fides by slashing from the big-spending farm bill.

The funding goes toward a variety of loans and grants for bio-refineries and renewable-energy programs, as well as subsidies for dedicated energy crops.
Of course, that's what it's really about. And it's yet another argument why green industries need to be let loose into the free market.

Pensive Over Pensions

California feels the desire for reform:
To be sure, Californians haven’t embraced the Scott Walker agenda. By and large, they don’t want to make public unions illegal. Further, while there is much less support for raising pensions than there is for cutting them, there isn’t a majority for either position.

Nonetheless, this poll is very bad news for the unions. Their key demands in the pension fight have been resoundingly rejected. Voters want a salary cap for determining benefits, they want to raise the retirement age, and they support a hybrid pension system that mixes in elements of a traditional, defined-contribution plan.

What makes this all very much worse from the unions’ point of view is that if (and when) a truly major and prolonged statewide budget emergency comes, attitudes are likely to harden against them even more. When voters “get” just how much of a tradeoff they face between services for kids and old people vs. paying pensions, then sentiment will likely harden on the pension front. Better schools for your kids, or better pensions for people who taught other peoples’ kids twenty years ago?
Considering that this is a state willing to spend money on a high-speed boondoggle while its cities are going broke, it seems a fair question...

Head South

Michael Moore will not be pleased:
The nonpartisan Fraser Institute reported that 46,159 Canadians sought medical treatment outside of Canada in 2011, as wait times increased 104 percent — more than double — compared with statistics from 1993.

Specialist physicians surveyed across 12 specialties and 10 provinces reported an average total wait time of 19 weeks between the time a general practitioner refers a patient and the time a specialist provides elective treatment — the longest they have ever recorded.

In 2011, Canadians enrolled in the nation’s government-dominated health service waited long periods of time for an estimated 941,321 procedures. As many as 2.8 percent of Canadians were waiting for treatment at any given time, according to the Institute.

“In some cases, these patients needed to leave Canada due to a lack of available resources or a lack of appropriate procedure/technology,” according to the Institute. “In others, their departure will have been driven by a desire to return more quickly to their lives, to seek out superior quality care, or perhaps to save their own lives or avoid the risk of disability.”
Of course, with Obamacare, their options might be more limited in the future...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Glass House

Perhaps she can explain herself:
Disclosure forms reveal that in 2010, Wasserman Schultz invested between $1,001-$15,000 in a 401k retirement fund run by Davis Financial Fund. As the fund discloses, it is invested in the Julius Baer Group Ltd. and the State Bank of India GDR Ltd., as well as other financial, insurance, bank institutions.

"The Julius Baer Group is the leading Swiss private banking group, focusing exclusively on the demands of sophisticated private clients, family offices and external asset managers from around the world," its website explains. "Bank Julius Baer is the principal operating company of the Julius Baer Group, with origins dating back to 1890. The rich Swiss heritage becomes manifest in the values for which the Bank stands, e.g. trustworthiness, accountability, discretion and expertise. However, at the same time Julius Baer is a modern, forward-looking company at the leading edge of a genuine growth industry."

Similarly, according to disclosure forms from 2004, Wasserman Schultz had holdings in the Fidelity Advisor Overseas Fund. That fund is invested in HSBC bank (a British financial institution), Hengdeli Holdings (a Hong Kong watch company), Novo Nordisk (a Danish drug company), Volkswagen (a German auto company), Rakuten (a Japanese shipping business), Richemont Cie Financiere (a Swiss luxury goods company), and many others.
Outsourcing for me, not for thee...

Matter Of Trust

It's not just conservatives who have lost trust in TV news:
Liberals and moderates lost so much confidence in television news this year -- 11 and 10 points, respectively -- that their views are now more akin to conservatives' views. This marks a turnaround from the pattern seen since 2009, in which liberals expressed more confidence than conservatives. Conservatives' views of television news were last similar to liberals' in June 2008, before the last presidential election. However, moderates are significantly less confident now than they were then, 20% vs. 28%.

The decline since last year in confidence in television news among liberals did not coincide with a similar decline among Democrats. Democrats this year are the most confident in the television news media among key subgroups. Interestingly, postgraduates, who tend to be Democrats, are now the least confident.
If you've lost the postgrads...

Missing In Action

What is going on with Jesse Jackson, Jr., anyway?
Jackson, a nine-term Illinois Democrat, last appeared on Capitol Hill in early June, His office has issued two statements since then indicating he's on medical leave — the first citing “exhaustion” and the second suggesting his condition is much more severe.

The strange episode has fueled speculation about Jackson's condition and whereabouts. An almost total absence of information — his congressional office will not answer any questions — has created abundant space for rumor and the most extreme conjecture.

This has been stoked by an ethics investigation into allegations that Jackson considered lending campaign favors to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in exchange for the Senate seat then being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday that Jackson should be more candid about his condition and provide specifics about his health “soon.”

“As a public official, there comes a point when you have a responsibility to tell the public what’s going on,” Durbin said at an event in Chicago. “If there is some medical necessity for him not to say more at this moment, then I will defer to that. But he will have to soon make a report on what he’s struggling with."

Gutierrez delivered a similar message on Tuesday.

“I know that we want to say that we have private lives, and I do have a private life. I also have a public life,” Gutierrez said, according to the Tribune. “If I don’t show up to work, then I need to give — I don’t have this immunity of this shield of privacy — because it’s about my job. And any time I haven’t shown up to work, I’ve given you a clear answer about why it was I wasn’t there.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), however, defended Jackson on Tuesday, saying the office updates on his medical condition — however vague — should satisfy the people he represents.

“We all have a responsibility to report to our constituents,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday. “They [Jackson's aides] have certainly reported that he is ill and seeking help. And I think that that fulfills that responsibility.”
Still, inquiring minds want to know, as the mystery continues. Stay tuned...

Energy Alternatives

A bill has been introduced by House Republicans that would provide an alternative to Obama's:
Interior Secretary Salazar delivered the President’s plan for Congressional review on June 28th. Over the past several months, the Natural Resources Committee has held multiple hearings on the President’s proposed 2012-2017 offshore lease plan. Now, as part of the law’s mandatory 60-day review by Congress, House Republicans will make clear that the President’s plan is unacceptable and will replace it with an environmentally responsible plan that truly supports increased American energy and American jobs.

“President Obama’s rewritten offshore plan represents a giant step backwards for American offshore energy production and a giant lost opportunity to create over a million new American jobs. The Obama plan closes off 85% of America’s offshore resources and effectively reimposes the drilling moratoria lifted by Congress and President Bush in 2008 when gas prices set record highs. Under the law, Congress has 60 days to review President Obama’s plan before it takes effect. The legislation that the Committee will act on would replace the energy-restricting and job-limiting Obama plan with a responsible, robust offshore drilling plan that will create new jobs by safely opening new areas known to possess the greatest offshore energy resources,” said Chairman Hastings. “The replacement plan specifically provides for opening offshore Virginia to drilling, with the first of several lease sales starting in 2013. President Obama cancelled a lease sale off Virginia scheduled for 2011 and the President’s plan doesn’t allow energy production off Virginia until 2017 or later.”
....

In contrast to the President’s plan, the leasing plan included in Chairman Hastings’ bill moves forward with lease sales in new areas, including the Mid-Atlantic off Virginia. President Obama cancelled a Virginia lease sale scheduled for 2011. Under President Obama’s plan, the soonest that a lease sale could occur off of Virginia would be in the year 2017. The areas where lease sales occur in Chairman Hastings’ bill are those known to contain the greatest known amounts of oil and natural gas resources, which will provide new opportunities for increased energy production and job creation. Specifically, the bill would implement a new lease sale schedule (shown below), protect national defense and military operations, and provide for separate environmental impact statements for each specific lease sale.
There is a way to get the country back on its feet. The government just has to let it first.

Pyramid Power

The pyramids of Egypt stand as monuments to one of humanity's earliest civilizations. So naturally, the new barbarians want to get rid of them:
According to several reports in the Arabic media, prominent Muslim clerics have begun to call for the demolition of Egypt’s Great Pyramids—or, in the words of Saudi Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi‘i, those “symbols of paganism,” which Egypt’s Salafi party has long planned to cover with wax. Most recently, Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs” and President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud, called on Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, to “destroy the Pyramids and accomplish what the Sahabi Amr bin al-As could not.”

This is a reference to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s companion, Amr bin al-As and his Arabian tribesmen, who invaded and conquered Egypt circa 641. Under al-As and subsequent Muslim rule, many Egyptian antiquities were destroyed as relics of infidelity.
....

...while book-burning was an easy activity in the 7th century, destroying the mountain-like pyramids and their guardian Sphinx was not—even if Egypt’s Medieval Mamluk rulers “de-nosed” the latter during target practice (though popular legend still attributes it to a Westerner, Napoleon).

Now, however, as Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sheikhs” observes, and thanks to modern technology, the pyramids can be destroyed. The only question left is whether the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt is “pious” enough—if he is willing to complete the Islamization process that started under the hands of Egypt’s first Islamic conqueror.
As the barbarians themselves might say, what's good enough for Timbuktu...

Their Fair Share

It seems that the wealthy-the "average wealthy," at any rate-aleary pay more than their "fair share":
Wealthy Americans earn about 50 percent of all income but pay nearly 70 percent of the federal tax burden, according to the latest analysis Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office — though the agency said the very richest have seen their share of taxes fall the past few years.

CBO looked at 2007 through 2009 — the latest years data are available, but enough to include the early effects of the last recession — and found the bottom 20 percent of American earners paid just three-tenths of a percent of the total federal tax burden, while the richest 20 percent paid 67.9 percent of taxes.

The top 1 percent, whom President Obama has made a target during the presidential campaign, earned 13.4 percent of all pre-tax income but paid 22.3 percent of taxes in 2009, CBO said. When tax burden is figured in, the top 1 percent took in only 11.5 percent of income.

But the richest 1 percent’s share of the total tax burden did drop 4.4 percentage points from 2007 to 2009 — a figure likely to bolster Mr. Obama’s calls for them to pay more by letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire.

The big losers over the past few years were the rest of the well-off — those in the 60th percent to 99th percent of earnings — who saw their tax burdens go up.

“Specifically, between 2007 and 2009, the share of taxes paid fell for the bottom three income quintiles, was close to flat for the fourth quintile, but rose for the highest quintile,” CBO said. “Within the top quintile, however, the shift was uneven; the share paid by the top percentile fell, and the share paid by the rest of the top quintile rose.”
So, maybe the rich have their own rallying cry against the superrich, like, say, Warren Buffett...

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Doctors Are Out

The price of "free" health care? Fewer doctors:
Eighty-three percent of American physicians have considered leaving their practices over President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, according to a survey released by the Doctor Patient Medical Association.

The DPMA, a non-partisan association of doctors and patients, surveyed a random selection of 699 doctors nationwide. The survey found that the majority have thought about bailing out of their careers over the legislation, which was upheld last month by the Supreme Court.

Even if doctors do not quit their jobs over the ruling, America will face a shortage of at least 90,000 doctors by 2020. The new health care law increases demand for physicians by expanding insurance coverage. This change will exacerbate the current shortage as more Americans live past 65.

By 2025 the shortage will balloon to over 130,000, Len Marquez, the director of government relations at the American Association of Medical Colleges, told The Daily Caller.

“One of our primary concerns is that you’ve got an aging physician workforce and you have these new beneficiaries — these newly insured people — coming through the system,” he said. “There will be strains and there will be physician shortages.”
By "helping" the uninsured, Obamacare will only make their problems-and the majority who already have private or employer insurance-worse. The cure is worse than the disease...

Paying With Their Feet

What happens when you emulate France? This:
A new report says wealthy Maryland residents may be moving out due to recent tax hikes – a finding that is sure to escalate the battle over taxing the American rich.

The study, by the anti-tax group Change Maryland, says that a net 31,000 residents left the state between 2007 and 2010, the tenure of a "millionaire's tax" pushed through by Gov. Martin O'Malley. The tax, which expired in 2010, in imposed a rate of 6.25 percent on incomes of more than $1 million a year.

The Change Maryland study found that the tax cost Maryland $1.7 billion in lost tax revenues. A county-by-county analysis by Change Maryland also found that the state’s wealthiest counties also had some of the largest population outflows.

In total, Maryland has added 24 new taxes or fees in recent years, Change Maryland says. Florida, which has no income-tax, has been a large recipient of Maryland's exiled wealthy.
The more this happens, the more those who can afford to will simply jump ship.

Where The Jobs Are

What was that about job creation?
Since January of 2011, here is how much the unemployment rate declined in each of the 17 states that elected Republican governors in 2010, according to the Examiner:

Kansas - 6.9% to 6.1% = a decline of 0.8%

Maine - 8.0% to 7.4% = a decline of 0.6%

Michigan - 10.9% to 8.5% = a decline of 2.4%

New Mexico - 7.7% to 6.7% = a decline of 1.0%

Oklahoma - 6.2% to 4.8% = a decline of 1.4%

Pennsylvania - 8.0% to 7.4% = a decline of 0.6%

Tennessee - 9.5% to 7.9% = a decline of 1.6%

Wisconsin - 7.7% to 6.8% = a decline of 0.9%

Wyoming - 6.3% to 5.2% = a decline of 1.1%

Alabama - 9.3% to 7.4% = a decline of 1.9%

Georgia - 10.1% to 8.9% = a decline of 1.2%

South Carolina - 10.6% to 9.1% = a decline of 1.5%

South Dakota - 5.0% to 4.3% = a decline of 0.7%

Florida - 10.9% to 8.6% = a decline of 2.3%

Nevada - 13.8% to 11.6% = a decline of 2.2%

Iowa - 6.1% to 5.1% = a decline of 1.0%

Ohio - 9.0% to 7.3% = a decline of 1.7%


On the other hand, the unemployment rate in states that elected Democrats in 2010 dropped, on average, as much as the national rate decline and, in some states such as New York, the unemployment rate has risen since January of 2011.
I think I'm starting to see a trend...

Of Charts And Graphs

A handy graph for checking on the recovery, such as it is:

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Taxmen Cometh

Are we ready for an army of bean counters?
Under the law, the IRS will provide tax breaks and incentives to help pay for health insurance and impose penalties on some people who don't buy coverage and on some businesses that don't offer it to employees.

The changes will require new regulations, forms and publications, new computer programs and a big new outreach program to explain it all to taxpayers and tax professionals. Businesses that don't claim an exemption will have to prove they offer health insurance to employees.
The health care law "includes the largest set of tax law changes in more than 20 years," according to the Treasury inspector general who oversees the IRS. The agency will have to hire thousands of workers to manage it, requiring significant budget increases that already are being targeted by congressional Republicans determined to dismantle the president's signature initiative.

"Knowing the complexity of the health law, there's no question that the IRS is going to struggle with this," said Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. "The IRS wants more resources. Well, we need to start digging down into what are they doing with the resources and personnel."
If you keep feeding the beast, it will just keep growing...