Sunday, September 30, 2012

Outing The Outsourcers

From the "it's OK when we do it" files:
As President Obama slammed Romney for being a “pioneer” in outsourcing jobs overseas, it appears the president himself and his most loyal supporters are leading the charge in that endeavor. According to William Bigelow of Breitbart.com, “Obama’s second largest fundraiser is John Rogers, the CEO of investment giant Ariel Capital Management. He has raised more than $1.5 million for Obama’s reelection campaign. Bully for him, except for one thing: Ariel Capital Management owns a $48.6 million stake in Accenture, which just happens to be, according to the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals, the nation’s ‘best’ outsourcer.”
Additionally, “Obama’s largest fundraiser, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who raised $2 million for the campaign and co-hosted a $10 million Hollywood fundraiser in May, has been trying to outsource jobs to China by expanding his company’s work there. Why, Jeffrey has even been investigated by the SEC for doing it.”
Americans for Prosperity released a series of ads this past summer detailing how green energy jobs were created overseas thanks to Obama’s stimulus program. In fact, $2.3 billion dollars was wasted on such jobs. With Obama spurring growth in China, Finland, and Mexico, it’s incredible for him to have the audacity to accuse Mr. Romney of being a “pioneer” in outsourcing when he himself seems to be the Outsourcer-in-Chief.
At least he can claim he was honest...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Free Phones For All

The Free Stuff crowd might like the idea of an "Obamaphone", but not everyone does:
The video is drawing attention to the government program — Lifeline — as a national debate unfolds on entitlements and the growing percentage of Americans who pay no income taxes and get a long menu of government benefits. But even though some beneficiaries may credit President Obama for providing the phones, Lifeline is an extension of a program that has existed since 1985. Still, critics including Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., note the program has swelled from $772 million in 2008 to $1.6 billion.

“It's a government-run, taxpayer-funded program that's running wild and costing more and more,” reads Griffin’s official House of Representatives website.

Private carriers who contract with the government, including TracPhone and Sprint, have websites intended to publicize the program. Some attempt to dispel the program’s connection to the president, such as freegovernmentcellphones.net, while others, including obamaphone.net, embrace it.

“The free Obama phone is an important program, especially for low income families that would otherwise not have access to basic communications,” the homepage of obamaphone.net reads.

The site does, however, clarify that Obama did not start the program and that there's no such thing as an "Obama phone."

"It’s true that government provides free cellphones to the poor and disabled people," the site reads. "But the Obama part is not true as Obama didn’t initiate this program. It’s on the run [sic] since the administration of Reagan."

Griffin, who introduced H.R. 3481 in November to end the program, claims to have evidence of dead people getting free cell phones in the mail, ineligible people getting multiple phones and electronic kiosks in convenience stores to encourage people to get the phones.

“The truth is, though, that taxpayers are footing the bill,” the website reads. “The program is called Lifeline, but in reality it's turned into Uncle Sam's Unlimited Plan.”
I'm pretty sure that's the part that Reagan didn't envision...

Illegalities And Misdemeanors

Whoops:
Most governments are unwilling to own up to unlawful surveillance. But not in New Zealand. The country’s prime minister this week admitted that one of its spy agencies illegally intercepted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom’s communications for a full month—prompting an inquiry into how it was allowed to happen.

The development is the latest in a string of blunders related to an attempt to extradite Dotcom to the United States. The 38-year-old millionaire, who was born in Germany, is accused of orchestrating the biggest copyright infringement conspiracy in U.S. history—but authorities have so far handled the case disastrously. Working in collaboration with the FBI, armed police raided Dotcom’s $25 million New Zealand mansion in January. However, a judge later ruled the raid had been authorized using an invalid warrant—rendering the search of Dotcom’s home, and the seizure of his property, “illegal.”
It was like they had a vendetta against this guy, or something...

The Golden State Retirement Plan

Are you ready to trust the state of California with your retirement money?
The program directs employers to withhold 3 percent of their workers' pay unless the employee opts out of the savings program, which can be done every two years. It would be administered by a seven-member board chaired by the state treasurer. The board would select a professional fund manager, which could be a private investment firm or the state's public pension system, to maintain the money.
State Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, introduced the bill earlier this year in response to what he called the "looming retirement tsunami" as millions of lower-wage workers face financial hardship in their retirement years. He said the program will act as a supplement to Social Security by offering private-sector workers a portable savings plan with a guaranteed return.
He said the program is not a pension but rather acts as a savings account, which could be a national model for improving retirement savings.
"This is a major step forward for retirement security in America," De Leon said in a statement. "I am grateful for Gov. Brown's acumen and with his leadership we are setting the path for middle class hard-working Americas to prepare for retirement so they won't be forced into poverty."
State Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Lake Forest, called SB1234 the "worst bill to make its way out of the legislature this year" because it would allow the state's main pension system to invest the money.
Walters noted that the California Public Employees' Retirement System is running a shortfall and that the savings program will be controlled by a group of "career politicians."
"SB1234 looks like nothing more than a cynical effort to prop up the floundering public employee pension debt with new funds from private investors," Walters wrote in a blog ahead of the bill signing.
Many cities and counties already pool their contributions along with the state in the public pension system, but taxpayers are on the hook to cover public employee benefits if investment projections fall short.
It's too soon to say what would happen if CalPERS managed the new retirement program, said pension fund's spokesman, Brad Pacheco. CalPERS could create a separate account for private-sector workers, although it's more likely to pool investments with public employees.
The way things are going, I'm not so sure I'd want to "invest" with other public emlpoyees in California...

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Subsidize and subsidize again:
The federal government is making another big bet on solar panel manufacturing with taxpayer money, hoping the third time will be the charm.
SoloPower held its grand opening Thursday in Portland, Ore., with speeches from local politicians and a ribbon-cutting. "It really revolutionizes rooftop applications, and it makes solar both easy and cost effective for nearly any commercial and industrial building worldwide," CEO Tim Harris said.
SoloPower closed on a guaranteed government loan of $197 million last August, about the time another solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra, filed for bankruptcy. The failure of Solyndra cost U.S. taxpayers more than a half-billion dollars.
The second solar panel maker that received a loan from the Department of Energy, Abound, is also now in bankruptcy. Based in Longmont, Colo., Abound spent $70 million of its green energy loan and next week will auction off its equipment in hopes of paying some of that back.
Industry analysts are not optimistic about SoloPower's prospects.
"It's questionable at this point," says Andrew Soare of Lux Research, "It's uncertain if solar power will be able to produce efficiently and economically at scale. It's something that has not been done yet, and it's still risky."
They're going to keep funding bankruptcies until they get it right...

Friday, September 28, 2012

World Tax Police

Leave it to the United Nations to do this:
The United Nations is at it again: finding new and “innovative” ways to create global taxes that would transfer hundreds of billions, and even trillions, of dollars from the rich nations of the world — especially the U.S. — to poorer ones, in line with U.N.-directed economic, social and environmental development.

These latest global tax proposals have received various forms of endorsement at U.N. meetings over the spring and summer, and will be entered into the record during the 67th U.N. General Assembly session, which began this week. The agenda for the entire session, lasting through December, is scheduled to be finalized on Friday.

How to convince developed countries wracked by economic recession and spiraling levels of government debt – especially the U.S. — is another issue, which the world organization may well end up trying to finesse.

As the U.N. itself notes, in a major report on the taxation topic titled, “In Search of New Development Finance” -- the main topic at a high-level international meeting of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this summer -- “These proposals are subject to political controversy. For instance, many countries are not willing to support international forms of taxation, as these are said to undermine national sovereignty.”
Needless to say, some countries already seem to be ahead of them...

Easy Pickings

How easy is it to be a thief in the TSA?
"It was very commonplace, very," said Pythias Brown, a former TSA officer at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey who admits he stole more than $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year period.

"It was very convenient to steal," he said.

Speaking publicly for the first time after being released from prison, Brown told ABC News his four-year-long crime spree came to an end only because he tried to sell a camera he stole from the luggage of a CNN producer on E-bay but forgot to remove all of the news networks' identifying stickers.

"It became so easy, I got complacent," Brown said.

Brown is one of almost 400 TSA officers who have been fired for stealing from passengers in the past decade. According to the TSA, 381 TSA officers have been fired for theft between 2003 and 2012, including 11 so far in this year.
Remember, they're taking your stuff for their own good...

Green In Bloom

Well, they wanted D.C. to go green:
Less than a month after reopening, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is full of algae, a sea of green overshadowing the nearly two-year, $34 million renovation of the famous site.

The National Park Service anticipated a “break-in period” in which problems would need to be addressed, spokeswoman Carol Johnson said, but no one expected the amount of algae that is there now.
....

While the pool took its water from the city’s drinking system, the reconstruction allows it to take water from the Tidal Basin, saving the city 32 million gallons of water a year.

But because the pool is a smaller and shallower water source, the algae cells bloom more easily there.

“This is a direct consequence of the fact that this is a green project,” Johnson said. “The conditions are pretty good for algae, once it gets in there.”
Leave it to people who don't understand how the environment actually works to screw things up...

Their Fair Share, Government Edition

Pay as we say, not as we do:
A Treasury Department watchdog office said Thursday that 70 federal agencies owed about $14 million in unpaid taxes at the end of last year.

Federal agencies are exempt from paying federal income taxes, but they are responsible for turning over employment taxes, mainly Social Security and Medicare taxes, that their employees must pay.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said 40 of these delinquent tax accounts totaling about $2.6 million were still open three years after being identified, and in 80 percent of those cases, the investigations had been suspended. The offending agencies were not identified.

The $14 million isn't a lot compared to the $768 billion in employment taxes the IRS collected in 2011.

But Inspector General J. Russell George stressed that "federal agencies must comply with the same filing and paying standards that apply to all American taxpayers."
Yes, except apparently when they don't have to...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Counting The Rolls

Florida is a crucial state in Presidential elections. What could go wrong this year?
Florida officially renewed its hunt for ineligible voters on Wednesday, sending a new list of 198 people suspected of being non-U.S. citizens to county election officials and asking them to start the process to remove them from the rolls.

This new list is a far cry from the more than 2,600 registered voters that state election officials once targeted -- but Republican Gov. Rick Scott and others have defended the continued effort.

"I have not talked to one Floridian who says I want my vote diluted by somebody who has never had a right to vote in my state," Scott said last week. "We are doing absolutely the right thing. We believe in honest and fair elections."

It's not clear, however, if the latest effort by the state will result in voters being removed from the rolls prior to this year's presidential election. Florida is a key swing state, and voting rights groups have criticized the purge as a way of discouraging legal immigrants and minorities from casting ballots.

Under the process that election supervisors will use, they will send out letters to those suspected of being non-citizens. In some cases it could take up to 60 days before the voters are eventually removed from the rolls.
You'd think, in a state like Florida, they'd have enough dead voters without having to rely on fake ones...

Meeting The Public

It sucks to work for a dictator:



As someone who abhors mob violence, I have to admit that part of me is sorry that it wasn't Ima Dinnerjacket himself getting a taste of his own medicine.

Risky Business

I guess they have to pay the bills somehow:
The latest round of extraordinary Federal Reserve stimulus is risky and leaves little room to maneuver should another crisis hit, economist Lawrence Lindsey told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

Lindsey said that with the Fed purchasing at least $40 billion a month in mortgage debt through QE3, “they are buying the entire deficit.” (Read more: Fed Pulls Trigger, to Buy Mortgages in Effort to Lower Rates.)

“I have no problem doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times,” said Lindsey, a former White House economic advisor under former president George W. Bush who now runs his own consulting firm.

Lindsay said he agreed with the Fed’s first two rounds of quantitative easing. Now, with the economy now growing closer to its trend rate, “doing something that’s really out of the ordinary is risking things.”

He added, “If this becomes the new ordinary, it’s hard to imagine the Fed’s maneuvering room” should another crisis hit.
Maybe they'll just do some more "bold thinking..."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Another Low Blow

The "progress" of the Obama recovery continues:
Data compiled by Sentier Research found that since the economic recovery technically began in June 2009, median household income has dropped 5.7 percent. As of August, that median income was $50,678 -- also down 1.1 percent from the month prior.

And since Obama took office in January 2009, the median income has fallen 8.2 percent, from $55,198 to its present figure.

"The August decline in real median annual household income is indicative of a struggling economy," Sentier said in its report.

"Even though we are technically in an economic recovery, real median annual household income is having a difficult time maintaining its present level, much less 'recovering.'"
But things are getting better! Technically, at least...

Blogging In The Years: 1995

No, it's not the river; it's a new business:


Personally I think it's a fad, but who knows?

Non-Startups

So who isn't better off because of Obama's policies? The people Obama said he'd help:
Fifty-five percent of small business owners and manufacturers would not have started their businesses in today’s economy, according to a new poll that also reports 69 percent say President Obama’s regulatory policies have hurt their businesses.

“There is far too much uncertainty, too many burdensome regulations and too few policymakers willing to put aside their egos and fulfill their responsibilities to the American people,” said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, which commissioned the poll along with the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “To fix this problem, we need immediate action on pro-growth tax and regulatory policies that put manufacturers in the United States in a position to compete and succeed in an ever-more competitive global economy.”

The poll reports another ominous statistic for job creation: “67 percent say there is too much uncertainty in the market today to expand, grow or hire new workers.” Why? Because “President Obama’s Executive Branch and regulatory policies have hurt American small businesses and manufacturers,” according to 69 percent of the business owners surveyed.
They must not be paying attention to Team Obama's version of reality:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NFL Follies

I didn't see The Game. But I have to agree with Ed Morrisey:
Whatever Roger Goodell thinks he’s doing with his lockout of the professional officials, that strategy is over. He gambled that anyone could call these games, and this weekend he lost. Not only did the officials change the outcome of this game, they probably did the same in Baltimore yesterday with a series of questionable penalty calls and almost certainly blowing the field goal call on the last play of that game as well. The NFL has a game this Thursday. Either they need to get the regular officials back on the field, or they need to start postponing these games until they do, because to saddle teams with regular-season records based on this officiating is a travesty, and it’s turning the NFL into a joke.
And not a very good one, at that.

The Cost To Stay Well

It's still rising:
Spending on health care rose 4.6 percent in 2011 — up $4,500 per person, on average — according to the nonpartisan Health Care Cost Institute. That’s up from a 3.8 growth rate in 2010.
Health insurance premiums for individuals and families also climbed year-over-year, up 3 percent ($186) on average for an individual and 4 percent ($672) on average for a family, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
During Obama’s term, between 2009 to 2012, premiums have climbed $2,370 for the average family with an employer-provided plan – a rate faster than the during the previous four years under President George W. Bush, according to Kaiser. …
During the 2008 campaign and health care reform debate in 2009, President Obama said repeatedly that his plan would bend the cost curve downward, ultimately saving the average family $2,500 per year.
At a rally in Virginia in June 2008, Obama said: “In an Obama administration, we’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year.” …
“We won’t do all this twenty years from now, or ten years from now,” he said. “We’ll do it by the end of my first term as President of the United States.”
That doesn't seem to be working out so well these days...

"Have We Got A Deal For You"

The Chevy Volt still isn't exactly selling like hotcakes:
Americans have been slow to embrace electric cars. But the Volt’s August sales show they are willing to buy if prices are low enough. Even so, electric cars have a long way to go before they enter the mainstream and make money for car companies. Electrics and gas-electric hybrids account for just 3.5 percent of U.S. auto sales this year. GM is losing thousands of dollars on every Volt, raising the question of how long it can keep absorbing the steep losses.

GM executives have conceded from the start that they were losing money on the Volt, and that was before the big discounts.

Now the losses could be even higher. It costs $60,000 to $75,000 to build a Volt, including development, manufacturing and raw materials, estimates Sandy Munro, president of Munro & Associates, a Troy, Mich., a company that analyzes vehicle production expenses for automakers. Much of the cost comes from an expensive combination of two power systems — electric and gasoline. With a sticker price of $40,000, minus the $10,000 the company pays in incentives, GM gets roughly $30,000 for every Volt. So it could be losing at least $30,000 per car.

GM confirmed there are incentives on the Volt and that the company loses money on the car. But the automaker declined to give figures for the discounts or the losses. The figures exclude a federal tax credit that goes to buyers.
You've got to lose money to lose money at Government Motors...

Battle Flags

Hopefully somebody in the food chain just wasn't paying attention:
Developer Paul Sincock’s submission of a release candidate was rejected by Cupertino with a twofold rationale: a bug with iPad support (fair enough) and a violation of App Store Guidelines section 15.3.

According to my colleagues at Information Retrieval, section 15 is the “Violence” guideline, and subsection 3 states the following:

15.3 “Enemies” within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity.

In order to satisfy the regulators, Sincock has had to resubmit Pacific Fleet sans Japanese flags.
According to the guidelines' logic, that would pretty much eliminate all of the historical war games already out there, wouldn't it?

Back Seat Diplomacy

From "smart diplomacy" to "road bumps":
Simply put, the White House is prioritizing the president's reelection effort. Most heads of state will be here all week, but the president will be in New York less than 24 hours, and even then will spend most of his time away from this conference.

After landing in New York Monday afternoon, the president headed straight for a sit-down -- not with visiting leaders, but with the ladies of "The View," for an interview to air tomorrow.

Last year at the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama held 13 one-on-one meetings with major leaders.

But this year diplomacy is taking a back seat to campaigning, despite a worsening civil war in Syria, rising tensions between Israel and Iran, and the recent attack in Libya.
I guess he thinks he's got better places to be these days...

The Great Escape

The California population drain continues as expected:
The long-running exodus from the cash-strapped Golden State is an old story, but a new study by The Manhattan Institute finds that the biggest beneficiaries of the population drain are Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Georgia and South Carolina. Lower cost of living, less government debt and a more business-friendly culture are the main drivers, according to the study.

"States that have gained the most at California’s expense are rated as having better business climates," the study concluded. "The data suggest that many cost drivers —taxes, regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs — are prompting businesses to locate outside California, thus helping to drive the exodus."

Census data shows that more Americans have left California since 2005 than have come to live in it. The finding is a sharp contrast to earlier decades -- 4.2 million Americans moved to California from other states between 1960 and 1990.
What's left is what's gotten California into its current mess, and seems intent on keeping it that way.

The Politics Of Baby Hugo

I am shocked to hear that a would-be Communist revolutionary is using such methods:
Mr Chávez has been in power for more than 13 years and the opposition sees this year’s poll – due to take place on October 7 – as its best chance yet of ousting one of Latin America’s most controversial leaders. Henrique Capriles, the pro-business opposition leader, is Mr Chávez’s main rival. Now allegations of government electoral abuses have raised fears about how far will Mr Chávez go to ensure his victory.

“This is corruption, a crime,” says Eduardo Semtei, a former member of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), which oversees the election, of Mr Chávez’s ‘chain broadcasts’.

Mr Semtei, who now advises the opposition, criticises the “fawning” body for abandoning its duties. “Everyone knows that four of the CNE’s five directors are pro-Chávez – that’s one thing. But it’s not OK that they ignore . . . government abuses,” he says.

The CNE’s partial treatment was evident last month when it sought to prevent Mr Capriles from wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with the colours of the national flag. It claimed this violated campaign regulations – although it has never questioned the president’s use of national symbols in his own clothing and logos.

“Without a doubt the greatest weakness of the process lies in the inequitable conditions of competition,” according to a report on Venezuela’s elections released by the Wilson Center, a US think-tank. Although it described the voting system itself as “reliable”, it criticised the politicisation of the electoral council, Mr Chávez’s media advantage and opaque campaign financing.
Sounds like someone a certain incumbent running for reelection in the U.S. might be emulating...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gone To Honduras

Free enterprise, Private city in Honduran style:
Small government and free-market capitalism are about to get put to the test in Honduras, where the government has agreed to let an investment group build an experimental city with no taxes on income, capital gains or sales.

Proponents say the tiny, as-yet unnamed town will become a Central American beacon of job creation and investment, by combining secure property rights with minimal government interference.

“Once we provide a sound legal system within which to do business, the whole job creation machine – the miracle of capitalism – will get going,” Michael Strong, CEO of the MKG Group, which will build the city and set its laws, told FoxNews.com.

Strong said that the agreement with the Honduran government states that the only tax will be on property.

“Our goal is to be the most economically free entity on Earth,” Strong said.
It will be intersting to see if they can make this free market thing work-not always a given in Latin America. And if it does, with the way things are going, it might be nice to have someplace else to move to...

Parental Units

Er, what?
France is set to ban the words "mother" and "father" from all official documents under controversial plans to legalise gay marriage.

The move, which has outraged Catholics, means only the word "parents" would be used in identical marriage ceremonies for all heterosexual and same-sex couples.

The draft law states that "marriage is a union of two people, of different or the same gender".

It says all references to "mothers and fathers" in the civil code – which enshrines French law – will be swapped for simply "parents".

The law would also give equal adoption rights to homosexual and heterosexual couples.
Regardless of how you feel about gay marriage, isn't this just a bit of politically correct overkill, even for contemporary France?

Out To Lunch

The brown-bag protest movement seems to be catching on:
Some Kansas students and at least one political leader say new school lunch guidelines aimed at limiting calories and encouraging good nutrition are having an unintended consequence:

Hungry kids.

“Here we are in the Wheat State … and I’ve heard some very sad stories recently about school lunches,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler.
....
“There’s just not enough” food, said 16-year-old Callahan Grund, a football player and star of the video. By Friday it had garnered 48,000 views – more than 62 times the population of Sharon Springs, a farming town not far from the Colorado border.

“When you have chores in the morning and football practice after school, you need energy. … This doesn’t cut it,” Grund said.

The major sticking point: a new federal rule that sets calorie maximums for school lunches — 650 calories for elementary-schoolers, 700 for middle-schoolers and 850 for high-schoolers.

Protesters in Kansas and elsewhere say 850 calories isn’t enough for some high-schoolers, particularly athletes who can burn calories by the thousands.
Starvation. It's for the children!

Free Check Facts

Somebody has to pay for "reform":
So-called free checking accounts are more expensive than ever, as the lumbering economy and new regulations squeeze bank revenues. …
Banks have raised fees on automatic teller machines, overdrafts and checking accounts for customers who don’t meet new standards tied to account balances or regular deposits. …
The fees come as the banking industry looks to lose more than $10 billion a year in revenue through federal restrictions on debit cards and overdraft policies, according to bank consultants. …
Customer fees are just one way banks are trying to step up profits. Most financial institutions also are cutting costs. Bank of America Corp., BAC -0.60% for example, is seeking to shed 16,000 jobs by the end of the year.
Is it any wonder the situation was so bad for the banks that they had to lie about it?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Economic Poison

Well, this is cheerful news:
Between 2000 and 2009, according to data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, deaths by suicide went up by 15%, and deaths from poisoning increased by a whopping 128%. Moreover, researchers say that many of the poisoning deaths, which are labeled as “accidental,” may actually be intentional. According to the study’s author, Professor Ian Rockett, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, “Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe.” He added “there may be 20 percent or more unrecognized suicides.”

Experts note that much of the increase in poisoning deaths is due to prescription drug overdoses, but none of the reports I found about the study speculate about what psychological, social, or economic causes are behind the spike in suicides. (I was unable to find an online copy of the study itself). But there is strong evidence elsewhere that our disastrous economy may be playing a significant role. Last year, a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that “[s]uicide rates in the U.S. tend to rise during recessions and fall amid economic booms.”
I guess the good news is that at least Obama is "taking responsibility."

Never Mind Those Silly Polls

Obama's campaign manager says not to worry:
"In all the battleground states, we continue to see all our pathways there," he told the White House pool at an Obama fundraiser in Milwaukee. "We're either tied or in the lead in every battleground state 45 days out."

Messina, who drove from Chicago to Wisconsin to be with Obama on his first trip to a state that appears to have come into play when Paul Ryan was selected to be Romney's running mate, predicted that the national polling will get even closer, but that the president's lead will hold in key swing states.

"I think you will see a tightening in the national polls going forward," he said. "What I care way more about it Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, etc. In those states, I feel our pathways to victory are there. There are two different campaigns, one in the battlegrounds and one everywhere else. That's why the national polls aren't relevant to this campaign."
This is usually a sign that a campaign is more worried than it wants to admit, but, as they say, we'll see, won't we?

When The Wind Doesn't Blow

A word of warning from the UK via Germany on overrelying on wind power:
Germany is way ahead of us on the very path our politicians want us to follow – and the problems it has encountered as a result are big news there. In fact, Germany is being horribly caught out by precisely the same delusion about renewable energy that our own politicians have fallen for. Like all enthusiasts for “free, clean, renewable electricity”, they overlook the fatal implications of the fact that wind speeds and sunlight constantly vary. They are taken in by the wind industry’s trick of vastly exaggerating the usefulness of wind farms by talking in terms of their “capacity”, hiding the fact that their actual output will waver between 100 per cent of capacity and zero. In Britain it averages around 25 per cent; in Germany it is lower, just 17 per cent.

The more a country depends on such sources of energy, the more there will arise – as Germany is discovering – two massive technical problems. One is that it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain a consistent supply of power to the grid, when that wildly fluctuating renewable output has to be balanced by input from conventional power stations. The other is that, to keep that back-up constantly available can require fossil-fuel power plants to run much of the time very inefficiently and expensively (incidentally chucking out so much more “carbon” than normal that it negates any supposed CO2 savings from the wind).
Unfortunately, if the EPA has its way, we're not that far behind...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Business As Usual

Maxine Waters gets a pass in her husband's bank case:
Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, acting chairman of the panel, announced the tentative findings at the hearing but noted the committee had not issued a final report.

Goodlatte said the committee was convinced that when Waters asked for a meeting at the Treasury Department to discuss financial help for minority banks, she believed she did so on behalf of all minority banks -- not just OneUnited, where her husband owns stock. Goodlatte said the committee agreed with Waters' assertion.

The acting chairman said that when Waters realized OneUnited was in serious trouble, she told then-chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to handle any further matters in the case. Goodlatte said, however, that Moore continued efforts in Congress to get committee help for OneUnited, even sending the committee staff an email saying, "OneUnited is in trouble."

Moore defended his actions, saying he violated no House rules.

The case could have had political implications because the California lawmaker expects to be the senior Democrat next year on the committee that oversees the financial industry. Waters, who routinely wins her Los Angeles district overwhelmingly, could become chairwoman if Democrats win control of the House.
What's a little corruption between friends and family?

Press Machine Fail

Gee, I wonder why?
Americans’ distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. Distrust is up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004. …
This year’s decline in media trust is driven by independents and Republicans. The 31% and 26%, respectively, who express a great deal or fair amount of trust are record lows and are down significantly from last year. Republicans’ level of trust this year is similar to what they expressed in the fall of 2008, implying that they are especially critical of election coverage.
Needless to say, it's a bad sign when Univision has to do your job for you..

Art Offensive

When it comes to Jesus in a jar, some are wondering where the outrage is:
Rep. Michael Grimm (R, C-NY) wants to know why President Obama hasn’t denounced the exhibit and said he’s fed up with what he called the administration’s “religious hypocrisy.”

“The Obama administration’s hypocrisy and utter lack of respect for the religious beliefs of Americans has reached an all-time high,” Grimm told Fox News. “I call on President Obama to stand up for America’s values and beliefs and denounce the ‘Piss Christ’ that has offended Christians at home and abroad.”

So will the Obama Administration condemn the anti-Christian art display? Will they air a television ad denouncing the exhibit? Will the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ask the gallery to cancel the exhibit?

The White House did not return calls seeking comment. Neither did the Pentagon.

The State Dept. referred to a previous statement Clinton made in reference to the anti-Islamic film.

“America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation,” Clinton said. “And as you know, we are home to people of all religions, many of whom came to this country seeking the right to exercise their own religion, including, of course, millions of Muslims. And we have the greatest respect for people of faith.”

Grimm said the lack of response from the White House is unacceptable.

“Perhaps they’ve forgotten the controversy that surrounds this deplorable piece depicting a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine,” Grimm said. “It outraged Christians in American and throughout the world.”
No; they've just decided that some offenders should be treated more equally than others...

The Other Face Of Benghazi

The good guys strike back:
Ten days after four Americans were killed in their Libyan city, hundreds marched in Benghazi and took over the headquarters of a radical Islamist group tied to the attack.

Thousands of protesters had taken to the street earlier Friday, loudly declaring that they -- and not those behind last week's deadly attack -- represent the real sentiments of the Libyan people.

"I am sorry, America," one man said. "This is the real Libya."

In the evening, an offshoot of several hundred people then headed toward the headquarters for Ansar al-Sharia, a loosely connected radical Islamist group.
They know whose side they're on. And, unlike Team Obama, they don't have to spin it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Road To Socialist Ruin

The revolution in Venezuela has hit a few snags:
The number of public employees has ballooned during Chavez's presidency, from about 1.3 million to 2.4 million. And Chavez has made clear that if he's re-elected, "that's going to keep going up."

Despite all the spending, critics argue that Chavez has ignored some of the nation?s basic needs and has failed to modernize the nation.

Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has argued that more should have been spent to improve police forces as the country's violent crime rate soars.

Under Chavez, Venezuela's murder rate has skyrocketed to the fourth highest in the world, kidnappings are rampant throughout the capital of Caracas and the country has become a hub for the South American drug trade.
But hey, look at their health care program!

The Collaborators

This is what enforced propaganda looks like:
Emails TheDC obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show Schmaler — Attorney General Eric Holder’s top press defender — and Media Matters staffers working together to attack reporters covering DOJ scandals and other administration critics.

One target of Media Matters and Schmaler, now-former DOJ attorney Chris Coates, told TheDC he thinks Schmaler should step down. “I think that a resignation would be in order from her,” Coates said in a phone interview.

Coates was still a DOJ employee when Schmaler worked with Media Matters in the fall of 2010 to attack him. He was at one time the chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Rights Section, a high-ranking position for a civil servant who was not politically appointed.

While Schmaler and Media Matters collaborated to attack Coates’ reputation, he was prosecuting cases for the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina.

“I do find it unusual that apparently during the time that I was prosecuting criminal cases in South Carolina for the Department of Justice, the Department’s press spokesman was clandestinely providing information to chosen media outlets to try to defame me,” Coates told TheDC.
When you don't play their game, you get burned...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Everybody's Fair Share

I guess you have to give Tim Kaine points for being honest:
(Moderator David) GREGORY: Do you believe that everyone in Virginia should pay something in federal income tax?

KAINE: Well, everyone pays taxes, I mean, the statistics that have come out..

GREGORY: I'm asking about federal income taxes.

KAINE: I would be open to a proposal that would have some minimum tax level for everyone.

Kaine made the point after a lengthy discussion born out of Mitt Romney's comments about 47 percent of Americans not paying federal income tax.
So when do we get to hear complaints that Kaine doesn't care about those people?

Inside Man

From Mr. Hope and Change himself, comes this:



It's the change he no longer believes in (or maybe never did?)

When Oppressed Women Attack

An Iranian cleric gets a lesson in why you shouldn't make a lady angry:
An Iranian cleric said he was beaten by a woman in the northern province of Semnan after giving her a warning for being “badly covered,” the state-run Mehr news agency reported.

Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti said he encountered the woman in the street while on his way to the mosque in the town of Shahmirzad, and asked her to cover herself up, to which she replied “you, cover your eyes,” according to Mehr. The cleric repeated his warning, which he said prompted her to insult and push him.

“I fell on my back on the floor,” Beheshti said in the report. “I don’t know what happened after that, all I could feel was the kicks of this woman who was insulting me and attacking me.”
Turnabout hurts, doesn't it?

Canadian Envy

And now, something else to not be proud of:
In the latest report on world economic freedom from the Fraser Institute, the U.S. has now dropped all the way down to 18th, falling behind countries like Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Estonia, Taiwan and Qatar.

The decline did not happen overnight. “This entire decade we’ve been sliding towards this 18th ranking,” report author Joshua Hall explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
....

The growth of government and less secure property rights have the most to do with the United States’ drop.

“I think we think of the underlying causes of our decline in legal system and property rights, the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision [over eminent domain], the war on terror, and things related to the rule of law, things like TARP and the bail outs, have all contributed to the decline of scores in areas one and two,” Hall explained.
When Michael Moore and other liberals talk about how we should be more like our Northern neighbors, they may be more right than they realize...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Great Safe North

Oh, good. Although somebody deserves to be punished for Celine Dion...

Obamacare's Penalty Box

Remember when Obama said that Obamacare wouldn't raise taxes on the middle class? Well:
Nearly 6 million Americans - significantly more than first estimated- will face a tax penalty under President Barack Obama's health overhaul for not getting insurance, congressional analysts said Wednesday. Most would be in the middle class.

The new estimate amounts to an inconvenient fact for the administration, a reminder of what critics see as broken promises.

The numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office are 50 percent higher than a previous projection by the same office in 2010, shortly after the law passed. The earlier estimate found 4 million people would be affected in 2016, when the penalty is fully in effect.

That's still only a sliver of the population, given that more than 150 million people currently are covered by employer plans. Nonetheless, in his first campaign for the White House, Obama pledged not to raise taxes on individuals making less than $200,000 a year and couples making less than $250,000.
They really thought this thing through, didn't they?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Buy As We Say, Not As We Do

The government mantra is blame China-except when China is a valued supplier:
Government officials blame unfair competition from China for the collapse of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, but such concerns didn’t stop the federal government from breaking stimulus program rules to use Chinese solar panels atop a federal building housing the offices of a senator, congressman and several agencies.

Even the contractor questioned whether Chinese-made panels could be used under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus program that mandated use of U.S.-made products. His query in early 2010 was dismissed and the General Services Administration moved forward with using the Chinese panels on the Sen. Paul Simon Federal Building in Carbondale, Ill., records show.
....

According to the inspector general’s memo, Conkey officials asked the GSA contracting official “whether non-ARRA [Recovery Act] compliant solar panels could be used” on Feb. 16, 2010, before the installation of the panels.

“The contracting officer directed Conkey to ‘proceed with the panels specified in the schedule contract since they have already been determined as satisfying all applicable contract clauses including the ARRA Buy American Act requirement,’ ” the memo stated.

The inspector general’s memo said the overall roof work was performed under a $1.8 million task order awarded to J.R. Conkey & Associates, though Mr. Conkey said a portion of the project involving stimulus funding for the panels at issue involved about $200,000.

Dan Cruz, a GSA spokesman, said an agency review found no other instances of GSA projects using solar panels made outside of the U.S.
Talk about China's unfair trade practices is cheap-and so, apparently, are their solar panels...

The Hours

How many hours would it take to comply with Obamacare?
Based on Internal Revenue Service figures, the House Committee on Ways and Means has compiled an estimate of the total amount of hours it will take to comply with the tax rules. The bottom line: 79,229,503 hours, most of which will fall on small businesses.

For fun, the committee gave a comparative example.

"So, what can be done in 79,229,503 hours? The Empire State building, which took 7 million man-hours to build, could be constructed 11 times. The Curiosity Lander could travel from Earth to Mars 13,048 times. Halley's comet, seen from Earth once every 76 years, could be spotted 119 times."

The committee said that Obamacare has resulted in thousands of pages in IRS and Treasury rules including 17 regulations, 5 revenue procedures, 2 revenue rulings, and 14 Treasury decisions.
Creating a nannystate is a tough job...

Gospel Truth Or Fiction?

Could a scrap of ancient papyrus change history?
The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding was made public in Rome on Tuesday at the International Congress of Coptic Studies by Karen L. King, a historian who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

The provenance of the papyrus fragment is a mystery, and its owner has asked to remain anonymous. Until Tuesday, Dr. King had shown the fragment to only a small circle of experts in papyrology and Coptic linguistics, who concluded that it is most likely not a forgery. But she and her collaborators say they are eager for more scholars to weigh in and perhaps upend their conclusions.

Even with many questions unsettled, the discovery could reignite the debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his wife and whether he had a female disciple. These debates date to the early centuries of Christianity, scholars say. But they are relevant today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in ministry and the boundaries of marriage.
If it was proven that he was married, would it really be that big of a deal in today's world? Would it make him more human and less divine? Would it diminish the importance of his teachings?

Time To Go Home...

This is a recovery?
A new report put out by the Pew Research Center finds that the median income is worse now than it was during the Great Recession.

According to Pew, the Census Bureau showed that the median income for American households in 2009 – the official end of the Great Recession – was $52,195 (in 2011 dollars), while the median income dipped to $50,054 last year, falling 4.1 percent over two years.
....

The poverty rate rose from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 15 percent last year as the median household wealth fell by 39 percent over a three-year span, from $131,016 in 2007 to $79,431 in 2010.

“[T]he economic health of American families deteriorated further in the first two years of the recovery from the Great Recession,” the Pew report explains. “Much like an unwelcome dinner guest who does not know when it is time to leave, the Great Recession seems blissfully unaware that it was declared over in June 2009.”
If the economy is getting better, then somebody forgot to tell the economy...

Food Fight

Now this is a protest movement that I hope spreads:
Following new federal guidelines, school districts nationwide have retooled their menus to meet new requirements to serve more whole grains, only low-fat or nonfat milk, daily helpings of both fruits and vegetables, and fewer sugary and salty items. And for the first time, federal funds for school lunches mandate age-aligned calorie maximums. The adjustments are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 touted by Michelle Obama and use the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The changes are hard to swallow for students like Blohm. On Monday, 70% of the 830 Mukwonago High students who normally buy lunch boycotted cafeteria food to protest what they see as an unfair "one size fits all thing." Middle schoolers in the district also boycotted their school lunches, with counts down nearly half Monday. They're not alone in their frustration; schools across the country are reporting students who are unhappy with the lunch offerings.
....

Pam Harris, the district food service supervisor and a registered dietitian, said children's weight and poor nutrition in America are serious problems, but the changes are too abrupt.

"I could not be more passionate about this," Harris said. "I want to solve this problem. But limiting calories in school lunch is not going to help the overweight kid. What happens at home is a major piece of that puzzle."

"Our issue is pretty much kids just don't want to eat vegetables," she said. "The USDA wants to solve the problem of childhood obesity. Those are two kind of separate issues."

Harris spoke at all lunch periods Friday to explain the federal dietary changes and had students fill out comment cards explaining what they do and don't like about the new menu. She plans to send those and parent letters to the USDA in hopes the department will allow districts including Mukwonago to gradually introduce their menu over a few years.
If Michelle Obama has her way, that's not likely to happen anytime soon...

Ministry Of Coercion

Propaganda doesn't always pay:
A college professor has been placed on leave after she allegedly forced her class to sign a pledge to vote for President Obama in the upcoming elections.
....

University administrators said they learned about the incident late Thursday afternoon and launched an investigation, after they received a phone call from a concerned parent.

“Based on the allegations, Associate Professor Sweet has requested, and been granted, a leave of absence without pay effective immediately,” reads a statement put out by John Glisch, Associate Vice President for Communications at BCC.

“The college will continue its investigation into the matter, which will include interviews with all students in her class,” continues the statement.

Sweet’s actions may have also violated Florida’s election laws.

Section 104.31, of Title IX in chapter 104, states that “no officer or employee of the state... shall... use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or nomination of officer or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof.”
Chicago-style politics doesn't always work elsewhere...

The Divine Right Of Bureaucrats

Thou shall not insult the king:
In 2010, Nigel Farage, an anti-European Union member of the EU Parliament, rose following a speech by Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council. As Van Rompuy listened, Farage, a Briton, added that the former Belgian prime minister came from "pretty much a non-country."

The Parliament docked Farage €2,980 — 10 days' expenses. Farage appealed to the European Court of Justice. It ruled this month that he filed his appeal too late and would also have to pay Parliament's legal expenses.
Well, it's a good thing that sort of thing can't happen here, isn't it?

The 47%

So here's the supposedly controversial audio of Mitt Romney's thoughts on Obama voters:



Well, it's not like President Obama has never supported what Romney is talking about, or was more dismissive himself. Of course, Romney is doing damage control, but the good news for him is that it might not really matter in the long run.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bailout Blues

GM wants out:
Following a $50 billion bailout in 2009, the U.S. taxpayers now own almost 27% of the company. But the newspaper said GM executives are now chafing at that, saying it hurts the company's reputation and its ability to attract top talent due to pay restrictions. Earlier this year, GM presented a plan to repurchase 200 million of the 500 million shares the U.S. holds with the balance being sold via a public offering. But officials at the Treasury Department were not interested, as selling now would lead to a multibillion-dollar loss for the government, the newspaper noted.
There's always a catch to dealing with the devil...

Insult This

This is what separates us from a theocracy:
Six months after declaring that all churches in the Arabian peninsula should be destroyed, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric called at the weekend for a global ban on insults targeting all religious “prophets and messengers,” a category that, from a Muslim perspective, includes Jesus Christ.

Saturday’s demand by Saudi grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh came on the same day that another of Sunni Islam’s most prominent figures, Egypt’s Al-Azhar University grand imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb, made a similar appeal.

Both men were reacting to an amateur video satirizing Mohammed, whose emergence on the Internet has been blamed for protests targeting American diplomatic missions across the Islamic world. According to wire services at least 12 deaths have been linked to the protests since Thursday, with deaths reported in Tunisia, Sudan, Pakistan, Yemen, Lebanon and Egypt.

The two clerics’ calls are a new salvo in an unremitting campaign by Islamic political and religious leaders, spearheaded by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), to pressure non-Muslims to treat Islam with deference.

In a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Asheikh “appealed to all countries and international organizations to criminalize acts ridiculing all prophets and messengers (peace be upon them).”
The scary part is, some countries that consider themselves to be democracies might heed their suggestion...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nothing To Fear

The good news for those not covered: The IRS won't be going after you:
The mandate in ObamaCare requiring Americans to buy health insurance is poised to go into full effect as a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling. But the IRS has no plans to get agents involved in enforcing the mandate – or at least not to the agency’s fullest extent.

A top IRS official says the agency does not plan to perform audits or penalize those who fail to buy the insurance.

President Obama’s law overhauling U.S. health care -- passed in 2010 and upheld by the high court this year -- charges most Americans a penalty if they fail to buy insurance starting in 2014.

“We will not use levies, liens or criminal prosecutions if taxpayers have unpaid amounts related to the individual-coverage provision,” Steven Miller, an IRS deputy commissioner, said Tuesday at a House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing. “There will not be revenue agents involved in this. These will not be audits.”
You'll just be fined into the poorhouse instead...

Selling Points

Coming soon to your TV screen: Obamacare propaganda?
"Realizing that much of the battle will be in the public relations realm, the exchange has poured significant resources into a detailed marketing plan — developed not by state health bureaucrats but by the global marketing powerhouse Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, which has an initial $900,000 contract with the exchange," she wrote. Ogilvy's plan is to tap major network TV shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Modern Family" to sell Americans on the health care law:

Hollywood, an industry whose major players have been supportive of President Obama and his agenda, will be tapped. Plans are being discussed to pitch a reality television show about “the trials and tribulations of families living without medical coverage,” according to the Ogilvy plan. The exchange will also seek to have prime-time television shows, like “Modern Family,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and Univision telenovelas, weave the health care law into their plots.

“I’d like to see 10 of the major TV shows, or telenovelas, have people talking about ‘that health insurance thing,’ ” said Peter V. Lee, the exchange’s executive director. “There are good story lines here.”
I'm sure the media would be willing to report on using TV shows to promote a government agenda, except they're too busy campaigning for Obama instead.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The One Love

Inside the mind of the last Obama fan:
Along with his willingness to give Obama’s staff editorial veto power, Lewis’s professional gullibility weakens the article’s value as an objective peek into Obama’s world. At the same time it makes the piece more interesting than it might have been otherwise. As reporter and writer, whether consciously or not, Lewis in effect joined the team, and he was happy to remain under close supervision, watching what he was meant to watch and staying away when he was told to bug off.

“Obama’s Way,” in other words, is exactly how the Obama administration wants you the reader—you the voter—to think of the president. It’s as close to an official portrait as we are likely to get until the president himself writes his memoirs in his own soaring prose.

Lewis has succumbed inevitably to the Obama Delusion, the vision, once so widely shared, of the blinding splendor of this fellow who has proved to be so ordinary. As a Delusionist he happens upon Obama doing unexceptional things that become, by virtue of Obama doing them, wildly impressive.
Obama might be boring, if he weren't so darned awesome...

Walk Of Shame

Via Instapundit:


Some more here:
Is Nakoula a serial killer? A child molester? No, he’s a man with poor taste who made a video that insulted some people who can’t deal with criticism, even the laughably inane and inept criticism of this 14-minute cheesefest that makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like Citizen Kane. However, in the US, making really bad movies and engaging in even inept theological and historical commentary isn’t a crime at all. The media are undermining the same guarantees of free speech that allow them to operate without government interference, and they’re putting people’s lives at risk while doing so.
Glenn Reynolds sums up his feelings:
By sending — literally — brownshirted enforcers to engage in — literally — a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the President of the United States and his administration, President Obama violated that oath. You can try to pretty this up (It’s just about possible probation violations! Sure.), or make excuses or draw distinctions, but that’s what’s happened. It is a betrayal of his duties as President, and a disgrace.

He won’t resign, of course. First, the President has the appreciation of free speech that one would expect from a Chicago Machine politician, which is to say, none. Second, he’s not getting any pressure. Indeed, the very press that went crazy over Ari Fleischer’s misrepresented remarks seems far less interested in the actions of an administration that I repeat, literally sent brown-shirted enforcers to launch a midnight knock on a filmmaker’s door.

But Obama’s behavior — and that of his enablers in the press — has laid down a marker for those who are paying attention. By these actions he is, I repeat, unfit to hold office. I hope and expect that the voters will agree in November.
That is the way you do things in a democratic republic, where you have the right to say and do stupid things, and be held accountable for them-but not to be used as a scapegoat for an administration's failed policy.

Game God

As a mental health break, are we all part of the matrix after all?
Sooner or later, we’ll get to a place where simulating a few billion people—and making them believe they are sentient beings with the ability to control their own destinies—will be as easy as sending a stranger a picture of your genitals on your phone.

This hypothesis—versions of which have been kicked around for centuries—is becoming the trippy notion of the moment for philosophers, with people like Nick Bostrom, the director of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, seriously considering the premise.

Until recently, the simulation argument hadn’t really attracted traditional researchers. That’s not to say he is the first scientist to predict our ability to run realistic simulations (among others, Ray Kurzweil did that in his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines), but he is one of the first to argue we might already be living inside one. Rich has even gone one step further by attempting to prove his theories through physics, citing things like the observable pixelation of the tiniest matter and the eerie similarities between quantum mechanics, the mathematical rules that govern our universe, and the creation of video game environments.

Just think: Whenever you fuck up there could be the intergalactic version of an overweight 13-year-old Korean boy controlling you and screaming “Shit!” into an Xbox headset.
Ah, so that explains the screaming voice in my head...

YouSpeech

Youtube tells Team Obama to pound sand:
Google will leave a controversial video clip about the Islamic prophet Muhammad on YouTube despite a White House request that the company review it under its own policies, the company said Friday.

The White House confirmed Friday that it asked Google to review whether the clip violated its policies and should be taken down. Google decided that the video does not violate its policies.

“We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions,” a YouTube spokeswoman said in a statement. “This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video — which is widely available on the Web — is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.”

“However, we've restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as India and Indonesia, as well as in Libya and Egypt given the very sensitive situations in these two countries,” the spokeswoman said.
There's being sensitive, and then there's being stupid. Fortunately, Google seems to recognize the difference between the two.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Art Of Bankruptcy

Solyndra lives-at least as art:
The work of experimental architecture is called the SOL Grotto — and Republicans are making fun of it as a symbol of a $528 million federal boondoggle, calling it the most expensive art project ever built.

The newly opened installation owes its 1,368 distinctive glass rods, and its name, to Solyndra — the failed solar company that received a hefty sum in federal loans before going bankrupt and becoming a favorite target for critics of President Barack Obama’s energy policy.

When the Fremont-based solar company went under, it left behind millions of 39-inch glass tubes custom-made for its signature solar panels.

Husband and wife design partners Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello got the rods from a storage company that ended up stuck with thousands of pallets of them and created the installation in the Botanical Garden at the University of California, Berkeley.

“We thought they glowed so beautifully, we had to use them in the grotto,” said San Fratello.

“These materials, instead of being disposed of, are being reused and recycled in a fantastic way,” she added.
Hey, at least they're being used for something...

Forced Feeding

The push for biofuels continues apace:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday raised biofuels targets for 2013 despite an ongoing legal battle with the oil-and-gas industry on the issue.

Refiners will be required to blend 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel — which EPA includes in its definition of “advanced” biofuels — into traditional transportation fuel in 2013, up from 1 billion gallons this year.
....
The advanced biofuels quota is part of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). That rule, which was enacted by law in 2005 and updated to include advanced biofuels in 2007, is credited with jumpstarting the biofuels industry.

But advanced biofuels have struggled to reach commercial-scale production. That has led the American Petroleum Institute (API) to sue EPA over the RFS mandate, claiming the agency pinned advanced biofuels targets on unrealistic market conditions.

“EPA’s mandate will unnecessarily raise the cost of making diesel fuel. This is bad public policy that could burden consumers and businesses already pressed with higher energy costs,” Bob Greco, API's downstream group director, said Friday in a statement. “By picking energy winners and losers, EPA takes away consumer choice and further threatens public acceptance of biofuels.”
It just goes with the Obama administration's lack of understanding of basic economics...

Worse Than The Disease

How the recovery isn't happening:
So is economic health returning? The short answer is no. The mortgage crisis has become so grave that some city governments are threatening to deploy their eminent domain powers to seize loans at high risk of default. Seven municipal governments, including three of the 50 largest cities in California, have declared bankruptcy. Wealth creation in America has become so difficult, and wealth destruction so common, that in many respects the recovery, which is not a recovery at all but a period of indefinite stagnation, has become worse than the “Great Recession” that allegedly ended in 2009.

The long answer is also no. A June Federal Reserve study revealed that the median value of pretax family income fell 7.7 percent between 2007 and 2010; during the same period, median net worth declined a whopping 38.8 percent, and mean net worth dropped 14.7 percent. The Fed’s quarterly flow of funds reports have consistently shown flat household net worth since 2010. At $62.9 trillion in the first quarter of this year, household net worth is still almost $5 trillion below where it was in 2007.

As if having fewer dollars weren’t bad enough, the dollars have been, according to the strict definition of the word, decimated. Consumer Price Index inflation has robbed the dollar of 10 percent of its value since 2007. With the interest rate on a savings account below 1 percent, saving money in the bank has come to mean losing your money, and not slowly.
The Federal government apparently wants as many people as possible to go down with the ship...

Pump Failure

The U.S. has been downgraded again:
Ratings firm Egan-Jones cut its credit rating on the U.S. government to “AA-” from “AA,” citing its opinion that quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve would hurt the U.S. economy and the country’s credit quality…
In its downgrade, the firm said that issuing more currency and depressing interest rates through purchasing mortgage-backed securities does little to raise the U.S.’s real gross domestic product, but reduces the value of the dollar.
In turn, this increases the cost of commodities, which will pressure the profitability of businesses and increase the costs of consumers thereby reducing consumer purchasing power, the firm said.
Team Obama can't say they weren't warned. So, what does Bernanke do now?

"We're Very Proud..."

So says Jay Carney:
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney opted not to respond to the suggestion that the embassy attacks throughout the Middle East suggest that extremists view the United States under President Obama as weak on foreign policy.

“We are happy to debate — and there is certainly ample time and appropriate time to debate foreign policy approaches, this president’s record on foreign policy,” Carney told reporters during the press briefing when asked if the attacks stemmed from “perceived American weakness” that stems from Obama’s leadership. “We’re very proud of the president’s record on foreign policy and are happy to make the case at the appropriate time.”
Also, it's not about us, despite growing evidence to the contrary. "Smart diplomacy" seems to be looking worse and worse these days...

Not Feeling It

It may be there, but it doesn't feel like it:
The recent census report shows that despite (extremely slow) increases in national GDP and employment, inflation-adjusted household income—an indicator with far more impact on the lives of most Americans—has been dropping since 2009. As the New York Times notes, median household income is now 8.1 percent below its level in 2007.

Obama has spent the past two years trying to make the case that his policies have made Americans better off. Reports like this one and last month’s abysmal jobs report don’t make that case any easier to make.
But remember, for the Obama economy, this is good news...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Obamacare Nuggets

The owner of KFC explains things:
With simple math the small business folks understood, he spelled out that their only choice is to slash employee hours so they aren't eligible for company-paid health care or stop offering insurance and pay the $2,000 per employee fine.

Barr has 23 stores with 421 employees, 109 of whom are full-time. Of those, he provides 30 with health insurance. Barr said he pays 81 percent of their Blue Cross Blue Shield policy, or $4,073 of $5,028 for individuals, more for families, for a total bill of $129,000 a year. Employees pay $995.

Under Obamacare, however, he will have to provide health insurance for all 109 full-time workers, a cost of $444,000, or two and half times more than his current costs. That $315,000 increase is equal to just over half his annual profit, after expenses, or 1.5 percent of sales. As a result, he said, "I'm not paying $444,000."

Providing no insurance would result in a federal fine of $158,000, $29,000 more than he now spends but the lowest cost possible under the Obamacare law. So he now views that as his cap and he'll either cut worker hours or replace them with machines to get his costs down or dump them on the public health exchange and pay the fine. "Every business has a way to eliminate jobs," he said, "but that's not good for them or me."

But that's not all. His experience tells him that most low-wage workers he would have to cover under Obamacare won't take it because their $995 share is too high, meaning those the program was set up for won't see any benefit. And those who do will because they have major health issues, likely resulting in higher premiums to him.
As Obama might say, he didn't kill his business-somebody else made that happen.

Got Soda?

Let the ban begin:
New York City’s Board of Health opened up a new, experimental front in the war on obesity Thursday, passing a rule banning sales of big sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, concession stands, and other eateries.
The regulation, which was proposed in the spring by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and approved by panel of health experts after several months of review, puts a 16-ounce size limit on cups and bottles of non-diet soda, sweetened teas, and other calorie-packed beverages.
The ban will apply in fast-food joints, movie houses and Broadway theaters, workplace cafeterias, and most other places selling prepared food.
It doesn’t cover beverages sold in supermarkets or most convenience stores.
The way things are going, it probably won't be long before it does...

Looking For A Scapegoat?

The Feds apparently have their man:
Federal authorities have identified a Coptic Christian in southern California who is on probation after his conviction for financial crimes as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film that ignited mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Mideast, a U.S. law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The official said authorities had concluded that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was behind "Innocence of Muslims," a film that denigrated Islam and the prophet Muhammad and sparked protests earlier this week in Egypt, Libya and most recently in Yemen. It was not immediately clear whether Nakoula was the target of a criminal investigation or part of the broader investigation into the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya during a terrorist attack.

Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed Thursday that Justice Department officials were investigating the deaths, which occurred during an attack on the American mission in Benghazi.
Well, I feel much better knowing that Eric Holder is on the case...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Class Growth

The ranks of the lower class have expanded:
In the course of Obama’s presidency, people saying they are in the “lower classes” have risen from one-quarter to one-third of the adult population.

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans who say they are in the lower-middle or lower-class has risen from 25 percent to 32 percent in the past four years, in the national survey of 2,508 adults.

Not only has the lower class grown, but its demographic profile also has shifted. People younger than 30 are disproportionately swelling the ranks of the self-defined lower classes. The shares of Hispanics and whites who place themselves in the lower class also are growing.
Seems like the number of those who could "pay their fair share" is getting awfully low...

Coordinated Effort

Reporters get caught getting their questions straight:
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: …pointing out that the Republicans… *unintelligible* …Obama….

CBS REPORTER: That’s the question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: *unintelligible*

CBS REPORTER: Yeah that’s the question. I would just say do you regret your question.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your question? Your statement?

CBS REPORTER: I mean your statement. Not even the tone, because then he can go off on…

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And then if he does, if we can just follow up and say ‘but this morning your answer is continuing to sound…’ – *becomes unintelligble*

CBS REPORTER: You can’t say that..

**Later**

CBS REPORTER: I’m just trying to make sure that we’re just talking about, no matter who he calls on we’re covered on the one question.
Well, just so long as they're covered...

Taxpayer-Funded Lawbreaking

Considering the group she works for, this isn't too surprising (via The Foundry):
Independent federal legal officials have concluded that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius violated federal law by conducting political activity “in an official capacity,” according to a statement released on Wednesday.
....

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election. A federal employee is permitted to make partisan remarks when speaking in their personal capacity, but not when using their official title or when speaking about agency business.

After the event, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reclassified the trip from official to political and issued a statement to that effect. Secretary Sebelius and HHS reimbursed the U.S. Treasury for all costs and expenses associated with her travel to the event. OSC found no evidence that Secretary Sebelius made any other political statements in her official capacity.
I guess these days Team Obama does its campaigning wherever it can...

Ridding The Rails

Are Amtrak's days finally numbered?
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released a report Tuesday arguing that Amtrak should privatize more of its rail service, which has been a longtime Republican goal.
“We already know that Amtrak’s losses in food and beverage service are a staggering $833 million over the last decade,” Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said in a statement.
“Now we know that Amtrak wastes the taxpayers’ money bidding on commuter rail contracts that it cannot win, and that hundreds of millions of dollars in savings can be realized if the private sector is given a chance to compete with Amtrak in commuter rail and passenger rail service,” he continued. …
Mica has frequently referred to Amtrak as a “Soviet-style operation.” Amtrak, which was founded by Congress in 1971 to replace a network of private railways, receives an approximately $1 billion subsidy from the federal government every year.
Maybe it's time to stop feeding the beast?

Knucklehead Sandwich

You can't make this stuff up:
An Oregon grade school principal suggested in a newspaper interview that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches might be racially and culturally offensive.

“What about Somali or Hispanic students who might not eat sandwiches?” Verenice Gutierrez told the Portland Tribune.

Gutierrez, principal of Harvey Scott K-8 School, was being interviewed about the school district’s equity training program designed to narrow the achievement gap. The newspaper said she “picks up on the subtle language of racism every day” and used the peanut butter sandwich to illustrate her point.

“Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ let them tell you,” she told the newspaper. “Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
Sometimes a sandwich is just a sandwich...

The Arab Autumn

First, Cairo, and now, something even worse in Libya:
The United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, was killed along with three of his staff members in an attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday night by an armed mob angry over a short American-made video mocking Islam’s founding prophet, the White House and Libyan officials said on Wednesday.

In a statement confirming the four fatalities, President Obama said he strongly condemned the killings and had ordered increased security at American diplomatic posts around the world. It was the first death of an American envoy abroad in more than two decades.
But remember, we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings...

Gold Versus Green

Is Greenpeace starving kids?
According to the World Health Organization between 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind every year due to vitamin A deficiency, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind. Millions of other people suffer from various debilitating conditions due to the lack of this essential nutrient.

Golden Rice is a genetically modified form of rice that, unlike conventional rice, contains beta-Carotene in the rice kernel. Beta-Carotene is converted to vitamin A in humans and is important for eyesight, the immune system, and general good health. Swiss scientist and humanitarian Dr. Ingo Potrykus and his colleagues developed Golden Rice in 1998. It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that golden rice can eliminate vitamin A deficiency.

Greenpeace and its allies have successfully blocked the introduction of golden rice for over a decade, claiming it may have “environmental and health risks” without ever elaborating on what those risks might be. After years of effort the Golden Rice Humanitarian Project, led by Dr. Potrykus, The Rockefeller Foundation and others were unable to break through the political opposition to golden rice that was generated directly by Greenpeace and its followers.

Recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has taken a lead role, in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, in breaking through these barriers and bringing Golden Rice to market. Field trials are now underway in the Philippines and Bangladesh with the hope of introducing it to the market by 2015. Since the invention of Golden Rice in 1998 between four million and 8 million additional children have become blind, nearly half of whom have already died. Surely this constitutes “great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.” Greenpeace continues to oppose these field trials.

Greenpeace has openly and aggressively spread misinformation about Golden Rice since it was first invented and has continued to do so at every opportunity. They claim that there are better ways to alleviate vitamin A deficiency, such as vitamin pills and “home gardening”. Yet Greenpeace is doing nothing to implement alternative programs for the millions of victims, claiming the cause of vitamin A deficiency is “poverty”.
I'm sure Greenpeace would say that it's just their way of dealing with the excess population...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't Quote Me On That

A journalist on the inside discovers that he still has to play by their rules:
Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of “Moneyball” and “The Big Short,” was granted extraordinary access to President Obama for his latest article in Vanity Fair.

But with that access came one major condition.

Like other journalists who write about Washington and presidential politics, Mr. Lewis said that he had to submit to the widespread but rarely disclosed practice of quote approval.

During a discussion at Lincoln Center on Monday night with Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, Mr. Lewis volunteered to the audience that as a condition of cooperating with his story, the White House insisted on signing off on the quotes that would appear.
....

In the discussion with Mr. Carter on Monday, Mr. Lewis described a White House staff that seemed to be extremely wary of his presence around the president. He said that in one exchange with Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, Mr. Carney expressed reservations about cooperating. But ultimately, Mr. Lewis recalled Mr. Carney saying, his concerns didn’t matter because the boss wanted to do the story.
It's always easier to get official approval...

The Cairo Way

The New Egypt is going about as well as expected:
Egyptian demonstrators climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today and pulled down the American flag to protest a film they say is insulting to the prophet Mohammad.
....

Reuters reports that protesters tried to raise a black flag carrying the slogan: "There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger."

The news agency says about 2,000 protesters have gathered outside the embassy and about 20 have scaled the walls.

The AP says the protesters were largely ultra-conservative Islamists.
Meanwhile, the Embassy itself has a, er, response. Yeah, I'm sure that'll mollify the mob.