Monday, December 31, 2012

Misery Wants Company

Why leftists are miserable:
It’s a curious thing. Leftists are supposed to be the caring, sharing part of the political fraternity. In point of historical fact, it is an easy thing to demonstrate that their caring has always been more a rhetorical than an actual strategy and that their sharing has been accomplished overwhelmingly with other people’s goods. That said, however, there is still the fact that Leftists are hailed by their enablers as the non-crabby politicians, the people who come into office promising two things: More and Free. How odd it is, then, that they should also be the folks who harbor an unshakeable belief that the universe is a stingy, scarcity driven machine whose iron law is that if A does well, B must do poorly.
Leftists are only happy when others aren't...

Climate Change On The Brain

Don't tell Al Gore: early climate change may have helped humans evolve:
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Clayton Magill said: "The landscape early humans were inhabiting transitioned rapidly back and forth between a closed woodland and an open grassland about five to six times during a period of 200,000 years.

"These changes happened very abruptly, with each transition occurring over hundreds to just a few thousand years."

The findings appear to contradict previous theories which suggest evolutionary changes were gradual, and in response to either long and steady climate change or one drastic change.
Professor Katherine Freeman said: "There is a view this time in Africa was the 'Great Drying,' when the environment slowly dried out over 3 million years.

"But our data show that it was not a grand progression towards dry; the environment was highly variable."

This rapid change could have triggered development of the brain, said Magill.

He said: "Early humans went from having trees available to having only grasses available in just 10 to 100 generations, and their diets would have had to change in response.

"Changes in food availability, food type, or the way you get food can trigger evolutionary mechanisms to deal with those changes.

"The result can be increased brain size and cognition, changes in locomotion and even social changes -- how you interact with others in a group. Our data are consistent with these hypotheses.
Climate change made us smarter! Unfortunately, today's doomsayers seem to be headed in the opposite direction...

Village Idiots

Ah, another pair of "pacificst" lefties:
The privileged daughter of a prominent city doctor, and her boyfriend — a Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street activist — have been busted for allegedly having a cache of weapons and a bombmaking explosive in their Greenwich Village apartment.

Morgan Gliedman — who is nine-months pregnant — and her baby daddy, Aaron Greene, 31, also had instructions on making bombs, including a stack of papers with a cover sheet titled, “The Terrorist Encyclopedia,’’ sources told The Post yesterday.

People who know Greene say his political views are “extreme,” the sources said.

Cops found the stash in the couple’s West Ninth Street home Saturday when they went there to look for Gliedman, 27, who was wanted for alleged credit-card theft.

A detective discovered a plastic container with seven grams of a white chemical powder called HMTD, which is so powerful, cops evacuated several nearby buildings.

Police also found a flare launcher, which is a commercial replica of a grenade launcher; a modified 12 gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun; ammo; and nine high-capacity rifle magazines, the sources said.

Cops also allegedly uncovered papers about creating homemade booby traps, improvised submachine guns, and various handwritten notebooks containing chemical formulas.

The couple’s arrest Saturday was a sharp turn from their privileged backgrounds.
Or, given the overall history of the looney Left, maybe not...

Good Intentions, Bad Policies

Why government efforts to "help" so often fail:
Policies trying to extend the benefits of health insurance, housing and higher education that tended to sever the connection between effort and reward have backfired and hurt many of the intended beneficiaries.

Government policymakers failed to anticipate the responses of third parties attempting to game the system and grab some of the money government was making available.

The impulse to help those in need is one of mankind's better traits. But the impulse to have government help them is often self-defeating.
And makes them more dependent...

Doctors' Orders

Hillary Clinton, hospitalized:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was admitted to a New York hospital Sunday after the discovery of a blood clot stemming from the concussion she sustained earlier this month.

Clinton's doctors discovered the clot Sunday while performing a follow-up exam, her spokesman, Philippe Reines, said. He would not elaborate on the location of the clot but said Clinton is being treated with anti-coagulants and would remain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital for at least the next 48 hours so doctors can monitor the medication.

"Her doctors will continue to assess her condition, including other issues associated with her concussion," Reines said in a statement. "They will determine if any further action is required."
If she really is sick, that's one thing. Even so, the timing is still awfully convenient...

CALM Down

Joe Manchin offers a last-minute Great Fiscal Cliff Compromise:
Manchin said his bill, the Cliff Alleviation at the Last Minute Act, — the CALM Act — would slowly phase in the tax rate increases and allow the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to propose substitute cuts to replace sequestration.

Manchin’s proposal comes as lawmakers neared their year-end deadline to avoid January’s tax hikes and across-the-board cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said there would be no votes on Sunday, but added that negotiations for a final deal were still underway.

“If we’re determined to go over the cliff, we’ve got to do something to soften the landing, because at the bottom of the fiscal cliff are immediate and massive tax increases, deep and indiscriminate spending cuts, and the risk of another recession,” Manchin said on the floor Sunday.

He added that he was not “excited about or proud to offer” the bill, describing it as “merely a better plan than going over the cliff.”
At least he seems to have one...

Looking Ahead

Why should there be optimism for 2013?
Some possibilities for the year ahead:

1) Could 2013 be the year that Americans finally begin to recall the virtues of capitalism? This was a theme too much missing from a 2012 presidential race, in which there was plenty of wrangling over who might “create” how many jobs, and too little focus on how free markets give people the opportunity to create their own jobs, and in the process build a society of wealth and freedom. Will there come a point at which the growing burdens of regulations and taxes inspire enough Americans to rethink where this country is going, and decide they would rather be Free to Choose?

2) The collapse of the regimes in Syria, Iran, North Korea… possibly even China? Yes, I know, year after year such possibilities are raised. And then it doesn’t happen — though Syria’s Assad does seem to be increasingly pushed to the edge. But, as with the Soviet Union’s collapse 21 years ago, there can come a season when these things happen, and when they do, they tend to go fast. The big question here is: Is America ready to respond? What is the end game? Should these governments fall, implode, be driven aside by their own people, will Washington just stand aside and bear “witness”? Will America again defer to the feckless United Nations? Or will there be a serious re-awakening of American leadership, and a determination that the 21st century will be a time not of growing shadows and weakness, but of freedom and enlightenment?

On both these fronts, domestic and foreign (inseparable these days, really), it too often seems right now that by the little guy, nothing much can be done. Perhaps the most important bottom line in girding for 2013 is, if you care about capitalism and freedom, about a strong America and a safer, freer world, do not give up. There is a struggle of ideas going on here; and even when much seems lost — spun off the road, over the cliff — plenty may yet depend on even a few who keep the faith, and at the right moment, are ready with a plan.
Stay strong, and keep the faith, baby.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fish Story

It may not sound like the most exciting subject in the world, but why did the Obama administration not release a report about GM fish?
Genetically modified plants and animals are controversial among the president’s political base, which was thought critical to his reelection efforts during a low point in the president’s popularity.

The hurried release of the Environmental Assessment last Friday capped a frenzied two days behind the scenes at the White House and FDA. Within hours after the Slate article and leaked document were posted, an administration official notified the FDA that the administration was dropping its indefinite hold. “The White House had no place to hide,” said a government source. The “final” draft environmental assessment is identical to the document leaked to the GLP, but is dated May 4—two weeks later.
Something fishy, indeed...

Politicians Remember That They Were Elected

Or, what are they going to say on the day after?
In the short term, Republicans are blamed more than Democrats,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), the incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, acknowledged. “I think in the long term, the political damage is to the president and to Democrats.”…

A number of Democrats — several of whom will face voters in 2014 — worry no one will be unscathed, including President Barack Obama. If taxes skyrocket and deep cuts take effect, Obama could preside over an eroding economy that could torpedo his second-term agenda as he tries to broaden his presidency to focus on issues like immigration reform and gun control. Voters, Democrats in the Senate fear, will take it out on them as well.

“I don’t blame people at home for wondering what in the heck is going on in the nation’s capital,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who is up for reelection in 2014. “It’s hard to explain. … I don’t think it looks good for either party.”
Then it sould have been more imperative for the Democrats to be serious about dealing with it, shouldn't it?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Of The Worst

Via The Foundry, the 10 Worst Regulations of 2012:
1. HHS’s Contraception Mandate

The Department of Health and Human Services on February 15 finalized its mandate that all health insurance plans include coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and contraceptives. To date, 42 cases with more than 110 plaintiffs are challenging this restriction on religious liberty.

2. EPA Emissions Standards

The EPA in February finalized strict new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, however, are certain: an estimated $9.6 billion annually.

3. Fuel Efficiency Standards

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency, finalized fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017–2025. The rules require a whopping average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars.

4. New York’s 16-Ounce Soda Limit

Not all regulations come from Washington. On September 13, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Board of Health banned the sale of soda and other sweetened drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces.

5. Dishwasher Efficiency Standards

Regulators admit that these Department of Energy rules will do little to improve the environment. Rather, proponents claim they will save consumers money. But they will also increase the price of dishwashers, and only about one in six consumers will keep his or her dishwasher long enough to recoup the cost.

6. School Lunch Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in January published stringent nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. More than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools are affected—at a cost exceeding $3.4 billion over the next four years.

7. Quickie Union Election Rule

In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued new rules that shorten the time allowed for union-organizing elections to between 10 and 21 days. This leaves little time for employees to make a fully informed choice on unionizing, threatening to leave workers and management alike under unwanted union regimes.

8. Essential Benefits Rule

Under Obamacare, insurers in the individual and small group markets will be forced to cover services that the government deems to be essential. Published on November 26, the HHS list of very broad benefits has created enormous uncertainty about the extent of essential treatment.

9. Electronic Data Recorder Mandate

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on December 13 issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate installation of electronic data recorders, popularly known as “black boxes,” in most light vehicles starting in 2014. The government mandate understandably spooks privacy advocates.

10. “Simplified” Mortgage Disclosure and Servicing Rules

In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its proposal for a more “consumer friendly” mortgage process, with a stated goal of simplifying home loans. The rules run an astonishing 1,099 pages. Then, one month later, the bureau proposed more than 560 pages of rules for mortgage servicing.
Regulators live to regulate...

The Other Fiscal Cliff

It's the one that's yet to come:
Certainly it would be very bad if the US missed a debt payment. Last year, Geithner said a default would “inflict catastrophic, far-reaching damage on our nation’s economy, significantly reducing growth and increasing unemployment.”

True enough, but that isn’t the real risk here — though the ceiling will have to be raised eventually. The feds have plenty of dough to pay bondholders and run auctions to roll over maturing debt. In 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the net interest expense of the US government will be approximately $218 billion, while revenue will be nearly $3 trillion.

And if worst comes to worst, Treasury could theoretically mint several trillion-dollar platinum coins — there are laws covering paper money and coinage made of gold, silver and copper — and deposit them at the Fed. “The effects on the currency market and inflation are unclear, to say the least,” said analyst Jaret Seiberg of the Washington Research Group in a recent report. Right, “to say the least.”
The unknowns are what worry me...

French Tax Twist

Take that, mon ami:
President Francois Hollande’s 75 percent millionaire-tax is unconstitutional because it fails to guarantee taxpayer equality, France’s top court ruled today.

The tax, one of Hollande’s campaign promises, had become a focal point of discontent among entrepreneurs and other wealth creators, some of whom have quit French shores as a result. The ruling comes as the president seeks to cut France’s public deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from a projected 4.5 percent this year.

“Politically, this has an impact because it was a symbol for French public opinion, and was considered abroad as the emblem of French tax excess, of French tax hell,” said Dominique Barbet, senior economist at BNP Paribas SA in Paris. “In deficit terms, it’s truly negligible.”

The court said Hollande’s plan would have added extra levies of 18 percent on individuals’ incomes of more than 1 million euros ($1.32 million), while regular income taxes and a 4 percent exceptional contribution for high earners would have been based on household income, an e-mailed statement shows.
If it were about equality, Hollande wouldn't have pushed for this nonsense in the first place...

The Scarlet Permits

They're at it again:
A suburban New York newspaper that sparked an uproar among gun enthusiasts by publishing names and addresses of residents holding pistol permits is now planning to publish even more identities of permit-toting locals.

Further names and addresses will be added as they become available to a map originally published on December 24 in the White Plains, New York-based Journal News, the newspaper said.

The original map listed thousands of pistol permit holders in suburban Westchester and Rockland counties just north of New York City.

Along with an article entitled "The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood," the map was compiled in response to the December 14 shooting deaths of 26 children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, editors of the Gannett Corp.-owned newspaper said.

The next batch of names will be permit holders in suburban Putnam County, New York, where the county clerk told the newspaper it is still compiling information.
First, they came for the permit holders...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Orwellian Like The Wolf

Oliver Stone is not pleased with Obama:
I think under the disguise of sheep’s clothing he has been a wolf. That because of the nightmare of the Bush presidency that preceded him, people forgave him a lot. He was a great hope for change. The color of his skin, the upbringing, the internationalism, the globalism, seemed all evident. And he is an intelligent man. He has taken all the Bush changes he basically put them into the establishment, he has codified them. That is what is sad. So we are going into the second administration that is living outside the law and does not respect the law and foundations of our system and he is a constitutional lawyer, you know. Without the law, it is the law of the jungle. Nuremburg existed for a reason and there was a reason to have trials, there is a reason for due process – ‘habeas corpus’ as they call it in the United States.
I'm shocked. It took Oliver Stone this long to figure out that Obama doesn't care about the law-except how to use and abuse it for his own agenda?

Payday

Fiscal cliff? What fiscal cliff?
President Barack Obama issued an executive order to end the pay freeze on federal employees, in effect giving some federal workers a raise. One federal worker now to receive a pay increase is Vice President Joe Biden.

According to disclosure forms, Biden made a cool $225,521 last year. After the pay increase, he'll now make $231,900 per year.

Members of Congress, from the House and Senate, also will receive a little bump, as their annual salary will go from $174,000 to 174,900. Leadership in Congress, including the speaker of the House, will likewise get an increase.
....

"A new executive order has been issued providing for a new pay schedule beginning 'on the first day of the first applicable pay period beginning after March 27, 2013,'" reports FedSmith.com. "The pay raise will generally be about 1/2 of 1%."
Some things never change...

Hillary Before Kerry

Assuming they go through with it, what would Republicans actually gain by going after Hillary before Kerry's confirmation?
The question is whether Senate Republicans can actually block Kerry’s nomination. Stalwarts like Mike Lee and Tim Scott will certainly give it a go, and Marco Rubio suggested that he might put a hold on it. John McCain and Lindsey Graham may not go along with obstruction for very long, for collegial reasons concerning Kerry and Hillary as well as for “comity,” but they may come along for a little while. Harry Reid can move the question with 60 votes, which means that he only needs 5 Republicans to agree to a floor vote to break the impasse. I’d be surprised if he can’t find them, after a short period of time in which the Senate Republicans can make their objection known.
It would be nice to actually have her on the record for something.

A Legal Challenge

Hobby Lobby is pushing back:
An attorney for Hobby Lobby Stores said Thursday that the arts and crafts chain plans to defy a federal mandate requiring it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill, despite risking potential fines of up to $1.3 million per day.

Hobby Lobby and religious book-seller Mardel Inc., which are owned by the same conservative Christian family, are suing to block part of the federal health care law that requires employee health-care plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception pills.

The companies claim the mandate violates the religious beliefs of their owners. They say the morning-after pill is tantamount to abortion because it can prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in a woman's womb.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied the companies' request for an injunction while their lawsuit is pending, saying the stores failed to satisfy the demanding legal standard for blocking the requirement on an emergency basis. She said the companies may still challenge the regulations in the lower courts.
The line of opposition to government mandates is getting longer...

The Plan That Isn't

So this is the Democrats' fallback for the fiscal cliff:
The Senate tax bill is just that -- a tax bill. It would extend the Bush tax cuts for a year for all but the top 2 percent of households, and limit the deductions they can take. It would bring the estate tax back to its 2001 level with a $1 million exemption and 55 percent rate. It would raise taxes on capital gains and dividends from 15 to 20 percent -- which is really 23.8 percent when you include the Obamacare surtax. And that's it. It wouldn't extend the payroll tax cut. It wouldn't extend unemployment insurance. It wouldn't undo the sequester. It wouldn't do the doc fix. It wouldn't start any new infrastructure projects. If you add up all of the things it doesn't do, it comes out to about 1.8 million fewer jobs in 2013 than in a world without the fiscal cliff.

It also adds up to quite a bit less take-home pay for everybody. While the Senate bill ostensibly only raises taxes on the top 2 percent, the expiring payroll tax cut means that the middle-class would get hit hard too.
In other words, it's what they wanted...

The Great Firewall Gets Bigger

China's Firewall expands:
China's government tightened Internet controls Friday with approval of a law that requires users to register their names after a flood of online complaints about official abuses rattled Communist Party leaders.

Authorities say the law will strengthen protections for personal information. But it also is likely to curtail the Internet's status as a forum to complain about the government or publicize corruption.
....

The latest measure requires users to provide their real names and other identifying information when they register with access providers or post information publicly.

"This is needed for the healthy development of the Internet," said Li Fei, deputy director of the legislature's Legal Work Committee, at a news conference.

Li rejected complaints that the public will be deprived of a forum that has been used to expose misconduct.

"The country's constitution protects citizens' rights in supervising and criticizing the state and government officials' behavior," Li said.
I wish I could say there weren't lawmakers in the U.S. who didn't want to do the same thing...

Nanny Of The Year

I could think of a few others, but these are Reason TV's nominees (and winner) for Nanny of the Year:

What Makes Chris Matthews Run

Or, what makes Tingles tick?
Matthews symbolized MSNBC's growing comfort in being a liberal alternative to Fox News Channel. He engaged in an uncomfortable on-air confrontation with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, seemed nearly apoplectic when President Barack Obama flubbed his first debate and had to apologize for appearing grateful that Hurricane Sandy might have helped Obama's re-election effort.

With Keith Olbermann out of sight, Matthews essentially replaced him as the commentator that most annoyed conservative viewers.

"During the run-up to the Iraq War, he just became really, really partisan and became even more so when MSNBC decided to become the anti-Fox," said Geoff Dickens, who used to watch Matthews as a fan and now monitors him regularly as part of his job with the conservative Media Research Center.

Matthews is not afraid to say what he thinks. He's a former newspaper columnist and one-time aide to a 1980s era Democrat, House Speaker Tip O'Neill. He seriously considered running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania a few years back, where he probably would have been asked repeatedly to explain why he voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

He's a motor-mouth infused with a love of politics that borders on the pathological.
Pathological is one way to describe it...

The Bourne Dissillusion

Matt Damon has figured out something most of the rest of us have already known:
“I don’t think I said anything a lot of people weren’t thinking. It’s easier now more than ever in my life to feel the fix is in, the game is rigged and no matter how hard you work to change things, it just doesn’t matter.”
....

“We’re at a point where politicians don’t really get any benefit from engaging with long-term issues. Instead, it’s all about the next election cycle. Those guys in the House don’t do anything now but run for office. So unless they can find some little thing that zips them up a couple of points in the polls, they’re not interested..."
And, yet, he keeps supporting their party, and its leader.

Death Before Taxes

The creepy phenonemon of dying to avoid taxes:
Economists Wojciech Kopczuk of Columbia University and Joel Slemrod of the University of Michigan studied how mortality rates in the United States were changed by falling estate taxes. They note that while the evidence of "death elasticity" is "not overwhelming," every $10,000 in available tax savings increases the chance of dying in the low-tax period by 1.6 percent. This is true both when taxes are falling, so that people are surviving longer to achieve the tax savings, and when they are rising, so that people are dying earlier, according to Kopczuk and Slemrod.

"Death elasticity" does not necessarily mean that greedy relatives are pulling the plug on the dying or forcing the sickly to extend their lives into a lower taxed period. According to a 2008 paper from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Doctor G. Stuart Mendenhall, while tax increases give potential heirs large economic incentives to limit care that would prolong life, distressed patients may "voluntarily trade prolongation of their life past the end [a low tax period] for large financial implications for their kin.
I guess it's better than waiting to be deported for the good of the state...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quiet Storm

Remembering Norman Schwarzkopf:
A much-decorated combat soldier in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was known popularly as "Stormin' Norman" for a notoriously explosive temper.

He served in his last military assignment in Tampa as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, the headquarters responsible for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries from the eastern Mediterranean and Africa to Pakistan.
....

Schwarzkopf was born Aug. 24, 1934, in Trenton, N.J., where his father, Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., founder and commander of the New Jersey State Police, was then leading the investigation of the Lindbergh kidnap case, which ended with the arrest and 1936 execution of German-born carpenter Richard Hauptmann for stealing and murdering the famed aviator's infant son.

The elder Schwarzkopf was named Herbert, but when the son was asked what his "H'' stood for, he would reply, "H." Although reputed to be short-tempered with aides and subordinates, he was a friendly, talkative and even jovial figure who didn't like "Stormin' Norman" and preferred to be known as "the Bear," a sobriquet given him by troops.

He also was outspoken at times, including when he described Gen. William Westmoreland, the U.S. commander in Vietnam, as "a horse's ass" in an Associated Press interview.

As a teenager Norman accompanied his father to Iran, where the elder Schwarzkopf trained the country's national police force and was an adviser to Reza Pahlavi, the young Shah of Iran.

Young Norman studied there and in Switzerland, Germany and Italy, then followed in his father's footsteps to West Point, graduating in 1956 with an engineering degree. After stints in the U.S. and abroad, he earned a master's degree in engineering at the University of Southern California and later taught missile engineering at West Point.

In 1966 he volunteered for Vietnam and served two tours, first as a U.S. adviser to South Vietnamese paratroops and later as a battalion commander in the U.S. Army's Americal Division. He earned three Silver Stars for valor — including one for saving troops from a minefield — plus a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and three Distinguished Service Medals.

While many career officers left military service embittered by Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was among those who opted to stay and help rebuild the tattered Army into a potent, modernized all-volunteer force.

After Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Schwarzkopf played a key diplomatic role by helping to persuade Saudi Arabia's King Fahd to allow U.S. and other foreign troops to deploy on Saudi territory as a staging area for the war to come.
You've earned your rest, General. RIP.

Obama's Obsession

He really does have it in for "the rich":
The president has never gotten over his obsession with taxing people who make $250,000, except for a brief period in 2010, when the Republicans won the House and picked up seats in the Senate.
....

In other words, Obama is negotiating like he wants to drive the country off the cliff so he can get what he really wants — higher taxes, deep defense cuts and an issue to cream the Republicans with over the next four years, namely a lousy economy.
Liberals are always happiest when everyone else is miserable...

In Russia, State Adopts You

Russia is set to ban adoptions by Americans:
The adoption ban, included in a broader law aimed at retaliating against the United States, was approved unanimously by the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Parliament, on Wednesday. Mr. Putin went on to say that he would sign the bill and a decree also adopted on Wednesday, calling for improvements in Russia’s child welfare system.

“I intend to sign the law,” Mr. Putin said, “as well as a presidential decree changing the procedure of helping orphaned children, children left without parental care, and especially children who are in a disadvantageous situation due to their health problems.”

Mr. Putin also brushed aside criticism that the law would deny some Russian orphans the chance for a much better life in the United States. In 2011, about 1,000 Russian children were adopted to America, more than to any other foreign country, but still a tiny number given that nearly 120,000 children in Russia are eligible for adoption.

“There are probably many places in the world where living standards are better than ours,” Mr. Putin said. “So what? Shall we send all children there, or move there ourselves?”

United States officials have strongly criticized the measure and have urged the Russian government not to enmesh orphaned children in politics. “We have repeatedly made clear, both in private and in public, our deep concerns about the bill passed by the Russian Parliament,” a State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, said on Thursday. “Since 1992 American families have welcomed more than 60,000 Russian children into their homes, and it is misguided to link the fate of children to unrelated political considerations.”

Internally, however, Obama administration officials have been engaged in a debate over how strongly to respond to the adoption ban, and how to assess the potential implications for other aspects of the country’s relationship with Russia.
Putin may be doing this for a reason, but should the kids be held hostage to international politics, or national pride?

Raul's Revolution

What does it say when the policies our government adopts are being rejected-in Cuba?
Cuba's drive to slash state payrolls and spur private-sector growth picked up surprising steam in 2012 as President Raul Castro moved ahead with reforms to the Soviet-style economy, according to figures unveiled recently with little hoopla.

The number of private or "non state" workers rose 23 percent in 2012, while state sector employment dropped 5.7 percent, according to a report from Economy Minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez. The unemployment rate grew to a record 3.8 percent, not including Cubans who did not seek work.

The wide-ranging year-end report to the National Assembly, which met in Havana last week, indicated the government is quietly making progress toward its goal of moving toward a more market-oriented economy while maintaining the socialist system in place the last half century.

Just a few years ago, the state employed more than 85 percent of Cuba's labor force, but that is changing as the government battles heavy indebtedness, economic stagnation, poor retail services and pilfering.
All of which are, unfortunately, more common than ever here...

Name Games

At least somebody is being held accountable for something:
After years of whispers that EPA officials frequently used private email addresses, fake names and coded messages to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, Jackson admitted recently to using "Richard Windsor" as her chosen nom de plume on a government email account.

That was her choice because it reminded her of a much-beloved family pet, she claimed. (At least she didn't ask how anybody could suspect a puppy lover like her of any wrongdoing.) The EPA inspector general opened an investigation into the matter because it is against federal law to use nonofficial or secret email addresses to conduct official business.

The EPA IG could hardly do otherwise. The use of private or secret emails enables high government muckety-mucks like Jackson to hide things about which they don't want the rest of us to know. But we don't need an investigation to know officials have been hiding bad things within the EPA for a very long time.
Unfortunately, the EPA is only one of many agencies that this applies to...

Regulations? What Regulations?

So say the ones making them:
The Obama administration is pushing back against critics who have accused the president of unleashing a “regulatory tsunami” against the business community.

In a long-delayed report from the White House Office of Management and Budget, released just before the long holiday weekend, a senior administration official, speaking “on background,” said the list of new regulations for 2013 is actually shorter than it was in 2011 and 2012.

“This 2012 agenda makes clear that there is no ‘regulatory tsunami’ coming from this administration,” the source said. “It actually includes slightly fewer economically significant active rulemakings from executive agencies than the previous two agendas.”

In his background comments on the report, the administration official pointed out that just because a proposed rule makes the report doesn’t mean the agency will go through with it. The rules must undergo “serious scrutiny” before that happens. In fact, in 2012, only 43 of the 132 economically significant rules that were in the last agenda have been finalized.
I'm sure they'll give any new rules the same scrutiny they've already done.

Hindsight

Is George W. Bush getting redeemed?
Prominent Republicans eager to rebuild the party in the wake of the 2012 election are pointing to Bush’s successful campaigns for Hispanic votes, his efforts to pass immigration reform, and his mantra of “compassionate conservatism.” Bush won 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and at least 40 percent in 2004, a high-water mark for a Republican presidential candidate.

In contrast, Romney received only 27 percent of the Latino vote, after taking a hard-line approach to illegal immigration during the Republican presidential primaries, touting “self-deportation” for undocumented workers. In exit polls, a majority of voters said that Romney was out of touch with the American people and that his policies would favor the rich. While Romney beat Obama on questions of leadership, values, and vision, the president trounced him by 63 points when voters were asked which candidate “cares about people like me.”

These signs of wear and tear to the Republican brand are prompting some of Bush’s critics to acknowledge his political foresight and ability to connect with a diverse swath of Americans, although the economic crash and unpopular wars on his watch make it unlikely he will ever be held up as a great president.

“I think I owe an apology to George W. Bush,” wrote Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large of the conservative National Review Online, after the election. “I still don't like compassionate conservatism or its conception of the role of government. But given the election results, I have to acknowledge that Bush was more prescient than I appreciated at the time.”
If he can still be blamed for everything by the Left, why shouldn't the Right give him some credit, as well?

The Missing Dads

I'm sure that this is something that many feminists actually prefer:
In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.
Maybe this explains big government's appeal to many parents. It's the closest thing to a reliable husband they have.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Everything Is Under Control

The Treasury Department says there's nothing to fear:
The Treasury Department is telling its staff not to worry about the "fiscal cliff," an internal memorandum sent to all employees reveals. The memo, which is signed by the deputy secretary of the treasury, Neal S. Wolin, states that "there is no reason why both sides should not be able to come together" to reach a deal.

"As you are likely aware, the Administration and Congress are continuing to work to resolve a series of economic or fiscal events, collectively referred to as the “fiscal cliff,” that are scheduled to occur around the end of the year. One of the key issues involves potential across-the-board reductions in Federal spending- also known as “sequestration”-which were put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Under current law, these reductions are scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013. Many of you have raised questions regarding the impact of a potential sequestration for the Department of the Treasury, and I would like to take a moment to clarify a few things," the memo begins.

"First and foremost, it is important to keep in mind that the Administration remains focused on working with Congress to reach agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan that avoids such cuts. Sequestration was never intended to be implemented, and there is no reason why both sides should not be able to come together and prevent this scenario."
Being in government, they probably figured they were more immune from their own mistakes than the rest of us...

Scooped

Who scooped whom?
It's the height of hubris for Newsweek to now claim the Lewinsky story was their scoop when they passed on it and allowed themselves to be scooped by Drudge and the Washington Post three days later.
....

Sure, Isikoff did the reporting, but his editors and publishers held the political and media establishment's false construct of propriety in higher regard than their readers' right to know. They respected the opinions of their friends at Washington cocktail parties more than the intelligence of their readers.

Yes, it was Newsweek's story, and they killed it. It was Drudge's scoop and he changed the world with it.
The cocktail circuit has never been able to live down the fact that they wee outscooped by one of those Internet kids on their lawn...

Ben Bows Out

I guess this makes it official:
I love Massachusetts and our political process, but I am not running for office. Right now it’s a privilege to spend my time working with Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), supporting our veterans, drawing attention to the great many who go hungry in the U.S. everyday and using filmmaking to entertain and foster discussion about issues like our relationship to Iran.

We are about to get a great Secretary of State and there are some phenomenal candidates in Massachusetts for his Senate seat. I look forward to an amazing campaign.
The way things are going, he wouldn't have been any less competent than anyone else in Washington...

A Sorry Situation

Will retailers now have to apologize for selling legal products?
A recent ruling ordering a multimedia blitz stating that the nation's largest tobacco companies lied about the dangers of smoking left open the possibility that retailers could be required to post large displays with the mea culpas.

Retail trade groups are upset about the possibility the displays would commandeer their most valuable selling space and imply their own guilt-by-association.
....

Retailers estimate the industry could lose $82 million per year in sales for every square foot of counter space taken up by the signs. The public health groups, however, said that would average out to only about 65 cents per day per retailer, according to court filings.

"If the government and the legal system wants to do something to the tobacco companies, do it to the tobacco companies," said Larry Southard, who opened Papa's Healthy Food & Fuel in western Massachusetts in 2004. "I don't know why they'd take it to that level when there are so many laws in place, there's so much information (about the health impacts of smoking) already, what is the purpose? To punish the retailer now?"
Apparently so, because they're running out of targets...

Still On The Job

Non-accountability at work:
The four officials supposedly out of jobs because of their blunders in the run-up to the deadly Benghazi terror attack remain on the State Department payroll — and will all be back to work soon, The Post has learned.

The highest-ranking official caught up in the scandal, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Boswell, has not “resigned” from government service, as officials said last week. He is just switching desks. And the other three are simply on administrative leave and are expected back.

The four were made out to be sacrificial lambs in the wake of a scathing report issued last week that found that the US compound in Benghazi, Libya, was left vulnerable to attack because of “grossly inadequate” security.
Meanwhile, Hillary is still MIA. A bit like her boss on most issues...

David Gregory's Gun Gaffe

Clips for me, not for thee?
NBC was told by the Washington police that it was “not permissible” to show a high-capacity gun magazine on air before Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” according to a statement Wednesday from the cops.

“NBC contacted [the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department] inquiring if they could utilize a high capacity magazine for their segment,” Gwendolyn Crump, a police spokeswoman, said in an email. “NBC was informed that possession of a high capacity magazine is not permissible and their request was denied. This matter is currently being investigated.”
So David Gregory may be in trouble, but what does that say about DC's gun laws overall?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Unaffordable

Why the entitlement society is unsustainable:
We could eliminate the entire Federal Government except for entitlement spending and interest on the national debt, and we would still have to borrow money to pay for it.

The president’s proposal for increasing taxes on "the rich" would bring in an extra $40 billion dollars next year. So, instead of borrowing $1.1 Trillion next year, we’ll only have to borrow $1.06 Trillion. Somehow, we are told, this will be massively helpful.

Meanwhile, if interest rates return to their historic average levels the cost of debt service alone will rise from $250 billion per year to $750 billion per year.

But, really, anyone who isn’t as dumb as a bag of hammers already knows that the amount of government we have is unaffordable, simply by noting that we’ve increased the national debt from $1 trillion to $16.3 trillion since 1980. It took us 190 years to accumulate $1 trillion in debt. And 32 years to multiply it more than 15 times.

We have three choices. We can cut all Federal spending by half. We can have massive tax increases on the middle class. We can do nothing and eventually default/hyperinflate our monetary and financial system away.

Based on the politics of 2012, I assume it will be the latter.
This is what happens when you elect politicians who can't (or won't) do math...

Too Much Freedom?

Fortunately, they're still a minority:
17% of Americans believe there is too much individual freedom in the United States today.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Adults do not believe this to be true, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Another 18% are not sure.
Unfortunately, that minority seems to be mostly in the government...

ZIRPED To Zero

What happened to savings accounts?
Since December 2008, when Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve started buying mortgage backed securities in order to “solve” the financial crisis, we have all been subject to a zero interest rate policy. . . .

Conceptually, ZIRP has worked. The stock market is up 12 percent in 2012. Bank stocks like Bank of America’s have doubled off their lows. Real estate investment trusts, or REITs, are up 15 percent. Yet in the real world, ZIRP is a huge FAIL. GDP growth in 2012 will come in at an anemic 2 percent after a 1.7 percent tick up in 2011. ZIRP is not growing the economy. And no growth means no jobs.
Concepts often work better in theory than in actual practice...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Coda For The California Dream

California continuea to self-detruct with no end in sight:
High unemployment and government debt have already sent residents fleeing in large numbers – an estimated 225,000 annually for the past 10 years.

And the recently passed tax increase for families making more than $250,000 each year could further shrink the tax base for California, whose 2012 budget deficit is projected to hit $28 billion.

Much of the debate has raged among California advocacy groups and in the editorial pages of the state’s biggest and most influential newspapers.

“More is never enough for these people,” Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assoc., said about the Democrat-backed increase. “It’s hard to believe people will not leave.”

Vosburgh said his group is not an advocate for the wealthy and argued the tax increase atop other bad economic factors – including high gas and sales taxes – also have small and large businesses packing.

“With high taxes and heavy regulations, it’s just difficult to produce those widgets at a lower price than somebody in, say, Texas,” he told FoxNews.com on Tuesday.

Syndicated columnist Walter E. Williams wrote in The Orange County Register: “California politicians can fleece people in 2012, but there’s no guarantee they can do the same in 2013 and later years. People can leave.”
California may not yet be Greece, but it certainly seems to be turning into France...

Stealing The Revolution

The Muslim Brotherhood seems to have learned a lot from American Democrats:
Egypt's new Sharia-based constitution has been approved in a second round of voting, the ruling Muslim Brotherhood party said. The country's opposition leveled accusations of fraud, saying it will appeal the referendum results and form a new party.
The new charter was approved by 64 percent of Egyptian voters in a “resounding victory,” state news agency al-Ahram reported on Sunday. The preliminary tallies were calculated from reports by polling station officials. Egypt's election committee will confirm the final results on Monday.

Egypt's main opposition party the National Salvation Front (NSF) announced Sunday it will appeal the results of the referendum. NSF members alleged there were multiple instances of “fraud and violations” during the voting process.

“The referendum is not the end of the road. It is only one battle,” the NSF’s Abdel Ghaffer Shokr said, pledging to continue “the fight for the Egyptian people.”
The opposition will continue the struggle by joining forces and forming a new party on the basis of the National Salvation Front, Mohamed Abul-Ghar, the head of Egypt’s Social Democratic party declared on Sunday.
The opposition has already asked the electoral commission to “investigate the irregularities” before the vote's official results are announced on Monday.

“They’ve seen a number of instances of possible vote rigging, including unsupervised polling stations, missing ballot papers, stuffed ballot boxes,” Cairo-based journalist Bel Trew told RT. There were also reports of Salafist groups at polling stations coercing people into voting 'yes' on the new document, Trew said.
I wonder how many of those Salafists were union members...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Ego Has Landed

Obama certainly does seem to love talking about himself:
Someone needs to tell Barack Obama—it must get particularly confusing this time of year—that his own birth is not Year One, the date around which all other events are understood. His much-noted, self-referential tic was on cringe-worthy display Friday when the president gave his eulogy for the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who served in Congress for half a century representing Obama’s birth state of Hawaii.
In the Obama narrative, everyone and everything else seems secondary. Here is the video where he makes it all about him:

In The Garden

RIP, Lee Dorman:
Dorman was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1942. He joined the Southern California-based Iron Butterfly for its second and best-known album, In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida, which was released in 1968. The 17-minute title track helped the album sell more than 30 million copies, and a three-minute version of the song became a Top 40 hit. During Iron Butterfly's temporary break-up in the 1970s, Dorman and guitarist Larry Reinhardt formed the metal-jazz fusion band Captain Beyond, with Rod Evans from Deep Purple. The group released three albums and had a radio hit with the 1973 song "Sufficiently Breathless."
Here he is, with Iron Butterfly in their psychedelic glory:

ACTA Is Out

ACTA is dead:
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement can no longer come back from the grave in Europe, after the European Commission dropped its bid to have the copyright treaty's legality confirmed by the union's top court.
....

After the parliamentary rejection, trade commissioner Karel De Gucht maintained that the ECJ examination should still go ahead. He even went so far as to say that he would consider reintroducing ACTA if it was given the all-clear.

That is now not going to happen, as the Commission has dropped its referral.

"I welcome this news from the Commission today," Socialists & Democrats (S&D) MEP David Martin said in a statement on Wednesday. "The EU cannot be party to an agreement without European Parliament ratification. MEPs overwhelmingly rejected ACTA in July and I am pleased that the Commission has acknowledged this is the end of the road for ACTA in the EU thanks to the Parliament."
The EU has done something right, for once.

Finally...Regulations

Better late than never:
After taking criticism for missing an October deadline, the Obama administration Friday released its list of proposed government-wide regulations that it plans to consider in the next year.

The administration put out its notice, called the unified regulatory agenda, online around 3 p.m. on the Friday before Christmas, after most lawmakers had left town. The proposed rules cover everything from power plant pollution to health-care standards to workplace safety. Critics who accuse President Obama of being an overzealous regulator said the timing of the announcement was no accident.

“President Obama has earned a permanent spot on the disclosure naughty list as his administration dumped their entire regulatory agenda out to the public when everyone else was celebrating the holidays,” said Rick Manning, communications director for Americans for Limited Government. “The late Friday dump cannot be good news for those concerned about the regulatory overreach that this administration has become renowned for.”
Well, at least he finally caught up with himself...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gridlocked Again

Obama and his Republican rivals are stuck with each other:
Thursday’s revolt was a grim reminder of how closely Obama’s future is tethered to that of his political rivals.

If House Speaker John Boehner can’t muscle his own bill through the House, his power to persuade his colleagues to accept a deal with the White House appears greatly diminished. And that means it might be tough for Obama to forge any agreement with House Republicans to avert the fiscal cliff this year — or to push through his second-term agenda in the years to come.
Considering his agenda, some might consider that a good thing...

The Homeless Generation

Just in time for the holidays, the new homeless:
Across the country, tens of thousands of underemployed and jobless young people, many with college credits or work histories, are struggling to house themselves in the wake of the recession, which has left workers between the ages of 18 and 24 with the highest unemployment rate of all adults.
....

These young adults are the new face of a national homeless population, one that poverty experts and case workers say is growing. Yet the problem is mostly invisible. Most cities and states, focusing on homeless families, have not made special efforts to identify young adults, who tend to shy away from ordinary shelters out of fear of being victimized by an older, chronically homeless population. The unemployment rate and the number of young adults who cannot afford college “point to the fact there is a dramatic increase in homelessness” in that age group, said Barbara Poppe, the executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
If this is Forward, I'd hate to see Reverse...

Vapor Trails

In Russia, snow plows you:

No Deals, Mr. Boehner

John Boehner lost big, and it wasn't pretty:
The speaker looked defeated, unhappy, and exhausted after hours of wrangling. He didn’t want to fight. There was no name-calling. As a devout Roman Catholic, Boehner wanted to pray. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” he told the crowd, according to attendees.

There were audible gasps of surprise, especially from freshman lawmakers who didn’t see the meltdown coming. Boehner’s friends were shocked, and voiced their disappointment so the speaker’s foes could hear. “My buddies and I said the same thing to each other,” a Boehner ally told me later. “We looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and just groaned. This is a disaster.”

Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, a burly former car dealer, stood up and urged the conference to get behind the speaker. “How the hell can you do this?” Kelly asked, according to several people inside the room. A few of Boehner’s critics told Kelly to stop lecturing, but most were silent. They had been battling against “Plan B” all week, and quite suddenly, they had crippled the leadership. Boehner sensed the tension, requested calm, and then exited the room.
Let the blame games begin...

Indefinite Inconsistency

So I'm still waiting for the left to protest against this:
Lawmakers charged with merging the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act decided on Tuesday to drop a provision that would have explicitly barred the military from holding American citizens and permanent residents in indefinite detention without trial as terrorism suspects, according to Congressional staff members familiar with the negotiations.

The Senate approved that amendment — sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah — in a surprise vote last month. While it appeared to be a rare step to bolster protections for domestic civil liberties, rights groups opposed it because it did not cover other categories of people so they feared that it would implicitly open the door to using the military for domestic police purposes.
As they say, what could go wrong?

Home For The Holidays

Jon Hammar is coming home:
Jon Hammar, the U.S. Marine who has been in a Mexican prison since August on a dubious weapon charge is being released today, his father confirmed to FoxNews.com.

Jon Hammar Sr. said during a flight layover in Houston that he was on his way to get his son, after he and his wife Olivia received a call Thursday night from their attorney, Eddie Varon-Levy telling them their son was going to be released.

"I haven't seen it in writing yet but Eddie has confirmed it with the court that Jon is being released today," Hammar Sr. said. "The U.S. consulate said they would pick Jon up at the prison and accompany him to the border crossing."
....

Hammar, who was charged with a federal level weapon felony and faces up to 15 years in a Mexican prison for what his travel companion said was a breakdown in communication at the U.S.-Mexico border. He has been held in the notorious CEDES prison in Matamoros, Mexico, ever since. The prison is just 15 miles south of the border.

But there were questions about the case from the beginning. Ian McDonough, 27, a friend and fellow Marine who was with Hammar when he was nabbed, told FoxNews.com that four U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents told Hammar before he crossed into Mexico that as long as the required permit, which he completed, was submitted and he declared the gun to Mexican authorities, there would be no problem in bringing the vintage shotgun across the border.

The gun was a family heirloom that Hammar planned to use on a hunting and surfing trip in Costa Rica. Hammar, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and McDonough hoped to forget about the horrors of war with some relaxation in the Central American nation after driving south through Mexico in their Winnebago.
Welcome home, Marine. Semper Fi.

Comeback Kid?

Mark Sanford is looking for a new gig:
Sanford is planning to run for the Congressional seat he held almost a decade ago, a Republican source familiar with his thinking told CNN late Thursday.

“He’s looking all but certain to do it,” said a former top aide to Sanford, who did not want to be identified while prematurely revealing the plans.

A formal announcement will come soon, the source said.

Sanford intends to seek the Republican nomination in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, a seat being vacated by Rep. Tim Scott, who was appointed to the United States Senate earlier this week by Gov. Nikki Haley.
Just so long as he doesn't take any unscheduled trips to South America once he gets there...

Kerry Gets Chosen

John Kerry gets picked:
President Barack Obama on Friday will nominate Sen. John Kerry as his next secretary of state, a senior administration official said, making the first move in a sweeping overhaul of his national security team heading into a second term.

If confirmed, Kerry would take the helm at the State Department from outgoing Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has long stated her intentions to leave early next year. Kerry, a longtime Massachusetts senator, is expected to be easily approved for the Cabinet post by his longtime Capitol Hill colleagues.

Obama will announce Kerry's nomination from the White House, said the official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the president's decision before the announcement.
No word yet on whether or not he'll suffer concussions on the job...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Boehner Bails

So much for Plan B:
House Speaker John Boehner abruptly pulled his “Plan B” tax rate bill from the floor Thursday night, after struggling to garner support from fellow Republicans -- leaving lawmakers once again without a vehicle for averting the looming fiscal crisis and the public facing an imminent tax hike.

The surprise decision capped a tumultuous day on Capitol Hill. Over Democrats’ vocal objections, Republican leaders had pressed forward with two bills that composed what Boehner called his “Plan B.” The first, a plan to replace automatic spending cuts set to hit next month, narrowly passed Thursday evening on a 215-209 vote.

But, in a move that signaled turmoil in the Republican caucus, the House was called into recess right before the scheduled vote on Boehner’s other bill -- to prevent tax hikes on all but those making more than $1 million. Republican leaders called an emergency meeting and it was apparently clear within minutes Boehner did not have enough support, with some Republicans still opposed to raising rates on anybody.

The House put off the vote, with no indication as to whether it might be rescheduled, as Boehner prodded the Senate to act.

"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Boehner said in a statement. “Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”
The ball is now in Obama's court. But was that the plan all along?

The Great Federalist Compromise

We've already had one Civil War:
Rather than argue secession, it would be better to revive federalism. The U.S. government has grown into a monster Leviathan, micro-managing the lives of 314 million Americans.

Reynolds suggested: "Let the central government do the things that only central governments can do — national defense, regulation of trade to keep the provinces from engaging in economic warfare from one another, protection of basic civil rights — and then let the provinces go their own way in most other issues."

If you're not happy, move to another state.

The U.S. faces a crisis of government. Instead of fighting to break up America, people should focus on devolving authority to states, localities, families and individuals.

Rediscovering federalism should become the new mantra in Washington.
Unfortunately, so far it hasn't been...

No Pork Necessary

The trough will have to wait:
Senate Republicans on Wednesday proposed a $24 billion emergency aid package for Superstorm Sandy victims, less than half of what Democrats hope to pass by Christmas.
....

The Republican version does not include $13 billion Democrats want for projects to protect against future storms, including fortification of mass transit systems in the Northeast and protecting vulnerable seaside areas by building jetties against storm surges.

Republicans said however worthy such projects may be, they are not urgently needed and should be considered by Congress in the usual appropriations process next year, not through emergency spending.

"We want to take care of urgent needs now," said Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, who put forward the bill. "We can look at other needs down the road when we have more time to look at them."
Real disaster spending requires actual needs...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fallout

Hillary Clinton may or may not be testifying, but heads are already rolling:
Three State Department officials, including a security chief, have resigned following the release of scathing report about safety lapses at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in the run-up to the terror attack that killed four Americans.

An administration official told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, and Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, stepped down under pressure after the release of the report Tuesday night.

The third official purportedly worked for the Bureau of Near East Affairs, but was not immediately identified, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly.
There's certainly enough blame to go around here-but is it enough?

Republican Diversity

Republicans not so racist, after all:
The Senate appointment of Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) on Monday mean that, at least for now, the GOP will have three incoming minority senators, and Democrats will have two or three (depending on who is appointed to Inouye’s seat, though it seems likely to be another minority candidate).

For whatever reason, the GOP is doing a better job of cultivating minority candidates for major statewide office these days. But why? The answer isn’t simple, but a big reason for it is actually a law that was designed to help minorities: The Voting Rights Act. . . . In fact, the National Journal reported that Democrats elected just six minorities to majority-white districts and states in 2010. And they actually had fewer minorities elected to such offices than Republicans did.
They do seem to be doing better in the diversity department than their counterparts did.

Remembering Robert Bork

Robert Bork has died. In his memory, a tribute from 2011:



Meanwhile, assessing his legacy:
The vicious campaign waged against Judge Bork set a new low—possibly never exceeded—in the exhibition of unbridled leftist venom, indeed hate. Reporters combed through the Borks trash hoping to find comprising tidbits; they inspected his movie rentals, and were disgusted to find the films of John Wayne liberally represented. So hysterical was the campaign against Judge Bork that a new transitive verb entered our political vocabulary: “To Bork,” scruple at nothing in order to discredit and defeat a political figure.
....

In a way, Robert Bork had the last laugh. Ted Kennedy went to his grave a rancid, lumbering, pathetic laughing stock. Bork went from intellectual triumph to intellectual triumph, contributing now-classic studies to the library of legal understanding and penning two of the most important works of social criticism of the last several decades, the aforementioned Tempting of America and Slouching Toward Gomorrah, wild bestsellers both.
Sometimes outliving your enemies is the best revenge...RIP.

May The Farce Be With You

I have a bad feeling about this:
Deep inside the Guatemalan rainforest stand the ruins of the Maya temples that George Lucas used to film the planet Yavin 4 in the movie "Star Wars," from where Skywalker and his sidekick Han Solo launched their attack on the Galactic Empire's giant space station.

This week, at sunrise on Friday, December 21, an era closes in the Maya Long Count calendar, an event that has been likened by different groups to the end of days, the start of a new, more spiritual age or a good reason to hang out at old Maya temples across Mexico and Central America.

"If it is the end of the world, hopefully Luke will come and blow up that Death Star," said Alex Markovitz, a 24-year-old consultant and Star Wars fan from Philadelphia, looking out over the site of Skywalker's rebel base. "I see why they shot here. It doesn't look real. It looks like an alien planet."

....

"The force is strong here," said Jimena Teijeiro, 35, an Argentine-born self-help blogger. "The world as we know it is coming to an end. We are being propelled to a new age of light, synchronicity and simple wonderment with life."

Maya scholars and astronomers have dismissed the idea the world is on the brink of destruction but mystics and spiritual thrill-seekers have flocked to feed off Tikal's energy. Park guards said they had to throw out 13 naked women who were dancing and chanting around a fire pit near the temples last week.

"Something big is going to happen," said the president of Guatemala's Star Wars fan club, entrepreneur Ricardo Alejos. "The Maya were an incredibly precise people. Something big is going to happen and we'll find out what in a few days."
In the meantime, continue your doomsday watch...

Winning The Debate?

People still want to feel safe:
In places like Colorado, Texas, Ohio and Oregon, local reports have noted a surge in gun purchases occurring immediately after the Sandy Hook tragedy. (Read more: Why Gun Sales Often Rise After Mass Shootings.)

The Sandy shooting has "created a national shortage" of firearms and ammo, one Texas gun shop owner told CNBC, who asked not to be identified for fear of a backlash. "All of our suppliers are almost sold out of items across the board."

The person added that he expects gun sales in his establishment to see anywhere between 200 and 400 percent. "At a minimum we'll double our sales from last year," he added.

A representative for Colorado's Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) InstaCheck Unit told CNBC that firearms background check requests was in the throes of "record setting volume." The day following the Sandy Hook shooting the CBI received a one-day total of 4,154 requests — a new historical peak.
So much for the "national conversation." Meanwhile, there does seem to be some real change taking place.

Cliff Dwellers

The drama continues:
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner pressed ahead Tuesday on trying to avert the "fiscal cliff" after the White House rejected a narrow GOP plan on taxes.

The alternative plan, announced by Boehner, proposed extending the Bush tax cuts for those making up to $1 million while the two sides negotiated the other issues. But the White House quickly rejected it, saying it didn't go far enough and wouldn't pass the Senate anyway.
....

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the proposal wouldn't pass the Democratic-run Senate, although it is essentially the same plan that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recommended last May. Pelosi also has rejected Boehner's "Plan B" proposal. Reid said by proposing the new plan, Republicans were "walking away" from serious negotiations.

"Now is the time to show leadership, not kick the can down the road," Reid said. "Speaker Boehner should focus his energy on forging a large-scale deficit reduction agreement. It would be a shame if Republicans abandoned productive negotiations due to pressure from the tea party, as they have time and again."
On to Plan C, Mr. Speaker?

Risk And Reward

I'm glad this had a happy ending:
An NBC news team was freed in Syria during a firefight at an Islamic rebel checkpoint five days after being ambushed and kidnapped by 15 heavily armed gunmen, correspondent Richard Engel said on Tuesday.

Engel, 39, who along with production crew members Ghazi Balkiz and John Kooistra disappeared after crossing into northwestern Syria from Turkey on Thursday, said their kidnappers were members of a militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Their ordeal ended when their captors, who frequently moved them bound and blindfolded between safe houses, on Monday night unexpectedly drove into checkpoint set up by an Islamist rebel group. Two of their kidnappers were killed in the ensuing firefight, and the three spent the night with the Islamist rebels, Engel told the network.
They apparently got a first-hand taste of the Assad regime's "hospitality." I'm glad they were lucky enough to have survived it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Last Rebel

Why Gerard Depardieu matters:
Depardieu is a vastly different proposition from a wealthy tycoon and former asset-stripper whose children’s weddings warrant 10-page spreads in society magazines. When Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s prime minister, contemptuously called him “a pathetic loser”, Depardieu shot back with an open letter published on Sunday. “I was born in 1948,” he wrote, “I started working aged 14, as a printer, as a warehouseman, then as an actor, and I’ve always paid my taxes.” Over 45 years, Depardieu said, he had paid 145 million euros in tax, and to this day employs 80 people. Last year he paid taxes amounting to 85 per cent of his income. “I am neither worthy of pity nor admirable, but I shall not be called 'pathetic’,” he concluded, saying that he was sending back his French passport.
....

Depardieu is excessive in every way, but he’s never been a hypocrite: there have been no stints in rehab after one too many drunken brawls; no staged acts of contrition at any moment of his chaotic private life; no tabloid-monitored diets or fitness regimes. A working-class boy with no formal training but a miraculous gift for bringing to life the most complex nuances of almost every character he has played, he manages to make the classics as accessible as Asterix. He has made over 170 movies and given memorable stage performances – his Tartuffe, the protagonist of Molière’s eponymous play, ranks up there with Louis Jouvet’s historic 1950 performance, exposing the vulnerability and vertiginous loss of control of a devout hypocrite usually played for laughs. He makes his own wine from his own vineyards, owns two restaurants, has written cookbooks of hearty traditional French cuisine. He is, perhaps, a compendium of what the French most aspire to be, taken to epic heights.
He's a tax rebel, and perhaps one of the last larger-than-life figures of our time. Maybe that's why they're so mad at him.

How To Avoid A Fiscal Cliff

Look to history as a guide:
In the 1990s, Canada, for instance, reduced debt-to-GDP ratios through an aggressive combination of actual, year-over- year spending cuts and higher taxes. The result wasn’t malaise but a burst in activity.

The same happened in the U.S. right after World War II. In 1944 and 1945, annual government spending (in 2005 dollars) averaged about $1 trillion and represented more than 40 percent of GDP. By 1947, it had plummeted to $345 billion in 2005 dollars and 14 percent of GDP. Even facing the demobilization of millions of soldiers, the economy soared and unemployment fell despite almost universal fears that the opposite would happen.

Such outcomes are not flukes. Research by economists Alberto F. Alesina and Silvia Ardagna underscored that fiscal adjustments achieved through spending cuts rather than tax increases are less likely to cause recessions, and, if they do, the slowdowns are mild and short-lived.

What’s more, when spending reductions are accompanied by policies such as the liberalization of trade and labor markets, they are more likely to have a positive impact on growth.

While many economists — and certainly all politicians — worry that turning off the spigot of public spending will shrink an economy (and anger constituents receiving the cash), the opposite is likely to be true.
The problem isn't that there isn't enough wealth to go around-the problem is that it enriches those who benefit from the system that we have.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our Golden Age

Why we may be experiencing one after all:
Never has there been less hunger, less disease or more prosperity. The West remains in the economic doldrums, but most developing countries are charging ahead, and people are being lifted out of poverty at the fastest rate ever recorded. The death toll inflicted by war and natural disasters is also mercifully low. We are living in a golden age.

To listen to politicians is to be given the opposite impression — of a dangerous, cruel world where things are bad and getting worse. This, in a way, is the politicians’ job: to highlight problems and to try their best to offer solutions. But the great advances of mankind come about not from statesmen, but from ordinary people. Governments across the world appear stuck in what Michael Lind, on page 30, describes as an era of ‘turboparalysis’ — all motion, no progress. But outside government, progress has been nothing short of spectacular.
Progress isn't dependent on government. This bears repeating...

Files For Everyone

The good news: the American government is officially against Internet censorship via the UN. Unfortunately:
Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder granted the center the ability to copy entire government databases holding information on flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and other data, and to store it for up to five years, even without suspicion that someone in the database has committed a crime, according to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story.

Whereas previously the law prohibited the center from storing data compilations on U.S. citizens unless they were suspected of terrorist activity or were relevant to an ongoing terrorism investigation, the new powers give the center the ability to not only collect and store vast databases of information but also to trawl through and analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior in order to uncover activity that could launch an investigation.

The changes granted by Holder would also allow databases containing information about U.S. citizens to be shared with foreign governments for their own analysis.

A former senior White House official told the Journal that the new changes were “breathtaking in scope.”

But counterterrorism officials tried to downplay the move by telling the Journal that the changes come with strict guidelines about how the data can be used.

“The guidelines provide rigorous oversight to protect the information that we have, for authorized and narrow purposes,” Alexander Joel, Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the paper.
Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they can't claim it's for your own good...

Buy American Gas

How exporting our resources can help abroad:
American natural gas is now among the cheapest fuels anywhere in the world and costs as little as one-fourth of what the fuel sells for in Europe and Asia.

There will be trade-offs to lifting the export restrictions. On the plus side, the report says that exports of gas in liquefied form could provide a $47 billion boost to the economy by 2020, including the construction of gas terminals. While the report dwells largely on economic issues, exports would also help to lower emissions linked to global climate change by giving countries like India, China, Japan and Germany access to a cleaner energy source than coal.

Greater gas exports could also factor into American foreign policy. By offering countries like India and China access to cheap American gas, Washington could make it more palatable for them to join in supporting sanctions against Iran, for instance. And it could give the United States new leverage in trade negotiations.
This could be a further boon to the economy-if politicians don't screw it up.

Land Of Missed Opportunity

We are now more like Canada-the way they used to be:
For the first time, the United States does not rank as one of the world’s ten most prosperous nations, as rated by London’s Legatum Institute. The authors of the report found that the U.S.’s slippage is being driven by “a decline in the number of US citizens who believe that hard work will get them ahead.”
....

Consistent with this finding is the fact that for the first time in history, the average Canadian is wealthier than the average American. Canada has a conservative government, and they have passed us like we are standing still. Which we are, at best.
Parts of Europe aside, the rest of the developed (and much of the developing) world seems to be getting wealthier. If President Obama wanted to share the wealth, he's getting his wish, but not in the way he meant.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Confirming Kerry

Is his confirmation actually their gain?
"Kerry gets a pass. He's as good as confirmed," said one top GOP strategist. CNN reported on Saturday afternoon that President Obama is planning to nominate Sen. Kerry.
....

"He's a senator. No one liked Rice and she's out. And Kerry opens seat for Brown," the strategist said, noting that Sen John McCain, who is friends with Kerry, could ease his way. "McCain, as a former presidential candidate, will make sure behind scenes that we're as respectful and deferential to former presidential candidate as we can be."

Former GOP leadership aide Ron Bonjean told BuzzFeed that "[Kerry] will go through some turbulence, but at this point it seems he would likely be confirmed, especially because of the previous alternative."

Still, Republicans won't simply roll over and will likely use his confirmation as a chance to hammer the Obama administration.

"I don't expect him to have too much trouble. There might be a little resistance here and there but I would guess most of the tough questions focus more on the Obama administration's problems and less on his," a senior GOP leadership aide said Saturday night.
I guess these days the Republicans take their wins where they can...

Stopping Disaster

Vigilance at work:
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – A Bartlesville High School student is in custody on charges he plotted to bomb and shoot students at the campus auditorium on the same day that 28 people were shot and killed at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Police arrested 18-year-old Sammie Eaglebear Chavez at about 4:30 a.m. Friday after learning of the alleged plot Thursday.

An arrest affidavit says Chavez tried to convince other students to help him lure students into the auditorium, chain the doors shut and start shooting. The Tulsa World reports that authorities say Chavez threatened to kill students who didn’t help.
For every mass shooting, there are others that are prevented. And nobody overreacts when they are.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Senate Stand-In

I suppose this is only natural:
Governor Deval Patrick is already making plans to fill presumptive SecState nominee John Kerry’s Senate seat. Knowledgeable sources tell me Governor Patrick has already had a discussion with one potential replacement for Senator Kerry: Vicki Kennedy. The sources say the governor talked to Kennedy, the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, about the possibility of replacing Kerry in the Senate and that she did not rule it out. But don’t count on seeing another Senator Kennedy from Massachusetts any time soon: a source close to Vicki Kennedy says she would be unlikely to accept the appointment. But again, she has not ruled it out.
I understand this being considered for sentimental reasons, but should a Senate seat really be treated like a royal peerage, granted by virtue of inheritance?

The Internet Frontier

Cowboy diplomacy lives:
The U.S., along with Canada, the UK, and a handful of other sensible countries, has walked away from the deranged plan to “occupy the internet” strongly supported by that wonderful thing, the “global community.”

The International Telecommunications Union (“committed to connecting the world”), another innocently named UN bureaucracy with great destructive potential, won’t be a vehicle to strengthen the repressive powers of UN members like China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba. . . . Of course, autocracies can still try to control the internet domestically, and they can even try to cooperate with other friendly autocracies. But it appears they won’t be able to leverage the UN to help them do it. Harebrained schemes like taxing international internet traffic, legitimizing government censorship, and putting UN bureaucrats in charge of running the internet have been warded off for now.

This shows that on the issues he cares about President Obama is as much of a cowboy as Ronald Reagan.
This is one area where the unilateral executive has done the right thing.

Choosing Choice

Bobby Jindal offers a solution to end the "war on women":
Let’s ask the question: Why do women have to go see a doctor before they buy birth control? There are two answers. First, because big government says they should, even though requiring a doctor visit to get a drug that research shows is safe helps drive up health-care costs. Second, because big pharmaceutical companies benefit from it. They know that prices would be driven down if the companies had to compete in the marketplace once their contraceptives were sold over the counter.

So at present we have an odd situation. Thanks to President Obama and the pro-choice lobby, women can buy the morning-after pill over the counter without a prescription, but women cannot buy oral contraceptives over the counter unless they have a prescription. Contraception is a personal matter—the government shouldn’t be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman’s employer to keep tabs on her use of it. If an insurance company or those purchasing insurance want to cover birth control, they should be free to do so. If a consumer wants to buy birth control on her own, she should be free to do so.

Over-the-counter contraception would be easier to obtain if not for some unfortunate aspects of President Obama’s health-care law. One of the most egregious elements of that law is the hampering of Health Savings Accounts, which have become increasingly popular in recent years because they give Americans choices in how to spend their money on health care. By removing the ability of citizens to use their HSAs to purchase over-the-counter medicine tax-free if they don’t have a doctor’s prescription, President Obama hurt many middle-class families who counted on using their HSA dollars every flu season to take care of their children. Health Savings Accounts should cover over-the-counter purchases, and those should include contraception.
So, how about it? Will liberals actually allow women choice?

Canned Cornball

Sometimes, stupidity is its own reward:
ESPN’s Rob Parker’s comments on yesterday’s “First Take,” which questioned Griffin’s standing as a black man due to his white fiancée and the quarterback’s rumored Republican leanings, has led to the commentator’s suspension. Shortly after Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch broke the news of Parker’s suspension via Twitter, ESPN made a statement on the issue.

“Following yesterday’s comments, Rob Parker has been suspended until further notice,” ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys tweeted. “We are conducting a full review.”

The suspension comes amid an uproar concerning Parker’s comments on the morning show that were directed at Griffin not for his on-field play, but for his standing in the black community.
When someone doesn't want to be defined, why do others always insist on doing it for them?