Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fast Food Flight

Why is it so hard for fast food places to stay in the U.S.?
"Under the current U.S. business climate, regulatory and tax restrictions tend to curb otherwise dynamic entrepreneurial energy," Puzder said. "We'd love to see more growth in domestic markets. Unfortunately, it's easier for our franchisees to open a restaurant in Siberia than in California."

In the U.S., the company's Hardee's division is expanding in New York, New Jersey, Chicago and South Florida. Meanwhile, the Carl's Jr. division is growing in Texas and the Seattle area.

Puzder named Brazil, Russia, India, China and Europe as the places where he sees the greatest opportunities for growth.

"Other than Antarctica and the North Pole, I can't think of any countries we're not looking at," he added.
Unfortunately, penguins don't eat burgers and fries...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Ride

Bill de Blasio is a man on a mission:
"We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period," de Blasio said at a news conference Monday, saying that the practice is inhumane.
"No tourist comes to New York City just to ride on a horse carriage," Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, an animal rights group, told CNN.
"Horses do not belong in a congested, urban setting," NYCLASS states on its website. "They constantly breathe exhaust while dodging dangerous traffic ... confined to the shafts of their carriage and their tiny stable stalls, with no access to green pastures."
Spoken like a horse's ass...

Token Idiots

MSNBC ends the year as only they can:
The panelists start laughing the moment the photo is on the screen, because obviously. Then the first response is Pia Glenn off-camera sing-songing “one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same” and the rest of the panel chuckles along. It’s funny because Romney is white and his grandson isn’t, which is obviously hilarious. Because as everyone knows, the races should not mix.
Liberal racism. How hilarious...

Ease Our Pain

Export, baby, export:
U.S. crude can be exported only if the federal government deems the shipments consistent with the national interest. That vague legal standard has in effect made it impossible for oil producers to export crude, except a small amount sent to Canada, although exports of gasoline and other refined products have been soaring lately.

Like free trade in general, selling American oil overseas would be good for our economy. It would make the oil market more efficient, encourage a build-out of the U.S. energy network and stabilize prices over time for consumers.

This is no small matter: By some estimates, drillers could be generating billions of dollars in annual revenues from exports within a few years if the ban were lifted. That additional business would translate into job creation as the oil industry invested in refineries and transportation networks to handle the light, high-quality crude being produced domestically.
Release the krakens!

That Smell

America's most smelly city?
It has been 13 months since a New York Times story laid bare for the nation not just our local shame but the collapse of common sense in the Golden State — the idiocy of environmental rules so rigid and so far-reaching that removal of animal feces is somehow classified as a threat to nature.

The odor problem ebbed for a time, but now it is back — a nauseating pall on an otherwise beautiful part of San Diego. And this time, it has prompted a lawsuit by the owners of the nearby La Valencia Hotel and George’s at the Cove, who argue — correctly — that city officials haven’t done enough to fix this stomach-turning problem.
Welcome to the Dark Ages of political correctness...

MSNBS

MSNBC's worst of the year (but isn't it always?)

Freeze Frame

Global warming expedition halted by ice:
...a team of climate scientists have been forced to abandon their mission … because the Antarctic ice is thicker than usual at this time of year.

The scientists have been stuck aboard the stricken MV Akademik Schokalskiy since Christmas Day, with repeated sea rescue attempts being abandoned as icebreaking ships failed to reach them.

Now that effort has been ditched, with experts admitting the ice is just too thick. Instead the crew have built an icy helipad, with plans afoot to rescue the 74-strong team by helicopter.
Define irony...

The End Of Old Uranium

From bombs to bulbs:
"The Megatons to Megawatts program made a substantial contribution both to the elimination of nuclear weapons material and to nuclear energy generation in the United States," U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reportedly said upon the official conclusion of the historic program. "Nearly every commercial nuclear reactor in the United States received nuclear fuel under the program."

And Matthew Bunn, a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, calls the program one of the greatest diplomatic achievements in history.

"I mean, think about it – 20,000 bombs' worth of nuclear material, destroyed forever," he told NPR. "[Bombs that] will never threaten anybody ever again."
There won't be an earth-shattering kaboom...

Southlands

Texas versus California:
Brown and his advisers find the Texas-vs.-California story tiresome. “Shakespeare said comparisons are odious,” Brown quipped in a recent telephone interview. “Another version was that they’re odorous.”

He was quick to counter Perry’s claim that Texas should be the nation’s model. Yes, he said, if you want to build something, you can do it faster in Texas than in California, where there are more regulations and governmental red tape. “That’s true,” he said, but he added, “Would you rather live in Houston or Santa Barbara, or maybe Santa Monica or San Francisco?”
Given how many Californians have left the latter, it seems that choice has been made...

French Tax Twist

France's 75% tax rate is officially legal:
Under Hollande’s proposal, companies will have to pay a 50 percent duty on wages above 1 million euros ($1.4 million). In combination with other taxes and social charges, the rate will amount to 75 percent of salaries above the threshold, the court wrote in a decision published today.

“The companies that pay out remuneration above 1 million euros will, as expected, be called upon for an effort of solidarity on remuneration paid in 2013 and 2014,” the Economy Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

Hollande, who once said he “didn’t like” the rich, announced the 75 percent tax in February 2012 as part of his presidential campaign to appeal to his Socialist base. It has become a symbol of his government’s record-high taxation rate.
Well, the way things are going, there won't be any rich left in France, so he should be happy...

Flipped

The Sun has finally flipped:
"A reversal of the sun's magnetic field is, literally, a big event," said Nasa’s Dr. Tony Phillips.

"The domain of the sun's magnetic influence (also known as the 'heliosphere') extends billions of kilometers beyond Pluto. Changes to the field's polarity ripple all the way out to the Voyager probes, on the doorstep of interstellar space."
....

"At the height of each magnetic flip, the sun goes through periods of more solar activity, during which there are more sunspots, and more eruptive events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections," said Nasa’s Karen C. Fox.

"Cosmic rays are also affected," added Dr. Phillips. "These are high-energy particles accelerated to nearly light speed by supernova explosions and other violent events in the galaxy."
I wondered why it looked upside down lately...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Son Of Skynet

Computers that learn:
The new computing approach, already in use by some large technology companies, is based on the biological nervous system, specifically on how neurons react to stimuli and connect with other neurons to interpret information. It allows computers to absorb new information while carrying out a task, and adjust what they do based on the changing signals.

In coming years, the approach will make possible a new generation of artificial intelligence systems that will perform some functions that humans do with ease: see, speak, listen, navigate, manipulate and control. That can hold enormous consequences for tasks like facial and speech recognition, navigation and planning, which are still in elementary stages and rely heavily on human programming.

Designers say the computing style can clear the way for robots that can safely walk and drive in the physical world, though a thinking or conscious computer, a staple of science fiction, is still far off on the digital horizon.

“We’re moving from engineering computing systems to something that has many of the characteristics of biological computing,” said Larry Smarr, an astrophysicist who directs the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, one of many research centers devoted to developing these new kinds of computer circuits.
Ah, but what are they learning?

Frozen In Time

Photographs of an expedition from a century ago:
These negatives were meticulously processed and restored by a Wellington photography conservator. Antarctic Heritage Trust executive director Nigel Watson said of these never-before-seen images:

"It's the first example that I'm aware of, of undeveloped negatives from a century ago from the Antarctic heroic era. There's a paucity of images from that expedition."

The team from the Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZ) discovered the box in a corner of one of the many supply depots Robert Falcon Scott established for his doomed Terre Nova Expedition to the South Pole (1910-1913). Though Scott reached the Pole, he and his party died of starvation and the extreme cold on their return trip.

The hut was used next by the Ross Sea Party of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It is believed that this party left the undeveloped negatives.
Antarctica, nature's icebox...

Nanny Fat

How they deal with overweight kids in the UK:
Professionals say they have to make complex decisions in care proceedings and a family's gross over-eating can be one of the factors that leads to them losing their children.

A Sunday Express survey of councils found that in the past year five children were taken from their families for that reason: two in Wake-field, West Yorkshire, one in Oxfordshire, one in Salford and one in Hounslow, London.

The previous 12 months saw five similar cases in Sheffield, Portsmouth, Lincolnshire, Slough and Harrow, London.

A social worker said: "Only in extreme cases would we take a child into care just because of their weight as we would seek to work with the family to improve their eating habits."
First, they came for the over-eaters...

Jesus Walks, Bullsh*t Talks

Kanye West's year-end meltdown (warning: NSFW):

Welcome To Jefferson

First Colorado, now California:
At least two counties -- Siskiyou and Modoc -- have already reportedly voted for withdrawal; officials in another, Tehama County, recently voted to put a referendum for secession on the ballot in June of 2014; and seven other northern California counties now claim popular committees in support of the long-shot measure, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"We are staking our futures on our ability to live and thrive in this area," Kayla Nicole Brown, a 23-year-old from Redding who is now a leader in Shasta County's secession movement, told The Times. "And if we can't, we have to leave."

The Times reports majority votes in both the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress are required for secession to actually occur.

But The Times cites the growing prevalence of what is called the State of Jefferson Flag around the Golden State’s northern reaches.
Maybe there's something to this idea, after all...

Turn Out The Lights

Don't forget about the light bulb ban:
Lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania recently released its sixth annual "Sylvania Socket Survey," which found that only 4 in 10 consumers were aware that 60- and 40-watt light bulbs are being phased out in 2014 as production ends.

Sixty-four percent of participants were aware that a general elimination of incandescent light bulbs was taking place, however, which represents a sharp increase from recent years. In Osram Sylvania's 2012 survey, only 52 percent of participants were aware of any phase-out.
A lot of people are literally in the dark, or will be...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sentimental Journey

Can sentimental movies can affect your politics?
Viewers who are “not prepared” to be critical about what they are seeing on screen were more likely to experience a “leftward shift” in attitudes when watching Hollywood movies with an underlying liberal message.

A team of political scientists at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana set out to explore the power of political messages in popular films, and found that they “possess the ability to change attitudes, especially on issues that are unframed by the media”.

Dr Todd Adkins, the study’s lead author, wrote that: “Media effects research has generally ignored the possibility that popular films can affect political attitudes,” an omission which he described as “puzzling”.
Actually, you could argue that Hollywood has known about this for years...

Living A Memory

The curse of remembering:
Alexandra says that remembering even an inconsequential trip to Target is an almost physical experience for her. She says she sees what she saw that day, hears what she heard, and emotionally feels what she felt at the time.

"Right down to getting sick to my stomach or getting a headache," she says. "It's almost like time travel."

But being unable to forget can affect your relationship to the present, people with this form of memory say.

Alexandra is 22 and lives with her mother in a long brick ranch house in southern Maryland. She has dark hair and beautifully balanced features, but hasn't really dated and seems to have few of the preoccupations of most 22-year-olds. She blames her memory for this, saying it separates her from other people her age because they can't understand why she's so focused on things that have already happened.

Alexandra often feels frustrated with her preoccupation with the past. "It seems like you hold onto everything, and it seems like you're just stuck in the past all the time," she says.
What if you couldn't forget, no matter how hard you tried?

I-Mail

The DNC wants to save President Obama from those nasty Republicans:
The email, subject line “Impeachment,” was sent to Obama for America supporters, imploring them to contribute to the DNC’s 2014 efforts. “What do these people all have in common?,” the email asked, featuring quotes from Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, and Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas discussing the possibility of impeaching Obama for one of his numerous instances of presidential misconduct.

The DNC email discussed the “I-Word” and said that “Republicans are actually excited about the idea.”

“Show these Republicans that they are way, way off-base, and give President Obama a Congress that has his back,” according to the DNC email, noting that Democrats need to win 17 GOP House seats to reclaim a majority.
Paranoid much?

Funding For Thee, Not For Thee

Free speech, U. of Michigan style (via College Insurrection):
The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) is a registered student group at UM, and was given access to the student fees fund by a university commission, according to YAL’s lawsuit. Mandatory student fees helped cover BAMN members’ travel costs to go to Washington, D.C. and protest in front of the Supreme Court just days before the Gratz event.

The direct comparability of the cases suggests UM considers demonstrating in favor of affirmative action before the Supreme Court to be non-political activity. On the other hand, bringing an anti-affirmative action expert to campus to talk about the issue is political. The university said it is reviewing the students’ lawsuit and declined to comment.
Facing one's own hypocrisy is always difficult...

Veterans Of The Psychic Wars

The strange tale of Cold War mind games:
Beginning in 1917 and continuing until 2003, the Soviets poured up to $1 billion into developing mind-controlling weaponry to compete with similar programs undertaken in the US.
While much still remains classified, we can now confirm the Soviets used methods to manipulate test subjects' brains.
The paper, by Serge Kernbach, at the Research Centre of Advanced Robotics and Environmental Science in Stuttgart, Germany, details the Soviet Union's extensive experiments, called "psychotronics". The paper is based on Russian technical journals and recently declassified documents.
Mind games, Comrade...

Savings And Security

The poor save more:
Americans with the absolute lowest annual household incomes, $20,000 or less, are the most likely to say they enjoy saving money (66%) rather than spending it (30%), compared with Americans at other income levels. The propensity to save drops off notably among those bringing in $50,000 or more, though the majority still lean that way, including 56% of those with household incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 and 55% of those earning $75,000 or more.
What do they understand that the government which wants to give them more money doesn't?

Banning Lessons

Remember when they tried to ban the VCR?
The threat of having banned video rentals was quite real; while the content industry failed in banning video rentals, it succeeded in banning the renting of music and software. The industry also instituted regulations that banned new technologies, such as the digital audio-tape player, a successor to the analog audio tape player.

In 1992, the industry succeeded in levying a “private” tax on empty cassettes, blank CDs and CD-recorders. They litigated to ban the first iPod (the Rio) and the first DVR (ReplayTV) – bankrupting each through litigation costs but ultimately failing to stop these technologies. But the content industry failed to ban or regulate video rentals, and they failed to ban or regulate the VCR and subsequent technologies. This led to the emergence of the VCR, DVDs, Blu-Ray, Blockbuster, Netflix and modern home media consumption.
If you ban it, they will still come...

Market Matters

On the benefits of a free-market health care system:
For starters, the question is one of balance. The health system will always be regulated to some degree, such as with licensure requirements for physicians and oversight of insurance. The question is: To what degree will market prices and competition in the health sector be given the necessary space to work, or will Arrow’s arguments lead policymakers to adopt a completely regulated approach to allocating health resources?
Recently, Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute studied Arrow’s points and made the case that they should not prevent a move toward a market-based system.[6] First, Roy points out that the concept of unpredictable expenses is not unique to health care. From durable goods to services, people purchase extended warranties to protect against unforeseen catastrophic failures. Health insurance serves the same purpose.
Healthy competition improves quality as people look for the product that suits their needs. Government may try to control quality, but it can't improve on it.

They're Leaving Today

Florida is fast becoming the place to be:
New York, whose status as the most populous state has long been ceded, will soon fall behind Florida into fourth place, a long-anticipated drop that is rife with symbolism and that could carry potentially serious economic consequences in coming years.

When the Census Bureau releases its latest population estimates on Monday, demographers expect that Florida and New York will be narrowly separated — perhaps by as little as a few thousand people — and that if Florida does not pass New York this time, it almost certainly will do so in 2014.
I wonder why that is...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Quack, Quack

Phil Robertson is back among the beards:
Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.

So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in Duck Dynasty.
Hopefully starting with those who wanted Mr. Robertson kept off the air...

The South Dakota Trust

South Dakota is turning into a tax haven:
In the past four years, the amount of money administered by South Dakota trust companies like these has tripled to $121 billion, almost all of it from out of state. The families needn’t actually move to South Dakota, or deposit their money at a local bank, or even touch down in the private jet. Little more than renting an address in Sioux Falls is required to take advantage of South Dakota’s tax-friendly trust laws.

States like South Dakota are “creating laws that are conducive to a massive exploitation of a federal tax loophole,” said Edward McCaffery, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. “We have a tax haven in our midst.”

South Dakota’s sudden popularity illustrates how, at a time of rising U.S. economic inequality, the wealthiest Americans are embracing ever more creative ways to reduce taxes legally. Executives at South Dakota Trust Co., one of the biggest in the state, estimate that one-quarter of their business comes from special vehicles known as “dynasty trusts,” which are designed to avoid the federal estate tax. Creation of such trusts has surged in recent years as changes in federal law enabled more money to be placed in them.
Getting rid of the estate tax might be one way around this...

Pajama Party

So who is Pajama Boy?
Krupp, an Organizing for Action (OFA) content writer who became the face of progressive America while wearing a onesie pajama suit, also remarked that gays “are all liberal f-s” and criticized a “conservative gay prick” on his now-deleted WordPress blog, entitled “Not Being Creative.”

“I am a Liberal F-k,” Krupp wrote in one post. “A Liberal F-k is not a Democrat, but rather someone who combines political data and theory, extreme leftist views and sarcasm to win any argument while make the opponents feel terrible about themselves. I won every argument but one.”

Krupp then detailed the only political argument he claimed her ever lost, a drunken encounter he had with a “conservative gay prick.”

“I sat in a pizza joint, chomping on meat-heavy pizza and slamming whisky sours with gay guys on Pride Parade day in Columbus, Ohio; My gay roommate and friends loved to ironically ‘bro-out.’ I love gays because they are all liberal f-s too,” Krupp wrote.
Spoken like a true liberal prick...

Nerds In Jail

What's it like to be a geek on the inside?
Yes, it will be scary.

This anonymous writer worked in IT consulting before he was sentenced: "It was scary, since I hadn't punched anyone since the seventh grade, and most of the people I might have to fight were 20 years younger than me ... Everywhere you go, you have to be alert. There are so many dangers. You could be in danger if you bump into somebody, if you look at someone wrong, or for no reason at all. I am so much more vigilant of my surroundings, even years later. My ability to read people is greatly improved, because it was so important there."

But you'll also get opportunities.

"Before prison, I liked to play guitar. Inside prison, I got to play in the music program and got pretty good. It was a matter of putting in the time. I also had books sent in so I could study music theory. Before prison, I had six years of junior high and high school Spanish. In prison, I made friends with many people from Spanish-speaking countries and got fluent. I didn't just talk with them; I watched TV with them, studied the Bible in Spanish with them, read novels in Spanish. In those eight years I went from high school Spanish to fluent. I also found a job where I could program computers, creating databases used within the facility for things like tracking sports leagues or scheduling medical appointments. I then had books sent in to study new languages, design patterns, Xtreme and Agile methodologies, and more. I left knowing so much more than when I arrived."
So it's like going back to college, but with more jocks around you...

Doctor Con

It was a royal scam:
Dr. Dong-Pyou Han spiked a clinical test sample with healthy human blood to make it appear that the rabbit serum produced disease-fighting antibodies, officials said.
The bogus findings helped Han’s team obtain $19 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health, said James Bradac, who oversees the institutes’ AIDS research.
The remarkable findings were reported in scientific journals but raised suspicions when other researchers could not duplicate Han’s results.
The NIH uncovered the scam when it checked the rabbit serum at a lab and found the human antibodies.
Han resigned from his university post as an assistant professor of biomedical studies in October. His case came to light this week when it was reported in the Federal Register.
Gee, I wonder what kind of a culture would encourage professors to fake their research...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

America's Worst Congress

They love to work at nothing all day:
Even though it did pass a budget agreement, fewer than 60 bills have been signed into law during the first year of the two-year long 113th Congress, according to CNN analysis and by other news organizations as well. Assuming lawmakers don't pick up the pace next year, and that's a safe bet as 2014 is an election year, this will become the least productive Congress in at least the last four decades.

The poll also indicates there's little optimism for the future.

"Negative attitudes extend to both sides of the aisle: 52% believe that the policies of the Democratic leaders in Congress would move the country in the wrong direction; 54% say the same about the policies of congressional Republicans," Holland said.
In Washington, being lazy is a full-time job...

Commercial Free

Liberal talk radio is dying:
Thanks to radio consolidation and the secondary status of leftist talk in major markets across the country, the final death knell for liberal talkers could be tolling. Leftist talkers simply don’t have the same radio draw as conservatives; KTLK was ranked #41 in the market in November 2013, with WWRL registering almost no pulse at all. KNEW registered just an 0.4 in the San Francisco market in December 2013, placing it #31 in the market.

The failure of commercial leftist talk means that only government-sponsored NPR remains in many major markets.
They couldn't compete, so the government picks up the slack. Which is probably what many of them want...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Lazarus Effect

Who wants to live forever?
Nature can, of course, be improved upon or we would still be dying of polio. But it would be rash to imagine that tampering to this degree with our human lot and altering so radically the delicate equilibrium of humankind and nature will not produce plenty of Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns,” deathless monsters of our own creation. Radical life extension smacks of an intemperate claim to have unlocked the fundamental mystery of life. That is dangerous territory.
At the very least it can create zombies...

Fried Birds

Why they don't do Turkey in Japan:
The Turkey does not breed naturally in Japan and is rarely cultivated. Apparently the taste is not of such a popularity to warrant large amounts of it to be imported into Japan either. Thus, many Japanese have not tried turkey.
Another reason why turkey didn't catch on as a popular dish during Christmas is the fact that most Japanese folks don't have ovens - or an oven big enough to roast an entire turkey.

One day at KFC's Aoyama branch, a foreigner went to buy some chicken at KFC and said "I'm having a party but because there is no turkey, I've come to get some fried chicken instead."
in 1974, KFC then started promoting the catchphrase "Christmas = Kentucky" and poured a load of yen into the marketing effort. The catchphrase soon caught on and together with the commercials on TV, the Japanese then started to consume a load of Chicken during the festive season.
Scarcity is the mother of free-market innovation...

Christmas Snowden

Eric Snowden's Christmas message:
The NSA’s business is “information dominance,” the use of other people’s secrets to shape events. At 29, Snowden upended the agency on its own turf.

“You recognize that you’re going in blind, that there’s no model,” Snowden said, acknowledging that he had no way to know whether the public would share his views.

“But when you weigh that against the alternative, which is not to act,” he said, “you realize that some analysis is better than no analysis. Because even if your analysis proves to be wrong, the marketplace of ideas will bear that out. If you look at it from an engineering perspective, an iterative perspective, it’s clear that you have to try something rather than do nothing.”

By his own terms, Snowden succeeded beyond plausible ambition.
But what was his real agenda, good or bad?

"Are There No Prisons?"

Scrooge had nothing on modern bureaucracies:
More and more, courts are dragging people in for fines and fees that have ballooned due to interest imposed on the initial sums. Some owe money to the public defender's office for the representation they received during their time in court. Others incur hundreds of dollars in fees while they're incarcerated -- for everything from toilet paper to the beds inmates sleep on.

The tab for the average offender could be as low as $250 or as high as $4,000. Both the ACLU and Brennan have been targeting big states with multiple jurisdictions they say are flouting U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 1970, 1971 and 1983. Those rulings essentially say courts cannot extend or impose a jail sentence for unpaid fines and fees if individuals do not have the ability to pay.

At the very least, according to the high court, the courts must inquire and assess whether a person is indigent and might benefit from an alternative method of payment, like community service, before sentencing.

"Even though a lot of jurisdictions do have statutes on the books that allow judges to waive fines and fees, it doesn't always happen," explained Lauren Brooke-Eisen, counsel for the Brennan Center's Justice Program.

Much of the time, probation or the conviction itself will hinder individuals from finding employment (Brennan estimates that some 60 percent are still unemployed a year after leaving jail). But another incarceration over debt could either ruin the job they managed to get or make it even harder to find one.

Many jurisdictions have taken to hiring private collection/probation companies to go after debtors, giving them the authority to revoke probation and incarcerate if they can't pay. Research into the practice has found that private companies impose their own additional surcharges. Some 15 private companies have emerged to run these services in the South, including the popular Judicial Correction Services (JCS).
A system in dire straits often takes out its frustrations on the people...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Language Lessons

It's the dialect quiz (via Hot Air):
The magic is simple. Hundreds of thousands of people were polled on a few dozen well-chosen questions — e.g., do you say “soda,” “pop,” or something else, do you pronounce “aunt” as “ant” or “awnt,” etc. The result is a granular map of American dialects capable of detecting with surprising accuracy where a person grew up based on the colloquialisms they use. Even better, every answer you give generates a dialect map for that question so you can see where the regional boundary lines fall. Some of those are predictable, like “y’all” being a southern thing or “pa-jahm-as” versus “pa-jam-as” being an east/west thing. Others, however, are patchwork and bizarre.
You say so-dah, I say col-ah...

Blogging In The Years: 1968

The crew of Apollo 8 broadcasts live from lunar orbit:



Behold, Earthrise:

The iconic "Earthrise" photo taken by astronaut Bill Anders through a window on the Apollo 8 command module on Dec. 24, 1968.

Home Alone

A couple learns the hard way what goes on, when you're not home:
The Record reports the Denville couple recently sued the two agents, alleging breach of trust and fiduciary duties by them and their firm. The suit seeks compensatory damages for invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, trespass of land and other civil counts.

The suit claims the male agent made a duplicate key to the house and intentionally listed the house above market value to deter others from visiting the home.

The two real estate agents named in the suit could not be reached for comment.
They were probably "busy..."

Fast Food Follies

McDonald's seems to be in the habit of contradicting itself:
The posts appear to be content provided by a third-party vendor.

McDonald's defended the posting in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

"Portions of this website continue to be taken entirelyout of context," McDonald's statement said. "This website provides useful information from respected third-parties about many topics, among them health and wellness. It also includes information from experts about healthy eating and making balanced choices. McDonald's agrees with this advice."
How about just selling what people actually want to eat?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Down To The Wire

Good news! President Obama has finally signed up for Obamacare:
Obama “was pleased to participate in a plan as a show of support for these marketplaces which are providing quality, affordable health care options to more than a million people,” the official added.

But Obama did not directly sign up for insurance. Rather, his staff went in person to sign him up, an official told POLITICO.

“Like some Americans, the complicated nature of the president’s case required an in-person sign-up,” the official said. “As you’d expect, the president’s personal information is not readily available in the variety of government databases HealthCare.gov uses to verify identities.”

Obama signed up for coverage only for himself and not for the rest of the first family, and will pay a premium that’s under $400 per month, the official said.
Everything seems to be happening at the last minute.

Frack On

David Cameron tells the EU to pound sand:
David Cameron has called on European leaders to press ahead with fracking after seeing off the threat of new EU restrictions on the industry.

The Prime Minister had feared that Europe would fall farther behind the US in exploiting the energy source if the European Commission imposed new legal rules on the drilling.

He urged European companies to start fracking in earnest after EU officials confirmed that there would be no new legislation.
The EU has lost the war, they just don't know it yet...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Obamacare Syndrome

It could go nuclear:
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has urged delaying a penalty for people who do not enroll for health insurance in 2014 under the law, told CNN that a transitional year was needed for the complex healthcare program, commonly known as Obamacare, to work.

"If it's so much more expensive than what we anticipated and if the coverage is not as good as what we had, you've got a complete meltdown at that time," Manchin told CNN's "State of the Union" program.

"It falls of its own weight, if basically the cost becomes more than we can absorb, absolutely."
If it does, can we handle the fallout?

Car Wash

A man's driveway isn't his castle?
The officer said although the car wasn’t going to be washed in the street, which is illegal, washing it in the driveway would still be in the public’s view, Hall reported. No one received a ticket during the ordeal and The Garden City Police Department had no comment about the incident.
I guess there's just not enough real crime in NY these days...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Green Light

Bullets go green:
The Army has been researching a more environment-friendly bullet at the Picatinny Arsenal, in New Jersey, since 2010. A lead-free version of the 7.62-mm rounds fired from M-14 rifles will be issued to troops in 2014. That will follow a prior switch to a greener 5.56 mm "Enhanced Performance Round" the Army switched to in 2010..

“The EPR replaces the lead slug with a copper slug,” Lt. Col. Phil Clark, product manager for small-caliber ammunition at Picatinny, told the Daily Caller. “This makes the projectile environmentally friendly, while still giving soldiers the performance capabilities they need on the battlefield.”

The army has projected that use of green bullets for small-round ammunition could eliminate the purchase of nearly 4,000 metric tons of lead between now and 2018.
I'm sure the bad guys will appreciate that they got shot in a more environmentally friendly manner...

The Forgotten Horror

The secret lives of female Nazi collaborators:
There is a link between the shockingly cavalier testimony given by these women and our collective ignorance of their actions in the Nazi East: genocide is usually considered the business of men, and thus, when it came time to call Nazis to account for their crimes, prosecutors were less interested in these women than in their male colleagues and husbands. . . . Jewish survivors have consistently described German women in the Nazi East as violent tormenters, not innocent bystanders.
Being a monster isn't a gender issue; it's a human one.

Northern Girls

It's legal in Canada:
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing for a unanimous court, stressed that the ruling is not about whether prostitution should be legal or not, but about whether Parliament’s means of controlling it infringe the constitutional rights of prostitutes.

“Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes,” she wrote.

“The prohibitions all heighten the risks. . . . They do not merely impose conditions on how prostitutes operate. They go a critical step further, by imposing dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky – but legal – activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks.”
This sounds more like a formality than anything else, but it could show a way to deal with the issue in a sane way down here.

Don't Think Small

Small isn't always beautiful:
“Sure, these micro-apartments may be fantastic for young professionals in their 20’s,” Dak Kopec, director of design for human health at Boston Architectural College, told The Atlantic. “But they definitely can be unhealthy for older people, say in their 30’s and 40’s, who face different stress factors that can make tight living conditions a problem.”

According to Mr. Kopec, the space-saving trend of tiny apartments can lead to increased claustrophobia, domestic abuse, and alcoholism.

On top of that, researchers believe that children need bigger spaces to flourish. “I’ve studied children in crowded apartments and low-income housing a lot,” Susan Saegert, Director of the Housing Environments Research Group, said to the publication. “They can end up becoming withdrawn, and have trouble studying and concentrating.”

Ms. Saegert said that cramped living environments could have an even worse effect on a child’s psyche than an older individual.
Being stuck in a closet can do that...

Affordable Stash Act

Obamacare literally seems to be everywhere these days:
Massachusetts State Police took four people into custody Friday morning after discovering 1,250 individual bags of heroin marked "Obama Care," authorities said.

According to a post on the department's Facebook page, a trooper spotted a vehicle in Hatfield, Mass., with several violations. Police called on a police K9, Frankie, who located the heroin in the vehicle.

Lt. Daniel Richard, a police spokesman, said each bag of heroin can command anywhere from $7 to $20 in street value. Though this is the first time Richard has seen "Obama Care" stamp on a drug bag, but similar stamps can be used by drug producers as a branding.
Do dealers also guarantee that if customers like their drugs, they can keep their drugs, but then take it away from them?

Gator Wars

Out: guard dogs. In: guard 'gators:
Ruthless and intimidating predators, alligators embody characteristics that might be attractive to people looking to mimic the pop-culture portrayals of big-time drug dealers.

“I think a lot of this comes back to the desire to own something exotic as well as the power of controlling a fierce animal. By keeping it in your control, you are saying something about yourself as an individual,” said Jeffrey Hyson, a professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia who specializes in the history of zoos. “I would imagine for some people who have stuff they’d like to guard, a pit bull is great but a gator is even better.”
It certainly seems to say something about the owner's overcompensation...

Stifling The Debate

Don't challenge the authority:
Republicans on the House’s science committee wrote a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concern that the agency ignored scientists charged with reviewing carbon emissions limits for new power plants. Scientists said that the agency rushed through the regulatory process and that the underlying science of the rule lacked adequate peer review.

“We are concerned about the agency’s apparent disregard for the concerns of its science advisors,” the Republican lawmakers wrote. “Science is a valuable tool to help policymakers navigate complex issues.”

“However, when inconvenient facts are disregarded or when dissenting voices are muzzled, a frank discussion becomes impossible,” the lawmakers continued. “The EPA cannot continue to rush ahead with costly regulations without allowing time for a real-world look at the science.”
It's junk science all around...

Unequal Pay For Equal Work

Let's hear it for liberal racism:
Democratic federal-level campaigns are paying minority staffers significantly less than their white counterparts, according to a study from the New Organizing Institute (NOI).


“African American staffers on Democratic federal-level campaigns are paid 70 cents on the dollar compared to their white counterparts; Hispanics are paid 68 cents on the dollar,” writes Ethan Roeder, executive director of NOI.

The study finds that although Republican campaign staffs hire a disproportionately high number of white men, the income disparities between racial groups are not nearly as pronounced as on Democratic campaigns.
Income inequality is OK when your side does it...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Catastrophic Reprieve

If you lost your plan, you can get a cheap replacement:
People losing coverage will now be allowed to buy bare-bones “catastrophic” insurance that the law usually limits to those younger than age 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said yesterday. Others can opt out completely without the threat of the fines being imposed next year on the uninsured as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The change will affect fewer than 500,000 people as a Dec. 23 deadline looms to purchase policies for coverage that starts Jan. 1, according to Obama administration figures. Insurers said the exemptions may keep younger, healthier people from buying new coverage through Obamacare, a demographic that is needed to bring balance to the new government-run insurance marketplaces.

“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” Karen Ignagni, the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s Washington-based lobbying group, said in an e-mail from a spokesman.
Too little, too late?

What The Hell, Liberals?

Ann Althouse wonders, with regards to the Duck Dynasty brouhaha:
Why is the left taking the narrow view of the concept of freedom? It's a general principle, not something you save for your friends. Like Paglia, I remember the broad 1960s era commitment to free speech. There was a special zeal to protect those who said outrageous things. Today, we're back to the kind of repression that in the 60s seemed to belong to the 1950s. What the hell happened?
The protesters took over, and became what they once protested against.

Workers' Revolt

Score one for workers' rights:
Workers rejected over 70 of 408 school district unions during annual recertification elections that ended on Thursday, according to a preliminary analysis of the results.

The elections went from November 29th until noon on December 19th and involved 408 collective bargaining units around the state associated with school districts. Workers cast their votes using a telephone voting system.

AFSCME Local 60 Council 40, including support staff in the Sun Prairie School District, was the largest union to be decertified. Only 135 of the 367 members voted to recertify.
Substitute teachers with the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association also decertified with 128 of 320 members voting for the union.

There were 19 actual teachers unions that decertified. The largest included New Berlin, Menomonee Falls, Pewaukee, Berlin, Waterford.
See what happens when employees really are allowed to organize on their own behalf?

Carville's Way

James Carville, conservative?
On the current GOP (Carville): “I think 80 percent of what’s wrong in the country is all contained in the Republican Party. I really do. And I don’t say that because I’m a Democrat.” Still, Carville admits that “I do think that I’ve gotten more conservative in some ways as I’ve gotten older. … I became a little more conservative politically when I realized that once something gets written into law, once it’s in the bloodstream, it’s really hard to undo it. You’ve got to be careful before making big changes.”
Maybe some wisdom really does come with age...

The Politics Of Slumming

Going homeless can be bad for your health:
Two days into his three-day experience of living as a homeless person, sleeping on subways and visiting shelters, Queens City Council member Ruben Wills came down with a case of pneumonia.

The Democratic politician was diagnosed at a Brooklyn hospital Tuesday night, which he entered without an ID or insurance card. The next morning, Wills opened doors for customers at a McDonald's and pumped gas, using the money people gave him to pay for a $25.99 bottle of antibiotics.

The councilman returned home but vowed to try again when he receives a clean bill of health from his doctor. "I needed to experience homelessness to really properly advocate for the homeless population," Wills told the New York Daily News at the start of his challenge.
Even if it kills him?

Lean More Left?

Trying to sort out President Obama's year-end numbers:
According to the poll, which was released Friday, 40% say they disapprove of the President because they say his policies and actions have been too liberal, with 12% saying they disapprove because he hasn't been liberal enough.

"The growth in negative views of the President comes almost equally from the left and the right," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Not surprisingly, the number of Americans who disapprove of him because he is too liberal is up six points since the start of the year. But the number of Americans who disapprove of him because he has not been liberal enough is up almost as much since January, indicating that his slide is due as much to disappointment as it is anger."
Obama's support is weakening in some key demographics.
So, a slight number of Republicans seem to feel that Obama isn't liberal enough? Okay...

Don't Laugh

Laughter isn't the best medicine?
Some of the consequences of laughing included a dislocated jaw, incontinence, headaches, cardiac rupture, and in most serious circumstances, death. But that's not to say laughing is all bad—laughing can lead to improved lung functioning, higher energy, and even better odds of conception.
It's enough to make you want to laugh...

No Grownups Here

The educated elites, behaving like children:
A New Jersey nursing scholar says bullying occurs not only among elementary and high school students, it also occurs among those in academia.

Study co-author Janice Beitz, a professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden, said researchers used data from interviews conducted with 16 nursing professors who said they were the victims of social bullying in an academic nursing workplace.

She said the participants described in detail instances in which they said they were slandered, isolated, physically threatened, lied to, or given unrealistic workloads. The participants in the study were primarily non-tenured female faculty teaching in U.S. baccalaureate programs.

"Not many people look at bullying in the academic environment," Beitz said in a statement. "We wanted to raise awareness of it."

Beitz noted the most common cases of bullying involve academic administrators targeting faculty, but in some cases, faculty are bullying other faculty members or their administrative superiors.
Revenge of the nerds on each other?

Rotten Harvest

The Renewable Fuel Standard, a standard for corruption:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it has invalidated 33.5 million renewable-fuel credits sold by an Indiana company for biofuel it didn’t produce, the fourth time the agency has alleged fraud in the program.

The filing today follows fraud charges filed against the former owners of the Indiana-based E-Biofuels LLC in September. The U.S. Justice Department accused them of falsely claiming its products qualified under government incentives for renewable fuels.

… Before today’s action, the agency had said three companies produced a total of 140 million fraudulent Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs.
Going green is good for business-as long as you don't get caught...

Worst Year Ever

President Obama's final press conference of the year didn't go so well:
The tone of the questions were downright feisty, pressing the president on the lowness of his polling. "My question is, do you have any personal regrets?" Ed Henry of Fox News said, for example.

It didn't get brighter from there. "I probably beat myself up even worse than you or Ed Henry does on any given day," Obama said in response to the next question from ABC's Jonathan Karl. But the president won't admit that he's done, as the downward poll numbers might imply to some presidential critics. There are still three more years, and plus, he's eager to point out that much of the trouble in government over the last year stemmed from Congress. "You know, I think that hopefully folks have learned their lesson in terms of brinksmanship," he said.

After a question on what Obama's New Year's resolution is, the press conference began to sound something like an intervention or therapy session. "My New Year's resolution is to be nicer to the White House press corps," he said.
You know he's had a bad year when he's lost Chris Matthews:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fear Of A Right Wing Nation

Angry and afraid? Chris Matthews has a solution, so to speak:
People in this country, are lot of them are afraid of what’s happening in these early decades of the 21st century. Just afraid. … They worry about the national debt that’s growing right on past the size of our economy itself. They see the Congress year after year unable to stop spending more than it takes in. … And this makes people angry. It makes them mad. The number one solution to this country’s rightward shift, to all the craziness out there, is for those of us in the center and on the left to get control of our government. Firm, rational, progressive, grownup control…
A dictatorship has to start somewhere...

Copyright Claim Jumpers

Why a despot's ability to make phony copyright claims should be a cause for concern:
If Correa gets away with using the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to jerk around his enemies, it won’t be long until others follow suit.

“And it won’t always be a foreign state,” says blogger Steinbaugh. “This abuse is growing. Any person or corporation can misuse this law to punish someone who criticizes them. It’s a real weakness in the law, which offers no incentive for Internet companies to question copyright-infringement claims, no matter how doubtful they are.”
Legitimate copyright holders sometimes haven't behaved much differently, either...

Interpreting The Insanity

He's going away for a little while:
The Star newspaper reported that Thamsanqa Jantjie was admitted to the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital on Tuesday after being taken for a check-up by his wife, Siziwe. The paper reported that doctors suggested that Thamsanqa be admitted immediately.

"The past few days have been hard. We have been supportive because he might have had a breakdown," Siziwe said.

Thamsanqa Jantjie gained international infamy overnight when he was accused of making false sign language interpretations of the speeches of several world leaders, including President Barack Obama, at the memorial at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg December 10. When questioned, he told reporters that he had suffered a schizophrenic episode on his way into the stadium and claimed that he saw "angels."

The Star reported that Jantjie's checkup was originally scheduled for the day of the memorial service, but he told his wife to reschedule when he was offered the job of interpreting at the memorial service.
Th-th-that's all, folks!

Special Favors

Is Germany playing favorites in its green energy policies?
EU regulators said Wednesday that they are looking into Germany’s renewable-energy law, which funds investment in green energy. Under the law, nearly 2,300 heavy energy users—including chemical company BASF SE and steel producer ThyssenKrupp AG —can avoid paying a surcharge that other consumers face. EU officials have criticized the exemptions for some companies as a subsidy that distorts competition. …

The exemptions from the levy were Berlin’s attempt to reconcile its ambitious plans to shift power generation away from coal, natural gas and nuclear energy toward renewable sources—the so-called energy transformation—with the need to protect the competitiveness of its energy-hungry industrial base from rising electricity costs. …

EU antitrust chief JoaquĆ­n Almunia said Wednesday the probe will focus on the exemptions’ effect on competition in certain sectors, including the transfer of costs to other energy users. “We think this is selective treatment and this introduces discrimination, so that’s the main point of the investigation,” he said in Brussels.
A system of government rewards that promotes special treatment? Gee, who could have foreseen this coming?

Eternal Blame

Blame Bush forever?
Nearly five years after George W. Bush left office, half the public still blames the former president for the nation’s economic woes, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week. The survey comes as Republicans have continued to keep the 43rd president at arm’s length…

Fifty percent of Americans say Bush is more responsible for the country’s current economic problems than President Obama, the Post-ABC poll shows. Just 38 percent hold Obama more responsible. Seven percent assign equal blame.
On the bright side, maybe more people will be blaming Obama long after he leaves office, too...

Queen Of The Welfare State

Remembering the welfare queen, and her legacy:
The political significance of the “welfare queen” story rests on how many of them are out there. A single person scamming the welfare state does not, by herself, represent a devastating indictment of the welfare state. It matters how easy it was, and whether a large number of people participate in such activities, albeit on a less grandiose scale than ‘the haughty thief who drove her Cadillac to the public aid office’ and wore ‘expensive clothes and oversize hats’ to her trial. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of scamming going on, and the Left is not even slightly interested in cracking down on it, or even admitting it’s a problem.
That's because welfare queens are a liberal American success story...

Red Harry

The Redskins tell Harry Reid to get lost:
In a statement sent to The Hill, the Redskins stated, “The Redskins respect Senator Reid, and he is, of course, entitled to his opinion. However, we strongly disagree based on what we are hearing from Native Americans and based on the generations of pride and heritage that our name represents.” …

“As we heard from Andy Block, who wrote to say he lived and worked on the Shoshone-Paiute reservation in Owyhee, Nev., ‘The Redskins are by far the favorite franchise of any sport. The offices of both hospital administrators at the Indian Health Service hospital were covered in Redskins posters, calendars and gear. … The first day of work several laborers showed up wearing Redskins shirts and/or hats. They loved the team as much as I did … Hail to the Redskins!’ ”

The team added, “We agree with Andy Block and we are proud of the tradition, passion and heritage for which the Redskins name stands.”
Sorry, critics-you've really dropped the ball on this one...

Fun And Hoops

Whatever you do, don't mention the dead uncle:
Retired U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman said on Thursday he was not going to North Korea to talk about politics or human rights, despite political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim Jong Un's uncle.

Rodman has visited Pyongyang twice before, spending time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.

His latest visit follows the rare public purge of Kim's powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed last week.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events as a "reign of terror". The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the North, indicated factionalism within the secretive Pyongyang government.

"It has nothing to do with me. I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever's done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years," Rodman told Reuters at his hotel in Beijing on Thursday before he left for the airport.

"I'm just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun," he said.
It's all fun and games until somebody gets executed...

Vendor Vent

Surprise, Surprise:
The Internal Revenue Service has been doing business with nearly 1,200 vendors that owe back taxes, including one unnamed contractor that owed a whopping $525 million, a new inspector general’s report says. Altogether, 1,168 IRS vendors owed back taxes totaling $589 million as of July 2012, according to the report released Tuesday. Only 50 were in a payment plan to pay off their debt.“When the IRS conducts business with vendors that do not comply with federal tax laws, it conveys a contradictory message in relation to its mission to ensure compliance with the tax laws,” said J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
Vending is good for business...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Stunning Revelation

I am shocked:
On a Playbook Breakfast panel, the Times' Peter Baker and Mark Leibovich, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell and CNN's Jake Tapper all said "yes" when asked if the news media lean left — though all agreed it was a nuanced issue having more to do with journalists' life experiences than with any particular agenda.

"Most of my colleagues, I have no idea what their politics are. ... But think about it: I live in northwest Washington, none of my neighbors are evangelical Christians, I don't know a lot of people in my kid's preschool who are pro-life," Leibovich said. "When you have conversations, at all the newspapers I've worked at, about politics — it doesn't happen often — but you see clues that there is absolutely a left-wing bias."

Tapper, the CNN host and former ABC News White House correspondent, said the bias was "much more complicated and complex" than "liberal" or "conservative."

"A certain type of person becomes a reporter, and generally speaking — generally speaking, I'm not saying every reporter in the world — the kind of person who is a reporter in Washington, D.C., or New York City has never worked a minimum-wage job outside of high school, has never experienced poverty, is not an evangelical Christian, like much of the country is," Tapper said. "There are a lot of experiences that the kinds of people who are reporters, editors, producers in Washington and New York City have not had."
Like, having a real job?

Manhattan Complex

Michael Bloomberg channels Eisenhower:
Speaking in a grand ballroom in front of members of the Economic Club of New York, Mr. Bloomberg said that exploding health and pension benefits for municipal workers threatened to undermine the city’s progress and urged his successor, Bill de Blasio, to push through reforms.

“Right now our country appears to be in the early stages of a growing fiscal crisis that, if nothing is done, will extract a terrible toll on the next generation,” said Mr. Bloomberg. “It is one of the biggest threats facing cities because it is forcing government into a fiscal straight jacket that severely limits its ability to provide an effective social safety net and to invest in the next generation.”

“The costs of today’s benefits cannot be sustained for another generation–not without inflicting real harm on our citizens, on our children and our grandchildren,” he added.
I'm not that confident in his successor's ability to deal with the problem...

Big Mistrust

More people than ever fear big government:
Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in the nearly 50-year history of this question. The prior high for big government was 65% in 1999 and 2000. Big government has always topped big business and big labor, including in the initial asking in 1965, but just 35% named it at that time.
It was somewhat smaller then, too...

Test Case

Could the latest challenge to Obamacare be the one that works?
At issue are the federal subsidies for individuals buying insurance in their state’s health care exchanges. The law stipulates that those subsidies should be allotted for plans purchased “through an Exchange established by the State under Section 1311” (italics added), a reference to the section of the law that establishes state-run exchanges.

Adler wondered: Did the law provide subsidies for only state-run exchanges and not federal ones? The law requires that the federal government step in to create an exchange when a state declines to do so. But does it fail to give subsidies to the residents of those states?

It may seem like a small problem, but if true, it spells disaster for the Affordable Care Act. Without subsidies, health care on the individual market becomes unaffordable. Without an affordable option, the individual and employer mandates disappear. In other words, the entire law could come crashing down in the 36 states that have opted not to run their own exchanges.
Like a house of cards?

The Plastic Age

"One word: plastics."
The Bank of England will announce plans on Wednesday to press ahead with switching to plastic banknotes, starting with the new Sir Winston Churchill £5 note in 2016.

The decision on polymer notes will mark the beginning of the end for 320 years of paper notes from the Bank. The move by Threadneedle Street follows Bank governor Mark Carney's native Canada, where plastic notes are being rolled out, and Australia, where they have been in circulation for more than two decades.
....

The move is the latest in a long line of changes for banknotes, first issued in return for deposits by the Bank when it was first established in 1694 to raise money for William III's war against France.

Colour £5 notes replaced white ones in the 1950s; the first portrayal of a monarch came in 1960, when the Queen appeared on a new £1 note; and the introduction of historical figures such as William Shakespeare started in the 1970s.
Plastics, Ben-plastics.

Not The Messiah

This is not the savior they were waiting for:

Attack Of The Christmas Clones

Local news gets creepy for Christmas:

Worries

Peggy Noonan is worried:
Everyone is doing thoughtful year-end pieces on President Obama. Writers and reporters agree he’s had his worst year ever. I infer from most of their essays an unstated but broadly held sense of foreboding: There’s no particular reason to believe next year will be better, and in fact signs and indications point to continued trouble.

I would add that in recent weeks I have begun to worry about the basic competency of the administration, its ability to perform the most fundamental duties of executive management. One reason I worry is that I frequently speak with people who interact with the White House, and when I say, “That place just doesn’t seem to work,” they don’t defend it, they offer off-the-record examples of how poorly the government is run.
They don't defend it because they know they can't...

Robot Woman

She's a robot and doesn't seem to know it:
Time’s Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer ecnountered the robo-woman when his cell phone rang and the voice on the other end wanted to know if he was looking for a good deal on health insurance (sassy!). Things didn’t sound quite right, so he asked point blank if she was a real person or a robot voice.

She laughs it off and says of course, she’s a “real person.” But she couldn’t answer other simple questions that weren’t part of her script, like “What vegetable is in tomato soup?”(although technically, a tomato is a fruit, but whatever) or “What day of the week was it yesterday?”

When she’s got nothing good to say or is accused of being artificially intelligent, she asks if you can hear her, and ponders whether the connection could be bad, as heard in recordings made by other Time staffers to the same number.

One of those callers keeps asking, “Are you a robot? Can you just say, ‘I’m not a robot?’ ” to which she stiffly replies, “I am a real person.” It’s kind of heartbreaking to listen to, actually. She even insists she has a name, just like you and me and Siri.
In this day and age, can anyone say she's wrong?

Profit Regulation

Who's making a killing on government regulations?
Top K Street officials say their regulatory work has accelerated in recent years thanks to the sprawling rule-making from the healthcare and financial reform laws.

“We’re in this situation now, where we have this strong executive branch [that is] taking full advantage of being able to do whatever they want,” said Rich Gold, a partner at Holland & Knight.

While revenue from traditional lobbying work has flatlined, K Street firms say their regulatory practices are thriving. Several lobbyists said federal agencies are increasingly “where all the action is.” …

“Regulatory lobbying is skyrocketing,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist at the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. “Reportable lobbying at agencies has gone up in recent years, and that’s only a small part of the lobbying that goes on.” …

But it’s clear that companies are shelling out big bucks to stay on top of new rules and regulations.
Big government means big bucks for some...

Reddit Edit

Skeptics not welcome:
Despite the provocative comments on both sides described by Allen, and Reddit’s reputation as “passionately dedicated to free speech,” the self-described “PhD chemist” decided it was time for the skeptics to go.

“After some time interacting with the regular denier posters, it became clear that they could not or would not improve their demeanor,” Allen said. “As a scientist myself, it became clear to me that the contrarians were not capable of providing the science to support their ‘skepticism’ on climate change.”

As a result, about half a dozen content editors now practice “proactive moderation” on the science forum’s reported 4-million subscribers.

“As moderators responsible for what millions of people see, we felt that to allow a handful of commenters to so purposefully mislead our audience was simply immoral,” Allen said of the audience he previously described as “mainly academic.”
So, he decided to ban them? Such enlightened academic behavior...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sacred Cow Flop

The sacred science?
Almost 15 months after his administration began a study to evaluate the health risks of the hydraulic fracturing process of drilling for natural gas, Mr. Cuomo said he did not have a timeline for the report’s release. In May, he anticipated that it would be done “in the next several weeks,” and last month he said he expected it to be done before the 2014 general election, when he will be running for a second term.

But on Monday, sitting at the same table as the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Nirav R. Shah, Mr. Cuomo said, “My timeline is whatever commissioner Shah needs to do it right and feel comfortable.” The governor said he did not want “to put undue pressure on them that would artificially abbreviate what they’re doing.” …

Pressed on whether he was being open enough about the study’s methods and findings, Dr. Shah said that “science needs to be done in a sacred place where we can, with objectivity, understand both sides of the issue.”

“The process needs to be transparent at the end, not during,” he added.
Science can't be sacred and transparent at the same time, apparently...

Waste In Review

Detailing a year in government waste:
Some of the numbers are staggering, such as the $7 billion worth of U.S. military equipment being destroyed as U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan, or the nearly $1.5 billion to keep the lights on in unused or underutilized federal buildings.

Then there's spending that just seems silly, such as a nearly $1 million grant for something called the "Popular Romance Project" -- a website and documentary that celebrates romantic movies, books and pop songs.

The list goes on: $2 million to renovate a rarely-visited Civil War grist mill in Virginia, and $3 million for NASA employees to attend seminars on how Congress works.
They spend money on stuff like this...

Man Of What People?

Ed Schultz, compassionate liberal:
Schultz tacitly admitted that he doesn’t pay his workers health insurance by using a third-person construction to describe their situation, even though he regularly attacks companies that don’t offer their workers health insurance.

“I have a North Dakota corporation that’s based in Fargo. It’s called Ed Schultz Broadcasting,” Schultz told his audience during the Ed Show on May 19, 2013. “It’s been in business since 2004 when I started my national radio show. And I have employees who have insurance. I have some that don’t.”
....

By headquartering the company in North Dakota, Schultz avoided the high corporate taxes he would have had to pay in his home state of Minnesota.

Schultz also uses his private planes to fly to New York (7.1 percent corporate income tax) during the week and to Minnesota (9.8 percent flat corporate income tax) where he lives on the weekends.

Schultz has also made a big deal out of government bailouts of corporations but not of bailouts that help unions, perhaps because he’s a recipient of cash from those very unions.
I'm sure he appreciates their compassion...

No More Anarchy

The original anarchist regrets:
“'The Anarchist Cookbook' should go quietly and immediately out of print,” says William Powell, who wrote the book as a stern 19-year-old, an opponent of the Vietnam War who felt violence was justified if it could prevent even greater violence in the process. He has since renounced that position, but never so forcefully, telling NBC in an email that “it is no longer responsible or defensible to keep it in print.”
Published in 1971, the book has sold more than two million copies and influenced hundreds of malcontents, mischief makers, and killers. Police have linked it to the Croatian radicals who bombed Grand Central Terminal and hijacked a TWA flight in 1976; the Puerto Rican separatists who bombed FBI headquarters in 1981; Thomas Spinks, who led a group that bombed 10 abortion clinics in the 1980s; Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995; the Columbine High School shooters of 1999; and the 2005 London public transport bombers.
You reap what you sow...

Methods Of Indoctrination

Passing propaganda to the next generation:
What’s so interesting about this situation is that it seems as if the school (or at least the biology teacher) is consciously courting controversy in a wholly unsubtle manner. To teach climate change as hard science is not a problem, any more than teaching evolution is a problem — an overwhelming majority of those in the science community agree that the data supporting these ideas is sound. A science curriculum doesn’t need universal community support in order to be valid. But is it reasonable to assume any concept accepted as factual should just as legitimately serve as a call for activism?
No, especially when the concept isn't that factual.

Card Game

President Obama's wish for America?
At the start of a meeting with tech industry CEOs on NSA surveillance, Obama quipped “I’m just wondering if [Netflix CEO Reed Hastings] brought advance copies of House of Cards,” according to a pool video camera in the room.

As the CEOs laughed and joked that Obama should make a cameo appearance in the series, the president continued to praise the series, which revolves around a power-hungry House Majority Whip played by actor Kevin Spacey.

“I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient,” Obama said in his first public remarks on the show. “It’s true. It’s like Kevin Spacey, man this guy’s getting a lot of stuff done.”
IMO we've become more like Game of Thrones as a country, but whatever...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Big Brother Backhand

The NSA may be acting unconstitutionally:
Acting on a lawsuit brought by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, Leon issued a preliminary injunction barring the NSA from collecting so-called metadata pertaining to the Verizon accounts of Klayman and one of his clients. However, the judge stayed the order to allow for an appeal.

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,” wrote Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

The preliminary injunction Leon granted Monday does not require him to make a definitive ruling on the constitutional questions in the case, but does take account of which side he believes is more likely to prevail.
Look for this to continue...

This Is Your Generation On Drugs

The dangers of over-medicating our kids:
Doctors can legally—and commonly do—write prescriptions for any medication they see fit to treat a condition. (See here for more details on off-label prescribing)

But overuse of antipsychotic drugs has become worrisome enough that the American Psychiatric Association recently announced that doctors should not routinely prescribe the drugs as first-line treatment to children and adolescents for any reason other than psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or severe tic disorders. The association is so concerned that it chose to include this issue as part of Choosing Wisely, an initiative in which Consumer Reports has jointed the ABIM Foundation and national medical societies to identify tests and treatments to question.

Antipsychotic drugs do have a place in psychiatric treatment, even in children and teens. They can help manage disabling symptoms caused by severe mental illness or developmental disorders. But for many kids taking the drugs, the benefits probably don’t outweigh the risks.

“What’s not known about the long-term effects is very troubling,” Christopher Bellonci, M.D., assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, said. “The younger you go, the more you can affect the developing brain.”
And, yet, we still worry about them becoming potheads.

The If Factor

John Kerry, expert:
“I mean it really reminded me of — of a video that we saw of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing, having people plucked out of an audience and people sitting there sweating and nobody daring to move or do anything,” said Kerry, according to the transcript provided by ABC News. “Um, this is the nature of this ruthless, horrendous dictatorship and of his insecurities. And — and I think we — we need to factor that into the urgency of getting China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, all of us, uh, to stay on the same page and to put as much effort into the denuclearization as possible. To have a nuclear weapon, potentially, in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong In — Jun — just becomes even more unacceptable.”
Wait until he finds out Kim Jong Il is dead...

The Safest Job In The World

The culture of job security?
So why is it so tough for the "most powerful man in the world" to boot out subordinates? Some underlings have stood by the president through the long trek to the White House. Others are supported by important constituencies. But perhaps the best explanation is that they're politicians. And politicians, as columnist Elizabeth Drew once wrote, just want to be loved by everyone. Obama is a politician. Perhaps that's why so few prominent heads have rolled for the Obamacare breakdowns.
Also, he's a lot harder to fire...

The Age Of Men

Yes, men still matter:
A peevish, grudging rancor against men has been one of the most unpalatable and unjust features of second- and third-wave feminism. Men’s faults, failings and foibles have been seized on and magnified into gruesome bills of indictment. Ideologue professors at our leading universities indoctrinate impressionable undergraduates with carelessly fact-free theories alleging that gender is an arbitrary, oppressive fiction with no basis in biology.

Is it any wonder that so many high-achieving young women, despite all the happy talk about their academic success, find themselves in the early stages of their careers in chronic uncertainty or anxiety about their prospects for an emotionally fulfilled private life? When an educated culture routinely denigrates masculinity and manhood, then women will be perpetually stuck with boys, who have no incentive to mature or to honor their commitments. And without strong men as models to either embrace or (for dissident lesbians) to resist, women will never attain a centered and profound sense of themselves as women.
We complete each other...

Boys Against The World

A history:
Signs that the nuclear-family meltdown of the past half-century has been particularly toxic to boys’ well-being are not new. By the 1970s and eighties, family researchers following the children of the divorce revolution noticed that, while both girls and boys showed distress when their parents split up, they had different ways of showing it. Girls tended to “internalize” their unhappiness: they became depressed and anxious, and many cut themselves, or got into drugs or alcohol. Boys, on the other hand, “externalized” or “acted out”: they became more impulsive, aggressive, and “antisocial.” Both reactions were worrisome, but boys’ behavior had the disadvantage of annoying and even frightening classmates, teachers, and neighbors. Boys from broken homes were more likely than their peers to get suspended and arrested. Girls’ unhappiness also seemed to ease within a year or two after their parents’ divorce; boys’ didn’t.

Since then, externalizing by boys has been a persistent finding in the literature about the children of single-parent families. . . .

By the 1990s, as divorce rates eased and the ranks of never-married mothers expanded to include more women in their twenties, researchers were able to exclude the trauma of a parental crack-up and teen motherhood as primary causes of the son/single-mom disadvantage. Even controlling for mothers’ age and parents’ marital history, boys in fatherless homes were still getting into more trouble compared with their sisters and male peers with married parents. Autor and Wasserman cite a large study by University of Chicago sociologists Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan, showing that, by fifth grade, fatherless boys were more disruptive than peers from two-parent families, and by eighth grade, had a substantially greater likelihood of getting suspended. “The gender gap [between boys and girls] in externalizing behavior in fifth grade and suspension in grade eight . . . is smallest in intact families,” the authors summarized their findings. “All other family structures appear detrimental to boys [my italics].”
Boys need positive male figures in their lives. Unfortunately, they seem to be getting harder to find...

Baloney Sandwich

Newt Gingrich lays some truth on Robert Reich:
KARL: Why after five years of President Barack Obama we see the problem worse?

REICH: Well the problem is worse; I think it has something to do, perhaps, with the intransigence of the Speaker’s Party, because every time there was a jobs bill, every time there was an effort to expand a low income housing, every time there was an effort to provide better opportunities for young people. We’re talking about equal opportunity.

GINGRICH: Every major, every, this is baloney.

REICH: At the basis of this, what is baloney?

GINGRICH: Here’s the baloney. Every major city which is a center of poverty is run by Democrats. Every major city. Their policies have failed, they’re not willing to admit and the fact is it’s the poor who suffer from bad government.
An impoverished underclass is easier to exploit...

No-Ban Nation

Americans don't like things being banned:
According to a Reason-Rupe poll, Americans do not want government to ban trans-fats, e-cigarettes, online poker, violent video games or genetic testing kits.

Many Americans are becoming frustrated with the government’s growing involvement in what they believe should be their personal decisions.

For one, they do not want the government to be their personal nutritionist. The poll found that 71 percent of Americans oppose the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed trans-fats ban. Only 24 percent of Americans would support measures to outlaw the additive.
And yet, the banners do it anyway, because it's "good for us."

Faking It

If you can't do the time, don't do the climate change crime:
John C. Beale, who pled guilty in September to bilking the government out of nearly $1 million in salary and other benefits over a decade, will be sentenced in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Wednesday. In a newly filed sentencing memo, prosecutors said that his “historic” lies are “offensive” to those who actually do dangerous work for the CIA.
Beale’s lawyer, while acknowledging his guilt, has asked for leniency and offered a psychological explanation for the climate expert’s bizarre tales.
“With the help of his therapist,” wrote attorney John Kern, “Mr. Beale has come to recognize that, beyond the motive of greed, his theft and deception were animated by a highly self-destructive and dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior.” Kern also said Beale was driven “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives … that are fueled by his insecurities.”
You don't have to be crazy to be a climate change "expert," but it helps...

Capitol Labor

Did Congress actually work more than other Americans this year?
According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, employed people ages 25-54 with children spent 8.8 hours per average work day on work or work related activities in 2012. For a five-day week, that averages out to 44 hours a week. Of course, not all Americans just work on weekdays. For all employed Americans, 34 percent worked on weekends in 2012.

That sure makes it seem like working in Congress is a pretty cushy gig. But that would ignore the vast amount of drudgery your representatives and senators have to put up with off the floor.

National Journal's Alex Seitz-Wald lays out the numbers: House members work 70 hours per week on average when they're in D.C., and nearly 60 hours per week when they're not, according to a survey by the Congressional Management Foundation.
I guess it depends on what you consider "work..."

Blue Spending Blues

Democrats stay true to tradition: The DNC raised just $5.5 million over the June fundraising period and outspent themselves by about $200k, ...