Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Psycho Analysis

Analyzing Anthony Weiner:
How an accomplished adult could continually engage in such behavior and believe that he would not be caught would be a central question in any diagnosis, said Dr. Richard C. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“It’s almost as if a little child were playing at being a politician and trying to hide something,” Dr. Friedman said. “The level of denial is so great, and it’s so incompatible with major responsibility, that the psychological puzzle is not only to find out why he’s doing the particular behavior, but why somebody would be functioning at such an uneven level.”
His campaign staff isn't helping, either.

Engage The Spin

It sounds like they're getting desperate:
The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency told an audience at Harvard Law School on Tuesday that cutting carbon pollution will “feed the economic agenda of this country” and vowed to work with industry leaders on shaping policies aimed at curbing global warming.

“Climate change will not be resolved overnight,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told the 310-member audience. “But it will be engaged over the next three years. That I can promise you.”

McCarthy made a full-throated defense of her agency’s right to address greenhouse-gas emissions and other pollutants, saying that air-quality regulations and environmental cleanup efforts have already produced economic benefits in the United States.

“Can we stop talking about environmental regulations killing jobs, please?” she asked, prompting loud applause. “We need to embrace cutting-edge technology as a way to spark business innovation.” …

“EPA cannot dictate solutions,” McCarthy said. “We have to engage.”
Good advice. Maybe they should try using it?

The Obamacare Cutoff

Obamacare has a dirty little secret for workers:
Working more could ultimately mean thousands of dollars less for you under a quirk in the new health-care law going into effect this fall. This could prompt some people to cut back on their hours to avoid losing money.

"Working more can actually leave you worse off," the price-comparison site ValuePenguin.com notes in a new analysis.

"It's sort of an absurd scenario," said Jonathan Wu, ValuePenguin.com's co-founder. "It's something for people to be aware of."

In that scenario, an individual or family whose annual income surpasses maximums set by the federal government—if only by $1—will totally lose subsidies available to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The loss of those subsidies in some cases will mean that people potentially would have been better off financially if they had worked less during the year, Wu said. And they then would have to work significantly more to make up for the lost subsidy.

"I think they'd be surprised to see how drastic it is," said Wu. "I'd be kind of shocked to see if I make $100 less (in total income each year), I get all these benefits, but if I make $100 more, I get nothing."
Welcome to the welfare work state...

Tale Of the Tape

Bill and Monica (or at least Monica) caught on tape:
It was believed to have been destroyed years ago, but a copy was secretly made and has subsequently surfaced.

Lewinsky is the only voice heard.

On it, she tells the 42nd President: “Since I know you will be alone tomorrow evening, I have two proposals for you, neither of which is you not seeing me.”

Lewinsky then orders the leader of the free world to use his secretary, Betty Currie, as a go-between and plan the presidential schedule so they could covertly meet without a formal record of her visit.
The past is always, er, behind you...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shale Wail

Somebody's not too happy about America's fracking boom:
Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has warned that the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy is increasingly vulnerable to rising U.S. energy production, breaking ranks with oil officials in Riyadh who have played down its impact.

In an open letter dated May 13 addressed to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi and several other ministers, a link to which was published Sunday on Prince Alwaleed’s Twitter account, he warned that the boom in U.S. shale oil and gas will reduce demand for crude from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. …

Not long after the prince issued his warning, a report from OPEC published Monday showed the group’s oil export revenue hit a record high of $1.26 trillion in 2012. However, forecasts from the group raise questions over whether that level of earnings can be sustained amid the competition from shale oil.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is now pumping at less than its production capacity because consumers are limiting their oil imports, Prince Alwaleed said in the letter. This means the kingdom is “facing a threat with the continuation of its near-complete reliance on oil, especially as 92% of the budget for this year depends on oil,” said the prince.
Afraid of a little competition?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Howard's Caution

The IPAB is a rationing board, says...Howard Dean?
By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them. There does have to be control of costs in our health-care system. However, rate setting—the essential mechanism of the IPAB—has a 40-year track record of failure. What ends up happening in these schemes (which many states including my home state of Vermont have implemented with virtually no long-term effect on costs) is that patients and physicians get aggravated because bureaucrats in either the private or public sector are making medical decisions without knowing the patients. Most important, once again, these kinds of schemes do not control costs. The medical system simply becomes more bureaucratic.
When Howard Dean tries to be the voice of reason, you know something's a bad idea...

The Farming Dead

Zombie farmers get subsidies, too:
The Government Accountability Office said that from 2008 to 2012 one agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, made $10.6 million payments on behalf of more than 1,100 people who’d been dead at least a year. Another branch, the Risk Management Agency, paid out $22 million to more than 3,400 policyholders who’d been dead at least two years.

Some of the payments may have been legal because they were for work done before the farmers died, but GAO said the problem is the two agencies don’t perform the routine checks — such as looking at the Social Security lists — to see.

“Until and unless NRCS and RMA develop and implement procedures to have their payment or subsidy data records matched against SSA’s complete death master file, either through coordination with FSA or on their own, these agencies cannot know if they are providing payments to, or subsidies on behalf of, deceased individuals; how often they are providing such payments or subsidies; or in what amounts,” the investigators wrote.
Just because you're dead doesn't mean you still can't stay down on the farm...

Obamacare Bailout?

The solution to Detroit's woes is...Obamacare?
The city is proposing a controversial plan for paring some of the $5.7 billion it owes in retiree health costs: pushing many of those too young to qualify for Medicare out of city-run coverage and into the new insurance markets that will soon be operating under the Obama health care law.

Officials say the plan would be part of a broader effort to save Detroit tens of millions of dollars in health costs each year, a major element in a restructuring package that must be approved by a bankruptcy judge. It is being watched closely by municipal leaders around the nation, many of whom complain of mounting, unsustainable prices for the health care promised to retired city workers.

Similar proposals that could shift public sector retirees into the new insurance markets, called exchanges, are already being planned or contemplated in places like Chicago; Sheboygan County, Wis.; and Stockton, Calif. While large employers that eliminate health benefits for full-time workers can be penalized under the health care law, retirees are a different matter.

“There’s fear and panic about what this means,” said Michael Underwood, 62, who retired from the Chicago Police Department after 30 years and has diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Mr. Underwood, who says he began working for the city when employees did not pay into future Medicare coverage, is part of a group suing Chicago over its plan to phase many retirees out of city coverage during the next three and a half years. “I was promised health care for myself and my wife for life,” he said.
Welcome to the city funding shell game...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trickle-Down Malaise

Why Obananomics is different than what Reagan did:
Obamanomics leans heavily on trickle-down economics. How does Obama promise to create jobs? With more loan guarantees to sell jumbo jets and more subsidies to make solar panels — taxpayer transfers to the big companies with the best lobbyists, with some crumbs hopefully falling to the working class.

Also, Obama's regulations crush small businesses, protecting the big guys from competition. This hurts Mom & Pop and would-be entrepreneurs, but it also hurts the working class. New businesses are the engine of job growth, but new business formation has accelerated its decline in the last few years, hitting record lows.

This gives Republicans an opening to explain that they can deliver on Obama's promises of helping the middle class and the working class, but they can do it by reversing Obamanomics — cutting everyone's taxes, undoing the most onerous regulations, ending trickle-down corporate welfare and so on.

Call it free-market populism, or libertarian populism.
Hey, it worked before...

The Flame

Caroline Kennedy's role, as, well, a Kennedy:
Over the years, Ms. Kennedy has done all sorts of things on behalf of her family’s legacy. She took on a crucial role at the John F. Kennedy Library that only increased when her uncle Edward M. Kennedy died in 2009. She has served on the boards of organizations like the Commission on Presidential Debates and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, both of which were causes dear to her family’s political philosophy. And when her mother’s formidable collection of Cassinis and Givenchys were assembled for a posthumous show at the Louvre in 2002, Ms. Kennedy was there in Paris proclaiming her gratitude and carrying the Kennedy mantle.

Said Kenneth R. Feinberg, the head of the John F. Kennedy library: “As the sole surviving member of President Kennedy’s family, she is the guardian of the flame. It is an awesome responsibility, and she does it extremely well.”
But does being a torch-bearer qualify one for a diplomatic post?

The Gambler

A TV producer is doing time:
Bryan Zuriff has pleaded guilty to running an illegal gambling operation. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement today from New York that Zuriff faces up to five years in prison and has agreed to forfeit $500,000 as part of his plea deal, according to the statement. “Bryan Zuriff spanned the coasts with his crimes, by operating his own illegal gambling enterprise in Los Angeles, and helping to operate a vast illegal gambling enterprise in New York,” Bharara said. “With his plea, he becomes the first defendant, but not the last, to be convicted in this sprawling script of criminal conduct.”
You've got to know when to fold 'em...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

South American Birthers

Maybe they should call Donald Trump:
In the United States, the so-called "birther" movement disputed President Barack Obama's legitimacy, claiming that he was born in Africa and therefore is ineligible for the highest office. Even when Obama's birth certificate was made public, some called it a forgery.
No birth certificate has been produced for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Rumors of Maduro's birthplace surfaced before he was elected in April, but in recent weeks they have gained new life.
In the Venezuelan version of the birther movement, its proponents say Maduro was born in neighboring Colombia and is either a Colombian citizen or a dual citizen, either of which would make him ineligible to be president.
The leaders of the movement have taken their complaint to Venezuela's Supreme Court, to Colombian authorities and even to the European Union.
Well, Venezuela already had one illegitimate leader in Hugo Chavez...

Call Benefits Waiting

Workers being trained to help people with their Obamacae aren't getting what they were paid for:
with two months to go before the Concord operation opens to serve the public, information has surfaced that about half the jobs are part-time, with no health benefits — a stinging disappointment to workers and local politicians who believed the positions would be full-time.

The Contra Costa County supervisor whose district includes the call center called the whole hiring process — which attracted about 7,000 applicants — a “comedy of errors.”

“The battle for the call center was over jobs with good working wages and benefits; I never dreamed they would be part-time,” said Karen Mitchoff, who has heard from complaining constituents and expressed her “extreme displeasure with how it was handled” to call center supervisors.

One recent hire, who last week learned the job would be part-time, said the new “intermittent” employees feel like they’ve been used as a political tool, and many now regret applying for the positions.

“What’s really ironic is working for a call center and trying to help people get health care, but we can’t afford it ourselves,” said the worker, who asked for anonymity out of fear of losing the job.
You were just cogs in the wheel...

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Buzz

Why is the Earth humming?
Reports started trickling in during the 1950s from people who had never heard anything unusual before; suddenly, they were bedeviled by an annoying, low-frequency humming, throbbing or rumbling sound.

The cases seem to have several factors in common: Generally, the Hum is only heard indoors, and it's louder at night than during the day. It's also more common in rural or suburban environments; reports of a hum are rare in urban areas, probably because of the steady background noise in crowded cities.

Only about 2 percent of the people living in any given Hum-prone area can hear the sound, and most of them are ages 55 to 70, according to a 2003 study by acoustical consultant Geoff Leventhall of Surrey, England.
The Earth marches to its own beat...

Good To The Last Drip

Whenever you think you're bored, consider the case of the world's slowest drip:
The first drop took eight years. No one saw the three drips that fell before Mr. Mainstone began his vigil in 1961, and the unlucky researcher has missed all five that have happened since then.

In 1979, Mr. Mainstone was so sure the drop was about to fall that he stayed at his office all day one Saturday by its side. Exhausted, he decided to rest on Sunday, only to find early Monday morning that the pitch had dropped in his absence.

In 1988, while the experiment was displayed at the World Expo in Brisbane, the professor stepped away from the experiment for about five minutes to grab a beverage. He returned to find the drop had fallen.

Frustrated by repeated near misses, he pointed a webcam at the droplet in the 1990s. He was at a conference in London when a colleague sent an email reporting the drop might soon fall. He told them not to worry—the camera would capture it all. But a power outage may have caused the camera to fail, and that drop, the most recent, went unobserved as well.

That was in 2000. The drip is now overdue. With matters once again coming to a head, the professor now has three webcams—all with emergency backup power—trained on the pitch, which could fall at any minute.
A watched drip never falls?

Debt Without Limits

The U.S. has gone past the point of no return:
U.S. federal debt has been stuck at $16,699,396,000,000.00 for 68 straight days, according to the Daily Treasury Statement on July 24. That amount is exactly $25 million less than the legal borrowing limit of $16,699,421,000,000.00 set on May 17, 2013. But that’s only part of the story.

A closer look at the numbers actually shows the U.S. Treasury has already blown past the federal legal borrowing limit! And the mainstream media, as usual, is out to lunch.
The government wanted to shoot for the moon, but who's paying for the ride?

L'Offense Legal

The French people can rest easy now:
Being rude to the French president is no longer an offense after parliament agreed on Thursday to amend legislation dating back to 1881 in favour of freedom of speech.

Whereas before any rude remark risked an automatic fine for “offending the head of state”, the president is now reduced to the same category as ministers and parliamentarians and would need to have a judge prove there had been slander or defamation. …

Anyone found by a judge to have slandered the president still runs the risk of a fine of up to 45,000 euros.
In all fairness, if they can be rude to the rest of the world, why not their own leaders?

L-Town

Say what?
While it suffered for years under mismanagement and corruption under many Democratic officials, today Detroit is fast becoming the most libertarian city in the United States. In many areas, there are basically no public services besides decaying roads and bombed-out infrastructure. 40 percent of the streetlights don’t work at night, and that leaves a troubled city stuck in the dark. Even police and emergency services have literally become optional. Think about it like this: Across the country, a call to police brings a response in about 11 minutes. In Detroit now, the average is 58 minutes, and many times it takes much longer if the police come at all.
It was liberal, not libertarian, policies that killed Detroit. But hey, at least they can still chat about George Zimmerman.

Dangerous Minds

Chris Christie takes aim:
“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

Asked whether he includes Paul — a fellow potential 2016 presidential candidate — in his criticism, Christie didn’t back down.

“You can name any one of them that’s engaged in this,” he said. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. … I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in.”
It sounds like he's more nervous that super-security hawks are falling out of fashion...

Sessions

Hizzonor wants help:
In a news conference Friday, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said he plans to take two weeks off for therapy.

"On August 5, I will be entering a counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy," Filner announced.

As soon as he made that remark, a sound system failure occurred and the mayor was unable to continue. He stood at the podium for a couple of minutes and waited to see if the problem could be resolved.

It could not, so Filner left. He returned a few minutes later and told those in attendance that he would restart his statement.

"I must take responsibility," the mayor said, calling his behavior inexcusable. "I apologize to the people of San Diego."
Is it just a coincidence that both this and the Weiner saga are happening on the East and West coasts at the same time?

Republicans Not Allowed

They apparently weren't invited:
A group of college republicans say they were denied entry into President Obama’s speech at the University of Central Missouri on Wednesday for security reasons.

Missouri College Republicans State Treasurer Courtney Scott told Campus Reform on Thursday that an unidentified police officer told the group they were barred from the event for “security reasons and for the president’s protection.”

“You will not be allowed any further,” the officer allegedly told the group of six College Republicans, dressed in republican and tea party clothing, as they attempted to enter the event.

Scott said each member of the group had a ticket to enter the event and that they arrived early complying with all rules.

“Obama was scheduled to speak at around 4 p.m., so around 3:30 pm we gathered our stuff up,” said Scott. “They had announced that there were to be no posters or anything so we dropped our stuff off. We were not carrying anything. We followed all the rules.”
Sorry, kids-you just don't "fit in..."

Password Plus

I'm sure we could trust them:
The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users' stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.
If the government is able to determine a person's password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.
"I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We push back."
A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies "really heavily scrutinize" these requests, the person said. "There's a lot of 'over my dead body.'"
Maybe if the users were politicians, things would be different...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ticket Masters

A cop is fired...for being too honest?

Half Century

Senators get to keep fifty years of secrets:
The Senate’s top tax writers have promised their colleagues 50 years worth of secrecy in exchange for suggestions on what deductions and credits to preserve in tax reform.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), assured lawmakers that any submission they receive will be kept under lock and key by the committee and the National Archives until the end of 2064.

Deeming the submissions confidential, the Senate’s top tax writers have said only certain staff members — 10 in all — will get direct access to a senator’s written suggestions. Each submission will also be given its own ID number and be kept on password-protected servers, with printed versions kept in locked safes.

The promise of confidentiality was revealed just two days before the deadline for senators to participate in the Finance Committee’s “blank slate” process, which puts the onus on lawmakers to argue for what credits and deductions should be kept in a streamlined tax code.
It's going to be a long fifty years...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fake-Mongering

Well, he ought to know phony:
President Obama on Wednesday dismissed a series of controversies dogging his administration as “phony” in remarks that represented a clear shift in White House tactics.

“With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball,” Obama said in an economic address at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.
....

The president in Galesburg said the GOP’s focus on scandals “needs to stop.”

“Short-term thinking and stale debates are not what this moment requires,” he said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney telegraphed Obama’s remarks on Tuesday, referring to scandals as “phony” in his press briefing.

Carney also had a heated exchange with MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Wednesday morning, when he described the IRS controversy as a “phony scandal.”
If they're so phony, then why bring them up at all? Pay no attention to the man behind the scandals...

Shaky Ground

What could go wrong?
The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan that would radically alter the Hollywood skyline despite warnings from state officials about the project's proximity to a major earthquake fault line.

The 13-0 vote Wednesday in favor of the Hollywood Millennium project allows New York-based developer Millennium Partners to build two skyscrapers and more than 1 million square feet of office, hotel and retail space on several vacant parking lots surrounding the iconic Capitol Records building.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was a leading champion of new development in Hollywood during his three terms representing the neighborhood on the City Council, announced Wednesday that he would sign the deal.

Newly elected Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who replaced Garcetti after he termed out this year, said the project will create jobs and new tax revenue for the city and draw new residents and tourists to Hollywood's eastern edge.

"It’s a game changer for the Hollywood area," O'Farrell said. In recent days, he had been silent on whether he would support the project, which has drawn opposition from neighbors who complain that it is out of scale with the surrounding architecture and will worsen traffic gridlock.
Maybe they should have listened to Charlton Heston...

Affordable Scam Acts

Thus it begins:

Chapter 9 Continues

Detroit can still file for bankruptcy:
A bankruptcy judge has overruled objections to the city’s bankruptcy filing, freezing several lawsuits filed against Detroit and will allow the bankruptcy case to proceed in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Steven Rhodes also decided Wednesday that an automatic stay triggered by Detroit’s Chapter 9 filing extends to Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Gov. Rick Snyder and members of the restructuring team.

The decision comes after city lawyers — during a hearing that lasted almost two hours over the biggest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history — argued Wednesday morning that Detroit would be “irreparably harmed” if retirees were able to block its Chapter 9 filing.
I think the harm has already been done...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rod's Last Run?

Is A-Rod next?
The evidence against the 14-time All-Star is ”far beyond” what the league had against Braun, according to ESPN.com. However, the Yankees don’t expect Rodriguez to be suspended immediately, sources told the website.

ESPN.com is also reporting that, according to sources, Rodriguez could very likely face a suspension similar to Braun’s.

An MLB source told CBS Evening News’ Jim Axelrod, however, that the five-time American League home-run champion could be looking at a lifetime ban.

So will the three-time American League MVP cut a deal with the league?

“My understanding is he’s trying to make a deal,” a source told the website. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen (Monday).”
The problem seems to be as much with the team owners as their players, for tolerating this stuff.

Brain Salt

There is nothing salt cannot do:
A new NBER working paper from James Feyrer, Dimitra Politi, and David N. Weil finds that the population in iodine-deficient areas saw IQs rise by a full standard deviation, which is 15 points, after iodized salt was introduced.

Since one quarter of the population lived in those areas, that corresponds to a 3.5 point increase nationwide. We've seen IQs go up by about 3 points every decade, something called the Flynn effect, so iodization of salt may be responsible for a full decade's worth of increasing IQ in the U.S.

If a mother is iodine deficient while she's pregnant, the cognitive development of the fetus is impeded, and the effects are irreversible. To this day, the World Health Organization estimates that nearly 50 million people suffer some kind of mental impairment related to iodine deficiency.

Before iodized salt, people were deficient based almost entirely on geography, whether the water and soil in their area had enough of the micronutrient. Diseases resulting from the deficiency, most commonly goiter, or swelling of the thyroid, were extremely common.
Salt is good brain food...

Holy Worries

Isn't this how World War One started?
After the driver of his modest four-door silver Fiat took a wrong turn, the motorcade became stuck in traffic and hundreds of people swarmed around the vehicle, thrusting their hands through an open window in the hope of touching the first South American Pope.
The Vatican gendarmes and Brazilian security officers escorting the Pope appeared at one point to have completely lost control of their situation and had to shove bystanders away.
The 30,000 soldiers and police who have been deployed to provide security for the week-long visit to Brazil were nowhere to be seen.
Security experts said the 76-year-old Pope was left extremely vulnerable during the chaotic scenes.
"If there had been a hooligan among the faithful, he could have thrown a stone or something worse," Diogenes Dantas, a colonel in the Brazilian army and an expert on security planning for major events, told the Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
So where were you guys? Regardless of what your faith (or lack thereof) is, this man should be kept safe on his travels.

No Speed Limits

Warp drive, for real?
The team is trying to determine whether faster-than-light travel — warp drive — might someday be possible.

Warp drive. Like on “Star Trek.”

“Space has been expanding since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago,” said Dr. White, 43, who runs the research project. “And we know that when you look at some of the cosmology models, there were early periods of the universe where there was explosive inflation, where two points would’ve went receding away from each other at very rapid speeds.”

“Nature can do it,” he said. “So the question is, can we do it?”
Just as long as they don/t accidentally go to Ludicrous Speed:


Granny Rocks

She's a rock and roll grandma:

Gifting Among Friends

Bob McDonnell gives back:
Under current Virginia law, there is no limit to the value of gifts the governor can accept, but any gifts worth more than $50 must be disclosed. Family members are exempt from disclosure. McDonnell is currently under investigation over whether he or his family used the governor's office to help Star Scientific in exchange for assistance. It does look, however, like these laws will soon be changed, regardless of who wins the upcoming gubernatorial election.
While the McDonnell family faced financial trouble after the recession and the collapse of the real-estate market, McDonnell is one of the highest paid governors in the country. The average annual gubernatorial salary nationwide for 2013 was $133,348. In Virginia, the salary is $175,000. But the loan repayment is still a seriously big deal: All together, it consists of about 71 percent of McDonnell's gross annual salary.
If you can bend the law like a rubber band without actually breaking it, I guess that makes you a good politician...

The Ghost Of Texts Past

In this day and age, you just can't hide:
Mr. Weiner, appearing solemn and a bit worn as he faced more than 100 journalists amid the cubicles in a vacant Chelsea office, acknowledged that his habit of sending sexual images and texts to female fans had continued for more than a year after he left Congress vowing to seek treatment and change his behavior.

“It’s in our rearview mirror, but it’s not far,” he said.

The revelation collides with the narrative Mr. Weiner has offered throughout the campaign, in which he has repeatedly suggested that he has spent his time since leaving Congress rehabilitating himself and repairing his family relationships. After a late entry into the race, he had rapidly risen in the polls, and performed strongly in fund-raising, as his relentless focus on ideas and his omnipresence helped ease the concerns of many voters.

On Tuesday, he pleaded with the public to trust his assertions that he is now a changed man, despite the news that his online adventures had continued through last summer.
Just keep looking in your rear-view mirror for more revelations...

For The Birds

How many birds are actually getting killed by wind farms?
“I estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities) at 51,630 megawatt (MW) of installed wind-energy capacity in the United States in 2012,” writes K. Shawn Smallwood, author of the study that was published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

“As wind energy continues to expand, there is urgent need to improve fatality monitoring methods, especially in the implementation of detection trials, which should be more realistically incorporated into routine monitoring,” Smallwood added.

Wind turbines have been a dividing issue among environmental groups, as different priorities are placed on promoting renewable energy to curb global warming versus saving wildlife.

“It is the rationale that we have to get off of carbon, we have to get off of fossil fuels, that allows them to justify this,” said Tom Dougherty, a former National Wildlife Federation employee. “But at what cost? In this case, the cost is too high.”
It's the dirty little secret of going green...

Monkey Man

In India, it's Joe Biden versus the monkeys:
In what could be described as bad timing, about a dozen adult monkeys–some with babies in tow– took a fancy to thick clusters of raw mangoes hanging on a tree above a tall statue of Gandhi, just before the American dignitary was due to reach the spot on his carefully choreographed walkabout of the site.

But, oblivious to the high-profile visit going on beneath them, the creatures gamboled on the branches swinging from one to another, bombarding the area around Gandhi’s statue with unripe mangoes as they bit into the raw fruit and discarded the leftovers. Then three of the monkeys suddenly swept down from the branches on to a 10-foot high bamboo frame, covered with a white cloth, erected as a backdrop to the statue.

“What I don’t want is a mango to drop on the vice president when he comes here,” said an Indian security official as he warily eyed the furry creatures, who are regarded by many in the Indian capital as a menace.
Joe shouldn't have worried. They were probably smarter than some of the people he works with every day.

Catspawn

Nature versus nutters:
The horrific case at a North Melbourne animal hospital has prompted a warning about the dangers of people "forcing ideologies" on their pets.

Lort Smith Animal Hospital veterinarian Leanne Pinfold said the kitten was brought in this month by its owners, who were believed to be vegan.

She said the kitten's diet of potatoes, rice milk and pasta had caused it to become critically ill.
...

Dr Pinfold said as obligate or true carnivores, cats needed meat to survive.

She said people who wanted a pet that did not eat meat should consider other animals, such as rabbits.

"Concern for animal welfare has to include a biologically-appropriate diet," she said. "You can't force your ideology on the cat.

"Carnivores will seek out meat and your cat is possibly more likely to go hunting and kill local native fauna if you deprive it of meat.''
Starving your pet might be ideologically correct, but it's still bad for the pet...

Walker Wins Again

Given the choice, more workers now say no:
Wisconsin’s public employees are leaving their unions in droves, which should be no surprise: With passage of Act 10 in 2011, public unions in the Badger State lost many of their reasons for being. The “budget-repair bill” pushed through the Legislature by Republicans and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker limited bargaining to wages only, and then only up to the cost of living; it also required unions to recertify each year and barred the automatic collection of union dues. Relying on federal financial records, the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice found union membership has declined by 50% or more at some unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 48, which represents Milwaukee city and county workers. It has gone from more than 9,000 members and income exceeding $7 million in 2010 to about 3,500 members and a deep deficit by the end of last year.
Funny how that works out...

Danger, Danger

Is that you, Carlos?
Anthony Weiner’s campaign did not respond Tuesday to repeated inquiries about a new set of unverified images suggesting that he exchanged sexually charged messages — and an explicit image — with a woman last summer.
The screenshots of conversations — on the nightlife site The Dirty — could not be independently confirmed. They consist of screenshots of exchanges on Facebook and the lesser-known social network Formspring between a woman (whose avatar is blurred) and a man alleged to be (and who she appears to believe) is Weiner, but who also uses the handle “Carlos Danger.”
The site’s anonymous tipster claims that Weiner continued the correspondence with her at least until August 2012, when Weiner allegedly suggested finding her a Chicago condo where they could meet. The screenshots of the exchanges are undated, however, and whether they could be shown to have taken place before or after Weiner’s 2011 fall — before which he has said he had other, yet undisclosed, online relationships — is a key question.
Time for another time-out?

Abandon Sinking Ship

More Democrats are abandoning Obamacare:
Just after the law was passed in 2010, fully 74 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats supported the federal law making changes to the health-care system. But just 46 percent express support in the new poll, down 11 points in the past year. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, have continued to support the law at very high levels – 78 percent in the latest survey. Among the public at large, 42 percent support and 49 percent oppose the law, retreating from an even split at 47 percent apiece last July.
Second thoughts, anyone?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Behind Closed Doors

I'm sure it was just a coincidence:
The Obama appointee implicated in congressional testimony in the IRS targeting scandal met with President Obama in the White House two days before offering his colleagues a new set of advice on how to scrutinize tea party and conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, who was named in House Oversight testimony by retiring IRS agent Carter Hull as one of his supervisors in the improper targeting of conservative groups, met with Obama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 23, 2012. Wilkins’ boss, then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 24, 2012, according to White House visitor logs.
He needed to get his marching orders somehow...

Heir To The Throne

He's the future King of England:
No one can tell what political and personal changes the intervening years will bring, but the baby can be expected to become the head of state of 16 countries, including Britain, Australia and Canada. The child will also eventually become Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The little prince represents a living link to Britain's imperial history - the infant is the great-great-great-great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, who ruled at the peak of British power.
Congratulations to the happy couple.

Poor Science

Junk science hurts the poor:
Not many things shock me anymore. But the arrogance and callousness of a well-fed society toward those who are less fortunate always leaves me stunned.

What is particularly frustrating is that both sides of the political spectrum claim to be the true champions of the poor – while simultaneously endorsing policies that disproportionately harm them.
People who "care" about the poor usually do so only as long as they serve their interests...

Silver Run

Nate Silver is moving on:
No way to sugarcoat this one: It’s a huge blow for the Times. Silver is the prototype of the kind of entrepreneurial, cross-platform audience-magnet around whom the paper has sought to build franchises. While it still has Dealbook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin and technology writers David Pogue and Nick Bilton, Silver’s drawing power is unique: In the days leading up to the election last November, 20% of visitors to nytimes.com read FiveThirtyEight at some point.
He didn't fit in, apparently.

Rescue Me

George Zimmerman, hero:
Sanford Police Department Capt. Jim McAuliffe told ABC News that Zimmerman “pulled an individual from a truck that had rolled over” at the intersection of a Florida highway last week. Florida Highway Patrol is now handling the case, McAuliffe said.

The crash occurred at the intersection of I-4 and route 417, police said. The crash site is less than a mile from where he shot Martin.
Good guys just do the right thing. Haters, take note.

The View From There

There's no intelligent life down here:

Window To The Soul

A photographer literally captures the soul:
The innovative camera gathers biofeedback through hand sensors that measure the electromagnetic fields emitted from the person he's shooting.

The information about the model's energetic and auric qualities are then projected as vivid colors onto the instant film.

'You get a mix of association between this information about the subject and a likeness of them in the final (photo),' Van de Roer told Slate.com.

Different aura colors mean different things, and Van de Roer has published a book called The Portrait Machine Project, which explains his subject's auras.

Generally, blue represents feelings, emotions and instinct while green suggests growth, healing and abundance. Yellow represents optimism, youth and dreaming while orange highlights kindness, vitality and communication. A person whose aura is red is often dynamic and creative but nervous.
By their colors you shall know them?

Euro Broke

The Rurozone is tarting to look a lot like Detroit:
Official figures showed Monday that the debt burden of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro hit all-time highs at the end of the first quarter even after austerity measures were introduced to rebalance the governments' books.

Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said government debt as a proportion of the total annual gross domestic product of the eurozone rose to a record 92.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013, from 90.6 percent the previous quarter and 88.2 percent in the same period a year ago.

Battered by a global recession, a banking crisis and in some cases lax financial management, a number of euro countries have been forced to take remedial action to deal with their debts, some in return for multibillion bailout loans.
So they can pile on more debt, of course...

Hearts To God

One voice, one heart:
Using pulse monitors attached to the singers' ears, the researchers measured the changes in the choir members' heart rates as they navigated the intricate harmonies of a Swedish hymn. When the choir began to sing, their heart rates slowed down.

"When you sing the phrases, it is a form of guided breathing," says musicologist Bjorn Vickhoff of the Sahlgrenska Academy who led the project. "You exhale on the phrases and breathe in between the phrases. When you exhale, the heart slows down."

But what really struck him was that it took almost no time at all for the singers' heart rates to become synchronized. The readout from the pulse monitors starts as a jumble of jagged lines, but quickly becomes a series of uniform peaks. The heart rates fall into a shared rhythm guided by the song's tempo.

"The members of the choir are synchronizing externally with the melody and the rhythm, and now we see it has an internal counterpart," Vickhoff says.
The spirit moved them...

The Ears Of Texas

Umm, okay:
On her MSNBC show Sunday morning, Melissa Harris-Perry brought attention to Texas’ recently-passed abortion regulations—and the burnt orange-clad demonstrators who had fought their passage—in her own way: with a pair of homemade tampon earrings.

“My producer Lorena made for me last week some tampon earrings,” Harris-Perry said as she put on the jewelry. “The Texas state legislature said that you couldn’t bring tampons in, when these women were going to, in fact, stand up for their own reproductive rights.”
The tampons of Texas are upon you?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

No Handouts

Governor Rick Snyder says no to a Federal bailout:
The Republican governor said Detroit created the problems and stood steadfast behind his decision to file Thursday for bankruptcy, with the city roughly $19 billion in debt.

“This is a tragic, difficult decision, but a right one,” he said. “It’s not about just more money, it’s about accountable government.”

He said corruption and city leaders ignoring warning signs for 60 years contributed to the problems. Among his biggest concerns, Snyder said, is the decline of municipal services for Detroit’s remaining 700,000 residents, including police response times of nearly one hour.

Snyder said the state cannot help and asking for a federal bailout is “not the right answer,” though Washington has that option.

The Obama administration has extended no offer to help, after Congress and the White House agreed to bail out Chrysler and General Motors during the recent recession.

“Can we help Detroit? We don’t know,” Vice President Joe Biden said last week. His remarks followed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney appearing to rule out such assistance.
You can't help those who never helped themselves...

Checking The Opposition

I'm sure it was just routine:
The director of Delaware’s tax-collection office said Friday that his agency accessed the federal tax records in 2010 of an unnamed taxpayer, believed to be former GOP Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell.

Patrick Carter, director of the state’s division of revenue, would not identify Ms. O'Donnell as the taxpayer but said he approved the inquiry “for routine purposes.”
....

Ms. O’Donnell told The Washington Times that she was contacted in January by a federal Treasury official who told her that her IRS tax records might have been accessed inappropriately by a government official. She said the federal investigator dropped the inquiry in April, and she has been unable to learn why her tax records were scrutinized.

She said the accessing of her tax records took place on the same day that she announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate, and she has questioned whether the timing was politically motivated. News reports surfaced at the time that Ms. O'Donnell had been slapped with a tax lien, which turned out to be generated by a computer error.
It's nothing personal, it's strictly political...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Anthem Anathema

Anthem bails:
Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross is spurning California’s new insurance market for small businesses, a potential setback in the state’s rollout of the federal healthcare law.

Anthem, a unit of WellPoint Inc., is California’s largest insurer for small employers. The company’s surprising move raised concerns about the state’s ability to offer competitive rates and attract businesses to its new Covered California exchange that opens Jan. 1. …

Friday’s disclosure made Anthem the first big insurer in California to publicly pass on the small-business pool. Some other big names, such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Aetna Inc., have already opted out of California’s larger exchange for individual consumers.
The derailment continues...

The Prosecution Doesn't Rest

There's a down side to "more justice":
People upset at George Zimmerman’s acquittal are calling for awarding various new powers to prosecutors at the expense of protections for criminal defendants.

Maybe this would make it easier to hang a rap on some future Zimmerman. But it also would have an effect that its backers probably don’t intend: increasing the number of persons convicted and sent to prison. As part of that effect, more young black men — as well as more members of other groups — will end up behind bars.
The road to hell is paved with overzealous prosecutions...

Flipped

A robot does a quadruple backflip:

Swimming With Sharks

Finally: The cloaked shark wetsuit:
A "conspicuous" wetsuit with big white and deep-blue stripes on the arms and legs makes a diver obvious to sharks. A "cryptic" version has been likened to the Harry Potter invisibility cloak. It comes in shades of white, gray and aqua.

Will either work?

"I kind of have to chuckle," said shark expert Chris Lowe, a professor at Cal State Long Beach.

"First of all, we really don't know what motivates sharks to occasionally bite people," said Lowe, who heads the university's Sharklab. "That makes it kind of tough to come up with a 'fits all' solution -- be it an electric, chemical repellent, visual discourager or purported invisible cloak."
Any volunteers?

Volumes

You could call it the Great American Regulation:
Rules implementing the Dodd-Frank financial reform law could fill 28 copies of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, according to a new analysis of the Wall Street overhaul.

The law firm Davis Polk, which closely tracks the Dodd-Frank rule-making process, released a graphic Friday that highlights the gargantuan size of the financial reform bill’s overhaul of regulations.

All told, regulators have written 13,789 pages and more than 15 million words to put the law in place, which is equal to 42 words of regulations for every single word of the already hefty law, spanning 848 pages itself.
At least War and Peace was readable literature...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Super Mower

It's the world's fastest lawn mower:

Labor's Love Lost

More unions jump ship over Obamacare:
In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Thursday, Laborers International Union of North America President Terry O’Sullivan wrote that the law has “destructive consequences” for the types of health plans that cover millions of unionized construction workers and their family members.

The letter follows a separate one written last week by the heads of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers and Unite Here, expressing similar concerns to Congress’s top Democrats, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers took out print ads raising alarms about the law last week as well.

Mr. O’Sullivan zeroed in on some factors that could directly impact unionized construction workers who are typically covered by multiemployer plans. He noted that costs are rising for such plans because of the law’s benefit mandates. Moreover, a tax under the law would cost such health plans $63 per covered individual, or $630,000 for a plan covering 10,000 people, he wrote. The proceeds of the tax will be used to subsidize insurance companies offering health plans in the Health Exchanges.

“In effect, ACA takes money from the pockets of each laborer covered by a health and welfare fund and gives it to for-profit insurance companies,” Mr. O’Sullivan wrote. Those added costs will eventually impact collective bargaining agreements, he said, making union construction companies less competitive than nonunion ones and resulting in less work for union laborers.
Government health care hurts the working man. Who knew?

Obama Responds

President Obama muddles through statements about the Zimmerman case:

Who Killed Detroit?

Progressive politics takes the blame:
Detroit has been spending on average $100 million more than it has taken in for each of the past five years. The city’s $11 billion in unsecured debt includes $6 billion in health and other retirement benefits and $3 billion in retiree pensions for its 20,000 city pensioners, who are slated to receive less than 10 percent of what they were promised. Between 2007 and 2011, an astounding 36 percent of residents lived below the poverty line. Last year, the FBI cited Detroit as having the highest violent crime rate for any major American city. In the first 12 years of the new century, Detroit lost more than 26 percent of its population.

And now Detroit’s desperate request for a bailout has been turned down by the Obama White House.

Progressive politicians, wonks, and activists can only blame big corporations and other liberal bogeymen for so long. The truth is that corrupt machine politics in a one-party system devoted to the blue social model wrecked an entire city and thousands of lives beyond repair.
They did it to themselves...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

King Corn Crashes

Ethanol still hasn't worked:
The ethanol targets set by the Renewable Fuel Standard are out of sync with both the demand for ethanol and its potential supply. Gasoline consumption is projected to be relatively flat this year, a change that the Renewable Fuel Standard lacks a mechanism to account for. This shortfall in demand could potentially be fixed if producers up the percentage of ethanol they mix in with their gasoline past the current industry standard of 10 percent, but few oil companies are willing to move past this so-called “blend wall,” citing studies that link higher ethanol content with engine damage. Even if refiners started blending in more ethanol, the supply problem remains: this year’s supply is projected to be less than the mandate.

All of this explains why oil companies are snatching up increasingly-rare RINs at ever-higher prices. Oh, the RIN-sanity!

This is a mess even before you consider the foibles of the source of the lion’s share of this ethanol: corn. Before the Renewable Fuel Standard set these arbitrarily high targets, the US used just 23 percent of its corn to produce ethanol. Last year 43 percent of our corn crops went towards producing the biofuel. That shift has driven up global prices for corn, starving the world’s poor and potentially fueling food riots. And to what end? Corn ethanol is categorized as a biofuel, but it doesn’t reduce emissions. Advanced biofuels produced from such sources as sugarcane and algae pass the green test, but they haven’t yet proven their commercial viability.
But it's government-approved, which is what matters...

The Motor City Chokes

Detroit is officially broke:



Yes, it's big. And no, the government can't save you now.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Bunny Plan

Watch government regulators pull a new trick out of their rear ends:
Marty Hahne, 54, does magic shows for kids in southern Missouri. For his big finale, he pulls a rabbit out of a hat. Or out of a picnic basket. Or out of a tiny library, if he’s doing his routine about reading being magical.

To do that, Hahne has an official U.S. government license. Not for the magic. For the rabbit.

The Agriculture Department requires it, citing a decades-old law that was intended to regulate zoos and circuses. Today, the USDA also uses it to regulate much smaller “animal exhibitors,” even the humble one-bunny magician.

That was what the letter was about. The government had a new rule. To keep his rabbit license, Hahne needed to write a rabbit disaster plan.

“Fire. Flood. Tornado. Air conditioning going out. Ice storm. Power failures,” Hahne said, listing a few of the calamities for which he needed a plan to save the rabbit.

Or maybe not. Late Tuesday, after a Washington Post article on Hahne was posted online, the Agriculture Department announced that the disaster-plan rule would be reexamined.

“Secretary [Tom] Vilsack asked that this be reviewed immediately and common sense be applied,” department spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said in an e-mail message.
Making these regulations disappear would be a real magic act...

McCarthyism

Jenny McCarthy brings her own brand of crazy to The View:
“Jenny has used her celebrity status to publicize medical claims that have not been proven by the literature. While it is understandable that she has her own views on immunizations given her child, she is going to be in front of impressionable young mothers and influencing their decision on immunizations and child care. Multiple studies have shown that there is no link between childhood immunizations and autism, but she continues to publicize the grave ‘dangers’ of vaccinations,” Dr. Shilpi Agarwal M.D., board-certified family physician told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “While Jenny cannot deliver direct medical advice, she is definitely influencing many young mothers as to what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in terms of child care and immunizations. I suspect she will get a lot of pushback, which may be exactly what a show like ‘The View’ wants.”

While controversy is something 'The View' and shows like it routinely court, the criticism of McCarthy may be more than it was anticipating.

“This is the kind of move that means ‘The View’ will reinforce its nuttiness, not allow debate. Her vaccine views alone mean that people should turn off the show,” said Dan Gainor, VP of Business & Culture at the Media Research Center. “There’s good controversy and bad. In her MTV days, Jenny McCarthy was fun and funny. But ‘The View’ gets the good with the bad and the bad in this case is far worse.”
Junk science and supposedly real news don't mix...

Up The Chain

It wasn't just Cincinnati:
The chief counsel’s office for the Internal Revenue Service, headed by a political appointee of President Obama, helped develop the agency’s problematic guidelines for reviewing “tea party” cases, according to a top IRS attorney.
In interviews with congressional investigators, IRS lawyer Carter Hull said his superiors told him that the chief counsel’s office, led by William Wilkins, would need to review some of the first applications the agency screened for additional scrutiny because of potential political activity.
Previous accounts from IRS employees had shown that Washington IRS officials were involved in the controversy, but Hull’s comments represent the closest connection to the White House to date. No evidence so far has definitively linked the White House to the agency’s actions.
Not yet, anyway...

Left Like Me

Does the NAACP have a diversity problem?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Truth Comes Out

Insurance premiums will go up under Obamacare, after all:

Dear Who?

When an advice columnist runs afoul of local officialdom:
On May 7, Kentucky’s office of attorney general sent a letter to newspaper advice columnist John Rosemond. The letter ordered him to sign a consent decree that he would stop practicing psychology without a license in their state, and stop calling himself a psychologist in Kentucky as well, since he was not licensed by the state’s Board of Examiners of Psychology.

The kicker is that Kentucky claims that writing an advice column that appears in a newspaper in the state—in the specific case of their complaint, the Lexington Herald-Leader, though it appears in others as well—is not an act of freedom of the press, but rather practicing psychology without the required license.
Where is the line between free speech and free advice?

Down On The Farm

Why are farmers climate-change skeptics?
Farmers across the country remain skeptical about climate change. When asked about it, they tell me about Mount Pinatubo and weird weather in the 1980s, when many of today's most established farmers were getting their starts. But mostly I hear about cycles in the weather, like the El Niño–La Niña cycle that drives big changes in North American weather. Maybe it's because farmers are uniquely exposed to bad weather, whether too hot or too cold. Almost any type of weather hurts some crop; the cereals want more rain, but the sweet potatoes like it hot and dry.

Year-to-year variability in the weather dwarfs any impact from a long-term shift in the climate. Consider this: A farmer in Iowa might deal with a 10-degree-Fahrenheit shift in average temperatures from year to year, so why worry about a 3- or even 4-degree shift over 100 years?
Perhaps it's because people who actually grow food for a living instead of just to be fashionable actually know more about what affects their livelihood than "experts."

Like Father, Like Daughter

Liz Cheney makes her move:

Teachers' Pets

California teachers' unions continue to resist change:
The obstinacy has frustrated the Education Department, where Secretary Arne Duncan and his top aides have been trying to create a uniform system that can be used to reward the best teachers and move the worst out of the profession. Now they see that drive stalling in the nation’s most populous state. …

The standoff reflects the enduring influence of the California Teachers Assn., which long ago established the state as a bulwark against the national movement to base teacher evaluations more heavily on standardized tests. The CTA, the most generous campaign donor to state officials, maintains a tight grip on Sacramento politics.

The union’s position has been embraced by Gov. Jerry Brown and State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, two old-guard Democrats who are loath to antagonize labor.
It does help to have friends in low places...

Footing The Bill

The Chicago Way comes to Britain:
The British government has launched an investigation of Serco Group, parent company of the firm recently awarded $1.2 billion to manage key elements of the U.S. health-care law’s rollout.
That contract, announced in late June, is among the largest Affordable Care Act grants made so far, expected to cover the hiring of 1,500 workers who will process a wave of health coverage applications.
In the United Kingdom, Serco Group reportedly overbilled the government by “tens of millions of pounds” under a contract to monitor offenders on parole and individuals released on bail, according to an audit conducted by the country’s Justice Ministry.
The British government plans to review all of its contracts with the U.K.-based firm and put on hold a separate contract Serco had secured with the country’s prison system.
It's kind of tough when you have to choose between "honest" and dishonest government health...

Friends Of Keystone

Environmentalists want some of that transparency they were promised:
An environmental group is suing the State Department to force release of communications between State officials and lobbyists seeking approval of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Friends of the Earth, in the public records lawsuit filed Tuesday, says the department has failed to provide information that’s “critical” because several pro-Keystone lobbyists once worked for Secretary of State John Kerry or former Secretary Hillary Clinton.

“In light of these relationships, the requested records would allow [Friends of the Earth] to inform the public about the nature of the State Department’s decision-making, and the role any of these lobbyists may be playing in that process,” the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, states.
Their friends have more pull than you do...

Pay Less

It seems that the nation's capital doesn't follow the rules it requires for others:
District government pays less than $12.50 per hour.

According to the D.C. Department of Human Resources, some full-time school maintenance workers and custodians make $11.75 per hour. The rate for a clerk at the University of the District of Columbia is $10.40.

Council members went to great lengths to criticize Walmart's pay scale. They should have taken care of their own business first.

The Council's thinking is flawed on other accounts, too. Their law targets Walmart while exempting other businesses from paying higher salaries.
That's because some businesses are more equal than others...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Silent Witness

Increasingly, it seems that President Obama needs to mind his own business:
In at least a dozen sexual assault cases since the president’s remarks at the White House in May, judges and defense lawyers have said that Mr. Obama’s words as commander in chief amounted to “unlawful command influence,” tainting trials as a result. Military law experts said that those cases were only the beginning and that the president’s remarks were certain to complicate almost all prosecutions for sexual assault...

In his comments on sexual assault, Mr. Obama said, “I expect consequences.”
As there should be-but should he be saying so out loud?

Part Timers

America's hired help:
For the entire U.S. workforce, employers have added far more part-time employees in 2013—averaging 93,000 a month, seasonally adjusted—than full-time workers, which have averaged 22,000. Last year the reverse was true, with employers adding 31,000 part-time workers monthly, compared with 171,000 full-time ones. …

Restaurant owners who have already begun shifting to part-time workers say they will continue that pattern.

“Does the delay change anything for us? Absolutely not,” Mr. Adams of Subway said, explaining that whether his health-care costs go up next year or in 2015, he will have to comply with the law. “We won’t start hiring full-time people.”
Welcome to the part-time nation...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Condition Critical

Trying to keep Obamacare alive at the eleventh hour:
"The administration right now is in a triage mode. Seriously, they do not have the resources to implement all of the provisions on time," Washington and Lee University professor Timothy Jost, a healthcare reform expert and advocate, told an oversight panel in the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

Current and former administration officials, independent experts and business representatives say the three priorities are the creation of an online portal that will make it easy for consumers to compare insurance plans and enroll in coverage; the capacity to effectively process and deliver government subsidies that help consumers pay for the insurance; and retention of the law's individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance when Obama's healthcare reform law comes into full force in 2014.

Measures deemed less essential, such as making larger employers provide health insurance to their full-time workers next year or face fines, and requiring exchanges to verify the health insurance and income status of applicants, have already been postponed or scaled back.

"The closer you get to the actual launch, the more you focus on what is essential versus what could be second-order issues," said a former administration official. "That concentrates the mind in a different kind of way, and that's what's happening here."
They do seem to have put the cart before the horse on this whole thing, haven't they?

The Fishbowl

On the lack of diversity in the newsroom:
No one seems to dispute the point that diverse viewpoints and backgrounds are needed to cover a like world. But while newsrooms have become somewhat more ethnically diverse over the last forty years, the opposite has occurred, at least in the political world, on the cultural-ideological scale.

Today, roughly half the country defines itself as pro-choice, and the other half as pro-life. About half the voters who still identify with a party consider themselves Democrats, about half Republicans. For better or worse, we live in a pretty balanced country.

Yet when you look around the newsrooms and editorial boards of most major media organizations, this ideological diversity isn’t remotely reflected. At the New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, if you were betting that three-in-four journalists were pro-choice Democrats, it would be free money. Equally important, these reporters and editors are just like most everyone else they know.
When you live in a room full of mirrors, the reflection tends to look the same...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

An Innocent Man

George Zimmerman, not guilty:
Zimmerman, 29, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, whom the defendant shot during a scuffle in a nearby gated community on Feb 26, 2012. The jury was also able to convict Zimmerman on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The decision from the jury is sure to spark outrage from Martin family supporters who say the teen's death was ignored by police and prosecutors for weeks because of his race. Martin was black, and Zimmerman is half white and half Hispanic.

The jurors deliberated for nine hours on Saturday--including a one-hour lunch during which they were allowed to discuss the case--before alerting the court that they would like the attorneys to clarify the charge of manslaughter.
Justice is served. Let the hue and cry begin.

Science On The Cheap

The problem of outsourcing science:
There are vast numbers of ethical, hard-working scientists and staff in both India and China; it’s not like these entire countries are full of cheaters and corner-cutters. But international companies go to these countries to get work done for lower cost, so the incentives are there to keep those costs down by whatever means come to hand. There are underhanded shortcutters in every country in the world, but some business environments give these people more scope to exercise their talents.
Cheap science can still come with a high price tag...

Journalistic Justice

Well, good:
The Justice Department announced new guidelines effective immediately that will require it to issue annual reports detailing every time it tries to get a search warrant or subpoena a journalist.

The new guidelines will also require Justice to notify news organizations about any subpoena the department sought that pertained to reporting by their employees. A decision to keep the subpoena secret would have to be made only by the attorney general and could be kept under wraps for a maximum of 90 days under the new rules.

The new procedures were announced in response to outrage over Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records and its spying on Fox New reporter James Rosen.
Spying on the opposition is unbecoming...

It's Good To Be The King

Why Texas works:
In 2012, Texas boasted the fastest-growing economy of the 50 states, expanding by 4.8 percent. If Texas were a country, its GDP would be 14th largest in the world. This economic success has many sources, but the energy boom looms largest among them.

America has been blessed with abundant shale resources, and Texas is more blessed than most. But its success cannot be attributed solely to geology—unlike resource-rich states like California, Texas has implemented the right policies to encourage drilling and make the most of its resources. Houston is a great example of the power of brown jobs and brown energy, and an important model for other energy-rich states looking to emulate its success.
Having a governor and legislature that's not afraid to use those resources helps, too...

The Terminator

He said he'd be back:

Super-Spy

"Smart diplomacy" seems to be in shambles in the post-Snowden era:
The Snowden saga has prompted starkly different responses in the US and in the rest of the world. In the US, the revelations have set off a debate about surveillance in the media, but the broader political impact has been muted by Mr Snowden’s flirtations with governments that are viewed as unfriendly to the US, leading some previously sympathetic members of Congress to denounce him.
At the same time, rightwing critics have used the failure to secure his extradition as evidence of the Obama administration’s weak foreign policy. As Eliot Cohen, a former George W Bush administration adviser, said of the president: “Nobody’s afraid of this guy.”
Outside the US, however, the revelations have revived a narrative about the dangers of a world dominated by an untrustworthy superpower that had been dormant as debate raged instead about American decline. Already criticised for its extensive use of drones, the international image of the administration has taken another heavy hit by the documents about extensive US surveillance.
It's one thing to have the power; it's another to abuse it worse than the last guy did.

Flexibility

Renewable fuel standards seem to be OK when it's your type of fuel being added:
House Rule 1959 is being proposed by some members of Congress from Texas and other states to make a bad law better. HR 1959 – the Domestic Alternative Fuels Act – would add natural gas to the fuel standard mandate.

Supporters argue doing so would end the government-granted monopoly corn ethanol enjoys and benefit consumers by addressing supply issues by giving more energy alternatives for meeting the ethanol mandate. For all its best intentions, HR 1959 could ultimately backfire and shore up the bad public policy that is inherent in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

While our country’s prolific natural gas reserves certainly must be used to fuel our quality of life and our national security interests, adding it to the fuel standard in an attempt to create a level playing field is like putting lipstick on a pig. There is no way to improve the Renewable Fuel Standard short of repeal.
Like the Farm Bill, it's still a bad idea no matter how you try to slice it...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Big Sis Steps Down

Janet Napolitano is going back to school:
“While some may consider her to be an unconventional choice, Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university,” Sherry Lansing, the regent and former film industry executive who headed the search committee, said in a statement being released Friday. “She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility — not only to UC, but to all of California. She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges.”
Students, get ready for even more groping...

Old School

The Kremlin looks to the past to protect its secrets:
The Kremlin is returning to typewriters in an attempt to avoid damaging leaks from computer hardware, it has been claimed.

A source at Russia's Federal Guard Service (FSO), which is in charge of safeguarding Kremlin communications and protecting President Vladimir Putin, claimed that the return to typewriters has been prompted by the publication of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website, as well as Edward Snowden, the fugitive US intelligence contractor.

The FSO is looking to spend 486,000 roubles – around £10,000 – on a number of electric typewriters, according to the site of state procurement agency, zakupki.gov.ru. The notice included ribbons for German-made Triumph Adlew TWEN 180 typewriters, although it was not clear if the typewriters themselves were this kind.
That's one way around the problem...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Breaking The Law

Has executive privilege finally gone too far?
A new resolution from Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) charges President Obama with violating the Constitution by delaying enforcement of ObamaCare's employer health insurance mandate.

Garrett's resolution, H.Con.Res. 45, says Obama violated Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution by postponing the provision requiring all companies with more than 50 workers to provide health insurance or face a fine.

While delaying any provision of ObamaCare might be seen as acceptable by Republicans who despise the law, Garrett said this delay raises serious questions about whether the executive branch can simply ignore laws passed by Congress.

"Our government depends upon the rule of law," he said Wednesday. "President Obama is in violation of Section 3 of Article II of the Constitution by refusing to enforce the employer mandate provisions of ObamaCare.

"The executive branch, which has no constitutional authority to write or rewrite law at whim, has usurped the exclusive legislative power of Congress," said Garrett.
Bad laws are best dealt with by getting rid of them-or not passing them in the first place...

Old Folks

The Republicans aren't the only ones with an age problem:
Hillary Clinton, who would be the presumptive Democratic favorite for president the minute she decided to run, will be 69 in 2016. Vice President Biden is already 70.

The party’s congressional leaders aren’t spring chickens, either. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California are both 73. Pelosi’s top two lieutenants in House leadership are also septuagenarians.

Overall, the of Democrats in Congress tops 60, with the party’s caucuses in both the House and Senate skewing older than the Republicans.

“Their leadership is out of step with their base,” says GOP consultant David Carney. “It’s also very white and main-line religious.”
They're just really, really old...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Citizen Journalism

Exactly:
What Durbin and others truly fear are citizen journalists and the free and open dissemination of ideas that threaten the political class’ agenda.

They don’t want bloggers rabble-rousing against ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank. They hate the idea of Twitter being alight with criticisms of the left’s efforts to have government “do good things.”

They resent citizens using message boards to condemn the White House’s attempts to redistribute wealth, its imperial tendencies, its miserably failed foreign policy and its growing list of scandals.

And they certainly want to chill discussions of how the political left has abandoned — after once being a reliable defender of it — the First Amendment.

With cellphones, pads and laptops in every home and car, we are all journalists ready to document, report, record and discuss.

Washington hasn’t the moral authority to say who is and who isn’t a journalist. The First Amendment was written to stop the government from doing exactly that.
Power to the people, right on...

Blind Justice

Justice in the Zimmerman case isn't blind-just one-sided:
From a Florida Sunshine Law request filed on April 23, 2012, JW received thousands of pages of emails on April 27, 2012, in which was found an email by Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board Program Officer Amy Carswell from April 16, 2012: “Congratulations to our partners, Thomas Battles, Regional Director, and Mildred De Robles, Miami-Dade Coordinator and their co-workers at the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service for their outstanding and ongoing efforts to reduce tensions and build bridges of understanding and respect in Sanford, Florida” following a news article in the Orlando Sentinel about the secretive “peacekeepers.”

In reply to that message, Battles said: “Thank you Partner. You did lots of stuff behind the scene to make Miami a success. We will continue to work together.” He signed the email simply Tommy.

Carswell responded: “That’s why we make the big bucks.”
If you want to start a riot, the Department of Justice is apparently there to help...

Populism Or Bust

I have to agree, this is not a good idea when you're on the losing side:
Democrats reliably outnumber Republicans in measures of registered voters, and the Democratic turnout machine is bound to get better as they leverage Team Obama’s big-data advances from last year. As a group, House Democrats actually got more votes in 2012 than House Republicans did. Why any GOPer under those circumstances would prefer to boot big issues towards the public and away from the Republican House and filibuster-empowered Senate Republican minority is … not obvious. Populism unto death?
Sore loser syndrome isn't becoming...

Moonwalking

Democrats are looking to put a park on the Moon:
The bill from Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) would create the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park. The park would be comprised of all artifacts left on the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 through 17 missions.
The bill says these sites need to be protected because of the anticipated increase in commercial moon landings in the future.

"As commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the Moon, it is necessary to protect the Apollo lunar landing sites for posterity," according to the text of the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, H.R. 2617.

Under the legislation, the park would be established no later than one year after the bill passes and would be run jointly by the Department of the Interior and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The measure would allow the government to accept donations from companies and foreign governments to help manage the landing sites and "provide visitor services and administrative facilities within reasonable proximity to the Historical Park."
When I was a kid, the idea of something like this would have been taken seriously at a time when people thought we would have bases on the Moon by now. It's kind of sad that politicians have to reduce it to a joke...

The Unilateral Problem

The flip side of President Obama's mandate delay:
Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution states that the president "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." This is a duty, not a discretionary power. While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.

This matter—the limits of executive power—has deep historical roots. During the period of royal absolutism, English monarchs asserted a right to dispense with parliamentary statutes they disliked. King James II's use of the prerogative was a key grievance that lead to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The very first provision of the English Bill of Rights of 1689—the most important precursor to the U.S. Constitution—declared that "the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal."
Unfortunately, royal privilege has been alive and well in recent years...

Just Their Imagination

Heh:
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) introduced legislation this week to block federal funding for schools that enforce rules that punish students for playing with imaginary weapons.

The Student Protection Act, H.R. 2625, is a reaction to what Stockman says is the zero tolerance policy at some schools that has led to several suspensions of very young children who engage in these activities, including cases where students pretended their thumb and index finger is a gun.
The bill finds that these school policies are being used to outlaw "harmless expressions of childhood play," and are only teaching students to "be afraid of inanimate objects that are shaped like guns."
Don't fear the finger...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Virus Smashers

Sledgehammer, meet flea:
In December 2011, the Department of Homeland Security notified both the EDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that there was a possible malware infection within the two agencies’ systems.

The NOAA isolated and cleaned up the problem within a few weeks.

The EDA, however, responded by cutting its systems off from the rest of the world—disabling its enterprise e-mail system and leaving its regional offices no way of accessing centrally held databases.

It then recruited an outside security contractor to look for malware and provide assurances that not only were EDA’s systems clean, but also that they were impregnable against malware. The contractor, after some initial false positives, declared the systems largely clean but was unable to provide this guarantee. Malware was found on six systems, but it was easily repaired by reimaging the affected machines.

EDA’s CIO, fearing that the agency was under attack from a nation-state, insisted instead on a policy of physical destruction. The EDA destroyed not only (uninfected) desktop computers but also printers, cameras, keyboards, and even mice. The destruction only stopped—sparing $3 million of equipment—because the agency had run out of money to pay for destroying the hardware.
But I'm sure they got rid of that rascally virus...

They Knew

Obamacare would never work as planned:
As far back as March, a top IT official at the Department of Health and Human Services said the department's current ambition for the law's new online insurance marketplaces was that they not be "a Third-World experience." Several provisions had already been abandoned in an effort to simplify the administration's task and maximize the chances that the new systems would be ready to go live in October, when customers are supposed to start signing up for insurance.

In April, several consultants focusing on the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, told National Journal that the idealized, seamless user experience initially envisioned under the Affordable Care Act was no longer possible, as the administration axed non-essential provisions that were too complex to implement in time. (Read the story for some examples and commentary.) That focus has intensified lately, as officials announced that they would not be requiring employers to cover their workers next year or states to verify residents' incomes before signing them up for insurance.

"There's been a focusing in not on: 'What is the full ACA vision?' but: 'What are the pieces we have to get running by October 1?" said Cindy Gillespie, senior managing director at McKenna Long and Aldridge, who is working with states and health plans.
As it turns out, not a whole lot of them...

The Regulation Train

Who regulates the regulators? Today, US Railroads run a successful freight transportation system for shippers and consumers. Their networks ...