Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Mayoral Pipe

His Honor gets busted?
In a stunning announcement, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said Thursday that police have recovered a video allegedly showing Mayor Rob Ford smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe.
The existence of the video was first reported by the Toronto Star and U.S. website Gawker in May.
Blair said a number of digital files were recovered after several computer hard drives were seized on June 13 in the course of so-called Project Traveller raids, which targeted guns, drugs and gang activity in the city’s west end.
On Tuesday, forensic teams were able to recover a deleted file that contained the video, Blair said.
He said the footage is "consistent with what has been described in the media," but would not detail what activities were depicted in the video.
I wonder if Mr. Ford will get advice from Marion Barry now...

Happiness Is

It's the Ministry of Happiness:
Americans may insist on the right to pursue happiness, but Venezuela now has a formal government agency in charge of enforcing it.

President Nicolas Maduro says the new Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness will coordinate all the “mission” programs created by the late President Hugo Chavez to alleviate poverty.

Wags had a field day Friday, waxing sarcastic on Twitter about how happy they felt less than 24 hours after the announcement.

Oil-rich Venezuela is chronically short of basic goods and medical supplies. Annual inflation is running officially at near 50 percent and the U.S. dollar now fetches more than seven times the official rate on the black market.
You will be happy! The government demands it!

Toxic Environmentalism

This is what the aftermath of government-subsidized green energy looks like:
The owner of the property tried to force a bankruptcy trustee to clean the facility, but the report said it would “place humans at imminent and significant health risk.” One of the hazards is the presence of cadmium, a cancer-causing agent that is used to produce the film on the solar panels, the report said.

While the loan guarantees exposed taxpayers to hundreds of millions of dollars, the federal government lost a total of $70 million backing the failed company. Unsold inventory which should have been used to offset those losses, including 2,000 solar panels, mysteriously disappeared, according to the National Legal and Policy Center.

“If a coal, oil or gas company pulled something like that the EPA would send out SWAT teams and the U.S. Marshals to track down the offenders, bankrupt or not,” the center said in a report of its own.
Government-owned toxic waste dumps are exempt from such treatment...

Soft Ball

The NFL is looking to attract female fans:
According to Ad Age, 50.4 million women tuned into the latest Super Bowl, compared to the 24.5 million who watched the Oscars, and the 23.8 million who watched the Emmys.

“The Super Bowl’s female audience has more than doubled from only five years ago, and the last three Super Bowl broadcasts have set records for being the most-watched shows by female viewers. The previous record was held by the 1994 Winter Olympics figure-skating showdown between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding,” Ad Age’s Michael McCarthy wrote, adding:

“The game has become as much entertainment and soap opera as sport.”
And that's off the field...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

French Tax Twist

Monsieur Hollande faces a tax revolt:
Mounting protests over France’s heavy tax burden forced President François Hollande’s struggling socialist government into an embarrassing new climbdown on Monday when it suspended the introduction of a new “ecotax” on large vehicles. …

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced the suspension of the ecotax after a series of demonstrations by hard-pressed farmers, food industry, transport and other businesses in Brittany culminated in angry clashes with police at the weekend, with more protests promised. …

Mr Hollande weeks ago acknowledged public intolerance of some €60bn in new taxes brought in over the past three years, heavily augmented by his own administration, to help close the budget deficit. At 46 per cent of gross domestic product, France has one of the highest tax burdens among advanced economies.

But his promise of a “tax pause” was belied by a series of new measures already due to come into effect in 2014 that will raise a further €12bn from households.
The "75 per cent" seems to include a lot of people in France...

The Smelly Rose

You stay classy, Charlie Rose:

Mr. Unpopularity

NBC suddenly discovers that President Obama might not be so popular after all:
The NBC/WSJ pollsters argue that no single reason explains Obama’s lower poll standing. Rather, they attribute it to the accumulation of setbacks since the summer — allegations of spying by the National Security Agency, the debate over Syria’s chemical weapons, the government shutdown and now intense scrutiny over the problems associated with the health care law’s federal website and its overall implementation…

And for the first time in the survey, even Obama’s personal ratings are upside-down, with 41 percent viewing him a favorable light and 45 percent viewing him negatively.

“Personally and politically, the public’s assessment is two thumbs down,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.
Some people, of course, have been giving him two thumbs down for a while now...

We Told You So

You were warned:
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated as far back as November 2009 that — on average — rates would go up significantly in the individual market, by 10 percent to 13 percent. We reported on that any number of times.

Furthermore, millions more who are under employer-sponsored plans are also expected to lose their current coverage and need to shift to buying coverage for themselves on the new exchanges. That’s why we listed Obama’s “you can keep your plan” refrain as one of thehealth care “whoppers” in 2010, one of the “Whoppers of 2012” and — just last month — one of several “Obamacare Myths.” In that last report, we noted that the grocery-store chain Trader Joe’s had already announced that it would drop health coverage for part-time workers and leave them to shop for their own policies on the new exchanges.
But, I guess as Kathleen Sebelius says:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This Sucks

Suck in that gut, or suck it out?
They need liposuction, and fast.

A number of military personnel are turning to the surgical procedure to remove excess fat from around the waist so they can pass the Pentagon's body fat test, which can determine their future prospects in the military.

'They come in panicked about being kicked out or getting a demerit that will hurt their chances at a promotion,' said the Rockville, Md., surgeon.
....

Fitness expert Jordan Moon said there is no reliable, economical way to measure body fat, and troops should be judged more by physical performance so they're not feeling forced to go to such lengths to save their careers.

'We're sending people away who could be amazing soldiers just because of two pieces of tape,' said Moon, who has a doctorate in exercise physiology and has studied the accuracy of body fat measurements.

'Ninety percent of athletes who play in the NFL are going to fail the tape test because it's made for a normal population, not big guys,' he added.
Well, those guys often have other issues...

San Fran Soda

Because it worked so well in new York:
A can of soda could eventually cost about a quarter more in San Francisco. A proposed measure would add a special tax to sugary beverages, but the proposal is different than a similar ballot measure that failed in Richmond last year.

The idea is simple -- the bigger the drink, the more taxes you pay. It would be 2 cents per ounce for all sugar-sweetened beverages. That includes soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and bottled Frappuccinos.

"It's not a nanny state at all; we're not banning anything," San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener said.
Give them time...

Monday, October 28, 2013

No Rocks For You

It's a gold mine, if only the Feds would allow it:
Nevada oil exploration has been slow and sporadic. In part this was because of a technological inability to identify and economically extract oil reserves. The rock formation beneath Railroad Valley and much of Eastern Nevada, known as the Chainman Shale, contains petroleum, but until recently the technology to extract it did not exist.

In 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Chainman Shale formation could contain as much as 383 million barrels of undiscovered oil, as well as 242 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Ten years later, using more sophisticated modeling techniques, the USGS. upgraded that estimate to 1.598 billion barrels of oil and 1.836 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In other words, Eastern Nevada could be sitting on one of the most energy-rich rock formations in the entire world. Around the time of the updated estimate, one oil developer told Las Vegas reporters, “You have the richest largest organic mature rock source anyplace in the world except Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. … There is no doubt, I can assure you 100 percent, you are sitting on some of the greatest wealth in this country and the world.”
Unfortunately for Nevada, the Feds think otherwise...

Star Bloopers

It's the Star Wars blooper reel!

Radar

Well, it works for others:
Rachel Owens, 34, a merchant navy officer on huge super tankers off the east coast of Africa says music is a really effective way of deterring the pirates and their high-speed skiffs: “Her songs have been chosen by the security team accompanying our tankers because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can’t stand Western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect.”
According to Rachel, the blasting of Britney's music can be specifically targeted as well: “The speakers can be aimed solely at the pirates so as not to disturb the crew. They’re so effective the ship’s security rarely needs to resort to firing guns - as soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney they move on as quickly as they can.”
The music is currently a second line of defense and is utilized when initial calls from armed security guards on board fail to deter the pirates.
Miley Cyrus is the first...

What He Promised

President Obama's now-infamous pledge seems to have been a bit premature:
People across the country are finding out they’re losing their existing insurance plans under Obamacare because requirements in the law, such as prenatal and prescription drug coverage, mean their old plans aren’t comprehensive enough.

In California, Kaiser Permanente terminated policies for 160,000 people. In Florida, at least 300,000 people are losing coverage.

That includes 56-year-old Dianne Barrette. Last month, she received a letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield informing her as of January 2014, she would lose her current plan. Barrette pays $54 a month. The new plan she’s being offered would run $591 a month — 10 times more than what she currently pays.

Barrette said, “What I have right now is what I am happy with and I just want to know why I can’t keep what I have. Why do I have to be forced into something else?”
Over to you, Jay Carney:

Philosophical Fail

President Obama's Grand Vision fails to make the grade:
The breakdown of the federal HealthCare.gov Web site could emerge as a test of Mr. Obama’s philosophy, with potentially serious implications for an agenda that relies heavily on the belief in a can-do bureaucracy. Michael Dimock, the Pew center’s director, said that the longer the problems persist, the more they could bolster what he called the “almost American value that government is inefficient.” …

Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs magazine and a conservative opponent of the health law, said the government’s inability to get the Web site working raises broader questions about how well the rest of the health care law will be implemented in the next several years.

“The promise of the administrative state becomes harder to believe in when it fails in practice,” Mr. Levin said. He added that it was easy to overstate the impact of a Web site that would get fixed eventually. But he said that “there’s a sense that in trying to do too much, the government creates questions about whether it can do anything at all.”
When you bite off more than you can chew, it gets harder for other people to swallow...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Baby, You Can Fold My Car

It's the Fold-mobile:
The Armadillo-T, named after its design for its rear looks like a South American armadillo shell, shrinks from 110 inches to 70 inches. The rear shell kicks upward covering over the front, taking up only one-third of a typical Korean parking space. The micro car has a maximum speed of 37 mph and can travel 62 miles off a 10-minute fast charge.

“At first, I thought it was a toy. But the best part about it is that it’s environmentally efficient and could save a lot of space,” said Lee Chanhee, a student at a recent Korea Automotive Industry Exhibition of the Armadillo-T near Seoul.
Shades of the Jetsons...

Tunnel Rats

The NYPD backs off on busting the beggars:
Peaceful begging is allowed above ground, after state and federal courts ruled the state’s 1964 anti-loitering law unconstitutional.
But in the subway system, where the MTA establishes its own rules and regulations, all panhandling — peaceful included — is illegal, according to the agency.
The Department of Homeless Services said it maintains an outreach team dedicated to finding specialty housing for subway hobos.
Straphangers told The Post they’ve noticed an alarming increase in vagrants and beggars.
“Straphangers can’t actually get a seat on the subway because they are taking up the subway space,” said Brooklyn commuter Robert Scarborough. “They don’t wash. They have an aroma.”
Even panhandlers are scared.
“There’s more people down here,” noted Sarah Colon, who said she has been homeless ever since Hurricane Sandy. “The city’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing. They need to make the shelters better than what they are now.”
Things could get a lot worse.
“I believe this can turn into ‘Mad Max’ down here,” said Maurice Solomon of The Bronx. “It’s a safe haven — it’s warm for them, and people give them food.”
Beggars can't be choosers, except in NYC...

The Lost Middle

The middle class meets Obamacare:
Fullerton resident Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage.

Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don’t qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined.

“It doesn’t seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else,” said Harris, who is three months pregnant. “This increase is simply not affordable.”
They broke it, you bought into it...

Waiting For The Man

RIP Lou Reed:
Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed was born in Brooklyn, in 1942. A fan of doo-wop and early rock & roll (he movingly inducted Dion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989), Reed also took formative inspiration during his studies at Syracuse University with the poet Delmore Schwartz. After college, he worked as a staff songwriter for the novelty label Pickwick Records (where he had a minor hit in 1964 with a dance-song parody called "The Ostrich"). In the mid-Sixties, Reed befriended Welsh musician John Cale, a classically trained violist who had performed with groundbreaking minimalist composer La Monte Young. Reed and Cale formed a band called the Primitives, then changed their name to the Warlocks. After meeting guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker, they became the Velvet Underground. With a stark sound and ominous look, the band caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who incorporated the Velvets into his Exploding Plastic Inevitable. "Andy would show his movies on us," Reed said. "We wore black so you could see the movie. But we were all wearing black anyway."
One of the original alternative rock pioneers has left us, but his music lives on:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Hey, Abbott

Australia's new PM calls it what it is:
“The carbon tax is bad for the economy and it doesn’t do any good for the environment,” Abbott told The Washington Post. “Despite a carbon tax of $37 a ton by 2020, Australia’s domestic emissions were going up, not down. The carbon tax was basically socialism masquerading as environmentalism, and that’s why it’s going to get abolished.”

“If the Labor Party wants to give the people of Australia a Christmas present, they will vote to abolish the carbon tax. It was damaging the economy without helping the environment. It was a stupid tax. A misconceived tax,” Abbott added.
Most taxes are...

Antibiotic Animals

Don't over-prescribe the animals:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report last month that found that 23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year. The more a particular germ is exposed to antibiotics, the more rapidly it can develop resistance. Most scientists agree that overprescribing the drugs to humans is the predominant cause for bacteria evolving to outsmart them. Feeding the drugs widely to control and prevent disease in cows, pigs and chickens also is believed to play a role.

Tuesday’s study, “Industrial Food Animal Production in America,” comes five years after a landmark report on industry practices by a Pew Charitable Trusts commission of scientists working through the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Feeding animals antibiotics for breakfast, lunch and dinner plumps them up at a terrible cost, the 2008 report said, making drugs ever-less effective and bacteria more resistant.
Humans and animals both have immune systems that can be weakened over time, which is the big risk here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Benefits Country

There are more people on welfare than ever:
In the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Census Bureau, there were 49,901,000 people who received Social Security benefits, 46,440,000 who received Medicare benefits, 5,098,000 on unemployment, and 3,178,000 who received non-means-tested veterans compensation.

When the people who received non-means-tested government benefits from programs such as Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and non-means-tested veterans compensation are added to those who received means-tested government programs such as food stamps, Supplemental Security Income and public housing, the total number of people receiving government benefits from one or more programs in the United States in 2011 climbs to 151,014,000, according to the Census Bureau.

The 108,592,000 people who were beneficiaries of means-tested government programs in the United States in 2011 not only outnumbered full-time year-round workers, they also outnumbered the total population of the Philippines, which is 105,720,644, according to the CIA World Factbook. They are also approaching the number of people living in Mexico, which is 116,220,947, according to the CIA.
It's a dependency population explosion...

The Team That Dare Not Show Its Name

What team is playing, again?
A Minnesota congresswoman is pleading with her home state to not display any symbol or hint of the Washington Redskins’ name inside the Metrodome when they play the Vikings on Nov. 7.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) directed her request to Gov. Mark Dayton, Attorney General Lori Swanson, co-chairs of the state Senate Legislative Committee on Minnesota Sports Facilities Bobby Joe Champion and Julie Rosen, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, City Council president Barbara Johnson, and Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen.

“As you are aware, the Washington team is a privately owned business that chooses to use the disparaging and demeaning brand ‘Redskins’ as their mascot,” McCollum wrote. “In my view this NFL team’s mascot is an unacceptable racial slur disparaging to Native Americans and offensive to Minnesotans.

The congresswoman argued that since the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is financed by taxpayers it has “legal obligations” to ensure no one is offended.

“With regard to the NFL game on November 7th, it would be my hope that all state statutes, ordinances of the City of Minneapolis, and policies of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) regarding civil rights, non-discrimination, and affirmative action would be fully reviewed and applied with regard to displaying, publicly announcing, and promoting the Washington team’s racially disparaging name and logo.”
Out of sight, out of her mind...

Hit Pause

More Democratic Senators up for re-election agree on a delay:
Ten Senate Democrats have signed on to a letter crafted by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) urging the Obama administration to extend the open enrollment period for the recently launched health-care exchanges.
....

The signatories to the letter are Shaheen and Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Hagan (D-N.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Begich, Pryor, Landrieu and Hagan are all top GOP targets in red states in 2014, and Bennet is likely to be targeted in 2016. (Shaheen and Mark Udall face reelection in swing states in 2014 but aren't considered among Republicans' top targets.)

Feinstein stands out as a long-time liberal senator from California. Tom Udall is considered largely safe for reelection in New Mexico next year and Heinrich was just elected in 2012 in the same state.
It's always best to be on the safe side, isn't it?

Sources, Please

They wanted names:
A veteran Washington D.C. investigative journalist says the Department of Homeland Security confiscated a stack of her confidential files during a raid of her home in August — leading her to fear that a number of her sources inside the federal government have now been exposed. . . . After the search began, Hudson said she was asked by an investigator with the Coast Guard Investigative Service if she was the same Audrey Hudson who had written a series of critical stories about air marshals for The Washington Times over the last decade. The Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security seems awfully insecure about its image...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Standards

You still can't keep your insurance:
Natalie Willes is a sleep consultant who helps parents in Los Angeles train their newborns to sleep. She buys her own health insurance.

"I was completely happy with the insurance I had before," Willes said.

So she was surprised when she tried to renew her policy. What did she find out?

"That my insurance was going to be completely different, and they were going to be replaced with 10 new plans that were going to fall under the regulations of the Affordable Care Act," she said.

Her insurer, Kaiser Permanente, is terminating policies for 160,000 people in California and presenting them with new plans that comply with the healthcare law.
This seems to be happening all over...

Le Taxman

French footballers are kicking mad:
François Hollande has bent over backwards since becoming France’s president to avoid provoking the Gallic propensity to strike. Now, of all unlikely sources, he faces a weekend of strike action by the country’s football clubs, who have instructed players to hang up their boots in protest against his 75 per cent income tax rate.

Angrily condemning the “unfair and discriminatory” tax for threatening to cripple struggling clubs, Jean-Pierre Louvel, head of the UCPF, the professional football club union, declared on Thursday: “We are talking about the death of French football.” …

The 75 per cent tax, a key Hollande election pledge, which is set to take effect from next year, will be levied on employers who must pay it for two years on all annual salaries above €1m. …

“We are already the most taxed league in Europe and the other leagues are already much stronger than us,” complained Mr Louvel.
First, they came for the other millionaires...

"I Was Present, But Did Not Imbibe"

Maryland's Democratic candidate for governor likes to party:
“Perhaps I should have assumed there was drinking in the home, and I got that wrong,” Gansler said of stopping by the party briefly and then leaving. He said not investigating whether teens were drinking “was a mistake I made.”

Sometimes it is difficult, he said, to know how to do the right thing as a parent.
Personally, he might have been better off with his original response. At least it would've been more honest coming from a Dem...

We Heart Taxes

So claims Harry Reid:
“The only people who feel there shouldn’t be more coming in to the federal government from the rich people are the Republicans in the Congress,” Reid said. “Everybody else, including the rich people, are willing to pay more. They want to pay more.”

Reid rebuked the Nevada Public Radio host when he was asked what Republicans would have to concede to get Medicare and Social Security cuts on the table.

“You keep talking about Medicare and Social Security. Get something else in your brain. Stop talking about that. That is not going to happen this time. There is not going to be a grand bargain,” Reid said. “What we need to do is have Murray and her counterpart in the House, Ryan, work together to come up with something to get out of this senseless sequestration and start the budgeting process so that we can do normal appropriation bills.”
Gee, Harry, is that why you waited so long to pass a budget?

Country Crock

It turns out that Obamacare really isn't less expensive in rural areas:
Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.

The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.
But it was never about lowering costs, was it?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Labor Lessons

Labor propaganda goes to class:
As part of the plan, students spend a week reading “Harvesting Hope,” a book about Chavez written by children’s author Kathleen Krull, and then discuss what the lesson plan calls “scales of fairness,” which compare the living conditions of farm workers to that of land owners.

“Fairness and equality exist when the scales are balanced,” teachers are prompted to instruct the students. They are then supposed to ask the students whether both sides, as presented in the plan, are equal, providing a correct answer of “no” in the teachers’ guides.

“Why are we teaching organized labor lessons to young children?” asked Kyle Olson, the publisher of the group’s website. “Isn’t there a simpler way to teach about fairness, like saying it’s not fair if Johnny works all day and gets one piece of candy while Jimmy plays video games all day and gets the same piece of candy?”
Gotta get 'em while they're young...

Mass Obamacare Effect

You can keep your insurance, except:
An estimated 14 million people purchase their own coverage because they don’t get it through their jobs. Calls to insurers in several states showed that many have sent notices.

Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state. Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent. …

Blue Shield of California sent roughly 119,000 cancellation notices out in mid-September, about 60 percent of its individual business. About two-thirds of those policyholders will see rate increases in their new policies, said spokesman Steve Shivinsky.
Imagine what will happen if or when they actually get the Obamacare website working...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Brosurance

It's Obamacare, bro!

Hip Hop Nation

Politicians get dope, yo:
Hip-hop now attracts a bipartisan clique of fans on Capitol Hill, in addition to its best-known booster in the White House.

Democratic Rep. André Carson of Indiana, a self-described former “battle rapper,” performed under the name Juggernaut into his early 20s. Though he gave up rap to pursue community activism and politics, Carson said that rapping helped him become a better communicator and public speaker.

Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel describes himself as a “hip-hop conservative” in his Twitter biography. He tweeted his thoughts on Jay-Z’s newest album earlier this year and penned an essay for Buzzfeed about hip-hop.

Radel wrote that he found “a conservative message in [the Public Enemy protest anthem] ‘Fight the Power’ because I believe when government expands it becomes a political tool meant to oppress.” The first-term congressman acknowledged that he has philosophical disagreements with many of his favorite rappers. But that’s not a phenomenon limited to hip-hop, as attested by the unrequited crush Republican Gov. Chris Christie has on fellow Jersey guy -- and decidedly liberal -- rock star Bruce Springsteen.

Sen. Marco Rubio has also publicly discussed his appreciation for hip-hop in several interviews, telling GQ his favorite rap songs are “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A., “Killuminati” by Tupac, and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.
Maybe rappers should negotiate the next shutdown...

Jay Walk

Jay Carney just can't take it anymore:

An Armed Society

The head of Interpol's security says it's time for a change:
In the interview with ABC News, Noble was more blunt and directed his comments to his home country.

"Ask yourself: If that was Denver, Col., if that was Texas, would those guys have been able to spend hours, days, shooting people randomly?" Noble said, referring to states with pro-gun traditions. "What I'm saying is it makes police around the world question their views on gun control. It makes citizens question their views on gun control. You have to ask yourself, 'Is an armed citizenry more necessary now than it was in the past with an evolving threat of terrorism?' This is something that has to be discussed."
Americans have known this for quite some time...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Water Works

Don't cross the EPA streams:
At issue are new federal rules pertaining to the Clean Water Act. The EPA says it’s working on new regulations because there is confusion about small streams and wetlands, "some of which only flow after precipitation or dry up during parts of the year."

It's that focus on ever-changing water sources that has critics worried, fearful that stormwater left after a heavy rain could subject millions of private property owners to EPA regulation.

Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Chris Stewart, R-Utah, say the EPA is moving too quickly and without adequate congressional input.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the lawmakers said the agency's approach "appears to represent a rushed, politicized regulatory process lacking the proper consultation with the scientific peer reviewers and the American people."
When the government rains regulations, it pours...

European Tea

Is Europe ready for a Tea Party?
Europe’s rebel parties are very far from forming a coherent bloc. They range from proto-fascists such as Hungary’s Jobbik to the far-left Syriza in Greece – and from conservative nationalists such as Poland’s Law and Justice party to semi-anarchists such as the Five Star Movement in Italy. Some of the anti-establishment parties, such as France’s National Front, are trying to make the journey from the far right towards political respectability. A few, such as Ukip and parts of the Italian right, share the tax-cutting, small-government agenda of the Tea Party. Other rebel parties in Europe, including the Dutch Freedom party, have cast themselves as defenders of the traditional welfare state.
What almost all Europe’s anti-establishment parties share with the Tea Party, however, is an anti-elitist rhetoric that casts mainstream politicians as the servants of a remote, globalised elite.
Maybe that's because many of them are...

Support Our Police State

Who wants a Nazi-style surveillance state? Apparently some folks do:

Hard Of Hearing

No hearing-impaired allowed?
A 2005 federal study found that the U.S. had virtually no affordable housing for the deaf. So the federal government helped build Apache ASL Trails, a 75-unit apartment building in Tempe, Ariz., designed specifically for the deaf. Ninety-percent of the units are currently occupied by deaf and deaf-blind seniors.

But now, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development says Apache ASL Trails violates civil rights law -- because it shows a preference for the hearing-impaired.

"A preference or priority based on a particular diagnosis or disability and excluding others with different disabilities is explicitly prohibited by HUD's Section 504 regulations," says a HUD memo about the project. "There is no legal authority contained in any of Apache Trails funding to permit such a priority or preference."

HUD is threatening to pull all federal housing aid to Arizona unless it limits the number of hearing-impaired residents to 18 people. The agency would not forcibly remove current residents, but wants many of their units to be blocked off to deaf residents in the future once they leave.

However, when HUD approved and helped fund the project in 2008, it did so knowing that the property was specifically "designed for seniors who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf blind."
That was before they decided they couldn't enforce their own regulations...

The Incredible Shrinking Teacher's Unions

They're still getting smaller:
The loss of members will leave NEA with about $10.2 million less than it otherwise would have had, though it appears the union’s 2013-14 budget anticipated the shortfall.

I have no data on which states suffered what losses, but membership losses impact NEA state affiliate activities much more than those at the national level. State affiliates are likely to lean heavily on NEA funding for ballot initiative and legislative battles in the coming year.
At this rate, they'll have to rely on old-fashioned thug tactics to get members-oh, wait...

Catch Me I'm Falling

At least she didn't turn into a Walker:



No Rail In My Back Yard

High speed rail has been touted as a great idea for California. Unfortunately, somebody forgot to ask the locals for their opinion:
Rail is meant to help Fresno, with construction jobs now and improved access to economic opportunity once the project is finished. But the region that could benefit most from the project is also where opposition to it has grown most fierce.

“I just wish it would go away, this high-speed rail. I just wish it would go away,” says Gary Lanfranco, whose restaurant in downtown Fresno is slated to be demolished to make way for rerouted traffic.

Such sentiments can be heard throughout the Central Valley, where roads are dotted with signs such as: “HERE COMES HIGH SPEED RAIL There goes the farm.” Growers complain of misplaced priorities, and residents wonder if their tax money is being squandered.

Aaron Fukuda, a civil engineer whose house in the dairy town of Hanford lies directly in one of the possible train routes, says: “People are worn out, tired, frustrated.”
Unnecessary government projects tend to have that effect...

None Of The Above

A Virginia newspaper rejects:
The major-party candidates have earned the citizenry’s derision. The third-party alternative has run a more exemplary race yet does not qualify as a suitable option. We cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate for governor.
This does not gladden us. Circumstance has brought us to this pass. This marks, we believe, the first time in modern Virginia that The Times-Dispatch has not endorsed a gubernatorial nominee.
In truth, don't most politicians deserve this distinction?

Escape From France

The kids can't wait to leave:
Today, one out of four French university graduates wants to emigrate, “and this rises to 80 per cent or 90 per cent in the case of marketable degrees”, says economics professor Jacques Régniez, who teaches at both the Sorbonne and the University of New York in Prague. “In one of my finance seminars, every single French student intends to go abroad.” .... Young people, and many of their parents, dream of getting any kind of state or local administration post, usually badly paid, very often frustrating, but which ensures complete job security, unrelated to the economic situation, the market, or their own performance.
More than a quarter of the French workforce is employed by some public body or other: schools, hospitals, local and regional councils, the police, the civil service proper – or those new subsidised public-service jobs the Hollande government is so keen on.
Maybe that's part of the reason why so many want out...

Quack Medicine

It's a big business:
Despite the discrediting of laetrile, and other fallacious cancer therapies such as shark cartilage, surveys show that more than 50 percent of Americans look to so-called “alternative” therapies for serious diseases as well as to ameliorate the effects of aging. In the United States, alternative medicine is a “$34-billion-a-year business.” It is a lucrative and thriving enterprise, and some of its most prominent promoters have prestigious pedigrees from schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. The public assumes that someone educated in such institutions, where critical thinking and scientific rigor are prized, must be a reliable guide through the thicket of illness. Yet this clearly is not the case.
Beware the Ivy League charlatans...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

All Holidays, All The Time

How about some extra time off?
There are currently at least two bills in Albany that would give city school kids extra time off.

One would close schools on the Chinese New Year. The other would close on the two Muslim Eid holidays that Lhota and de Blasio want to recognize: Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which celebrates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail.

Neither bill has garnered much support, but Silver expects they’ll both be looked at again now that there’s a change coming to City Hall. The bills also wouldn’t be needed if the new mayor wanted to simply add the holidays to the calendar.

Also jumping into the vacation fray is City Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Queens Democrat who represents ethnically diverse Jackson Heights.

Dromm introduced a resolution in July to close school on the holy day of Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains.
What about the Druids? Don't forget the pagans, too...

Keeping Out The Heretics

The L.A. Times says no to skeptics:
What amounts to a ban on discourse about climate change stirred outrage among scientists who have written exactly that sort of letter.

"In a word, the LA Times should be ashamed of itself," William Happer, a physics professor at Princeton, told FoxNews.com.

"There was an effective embargo on alternative opinions, so making it official really does not change things," said Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism at The Rockefeller University in New York.

“The free press in the U.S. is trying to move the likelihood of presenting evidence on this issue from very low to impossible,” J. Scott Armstrong, co-founder of the Journal of Forecasting and a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told FoxNews.com.

Happer, Breslow and Armstrong are among 38 climate scientists that wrote a widely discussed letter titled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming,” which was published in The Wall Street Journal in Jan. 2012.
Some papers believe in free speech, others don't...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ducking For Cover

Where's Kathleen Sebelius?
HHS claims she has scheduling conflicts, but we hope she isn't in the White House catacomb under interrogation by Valerie Jarrett about her department's incompetence.

The department is also refusing to make available lower-level officials who might detail the source or sources of this debacle. Ducking an investigation with spin is one thing. Responding with a wall of silence to the invitation of a duly elected congressional body probing the use of more than half a billion taxpayer dollars is another. This Obama crowd is something else.
Yes, they are...

Big Oil Shakedown

An oil company fights back:
Chevron alleges in the non-jury trial before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan that a Manhattan lawyer, Steven Donziger, and others involved in the pollution case engaged in a “racketeering enterprise” and won the 2011 verdict through coercion, manufactured evidence and bribery of the Ecuadorean judge who wrote it. The company is seeking a ruling preventing the plaintiffs from trying to enforce the verdict in courts around the world. Burford reached an agreement with Chevron to provide testimony after being described in the lawsuit as a party involved in the scheme, Bogart said yesterday.

Donziger contends he did nothing unlawful in Ecuador and that Chevron engaged in similar tactics. Kaplan said in a ruling last week there’s “considerable evidence” the pollution case was “tainted by fraud.”
Looks like they picked the wrong target to try their scam on...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Smuggler's Blues

Smoke 'em if you can smuggle 'em:

President Terminator

He would be elected to lead, not read:
Arnie was born in Austria, and the US Constitution prevents foreign-born citizens from holding the nation’s top job. Any amendment to the Constitution must be approved by two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate.
But Arnold, who became a US citizen in 1983, still could mount a legal challenge. In 2010, he appeared on the ‘Tonight Show,’ and was asked by Jay Leno if he would make a White House run if the law were changed.
Schwarzenegger replied, “Without any doubt.” With America becoming more diverse, it is not clear what would happen if Arnie or any other foreign-born naturalized citizen decided to run.
Columbia University Law School professor Michael Dorf, an expert in constitutional law, said about the Governator’s case in 2007, “The law is very clear, but it’s not 100 percent clear that the courts would enforce that law rather than leave it to the political process.”
Seriously, he probably couldn't do worse than the current occupant...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The More You Know

A law professor comes to a startling realization:
“I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension,” Kahan wrote.

“But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the tea party,” he continued. “All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the ‘paper’ (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused Internet sites like Huffington Post and POLITICO). I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly, I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.”
Maybe his own media choices had something to do with his views...

Obamacare Pirates

Software piracy, Obamacare style:
The latest indication of the haphazard way in which Healthcare.gov was developed is the uncredited use of a copyrighted web script for a data function used by the site, a violation of the licensing agreement for the software.

The script in question is called DataTables, a very long and complex piece of website software used for formatting and presenting data. DataTables was developed by a British company called SpryMedia which licenses the open-source software freely to anyone who complies with the licensing agreement. A note at the bottom of the DataTables.net website says: "DataTables designed and created by SpryMedia © 2008-2013."
Threaten 'em with prison time! (Hey, the music industry does it to twelve-year-olds...)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

No More Drama

It's done:
Up against a deadline, Congress passed and sent a waiting President Barack Obama legislation late Wednesday night to avoid a threatened national default and end the 16-day partial government shutdown, the culmination of an epic political drama that placed the U.S. economy at risk.
The Senate voted first, a bipartisan 81-18 at midevening. That cleared the way for a final 285-144 vote in the Republican-controlled House about two hours later on the legislation, which hewed strictly to the terms Obama laid down when the twin crises erupted more than three weeks ago.
The legislation would permit the Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7 or perhaps a month longer, and fund the government through Jan. 15. More than 2 million federal workers would be paid - those who had remained on the job and those who had been furloughed.
The good news, for John Boehner, is that he gets to keep his job, but will it be worth it in the long run?

Misery Loves Twitter

Using Twitter to keep track of sad people:
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) began a study financed by the National Institutes of Health last month that will provide “population level depression monitoring” through the social media site.

The project, “Utilizing Social Media as a Resource for Mental Health Surveillance,” is costing taxpayers $82,800.

While Twitter has been used by government agencies, such as the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security, for national security related monitoring, the project suggests the social network can be used for public health surveillance as well.

“Major depressive disorder is one of the most common debilitating illnesses in the United States, with a lifetime prevalence of 16.2 [percent],” the project grant states. “Currently, nationwide mental health surveillance takes the form of large-scale telephone- based surveys.”
Well, if there's one thing the government is good at, it's causing depression...

It's Always Bush

Naturally:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hug Time

No hugs allowed?
City officials say the Snuggle House has not yet passed building and fire inspections and is therefore ineligible for an occupancy permit. Moreover, according to assistant city attorney, Jennifer Zilavy, no detailed business plan has been presented. "The city's primary concern is, we don't want a house of prostitution popping up," she says.

However, the Snuggle House's assistant manager Emily Noon told a local reporter that clients sign contracts and any contract between a client and a snuggler will have enforced boundaries: "Intimate, non-sexual touch," Noon says. She also explained that their business model is based on a successful snuggery in Rochester, New York. She also claims that cuddling businesses have popped up in California and Colorado. "There's so many people who don't have a significant other in their lives that just need to be held," Noon said, "We're just college students that know how important it is to have physical touch in our lives."
Er, yes, they do...

An Ounce Of Prevention

Mexico City goes for legalization:
Proposals include the setting up of cannabis clubs to grow herb for their members and tolerance of anyone carrying up to 30 g, or just over an ounce, of marijuana. Leftist lawmakers say the measures would free up police to focus on serious crime and take a step toward ending the country’s catastrophic drug war, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives in the past six years. “The war against drugs is a failure. We are not going to win it,” says assemblyman Vidal Llerenas, who is working on the legislation. “We cannot hope for a drug-free world. But we can hope to limit the damage and take the profits away from organized crime.”
Prohibition does tend to be profitable for the criminal element...

Second Look At EPA Regulations

The Supreme Court takes the case:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would consider challenges to Environmental Protect Agency limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, throwing the Obama administration’s landmark rules into a state of uncertainty. …

A three-judge panel in June 2012 upheld the agency’s finding that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide endangered public health and were likely responsible for global warming. The appeals court further upheld EPA emissions limits for new vehicles and refused to entertain the challengers’ efforts to stop the agency from phasing in emissions regulations on industrial facilities like power plants.

The Supreme Court will review part of that ruling. The justices said in a short written order that they will consider the EPA’s decision to impose greenhouse-gas permitting requirements on power plants and other stationary sources.
Needless to say, the usual suspects aren't happy. Authority that gets challenged rarely is...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nerd Rap

The battle is waged:

French October Surprise

The French mainstream is confused:
A poll published last week suggested the FN could emerge as the best-supported party in the European elections with 24 percent of those asked declaring themselves ready to back the party led by Marine Le Pen, the daughter of FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

That shock survey was followed on Sunday by a spectacular victory for the FN in a local by-election in Brignoles, where FN candidate Laurent Lopez claimed 53.9 percent of the vote in a run-off against the UMP candidate.

"The left and the mainstream right are blaming each other for what is happening, but the reality is they've both been knocked sideways," said Nonna Mayer, the Research Director at the National Research Centre CNRS. "Neither of them know what to do."
You ignore discontent at your peril, for good or ill..

Peace In The City

For now, at least:
According to a new report from the Mayor’s Office, there were no murders reported across the five boroughs between last Monday, October 6th, and Sunday, October 13th. It was the first murder-less week in the city since January.
....

Although over half of all murders this year were committed by firearms (57.8 percent), which adds up to 148 of those 256 murders, that number is down by 28.8 percent from last year (60 murders).
Chicago must be green with envy...

The Iceman Cometh Again

The Iceman has relatives:
Scientists from the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University analyzed DNA samples taken from 3,700 blood donors in the Tyrol region of Austria.

During their study, they discovered that 19 individuals share a particular genetic mutation with the 5,300-year-old mummy, whose full genome was published last year.

“These men and the Iceman had the same ancestors,” Walther Parson, the forensic scientist who carried out the study, told the Austrian Press Agency.

The researchers focused on parts of the human DNA which are generally inherited unchanged.

“In men it is the Y chromosomes and in females the mitochondria. Eventual changes arise due to mutations, which are then inherited further,” Parson explained.
Who's your Mummy Daddy?

Designated Stupidity

Attention, kids-you can now be punished for NOT drinking and driving:
Two weeks ago, Erin received a call from a friend at a party who was too drunk to drive. Erin drove to Boxford after work to pick up her friend. Moments after she arrived, the cops arrived too and busted several kids for underage possession of alcohol.

A North Andover High School honor student, Erin was cleared by police, who agreed she had not been drinking and was not in possession of alcohol. But Andover High told Erin she was in violation of the district’s zero tolerance policy against alcohol and drug use. In the middle of her senior year, Erin was demoted from captain of the volleyball team and told she would be suspended from playing for five games.
Sometimes it's not clear who the irresponsible ones are these days...

Governor Donald

The Donald for governor?
Trump said he was “very flattered’’ by the effort, which the paper reported is backed by state GOP Chairman Ed Cox and other party leaders.

However, Trump also noted that running for governor is “not something that I’ve ever even thought about.’’

Trump echoed his response in a TV appearance on Monday.

“We have a lot problems, but it’s not something that is of great interest to me, I will say,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends.”

“It’s a first, it would be very interesting, but New York has some very serious problems, with taxes that are through the roof, we have energy sitting under our ground that we’re not getting,” Trump said.
I'm sure his hair would run...

False Navigator

This figures:
Rosilyn Wells — the Director of Outreach and Enrollment for the Heartland Community Health-care Center (HCHC) – is “the only full-time Affordable Care Act navigator in Lawrence,” according to the Lawrence Journal-World.

Wells was certified as an Obamacare navigator despite her financial history, which includes a bankruptcy in 2003, a 2007 civil charge from a local check cashing business called Midwest Checkrite for writing a bad check, being more than $1700 behind on her state tax bill, and having an outstanding arrest warrant in nearby Shawnee County. Wells lives and works in Douglass County.
A crooked scheme requires crooks to implement it...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In Search Of The Enrollees

Come out, come out, wherever you are:
Nearly two weeks after the federal government launched the online Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov, individuals who have successfully used the choked-up website to enroll for a subsidized health insurance plan have reached a status akin to urban legend: Everyone has heard of them, but very few people have actually met one.

The Miami Herald searched high and low for individuals who completed enrollment for a subsidized health plan through the marketplace, also called an exchange, launched by the federal government on Oct. 1 in 36 states, including Florida.
Since they literally don't exist, it will be up to the Obama administration to invent them...

The Dogs Of Bigotry?

Are LAPD dogs racist?
According to Parc records, the number of Latino individuals bitten by LASD canines went up 30 per cent between 2004 and 2012, from 30 to 39 bites. The number of African-Americans bitten increased by 33 per cent over the same period.

Meanwhile, police dog bites caused injuries at a much higher rate than alternative deterrents such as batons, tear gas and even guns. “Large swathes of LASD’s jurisdiction, encompassing generally affluent areas with smaller minority populations, had few [canine] deployments or bites,” the Parc report states.

“Crime rates are lower in these areas, but the stark disparity leads us to wonder why canine deployments seem to occur disproportionately in less affluent areas with larger minority populations.” During the period covered in the report, the largely black or Latino areas of Century, City of Industry, Compton, Lakewood and South LA/Lennox suffered more dog bites than all of LASD’s other 21 districts combined.
Haters gotta bite?

Ethanol Retreat

Big Ethanol is not pleased:
The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday sought to calm a furor over its apparent proposal to reduce ethanol use in gasoline next year, saying that no final decisions had been made about the contentious mandate.

On Thursday, Reuters and other news outlets reported on EPA documents that showed the agency proposing an unexpected drop in the amount of corn-based ethanol that would be required for blending next year, a historic retreat from the 2007 biofuel law and a major victory for the oil industry.

“At this point, EPA is only developing a draft proposal,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement in the agency’s first public response to the reports.

She said the Obama administration remained “firmly committed” to developing biofuels as a part of the plan to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil.
Isn't the dreaded fracking industry already doing that? That may explain the rollback...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Medicine Men

Science marches on:
An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine traces the convoluted history of the diagnosis of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The pediatricians Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger described the conditions in 1943 and 1944 respectively.

Kanner thought that two features were essential to autism, a psychological separation from the world manifest very early in a child’s life and an obsessive desire to prevent change in the person’s immediate surroundings. Kanner thought that such children had similar parents, often of high intelligence but who were better and happier with ideas than with human relationships. This gave rise later to the concept of the “refrigerator mother,” that is to say a cold and uncommunicative woman who did not cuddle her child or provide it with any emotional warmth, and whose conduct caused the child, by a mechanism of defense, to withdraw into its own world. This was also the era of the “schizophrenogenic” mother, the mother who communicated two messages in one verbal utterance, leaving the child uncertain as to what was meant.

These theories have now been abandoned; they were not only wrong but cruel, for they blamed the mother for the child’s devastating condition. Biology is back in fashion.
As it should be...

Heart And Soul

He's still kicking:
The 43rd president has exercised regularly for years and is generally believed to be in excellent health. Nevertheless, a stress test that's standard with all physicals at the renowned Cooper Clinic in Dallas turned up worrisome changes to Bush's electrocardiogram readings. His physicians quickly ordered up a CT angiogram that revealed the magnitude of the blockage and prompted them to recommend inserting a stent to open the artery. That procedure was done the next morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital without complication. Bush spent the night at the hospital for observation and is reported to be recovering normally.

At the time some physicians wondered whether the stent was medical overkill, given that Bush has no known family history of heart disease and is in good shape. Multiple sources knowledgeable about Bush's condition, however, said there's no question the treatment was medically necessary.

A spokesman for the Cooper Clinic declined to discuss any aspects of Bush's care, citing patient privacy. Bush spokesman Freddy Ford also declined comment.

By all appearances, the ex-president has bounced back smartly from his health scare. He's been cleared to travel, attending the President's Cup golf matches in Ohio last weekend. He's also returned to playing golf and riding mountain bikes, but doctors have put limits on his normally-manic speeds and the duration of his workouts.

"He's back on the bike -- easy, not hard," a friend said. "But he's feeling terrific and doing fine."
Good for him, and the fact that he still seems to be enjoying his retirement.

We're Number What?

It's a conspiracy!
"Monday we had a really good day in the key demographic. On the night that Fox News debuted their three shows, we either tied or beat them in those hours," Griffin said at a briefing, according to TVNewser.

"Tuesday -- you guys should be doing some investigations; I have never seen it in all my years of cable -- same overnight, same everything. And they doubled their ratings in a day? It is impossible." Griffin continued, "I have never seen it. They did election-night numbers in the demo Tuesday."
The people have spoken, and they still don't like you...

Consumer Advocates

They want our gas:
Delegates from 10 countries—including Hungary, Haiti, India, Japan, and Thailand—argued for increased U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas to increase global energy security and strengthen diplomatic ties during a Thursday forum convened by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

Delegates from Hungary and the Czech Republic said expanded LNG exports would bring U.S. gas into competition with Russia, the major supplier of oil and gas in eastern Europe. Increased competition, they argued, would drive down gas prices to the benefit of consumers.

“We need to have more competition to have affordable energy prices,” said Anita Orban, ambassador-at-large for energy security for the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Representatives from Japan and Singapore also called for increased U.S. LNG exports, saying it would help diversify domestic energy markets.

“We are a small island state with no energy endowments of our own,” said Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Singapore’s ambassador to the U.S.
It's a natural, friendly market. Any takers?

Stamped Out

This system failure thing is contagious:
People in Ohio, Michigan and 15 other states found themselves unable to use their food stamp debit-style cards on Saturday, after a routine test of backup systems by vendor Xerox Corp. resulted in a system failure.

"While the electronic benefits system is now up and running, beneficiaries in the 17 affected states continue to experience connectivity issues to access their benefits. Technical staff is addressing the issue and expect the system to be restored soon," Xerox spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer said in an emailed statement. "Beneficiaries requiring access to their benefits can work with their local retailers who can activate an emergency voucher system where available. We appreciate our clients' patience while we work through this outage as quickly as possible."

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage is not related to the government shutdown.
Not yet, anyway...

The TSA Will Not Be Mocked

Do not make fun of the TSA:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Transparent Defense

Team Obama swears they were serious about that whole transparency thing:
“From the day he took office, the President committed his Administration to work towards unprecedented openness in government,” Eric Schultz, a White House spokesperson, told POLITICO in a statement. …

“As part of the President’s unparalleled commitment to reforming Washington, this Administration is the first ever to release White House visitor records,” Schultz said. “Over the past four years, Federal agencies have gone to great efforts to make government more transparent and more accessible than ever, to provide people with information that they can use in their daily lives. Just this past year, the government processed more [Freedom of Information Act] requests, decreased the backlog, improved average processing times, and disclosed more information proactively.”
Feeling a little defensive, are we?

The Gift That Stopped Giving

The White House Gift Shop is broke:
The Secret Service Uniformed Division Benefit Fund, which traces its roots to the 1940s and for years did business as the official White House Gift Shop, lists more than $600,000 in liabilities in a pending bankruptcy petition in Washington.

The fund — which operated independently of the White House and Secret Service, and was not a part of the government — disclosed tens of thousands of dollars in assets consisting mostly of Christmas decorations, as well as such trinkets as magnets, puzzles and paperweights, many valued at just a few dollars each.

The price of more than 140 Democratic and Republican mouse pads is listed as “???” in court records, while 10 unsold copies of the book “Adams’ Alligator” go for $8.48.

The bankruptcy petition, filed in June in a case that remains active, doesn’t explain why the fund went bankrupt in the first place, but court records reveal a recent history of tax troubles and litigation.
In other words, it's pretty much like the rest of Washington...

Brownout

Well color me surprised:
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Friday vetoed two measures to restrict the sale and possession of certain semi-automatic assault weapons, putting the brakes on some of the most aggressive gun-control proposals in state legislatures this year.
Brown vetoed Senate Bill 374, which would have banned semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines and required firearm owners to register even low-capacity rifles as assault weapons.
In a message to the legislature, Brown wrote he didn’t “believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights.”
Is he finally getting it?

Saved By Starbucks

Starbucks to the rescue?
Starbucks will offer up its thousands of stores across the nation to give the millions of customers who come through our stores every week, and thousands of partners (employees) who serve them, an opportunity to have their voices heard by signing our petition. Please join us in doing what you – and your companies – can to give the American people the voice they currently lack, and are desperately crying out for. And in the process, you can help to restore faith and trust in our government through your civil words and deeds.
It's for America...

Seating Arrangements

Some more on Terry McAuliffe's fibbing:
McAuliffe met a college president who grumbled about having to buy campus furnishings from the state. Assembled by prisoners under a training program, the furniture is overpriced, with some chairs costing $800. If the school, Piedmont Virginia Community College, could buy from private stores instead, it could use the savings to enroll the 100 qualified nursing students it turns away each year.

Here are the facts:

Piedmont hasn’t turned away anything close to 100 applicants for nursing school. Even if it had, the college could not possibly squeeze the $400,000-a-year cost of instructing them out of its prison furniture purchases, which were below $100,000 last year. Piedmont is not even required to buy furniture from the state, though it must get a waiver to shop elsewhere.

As for the “$800 chairs,” McAuliffe’s campaign tried to back up that claim by providing information about a single $600 chair.
Take a seat, sir-your voice is coming through your posterior...

The Third Way

Americans want an alternative:
60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26% believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.

The results are consistent with Gallup’s finding of more negative opinions of both parties since the shutdown began, including a new low favorable rating for the Republican Party, and Americans’ widespread dissatisfaction with the way the nation is being governed.
There's no doubt there's a lot of general distaste against the establishment, but third-party candidates-with the exception of Jesse Ventura back in 1998-typically don't win in our two-party system; in presidential elections they fare even less well (see Paul, Ron or Nader, Ralph) or wind up giving the election to their opponent (see Roosevelt, Theodore or Perot, Ross). Still, this time around, something might give against both sides. That's what happens when you don't listen to the people you claim to serve.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Out In The Cold

On President Obama's war on journalism:
The Committee to Protect Journalists conducted its first examination of U.S. press freedoms amid the Obama administration's unprecedented number of prosecutions of government sources and seizures of journalists' records. Usually the group focuses on advocating for press freedoms abroad.

Leonard Downie Jr., a former executive editor of The Washington Post, wrote the 30-page analysis entitled "The Obama Administration and the Press." The report notes President Barack Obama came into office pledging an open, transparent government after criticizing the Bush administration's secrecy, "but he has fallen short of his promise."

"In the Obama administration's Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press," wrote Downie, now a journalism professor at Arizona State University. "The administration's war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate."
Of course, when the members of the Fourth Estate stay silent, it's kind of hard to sympathize...

Safety Goes Postal

The Safety Police have descended into self-parody:
...the US Postal Service has now been forced to destroy the entire run of stamps based on Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative.
That’s because three of the stamps showed children doing unsafe activities: one showed a child jumping cannonball-style into water; a second showed a child skateboarding without kneepads; a third showed a child doing a headstand without a helmet.
It's called "having fun."

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Dead Cash Run

Did Terry McAuliffe make money off the terminally ill?
“Terry was one of hundreds of passive investors several years ago and had no idea about the allegations against the defendant – who, at the time, was widely respected by business leaders and elected officials,” said spokesman Josh Schwerin. “The allegations are horrible and he never would have invested if he knew he was being deceived.”

Schwerin said that McAuliffe and his campaign would donate the equivalent of the campaign donations from Camardre to the American Cancer Society. $27 thousand from the campaign. $47 thousand from the candidate himself. The $27 thousand was to return campaign contributions. The $47 thousand was for the investment into Caramadre’s business venture.
How nice of him...

Charity Case

Charity begins at home:
The Defense Department will lean on a private charity to deliver survivor benefit payouts to the families of fallen servicemembers while the government shutdown drags on, Pentagon officials announced Wednesday.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the military had entered an agreement with the Fisher House Foundation to provide grieving families “the full set of benefits they have been promised, including a $100,000 death gratuity payment.”

Charity officials will advance the money as quickly as possible after a death, and defense officials will repay the charity after the government shutdown ends or when new legislation fixing the problem is passed.
The real question, of course, is why this was allowed to happen in the first place...

Bully Lessons

Are schools actually teaching kids how to be bullies?
The student videos used in many campaigns show examples of bullying and how to intervene. But Jeong says they may actually teach students different bullying techniques — and even educate about new ways to bully through social media and texting.

Jeong said students with ill intentions “…are able to learn, there are new techniques [and gain] new skills.” He says students might see examples in videos and then want to try it.

According to Jeong, some programs even teach students how to bully without leaving evidence behind. “This study raises an alarm,” he said. “There is a possibility of negative impact from anti-bullying programs.”
Class dismissed...

Dead Is Dead

A dead man discovers he can't go home again:
Judge Davis referred to Donald Miller's case as a "strange, strange situation."

"We've got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health," Davis said.

Miller made a decision to leave the state to avoid paying child support, Davis said.

But the three-year time limit on the death ruling is clear, Davis said.

"I don't know where that leaves you, but you're still deceased as far as the law is concerned," Davis said.
At least he could legally vote Democrat...

The Graduate

A college grad feels violated:
“I have asthma, ulcers, and mild cerebral palsy. Obamacare takes my monthly rate from $75 a month for full coverage on my “Young Adult Plan,” to $319 a month. After $6,000 in deductibles, of course,” Dionne wrote in the Facebook post.

“Liberals claimed this law would help the poor. I am the poor, the working poor, and I can’t afford to support myself, let alone older generations and people not willing to work at all.”

The Affordable Care Act allows kids to stay on their parents’ health care plans until the age of 26.

Although she writes that she landed a job at a gym, she states that it only allows for 32 hours each week, for eight dollars an hour. And she bluntly adds that Obamacare costs for will only increase difficulties for young adults.

“This law has raped my future,” she writes. “It will keep me and kids my age from having a future at all. This is the real face of Obamacare and it isn’t pretty.”
You were warned...

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Pressing Matters

The British government seeks control, and the press is not amused:
The newspaper industry said that a regime “imposed” by politicians was a threat to free speech. In a joint statement, the Newspaper Publishers Association, the Newspaper Society and the Professional Publishers Association said: “Nothing could be more controversial than a Royal Charter imposed by politicians on an industry which is wholly opposed to it and which would fatally undermine freedom of expression.”
The Hacked Off campaign group, which seeks tighter curbs on the press, said rejection of the industry’s proposal was “long overdue”.
The cross-party agreement on how politicians would seek to regulate the press was reached in a late-night meeting in the office of Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, on March 18. It was attended by representatives of the three main parties and Hacked Off.
The industry was not invited or represented. The Government was represented by Oliver Letwin, David Cameron’s policy chief, rather than the Culture Secretary. In the Commons, Mrs Miller admitted that the meeting had looked bad.
At least the British papers are upset. Over here, they seem to be more interested in enabling the powers that be...

The Madness Of King Maduro

Power to the people, or El Commandante 2.0?
Mr Maduro, who served as Mr Chávez’s foreign minister and vice-president, is seeking “special powers” from the country’s national assembly to fight graft and pass economic measures. The president claims members of the “fascist” opposition, with support from the US, are “sabotaging” the economy in order to bring down the government. …

“There is a lot of discontent within the government at all levels, among people who think he does not have the power and vision to make the Chávez project work,” said David Smilde, a Caracas-based Venezuela expert at the Washington Office on Latin America. Some observers believe his bid to bypass the legislature is an effort to solidify his weak grip on power. “Having an enabling law would increase his power within the government,” said Mr Smilde.
Well, that's how Hitler got started...

IRS Confidential

Yes, they did do that:
Senior Internal Revenue Service officials—including one at the heart of the IRS “targeting” scandal—violated agency policies and possibly federal records laws by using private email to send confidential taxpayer information, the GOP-led House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said in a letter.

In a Sept. 30 letter to IRS Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel obtained by the Free Beacon, Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa (R., Calif.) said an investigation revealed a “troubling pattern” of at least four top IRS officials using their private email addresses to relay confidential tax information.

“This not only raises the prospect of violations of the Federal Records Act but it also raises data security concerns and violates internal IRS policies,” Issa wrote to Werfel.
Policies don't matter when you've got an agenda...

Ain't Superstitious

But:
Research finds that people, superstitious or not, tend to believe that negative outcomes are more likely after they “jinx” themselves. Boast that you’ve been driving for 20 years without an accident, and your concern about your drive home that evening rises. The superstitious may tell you that your concern is well founded because the universe is bound to punish your hubris. Psychological research has a less magical explanation: boasting about being accident-free makes the thought of getting into an accident jump to mind and, once there, that thought makes you worry.
You've jinxed yourself!

The Big Empty

Everybody has to make sacrifices:
With a full array of official duties that must be carried out despite the impasse with Congress, Obama's aides have strived to maintain normalcy. But the logistical gymnastics of running the federal government's nerve center with a skeletal staff have created a sense of mild disarray at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The staff of 90 that normally tends to the president's residence has been cut to 15. In the West Wing, only a scaled-back menu is available at the White House mess. Trash cans are still being emptied and the bathrooms maintained, but the usual buzz of employees across the White House grounds has dipped to a quiet hum.

"The most evident impact is the lack of voices," said Josh Earnest, Obama's principle deputy press secretary. "There aren't a bunch of people yammering on the phone."

Vice President Joe Biden gets to keep the single staffer who works at his Naval Observatory residence, but his 24-person White House team has been cut in half.
Oh, the horror...

Doctor, Doctor

The doctors are out:
A consumer information update dated the day the exchange opened informed users (at least those who took the time to read the updates) that the doctor search function was not yet operational and they would need to visit an external website to find out which doctors accept which plans. The full update reads as follows [emphasis added]:

Search for your physician. If you are interested in understanding which health plans a particular doctor participates in, please visit https://providersearch.crisphealth.org – a new service sponsored by Maryland Health Connection. For the time being, doctors and other providers are not yet available in Maryland Health Connection; therefore, if you choose to search for them on the website, you will receive a message that “no doctors are found” message.

This update and several other consumer updates might help explain why as of noon on Monday, October 7, only 326 people in the state had successfully completed the application process.
You can keep your doctor...if you can find one...

Monday, October 07, 2013

Web Police

Meet China's Internet cops:
Dubbed "public opinion analysts," they work for the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda department, major Chinese news websites and commercial corporations, according to The Beijing News.
Using keyword searches, their job is to sift the millions of messages being posted on popular social media and microblogging sites such as Sina Weibo, regarded as China's equivalent to Twitter. They then compile reports for decision makers, the report said.
The number of people monitoring internet activity to prevent criticism of the government and social unrest has been a subject of discussion for years, said David Bandurski, editor of the University of Hong Kong's China Media Project.
"Two million sounds like a big number," he said. "But I think it's clear that the government will do what it takes to monitor any potential collective action on social media."
This is what our own government has the IRS for...

Agreeing To Disagree

Well, yes:
But at the split in the Republican Party, I mean what else is new? They split in 1912 between Taft, President Taft and Teddy Roosevelt, they split in '64 between the Goldwater rights and the Rockefellers. It's a big country, and the Republicans now have what liberals are supposed to admire, which is diversity, except liberals don't want diversity in thought, and that's what the Republicans now have and it makes them rather interesting.
Diversity is where you find it...

SS Scam

Well, politicians do this all the time:
In a detailed report being released Monday in conjunction with a hearing on the subject, the investigators lay out a stunning scheme that involved the lawyer, Eric C. Conn, Administrative Law Judge David B. Daugherty, dishonest doctors, disposable phones, shredded documents and millions of dollars in profits — taken straight from taxpayers through the Social Security system.

“Mr. Conn and Judge Daugherty had collaborated on a scheme that enabled the judge to approve, in assembly-line fashion, hundreds of clients for disability benefits using manufactured medical evidence,” the investigators concluded.
In other words, it's pretty much the way the system itself works...

El Camino

Some protesters are more equal than others:
A planned immigration reform rally will take place on the National Mall on Tuesday even though the site is closed due to the government shutdown.

Organizers for the “Camino Americano: March for Immigration Reform” were spotted Monday setting up a stage and equipment on the National Mall for the rally which will take place on Tuesday.

A few scattered barriers around the park have signs informing visitors that the area is closed as a result of the government shutdown.
You can march, but not enter...

Deal Time?

Has the White House blinked?
President Obama would accept a short-term increase in the federal borrowing cap , rather than one lasting a year or more, a senior White House official said Monday. The statement was an acknowledgment by the administration that it may not be possible to reach a deal on a long-term increase in the debt ceiling before a critical Oct. 17 deadline.

Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, said members of Congress ultimately have the responsibility to decide how often they want to raise the debt ceiling, although he argued that an extended hike is preferable. …

The Treasury says it will run low on cash in as little as 10 days, placing the nation at risk of a historic default. Some Republicans have suggested that if Congress can’t reach an agreement by Oct. 17, they might try to forge a coalition to support an interim measure to increase the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling for as little as six weeks.

Sperling’s comments Monday suggested that the White House would accept such a measure. The statement was notable because administration officials had rejected a short-term debt ceiling increase during a similar impasse in the summer of 2011, when the White House insisted that the debt limit be increased to cover borrowing through 2012.
Maybe they finally got spooked by the images of veterans breaching war memorial barricades, or by stories about old people getting kicked out of their own homes. We'll see.

The Naming Of Teams

The Redskin's lawyer speaks out:
“He’s unaware of the data. He’s expressing an opinion. He happens to be wrong in not knowing about the data. If he knew about the data, I’m looking forward to him saying, ‘You know, now that I know from Lanny Davis about the data, I favor the Washington Redskins because there is not a sizable group [offended by the name], by my own criteria.’ So I don’t know why he spoke out at a time like this, but I’m glad that he’s using that criteria, by that criteria, no name change is necessary,” Davis said.

The poll Davis referred to, conducted in April by The Associated Press, showed that nearly four out of five Americans do not think the Redskins should change their name.

He also said that Obama hasn’t criticized his own hometown team is “selective criteria.”

“I do wonder why he’s not talking about the Chicago Blackhawks who won the Stanley Cup or the Atlanta Braves … it is a selective decision,” Davis said.
Offense is in the eye of the beholder...

Who Killed The NFL?

So President Trump basically said what a lot of people already think. And the NFL is failing: Football, which is practically the state reli...