Thursday, February 28, 2013

Socialist Second Thoughts

Suddenly, Sarkozy isn't looking so bad these days:
Ten months into his mandate, President Francois Hollande scored the worst of any French president since 1981 in the TNS Sofres poll for Le Figaro magazine released on Thursday as he struggles to spur economic growth and create jobs.

Socialist voters who propelled Hollande to the presidency in May 2012 are now questioning his government’s handling of an economy teetering near recession, a series of industrial layoffs and joblessness at a 15-year high.

Hollande’s rating fell by 5 points in February in the monthly poll to 30 percent when respondents were asked whether they had confidence in their president to resolve the country’s problems, pulled down by a 8 point drop from Socialist voters.
You wanted him, you got him...

Save Our Cuts

They want their own cuts and no one else's:
The Senate on Thursday rejected rival proposals to stop the sequester, ensuring the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts will begin on Friday.

A bill crafted by Senate Democrats won 51 votes, while a Republican alternative won only 38 votes. Three Democrats — Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.), who are all up for reelection in 2014 — voted against their party's bill, which fell 51-49.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also switched his vote to "no," a procedural move that would allow him to bring the bill to the floor in the future.

Both plans needed 60 votes to advance, and as expected, neither came close to meeting that threshold.
Can they still warn of a sequester apocalypse if they actually want one?

Solar Dominos

Yet another solar company is in trouble:
The venture-backed company is laying off employees, and top executives have left the company recently, the newspaper reported.

SoloPower declined to disclose how many people it’s letting go or where the layoffs will take place.

“The restructuring includes a workforce reduction designed to trim costs and address market conditions as the company transitions from an R&D focus to commercial manufacturing and sales,” the company said in a statement.

SoloPower now joins a long line of solar equipment manufacturers worldwide who have struggled mightily to stay in business in the past two years. A glut of solar panels has caused prices to crash and forced dozens of manufacturers to either file for bankruptcies, idle production lines or scratch new factory plans. The impact of this imbalance of supply and demand has affected everyone from industry stalwarts such as First Solar and SunPower to startups such as Solyndra and Abound Solar.
Maybe one of these days the government will get it right-or, maybe not...

A Woman's Workout

Why more women are overweight:
Women, they found, once had been quite physically active around the house, spending, in 1965, an average of 25.7 hours a week cleaning, cooking and doing laundry. Those activities, whatever their social freight, required the expenditure of considerable energy. . . . Forty-five years later, in 2010, things had changed dramatically. By then, the time-use diaries showed, women were spending an average of 13.3 hours per week on housework. More striking, the diary entries showed, women at home were now spending far more hours sitting in front of a screen. In 1965, women typically had spent about eight hours a week sitting and watching television. (Home computers weren’t invented yet.) By 2010, those hours had more than doubled, to 16.5 hours per week. In essence, women had exchanged time spent in active pursuits, like vacuuming, for time spent being sedentary.
This probably won't go over well in some circles, but there were apparently some benefits to housework after all...

My Dinner With Kim

Dennis Rodman apparently had a grand time in North Korea:
“They bonded during the game,” [VICE founder Shane] Smith said [of Kim and Rodman] by telephone from New York after speaking to the crew. “They were both enjoying the crazy shots, and the Harlem Globetrotters were putting on quite a show.”…

After the game, Rodman addressed Kim in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands of North Koreans, telling him, “You have a friend for life,” Detrick said…

“Dinner was an epic feast. Felt like about 10 courses in total,” Duffy said in an email to AP. “I’d say the winners were the smoked turkey and sushi, though we had the Pyongyang cold noodles earlier in the trip and that’s been the runaway favorite so far.”
I'm sure the average North Koreans were happy to starve for Rodman and his new BFF...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cash On Hand

There may be some money left over after the Sequester Apocalypse after all:
Lawmakers say the government already has $45 billion in unspent money which could be used to offset the shortfall

"There are pots of money sitting in different departments across the federal government, that have been authorized over either ... a number of months or a number of years," Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said.

Fresh legislation would authorize that money, which hasn't yet been spent, to be used elsewhere.

Price introduced that legislation Tuesday along with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. It would require the director of the White House budget office to rescind funds that haven't yet been obligated.

"Washington's reckless spending culture has produced this situation where hundreds of billions of dollars are borrowed and then left unspent because Congress routinely bites off more than it can chew," Rubio said in a statement.
Maybe they want to make sure it's still there to waste next time around...

For Want Of A Sandwich

The Obama administration's hostility to job creators explained:
SIMON HOBBS: It’s 13 years since you wrote the book “Start Small, Finish Big” which was about grass roots entrepreneurship. Do you think the environment for those chasing the American dream by setting up their own business has gotten worse or better in those 13 years?

FRED DELUCA: It’s continuously gotten worse, because there’s more and more regulations. It’s tougher for people to get into business. Especially a small business. I tell you, if I started Subway today, Subway would not exist, because I had an easy time of it in the ’60s when I started. I just see a continuous increase in regulation.
Of course, if you're a failing crony who wants subsidies, that's different...

Pink'd

It's a pink world:
Nothing says “celebrate diversity” like forcing everyone to dress exactly the same, like a bunch of Maoists who threw their workers’ garb in the washer but forgot to take the red flag out. If you’re thinking, “Hang on. Day of Pink? Didn’t we just have that?” No, that was Pink Shirt Day, the last Wednesday in February. This is Day of Pink, second Wednesday in April. Like the King streetcar, there’ll be another one along in a minute, enthusiastically sponsored by Scotiabank, Royal Bank, ViaRail and all the other corporate bigwigs.

If you’re thinking, “Hang on. Pink awareness-raising? Isn’t that something to do with breast cancer?” No, that’s pink ribbons. Unfortunately, all the hues for awareness-raising ribbons are taken: not just white for bone cancer and yellow for adenosarcoma, but also (my current favourite) periwinkle for acid reflux. We need to raise awareness of how all the awareness-raising ribbons have been taken, so anti-bullying groups have been obliged to move on from ribbons to shirts.
Rush Limbaugh dealt with this topic twenty years ago:



The Madness Of King Obama?

When you've lost Bob Woodward:

Enter Jack Lew

Jack Lew gets confirmed:
As the secretary of the Treasury, Lew will run U.S. domestic financial policy and is charged with collecting federal taxes and managing public debt, among other duties.

Lew was confirmed with a 71-26 vote. Compared with the bruising confirmation battle of Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary, Lew's was a breeze.

President Obama said in a statement that he was "pleased that the Senate took bipartisan action today to confirm Jack Lew as our nation's next Treasury secretary."

"His reputation as a master of fiscal issues who can work with leaders on both sides of the aisle has already helped him succeed in some of the toughest jobs in Washington," Obama said.
Yeah, hanging with fat cats was hard work...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Ticking Clock

Some politicians don't like being reminded of how much money they're wasting:
During a House Financial Services Committee hearing Tuesday on the budget, two Democrats complained after House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling instructed that two monitors in the hearing room display a real-time running national debt clock.

California Rep. Maxine Waters and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison both issued complaints about the displays, according to video of the hearing.

“Clearly it is a political prop designed to message ideologically,” Ellison said.

Waters asked that the debt clock not be on display whenever Democrats spoke, Hensarling said during the hearing.

“At the request of the ranking member, the national debt clock will not be put on the screens during Democratic time,” said Hensarling, a Texas Republican.
Well, maybe if they were more careful with our money...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Still Getting Paid

Guess who's exempt from the dreaded sequester?
A report published last month by the Congressional Research Service--“Budget Sequestration and Selected Program Exemptions and Special Rules"--identifies certain programs that are exempt from sequestration and lays out special rules that govern the sequestration of others.

Section 255 of the Budget Control Act includes “Compensation for the President” as one of those exemptions (Page 19).

“Most exempt programs are mandatory, and include Social Security and Medicaid; refundable tax credits to individuals; and low-income programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income,” the report states.

“Some discretionary programs also are exempt, notably all programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs,” it said. “Also, subject to notification of Congress by the president, military personnel accounts may either be exempt or reduced by a lower percentage,” the report states. (The report states in a footnote that the White House notified Congress last year of President Obama's intention to exempt military personnel accounts from sequestration.)
The President isn't in the military, and he's not exactly poor, but he's got the exemption. So, why all the drama, then?

Angry Dragon

A Chinese official misses his flight:



I'd hate to think what would happen if we sent them a check and it bounced...

Laws Of Human Nature

Why are regulators so interested in protecting people from themselves?
We're all just a bunch of flawed people. If people are irrational, then laws — written by politicians who are up for reelection, enforced by police officers, and interpreted by judges who are possibly biased and definitely busy — might also be irrational. Cass Sunstein makes a similar point above, but I'd go further and say government is often more irrational than individuals: even if regulators are rational, it often serves their interests to regulate in a way that doesn't serve yours — because they're acquiescing to corporate lobbyists, or because the public is unlikely to notice how the regulations eventually led to bad consequences.

Government isn't an all-purpose social-utility machine just waiting to help us make better decisions, if only we'd be willing to give up our stubborn adherence to the principle of individual autonomy. Even if we were to set aside all our cherished notions about how liberty is intrinsically good, it would still make sense to be skeptical of whether regulators know or care about the full consequences of their regulations.
We are capable of learning from our mistakes. Unfortunately, those that write our laws don't always seem to feel that way.

Ghost Cuts

Apparently sequestration is so bad that it will affect departments that no longer exist:
The first line item on page 121 of the OMB's September 2012 report says that under sequestration the National Drug Intelligence Center would lose $2 million of its $20 million budget. While that's slightly more than 8.2 percent (rounding error or scare tactic?), the bigger problem is that the National Drug Intelligence Center shuttered its doors on June 15, 2012--three months before the OMB issued its report to Congress.
Saving nonexistent programs does seem to be what Washington does best...

All Access

Jay Carney struggles to explain how access to his boss works:

Backstabbers

Juan Williams's words of warning:

Gangs For Hire

Louis Farrakhan is looking for a few good gangbangers:
In addition to sending letters to black military leaders, Farrakhan said he planned to contact the city's gang leaders to recruit gang members to "protect" any land the Nation of Islam may buy in the future.

"All you gang bangers, we know you love to shoot, but you're killing yourselves," Farrakhan said. "All your weapons are illegal and you're using them like savages."

But Farrakhan said gang bangers are "natural soldiers" and could be taught "the science of war" to become protectors of the Nation of Islam's assets in the future.
When you run a criminal organization, you need enforcers...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Grounded

The sequester might be good for something after all:
The head of the Air Force today warned that the spending cuts that will go into effect March 1 could cause the military to eliminate those lovely miljet flights that lawmakers enjoy.

Members of Congress adore flying on Air Force jets, particularly for overseas trips — there are no security lines, check-in is a breeze, the service couldn’t be better, and it’s business class-only.

But if the government-wide cuts aren’t thwarted and the military has to pinch pennies, lawmakers might have to kiss those perks goodbye, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the crowd at the Air Force Association’s winter conference in Orlando, Fla., we’re told.

Fly commercial? The horror.

And if members of Congress are forced into such dire circumstances, they’re in for even more delays. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cautioned on Friday that the sequester could cause major backups in airports around the country.
Stuck at security with their constituents? That should be a motivator if nothing else...

The Boss's Payday

What happens at Green Research, stays at Green Research:
NREL’s top executive, Dr. Dan Arvizu, makes close to a million dollars per year. His two top lieutenants rake in more than half a million each and nine others make more than $350,000 a year.

But what is really going on there? Energy expert Amy Oliver Cooke drove out to the site, which looks something like Nevada’s Area 51 with its remote location and forbidding concrete buildings. NREL had started a construction project and Cooke wanted to see for herself. She didn’t get far: a man in an SUV seemingly appeared out of nowhere, stopped her car, and told her to leave.

“A beefy looking fellow told me, ‘It’s top secret,’ said Cooke, director of the Energy Policy Center at the Independence Institute think tank. “I said, ‘I’m a taxpayer and I want to see what you’re building’ and he said it was it was ‘top secret so we can bring Americans a better future.’”
But it sure seems to be profitable...

Southern Strategy

The "tolerant" left has a plan for destroying their enemies:
According to documents included with the memo and interviews, the strategy outline was produced by Myers Research and Strategic Services for Project New America. It was originally provided to Progress North Carolina, a liberal nonprofit that has aggressively attacked McCrory during the 2012 campaign and his early term in office. Progress North Carolina shared the memo with Blueprint NC, a nonprofit that coordinates the activities of liberal-leaning nonprofits. In turn, Blueprint NC distributed it to its member organizations.

An electronic version of the memo appears to contain at least three separate documents. One is an email from outgoing Blueprint NC Communications Director Stephanie Bass describing the material and emphasizing that it is “CONFIDENTIAL to Blueprint, so please be careful – share with your boards and appropriate staff, but not the whole world.”

Sean Kosofsky, Blueprint NC’s director, said his group did not pay for or commission the research. “We were just forwarding it on,” he said.

The second document is a “talking points memo” that outlines strategies for progressive groups. Policy wins for the political left, the memo said, would likely be defined as “mitigating” legislation, rather than pushing their own agenda items.

“The most effective way to mitigate the worst legislation is to weaken our opponents’ ability to govern by crippling their leaders (McCrory, Tillis, Berger, etc…)” the memo reads, referring to the governor, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

The memo goes on to describe a “potential two-year vision” during which the groups would “eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.” The bulk of the document is a poll memo that talks about how to frame opposition to conservative tax and education policies. The survey was conducted between Jan. 29 and Feb. 2.
It sort of sounds like what they did after Reconstruction. Old political habits die hard...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spending Status Quo

Cutting spending is not popular:
The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 13-18, 2013 among 1,504 adults, finds little change in attitudes about government spending since 2011. One notable exception: somewhat fewer support reducing military defense spending, which would bear a major share of the sequester cuts.

In the current poll, 24% say that if they were making up the federal government’s budget this year they would decrease spending for military defense, down from 30% two years ago. More than seven-in-ten either support increasing defense spending (32%) or maintaining it at current levels (41%).

There continue to be sizable partisan differences in views of funding for government programs. For most, substantially larger shares of Republicans than Democrats support decreased funding. Yet there are only two possible reductions that draw majority support from Republicans – foreign aid (70%) and unemployment assistance (56%). There is no program among the 19 included in the survey that even a plurality of Democrats wants to see decreased.
When it comes down to it, most people don't seem to want their slice of the pie taken away...

Hollywood Fairy Tales

When it comes to investing in local economies, Hollywood doesn't really help much:
In its 2012 study "State Film Studies: Not Much Bang For Too Many Bucks," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that film-related jobs tend to go to out-of-staters who jet in, then leave. "The revenue generated by economic activity induced by film subsidies," the study notes, "falls far short of the subsidies' direct costs to the state. To balance its budget, the state must therefore cut spending or raise revenues elsewhere, dampening the subsidies' positive economic impact."

Sometimes it is even worse, as demonstrated by Michigan's effort, begun under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, to woo the motion picture industry with an expensive state-of-the-art studio facility built on the site of a former General Motors GM factory in Pontiac. State leaders ballyhooed the plan as a way of moving from old-style industry to new.

Despite tens of millions of dollars in state investment, the promised 3,000-plus jobs didn't appear. As the Detroit Free Press reported last year, the studio employed only 15-20 people. That isn't boffo. That's a bust. The studio has defaulted on interest payments on state-issued bonds, and the guarantors—the state's already stressed pension funds—may wind up holding the bag. "In retrospect, it was a mistake," conceded Robert Kleine, the former state treasurer who signed off on the plans in 2010.
Dealing with con artists usually is...

Big Labor Gets Burned

What has Obama done for them lately?
Since 2008, unions have doled out more than $1 billion in campaign cash, including over $400 million in 2012. And that’s just what the unions own up to spending. Thanks to transparency requirements put in place by the Bush administration’s Department of Labor, the Wall Street Journal was able to estimate last year that labor unions spent $4.4 billion on political activities between 2005 and 2011. Union political spending now exceeds all other direct political donations, though this essential fact is ignored in the incessant media harrumphing over super-PACs, special interests, and other campaign finance issues. The GOP wave in 2010 notwithstanding, union spending has been pretty successful at securing Democratic victories. Policy victories, though, have been harder to come by.
Denial is often part of an abusive relationship...

Whose Sequester?

Bob Woodward calls Obama out over the sequester:
Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved.

Nabors has told others that they checked with the president before going to see Reid. A mandatory sequester was the only action-forcing mechanism they could devise. Nabors has said, “We didn’t actually think it would be that hard to convince them” — Reid and the Republicans — to adopt the sequester. “It really was the only thing we had. There was not a lot of other options left on the table.”

A majority of Republicans did vote for the Budget Control Act that summer, which included the sequester. Key Republican staffers said they didn’t even initially know what a sequester was — because the concept stemmed from the budget wars of the 1980s, when they were not in government.
Don't try to pass the sequester buck, Mr. President...

Name Droppers

In one part of India, they do elections differently:
The tiny northeast Indian state of Meghalaya has a special fascination for interesting and sometimes controversial names, and the ballot for state elections Saturday is proof.

Among the 345 contestants running for the state assembly are Frankenstein Momin, Billykid Sangma, Field Marshal Mawphniang and Romeo Rani. Some, like Kenedy Marak, Kennedy Cornelius Khyriem and Jhim Carter Sangma, are clearly hoping for the electoral success of their namesake American presidents.

Then there is Hitler.

This 54-year-old father of three has won three elections to the state assembly with little controversy over being named after the Nazi dictator.

His father had worked with the British army, but apparently developed enough of a fascination with Great Britain's archenemy to name his son Adolf Hitler - though he also gave him the middle name Lu, Hitler said.

"I am aware at one point of time Adolf Hitler was the most hated person on Earth for the genocide of the Jews. But my father added 'Lu' in between, naming me Adolf Lu Hitler, and that's why I am different," Hitler told The Associated Press from the small village of Mansingre, 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Gauhati, the capital of the nearby state of Assam.
He's a kinder, gentler namesake...

Shopping For Less

What the loss of the payroll tax cut means for poor people:
Originally enacted in December 2010 to help taxpayers weather the recession and to spur economic activity, the payroll tax cut expired Jan. 1 of this year. The restoration of the tax effectively raised the rate from 4.2 percent in 2012 to 6.2 percent in 2013, shaving 2 percent from consumers’ take-home pay.

That means Americans making $50,000 a year will pay $83 more in taxes each month, almost $1,000 more each year. Those making $75,000 will pay $125 more each month, or $1,500 more each year. As retailers see it, that’s $1,500 less a consumer has to spend on groceries, household goods, and dining out.

Multiply that by 153.6 million people in the labor force and retailers start to panic. According to an estimate by Citigroup, the expiration of the payroll tax cut will move $110 billion out of consumers’ pockets.

For high-end consumers, the payroll tax may not change a thing, and for many middle-income consumers, it will likely result in only a subtle shift. But the impact is most likely to be felt among low-income consumers and the businesses they tend to frequent, like Wal-Mart.

“It’s a big deal,” says Morgan Housley, a macroeconomic analyst with Motley Fool, an online financial education website. “The biggest impact is on lower-income households since the payroll tax is regressive, only applying to the first $113,000 of income. Wealthier households don't feel the same pinch because the tax doesn't hit all of their income. Lower-income households also spend a larger share of their income than wealthier consumers.… Low-income families are in one of the toughest spots they’ve been in since 2009.”
So much for those nasty tax cuts only being for the wealthy...

Rumble In The Studio

It's Ann Coulter against John Stossel in a right versus not so right match:

The Choir Bureau

Ah, life at the FBI:
Disciplinary files from the Bureau's Office of Professional Responsibility record an extraordinary range of transgressions that reveal the chaotic personal lives of some of America's top law enforcers.

One male agent was sacked after police were called to his mistress's house following reports of domestic incident. When officers arrived they found the agent "drunk and uncooperative" and eventually had to physically subdue him and wrestle away his loaded gun.
....

During another incident, an employee snapped during an argument with their spouse and went on to snap an e-reader in half. As the situation deteriorated they pointed an "unloaded gun at dog's head while dog was sitting in spouse's lap". The agent was suspended for 45 days.

The logs, which contain incidents from July 2012 to January, also describe how a woman "engaged in a romantic relationship with former boyfriend (now husband) knowing he was a drug user/dealer". She was sacked after lying about the relationship.

Other firing offences included shoplifting, possession of child pornography and hiding a recording device in a supervisor's office during an employment dispute.
Crime must be going down if all the crooks are wearing badges...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Misery City

Well, this figures:
Detroit was named on Thursday as the most miserable city in the United States.

It toppled Miami, which held the title last year, and surpassed Flint, Michigan, Rockford and Chicago in Illinois and Modesto, California, which rounded out the five most unhappy urban areas.

"Detroit's problems are hardly news. It has been in a four-decade decline paralleling the slide in the U.S. auto industry," according to Forbes.com, which compiles the yearly ranking.

Earlier this week, a panel of experts said the automotive city was facing a fiscal emergency and potential bankruptcy, as well as a possible financial takeover by the state.
It doesn't help when the misery is self-inflicted...

The Narrow Class

How the elites are different from the rest of us, or even previous generations:
...many of the mandarins have never worked for a business at all, except for a think tank, the government, a media organization, or a school–places that more or less deliberately shield their content producers from the money side of things. There is nothing wrong with any of these places, but culturally and operationally they’re very different from pretty much any other sort of institution. I don’t myself claim to understand how most businesses work, but having switched from business to media, I’m aware of how different they can be.

In fact, I think that to some extent, the current political wars are a culture war not between social liberals and social conservatives, but between the values of the mandarin system, and the values of those who compete in the very different culture of ordinary businesses–ones outside glamor industries like tech or design. . . . Almost none of the kids I meet in Washington these days even had boring menial high school jobs working in a drugstore or waiting tables; they were doing “enriching” internships or academic programs. And thus the separation of the mandarin class grows ever more complete.
The more out of touch they become, the less their ideas apply to the real world...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jet Fighters

President Obama's mouthpiece hates corporate travel-unless it's for his boss's party:
On Wednesday, Carney summed up the Republican position this way: “We’d rather see our national security undermined than corporate jet owners, God forbid, give up their tax break.”

And President Obama in an interview Wednesday with KAKE-TV in Wichita: “What we don’t want to do is give somebody who’s buying a corporate jet an extra tax break.”

Carney has brought up the corporate jet tax break at every single briefing this week.

Listening to the White House, you might think that the “balanced” Democratic plan to avert the spending cuts would close that loophole for private jets.

But you would be wrong.

The Senate Democratic plan – which has been endorsed by the White House and is, in fact, the only Democratic plan actively under consideration right now – doesn’t touch corporate jets.
Loopholes for me, not for thee...

Disorder In The Court

With witnesses like this for the prosecution, you don't need a defense attorney:
South African police appointed a new chief investigator Thursday in the Oscar Pistorius murder case, replacing a veteran detective after unsettling revelations that the officer was charged with seven counts of attempted murder.

The sensational twist in the state's troubled investigation fueled growing public fascination with the case against the double-amputee Olympian, who is charged with premeditated murder in the Valentine's Day slaying of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
....

The decision to put police Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo in charge came soon after word emerged that the initial chief investigator, Hilton Botha, is facing attempted murder charges, and a day after he offered testimony damaging to the prosecution.

Botha acknowledged Wednesday in court that nothing in Pistorius' version of the fatal shooting contradicted what police had discovered, even though there have been some discrepancies. Botha also said that police left a 9 mm slug in the toilet and lost track of allegedly illegal ammunition found in Pistorius' home.

"This matter shall receive attention at the national level," Phiyega told reporters after testimony ended in the third day of Pistorius' bail hearing.

Bulewa Makeke, spokeswoman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, said the attempted murder charges had been reinstated against Botha on Feb. 4. Police say they found out about it after Botha testified in Pistorius' bail hearing Wednesday.

Botha and two other police officers had seven counts of attempted murder reinstated against them in connection with a 2011 shooting incident in which they allegedly fired shots at a minibus they were trying to stop.

Makeke indicated the charges were reinstated because more evidence had been gathered. She said the charge against Botha was initially dropped "because there was not enough evidence at the time."
I guess things changed...

The Last Chapter

MSNBC shows their sympathy for a crook:



Feeling sorry for Jackson's family might be one thing. Feeling any sympathy for Jackson himself is something else.

The Medicaid Expanse

Florida Governor Rick Scott joins in:
Scott joins six other Republican governors who have agreed to expand Medicaid, the federal-state health plan for the poor, according to a tally by the Advisory Board Co., a research and consulting company in Washington.

Scott said he supported a “limited” expansion that would last for three years. That’s a reasonable time to judge the expansion, he said.

“Expanding access to Medicaid services for three years is a compassionate, common sense step forward,” Scott said. “It is not a white flag of surrender to government-run health care.”
The problem is, once you give government health care an inch...

Here Comes Hagel

As expected:
Barring any new, damaging information, Chuck Hagel has secured the necessary votes for the Senate to confirm him to be the nation's next defense secretary. A vote ending the bitter fight over President Barack Obama's choice for his revamped second-term, national security team is expected next week.

Hagel cleared the threshold when five-term Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said he would vote for the former GOP senator from Nebraska after joining other Republicans last week in an unprecedented filibuster of the Pentagon nominee.

"He's probably as good as we're going to get," Shelby told the Decatur (Ala.) Daily.
That seems to be the rule for President Obama's cabinet...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Ultimate Bubble

We're doomed:
"If you use all the physics that we know now, and we do what we think is a straightforward calculation, it's bad news," Lykken said. "It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable. At some point, billions of years from now, it's all going to be wiped out."

He said the parameters for our universe, including the Higgs mass value as well as the mass of another subatomic particle known as the top quark, suggest that we're just at the edge of stability, in a "metastable" state. Physicists have been contemplating such a possibility for more than 30 years. Back in 1982, physicists Michael Turner and Frank Wilczek wrote in Nature that "without warning, a bubble of true vacuum could nucleate somewhere in the universe and move outwards at the speed of light, and before we realized what swept by us our protons would decay away."

Lykken put it slightly differently: "The universe wants to be in a different state, so eventually to realize that, a little bubble of what you might think of as an alternate universe will appear somewhere, and it will spread out and destroy us."
Find God, destroy the universe? Shades of Fringe...

Hiding In Plain Sight

Like a collegiate Robinson Crusoe:
His name was Chheng Guan Lim—David Lim to friends—and he was 28 years old. He had come to the United States from Singapore on a student visa in 1951 under the sponsorship of the First Methodist Church. He first attended Albion College and a year later transferred to the University of Michigan to study engineering.

Unfortunately engineering wasn't Lim's forte. His marks began to fall and by 1954 he was on academic probation. He wanted to transfer to liberal arts but his grades were too low. He was also out of money. Afraid of the humiliation his failure would bring to his family, afraid of disappointing his sponsors and the friends who had helped him financially, he quit school and started hiding out in secluded places around town: the railway station, the Arboretum, and ultimately the First Methodist Church, where he had worked as a janitor.

Lim spent more and more of his time concealed inside the church, keeping away from those who might know of his disgrace, venturing out only for football games (he was a big Michigan fan). Finally, on Sunday, Oct. 9, 1955, the day after the Wolverines trounced Army, 26-2, he returned to the stately brick edifice at the corner of State and Washington that had now become his secret home.

He did not come out again for the next four years.
Today he would probably have spent all of his time online...

Greek Tragicomedy

I wish I could say this was a joke:
George Papandreou, the former Socialist prime minister who was at the helm when Greece’s economic ship smashed on the rocks of fiscal ruin, has landed a job at Columbia University teaching, of all things, how to govern financial crisis.
The Ivy League school announced the move with great fanfare last month, calling Greece a “living laboratory” for key global public policy challenges. Papandreou, who led Greece from October 2009 through November 2011, is teaching a course on the European financial crisis and will host a lecture Wednesday on “Bailouts and Ballots: The New Challenges to Democracy and the Case of Europe.”
Bringing in the man who led Greece when its economy cratered — and then went begging for bailouts — had some critics second-guessing the Manhattan school. Well before taking office, Papandreou, whose father and grandfather were also prime ministers, was also a top leader of the Socialist party whose policies led to Greece's metastacizing financial problems.
“It’s good that students get to know firsthand knowledge of someone who was in the situation,” said Matthew Melchiorre, an expert on European economic affairs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “But they’ve also got to take into account that his party has been responsible for the growth in government excess that has been a problem since 1981. The unsustainable promises his party made to the Greek people have now come home to roost. He’s been intimately involved in creating all of the problems that Greece now has today.”

"He’s been intimately involved in creating all of the problems that Greece now has today."- Matthew Melchiorre, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Those who can't do, teach...

Non-Universal Coverage

Another business has decided that it has to cut coverage:
"Universal" health care is coming at too great a cost for Universal Studios Orlando.
The theme park plans to drop medical coverage for part-time workers starting in 2014, due to a provision in the federal health care overhaul.
The rule, which has raised concern at a number of other companies, would restrict annual limits on insurance policies. The trade-off in these plans has historically been that while payouts were capped, premiums were low. With the limits being phased out, companies like Universal Orlando can no longer keep those policies.
Universal spokesman Tom Schroder stressed that the decision affects a relatively small portion of employees.
"We care about our team members and we want them to have the best, most-affordable medical benefits we can provide," he said in a statement. "This particular issue affects about 3 percent of our 17,000 team members, and we're going to continue to work toward a solution."
Liberals are running out of businesses to boycott...

To Catch A Hacker

Facebook is good for something after all:
To be totally safe, a Chinese hacker would log out of the servers used for cyber-espionage (and allegedly sponsored by the Chinese military) before logging into a separate, more low-key VPN that he or she could use to access U.S.-based social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Instead of following that procedure, according to Mandiant, some of the hackers got lazy. “The easiest way for them to log into Facebook and Twitter is directly from their attack infrastructure,” the company’s report explains. “Once noticed, this is an effective way to discover their real identities.” When the hacker uses the “attack” servers to log in to Twitter or Facebook, he or she unintentionally links the espionage servers with specific Facebook and Twitter accounts — in other words, with specific human beings.

Mandiant traced two hackers, who used the handles DOTA and UglyGorilla, all across the Web using data points like this. The investigation also looked at, among other things, a cellphone number that one of the hackers used to register a Google e-mail account (yes, he used two-step verification for extra security) and that provided data on the hacker’s location.

National Journal’s Brian Fung makes a great point. He writes, “It’s no small irony the everyday shortcuts users take, and which subsequently open them up to hackers like DOTA and UglyGorilla, are the same traps that the two hackers fell into.”
Sometimes the bad guys are too smart for their own good...

Oil And Rough Waters Don't Mix

Why the Keystone pipeline is environmentally preferable to the alternative:
Tankers carrying the oil would join the heavy marine traffic that already churns through America's Gulf of Alaska and close to the Aleutian Islands, areas with rough seas and abundant marine life. The Gulf of Alaska is where a Shell oil rig recently ran aground. After crossing that region, the tankers would then have to navigate some of the most dangerous waters in the North Pacific, including Unimak Pass, a harrowing 10-mile-wide passage in the Aleutian Islands that is an important habitat for sea lions, gray whales, tens of millions of seabirds, and other species.

Tankers at sea are more accident-prone than pipelines on dry land. And if a spill occurs at sea, it can be difficult to contain and is nearly impossible to clean up.

"People remember the Exxon Valdez and worry that sort of thing can happen again if these pipelines are built," Byers says. "Imagine oil-laden tankers passing through one of the richest fisheries in the United States. That will raise many concerns."
Needless to say, "going green" carries with it unanticipated risks-and consequences.

Court Campaign

Campaign finance reform is being challenged again:
Three years since the landmark Citizens United decision that dramatically changed campaign finance laws, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will take up another campaign finance case challenging how much donors can give to campaigns and committees.

The court will hear McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which deals with the constitutionality of aggregate contribution limits, in October. Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama resident, contributed a total of $33,088 to 16 candidates during the 2012 election cycle and thousands more to party committees. He wanted his contributions for the cycle to total $75,000 to party committees and $54,400 to candidates but was barred from giving at that level by federal aggregate limits.

The Republican National Committee and McCutcheon challenged the FEC’s contribution limits under the First Amendment, saying the $46,200 aggregate limit for candidates and $70,800 limit for committees was “unsupported by any cognizable government interest … at any level of review.”
Will they prevail this time?

Clarence Thomas At Harvard

Where they give him a standing ovation:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

After The Fire

An urban legend, come to life?
“This is a case that I’ve never seen before,” Lockhart told KFSM-TV.

Authorities say the man had a history of heavy drinking and smoking.

No cause of the fire has been determined and Lockhart says spontaneous combustion has not been ruled out.

“I think there’s only about 200 cases worldwide, and I’m not saying this happened. I’m just saying that we haven’t ruled it out,” Lockhart told KFSM.
Some history here.

Tweeting After Death

Death? There's an app for that:
‘LivesOn’ will let users pursue ‘life after death’ on their social media profiles, letting the deceased communicate with loved ones. LivesOn will keep posting after you kick the bucket, following the example of the DeadSocial platform.
Due to be launched in March, the LivesOn application will keep tweeting after you pass on. The service will utilize advanced analysis of your main Twitter feed, to carefully select appropriate subjects, likes, or articles that would have been likely to interest you, posting them on your behalf for your friends to read.
Pre-existing applications so far have only allowed users to schedule prepared updates.
It's certainly one way to achieve online immortality...

Hitting The Pipeline

Al Gore on "addiction":



He's still super serial!

"What Is Happening?"

I suppose there was a point in this somewhere:



It was preparation, but for what?

Ghost Profits

California's windfall that isn't:
The report says the extra money was "likely the result of major tax law changes at the federal and state level having a significant impact in the timing of revenue receipts."

That is: Taxpayers were paying a share of their bill early, getting income off their books in the hope of limiting exposure to the tax hikes that recently kicked in.

The administration was expecting that money to arrive in April. Now, officials are saying it won't, and that just as January's receipts soared, they'll be offset by a spring plunge.
Wishing for revenue doesn't make it so...

Anchormadman

When news anchors attack:
Local CBS anchor Rob Morrison has been charged with second-degree strangulation, second-degree threatening and disorderly conduct following a domestic violence incident with his wife at their home in Darien, Connecticut.

According to the report, police responded to a call from Morrison’s mother-in-law at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, after she reported that there was a “domestic altercation” at the couple’s residence. The police observed red marks on Ashley Morrison‘s neck, and determined that he had choked her with both hands after a long night of belligerence.

While the police processed Morrison with the charges, he apparently made threats to do further harm to his wife.
I wonder if CBS will do a story on the violent news culture...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Feel The Stupidity

Um, okay:



Of course he was just trying to make a point. And thus the war on women continues...

Going For Gold

GM foods are for the children:
Finally, after a 12-year delay caused by opponents of genetically modified foods, so-called “golden rice” with vitamin A will be grown in the Philippines. Over those 12 years, about 8 million children worldwide died from vitamin A deficiency. Are anti-GM advocates not partly responsible?

Golden rice is the most prominent example in the global controversy over GM foods, which pits a technology with some risks but incredible potential against the resistance of feel-good campaigning. Three billion people depend on rice as their staple food, with 10 percent at risk for vitamin A deficiency, which, according to the World Health Organization, causes 250,000 to 500,000 children to go blind each year. Of these, half die within a year. A study from the British medical journal the Lancet estimates that, in total, vitamin A deficiency kills 668,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

Yet, despite the cost in human lives, anti-GM campaigners—from Greenpeace to Naomi Klein—have derided efforts to use golden rice to avoid vitamin A deficiency.
That's because they're not starving...

Penalty Box

Mary Landrieu, tax dodger?
According to public records available online in the District of Columbia’s “Real Property Assessment Database,” the D.C. government has penalized Landrieu $1,003.33, plus $202.62 in interest, for 2012 taxes on her mansion on East Capitol Street. It is unclear what the penalty is for.

The online records indicate that the penalty was still outstanding as of Feb. 2. A spokeswoman for Landrieu did not immediately respond to an email from TheDC on Sunday asking for more information.
Pay as they say, not as they don't...

Protecting The Wealthy

Whom has Obamanomics really helped?
Many of the biggest losers in the Bernanke era are key Democratic constituencies, such as minorities and the young, who have seen their opportunities dim under the Bernanke regime. The cruelest cuts have been to the poor, whose numbers have surged by more than 2.6 million under a president who has promised relentlessly to reduce poverty.

Things, of course, have not [been] too great for the middle-age and middle-class – more of them now supporting both aging parents and underemployed children. Median income in America is down 8 percent from 2007, and dropping. Things, in reality, are not getting better for anyone but the most affluent.
Not surprisingly, they are also the ones doing the most cheerleading for Bernanke and company...

Green Going Bust?

Green energy isn't as popular in Europe as it used to be:
Fearing a voter backlash from anger over the lopsided financing of green energy, Ms. Merkel’s government on Thursday proposed putting a cap on the green-energy surcharge until the end of 2014 and then restricting any rise in the surcharge after that to no more than 2.5% a year. The government also plans to tighten exemptions, which would force more companies to pay, and achieve a cut in green subsidies of €1.8 billion ($2.42 billion). …

The Spanish parliament took a similar step on Thursday, passing a law that aims to curb rising household electricity costs by cutting aid to the renewable-energy industry.
Maybe they should rethink their policy on phasing out nuclear power...

Smiling Faces

The Iranian government has apparently discovered a new threat:
An Iranian newspaper is reporting that government authorities are confiscating Buddha statues from shops in Tehran to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country.

Sunday's report by the independent Arman daily quotes Saeed Jaberi Ansari, an official for the protection of Iran's cultural heritage, as saying that authorities will not permit a specific belief to be promoted through such statues.

Ansari called the Buddha statues symbols of "cultural invasion."
Blame it on the Buddha?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dumbing Down

Is the human race getting dumber?
Despite our advancements over the last tens or even hundreds of years, some ‘experts’ believe that humans are losing cognitive capabilities and becoming more emotionally unstable. One Stanford University researcher and geneticist, Dr. Gerald Crabtree, believes that our intellectual decline as a race has much to do with adverse genetic mutations. But there is more to it than that.

According to Crabtree, our cognitive and emotional capabilities are fueled and determined by the combined effort of thousands of genes. If a mutation occurred in any of of these genes, which is quite likely, then intelligence or emotional stability can be negatively impacted.

“I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues. Furthermore, I would guess that he or she would be among the most emotionally stable of our friends and colleagues,” the geneticist began his article in the scientific journal Trends in Genetics.
From what I've seen in Washington and the media, I tend to agree...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Taxes For Everyone

Minnesota Democrats suddenly discover that higher taxes hurt them, too:
Dik Bolger is a lifelong Minnesota Democrat, a gray-bearded baby boomer with a braid down his back whose Minneapolis printing company’s plant displays work by local artists and sculptors. He backed Mark Dayton for governor, but his take on the Democratic chief executive’s plan for new business taxes could be the voice-over for a Republican campaign commercial.

“We’re screwed,” Bolger said, if the tax goes through. His 79-year-old company competes nationwide and overseas for work with major brands like Chanel. “If you’re bidding for a $100,000 job on a national basis and tax expenses push you a couple of percent higher, then I’m not competitive.”
....

“I’m the kind of person willing to pay more in taxes because of all the attributes and benefits Minnesota offers,” said John Taft, CEO of Minneapolis-based RBC Wealth Management. “But you do reach a tipping point where the cost of government gets too high and this would push us past that tipping point.”
It's always different when it's your bottom line at risk...

Legislators' Remorse

Suddenly, Obamacare isn't so popular with its own backers:
Powerful Democrats who helped write and pass Obamacare subjected the new law’s chief administrator to withering criticism at a Senate hearing yesterday. Gary Cohen, the director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, testified before the Senate Finance Committee, and the Democrats on the committee—from its Chairman Max Baucus to Senators Ron Wyden, Bill Nelson, and Maria Cantwell—tore into him. . . .

The about-face of these Democrats is a phenomenon worth pausing over. Many formerly supportive constituencies have grown wary of Obamacare in recent weeks as we’ve learned more about the effects it will have on the health care system. But these Senators’ 180-degree turns are something more severe.

The fate of the Democratic party in America over the next decade is tied to Obama’s healthcare reform. If it is seen to be a success, America could trend Democratic for the foreseeable future. If it fails, liberalism as we’ve known it will take a massive hit. But, so far, support for Obamacare has been waning instead of waxing. Even a recent piece by Talking Points Memo that placed the blame for Obamacare’s potential failure on Republicans noted that the law’s unpopularity with the public at large was the number one threat to its success. Democrats are getting nervous and consequently are trying to put some distance between themselves and the ACA.
It sounds like their constituents have been telling them something...

Below Average

When in doubt, sue your teacher:
Graduate student Megan Thode wasn't happy about the C-plus she received for one class, saying the mediocre grade kept her from getting her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist — and, as a result, cost her $1.3 million in lost earnings.
Now Thode is suing her professor and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, claiming monetary damages and seeking a grade change.
A judge is hearing testimony in the case this week in Northampton County Court. Lehigh and the professor contend her lawsuit is without merit. Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano declined to dismiss the suit Wednesday, ruling that there was enough evidence for the suit to proceed, according to The (Easton) Express-Times.
Thode took the class in the fall of 2009. Her instructor, Amanda Eckhardt, testified this week that she stood by the grade, saying Thode failed to behave professionally and thus earned zero out of 25 points in class participation, bumping her down a full letter grade.
"I ... believed she received the grade she earned," Eckhardt said.
The C-plus prevented Thode, an otherwise A student, from going on to the next class and advancing in her professional therapist studies, the newspaper reported. She wound up getting a master's degree in human development instead.
I'd hate to think what she would have done if she were a liberal arts major who couldn't find a job...

Everyone Out Of The Pool

The Obamacare pool runs dry:
Tens of thousands of Americans who cannot get health insurance because of preexisting medical problems will be blocked from a program designed to help them because funding is running low.

Obama administration officials said Friday that the state-based “high-risk pools” set up under the 2010 health-care law will be closed to new applicants as soon as Saturday and no later than March 2, depending on the state.

But they stressed that coverage for about 100,000 people who are now enrolled in the high-risk pools will not be affected.

“We’re being very careful stewards of the money that has been appropriated to us and we wanted to balance our desire to maximize the number of people who can gain from this program while making sure people who are in the program have coverage,” said Gary Cohen, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. “This was the most prudent step for us to take at this point in time.”

The program, which was launched in summer 2010, was always intended as a temporary bridge for the uninsured. But it was supposed to last until 2014. At that point, the health-care law will bar insurers from rejecting or otherwise discriminating against people who are already sick, enabling such people to buy plans through the private market.
It's just one of those little things they forgot to mention...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Falling Skies

Where's Bruce Willis when you need him?

To Be King

Obama explains his "problem":



Oddly, he seems to act otherwise...

A Little Corruption Goes A Long Way

Italy's PM says it's strictly business:
“Bribes are a phenomenon that exists and it’s useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations when you are negotiating with third world countries and regimes,” Mr Berlusconi, leader of a centre-right coalition and seeking his fourth stint in office, said on Thursday.
Mr Berlusconi defended Giuseppe Orsi, head of the state-controlled Finmeccanica defence group who was arrested on Tuesday and accused of involvement in bribes paid to Indian government officials to secure a helicopter contract. Mr Orsi, appointed chief executive under the last centre-right government in 2011 and replaced on Wednesday, has denied the accusations.
“These are not crimes,” said Mr Berlusconi, describing payments as “commissions”. He also defended state-controlled energy group Eni, whose chief executive Paolo Scaroni is under investigation for alleged bribes paid by its Saipem subsidiary to win contracts in Algeria. Mr Scaroni denies the allegations.
He's a crook, but he's Berlusconi's crook...

Love Kills

What the?
An Argentine woman married the man convicted of killing her twin sister.
Neighbors were against it as well. A mob gathered outside the civil registry office where Thursday's wedding took place, throwing stones and eggs.
The bride, 23-year-old Edith Casas, says Victor Cingolani is innocent of killing her twin sister Johana more than two years ago, despite his conviction and 13-year prison sentence. The groom says he is innocent and will be absolved on appeal.
They both want to have children but that will have to wait. Cingolani, 28, was taken back to prison in handcuffs immediately after the nuptials. Edith Casas waited for hours until the crowd dispersed and it was safe to leave.
The bride's mother thinks she's crazy and sought to block the wedding, but a judge found her capable of making her own decisions.
Insanity knows no boundaries...

The Final Crusade

Michael Bloomberg wants to do one more thing before leaving:
“One product that is virtually impossible to recycle and never bio-degrades” is plastic foam, said Bloomberg. “Something that we know is environmentally destructive and that may be hazardous to our health, that is costing taxpayers money and that we can easily do without, and is something that should go the way of lead paint.”
The mayor referred to plastic foam by the brand name Styrofoam. Nancy Lamb, a spokeswoman for Styrofoam maker Dow Chemical Co., said the company’s product is used in insulation, though not in cups, trays and food containers.
Plastic foam makes up an estimated 20,000 tons of the city’s annual waste, according to the mayor’s office. A ban on the substance, which also needs clearance from the City Council, would follow similar action by lawmakers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.
He was right-changing the election law to allow him to run for a third term was a mistake...

Plagiarism Pays

Who says cheaters never prosper?
Ordinarily, one incident of serious plagiarism alone would be enough to end your journalism career. (See: Jayson Blair and Janet Cooke for prime examples.) Thanks to the Knight Foundation, that was enough to get a check bigger than most people will see in a lifetime for speaking at Knight's Media Learning Seminar this week on Februay 12.

Initially, the foundation was proud of its efforts, running a story that detailed the event, mentioning that "Lehrer broke the basic code of journalism." And there was also this: "There are important lessons here for all of us as decision makers and supporters of information projects," the story quoted Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen saying.

Their story changed when news got out about how ridiculous their actions had been -- paying Lehrer $20,000 to speak. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Ibargüen defended the incident but didn't question that "some people are still angry and feel he should be punished."

This from Knight which claims it "supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts."
When is lying not lying? When it's "transformational."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Transparent Fibbing

President Obama still wants you to believe him:
Obama was answering questions during a Google hangout when a woman questioned him on his promises of greater government transparency, noting things “feels a lot less transparent.”

“This is the most transparent administration in history,” Obama assured the woman. “I can document that this is the case.”

“Every visitor that comes into the White House is now part of the record,” Obama continued. “Just about every law that we pass and rule that we implement we put online for everyone to see.”
Unfortunately, the evidence seems to suggest otherwise...

Expensive Sensitivity

Your tax dollars really at work:
Footage of the United States Department of Agriculture’s compulsory “Cultural Sensitivity Training” program reveals USDA employees being instructed to refer to the Pilgrims as “illegal aliens” and minorities as “emerging majorities” — at “a huge expense” to taxpayers.

The video clips were made public Thursday evening by the conservative government accountability group Judicial Watch, which obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made on May 18, 2012.

The clips star Samuel Betances — a diversity instructor with Souder, Betances and Associates — who says in the video that he got his diversity training start under former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. In the clips, Betances instructed USDA employees on the proper thinking about diversity and minorities — or, as he called them, “emerging majorities.”
....

“If you take a look at all of you here and you think about your salaries and your benefits and what you have left undone – plus my fee – plus the expense of the team that’s putting the video together, this is a huge expense,” he says in his video.
Political correctness apparently costs money...

Welcome To The Echo Chamber

And here we have another Democrat who says we have no spending problem:



It's just too bad he and his party can't get the rest of the country to agree.

Hagel, Nay

Chuck Hagel doesn't get the job yet:
In a 58-to-40 vote that broke down almost strictly along party lines, Mr. Hagel, a Republican, fell just short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and clear the way for final consideration of his nomination. Republicans said they intended to allow a vote on their former colleague when the Senate returns from a break in 10 days, but Democrats said the Republican position amounted to a historic filibuster of the nominee for a post that is usually filled with bipartisan support.
He'll still most likely get the job, but Hagel's colleagues have certainly put him on notice.

Making Way

Frank Lautenberg is stepping down:
“I am not announcing the end of anything. I am announcing the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey,” Lautenberg told the paper. “While I may not be seeking re-election, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term and I’m going to keep fighting as hard as ever for the people of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate.”

Garden State operatives expect more than one Democrat will seek the seat. Last year, Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced he had formed an exploratory committee to look at a bid. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. is also eyeing the seat, along with possibly other state politicians.


Booker didn’t mention his Senate ambitions in a statement responding to Lautenberg’s retirement.

“On a personal note, Senator Lautenberg has been a strong model of leadership and service to me since before I even considered entering elected office,” Booker said. “I look forward to continuing to work with him for the remainder of his term in senate and for many years to come.”
At least Mr. Lautenberg knew when to call it quits. Some of his colleagues never do...

Egypt Economic Collapse Watch

The New Egypt self-destructs:
popular riots on the ground are driving away tourism and foreign investment, which eventually harms the country’s credit rating, which worsens the economic woes, which drives more people into the streets…

Uncertainty about the IMF’s loan and parliamentary elections makes the situation even worse. It’s unclear whether the government has the financial or political resources left to keep buying more time. Via Meadia is hoping for the best, but this is not looking good.
This is typically how a lot of undemocratic revolutions come full circle...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Water, Water Nowhere

Marco Rubio explains the "scandal":
“I needed water, what am I going to do?” Rubio said laughing on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday. “God has a funny way of reminding us we’re human.”
....

“My mouth got dry, and I had to get some water,” Rubio explained. “You know, when you give a speech on a podium and the water is right there — but when you don’t, you start looking around thinking, ‘Where am I going to get the water?’”
So much for being a career-ender...

Public Opinion

I think we have a consensus:

Don't Call Us

They'll get back to him:
At Wednesday's State Department press briefing, outgoing Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied that Kerry was frantically trying to reach Lavrov. (The Cable has confirmed that Nuland will soon be replaced at the podium by White House Deputy Press Secretary Jen Psaki.)

"There's been nothing frantic about it. He reached out to Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday, made it clear again today that he's ready to talk whenever Foreign Minister Lavrov can find the time," Nuland said.

On Tuesday, Nuland said that Kerry had called Lavrov early in the morning and was hoping to connect with him by the end of that day. Lavrov has been traveling in Africa, she noted.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had similar difficulty reaching Lavrov quickly by phone. In early 2012, Lavrov was traveling in Australia and didn't return Clinton's call about a pending U.N. resolution on Syria.
When you can't be taken seriously, it's kind of hard to keep in touch...

Arizona Wants You

It's hotter, but where else can a California company go?
Like Texas, Arizona smells the blood in the water and is getting ready to invest time and resources into luring businesses away from its rich but troubled neighbor. . . . The firms interested in making the move include software, tech, aerospace defense, engine technology, and life-science companies—in other words, the industries (apart from Hollywood and agriculture) that made California rich.

The motivating factor in these cases isn’t so much that cities like Fort Worth and Phoenix have suddenly found the perfect formula for luring away coastal business elites. Rather, it’s that California’s business climate is so toxic that regions hitherto considered commercial backwaters now seem perfectly acceptable, if not preferable.
Like an aging Hollywood star, California is still in denial of its condition...

Copyright Claim Jumping

Taking copyright a little too far in Maryland?
A proposal recently floated by the Prince George's County Board of Education would give them the copyright to anything created by teachers, students and employees before, during and after school hours.

A child's project, but also an online app or lesson plan a teacher creates, could be fair game.

According to a draft of the proposal obtained by FoxNews.com, "Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George's County Public School or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee's or student's time and with use of their materials."

The draft policy prompted a backlash from teachers and education activists -- causing the board to put the policy on hold pending a more thorough legal review.

As written, though, the policy could include anything published on the school's website, curriculum documents, instructional materials, platforms and software developed for use by the school system, as well as a broad-reaching "other works created for classroom use and instruction" category.

Some parents and teacher organizations say they are worried that the measure would stifle creativity or that it would strip educators of the incentive to come up with new ideas and ways to teach. If the policy is approved, the county would become the only one in the Washington area where the school board would claim the rights on anything students, teachers or other staff create.
Hey, school board-leave those kids' fingerpaintings alone...

The Fierce Urgency Of Rest

President Obama knows how to relax:
According to The Weekly Standard, Pres. Obama has had 83 vacation days overall and Factcheck.org says he took 26 of those in 2009. That means the president has taken at least 57 vacation days since his vow not to "rest."

On Sept. 15, 2009, Obama spoke to General Motors plant employees in Warren, Ohio, about the "economic crisis." That's when the president made his promise. "But I want you all to know, I will not rest until anybody who's looking for a job can find one -- and I'm not talking about just any job, but good jobs that give every American decent wages and decent benefits and a fair shot at the American Dream," he told an applauding crowd. Obama has made the same promise (either as "I" or "we") since then, but that was the first evidence of his promise.

Dictionary.com gives several definitions for "rest." and one of the more generous of those is "a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquility." By most definitions, that would include vacation.

But 1,245 days later, including at least 57 days off, millions of Americans are still out of work with unemployment at 7.9 percent, 0.1 percent higher than when he took office.
All rest and no work make Mr. Obama a tired hypocrite...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Missing Elephant In The Speech

President Obama wants more, but where will it come from?
Despite his promise to make sure any “additional proposals that are fully paid” and that he wanted only “smarter government” his proposals all consisted of new expansions of government and new spending. A new energy fund! Universal pre-school! More college loans! Redesigned high schools! Manufacturing hubs!

There was nothing he wanted to cut, eliminate or send to the states. Moreover, you have to wonder why he is still pushing for tax hikes if his programs are all paid for. (Or are more taxes needed to pay for the new spending?) If he’s not adding to the debt why do his own budgets see the debt balloon in the next decade?
Good question...

Dorner's Last Stand

The fugitive cop killer, er, misunderstood victim of racism, is apparently dead:
A body was removed tonight from the smouldering remains of the California mountain cabin where a man police believe is Christopher Dorner had barricaded himself, apparently ending a five-day manhunt for the ex-LAPD police officer accused of gunning down another cop.

Heavily armed police surrounding the cabin high the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear, Calif., say they saw Dorner enter but never leave the building as it was consumed by flames, creating a billowing column of black smoke seen for miles.

Police recovered a burnt body from the cabin, but were awaiting tests to officially confirm it belonged to Dorner, who for the past week was the most wanted man in America.
Hopefully he's now burning for eternity.

Spending It Forward

Economics, Democrat style:

Federally Funded Phone Fraud

Another government program comes undone:
The Lifeline program—begun in 1984 to ensure that poor people aren’t cut off from jobs, families and emergency services—is funded by charges that appear on the monthly bills of every landline and wireless-phone customer. Payouts under the program have shot up from $819 million in 2008, as more wireless carriers have persuaded regulators to let them offer the service.

Suspecting that many of the new subscribers were ineligible, the Federal Communications Commission tightened the rules last year and required carriers to verify that existing subscribers were eligible. The agency estimated 15% of users would be weeded out, but far more were dropped.

A review of five top recipients of Lifeline support conducted by the FCC for the Journal showed that 41% of their more than six million subscribers either couldn’t demonstrate their eligibility or didn’t respond to requests for certification. …

Until last year, FCC rules didn’t require carriers to certify to the FCC that subscribers were eligible. Consumers could self-certify, and in many states documentation wasn’t required.
It doesn't always help when the right hand does know what the left one is doing...

More Poverty, Please

The younger generation still doesn't get it:
From virtually every possible angle, Obama is helping to diminish the prospects for today’s younger generation. First and foremost, his response to the Great Recession – stimulus and the massive piling up of debt – is slowing the recovery. Ginormous regulatory schemes such as Dodd-Frank and the creation of huge new soul-and-bucks-sucking programs such as Obamacare weigh heavily on the economy now and in the future too. His refusal to discuss seriously old-age entitlement reform – Medicare and Social Security and the 40 percent of Medicaid that goes to old folks – is a massive storm front on the economic horizon. His preference for secrecy and overreach when it comes to executive power won’t screw young people as obviously as his economic policies, but when he leaves office in 2017, he will have created far more terrorists than he needed to.

Yet The New York Times reports that not only did 18-to-29-year-olds vote for Obama by far-higher-than-average percentages than folks over 30 years old, they believe that by far-higher-than-average percentages that the government needs to be doing more, not less. This, despite record levels of government spending and debt – and awful results – for the whole of the 21st century.
They always think the problems created by government won't apply to them...

When Opportunity Works

Confirmed: Liberals hate poor kids and the programs that actually help them:
This program would have died four years ago, unceremoniously, had Senate Democrats and President Obama gotten their way. Since then, whole new classes of high-school students have graduated. In the past, such students have gone on to Howard and Brown, among many other colleges. No educational solution is perfect for every student, but this one has been weighed on the scales, in public, over and over, and found to be more than sufficient. It has shown results, for the exact students we wish to help, at a lower price than failing them costs at some of the area’s public schools.

Ignoring this opportunity and others like it to do what works is unconscionable. But it’s amazing how quickly the urge “to help even just one child” disappears as soon as a program veers anywhere near a liberal sacred cow.
Some sacred cows were meant to be slaughtered. It's for the children!

The Big Rumble

Mini-Me Junior seems to be acting up:
North Korea apparently conducted a widely anticipated nuclear test Tuesday, strongly indicated by an "explosion-like" earthquake that monitoring agencies around the globe said appeared to be unnatural.

There was no confirmation from Pyongyang that it had conducted the underground test, which it has been threatening for weeks.

Any test would be seen as another big step toward North Korea's goal of building a warhead that can be mounted on a missile. It would also be a bold signal from young leader Kim Jong Un, who took power in December 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

The South Korean Defense Ministry, which raised its military alert level after the quake, said it was trying to determine whether it was a test. Nuclear blasts can create tremors but they are distinct from those caused by natural earthquakes.

A nuclear test would also be a challenge to the U.N. Security Council, which recently punished Pyongyang for launching a long-range rocket seen as a covert test of ballistic missile technology. In condemning that December rocket launch and imposing more sanctions on Pyongyang, the council had demanded a stop to future launches and ordered North Korea to respect a ban on nuclear activity - or face "significant action" by the U.N.

A world nuclear test monitoring organization said it detected what it called an "unusual seismic event" in North Korea.
I'm sure Secretary of State John Kerry will get right on this...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Jack Who?

Some hidden accounts are more equal than others:
President Barack Obama's reelection campaign famously trolled Mitt Romney for having bank accounts in the Cayman Islands throughout 2012, with campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt calling it proof that the Republican "bets against America."

It's a line that was echoed during the election by Governor Martin O'Malley, the Democratic National Committee, and several web ads on Obama's own YouTube channel, which featured at least 20 videos mentioning Romney's Cayman accounts. A search for Cayman Islands on the Obama campaign's website brings back more than 1,200 results.

But now that one of Obama's cabinet nominees is defending his own Cayman account, Democrats are suddenly silent on the matter.
Those who live in glass houses...

Legitimate Propaganda

Joe Biden wants their support:
Vice President Joe Biden said Monday that those who claimed the Obama Administration was trying to take away guns from law-abiding citizens were spinning “a bunch of malarkey.”

“I know that’s a word you’ve never heard before, although it’s now in the dictionary,” Biden said at a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officers in Philadelphia. “That’s just simply not true. And to be very blunt with you, we’re counting on all of you, the legitimate news media, to cover these discussions because the truth is that times have changed.”…

Biden also pledged to bring the fight to rural areas, where instances of gun violence were less frequent than in cities and the tradition of gun ownership is strong. The vice president said he had read reports in a local newspaper that the administration had not done enough to reach out to rural voters.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Biden said.
I'm sure the folks will be pleased...

Electronic Border Line

Leave your devices at the door:
The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.
....

According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.
It is what they say it is...

Candle In The Wind

It's cake warfare:
Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is going to extreme measures to prevent the spread of germs amongst children. The council has set forth some stringent, new guidelines for birthday cake etiquette at daycare centers: “Children love to blow out their candles while their friends are singing ‘Happy birthday … To prevent the spread of germs when the child blows out the candles, parents should either provide a separate cupcake, with a candle if they wish, for the birthday child and enough cupcakes for all the other children,” states the NHMRC document.

If you think this is too much, you’re not the only one. The Australian Medical Association agrees with you. “It’s normal and healthy to be exposed to a certain amount of environmental antigens that build up our immune systems. If you live in a plastic bubble you’re going to get infections [later on] that you can’t handle,” said AMA president Steve Hambleton.
There can be such a thing as too much safety...

The Constitution By Numbers

Nancy Pelosi, Constitutional expert:


Stepping Aside

Pope Benedict will resign:
Regarded as a doctrinal conservative, the pope, 85, said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s Roman Catholics.

The announcement is certain to plunge the Roman Catholic world into frenzied speculation about his likely successor and to evaluations of a papacy that was seen as both conservative and contentious.

In a statement in several languages, the pope said his “strength of mind and body” had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Elected on April 19, 2005, Pope Benedict said his papacy would end on Feb. 28.
It will be interesting to see what direction the church takes now.

The Nurses

What could go wrong?
There aren't enough doctors to treat a crush of newly insured patients.

Some lawmakers want to fill the gap by redefining who can provide healthcare.

They are working on proposals that would allow physician assistants to treat more patients and nurse practitioners to set up independent practices. Pharmacists and optometrists could act as primary care providers, diagnosing and managing some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high-blood pressure.

"We're going to be mandating that every single person in this state have insurance," said state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), chairman of the Senate Health Committee and leader of the effort to expand professional boundaries. "What good is it if they are going to have a health insurance card but no access to doctors?"

Hernandez's proposed changes, which would dramatically shake up the medical establishment in California, have set off a turf war with physicians that could contribute to the success or failure of the federal Affordable Care Act in California.

Doctors say giving non-physicians more authority and autonomy could jeopardize patient safety. It could also drive up costs, because those workers, who have less medical education and training, tend to order more tests and prescribe more antibiotics, they said.

"Patient safety should always trump access concerns," said Dr. Paul Phinney, president of the California Medical Assn.
Nurses aren't doctors, but since when has quality of care ever stopped government medicine?

Rule By Decree

President Obama goes it alone:
President Obama is considering a series of new executive actions aimed at working around a recalcitrant Congress, including policies that could allow struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages, provide new protections for gays and lesbians, make buildings more energy-efficient and toughen regulations for coal-fired power plants, according to people outside the White House involved in discussions on the issues.
....

These and other potential actions suggest that Obama is likely to rely heavily on executive powers to set domestic policy in his second term. One White House official said that while the president does not see the actions as substitutes for more substantial legislation, he also wants to move forward on top priorities.

But the approach risks angering Republican lawmakers in Congress, who say they are leery of granting the executive branch too much power and have already clashed with Obama over the issue. In a ruling last month, a federal appeals court said Obama exceeded his constitutional powers in naming several people to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was on a break.

“It is a very dangerous road he’s going down contrary to the spirit of the Constitution,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a recent interview. “Just because Congress doesn’t act doesn’t mean the president has a right to act.”
Unless he thinks he does, of course...