Sunday, March 31, 2013

Blue In The Red

Democrats, spending like Democrats:
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) says Democrats are "in the red" because they spent more than "everything we had" to get Barack Obama and others elected last November.

In an e-mail to supporters, the DNC chair says:

"We spent everything we had to spend in 2012 to win the White House, add seats in the Senate, and pick up seats in the House -- our job was to do everything we could to elect President Obama and other Democrats across the country."

"We spent every last penny" - and more - Wasserman Schultz says:

"The cardinal sin in campaigns is to sit on money -- which is why we spent every last penny we had in 2012 (and then some) to make sure the election went our way."

As a result, she says "Democrats are in the White House - but we are also in the red."
Well, now they know how the rest of the country feels...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Extras

In government, doing nothing can be a full-time job:

Vaccinated Truth

Don't tell Jim Carrey:
A study just published in the Journal of Pediatrics added up the antigen number in the vaccines administered to 1008 children, 25% with autism, and found no correlation whatsover between autism and increasing antigen number through completion of the vaccine schedule up to age 2. The study, led by Frank DeStefano, was funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The twist? These children were born from 1994 to 1999, during a time when a single DTP shot could contain more than 3000 of the molecules that fire up the immune system. Today’s vaccine-related antigen exposure is considerably less.
Actual research hurts...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Do Better, America

President Obama states the obvious:
At a speech today in Miami, President Obama urged America to "do better."

"We still have all kinds of deferred maintenance. We still have too many ports that aren’t equipped for today’s world commerce. We’ve still got too many rail lines that are too slow and clogged up. We’ve still got too many roads that are in disrepair, too many bridges that aren’t safe," said the president.

"We don’t have to accept that for America. We can do better. We can build better. And in a time of tight budgets, we’ve got to do it in a way that makes sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely."
It's just too bad that Mr. Obama won't practice what he preaches...

Door To Somewhere?

It may be the world's smallest door:
“When I see the door, I think of the word ‘delight,’” Sarah Bacon, editor of the Richmond District Blog, said. “When people talk about walking by it, it makes their day a little happier because it’s unexpected.”
The miniature door sits at the base of a tree in the concourse of the park, leaving people to wonder who installed it.
“I received the photos from a reader and posted them up there thinking this is cute and interesting in a local park, and it got picked up by blogs and websites,” she said.
Visitors have placed notes inside, hoping they’ll be read by whatever creature lives in the hole. Some have speculated it is a gateway to a “far off fairy land,” Bacon said.
Hobbits were unavailable for comment...

Climate Narrative Collapse

The heyday of climate change hysteria may be ending:
The new issue of The Economist has a long feature on the declining confidence in the high estimates of climate sensitivity. That this appears in The Economist is significant, because this august British news organ has been fully on board with climate alarmism for years now. A Washington-based Economist correspondent admitted to me privately several years ago that the senior editors in London had mandated consistent and regular alarmist climate coverage in its pages.

The problem for the climateers is increasingly dire. As The Economist shows in its first chart (Figure 1 here), the recent temperature record is now falling distinctly to the very low end of its predicted range and may soon fall out of it, which means the models are wrong, or, at the very least, that there’s something going on that supposedly “settled” science hasn't been able to settle. Equally problematic for the theory, one place where the warmth might be hiding—the oceans—is not cooperating with the story line. Recent data show that ocean warming has noticeably slowed, too, as shown in Figure 2 here.

So The Economist story, though hedged with every reservation to Keep Hope Alive, is nonetheless a clear sign that it’s about over for the climate campaign.
The Cult is dying. But it will not go down quietly...

Second Opinion

Another study confirms what is already known:
A study commissioned by the State of California says that the new federal health care law will drive up individual insurance premiums, but that subsidies will offset most of the increase for low-income people.

The study, issued Thursday in the midst of a growing national debate over the impact of the law, is significant because California is far ahead of most states in setting up a competitive marketplace, or exchange, where people can buy insurance this fall.

Premiums could increase by an average of 30 percent for higher-income people in California who are now insured and do not qualify for federal insurance subsidies, the study said.

“Health insurance will become relatively less expensive for people with chronic conditions and relatively more expensive for healthier people,” said Robert G. Cosway, an actuary at Milliman, a large consulting firm that prepared the report.

Some people, especially those in good health, may drop their insurance because of the premium increases, Mr. Cosway said.
Being healthy will become an increasingly expensive proposition...

The Battle Continues

Still fighting after all these years:

Le Plan

Monsieur Hollande goes to Plan B:
Fran├žois Hollande has vowed to force companies to pay a 75 per cent levy on salaries over a million euros in a face-saving bid after his plan to tax individuals was slapped down as confiscatory by the country’s constitutional court.

The Socialist French president made the surprise announcement in a “moment of truth” prime time TV interview he hopes will reverse record low approval ratings for a French head of state. …

In what French commentators dubbed the Socialist leader’s “oral re-sit” after ten months of communication blunders, Mr Hollande spent 45 minutes trying to convince a disillusioned nation that he is not a “bad president”. …

Mr Hollande conceded that had not anticipated that the economic crisis would “last as long as it has, longer than expected”, but said he had implemented “all the tools necessary” to get through it.
If this doesn't work, France could always go back to the guillotine...

Red Attraction

Red states are more popular:
The “Freedom in the 50 States” study measured economic and personal freedom using a wide range of criteria, including tax rates, government spending and debt, regulatory burdens, and state laws covering land use, union organizing, gun control, education choice and more.

It found that the freest states tended to be conservative “red” states, while the least free were liberal “blue” states.

The freest state overall, the researchers concluded, was North Dakota, followed by South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Oklahoma. The least free state by far was New York, followed by California, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

The study also compared its measures of economic and personal freedom to population shifts and income growth, and found that freer states tend to do better on both scores than those less free.

For example, it found a strong correlation between a state’s freedom ranking and migration, which means that Americans are gravitating toward states that have less-intrusive governments.
Once again, the blue model only works in theory, and people are proving it by choosing with their feet.

Lost Incentives

Under Obamacare, no more family tax breaks:
The tax credits are geared toward low and middle-income Americans who do not have access to affordable health insurance coverage through an employer. The law specifies that employer-sponsored insurance is affordable so long as a worker's share of the premium does not exceed 9.5 percent of the worker's household income.

In its rule making, or final interpretation of the law, the IRS said affordability should be based strictly on individual coverage costs, however.

That means that, even if family coverage through an employer-based plan far exceeds the 9.5 percent cutoff, workers would not be eligible for the tax credits to help buy insurance for children or non-working dependents.

"It's an issue. It needs to be fixed," Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an influential healthcare advocacy group said on Tuesday, referring to what he called "the family glitch problem."
The more people will actually find out what's in it, the less affordable it will be...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Environmental Enforcement Agency

Why using the EPA literally to its fullest extent is worrisome for any sort of future economic growth:
The law involved is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Obama’s gambit to expand the law’s reach is the kind of move I expect will become officially published guidance at a convenient time when almost no one is paying attention. Good Friday evening would thus be a strong possibility.

As described, this is a vast expansion of the law which first gave rise to “environmental impact statements” decades ago. These already odious monuments to overwhelming paperwork and institutionalized busywork will apparently morph into far more burdensome “environmental and climate change impact statements.”

Carrying through with the logic, virtually any attempt at economic expansion or improvement could be affected, not just “major projects.” Such statements could, and I believe eventually would, be required for any government or private-sector construction project, and perhaps even for an ordinary business decision which has the subjectively determined potential to increase carbon emissions, meaning almost any project or business action, large or small.

If a current or future EPA somehow tries to avoid or minimize such micromanagement, environmental groups, which have had undeserved standing to file virtually any lawsuit at any time against any project they don’t like since the early 1970s, will step in to force compliance with Obama’s expanded impact statement requirement.
If you can't control the economy yourself, get the EPA to do it for you...

The End Of TV

What the Leno/Matt Lauer drama is really about, via Ace of Spades:
The Tonight Show used to be a cash bonanza for NBC -- $150 million in profits, per year. Now it's down to $30-40 million. Even though Leno is still the ratings champ, they're dumping him anyway, in a cost-cutting move.

Networks didn't used to do that. They used to be flush enough with money that these things could be negotiated. (Johnny Carson wound up working just 4 nights a week to make his huge contract deal work out for everyone.) But do to declining importance and fewer viewers, they now have to just let top rated guys go.

TV networks are in serious trouble. There is no chance they won't remain major players -- they have a lot of expertise tied up in contracts. And institutions tend to continue on.

But Amazon is going to get into the TV production game, and Netflix already did. Meanwhile cable continues to cut into networks' ratings-- where it was once unthinkable that cable stations could beat the mighty networks, it now happens from time to time.

It will happen more.
Yes, and the old networks missed their chance to get on board. It's kind of sad, but they only have themselves to blame.

Slacking For Uncle Sam

They love to work at nothing all day:
Though numbers are hard to come by in the mammoth 2.4 million-employee federal workforce, an analysis by USA Today found the federal government fired only one half of one percent of its workers in fiscal year 2011. That's about five times smaller than in the private sector.

If Congress and the Executive Branch are loath to confront the bloat in government, there may be good reason. Firing federal workers is hard.

"When President Carter first came to office, he decided that he was going to revamp the civil service process," said Tom Schatz, president of the nonprofit Citizens Against Government Waste. "Nobody really talked to him much after that in the federal agencies."

Schatz said "it's extremely difficult to fire anyone in any agency unless you're sitting in a hot tub with a wine glass and you're in charge of the GSA agency out in the west."

"We have great federal employees," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said. "The vast majority of them do superb work."

But he added, "You can't get highly effective people to come work in the federal government because they have no capability to manage the people under them -- because of the office of Office of Personnel Management rules and union contracts."
In government, inefficiency is job one...

The Sting

The Feds may be finding ways around the law:
Federal investigators in Northern California routinely used a sophisticated surveillance system to scoop up data from cellphones and other wireless devices in an effort to track criminal suspects — but failed to detail the practice to judges authorizing the probes.

The practice was disclosed Wednesday in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California — in a glimpse into a technology that federal agents rarely discuss publicly.

The investigations used a device known as a StingRay, which simulates a cellphone tower and enables agents to collect the serial numbers of individual cellphones and then locate them. Although law enforcement officials can employ StingRays and similar devices to locate suspects, privacy groups and some judges have raised concerns that the technology is so invasive — in some cases effectively penetrating the walls of homes — that its use should require a warrant.

The issues, judges and activists say, are twofold: whether federal agents are informing courts when seeking permission to monitor suspects, and whether they are providing enough evidence to justify the use of a tool that sweeps up data not only from a suspect’s wireless device but also from those of bystanders in the vicinity.
Sting one, sting all...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


The robots are literally everywhere:

Silent Tweets

In Russia, government tweets you:
The Moscow Times reported last week that — according to the Kremlin itself — for the past several weeks Twitter has been blocking Russian access to any tweets designated by the Kremlin as “extremist.” Twitter has also deleted at least one user account at the Kremlin’s request.

On its applicable agency website (known by its acronym Roskomnadzor), the Kremlin praises Twitter’s management team for its “constructive position” in reconfiguring its website in a manner “acceptable to Russian side.”
Some tweets are more equal than others...

Zombie Laws

It's not just the spending; it's the laws that keep it going:
Cleaning up the government is hard not just because it is vast, but because it is tangled up in layer upon layer of antiquated laws – laws that should be periodically reviewed and simplified. Howard is working on a new book in which he calls for a constitutional requirement that all regulations with budgetary consequences contain a sunset provision.

He notes that we are the only developed country that does not have a system to clean up laws. “We’ve become like crazy hoarders,” he says – the Collier Brothers of obsolete legislation. The discipline to review and reinvent our laws and rules simply does not exist. “The abdication of responsibility by Congress is a national scandal,” he fumes.

He has a point. Michael Walsh recently reported in the New York Post that the government is paying survivor benefits to two descendants of Civil War vets, and 10 relatives of Spanish-American War participants. Taxpayers are still supporting the 1,000 employees and $578 million budget of the Rural Utilities Service, originally founded to make sure Americans living in the sticks had access to electricity.

These are shocking souvenirs of bygone times – that are still wasting taxpayer money – and that should have been scrubbed from the books decades ago.
Unfortunately, like the walking dead who exist only to devour others, they stagger on...

Pay Now, Pay Later

Obamacare keeps looking more expensive:
Insurance companies will have to pay out an average of 32 percent more for medical claims on individual health policies under President Obama’s overhaul, the nation’s leading group of financial risk analysts has estimated.

That’s likely to increase premiums for at least some Americans buying individual plans.

The report by the Society of Actuaries could turn into a big headache for the Obama administration at a time when many parts of the country remain skeptical about the Affordable Care Act.

While some states will see medical claims costs per person decline, the report concluded the overwhelming majority will see double-digit increases in their individual health insurance markets, where people purchase coverage directly from insurers.

The disparities are striking. By 2017, the estimated increase would be 62 percent for California, about 80 percent for Ohio, more than 20 percent for Florida and 67 percent for Maryland. Much of the reason for the higher claims costs is that sicker people are expected to join the pool, the report said.
I guess it's a good thing that it's not eternal, then...

Decision Time

The Supremes might deal with the issue by not dealing with it:
It's possible that justices could dodge decisions in both Proposition 8 and DOMA, which would most likely be disappointing for proponents of both sides. If the DOMA case is thrown out, the federal government would most likely have to pay Windsor back her taxes, but the federal law would still remain in place. If the justices decide to dismiss Proposition 8, gay marriage will most likely become legal in California but not in other states.
But if the justices decide the House does have standing to appeal on behalf of DOMA, some legal experts have argued that the liberal justices may attract support from conservative justices to strike down the law by appealing to a states' rights argument. Marriage traditionally has been regulated by the states, the argument goes, and DOMA is unfairly interfering with New York and the eight other states that allow gay marriage.
There are things that liberals and conservatives can agree on, after all. Stay tuned...

Waiting For Work

Hope and change, second term style:
The Congressional Budget Office is now projecting that the U.S. economy will never achieve full employment during the eight years Barack Obama serves as president.

That would make Obama the only American president during the post-World War II era who never presided over a year in which the U.S. economy offered full employment to the American people.

The CBO defines “full employment” to be when the national unemployment rate is at or below what it calls the “natural unemployment rate.”

The natural unemployment rate, according to CBO, is the “rate of unemployment arising from all sources except fluctuations in aggregate demand. Those sources include frictional unemployment, which is associated with normal turnover of jobs, and structural unemployment, which includes unemployment caused by mismatches between the skills of available workers and the skills necessary to fill vacant positions and unemployment caused when wages exceed their market-clearing levels because of institutional factors, such as legal minimum wages, the presence of unions, social conventions, or wage-setting practices by employers that are intended to increase workers’ morale and effort.”

In a blog entry published last week, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf said “we think it will take four more years to get back close to full employment.”
It's going to be a long wait...

Career Coda

David Petraeus apologizes:
David Petraeus apologized Tuesday night to an audience of veterans for the conduct that led to his resignation as head of the CIA following the disclosure of an extramarital affair.
"Needless to say, I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago," Petraeus said. "I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing. So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters."
Dressed in a civilian's dark suit and red tie, Petraeus gave his first public speech since his resignation to about 600 people, including many uniformed and decorated veterans at the University of Southern California's annual ROTC dinner. The hero of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has remained largely in seclusion since resigning. His lawyer, Robert B. Barnett, has said that Petraeus has spent much of that time with his family.
Hopefully he's learned from the experience.


Is America ready for a virtual Congress?
Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wants to create a “virtual Congress,” where lawmakers would leverage videoconferencing and other remote work technology to conduct their daily duties in Washington from their home districts.

Under a resolution Pearce introduced on Thursday, lawmakers would be able to hold hearings, debate and vote on legislation virtually from their district offices. …

“Thanks to modern technology, members of Congress can debate, vote, and carry out their constitutional duties without having to leave the accountability and personal contact of their congressional districts. Keeping legislators closer to the people we represent would pull back Washington’s curtain and allow constituents to see and feel, first-hand, their government at work,” Pearce told The Hill in a statement.
On the plus side, they'd have to deal with their constituents more often...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blue Exposure

What it's like to get scooped by the competition:
Media Matters is scrambling to discredit a much-discussed report on America’s disability program by journalist Chana Joffe-Walt that was featured on Chicago’s Public Radio This American Life and National Public Radio’s (NPR) All Things Considered.
Media Matters researcher Hannah Groch-Begley attacked NPR by breathlessly warning that a “misleading NPR report has become fodder for a right-wing media campaign to scapegoat federal disability benefits, despite the fact that the rise in disability claims can be attributed to the economic recession and demographic shifts.”
Joffe-Walt’s six-month investigation into America’s disability program found a record-high 14 million Americans receiving disability checks in a system rife with fraud and dependency-inducing abuse that costs taxpayers $260 billion a year—more than food stamps and welfare combined.
Darn that NPR for actually reporting the news!

Who's Next?

It's not just Cyprus:
Savings accounts in Spain, Italy and other European countries will be raided if needed to preserve Europe's single currency by propping up failing banks, a senior eurozone official has announced.

The new policy will alarm hundreds of thousands of British expatriates who live and have transferred their savings, proceeds from house sales and other assets to eurozone bank accounts in countries such as France, Spain and Italy.

The euro fell on global markets after Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the eurozone, announced that the heavy losses inflicted on depositors in Cyprus would be the template for future banking crises across Europe.

"If there is a risk in a bank, our first question should be 'Okay, what are you in the bank going to do about that? What can you do to recapitalise yourself?'," he said.

"If the bank can't do it, then we'll talk to the shareholders and the bondholders, we'll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and if necessary the uninsured deposit holders."
Cyprus has provided a "template" for the rest of Europe. Isn't that nice?

View From The Top

Russian tourists climb the Great Pyramid:
The group of Russians claim to have arrived at the complex early and waited in the shadows before starting their climb as night began to fall, according to a report on the English Russian.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one to remain largely intact.

It is thought to have been built as a tomb for an ancient Egyptian pharaoh over a period of around 20 years up to 2560BCE.

The pyramid was originally covered by highly polished white casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface, but centuries of erosion mean the structure's stepped underlying core is visible today.

It is thought to be made up of around 2.3million limestone blocks believed to have been transported from nearby quarries.

Originally towering at 481ft, the Great Pyramid was the world's tallest man-made structure for over 3,800 years.

Today it stands at 455ft tall, and is dwarfed by the 2,717ft Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which currently holds the title of world's tallest building.
I'm betting that the Pyramids will last longer...

False Rage Wage

On the subject of Elizabeth Warren's call to raise the minimum wage:
Warren raised the prospect of a $45,000 annual minimum wage at a March 14 Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee hearing. Warren embraced tying wages to productivity during a question and answer session with radical activist-turned-University of Massachusetts Amherst economist Arin Dube.

The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 and is raised through congressional action. President Obama called for an increase in the wage during his February State of the Union Address.

“As productivity goes up, that is, as workers are producing more, the minimum wage is going to be the same, and if that were the case the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour,” Warren said during the Q&A. “What happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn’t go to the worker.”

Dube testified that tying minimum wage to other sectors of the economy, namely the income growth of high earners, would have produced a $33 minimum wage before the 2007 recession.

However, EPI research director Mike Saltsman says Warren and Dube oversimplify the nation’s growth in productivity.

“There’s a considerable difference between what people are doing and what they’re producing—there’s only so fast you can bus a table or cook a burger,” he said.

“The productivity gains don’t match the overall economy. It’s completely inaccurate to link the minimum wage to overall productivity.”
If you want more, you still have to earn it...

Nanny Knows Best

Michael Bloomberg again tries to explain the nanny state, without much success:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Washington's Secretaries

We are their office assistants:
Lawmakers are spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on coffee, snacks and catered food services, USA Today reports.

House Speaker John Boehner, for instance, spent $2,200 of taxpayer dollars on coffee supplies in 2012 — in just November, a USA Today video segment reports.

Other house leaders spent thousands of tax dollars for various purchases such as Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts, to name a few, the USA Today report finds. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy spent $2,500 for Mexican food catering, in just one day.

Meanwhile, bottled water costs for lawmakers are soaring. Just seven members of the House spent a combined $1,700 of taxpayer funds on water supplies during the last few months of 2012, USA Today says.

“If you do the math, at that rate it would cost half a million per year just to provide water just for the offices of the House of Representatives,” the USA Today reporter said.

The findings come at a time of tight fiscal realities and sequester mandates that say lawmakers must trim back office expenses by at least 8 percent.
Let them eat at Dunkin' Donuts...

King's Prerogative

Obama and his courtiers:
Throughout the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, President Obama promised to transform America into something better, a land filled with hope and change. It appears, however, that the man who vacations in Martha's Vineyard, golfs with Tiger Woods, and sends the Secret Service to accompany his wife and daughters on international vacations to Spain, Mexico, and now the Bahamas has another agenda in mind. He seeks to transform constitutional presidential authority into royal prerogative. Judging by the failure of any media source other than Breitbart, Drudge, and Instapundit to cover this story, it is also quite clear that the mainstream media has decided to play the role of dutiful courtiers to this expansion of presidential powers.
More like Imperial eunuchs, at this point...

Retirement Payday

Want a good gig? Work in local government:
Alameda County supervisors have really taken to heart the adage that government should run like a business — rewarding County Administrator Susan Muranishi with the Wall Street-like wage of $423,664 a year.

For the rest of her life.

According to county pay records, in addition to her $301,000 base salary, Muranishi receives:

– $24,000, plus change, in “equity pay’’ to guarantee that she makes at least 10 percent more than anyone else in the county.

– About $54,000 a year in “longevity” pay for having stayed with the county for more than 30 years.

– An annual performance bonus of $24,000.

– And another $9,000 a year for serving on the county’s three-member Surplus Property Authority, an ad hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors that oversees the sale of excess land.

Like other county executives, Muranishi also gets an $8,292-a-year car allowance.
And Californians wonder why their state is going broke...

Irish Spring

And what's Ireland without a little buzz now and again?
The Irish town of Kilgarvan passed a law this winter that allows members of its community to drink and drive.

Proposed by local pub owner and politician Danny Healy-Rae, the motion allows people who live in country areas to have a few beers before they drive home. Healy-Rae told The New York Times he thinks the measure will help preserve pub culture, lower the risk of suicide and attack isolation in the small town.

Amid governmental and local backlash, Healy-Rae says the law isn’t supposed to apply to everyone.

“I am talking about mainly elderly people who live in very remote places who come to town to get a bit of shopping, enjoy a couple of pints and a chat with friends and then drive home at less than 30 miles an hour,” Healy-Rae told The Times. “These are not the ones causing accidents. What is the alternative for them where no public or other transport is available? Staying at home lonely, staring at the four walls?”
A lonely Irishman is a sad thing...

Winds Of Change

Like it or not, they are blowing through the political and legal landscape:
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the court's nine justices will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, which excludes gay couples from federal benefits.

Some jurists look to societal changes when interpreting the law, and scholars speculate that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the possible swing vote in the divided court, will be pondering increased public support for gay marriage.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week found 63 percent of Americans supported gay marriage or civil unions.

While the Mormon Church has backed "traditional marriage" in Supreme Court briefs, it has been silent in recent ballot battles and has not promoted fundraising as it has in the past.

Republicans like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio are supporting gay marriage and publicly conflicting with party leaders, such as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner. Portman this month said he had switched position on the issue after his son told him he was gay.

Corporations, including Goldman Sachs, whose chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, has campaigned in support of gay marriage, have joined the battle, arguing in briefs to the court that federal policy of not allowing gay marriage is bad for business.

The issue is far from settled, however. Gay marriage opponents have been written off as dinosaurs before, including in California, and most states ban same-sex weddings. But the momentum has been moving towards the proponents of gay marriage.
Is opposition a losing issue for the right? Or just that segment of the right that puts most of its energy into social issues? Values matter, of course. But do we really want them to be imposed and enforced by the government?

The Pirates Of Cyprus

Here it comes:
Cyprus clinched a last-ditch deal with international lenders to shut down its second-largest bank and inflict heavy losses on uninsured depositors, including wealthy Russians, in return for a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout.

The agreement came hours before a deadline to avert a collapse of the banking system in fraught negotiations between President Nicos Anastasiades and heads of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Swiftly endorsed by euro zone finance ministers, the plan will spare the Mediterranean island a financial meltdown by winding down the largely state-owned Popular Bank of Cyprus, also known as Laiki, and shifting deposits below 100,000 euros to the Bank of Cyprus to create a "good bank".

Deposits above 100,000 euros in both banks, which are not guaranteed under EU law, will be frozen and used to resolve Laiki's debts and recapitalize Bank of Cyprus through a deposit/equity conversion.

The raid on uninsured Laiki depositors is expected to raise 4.2 billion euros, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijssebloem said.

Laiki will effectively be shuttered, with thousands of job losses. Officials said senior bondholders in Laiki would be wiped out and those in Bank of Cyprus would have to make a contribution.

An EU spokesman said no across-the-board levy or tax would be imposed on deposits in Cypriot banks, although the hit on large account holders in the two biggest banks is likely to be far greater than initially planned. A first attempt at a deal last week collapsed when the Cypriot parliament rejected a proposed levy on all deposits.
And when this plan fails, what then?

Sorry For Charlie

Score one for Bob Beckel:
“We want to apologize to veterans – particularly those who served in Vietnam – as well as to their families and any viewers who were offended by the broadcast,” said host Phil Keoghan in a statement at the beginning of Sunday’s night’s episode. “All of us here have the most profound respect for the men and women who fight for our country.”
The episode caused widespread outrage among war veterans.
James Koutz, the national commander of the American Legion, sent a scathing letter to CBS, calling the episode a “disgraceful slap-in-the-face administered to American war heroes.”
“The show is called ‘The Amazing Race,’ but I call it ‘The Amazing Gall,’” Koutz said — noting that the show was reminiscent of a Tokyo Rose broadcast.
The episode featured contestants of the reality game show visiting a ‘B-52 Memorial’ in Hanoi, Vietnam – which in reality was the wreckage of an American B-52 bomber shot down during the war.
“What wasn’t shown were the U.S. crew members that were killed or the grieving American families that were left behind,” Koutz said.
Fox News’ co-host of “The Five” Bob Beckel was among the first to call for CBS to apologize.
“There are 850,00 American Vietnam veterans alive today, and you owe them an amazing, big apology,” Beckel said.
Now if they would only apologize for Dan Rather...

Spanning C-Span

The legacy of C-SPAN:
Financed by cable TV company affiliates, C-SPAN has grown into three channels, a radio network, a classroom education effort, an amazing website and what may be the country's least-known national treasure: A digitalized video library of every C-SPAN programming moment since 1987.

Now, get this, the C-SPAN video library is searchable! And you can edit out and copy any segment you choose. So, if you want to hear, see and read what someone told a House committee in 1994, it's all right here, free for you. Other than that, the 170,000-plus hours in C-SPAN's Video Library are perfectly useless for historians, students, journalists and opposition researchers.

If you want to watch former staffers of President Clinton, free of any conflict disclosures, declare that his wife Hillary is a brilliant debater destined to defeat Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries, you can watch another cable channel.

But on C-SPAN (the letters stand for Community Service Programming for All Narcoleptics), you'll hear hosts like Steve Scully and Susan Swain ask guests intelligent questions free of accusatory hyperbole and then calmly take calls from average Americans across the country, as if those individuals somehow mattered in a democracy. Go figure.

Turns out, millions are willing to watch this stuff and these anchors (No, your names need not begin with "S" to work at C-SPAN) never scream for some reason. For any reason. I've actually talked to both Swain and Scully. They seem perfectly normal and show no signs of sedation.

Who exactly are C-SPAN's viewers? According to its own anniversary poll, the network has about 47 million viewers per week--51% male, 49% female and 47% college graduates. Viewership is highest among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic.

Viewers are politically-involved and describe themselves as liberal (26%), conservative (31%) and moderate (39%).

Oh, and we were just kidding again. C-SPAN actually stands for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network.
Happy birthday, and keep up the good work.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shifting Tides

Karl Rove opines on gay marriage:

The times they are a-changing...

White Tax Flag

Well, good:
The French government threw in the towel Friday on plans to levy a 75% tax on the rich, a key election pledge of President Fran├žois Hollande, and acknowledged it wasn't clear how it would hike taxes on the country's wealthiest citizens.

After receiving advice from the country's top administrative court, French finance minister Pierre Moscovici said that the top tax rate applied to earned income couldn't exceed 60%, and that the maximum rate on a taxpayer's revenue could not rise above 66% overall.

"These constraints greatly reduce our margin for maneuver," said Mr. Moscovici in a statement. The government vowed to study other options, and said it could include an alternative plan in the 2014 budget bill, due to be presented in September.

The decision definitively kills the controversial tax plan that some real-estate agents say has already helped fuel an exodus of France's super rich, while some corporate executives say it has weighed on their ability to attract and retain highly-paid workers.
If socialists can't win in France, where can they win?

Have A Heart

Scientists are creating spare parts for the human body:
Since a laboratory in North Carolina made a bladder in 1996, scientists have built increasingly more complex organs. There have been five windpipe replacements so far. A London researcher, Alex Seifalian, has transplanted lab-grown tear ducts and an artery into patients. He has made an artificial nose he expects to transplant later this year in a man who lost his nose to skin cancer.

"The work has been extraordinarily pioneering," said Sir Roy Calne, an 82-year-old British surgeon who figured out in the 1950s how to use drugs to prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs.

Now, with the quest to build a heart, researchers are tackling the most complex organ yet. The payoff could be huge, both medically and financially, because so many people around the world are afflicted with heart disease. Researchers see a multi-billion-dollar market developing for heart parts that could repair diseased hearts and clogged arteries.
Hopefully this will keep the organleggers out of business...

Bitter Spring

President Obama's second term begins here:
Mr. Obama’s advantage over Congressional Republicans has all but vanished. Public approval of his handling of the economy has slipped, according to polls, and surveys now show that a roughly equal number of Americans favor Mr. Obama as favor Congressional Republicans on economic matters.

In December 2012 and January 2013, polls found that roughly half of Americans had more faith in Mr. Obama’s economic stewardship, while just over a third of respondents said they had more faith in the economic stewardship of Congressional Republicans. Since December, however, Mr. Obama’s standing has declined by roughly 10 percentage points, while Republicans in Congress have gained 4 or 5 percentage points.
What was that about a squandered opportunity?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Finally, A Budget

The good news? The Senate finally passed a budget. The bad news? There's about a billion dollars' worth of new taxes in it:
The body approved a plan that relies heavily on $975 billion in new tax revenue to stabilize the growth of the national debt within the next ten years. The budget does not balance, however, and has a deficit of $566 billion in 2023.

The Murray budget contains $975 billion in spending cuts, including $275 billion in new cuts to Medicare and Medicaid spending. But it also turns off $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts scheduled over nine years. Factoring that in, the budget does not constitute a net spending cut.

“Now that the Senate majority has written a plan we can finally begin this conversation: Do we balance the budget and grow the economy for all Americans? Or do we continue to enrich the bureaucracy at the expense of the people?” Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said after the budget passed.

"This budget is a rehash of the extreme policies that continue to hobble the economy and crush the middle class," Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. "The only good news is that the fiscal path the Democrats laid out in their Budget Resolution won’t become law.”
It won't be for lack of trying...

Highly Illogical

To boldly go where no government bureaucracy has gone before:
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said Friday that training videos parodying the television shows Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island, though “well-intentioned,” were a mistake, the Associated Press reported.

“The IRS recognizes and takes seriously our obligation to be good stewards of government resources and taxpayer dollars,” the agency said in a statement. “There is no mistaking that this video did not reflect the best stewardship of resources.”

The videos had come under criticism from Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-LA), who demanded copies of the videos, which the IRS said were produced for use in 2010 and 2011. Boustany, the leader of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Oversight, demanded the agency hand over copies of the videos as well as a “full accounting” of the costs involved.

However, investigators later determined that the Gilligan’s Island-themed skit was “a legitimate training video.”
Well, you can blame Gilligan for that one...

Keystone Endorsement

The Senate gives the Keystone pipeline its seal of approval:
The Senate on Friday voted 62-37 to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline in an amendment to Senate budget.

Sen. John Hoeven’s (R-N.D.) amendment was largely symbolic, but served as a clear statement that the Senate backs the pipeline.
"It puts the Senate on record in support of the Keystone pipeline project. And that's just appropriate," Hoeven said. "The Department of State has done four environmental impact statements over the last five years — four — and said there are no significant environmental impacts. And it's time that we in the Senate stepped up with the American people."

All Republicans voted in favor. The Democrats who supported the measure were Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Mark Warner (Va.).
Sounds like they might be worried about losing their jobs in the next election. The next move is yours, Mr. President...

Big Sis's Bullets

What exactly are they for?
As we have noted, DHS has been buying lots of ammo, enough by one calculation to fight the equivalent of a 24-year Iraqi War.

Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., told the Associated Press that the training center and others like it run by the Homeland Security Department use as many as 15 million rounds every year, mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises.

The massive purchases are said to be spread out over five years and due simply to the best practice of saving money by buying in bulk what comes down to five rounds of ammo for every man, woman and child on the U.S. That's a lot of practice and training.

A good portion of the 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition are being purchased by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal government's second-largest criminal investigative agency. Yes that's the same ICE that is releasing detained criminal illegal aliens onto our streets because of sequestration cuts.

Jonathan Lasher, the Social Security Administration's assistant inspector general for external relations, explained the purchase of 174,000 hollow-point bullets by saying they were for the Social Security inspector general's office, which has about 295 agents who investigate Social Security fraud and other crimes.

When they say they're cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse, they apparently mean it.

However, as former Marine Richard Mason told reporters with WHPTV News in Pennsylvania recently, hollow-point bullets (which make up the majority of the DHS purchases) are not used for training because they are more expensive than standard firing range rounds .

"We never trained with hollow points, we didn't even see hollow points my entire 4-1/2 years in the Marine Corps," Mason said.

LaMalfa offers one theory that's less sinister than some: The federal government is simply trying to corner the market on ammo and restrict what's available to the American people as part of its gun control efforts.

"The extraordinary level of ammunition purchases made by Homeland Security seems to have, in states such as my own, created an extreme shortage of ammunition to the point where many gun owners are unable to purchase any," LaMalfa wrote in the letter.
Which, if you believe in conspiracy theories, may have been the point...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bad Greens

Salad days are over?
Demand for salad has boomed because of healthily eating campaigns. But salad is considered one of the products most likely to cause food-related illness – largely because greens are grown directly in the soil, and some pathogens can only be killed by heat or strong detergents, not just water.
Professor Pennington said: "It is generally safer to eat a burger than the salad that goes with it.
"Despite the recent horsemeat and other scandals, the meat can be traced and through a rigorous process that checks for its quality etc.
"That does not exist to the same rigour for salad. You can only make vegetables safe by cooking and you can`t obviously do that with salad.
"You could irradiate it – but that would be a `no, no` with the public. You just can`t be absolutely sure that the bagged salad you are buying – which has been put through a chemical wash to kill the bugs, is actually free of them.
"These bugs are very good at clinging on to salad and the risk from cryptosporidium, salmonella and listeria is very real.
"I would advise people to thoroughly wash salad even when it says it has been washed and is ready to eat."
Or you could get something that's been irradiated...

Happy Birthday

Three years later, Obamacare's popularity is wearing thin:
According to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll for March, only 18 percent of Republicans, 31 percent of independents, and 58 percent of members of Obama’s own party, have a favorable opinion of Obamacare. Overall, Kaiser’s polling indicates that only 37 percent of Americans like Obamacare — down 9 points from Kaiser’s tally in the month immediately following Obamacare’s passage.

By about 2-to-1 margins, Kaiser’s respondents now say that, under Obamacare, they expect the cost of American health care to rise (55 percent), rather than fall (21 percent), and the quality of American health care to fall (45 percent) rather than rise (24 percent). By more than 3-to-1 margins (57 to 16 percent on costs, 55 to 18 percent on quality), independents share these same low expectations for life under Obamacare.

Moreover, Kaiser adds, “The intensity of opinion on the law still lies with the GOP.” It writes, “About half of Republicans (53 percent) say they have a very unfavorable view, compared to three in ten Democrats (31 percent) who say they have a very favorable view” (italics in original).
And we have yet to see how the exchanges will work out.

Cuba Writ Large

Emulating Fidel Castro doesn't seem to be working out so well in the post-Chavez era:
The Venezuelan government is making a frenzied effort to combat shortages of food and medicine. The FT reports that on Monday the country will begin auctioning off dollars to certain business in hopes of spurring them to import the basic goods it desperately needs. . . .

Venezuela’s economic woes are telling. Apologists for Chavez mentor Fidel Castro blame Cuba’s sixty years of economic problems on the US embargo. If it weren’t for Uncle Sam, they say, Castro would have built a socialist paradise by now.

Venezuela is the test for this talking point. Not only is there no US embargo in Venezuela, but the country also has huge oil reserves. And what does it have? Food and medicine and foreign currency shortages. A socialist paradise, indeed.
The river denial runs deep...

Tax Revolt

There's more of that bipartisanship for President Obama:
The Senate gave sweeping bipartisan approval Thursday to a proposal by Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to put senators on record in favor of repealing a tax on medical devices – a key part of President Obama’s controversial health care law.

The Hatch-Klobuchar amendment to the GOP budget plan is the latest effort to roll back the tax that applies to a range of medical products, from surgical tools to heart devices. It’s among several taxes in Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul.

The amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 79 to 20.

“Today, bipartisan members of the Senate spoke loudly and clearly that this tax on medical devices simply must go. It is a drain on innovation, on job creation and on our ability to provide ground breaking medical technologies to patients,” Hatch said in a statement.

The Affordable Care Act levies a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices with the goal of raising nearly $30 billion over the next decade.

Manufacturers say the impact of the tax is far greater than meets the eye -- the 2.3 percent tax is on gross sales, meaning it's a much greater percentage of net income.
The Senate speaks; will Obama listen?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Green Is Everywhere

There literally is no such thing as a "dirty" job:
There are more “green jobs” in the American coal and petroleum manufacturing sectors than there are in the solar and wind energy power generation sectors, according to data released Tuesday by the federal government.

The jobs numbers, released Tuesday in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual report on “Employment in Green Goods and Services,” were cited by critics as evidence that the definition of “green jobs” is overly broad and not useful as confirmation that efforts to promote renewable energy or other commonly associated initiatives lead to a boost in employment.

William Yeatman, an energy policy expert with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, called the BLS report “absurd.” Its definition of green jobs, he said, “is impossibly broad.”

“There isn’t a sector of the economy that isn’t green if you believe this report,” Yeatman added.

BLS declined to comment on criticism of its green jobs definition.
Does this mean that coal and gas can now get subsidies?

You're Fired

There may be at least one way to hold those who work for us accountable:
Citing figures indicating that more than 100,000 federal employees owe more than $1 billion in federal taxes, a House committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would require the firing of government workers who are “seriously tax delinquent.”

The legislation, introduced by Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, advanced through the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It now has to pass the full House to be implemented into law.

“Most taxpayers file accurate tax returns and pay the taxes they owe on time, regardless of their income,” Chaffetz, a Republican, said during the hearing Wednesday. “Federal employees and individuals applying for federal employment should do the same.”

Democrats on the committee opposed the bill. Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the committee, said the legislation “seeks to demonize federal employees rather than ensure their compliance with tax obligations.”

“By requiring agencies to fire employees for not paying their taxes on time, the measure actually undermines the ability of the government to collect the unpaid taxes,” Cummings said. “It is much, much, much more difficult to recoup the delinquent taxes from someone who is unemployed.”
Maybe if they paid their fair share, it wouldn't be so difficult in the first place...

The Chicago Way

In Chicago, school's out forever:
The district will shutter 53 elementary schools and one high school, primarily in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods. The district, which has a $1 billion annual deficit, has said it needs to close underutilized schools to save money.
Enrollment in Chicago Public Schools has fallen 20 percent in the last decade, mainly because of population declines in poor neighborhoods. The district said it can accommodate 511,000 students, but only about 403,000 are enrolled. It said that nearly 140 of its schools are more than half empty.
The controversial decision to close dozens of schools follows a bitter strike by Chicago teachers last September, fought partly over the Chicago Teachers Union's accusation that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was undermining community schools in poor areas of the city.
I'm sure the unions will find some other way to keep destroying the city...

Up And Down

Andrew Cuomo's idea of a tax cut:
“This state has no future if it is going to be the tax capital of the nation,” Cuomo during his inauguration.

Cuomo then passed a supposedly temporary tax on high-earning New Yorkers that was due to end next year, but now, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday, that’s not going to happen.

“There will be an extension of the surcharge set to expire next year,” Cuomo said Thursday.

And when asked at if that wasn’t hypocritical, given his prior no-new-taxes positions, Cuomo tried to paint the tax hike as a tax cut, since the budget also provides the middle class with a $350 child tax rebate.

“Some taxes go up, yes, and others go down and the net is they go down. That’s why it’s a tax cut,” Cuomo said.
It must be a "Big Picture" kind of thing...

They Want Information

Doing Obamacare's dirty work:
One of the country’s largest pharmacy chains is asking its workers to find out how fat they are and then disclose it to their insurance provider.

Not only is that company, CVS Caremark, telling workers who use its health insurance plan to have a doctor determine their height, weight, body fat, blood pressure and other health indicators. It is also asking workers to give permission to the insurer to turn over that information to a firm that provides benefits support to CVS, the Boston Herald reports.

Workers who don’t take part in the voluntary “wellness review,” paid for by CVS, will have to pay an annual $600 penalty.

Obamacare could make such practices more common. The health care reform law allows employers to levy a higher penalty against workers who don’t participate in company wellness programs. In some cases, workers could also have to pay more if they don’t meet certain health targets like appropriate body mass index.
Big Brother is taking care of you...

Name Games

Some Congresscritters literally have nothing better to do:
A group of House Democrats on Wednesday introduced a bill that would prevent the term “Redskins” from being trademarked, a move intended to put pressure on the Washington football club to change its name.

The Non-Disparagement of American Indians in Trademark Registrations Act of 2013 is co-sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and comes days after a federal trademark panel heard arguments over whether the team name was a slur. The panel could potentially overturn the team’s trademark, which would erode profits by allowing other businesses to sell apparel and goods featuring the Redskins name.

Earlier this month, Norton said the team “should consider” a new name.

… But nothing happens without pushing and shoving … I am a fan of the Redskins. I’m just not a fan of their name,” Norton said.
They're going to keep pushing that dead horse until it moves...

Honor Thy Feelings

No kid shall feel special:
A Massachusetts principal has been criticized for canceling his school's Honors Night, saying it could be 'devastating' to the students who worked hard, but fell short of the grades. reports that David Fabrizio, principal of Ipswich Middle School, notified parents last week of his plan to eliminate the event.

"The Honors Night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients' families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade-point average," Fabrizio penned in his first letter to parents, the station reported.

Fabrizio also said he decided to make the change because academic success can be influenced by the amount of support a student receives at home and not all students receive the same level of emotional and academic support at home.

Some parents disagree with his philosophy.

"It's been a tradition in Ipswich, and you're very proud as a parent to see your child, as well as some of the other children who made, really, some great efforts," Dave Morin, a parent, told the station.
No more awards for you! Now, don't you feel better about yourself?

Roadkill Cafe

If you see it, eat it?
If Montana residents can scrape it up, they can eat it.

State lawmakers are poised to say just that after the Senate gave its initial backing Wednesday to a bill that would allow people to salvage roadkill for food. The measure is now a final vote from heading to Gov. Steve Bullock.

It makes no sense to let the carcasses of big-game go to waste on Montana’s roadways, supporters said.

“It really is a sin to waste a good meat,” said state Sen. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman.
On the bright side, it's probably healthier than McDonald's...

Accidents Will Happen

The Secret Service hasn't changed much:
The Secret Service didn't almost shoot Ahmadinejad, but an agent accidentally discharged a shotgun in his proximity.
— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) March 21, 2013
That probably underplays the seriousness of the event, though. This incident showed up as a "particularly chilling item" in President George W. Bush's daily national security briefing the next day, "and it scared the hell out of the dozen or so White House officials cleared to read it," say Ambinder and Grady. The briefing reportedly said that the "apparent accident" happened outside the InterContintental Hotel, as Ahmadinejad was loading his motorcade.
At the time, the Bush administration was weighing how to deal with the Iranian nuclear-weapons program. And here a Secret Service agent had just given Iran a potentially devastating public-relations coup.... The agent was adjusting the side-mounted shotgun on one of the motorcade's armored follow-up Suburbans when it discharged. "Everyone just stopped. The Iranians looked at us and we looked at the Iranians...."[Deep State, via The Atlantic]
The moral of the story? Never take Barney Fife to the U.N...

Budget Bipartisanship

Well, President Obama said he wanted some:
The House on Wednesday rejected the Senate Democratic budget in a 154-261 vote, with 35 Democrats voting against the blueprint from their upper chamber colleagues.

The Senate Democratic budget was one of three budgets cast aside in a series of votes Wednesday after a debate in which Republicans excoriated President Obama for failing to offer his own budget plan in time for the votes.

House Democrats were instructed to vote for the Senate Democratic budget, but 35 of them defected.

Blue Dog Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) said he voted against the Senate budget because it did not go far enough on entitlements.

“It is not enough entitlement reform in there going forward. It needs to be a more complete and balanced picture and it wasn’t bipartisan in the end of the day,” Schrader told The Hill.
They should try this more often...

The Heart Attack Espresso

It's Super Coffee:
Double the strength of an espresso, Death Wish Coffee even comes with a disclaimer warning drinkers to expect 'many sleepless nights'.

Mike Brown, the man behind the blend, used to work in a small coffee shop in New York, but got fed up with customers asking for stronger coffee.

"I always had customers coming in asking for our strongest and boldest roast," he said.

"I had to go through the process every day of explaining to them that dark roasts were actually the least caffeinated.

"This began my journey for finding and roasting the Death Wish bean and after many trial and error processes I found it.

"The type of blend, bean and roasting process we use makes Death Wish Coffee the strongest in the world.

"Its actual process is a secret because we have created something revolutionary and we do not want it stolen."
You can drink it, and die wide awake and still standing upright...

Celebrity Welfare Queen

The Octomom may be in serious trouble:
TMZ has learned ... someone made the allegation last week to the L.A. County Dept. of Welfare Fraud Prevention and Investigation (WFP&I), claiming Octo is getting various forms of welfare, including food stamps, even though she made nearly $200,000 in 2012.

Under California law, Octo can legitimately collect welfare for her and her 14 kids if she makes $119,000 or less in a calendar year, but if the allegation is true ... she exceeded the limit by a lot.

Law enforcement sources tell us ... the WFP&I is conducting a probe and has already interviewed witnesses in Octo's world.

If WFP&I determines Octo committed welfare fraud, she can be prosecuted. If convicted she could face more than 3 years in prison.
You can't have your welfare cake and eat it, too...


There's some bad news for Obamacare:
According to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, even Democrats are skeptical that the law will improve health care quality and reduce costs.

Kaiser’s health tracking poll found that 37 percent of Democrats said “the cost of health care for the nation as a whole” would be better as a result of the law, just 39 percent said health care quality would be better and 27 percent said consumer protections for private insurance would be better. However, 53 percent of Democrats said the law would improve access to health care for the uninsured.

The numbers are worse for the population as a whole. When Republicans and independents are included, just 21 percent believe Obamacare will improve costs and 24 percent say it will improve quality.
But it will provide more work for the IRS. Won't somebody think of the bureaucrats?

Standing By Their Man

Nancy Pelosi may have some explaining to do:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is standing behind Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) despite calls for the veteran lawmaker to relinquish his leadership post while he is investigated on ethics charges.

Pelosi and other members of the Democratic leadership, including Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.), backed Andrews on Wednesday as he battles charges of using campaign funds for family trips.

“You’re not going to convict somebody just because there’s an allegation. That’s not America,” Hoyer said.

The full-throated endorsement of Andrews has riled some Democrats who see an egregious double standard at play.
He may be a crook, but he's their crook...

Hands-On Learning

Well, darn:
Organizers of the University of Tennessee’s first-ever “Sex Week” will have to find a new source of funding after embattled university officials reversed course and announced they will not fund the controversial program with state tax dollars.
“We support the process and the students involved, but we should not use state funds in this manner,” Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a statement.
Cheek made the announcement after reviewing “Sex Week’s” final agenda. As a result, the student-led event will be forced to find $11,145 in additional funding. The university will continue to let the group use $6,700 in student fees.
UT System President Joe DiPietro said he supports the decision.
“The University is accountable to the General Assembly, the governor and the people of Tennessee for the use of state tax dollars,” DiPietro said. “The University’s three-part mission is to provide education, research and public service, and the state allocates this funding to help us fulfill the mission. Some activities planned as part of Sex Week are not an appropriate use of state tax dollars.”
The students will have to pay for it themselves. There's no such thing as a free lunch...

Where America Works

It's still out there:
In May the greatest nation will hit its debt ceiling; unless it is raised, Uncle Sam will soon start defaulting on his bills.

This is the America that China’s leaders laugh at, and the rest of the democratic world despairs of. Its debt is rising, its population is ageing in a budget-threatening way, its schools are mediocre by international standards, its infrastructure rickety, its regulations dense, its tax code byzantine, its immigration system hare-brained—and it has fallen from first position in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness rankings to seventh in just four years. Last year both Mr Obama and his election opponent, Mitt Romney, complained about the American dream slipping away. Today, the country’s main businesses sit on nearly $2 trillion in cash, afraid to invest in part because corporate bosses cannot imagine any of Washington’s feuding partisans fixing anything.

Yet there is also another America, where things work. . . . Pressed for cash, states are adopting sweeping reforms as they vie to attract investments and migrants. Louisiana and Nebraska want to abolish corporate and personal income taxes. Kansas has created a post called “the Repealer” to get rid of red tape and pays a “bounty” to high schools for every vocational qualification their students earn in certain fields; Ohio has privatised its economic-development agency; Virginia has just reformed its petrol-tax system. In this second, can-do America, creative policymaking is being applied to the very problems Congress runs away from.
America works at its best in spite of government, not because of it...

Heeeere's Jimmy

Jay Leno is out, again:
NBC has settled on two new stars for “The Tonight Show”: Jimmy Fallon and New York City.

The network has made a commitment to Mr. Fallon, the current host of its “Late Night” program, for him to succeed Jay Leno as the next host of “Tonight,” according to several senior television executives involved in the decision. As part of the agreement, the show would move from Burbank, Calif., back to New York, where it started in 1954 with Steve Allen as host.

NBC has not completed a deal with Mr. Fallon yet, but his assent is considered mostly a formality, since the move would represent a significant step up for him. And the network has not settled on an exact timetable for the switch, though it is expected to take place by fall 2014 at the latest, said the executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions were still continuing.

One senior executive who has been involved in the discussions said on Wednesday that “there is no way on earth that this is not going to happen.”
No word yet on when Leno will try and take the job back...

Losing Friends

In England, no more BFF's:
Educational psychologist Gaynor Sbuttoni said the policy has been used at schools in Kingston, South West London, and Surrey.

She added: “I have noticed that teachers tell children they shouldn’t have a best friend and that everyone should play together.

“They are doing it because they want to save the child the pain of splitting up from their best friend. But it is natural for some children to want a best friend. If they break up, they have to feel the pain because they’re learning to deal with it.”
Big Brother will be your one and only friend...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hipster Fail

Why the artists failed to save the cities:
Investments in “cool” districts may well appeal to some young professionals, particularly before they get married and have children. But overall, as Florida himself now admits, it has done little overall for the urban middle class, much less the working class or the poor.

Indeed in many ways the Floridian focus on industries like entertainment, software, and social media creates a distorted set of economic priorities. The creatives, after all, generally don’t work in factories or warehouses. So why assist these industries? Instead the trend is to declare good-paying blue collar professions a product of the past. If you can’t find work in deindustrialized Michigan, suggests Salon’s Ray Fisman, one can collect “ more than a few crumbs” by joining the service class and serving food, cutting hair or grass in creative capitals like San Francisco or Austin.

These limitations of the “hip cool” strategy to drive broad-based economic growth have been evident for years. Conservative critics, such as the Manhattan Institute’s Steve Malanga have pointed out that many creative-class havens often underperform economically compared to their less hip counterparts. More liberal academic analysts have denounced the idea as “ exacerbating inequality and exclusion.” One particularly sharp critic, the University of British Columbia’s Jamie Peck see it as little more than a neo-liberal recipe of “biscotti and circuses.”
One cannot live on being hip alone. And the snobbery doesn't help, either.

Ethical Animal Killers

PETA being who they really are:
Animal rights charity PETA killed almost 90 per cent of dogs and cats placed in the care of the shelter at its Virginia headquarters last year, it has been revealed today.

The charity, well-known for attention grabbing publicity campaigns such as the 'I'd rather go naked' anti-fur campaign, euthanized 1,647 cats and dogs last year and only placed 19 in new homes according to the data submitted to the Virginia Department for Agriculture and Consumer Services.

PETA told Mail Online that the animals they take in at the center are 'unadoptable', however 89.4 per cent of pets is much higher than their own approximation that half of animals taken to shelters end up being euthanized.

The statistics have been promoted by a restaurant advocacy coalition called Center for Consumer Freedom, which has had numerous run-ins with the charity in the past.

They say that since 1998 the shelter has euthanized a total of 29,398 pets.

Justin Wilson, CCF Senior Research Analyst said: 'The animal rights group is talking out of both sides of its mouth – on one side preaching its animal liberation agenda, while on the other signing the death warrant of over 89 percent of pets in its care. It’s beyond hypocritical.'
But PETA views pet ownership as being akin to slavery, so in their distorted minds, maybe they see it as freedom from those evil humans...

The Last Ones Left

Desperate for cash, California lawmakers go after those still left:
California’s top-end taxpayers — already steamed over a recent hike in the nation’s highest state income tax — are now fuming over a new $120 million retroactive tax grab on small business owners.

In December, the state’s tax authority determined that a tax break claimed over the past few years by 2,500 entrepreneurs and stockholders of California-based small businesses is no longer valid and sent out notices of payment.

“How would you feel if you made a decision, which was made four years ago, (and) you absolutely knew was legally correct and four years later a governing body came in and said, ‘no, it’s not correct, now you owe us a bunch more money. And we’re going to charge you interest on money you didn't even know you owed’,” Brian Overstreet told Fox News from his office north of San Francisco.
There's a reason California is where it is...

Levels Of Trust

Republicans are winning voters on some issues and losing them on others:
There are today 38 states in which the governor’s mansion and the legislature are controlled by one party – the most since World War II. The GOP holds veto-proof majorities in sixteen states; 14 of those states also have a Republican governor.

This could allow real fiscal progress in those states. It could also prove a disaster. Unfettered control opens the door to opposing abortion, immigration reform and same-sex marriage -- positions that could weaken the party at the state level, as they have nationally. In Arkansas, the state legislature recently passed one of the most restrictive bills in the country, which would ban most abortions after twelve weeks. Similar measures are under consideration in Ohio, Kansas and North Dakota – all states controlled by the GOP. At the least, such measures will allow Democrats to continue to paint Republicans as anti-women.

Meanwhile, GOP-dominated Georgia has adopted a tough new immigration law – dubbed the “show me your papers law” -- that allows cops to investigate the citizenship status of certain detainees and to lock up those here illegally. Fortunately, legislators in states with large Hispanic populations like Colorado and Utah are beginning to backpedal on similar approaches. As is the case nationally, more are championing immigration reform.

Republicans may also be tarred with opposing gay marriage at the state level. A new poll finds support for gay marriage at an all-time high, with 58 percent of Americans believing such unions should be legal, up from just 37 percent ten years ago. Importantly, for those between 18 and 29, 81 percent favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Standing in front of this bus is a losing proposition.
There is more to being the opposition than simply being the opposition. You have to be a smarter opposition, as well.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Grossed Out

One battle down:
The U.S. government is abandoning a legal battle to require that cigarette packs carry a set of large and often macabre warning labels depicting the dangers of smoking and encouraging smokers to quit.

Instead, the Food and Drug Administration will go back to the drawing board and create labels to replace those that included images of diseased lungs and the sewn-up corpse of a smoker, according to a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder obtained by The Associated Press. The government had until Monday to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision upholding a ruling that the requirement violated First Amendment free speech protections.

“In light of these circumstances, the Solicitor General has determined … not to seek Supreme Court review of the First Amendment issues at the present time,” Holder wrote in a Friday letter to House Speaker John Boehner notifying him of the decision.
Making people ill wasn't a winning strategy...

On Second Thought

Grabbing peoples' cash doesn't sound like such a good idea after all:
Cyprus’s parliament rejected an unprecedented levy on bank deposits, dealing a blow to European plans to force depositors to shoulder part of the country’s rescue in a standoff that risks renewed tumult in the euro area.

Protestors cheered outside the parliament in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, as lawmakers voted 36 against to none in favor of the proposal. There were 19 abstentions. Hammered out by euro-area finance chiefs last weekend, the deal sought to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) by drawing funds from Cyprus bank accounts in return for 10 billion euros in external aid.

“This is not a good result, neither for Cyprus nor for the eurozone, and we have to look together for alternatives to the negotiated package,” Luxembourg Finance Minister Luc Frieden said in a phone interview. Another meeting of the 17 euro-area finance chiefs is needed to discuss “next steps” with Cyprus’s government. “What matters now is to undertake all necessary measures to ensure the stability of the eurozone,” he said.
But the fact that they were thinking about this at all should be a warning sign...

Those Darn Kids

Ann Coulter isn't happy with the college crowd:
“It’s not even liberals I hate so much,” she said. “I hate groupthink. And the libertarians have it every bit as much as the college liberals I speak to. I give a lot of college speeches and it was the same thing, you know where you all have to cheer together and you all have to boo the same stuff. And I guess when you’re young and insecure feeling like you’re part of a group is important to you. If I was ever like that, it would be gun-to-the-mouth time. But OK, I understand the psychology of it.”
She has a point, but isn't the conservative establishment-the GOP leadership, for example-also sometimes guilty of this?

Let's Talk

Group therapy for patients?
In recent years, a growing number of doctors have begun holding group appointments — seeing up to a dozen patients with similar medical concerns all at once. Advocates of the approach say such visits allow doctors to treat more patients, spend more time with them (even if not one-on-one), increase appointment availability and improve health outcomes.

Some see group appointments as a way to ease looming physician shortages. According to a study published in December, meeting the country's health-care needs will require nearly 52,000 additional primary-care physicians by 2025. More than 8,000 of that total will be needed for the more than 27 million people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act.

"With Obamacare, we're going to get a lot of previously uninsured people coming into the system, and the question will be 'How are we going to service these people well?' " says Edward Noffsinger, who has developed group-visit models and consults with providers on their implementation. With that approach, "doctors can be more efficient and patients can have more time with their doctors."

Some studies have found that group visits can improve health outcomes. In an Italian trial that randomly assigned more than 800 Type 2 diabetes patients to either group or individual care, the group patients had lower blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI levels after four years than the patients receiving individual care.

Doctors say patients may learn more from each other than they do from physicians. "Patients really want to hear what others patients are experiencing, " Shahady says.
I guess this no longer matters, then. And what about those who might not want to share their personal medical information with strangers? Are they to be shamed into talking by the rest of the group?

It's The Easter Sequester, Charlie Brown

Will the Obama administration wind up with Easter egg on their faces?
For more than a century, the White House Easter Egg Roll has been insulated from the sort of partisan sniping that now dominates Washington politics.
That tradition ended Monday, when Republicans started complaining about a notice that the event could be canceled due to a potential government shutdown. The Obama administration has already come under GOP criticism for canceling White House tours due to the mandatory, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.
The memo — which doesn’t actually say the White House is nixing the bunny fest, but just that it might do so at some point during the next couple of weeks — warns ticket-holders that the nation’s financial woes may affect the 135th Easter Egg role slated for April 1. (Note: this is not an April’s Fools Day joke.)
“Finally, by using these tickets, guests are acknowledging that this event is subject to cancellation due to funding uncertainty surrounding the Executive Office of the President and other federal agencies,” it reads. “If cancelled, the event will not be re-scheduled. We will notify you if there are any modifications to this event.”
House and Senate members received the memo last week, along with the notice that each congressional family would receive a total of five tickets; Politico first reported news of it Monday.
Happy Non-Easter, America...

EU Shock Therapy

The European Union shoots itself in the foot:
As stocks fell from Tokyo to New York, Europe's leaders are scrambling to say they had nothing to do with the cause — the shutdown of all Cyprus banks and ATMs for at least three days and the expropriation of a large chunk of each now-captive account, as a "tax" to pay for Cyprus' $13 billion EU bailout, Europe's fifth.

Cyprus Prime Minister Nicos Anastasiades bitterly asserted he had been "blackmailed" by the EU and the International Monetary Fund to go along with the idea on Saturday, or there'd be no bailout. Cyprus' central bank chief Panicos Demetriades said the same thing.

Aside from the fact that no fiscally responsible country should need a bailout and the roots of Cyprus' financial crisis is based on long-term big-spending government and low-information voters, the bank shutdown nevertheless sets an ugly precedent rooted in the growing arrogance of EU power.
Arrogance goeth before a collapse?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blogging In The Years: 2003

The battle against Saddam has begun:

The Constipation Dialogues

Challenging feminism in front of feminists:
Fiamengo opened the lecture with a recording of a song written by a male friend: a satirical folk number about the need for men to rise up and take back their masculinity from gender-bending feminists. “Stand our ground/defend our den/it’s time we learned to be men again.” And then there was this: “You don’t have to sit down to pee.”

From here things got progressively awkward. She referenced the male to female death ratio on the Titanic, and declared that “self sacrifice and heroism are not exclusive to men,” “but they are distinctive to men.” Students scowled behind their wayfarers. She railed against affirmative action, a family court system skewed unjustly to favour mothers over fathers, and the deep vein of anti-Western sentiment running through academic feminism that makes it okay to decry gender inequality in the West, and keep quiet about vaginal mutilation and honour killings in the East.

The women’s studies crowd looked constipated. Fiamengo’s arguments weren’t going down easy, this one—her best—in particular: women’s studies “can’t be about the pursuit of truth” because it has an “ideological base.” Its goal is to push the ideology that women are victims and men are perpetrators. Therefore, any evidence to the contrary, regardless of its veracity, is unwelcome. In other words, ideology censors truth. “If you believe you are righteous,” she said, “you don’t challenge other views.”
The trap of ideology is a deadly one...

Lazarus Park

Bringing an extinct frog back to life:
Taking place at the University of Newcastle, the quest to revive the gastric-brooding frog became known as the Lazarus Project. Using somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), a method for cloning, the project has achieved the major step forward of creating an early embryo of the extinct frog. Essentially, they found a related frog--the great barred frog, which also lives in Queensland and has cool eye markings, like it's wearing sunglasses--deactivated its eggs, and replaced them with eggs taken from the extinct frog.

...the gastric-brooding frog lays eggs, which are coated in a substance called prostaglandin. This substance causes the frog to stop producing gastric acid in its stomach, thus making the frog's stomach a very nice place for eggs to be. So the frog swallows the eggs, incubates them in her gut, and when they hatch, the baby frogs crawl out her mouth.
The morning sickness must be something else...

The Devil You Know

Barack Obama as...Satan?
Sunday evening's episode of the History Channel's hit series 'The Bible' threw up an awkward coincidence when viewers noticed that Satan bore a remarkable resemblance to President Obama.

Twitter exploded into life during the airing of the latest edition of the Mark Burnett-produced series with most noting the striking similarities between the 44th President and the devil played by actor Mehdi Ouzaani.

The show has been a surprise hit in the ratings, with the religious mini-series attracting 13.1 million viewers on Wednesday - topping television leviathan American Idol's 12.8 million viewers on Wednesday.
Is Obama Evil Incarnate, or do some people just have too much free time on their hands? But judge for yourself:

Imaginary Wage Slaves

Elizabeth Warren wants to know why minimum wage isn't higher:

Maybe somebody who's actually worked for a living can explain things to her...

Inheriting The Crazy

Chavez is gone, but the paranoia lives on:
Venezuela's acting president has urged Barack Obama to stop what he called a plot by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency to kill his opposition rival and trigger a coup ahead of an April 14 election.
Nicolas Maduro said the plan was to blame his opponent's murder on the OPEC nation's government and to "fill Venezuelans with hate" as they prepare to vote following the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
The United States denied the claim. "We categorically reject allegations of US government involvement in any plot to harm anyone in Venezuela," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
Mr Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader, first mentioned a plot against his rival, Henrique Capriles, last week. He blamed it on former Bush administration officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. Both rejected the allegations as untrue, outrageous and defamatory.
"I call on President Obama - Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, officials at the Pentagon and at the CIA are behind a plan to assassinate the right-wing presidential candidate to create chaos," Mr Maduro said in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday.
Because Maduro would never, ever do something like that himself, right?

Unfair Play

Some politicians are more equal than others: In the case of Clinton’s email probe, Comey relates numerous issues with Lynch’s actions that ...