Friday, May 31, 2013

Will The Real Candidates Please Stand Up?

Suppose they held an election and nobody ran?
The Democrat gearing up for a rematch against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann suspended his campaign Friday, proclaiming success in his goal to oust the polarizing conservative from Congress two days after she announced she wouldn’t seek re-election.

In an email message to supporters, Jim Graves, who narrowly lost to Bachmann last year, said he felt his primary goal of unseating Bachmann was complete even if she decided to step away voluntarily rather than face him in a rematch race.

“This was never about Jim Graves: this was about challenging the ineffective leadership and extremist ideology of Michele Bachmann,” Graves said.
Now that their bogeyman (or woman) is gone, what's left for them to do?

Kiss, Kiss

Via the Washington Examiner, the Washington Post reveals what it's like to be a butt-kisser:
The 90-minute meeting was attended by a small group of journalists after several news organizations objected to the Justice Department’s insistence that it be held off the record. The participants, however, reached an agreement with the Justice Department under which they could describe what occurred during the meeting in general terms. The Justice Department is expected to meet with other news organizations and media lawyers in coming days.

Holder and aides “completely endorsed the president’s statement that reporters should not be at legal risk for doing their job,” said Martin Baron, The Washington Post’s executive editor, who was among the participants. “They acknowledged the need for changes in their own guidelines and the need to have a more rigorous internal review.”
I'm sure they were extremely grateful for the opportunity...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blogging In The Years: 1806

Senator Andrew Jackson of Tennessee has apparently killed his local rival in a duel:

The Bad Guys And The Bad Guys

Senator McCain needs to be more careful in choosing friends:
Senator John McCain’s office is pushing back against reports that while visiting Syria this week he posed in a photo with rebels who kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shi’ite pilgrims…

“A number of the Syrians who greeted Senator McCain upon his arrival in Syria asked to take pictures with him, and as always, the Senator complied,” Rogers said. “If the individual photographed with Senator McCain is in fact Mohamed Nour, that is regrettable. But it would be ludicrous to suggest that the Senator in any way condones the kidnapping of Lebanese Shia pilgrims or has any communication with those responsible. Senator McCain condemns such heinous actions in the strongest possible terms,” Rogers said.
As for the rebels themselves, things aren't going so well, either.

Paper Trail

One man's ambitious-or crazy-plan to print the Internet:
If you’re familiar with Goldsmith, the idea to print out the entire Internet may not be a surprise: Currently serving as the Museum of Modern Art’s first poet laureate, and the founding editor of UbuWeb, a sprawling online archive of avant garde creativity, Goldsmith is an unusual thinker, to say the least. His books include Day (which involved retyping an edition of The New York Times); Solilquy (which documentedevery word that he spoke for an entire week); the recent Seven American Deaths and Disasters (transcripts of media reports from 9/11, the day John F. Kennedy was shot, and so on); and Uncreative Writing (which makes the case for repurposing existing texts into new forms of literature).
Still, even by Goldsmith’s standards, this scheme sounds like a doozy. In cooperation with UbuWeb and Labor, a gallery in Mexico City, Goldsmith has issued an open call to everyone everywhere to “print out as much as of the web as you want — be it one sheet or a truckload,” and send the printouts to the gallery.
Wouldn't a better idea be to archive the printed material as a historical record for the coming collapse of civilization?

Flipping For Flipper

Why birthing with dolphins is a bad idea:
Because of their friendly disposition and common occurance in aquariums, we tend to think of dolphins as trustworthy, loving creatures. But let’s get real for a minute here. Dolphins don’t eat sunshine and fart roses. They’re wild animals, and they are known to do some pretty terrible things.

Look at how their treat their women. Male dolphins are aggressive, horny devils. Males will kidnap and gang-rape females with their prehensile penises, using alliances of several males to keep females isolated from the rest of the group. As Miriam Goldstein once explained to Slate, “To keep her in line, they make aggressive noises, threatening movements, and even smack her around with their tails. And if she tries to swim away, they chase her down.” Male dolphins don’t just rape their females — they’ve also been known to assert authority by forcibly mounting other males.

They also get a kick out of beating on and killing other animals. Dolphins will toss, beat, and kill small porpoises or baby sharks for no apparent reason other than they enjoy it, though some have suggested the poor porpoises serve as practice for killing the infants of rival males. That’s right, not only do dolphins kill other animals, they kill baby dolphins using the same brutal tactics. No matter how cute they might appear, dolphins are not cuddly companions; they are real, large, ocean predators with a track record for violence — even when it comes to humans.
So, yeah, there could be problems with this...

Brand Name

Are you ready for...corporate pot?
Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft corporate strategy manager, said he envisions his Seattle-based enterprise becoming the leader in both recreational and medical cannabis - much like Starbucks is the dominant name in coffee, he said.

Shively, 45, whose six years at Microsoft ended in 2009, said he was soliciting investors for $10 million in start-up money.

The use, sale and possession of marijuana remains illegal in the United States under federal law. Two U.S. states have, however, legalized recreational marijuana use and are among 18 states that allow it for medical use.

"It's a giant market in search of a brand," Shively said of the marijuana industry. "We would be happy if we get 40 percent of it worldwide."
Or at the very least, with their product, just happy...

For The Record

Media outlets invited to a sit-down with Eric Holder remember that they're actually in the journalism business:
"I told folks that I'd be happy to participate if the meeting were on the record. And I offered to bring our First Amendment lawyer with me," McClatchy's Washington bureau chief James Asher wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "So far, no response."
"We would welcome the opportunity to hear the attorney general's explanation for the Department of Justice's handling of subpoenas to journalists, and his thoughts about improving the protections afforded to media organizations in responding to government investigations, but believe firmly that his comments should be for publication," Reuters spokesperson Barb Burg said on Thursday.
"CNN will decline the invitation for an off-the-record meeting," the cable news outlet noted in its coverage of the meeting on Thursday. "A CNN spokesperson says if the meeting with the attorney general is on the record, CNN would plan to participate."
Erin Madigan White, the AP's media relations manager, said in a widely circulated statement on Wednesday that "if it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter."
"It isn't appropriate for us to attend an off-the-record meeting with the attorney general," New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson said in a statement.
Controlling the narrative isn't as easy as it used to be...

The Obama No-Plan

Here it comes:
New health insurance rules under ObamaCare could lead to a host of personal insurance plans being canceled as early as this fall, a scenario expected to cause consumer confusion.

Under the federal overhaul, those policies that cannot meet new insurance plan standards may be discontinued. This means individuals, and some small businesses, that rely on those plans will have to find new ones.

The goal is to ensure that most insurance policies offer a basic set of coverage, as part of the Obama administration's plan to cover most of the nation's 50 million uninsured.

Yet it also seems to run afoul of one of the president's best-known promises on the law: "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan."

In fact, state insurance commissioners largely are giving insurers the option of canceling existing plans or changing them to comply with new federal requirements. Large employer plans that cover most workers and their families are unlikely to be affected.
You can keep your health care plan...until you can no longer afford it...

The Lost Recovery

It depends on what the meaning of "recovery" is:
American households have rebuilt less than half of the wealth lost during the recession, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve, hampering the country’s economic recovery.

The research from the St. Louis Fed shows that households had accumulated net worth totaling $66 trillion at the end of last year. After adjusting for inflation and population growth, the bank found that meant families on average have only made up 45 percent of the decline in their net worth since the peak of the boom in 2007.

In addition, most of the improvement was due to gains in the stock market, according to the report, primarily benefiting wealthy families. That means the recovery for most households was even weaker.

“A conclusion that the financial damage of the crisis and recession largely has been repaired is not justified,” the report stated.
Obamanomics benefits the wealthy. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Oil Owes

Because it bears repeating:
The three largest oil companies paid the most in taxes in absolute terms of all major corporations, according to data on S&P 500 companies compiled by The New York Times.

President Barack Obama has chastised oil companies for receiving billions of dollars in tax breaks. However, the Times reports that ExxonMobil paid $146 billion in taxes; Chevron paid $85 billion; and ConocoPhillips paid $58 billion over the last five years.

In terms of their effective tax rates, the big three oil companies don’t get off easily either. Exxon had an effective tax rate of 37 percent, Chevron’s effective tax rate was 39 percent, and ConocoPhillips’s was a whopping 74 percent. The U.S. corporate tax rate is 35 percent.
So they do pay. But they make convenient targets for the left, even if it's not accurate.

Doctor's Business

An Oregon doctor switches to cash:
The family physician stopped accepting all forms of health insurance. In early 2013, Ciampi sent a letter to his patients informing them that he would no longer accept any kind of health coverage, both private and government-sponsored. Given that he was now asking patients to pay for his services out of pocket, he posted his prices on the practice’s website.

The change took effect April 1.

“It’s been almost unanimous that patients have expressed understanding at why I’m doing what I’m doing, although I’ve had many people leave the practice because they want to be covered by insurance, which is understandable,” Ciampi said.

Before the switch, Ciampi had about 2,000 patients. He lost several hundred, he said. Some patients with health coverage, faced with having to seek reimbursement themselves rather than through his office, bristled at the paperwork burden.

But the decision to do away with insurance allows Ciampi to practice medicine the way he sees fit, he said. Insurance companies no longer dictate how much he charges. He can offer discounts to patients struggling with their medical bills. He can make house calls.

“I’m freed up to do what I think is right for the patients,” Ciampi said. “If I’m providing them a service that they value, they can pay me, and we cut the insurance out as the middleman and cut out a lot of the expense.”
So he goes for profit, which actually helps him be a doctor, which helps his patients. Who says free market medicine can't work?

The Plain Brand Wrapper

In Ireland, cigarettes are now the new porn:
Ireland is to become the first country in the European Union to ban branding on cigarette packages by using plain packaging and uniform labelling.

All trademarks, logos, colours and graphics will be removed from tobacco products sold in Ireland under the new rules, the health ministry said, after the proposal secured backing from the government.

Dr James Reilly, the country’s health minister, said while many arguments will be made against the move, he is confident the legislation will be justified and supported purely by the fact that it will save lives.

“Smoking places an enormous burden of illness and mortality on our society, with over 5,200 people dying every year from tobacco-related diseases,” he said.
People die from lots of things, the Nanny State being one of them...

The Revolution Sputters On

How's that socialist stuff working out for ya?
The BBC reports that product scarcity has forced Venezuela’s “only wine maker” to stop selling wine to the Catholic Church, which is already suffering from a shortage of consecrated bread as flour is increasingly hard to come by and wheat is only imported from abroad. Milk, sugar and cooking oil have also been affected by the country’s currency controls and centralized control of the economy or, as the government likes to call it, the “opposition-led conspiracy.” On the bright side, however, the country’s crippling toilet paper shortage is now (temporarily) under control.

Not to be outdone, Argentina is facing an economic collapse of its own in which inflation, import taxes, and import restrictions have made goods either impossibly overpriced or impossible to find. Worse, the Economist reports, restricted access to foreign currency has forced ordinary Argentines to buy dollars on the black market at nearly double the official rate.
In competition for a race to the bottom...

Damaged Goods

One administration's scandal is the opposition's opportunity:
Democrats are effectively caught between a rock and a hard place. They had no choice but to swiftly condemn the IRS for inappropriately targeting conservative groups, but in doing so, they may have helped Republicans open the door to a second front of attack on the IRS.

Republicans hope that the deeply unpopular agency will become an albatross around the necks of Democratic candidates, especially those in more conservative districts.

"There is no better boogeyman in politics than the IRS," said one Republican strategist. "So the fact that you can put the IRS on a piece of literature or you can talk about them in a television ad, that's a good thing for us."
Unfortunately for the Democrats, they can't blame those nasty Republicans for their own woes, no matter how hard they try...


In Massachusetts, the dead still get paid:
In 1,164 cases, deceased recipients continued to receive a total of $2.39 million in benefits up to 27 months after they had been reported dead. The state Department of Transitional Assistance also paid out at least $368,000 benefits to 178 guardians who claimed deceased persons as dependents, and $164,000 to 40 individuals being claimed by more than one guardian.

Additionally, State Auditor Suzanne Bump found suspicious transitions on electronic benefit cards amounting to $15 million, including almost $5 million in which all food benefits had been withdrawn at once. Meanwhile, five regional offices could not provide documentation for more than 30,000 EBT cards.
Maybe the zombies share them...

Communist Getaway

North Korea has big plans for...a ski resort:
No expense is being spared on the project and the resort will have a hotel, cable cars, equipment stores and a heliport, the KCNA state media reported.

"[Kim] mounted an observation deck to hear a detailed report on the construction of the skiing ground," the report said.

"He was greatly satisfied to learn that soldier-builders have constructed a skiing area on mountain ranges covering hundreds of thousands of square metres."

Kim also commented that it would be "more fantastic" to see the ground covered with snow and ordered the military to accelerate the pace of the construction so that the resort is operational from the coming winter.
I'm sure it will be one of the more glamorous empty places in the country...

The Creeps

Creepy is one way to describe it:
President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, is "beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse." The feelings of "remorse" began for Holder after he read an article in the Washington Post about how the Justice Department, which he heads, investigated Fox News reporter James Rosen.

At least, this is the story unnamed aides are telling the Daily Beast.

"[F]or Attorney General Eric Holder, the gravity of the situation didn’t fully sink in until Monday morning when he read the Post’s front-page story, sitting at his kitchen table. Quoting from the affidavit, the story detailed how agents had tracked Rosen’s movements in and out of the State Department, perused his private emails, and traced the timing of his calls to the State Department security adviser suspected of leaking to him. Then the story, quoting the stark, clinical language of the affidavit, described Rosen as 'at the very least ... an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator' in the crime," reports the Daily Beast.

"Holder knew that Justice would be besieged by the twin leak probes; but, according to aides, he was also beginning to feel a creeping sense of personal remorse."
I'm sure he felt terribly guilty as he signed...

Congressional Name Game

Congress seems able to do at least one thing well:
A new report from the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research division of Congress, found that about 20 percent of laws passed in recent years were for naming post offices.

As Congress has become less and less efficient, the numbers are all the more striking. In the 111th Congress, which met from 2009 to 2010, members passed 383 statutes, 70 of which named post offices. In the 112th Congress, the last Congress to meet before the current one convened in January, members passed 46 measures naming post offices, out of 240 statutes over all.

The report notes that many of the post offices were named for officials of local renown. But others were named for better-known figures like Ronald Reagan (three times), Gerald R. Ford (twice), Bob Hope, Nat King Cole and Mickey Mantle.

Many have been dedicated to soldiers who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One post office in Louisville, Ky., was named to honor all local residents who have died in those conflicts. It is called the Iraq and Afghanistan Fallen Military Heroes of Louisville Memorial Post Office Building.

The House, where most of the measures naming post offices originate, has evidently become somewhat self-conscious about the amount of time it spends on the issue. So for this Congress, the 113th, the House committee that oversees the issue produced new guidelines that direct members to consider such bills expeditiously “so as to minimize the time spent.”
They want to be able to show that they are doing nothing efficiently...

Michele Ma Belle

Michele Bachmann announces her intention to leave Congress:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Milk Run

Well, good:
Jurors found Vernon Hershberger, a 41-year-old Loganville, Wis., farmer, innocent of producing milk without a license, selling milk and cheese products without a license, and operating a retail establishment without a license. He was found guilty of one count of breaking a holding order issued by the state in June 2010, which barred him from moving any of the food he produced without a license.

The verdict means Mr. Hershberger can continue to sell his farm’s products to members of the buying club he started, said one of his attorneys, Elizabeth Rich. He faces as long as a year in jail and $10,000 in fines for the one guilty count; a sentencing date has yet to be announced.

“This is a huge win for food rights,” said Liz Reitzig, a founder of Farm Food Freedom Coalition, a group advocating for greater consumer access to natural, unprocessed food. The case “should give small farmers renewed courage to continue to operate within their communities.”
Via the Washington Examiner:
So, why was the state eager to prosecute Hershberger? As the Journal article notes, it is being lobbied to do so by the “Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition,” an industry lobbying group that doesn’t like competition from raw milk farms and is trying to bully them.
There seems to be a lot of that going around.

School's Out

In Maryland, African-American parents are fleeing public schools in droves:
PG County Executive Rushern L. Baker III is well aware of this trend and is taking steps to improve the quality of the schools in an effort to bring back these middle class students. The county has just approved Baker’s plan for a massive overhaul of the school board, and he has promised a number of other educational changes, although this part of his proposal has been light on actual details. But as the Washington Post reports, while middle class families are watching these changes with interest, few have actually made the leap and put their kids back in public schools. And as the middle class students and parents abandon the system, the situation is likely to get worse for those that remain.
When parents (and students) have choices, they do tend to choose quality over quantity...

Apples And Oranges

Keith Ellison doesn't like the fact that Apple doesn't have to pay more taxes, or something:

Got Wood?

To meet their own green mandates, Europe has switched to importing American wood:
Europe doesn’t have enough forests to chop for fuel, and in those it does have, many restrictions apply. So Europe’s power plants are devouring wood from the U.S., where forests are bigger and restrictions fewer.

This dynamic is bringing jobs to some American communities hard hit by mill closures. It is also upsetting conservationists, who say cutting forests for power is hardly an environmental plus. …

U.S. wood thus allows EU countries to skirt Europe’s environmental rules on logging but meet its environmental rules on energy. …

Solar and wind couldn’t meet the latter goal, policy makers recognized. They said wood qualified as a renewable energy source as long as it came from forests that would grow back. Emissions from burning wood contain less of certain chemicals, such as sulfur, than coal smoke.
Going green means going backward-while your cousins move forward.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Debtors' Prison

Debtor's prison, 21st century style:
In what critics see as an example of collection efforts run amok, Philadelphia in 2010 began to collect court-related debt dating to 1971, after a series in the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed the city had failed to collect an estimated $1.5 billion.

A review by the courts determined that an estimated 400,000 residents owed the city money – cash that Philadelphia, facing a $1.35 billion budget shortfall over five years, sorely needs.

First Judicial District President Judge Pamela Dembe defended the program, which critics say has been problematic because of often incomplete payment information, making it difficult --and in some cases impossible -- to prove whether the debt has been paid.

“When, and only when, an individual is convicted of a crime, there are state required fees and court costs which the defendant must pay,” she said in a written statement. “If the defendant doesn’t pay, law-abiding taxpayers must pay these costs.”

Critics argue that that debt and aggressive collection efforts can prevent poor defendants, many of whom lack legal representation, from contributing to society.

“We’re talking about saddling a population that has nothing with debt, and then telling them they’re supposed to successfully re-enter society and be productive,” said Rebecca Vallas, an attorney with Community Legal Services, which provides legal assistance to poor Philadelphia residents.
Government programs and policies that got them there don't help much, either...

That Old Constitution

Dick Durbin wonders about this free speech thing:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

With Strings Attached

Recalling the Great Gibson Raid:
Interestingly, one of Gibson's leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Co. According to C.F. Martin's catalog, several of their guitars contain "East Indian Rosewood," which is the exact same wood in at least 10 of Gibson's guitars. So why were they not also raided and their inventory of foreign wood seized?

Grossly underreported at the time was the fact that Gibson's chief executive, Henry Juszkiewicz, contributed to Republican politicians. Recent donations have included $2,000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and $1,500 to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

By contrast, Chris Martin IV, the Martin & Co. CEO, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee over the past couple of election cycles.

"We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted," Juszkiewicz said at the time, adding the matter "could have been addressed with a simple contact (from) a caring human being representing the government. Instead, the government used violent and hostile means."
Some wood is more equal than others...

The Happy Psychopath

They always seem to be described this way:
Acord's classmates said they did not see him as the kind of person who would plot an attack "specifically modeled" after the Columbine shooting, as Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson said the teen allegedly did.

"I'd say 'hi' to him in the hallway, cause I was kind of ... was like, 'Well, I should probably talk to this kid ... make sure he feels OK,'" West Albany student Dennis Reilly said. "So, I'd talk to him sometimes and he seems like a pretty nice guy."

Holly Koltvedt, another West Albany student, also said she saw no signs that Acord might have been upset about anything.

"I talked to him earlier, nothing was wrong," she said. "He was happy."

According to Haroldson, the explosives police allegedly found hidden in a secret compartment under the floor of his bedroom included pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, napalm bombs and explosives made from drain cleaner.

But at least he was "happy..."


What it's like to get struck by lightning:
At that moment—and this part is a little foggy—a bright arc of electricity shot through the window and directly into my chest. I'm not sure whether the arc originated from the sky or the ground, but it knocked me out of my chair. I hit the concrete floor and bounced back up to my feet, which were shuffling at top speed into a bookshelf. I remember thinking, "OK, going to die now. Do not fall down. Do not pass out."

I've read that being struck by lightning is akin to a being hit by a huge defibrillator. I'm not sure about that—but it did feel magnitudes worse than the time I touched an electric fence as a kid.
Both can be considered valuable learning experiences...

Slave Driver

The screening of a new Kanye West video gets broken up:
According to the Houston Chronicle, local authorities broke up a crowd that had gathered to see the video, threatening to arrest anyone who failed to comply for trespassing.

The outlet described the crowd as 'upbeat' and 'respectful' before authorities intervened.

Some fans reportedly thought police presence was part of the show as cop cars pulled up with sirens flashing.

Confused viewers are said to have left the scene when authorities threatened to make arrests.
In other words, it was pretty much like what you'd see at a live rap show...

Stand Up

Are we killing ourselves by sitting down?
Sitting at your desk for hours on end, slaving away diligently, can increase your chances of getting a promotion — but also diabetes, heart disease or even an early grave. A study published in the journal Diabetologia in November 2012 analyzed the results of 18 studies with a total of nearly 800,000 participants. When comparing people who spent the most time sitting with those who spent the least time, researchers found increases in the risks of diabetes (112%), cardiovascular events (147%), death from cardiovascular causes (90%) and death from all causes (49%).

"Sitting is the new smoking," says Anup Kanodia, a physician and researcher at the Center for Personalized Health Care at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. As evidence, he cites an Australian study published in October 2012 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that compared the two pastimes. Every hour of TV that people watch, presumably while sitting, cuts about 22 minutes from their life span, the study's authors calculated. By contrast, it's estimated that smokers shorten their lives by about 11 minutes per cigarette.
Judging from this, I must have cut my lifespan in half...

But they may have a point. After all, you shouldn't spend your entire life just sitting still:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Left Turn?

Is America really becoming more liberal?
Forty-one percent of Americans now characterize their economic views as “conservative,” or “very conservative,” the lowest since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and on par with where views were in May 2008. This year’s downtick in the percentage of Americans identifying as economically conservative has been accompanied by an uptick in the percentage identifying as economically moderate — now 37% of Americans, up from 32% last year.
On social issues, this certainly seems to be the case. This may be a response to a slowly improving economy; when times are better, people tend to be more generous. Maybe the problem for the right isn't the message, but finding a new audience?

Don't Forget To Wear Sunscreen

Kids literally need permission for it:
Many public schools require kids to have a doctor's note in order to carry and apply sunscreen throughout the day. That's because sunscreen is classified as an over-the-counter product and labeled with the warning "keep out of reach of children." I talked to Miami dermatologist Ana Duarte, who is also a consultant for Coppertone's Making the Grade Sunscreen Program, about how to raise awareness about the restrictive laws and teach children the importance of sunscreen from an early age.
I would think all schools would encourage sun protection—why are some making parents jump through hoops?
"The state of Washington is the only state that banned sunscreen in school, but lots have rules because it's over-the-counter and there is a possible—but quite rare—risk of being allergic. There's also the question of who will apply it—a nurse, a teacher? Many schools require a doctor's note, which is too restrictive, because it takes time and effort to make an appointment and go in when there is nothing wrong."
Except in the minds of the over-protective...

You'd think kids wouldn't need a doctor's note for something they're always reminded of:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Argentina-Now What?

So how is Argentina faring ten years after the semi-hot socialist lady and her husband took over? Not so hot:
Though Ms Fernández is celebrating what she calls “a decade won” at a rally on Saturday night – in counterpoint to Latin America’s so-called “lost decade” of economic stagnation and crisis in the 1980s – six of the past 10 years in Argentina have been blighted by stubbornly high real inflation, now estimated at about 24 per cent, and discredited official data.
Argentina is mired in disputes with trade partners; with Spain’s Repsol over the expropriation of 51 per cent of Argentine energy company YPF last year; and with “vulture funds” that bought defaulted debt cheaply and are now suing to collect in full. That lawsuit could trigger a new sovereign default.
“We could be doing so much better,” laments Enrique González, a retired driver, as he walks his dog in a Buenos Aires park.
Ten years of socialism can have that effect...

German Affection

The most popular country in the world is-Germany?
...the BBC poll found that 59 percent of respondents called Germany’s impact on the world “mostly positive,” versus 45 percent for the U.S., which falls around the middle of the 22 tracked countries, and 15 percent for Iran, which ranks last. The poll ranks 22 major countries and the E.U.
The affection for Germany is interesting, particularly among European countries, because it comes at a time when Germany and the rest of E.U. share precious little common ground. Economists forecast that Germany’s economy will grow slightly this year, while other large E.U. economies shrink. The Post’s Anthony Faiola reported in October on Germany’s growing image problem abroad. Meanwhile, a May survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that Germans, unlike virtually all their neighbors, feel good about the economy, the future and the European Union.
Maybe that's because, unlike some of its neighbors, Germany has its house in better order...

The Mayor's Pipeline

Maybe it was just for recreational purposes:
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford denied Friday that he smokes crack cocaine and said he is not an addict after a video purported to show him using the drug. Ford did not say whether he has ever used crack.

Ford did not take questions from reporters at a news conference at City Hall after close allies released a letter urging him to address the purported video, which apparently shows him smoking crack.

"I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine," he said before going on to criticize the media.

Ford has been ducking the media and his only comments before today on the scandal came last Friday, a day after the story broke, when he called the crack smoking allegations "ridiculous" and said that the Toronto Star was out to get him.
Marion Barry was unavailable for comment...

Opening The Door

Theologians, get ready to rumble:
"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist!' But do good: we will meet one another there."
As someone who's not sure whether or not there even is an afterlife, I say, why not? Although I would like to see the looks on their faces if I get there...

The Swills

Via Slate, how to keep your eyes open (so to speak) when it comes to your neighborhood bar:
When I order a drink, I want to know that I'm being served drinking alcohol, not rubbing alcohol. (As Attorney General Chiesa said: "I wouldn't drink rubbing alcohol in my house. It serves a very specific purpose: to rub.") If the bait-and-switch is happening in New Jersey, it’s happening elsewhere, too, quite possibly in the low joints where I spend an alarming amount of my time. Is there any hope? Here are six ways to tell whether your local bar might be cheating you out of a name-brand drink.
Knowing is half the battle...

Scandal Or No Scandal

When is a scandal not a scandal?
“I think when the media repeats the word ‘scandals’ you are repeating partisan lines. They are issues that have occurred that have to be addressed. I don’t think they rise to the level of a scandal,” he said. “We had a bunch of idiots at IRS in Cincinnati who didn’t know how to aggregate a flood of tax-exempt applications … but this is not some major scandal in the order of magnitude like Watergate. That’s absurd.”
Connolly was also critical of the way Republicans have investigated the terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans.

“Don’t get me wrong, Benghazi was a tragedy, but it has no traction. They can continue to talk about it to feed their base, they forget we have a base too. Everytime they do that they are firing up our base too and alienating moderate and swing voters.”
It’s a tack many of his Democratic colleagues in Congress are taking, shrugging off — or downplaying — the recent slate of scandal. If there was any fear that the continual hammering of the administration from House Republicans would hurt Democrats, the party’s members answered with a resounding no.
“I don’t think there is any long-term political impact on House Democrats for any of this stuff,” said Rep. Jim McGovern. “There clearly needs to be more accountability at the IRS and I think that will be taken care of. I think the administration has been handling it correctly.
“And yet you’ve got some coo coo clucks here calling for impeachment, I mean it’s so absurd they are overplaying their hand,” he said of Republicans. “If anything there may be a political backlash on them.”
It's only a scandal when it happens to the other side...

Chicago Implosion

Why Chicago's school system self-destructed:
Years of broken and corrupt politics have left the city with a $1 billion budget deficit, a soaring crime rate, and constant tension between the government and unions. The pain has fallen worst on the poor and minority communities, and they are responding by getting out. Over the past decade, Chicago’s black population declined by 17 percent, as blacks fled the for the suburbs or the more promising economies of the South. The windy city is now at its lowest population since before 1920. No wonder the schools are closing.

Chicago’s problems are not unique. Approximately 1.3 million blacks left the North for southern cities between 2000 and 2010. Black populations in Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston have surged. Northern cities, once the promised land for the nation’s black population, have failed to create the kind of economic and social conditions necessary to build a stable black middle class.

We hear lots of talk about how brilliant liberal economic policies are, but we rarely see stories of millions of people emerging triumphantly out of poverty thanks to all the wonderful things expensive government programs are doing for the citizens of these places.
As always, those who praise the policies don't live in the places where they're actually practiced...

Welfare State Syndrome

Why immigrant kids are rioting in Sweden:
“The problem is not from the Swedish government or from the Swedish people,” [said Swedish journalist Ingrid Carlqvist]. “The last 20 years or so, we have seen so many immigrants coming to Sweden that really don’t like Sweden. They do not want to integrate, they do not want to live in [Swedish] society: Working, paying taxes and so on.”

“The people come here now because they know that Sweden will give them money for nothing. They don’t have to work, they don’t have to pay taxes – they can just stay here and get a lot of money. That is really a problem,” Carlqvist added.
Over here, people are typically just happy to get their money. But then again, it's usually the upscale native-born kids who riot, not the immigrants.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Health Care Nostalgia

It's a Fox News poll, but still:
Almost all Republicans (85 percent) and just over half of independents (51 percent) say they will be worse off under ObamaCare. Nearly half of Democrats expect to be better off (48 percent), while about one-quarter believe they will be worse off (24 percent).

Young voters and seniors are pessimistic about ObamaCare. Majorities of those under age 35 and those 65+ think things will be worse under the 2010 health care law.

That helps explains why a 56-percent majority wants to go back to the health care system that was in place in 2009. Some 34 percent would stick with the new law.

Three in ten Democrats would rather go back to the pre-ObamaCare system (30 percent). That view climbs to 55 percent among independents and 85 percent among Republicans.

The desire to go back to the 2009 system is widespread. Majorities of higher and lower income groups feel that way, as do men, women, voters with and without college degrees, and voters across all age groups.
It seems to be unanimous: for all its faults, people prefer the old to the new. But can the clock still be turned back?

Shifting Waters

Virginia's Terry McAuliffenow supports offshore drilling:
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe now supports exploring for oil off the coast of Virginia, reversing his position on an issue that both sides of the debate consider to be crucial to the commonwealth’s long-term energy future. …

“Terry has learned more about offshore drilling from experts in Virginia,” said McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin. “He thinks that because of technological progress we can now do it in a responsible fashion.”

McAuliffe’s change of heart means he supports legislation introduced Wednesday by Virginia Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Timothy M. Kaine (D) that would allow oil and gas exploration off the coast of Virginia, with the state keeping a portion of any revenue generated. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) has introduced a slightly different version of the bill in the House.
Politics has a funny way of making one's position more "nuanced"...

Down And Out, L.A. Style

For Antonio Villaraigosa, the party's literally over:
The report, entitled Antonio Villaraigosa’s Quest for Wall Street, Washington and Wealth, also cites mayoral associates and City Hall insiders in estimating Villaraigosa earns a salary of $232,735 a year, more than any of his mayoral counterparts nationwide.

And now, according to Stewart, Villaraigosa is broke.

“He didn’t save any money…we got his required economic interest reports where you see all their stocks and bonds and property,” Stewart said. “Nada.”

It’s still unclear where Villaraigosa will land: while staffers have been mum on the mayor’s job search, he is reportedly considering a number of possibilities after denying in February any interest in a Cabinet position in the Obama Administration.

According to L.A. Weekly, Villaraigosa may also have to wait until 2018 to make a bid for Governor of California, with Brown expected to run for reelection in 2014.

“He is asking anyone and everyone for jobs at think tanks; he thinks he could be a resident-in-scholar at UCLA or USC; he’d like to work on Wall Street,” said Stewart. “It’s incredible, he’s throwing a really wide net out there.”
Now he knows how a lot of other Californians feel...

Holder's Orders

Eric Holder gave the word:
Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

The disclosure of the attorney general’s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists.

"I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," Obama said. "Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs."
Except apparently when they actually do their jobs...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Little Confused

"What is this Constitution of which you speak?"

London Attack

A pair of lunatics on the rampage in London:
A man who asked not to be identified told ITN that he was on his way to a job interview when he came up on the scene and started filming it. Then, a man with a cleaver and knife in his bloody hands "came straight to me (and) said, 'No, no, no, it's cool. I just want to talk to you.'"
The suspect went to apologize to women who had witnessed the attack, then quickly added "but in our lands our women have to see the same."
"You people will never be safe," he said. "Remove your government. They don't care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns?
"... Get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we can all live in peace."
The first call about an assault came in at 2:20 p.m. (9:20 a.m. ET). At some point afterward, police responded, including armed members of a firearms unit, even though British police typically don't carry guns. Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchworth noted that "early reports" indicated the attackers had "weapons." Metropolitan Police say they're aware of reports it took 30 minutes for police to arrive.
The suspects rushed at the arriving officers before being shot, James told the radio station. The Independent Police Complaints Commission said the Metropolitan Police informed them at 2:50 p.m. of "an incident," as would happen when police shoot and injure someone.
So far these appear to have been lone nutcases. Good grief.

The Other Voices

Universities are all about diversity, except:
The list of keynote commencement speakers at Ivy League institutions for 2013 does not include a single conservative, a recent study authored by the conservative Young America’s Foundation (YAF) found.

Instead seven of the elite schools opted to invite ideological liberal speakers such as media billionaire Oprah Winfrey, Vice President Joe Biden (D), Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), among others.

Only Brown University, which chooses a commencement keynote from among its students, did not have a 2013 speaker who is generally associated with the left.
Unfortunately, groupthink is the norm at most of these places...

Son Of Watergate

Why Obama needs a special prosecutor:
The calculus inside the White House is how to best protect the president’s political interests. They have two options. They could delay the appointment and let more of the story develop, weather the ugly piecemeal disclosures, give the players time to get their stories straight and lawyer-up and hope Republicans continue their overreach, giving the whole affair a nutty partisan patina. Or, they could accelerate the appointment of a special prosecutor, thereby slowing the congressional inquiries and giving Jay Carney some relief from his daily embarrassing routine by supplying him with the escape hatch of not being allowed to comment on matters associated with the special prosecutor’s ongoing investigation. Not to mention, the White House all the while could blast the appointed counsel as a partisan ideologue à la the hatchet job that was done on Ken Starr.
Anyway, if the president is innocent, he will end up needing and wanting a special prosecutor sooner rather than later. If he and his White House already have too much to hide, then they must clam up, cry partisanship and hope their allies on the Hill and in the media have the stamina for the long, hard slog ahead.
Something tells me that they might not...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Labor Pains

Unions are suddenly discovering that Obamacare might not be so good for them after all:
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) — a 1.3 million-member labor group that twice endorsed Obama for president — is very worried about how the reform law will affect its members’ healthcare plans.
Last month, the president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers released a statement calling “for repeal or complete reform of the Affordable Care Act.”

UNITE HERE, a prominent hotel workers’ union, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are also pushing for changes.

In a new op-ed published in The Hill, UFCW President Joe Hansen homed in on the president’s speech at the 2009 AFL-CIO convention. Obama at the time said union members could keep their insurance under the law, but Hansen writes “that the president’s statement to labor in 2009 is simply not true for millions of workers.”

Republicans have long attacked Obama’s promise that “nothing in this plan will require you to change your coverage or your doctor.” But the fact that unions are now noting it as well is a clear sign that supporters of the law are growing anxious about the law’s implementation.
There seems to be a lot of that going around these days...

Campaign Cheats

And now, the next scandal:
On top of the troubles the administration is facing over its handling of the attack on the Benghazi mission, the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups, and the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press phone records, Republicans hope to target Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

They are questioning her soliciting of funds on behalf of a non-profit group, called Enroll America, from two private entities, a practice which if not unprecedented is at the very least unusual. Federal law bars officials from soliciting any organization or individual with whom they do business or regulate.

Enroll America is run by the president's former campaign backers to do something Congress refused to fund: sell "Obamacare" to the public.
But if you ask about it, you might be a birther, or something...

Unfit For Investigation?

A scary scenario:
These investigations are shocking when taken alone, but as as Reason’s J.D. Tuccille notes, it’s important to consider these events in their broader context of the Obama administration’s long-running war against the free press. Last year, Bloomberg reported that Attorney General Eric Holder “has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.” The administration has also received a failing grade for its ignoring of Freedom of Information Act requests.

Taken together, all such actions have a toll. They mean that federal officials are less likely to blow the whistle on government wrongdoing and that journalists are less likely to obtain damning information that they can pass along to the public. The suggestion by the DOJ that Rosen broke the law, if followed to its logical conclusion, would mean the end of investigative journalism in America.
The sad part is, the press partially have themselves to blame...

Blogging In The Years: 1975

Should we be worried about another ice age? Per Newsweek:

The Fruits Of Their Labor

It seems that some people in Congress don't like Apple, and felt the need to call them on the carpet over it. Meanwhile, over in Ireland:
Ireland’s corporate tax rate is 12.5 percent, less than half the level in many larger European countries. American companies with their European headquarters in Ireland often pay considerably less than this on their European earnings because of accounting techniques that permit them to shift revenue to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens — as Apple has been accused of doing in a report prepared by Congressional investigators. …

While Ireland misses out on some tax revenue, analysts say its economy more than makes up for this in other ways, including the tens of thousands of jobs that American technology companies have created there – and the income taxes that well-paid programmers and executives contribute to the Irish treasury. Apple alone employs more than 4,000 workers in Ireland, while Google employs more than 2,500 there.
Ireland seems to have figured out what Europe's bureaucrats haven't-namely, that free market competition still works. Apple's real crime seems to be that they've taken advantage of that.

God Squad

In the old days, it was the other way around:
Russian lawmakers on Tuesday took a step toward imposing jail terms for offending religious feelings, approving legislation proposed after punk band Pussy Riot performed a raucous protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox Christian cathedral.

Critics say the bill will give government-approved religious groups protection others lack and blur the line between church and state under President Vladimir Putin, who has advocated a strong societal role for the Russian Orthodox Church.

Lawmakers in the State Duma approved the bill by a vote of 304-4 after the second of three required readings in the 450-seat lower parliament house.

Approval in the second reading, which is when most changes are made to legislation, means Putin is likely to sign it after it gets through the Duma and a vote in the upper house.
In Russia, religion follows you...

Soylent Printer

Coming soon to a cafeteria near you?
NASA has given a six-month grant to a company developing what could be the world’s first 3-D food printer. And the project’s developer, reports Quartz, an online digital news site, believes the invention could be used to end world hunger.
Quartz explains that the printer is the brainchild of mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor. Being developed by Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corp., it will use proteins, carbohydrates and sugars to create edible food products.
Contractor says one of his primary motivations is a belief that food will become exponentially more expensive in the near future. The average consumer, he told Quartz, will need a more economically viable option.
Some alternative food source options that may be used with the printer include algae, duckweed, grass, lupine seeds, beet leaves and even insects, according to TNO Research, which is working with Contractor on the project.
“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” said Contractor. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”
The good news is that it will be no less appealing than most fast food...


Never let a disaster go to waste:
Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has apologized for remarks Monday in which he linked Oklahoma "cyclones" to climate change while berating Republicans for their stance on the issue -- around the time a massive tornado killed dozens in that state.

A Whitehouse spokesman said Tuesday the politically charged remarks were pre-written as part of the senator’s weekly Senate floor speech on climate change.

“Tragically and unbeknownst to the senator at the time, a series of tornadoes were hitting Oklahoma at the same moment he gave his remarks,” the spokesman said. “Senator Whitehouse regrets the timing of his speech and offers his thoughts and prayers to the victims of yesterday’s storms and their families, and he stands ready to work with the senators from Oklahoma to assist them and their constituents in this time of need.”
He's not the only one.

Silent Witness

As expected:
A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the 5th Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups.

Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening — or why she didn’t disclose it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor III. Lerner was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista). The letter, sent Monday, was obtained Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times.
Pleading the Fifth, the first refuge of the guilty?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Time To Go?

Speculation seems to be building that it might be time for Eric Holder to step down:
Experienced Democrats, outside the White House, want Obama to be more proactive, assertive and forthright to salvage his second term.

Among the bolder actions they want him to consider:…

– Accept Holder’s resignation. A favorite target of Republicans, the attorney general now has few fans among prominent Democrats. Given his record, his departure would be important substantively as well as symbolically.
Of course, he still has his supporters. But how long, really, can they-or he-hold out?

Bare Bones

About those health plans that Obamacare supporters were touting:
They cover minimal requirements such as preventive services, but often little more. Some of the plans wouldn’t cover surgery, X-rays or prenatal care at all. Others will be paired with limited packages to cover additional services, for instance, $100 a day for a hospital visit.

Federal officials say this type of plan, in concept, would appear to qualify as acceptable minimum coverage under the law, and let most employers avoid an across-the-workforce $2,000-per-worker penalty for firms that offer nothing. Employers could still face other penalties they anticipate would be far less costly.

“We wouldn’t have anticipated that there’d be demand for these types of band-aid plans in 2014,” said Robert Kocher, a former White House health adviser who helped shepherd the law. “Our expectation was that employers would offer high quality insurance.”

Part of the problem: lawmakers left vague the definition of employer-sponsored coverage, opening the door to unexpected interpretations, say people involved in drafting the law.
The train wreck left open a lot of loopholes...

Bloomberg Vs. Bloomberg

Bloomberg is shocked that there is spying going on in his establishment:
Mayor Bloomberg is privately fuming at the data breach that has imperiled the reputation of his global media company, according to sources.

“The mayor is very upset,” one source said of the scandal that has been dubbed Bloomberg Spygate.

A second insider said that Bloomberg made known his feelings to company executives once Goldman Sachs complained that Bloomberg News reporters were monitoring clients’ usage of the $20,000-a-year data terminals leased from Bloomberg LP.

The mayor was said to be stunned that the news-gathering operation still had access to business-side functions two decades after the company was launched.

Yesterday, Bloomberg LP announced that former IBM chairman Samuel Palmisano — who sits on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the mayor’s charity — had been named as an “independent adviser” to review the firm’s privacy and data standards.

Palmisano will report to the company’s board.
I'm sure that the fox will take the job of guarding the chicken coop very seriously...

The Non-Candidates

A war on women? In Iran, maybe not so much:
QUESTION: Jen, can I change the subject? It would seem that in Iran the Guardians Council, which is vetting the candidates for the upcoming elections next month, have decided and have ruled that women cannot contest, they cannot stand as candidates. I wondered what the United States reaction is to that, considering that 50 person of the population in Iran is women – are women.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t take positions on any candidates, as you know, and we hope that the upcoming elections will be free, fair, and transparent and will represent the will of the Iranian people. So we wouldn’t weight into decisions made by the government. Of course, broadly, we hope that women around the world participate in politics and elected office, but beyond that I don’t think I have anything specific for you.

QUESTION: Taking the word “fair” – if you’re being fair, it would seem to exclude 50 percent of the population from an election, would already mean that it is not a fair election.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t weigh in on to the candidates and the candidates that are chosen through the process in Iran. Of course, of course, broadly speaking we do want women to participate in elections around the world and rise up in elected office.

QUESTION: Just not in Iran?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not suggesting that, Arshad. I’m just suggesting that we leave it to the process that happens in Iran for them to pick their candidates.

QUESTION: But I mean why – it seems astounding that this Department – I mean, what if they decided to exclude, as this country once did, not merely women but black people? Would that be acceptable to you? That’s just their choice; they do it any way they want and you’re not going to stand up for democratic rights?

MS. PSAKI: I think we pretty broadly stand up for democratic rights from this building.

QUESTION: Just not for Iranian women, apparently.
One man's sexist election is another's "process"...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Critic

Darn those conservatives, criticizing the President:
A senior adviser to President Obama mounted a combative defense of the administration on Sunday, saying that the controversies enveloping the White House were the result of Republican lawmakers trying to “drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped-up hearings and false allegations.”

The remarks came from Dan Pfeiffer, a member of the president’s inner circle, as he appeared on all five major Sunday morning talk shows in an effort to move the administration past what commentators have described as a “hell week” of controversy and missteps. He pointedly rejected Republican criticisms of the president’s actions and leadership style as “offensive” and “absurd,” and he said the administration would not be distracted from doing the nation’s business.
Now shut up and stop paying attention to the man behind the curtain...

Hide And Seek

It's not illegal when the IRS does it, or something:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Blogging In The Years: 1966

Vladimir Nabokov is not a fan of Freud:
I think he's crude, I think he's medieval, and I don't want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella inflicting his dreams upon me. I don't have the dreams that he discusses in his books. I don't see umbrellas in my dreams. Or balloons.

I think that the creative artist is an exile in his study, in his bedroom, in the circle of his lamplight. He's quite alone there; he's the lone wolf. As soon as he's together with somebody else he shares his secret, he shares his mystery, he shares his God with somebody else.
Sometimes an umbrella is just an umbrella...


Work can make you happy:
Work is an essential aspect of human life, one of the things that fulfill us as human beings. There is a basic human desire to contribute to society, so we grow depressed and feel listless when we’re not doing that. While we don’t want to read policy directives right out of this research, the general principle, that work is important for people of all ages, should always be in the background of our thinking about retirement and employment more broadly.
It depends on the kind of work, but yeah.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hot Seat

How to hold someone accountable on Capitol Hill:

Paper Chase

Venezuela certainly is living up to socialist standards:
One supermarket visited by the Associated Press in the capital on Wednesday was out of toilet paper. Another had just received a fresh batch, and it quickly filled up with shoppers as the word spread.

"I've been looking for it for two weeks," said Cristina Ramos. "I was told that they had some here and now I'm in line."

Economists say Venezuela's shortages stem from price controls meant to make basic goods available to the poorest parts of society and the government's controls on foreign currency.

"State-controlled prices – prices that are set below market-clearing price – always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union," said Steve Hanke, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.
I'm sure the problem will be solved once the people start waiting in line like they did in Russia...

Trading Jobs

Only in politics can a scandal help you get a new job:
Democratic Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who represents New York City, said he will resign June 20 amid a sexual harassment scandal and run for a City Council seat.

Lopez has been under growing pressure after it was revealed the state secretly paid women $103,000 to settle sexual harassment claims against the one-time Brooklyn power broker.

Two blistering reports this week, from a special prosecutor and the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics, painted an ugly picture of unwanted comments and contact from the 71-year-old assemblyman.

He does not face any criminal charges.

"I am gratified that Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan has concluded, after an exhaustive investigation, that there is no basis for brining criminal charges against me. I have maintained my innocence throughout this matter and I believe no criminal investigation should ever have been conducted," said Lopez.
Some would argue that he's overqualified...

Inner Circle

The worst of all worlds:
No one doubts that President Obama has the White House management structure he wants; he has populated it with trusted aides such as Jarrett whose loyalty he can count on. But it’s increasingly clear that this structure — supported by functionaries who are often highly partisan and careless — hasn’t served the country well and hasn’t received sufficient scrutiny from the media. That’s why many liberals are openly expressing concern over the “mini-Politburo” at the White House — the small number of people who have centralized White House decision-making.

The Obama White House management team doesn’t share the bunker mentality of the Nixon White House (though there are similarities). Nor does it have the frat-house atmosphere of the early Clinton White House, or the “happy talk” air of unreality of the latter George W. Bush administration. But its “all politics, all the time” ethos demands scrutiny now that the scandals are mounting and its shortcomings are becoming all too clear.
Living in denial doesn't help, either...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Other Foot Syndrome

It's always different when it happens to you:
The AP subpoena is the media’s Obamacare. Their Glenn Beck is AP President Gary Pruitt; their Tea Party Express is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; and their rallying cry is, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

The reaction to the government seizure of the phone records is another reminder, if we needed one, that what the press cares about most is itself.

The New York Times sniffed at the Internal Revenue Service scandal. It didn’t even put the initial story on the front page. When it did eventually front it, the headline was about how Republicans were trying to make hay of the scandal. Editorially, it issued a relatively tepid tsk-tsk. But the AP subpoena earned the White House a firm rebuke in an editorial titled “Spying on the Associated Press”: The administration has “a chilling zeal for investigating leaks” and is trying “to frighten off whistleblowers.”
It certainly took long enough for them to notice...

Johnny Comes Home

John Edwards is back:
The former U.S. senator and 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee from North Carolina is scheduled to appear June 6 at a private retreat in Orlando, Fla., for lawyer clients of the marketing firm PMP…

Edwards has remained largely out of public view since his May 2012 acquittal on one charge of campaign finance fraud. A judge declared a mistrial on five other criminal counts after jurors couldn’t agree if Edwards illegally used campaign money to hide his pregnant mistress as he ran for president in 2008.

An itinerary says Edwards will speak for about 45 minutes as part of a program titled “Historic Trials of the Century.” Edwards earned millions as a personal injury lawyer before entering politics.
Well, at least he'll be in familiar territory...

Strong Man Argument

Big, burly men are more conservative?
Men who are physically strong are more likely to take a right wing political stance, while weaker men are inclined to support the welfare state, according to a new study.

Researchers discovered political motivations may have evolutionary links to physical strength.

Men’s upper-body strength predicts their political opinions on economic redistribution, according to the research.
If you're physically stronger, you must dislike the weak, or something...

Recess Canceled

No more picks for you:
A second appeals court has joined the D.C. Circuit in ruling that President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional, concluding that some board actions taken in the wake of those appointments were also invalid.

The issue has far-reaching implications for both the NLRB and other boards, including Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has been a frequent target of conservatives and whose director was a recess appointment.

The 2-1 decision Thursday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the presidential recess appointment power is limited to breaks between sessions of Congress, not breaks within sessions or other adjournments during which the Senate might meet in pro forma sessions. The reasoning mirrors that in a ruling of the D.C. Circuit Court in January.

The 3rd Circuit case centered on decisions the NLRB made on the authority of three members including Craig Becker, who was appointed by the president on March 27, 2010, while the Senate was adjourned for two weeks.

The case was brought by a New Jersey nursing and rehabilitation center whose nurses were allowed to form a union by one such NLRB decision. The facility, New Vista, contended that the board’s decision was invalid because it did not have enough members active when the decision was issued because the naming of Becker to the board was not a valid recess appointment.
The favoritism stops here?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Salt In The Wound

There's bad news for the Food Police:
In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government says there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.

Those levels, 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt, were supposed to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk, including anyone older than 50, blacks and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease — groups that make up more than half of the American population. …

But the new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day. The group examined new evidence that had emerged since the last such report was issued, in 2005.

“As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms,” said Dr. Brian L. Strom, chairman of the committee and a professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania. He explained that the possible harms included increased rates of heart attacks and an increased risk of death.
The Nanny Staters will make us healthy if it kills us-literally...

Comedy Of Errors

In a parallel universe, this is an actual sitcom:

Quitting Time

Detroit's mayor is taking his ball and going home:
After winning a full term the same year, Bing tried to turn around a city that has been losing population and sinking into an ever-deeper economic hole for decades, with a City Council resistant to his plans for radical changes to save Detroit and the looming prospect of the Republican governor appointing an emergency economic manager who would effectively take control of the city’s finances from its elected officials. When Governor Rick Snyder in March ended months of deliberation by appointing Kevyn Orr emergency manager, with sweeping powers to modify contracts and sell city assets, Bing, whose frustrations had been mounting, had enough.
You can't fix what doesn't want to be fixed...

DC Turns

What happens when President Obama really falls out of favor:
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.

This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”

Republican outrage is predictable, maybe even manageable. Democratic outrage is not.
And, as we've seen, unavoidable for the man at the top.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Clogged Care

Why getting Obamacare to work is next to impossible:
At this point, the total administrative burden on the federal government has massively increased. Yet neither the federal government nor the states have the human or financial resources to discharge these tasks in a timely fashion, making it highly unlikely that these exchanges will be up and running by January 1, 2014. To achieve that goal, the various private participants on the exchanges must design and post their policies by October 1, 2013.

Unfortunately, these private insurers cannot do their part unless they have enough information to accurately price the “essential minimum conditions” required under the ACA. At present, it is estimated that only around 2 percent of the current plans meet the ACA’s outsized legislative ambitions. Nor can the federal government set up, all at once, the federal exchanges that are needed to make this system work. Similarly, the tepid reception to the Medicaid extension program only stretches scarce government resources. With each passing day, it becomes clearer that the entire process is backing up.
It might be better to just let it collapse under its own weight, at that...

Blogging In The Years: 1973

The Watergate hearings begin in Washington with Senator Sam Ervin's opening remarks:

To The Top

IRS-gate keeps looking worse for Obama:
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show.
Some more here. And the hits just keep on coming. Yikes.

Rate Shock

Affordability? Not so much:
Internal cost estimates from 17 of the nation's largest insurance companies indicate that health insurance premiums will grow an average of 100 percent under Obamacare, and that some will soar more than 400 percent, crushing the administration's goal of affordability.

New regulations, policies, taxes, fees and mandates are the reason for the unexpected "rate shock," according to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which released a report Monday based on internal documents provided by the insurance companies. The 17 companies include Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser Foundation.

The report found that individuals will face "premium increases of nearly 100 percent on average, with potential highs eclipsing 400 percent. Meanwhile, small businesses can expect average premium increases in the small group market of up to 50 percent, with potential highs over 100 percent."

One company said that new participants in the individual market could see a premium increase of 413 percent when new requirements on age rating and required benefits are taken into account, said the report. "The average yearly cost for a new customer in the individual market grows from $1,896 to $3,708 -- a $1,812 cost increase," it added.
It's like they only want health care for the wealthy, or something...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mr. Spaceman

Planet Earth is blue, and there's nothing he can do:

The Empire Scandal State

It's tough being the governor of a corrupt state:
“What I’m trying mightily to do is not allow the Scandalmania–’cuz you know how the press is with scandals and that becomes all-consuming–I don’t want that to eclipse the session and I don’t want it to derail the session because we have a lot of good work to do out there for New Yorkers who just want their government to function,” said the governor during a radio appearance on “The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter.”

“We have to be able to do both at the same time,” he added. “Lets’ deal with the reform agenda and deal with the quote-unquote scandals, but let’s also do what we’re supposed to do and get the government working.”

Mr. Cuomo came into office promising to clean up Albany and restore public faith in government. But in recent weeks, the news has been dominated by non-stop headlines about the arrests of high-ranking legislators and investigations into lawmakers and former aids.

But Mr. Cuomo said that he intends to move forward with the remainder of his agenda–including plans to legalize casino gambling, restructure local governments and a women’s equality package–as well as pushing a new round of ethics reforms.

“Because of the charges by the prosecutors, we’re using the moment to come up with a reform agenda,” he said.
Well, it's nice to know that he's staying on top of things...

Gosnell Guilty

It's not easy being a convicted murderer:
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a West Philadelphia doctor known for performing late-term abortions, was found guilty on Monday on three of four counts of first-degree murder.

The verdict came after a five-week trial in which the prosecution and the defense battled over whether the fetuses Dr. Gosnell was charged with killing were alive when they were removed from their mothers.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty when the trial moves into the sentencing phase on May 21.

The gruesome nature of the crimes that Dr. Gosnell was accused of and the squalid conditions in his clinic had fueled arguments on both sides of the abortion debate. Anti-abortion campaigners used the case to reinforce their argument that the practice is immoral, while abortion rights advocates warned that it underlined the need to ensure the availability of properly regulated abortions.

Some activists accused the national news media of providing scant coverage of the trial to help protect the case for abortion rights. The critics included the Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput. The 29 reporters present in the courtroom for the verdict, many of them from national media organizations, were warned by a court official that no electronic communication would be allowed while the verdict was being read.
At least this time they bothered to show up...

Spies Like Us

At least somebody's apologizing for illegal spying:
Journalists at Bloomberg News, until recently, had been able to see when clients last accessed their Bloomberg information terminals and what broad categories of functions they used. Goldman Sachs had complained that a Bloomberg reporter was using the information to investigate if a Goldman employee had departed.

"Our client is right," editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler said in an online posting Monday. "Our reporters should not have access to any data considered proprietary. I am sorry they did. The error is inexcusable."

The Federal Reserve is looking into whether Bloomberg journalists tracked data about terminal usage by top Fed officials. In a brief statement Monday, the European Central Bank said it "takes the protection of confidentiality very seriously and our experts are in close contact with Bloomberg."
Some people could learn a lot from others' mistakes...

The Secret Press

The Obama administration, biting the hand that feeds it?
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.

The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.

In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
The AP isn't happy, and the DOJ has tried to offer an explanation. Even so, what purpose did this serve?

Taxing Affordability

Health care is for those who can afford it:
Starting next year, the federal government will charge a new fee on health insurance firms based on the plans they sell to individuals and companies, known as the fully insured market. Meanwhile, the provision exempts health-insurance plans that are set up and operated by businesses themselves (the self-insured market).

Revenue from the tax will help pay for the health-care overhaul, which is expected to extend coverage to millions of uninsured or underinsured Americans.

However, because most large corporations self-insure their workforce, experts warn that insurance companies will pass the costs directly to small businesses. The vast majority purchase coverage in the fully insured market.

“Insurers have confirmed back to me that the tax will be passed down to consumers, and the direct impact will be staggering,” Ryan Thorn, owner of a small insurance planning firm near Salt Lake City, told lawmakers during a congressional hearing Thursday. “It disproportionately hits individuals and small-business owners, the people who have been hurt most by these challenging times.”
Why is it that these schemes to make others pay their fair share so often hurt those further down the ladder?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blogging In The Years: 2003

He's called Star Wars Kid, and he's become an Internet sensation:

American Craft

There is nothing that beer cannot do:
Eighteen senators want to encourage drinking craft beer. They’re touting new legislation to slash the excise tax on beer produced by smaller breweries.

The bipartisan group, led by Maryland Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin and Maine Republican Susan Collins, wants to cut the excise tax in half, to $3.50 a barrel, on the first 60,000 barrels of beer. Other taxes would also be reduced.

“Maine is home to dozens of unique craft breweries and brewpubs that invigorate our economy by providing more than 1,000 jobs and drawing countless tourists into our state,” Collins said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles E. Schumer is among those backing the effort. He has no shortage of breweries in New York. In a statement, he alluded to some communities in parts of the state that have faced prolonged losses of manufacturing jobs.

“Small breweries throughout Upstate New York not only brew great beer, they also pour jobs into communities across the country,” Schumer said, deploying a pun.

“Craft breweries are the crown jewels of so many of our communities, and often set up shop in vacant buildings and warehouses and revitalize downtowns across the country. By cutting taxes for these small breweries, we can help put more money back into their businesses and brew further economic development and growth,” he added.
Now, if they would only agree to do the same for other businesses...

No Hackers Near Her

Joy Reid's story continues to fall apart: Cybersecurity expert Jason McNew, who spent 12 years working for the White House and Camp Davi...