Sunday, June 30, 2013

For The Children

In California, using a grant to teach kids how to sell Obamacare:
A brief synopsis of the grant says it would be used for “outreach calls” to families and “adult-student class presentations.” But it also states as an objective: “Teens trained to be messengers to family members.” …

A spokesman for the district also told the institute that teens will be part of a “pilot” program to see if they can be trained to “deliver outreach and limited education to family and friends in and around their homes.”
It's all about the "outreach..."

Protest Like An Egyptian

Obama's pal Morsi not doing so well these days:
The demonstrations are the culmination of polarization and instability that have been building since Morsi's June 30, 2012 inauguration as Egypt's first freely elected leader. The past year has seen multiple political crises, bouts of bloody clashes and a steadily worsening economy, with power outages, fuel shortages, rising prices and persistent lawlessness and crime.

In one camp are the president and his Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line groups. They say street demonstrations cannot be allowed to remove a leader who won a legitimate election, and they accuse Mubarak loyalists of being behind the campaign in a bid to return to power. They have argued that for the past year remnants of the old regime have been sabotaging Morsi's attempts to deal with the nation's woes and bring reforms.

Hard-liners among them have also given the confrontation a sharply religious tone, denouncing Morsi's opponents as "enemies of God" and infidels.
Yeah, that argument doesn't seem to be working. But then, supporting dictators usually doesn't end well...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rise Of The Machines

The plus side of robot workers:
Low-wage manufacturing jobs are drying up, but they’re being replaced by jobs in building, operating, and repairing the tech in question. Increasingly, companies will be likely to “onshore” these jobs to America, when shipping and distribution becomes much easier and cheaper. Manufacturing, it seems, will come full circle.
Workers will be needed to build and fix workers...

Le Cut

A call for fiscal responsibility in France:
In France, public spending accounts for about 56% of GDP, among the highest in the eurozone. Unemployment is at an all-time high.

Francois Hollande's government aims to reduce public spending by 13bn euros in 2014 and 15bn euros in 2015 by cutting state aid and local government budgets.

But the influential Cour des Comptes said this was not enough.

"(France's) deficits remain higher than the eurozone and European Union average. There must be no slackening in this effort and the focus from now on must be on spending," the body said.
Will France surrender to reality?

Bully On Parade

Could anti-bullying laws prevent people from hurting politicians' feelings?

In The Wind

Beware the killer turbine:
John Marchant, 62, who had made the trip all the way from Norfolk, said: ‘We were absolutely over the moon to see the bird. We watched it for nearly two hours.

‘But while we were watching it suddenly got a bit close to the turbine and then the blades hit it.

‘We all rushed up to the turbine, which took about five minutes, hoping the bird had just been knocked out the sky but was okay.

‘Unfortunately it had taken a blow to the head and was stone dead.

‘It was really beautiful when it was flying around, graceful and with such speed. To suddenly see it fly into a turbine and fall out the sky was terrible.’

The last sighting of a white-throated needletail was 22 years ago. A relative of the common swift, it is said to be capable of flying at an astonishing 106mph.
Not fast enough, unfortunately. Death by environmentalism?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Double Payday

Congress is good work if you can get it:
About 90 members from both chambers collected a government pension atop their taxpayer-financed $174,000 salary in 2012, National Journal found in an examination of recent financial records. Including a dozen newly elected freshmen who reported government pensions last year, the number now stands above 100. That’s nearly one-fifth of Congress. One lawmaker, freshman Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, received $253,323 from her government pension last year—a sum that, combined with her congressional salary, will make her better paid than President Obama this year.
Congressional pensioners span the ideological spectrum, from tea-party conservatives who rail against government waste to unabashed liberals. They are among the richest members (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., with a net worth of at least $42.8 million in 2011) and the poorest (Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who reported between $15,000 and $50,000 in the bank and at least $600,000 in mortgage and loan debts). Overall, Democrats draw government pensions more often than Republicans—by a ratio of 2-to-1. Some lawmakers draw on multiple public retirement packages, including the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, who collected $65,000 from three different pensions in 2012.
You'll never get rich...unless you're a politician...

Baldwin Blitz

So what's it all about, then?
Baldwin is FURIOUS with someone named George Stark who published a piece in the Mail Online about his wife, Hilaria, herself Tweeting allegedly during James Gandolfini’s funeral. I’m kind of laughing, and it’s all kind of sad. For one thing, I saw the Baldwins at the funeral. I don’t think she was doing any such thing. No one in that church was on a phone. It would have been too upsetting and obvious; we were also sitting like sardines. I just don’t believe it. Also, I ran into the Baldwins when I was walking home the other night. They were genuinely very sad about Gandolfini.
So he did have a right to be upset in this case, but still...therapy, Mr. Baldwin?

Starving The Fever

Welcome to National Death:
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics following a Freedom of Information request, for every patient who dies from malnutrition, four more have dehydration mentioned on their death certificate.

Critics say nurses are too busy to feed patients and often food and drink are placed out of reach of vulnerable people.

In 2011, 43 patients starved to death and 291 died in a state of severe malnutrition, while the number of patients discharged from hospital suffering from malnutrition doubled to 5,558.

Dianne Jeffrey, chairwoman of Malnutrition Task Force, condemned the statistics.

She told The Sunday Express: 'Too many are paying the price with their lives while being deprived of the basic right to good nutrition, hydration and support.'
Free health care was supposed to be a "basic right" under National Health, too, and look what happened...

The Kid Goes Home

Score one for common sense:
Logan County Circuit Judge Eric O'Briant signed an order dismissing an obstruction charge on Thursday against 14-year-old Jared Marcum stemming from an April 18 incident at Logan Middle School in Logan.

Marcum was charged after a police officer told him to stop talking, but he refused. Marcum's attorney, Ben White, said Marcum was exercising his free speech rights and his support for the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

Marcum's mother, Tanya Lardieri, told WOWK that she was overcome with emotion after signing a dismissal order relating to the charge. The boy’s father, Allen Lardieri, said the couple is just glad Eric’s legal troubles are over.

"It should have come sooner but it's done and we don't have to have that concern anymore about him having a criminal record,” Allen Lardieri told WOWK. "I'm just glad that it's over. His mother is glad it's over."
Good for the judge. Hopefully this will get tossed, as well.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Car Wars

Something else to worry about:
While there are no reported cases of cars being maliciously hacked in the real world, in 2010, researchers affiliated with the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security (CAESS—a partnership between the University of California San Diego and the University of Washington) demonstrated how to take over all of a car’s vital systems by plugging a device into the OBD-II port under the dashboard.

It gets worse. In a paper that’s due to be published later this year, those same researchers remotely take control of an unnamed vehicle through its telematics system. They also demonstrate that it’s theoretically possible to hack a car with malware embedded in an MP3 and with code transmitted over a Wi-Fi connection.

Such breaches are possible because the dozens of  independently operating computers on modern vehicles are all connected through an in-car communications network known as a controller-area-network bus, or CAN bus.
Remember the days when you could just turn on the ignition?

Happy Hobby

It's a good day for the little guy:
A federal appeals court in Denver has reversed a lower court's decision to deny Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.'s quest for an injunction against part of the Affordable Care Act that requires it to cover the cost of emergency contraceptives for some of its employees.

In a 168-page ruling issued Thursday, the appellate court sent Hobby Lobby case back to a lower court for further review.

The panel of nine appellate court judges who heard arguments in the case in May ruled unanimously that Hobby Lobby and its affiliated Christian bookstore chain Mardel have the right to sue over the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling is a blow to the federal government's argument that as for-profit corporations, the companies cannot claim that the health care law is a violation of constitutionally protected religious freedoms.
Well, now maybe they can...

State Court

Walter Russell Mead on why the gay marriage rulings are a win for the states:
When it comes to classical federalism, the Supreme Court’s decisions on the gay marriage cases are both deferential to the states involved. Again, states’ rights is sometimes a liberal and sometimes a conservative cause. The DOMA case said that the national government can’t deny federal benefits to the marriages recognized by the states. But the Voting Rights Act decision, for good or for ill, is an attempt to give back to the nine states in question some powers lost in the Civil Rights Era. Two wins for states’ rights; one each for the Left and the Right.

The federal government is reaching for broad new powers. President Obama wants the EPA to assert the power to regulate (or at least to force all the states to regulate) emissions of carbon dioxide. Obamacare similarly involves some major new federal interventions in the lives of millions of Americans. And it appears that under President Obama federal surveillance of Americans has surpassed anything that transpired under President Bush.

But here, too, the Supreme Court and public opinion are demanding the return of more powers to individuals and states.
Federalism can work for everyone...

Internal Targeting Service

Yes, they did target conservatives:
The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA) sent a letter Wednesday to congressional Democrats telling them that while several liberal groups may have gotten extra scrutiny, the IRS didn’t necessarily target those — but it did do so for conservative groups.

“TIGTA concluded that inappropriate criteria were used to identify potential political cases for extra scrutiny — specifically, the criteria listed in our audit report. From our audit work, we did not find evidence that the criteria you identified, labeled “Progressives,” were used by the IRS to select potential political cases during the 2010 to 2012 timeframe we audited,” Inspector General J. Russell George said.

He said that while 30 percent of groups that had the word “progressive” in their name were given extra scrutiny, 100 percent of groups with “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names were pulled out for strict scrutiny, which involved what the IRS since has said were invasive and inappropriate questions.
Invasive and inappropriate are what the IRS does best...

Dear Blogger

A win for free speech:
This morning, in a big win for free speech, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey’s First Amendment lawsuit against the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition may go forward. Cooksey ran a Dear Abby-style advice column on his blog in which he gave one-on-one advice about how to follow the low carbohydrate “paleo” diet. The Board deemed Cooksey’s advice the unlicensed practice of nutritional counseling, sent him a 19-page print-up of his website indicating in red pen what he was and was not allowed to say, and threatened him with legal action if he did not comply. The decision reverses a previous ruling by a federal district judge that had dismissed Cooksey’s case, reasoning that advice is not protected speech and hence Cooksey had suffered no injury to his First Amendment rights. “This decision will help ensure that the courthouse doors remain open to speakers whose rights are threatened by overreaching government” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “In America, citizens don’t have to wait until they are fined or thrown in jail before they are allowed to challenge government action that chills their speech.”
They can just get sued instead...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rich Man, Dead Man

No more pardons for him:
Marc Rich's connections to the rich and powerful not only made him fabulously wealthy but when he was indicted for fraud, racketeering and tax evasion on a grand scale, they helped secure him a pardon from Bill Clinton, hours before the U.S. president left office.

That triggered a political firestorm from critics who alleged Rich bought his pardon through donations that his ex-wife had made to the Democratic Party.

Rich died Wednesday of a stroke at a hospital in Lucerne, near his home for decades. He was 78, and his Israel-based spokesman Avner Azulay said he would be buried Thursday in a kibbutz in Israel.
He won't be missed.

Climate Change Champions

Liberals may cheer Obama's desire to save the planet, even though his favorite outlets are still ignoring science:
The Media Research Center’s Business and Media Institute looked at all the “climate change” or “global warming” stories from Jan. 1, 2013, through June 15, 2013, aired on ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news programs. BMI found that out there were more than 8 times as many stories that cited a study or included a scientist promoting global warming alarmism than cited a study or included a scientist challenging alarmism (25 stories to 3 stories). Nearly one-fourth of the stories this year (22 of 92) also connected (or at least asked if there was a connection) weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, snow or flooding to climate change, in spite of the many scientific critics of those claims.
It's always easier to control the narrative if you have friends...

Castle Walls Come Down

Cronyism, IRS style:
Strong Castle, Inc. was formerly known as Signet Computers. In January 2012 Braulio Castillo purchased Signet Computers and subsequently renamed the company Strong Castle, Inc. Except for specific references in documents, testimony, and discussion surrounding the purchase of the company, this report will refer to the company as Strong Castle.
The Committee learned of allegations concerning a series of contracts, potentially worth more than $500 million, awarded by the IRS to Strong Castle. Witnesses who contacted the Committee alleged that Strong Castle engaged in fraud to win those IRS contracts. Documents and testimony obtained by the Committee showed that a cozy relationship between Strong Castle President and Chief Executive Officer Braulio Castillo and IRS Deputy Director for IT Acquisition Greg Roseman may have influenced the selection process.
A little corruption goes a long way...


Defense of Marriage is dead:
The Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings Wednesday expanding gay rights, ruling unconstitutional a 1996 law denying federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples and paving the way for California to legalize same-sex marriage.
In the California case, the court ruled that opponents of same-sex marriage did not have standing to appeal a a lower-court ruling that overturned California’s ban. (Read the decision.) The Supreme Court’s ruling appears to remove legal obstacles to same-sex couples marrying in the state, but the court did not issue a broad ruling likely to affect other states.
The decision on federal benefits was 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing the majority opinion, which the four liberal-leaning justices joined.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

The decision on the Defense of Marriage Act does not alter any state laws governing whether same-sex couples can marry. It instead determines whether same-sex couples that are legally married in one state receive federal benefits that apply to heterosexual married couples.
“In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us,” Justice Scalia wrote in his dissent. “The truth is more complicated.”
Justice Scalia argued in concluding his dissent that the question was one better decided by the people, through the legislative branch, than by the courts. He read from his dissent on the bench, a step justices take in a small share of cases, typically to show that they have especially strong views.
Justice Kennedy, in his opinion, wrote that the law was “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”
So there it is...let the national healing begin?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Party Zone

Scandal or no scandal, the party goes on:
Another government watchdog report has flagged inappropriate behavior at the IRS, this time claiming government credit cards were used to make questionable purchases on items ranging from wine to online pornography.

The report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that between fiscal 2010 and 2011, the more than 5,000 IRS card accounts racked up $103 million in purchases.

"While the majority of IRS cardholders appear to use their purchase cards properly, TIGTA's audit identified some troubling instances of inappropriate usage," J. Russell George, the inspector general, said in a statement.
When kids do this, you take away their credit cards. When government employees do it, they just get new ones...

Papa Don't Preach

Well, she seems to have some brains, after all:
In a recent interview on “Good Morning America,” the “material girl” defended her mix of guns with choreography during her latest onstage antics and said she would never tone down her theatrics — and lose the weaponry — because of anti-gun pressures.

“That would be like asking people to not have guns in action movies,” she said, as The Blaze reported. “I mean, the thing is, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. That whole first section of the show is like an action movie, and I was playing a supervixen who wanted revenge.”

She was then asked her opinion about Hollywood movie makers who have softened gun imagery in movies because of mass shootings such as the ones at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut or in Aurora, Colo.

“Well, that’s not going to change the situation,” she said, as The Blaze reported. “This all comes from fear and ignorance, and people not really raising their children or paying attention to what’s going on.”
Even a broken Eighties record can still keep a beat sometimes...

Fat World

Why is everything literally getting fatter?
Over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. In fact, the researchers examined records on those eight species and found that average weight for every one had increased. The marmosets gained an average of nine per cent per decade. Lab mice gained about 11 per cent per decade. Chimps, for some reason, are doing especially badly: their average body weight had risen 35 per cent per decade. Allison, who had been hearing about an unexplained rise in the average weight of lab animals, was nonetheless surprised by the consistency across so many species. ‘Virtually in every population of animals we looked at, that met our criteria, there was the same upward trend,’ he told me.

It isn’t hard to imagine that people who are eating more themselves are giving more to their spoiled pets, or leaving sweeter, fattier garbage for street cats and rodents. But such results don’t explain why the weight gain is also occurring in species that human beings don’t pamper, such as animals in labs, whose diets are strictly controlled. In fact, lab animals’ lives are so precisely watched and measured that the researchers can rule out accidental human influence: records show those creatures gained weight over decades without any significant change in their diet or activities. Obviously, if animals are getting heavier along with us, it can’t just be that they’re eating more Snickers bars and driving to work most days.
Sympathetic weight gain?

Jersey Bore

Jon Corzine is finally going to court:
Federal regulators are poised to sue Jon S. Corzine over the collapse of MF Global and the brokerage firm’s misuse of customer money during its final days, a blowup that rattled Wall Street and cast a spotlight on Mr. Corzine, the former New Jersey governor who ran the firm until its bankruptcy in 2011.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal agency that regulated MF Global, plans to approve the lawsuit as soon as this week, according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case. In a rare move against a Wall Street executive, the agency has informed Mr. Corzine’s lawyers that it aims to file the civil case without offering him the opportunity to settle, setting up a legal battle that could drag on for years.

Without directly linking Mr. Corzine to the disappearance of more than $1 billion in customer money, the trading commission will probably blame the chief executive for failing to prevent the breach at a lower rung of the firm, the law enforcement officials said. If found liable, he could face millions of dollars in fines and possibly a ban from trading commodities, jeopardizing his future on Wall Street.

In a statement, a spokesman for Mr. Corzine denounced the trading commission for planning to file what he called an “unprecedented and meritless civil enforcement action.”
Being a crook has its disadvantages, doesn't it?

Executive Climate Control

When it comes to dealing with opposition from that pesky Congress, Team Obama has a plan:
The wide-ranging plan, which Obama will tout in a speech later Tuesday, also beefs up federal efforts to help deploy low-carbon and renewable energy, and has programs to help harden communities against climate-fueled extreme weather.

Internationally, it seeks to knock down trade barriers to climate-friendly goods and services; enhance cooperation with India, China and other big carbon emitters; and curb U.S. support for overseas coal plant construction, among many other steps.

The plan is designed to get around Congress, where major climate bills have no political traction. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that Obama’s executive approach “reflects reality.”
Well, I guess every war needs a plan...

One Vote, One Decision

The Supreme Court declares part of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional:
Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in §2. We issue no holding on §5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions. Such a formula is an initial prerequisite to a determination that exceptional conditions still exist justifying such an “extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government.” Presley, 502 U. S., at 500–501. Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.
The act was meant for its time, and did its job. Now it's time for the law to catch up with society. Isn't that what moving forward is all about?

Life After Bloomberg

What could be worse than Michael Bloomberg? What comes next:
More than ten years ago, Mayor Bloomberg wrested control of the public school system and embarked on an ambitious agenda of reform, instituting measures such as giving principals greater control over their budgets, making teacher tenure more difficult to obtain, closing non-performing schools, and opening scores of charter schools in their place. . . .

Michael Bloomberg hasn’t been a flawless Mayor—far from it, in fact. But the Dem party hacks lining up to take his place don’t exactly fill us with hope either. For all his shortcomings, we suspect that New Yorkers, especially New Yorkers with children, will miss Mayor Bloomberg when he’s gone, perhaps a lot sooner than most think.
It's later than they think...

The Progressive Problem

A progressive laments the lack of diversity from her fellow progressives:
Although Netroots touts itself as being an incubator for ideas that challenge the status quo, judging from the racial make-up of the NN13 attendees, lack of diversity is one status quo that didn’t seem to be challenged enough.
It’s important to acknowledge that Netroots Nation instituted a policy requiring all panels to be diverse. In full disclosure, I was a member of the panel selection committee. As we prepared to make our selections, we were instructed to dismiss any panel that was comprised entirely of white males. To their credit, the organizers were very clear that they intended to be inclusive. But you couldn’t have guessed that by the looks of the crowd at the popular Netroots Nation Karaoke party on Thursday night or by perusing the halls of the San Jose Convention Center. For the past two days I’ve been one of a sprinkling of minorities floating in a sea of young white people.

...while I applaud NN13 for making a conscious effort to be inclusive, the outcome was disappointing and raises questions about the unintentional ways we exclude others. Why is it that this topic is such a hard one to broach? Is the progressive movement racially segregated? What can we do to change the racial composition of future Netroots conventions? I don’t have answers to these questions but I think progressives would be in a more powerful position if they could.
I believe that until the progressive movement comes to terms with the racial divisions that exist within it, we will continue to experience defeat when confronting our powerful adversaries. In other words, the racial divide affects every progressive.
Maybe if liberals just accepted people for who they were and not on the basis of their skin color, they wouldn't have such angst...


Russia says America can't have him:
Lavrov wouldn't say where Snowden is, but he lashed out angrily at Washington for demanding his extradition and warning of negative consequences if Moscow fails to comply. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged Moscow to "do the right thing" and turn over Snowden.

"We consider the attempts to accuse Russia of violation of U.S. laws and even some sort of conspiracy, which on top of all that are accompanied by threats, as absolutely ungrounded and unacceptable," Lavrov said. "There are no legal grounds for such conduct of U.S. officials."

The defiant tone underlined the Kremlin's readiness to challenge Washington at a time when U.S.-Russian relations are strained over Syria and a Russian ban on adoptions by Americans.
So much for the charm offensive...

Monday, June 24, 2013


What hath the State Department wrought?
Since succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton as America’s top diplomat, Kerry has issued several as yet undelivered — and perhaps undeliverable — pledges to allies and rivals alike, proving a source of concern for Obama’s policy team. It is trying to rein in Kerry somewhat, according to officials, which is difficult considering Kerry has spent almost half his tenure so far in the air or on the road, from where his most dissonant policy statements have come.
John Kerry, please come home? Or at least keep your mouth shut...


When universities go global:
The expansion of U.S. universities, think tanks and other cultural institutions not just to London and Paris, but to unfree countries whose governments are spending billions of dollars to buy U.S. teaching, U.S. prestige — and, perhaps, U.S. intellectual freedom. China is one of them: In addition to NYU, it is partnering with Duke to build a satellite campus, hosts smaller programs from schools including Harvard, Yale and Princeton and sent 193,000 of its own students to U.S. universities last year.

In September a joint venture between Yale and Singapore will open on a campus built and paid for by that autocracy. Then there are the Persian Gulf states. The United Arab Emirates hosts branches of Paris’s Sorbonne and the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in addition to NYU. While funding jihadists in Syria and Libya, Qatar is on its way to spending $33 billion on an “education city” hosting offshoots of Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon.

Is it possible to accept lucrative subsidies from dictatorships, operate campuses on their territory and still preserve the values that make American universities great, including academic freedom? The schools all say yes, pointing to pieces of paper — some of them undisclosed — that they have signed with their host governments. The real answer is: of course not.
Exporting U.S. ideals overseas via universities can be a good thing; making deals with dictatorships to stay in business, not so much.

Dead Air

Whatever happened to radio?
Most people under age 20 have never experienced good radio. So when baby boomers and Gen X’ers start waxing rhapsodically about their old-time favorites, wanting them to come back, it’s the equivalent of wishing that musicvideos would come back to MTV.

Insiders believe that there’s no revolution in terrestrial radio because the owners know it’s headed into the dumper. They’re just milking it for all they can before it falls off a cliff. So if you’re waiting for format innovation and fewer commercials … you’ll be waiting forever.
Sort of like the music industry...

Are You Ready For Some Obamacare?

Team Obama is now talking to the NFL:
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday she is in talks with the NFL to help promote new insurance options under ObamaCare.

Sebelius said the football league has been “very actively and enthusiastically engaged” in discussions about a partnership to encourage people to enroll in newly available insurance plans.

“We’re having active discussions right now with a variety of sports affiliates” about both paid advertising and partnerships to encourage enrollment, Sebelius told reporters. …

Partnerships with sports organizations are especially promising to HHS because the department hopes large numbers of young, healthy men will enroll in the law’s new coverage options.
And how many of those young, healthy men would trade their own health insurance for Obamacare?

Helping Hands

When your neighbors are there for you:
A poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that after the storm in New York and New Jersey, friends, relatives and neighbors were cited the most often as the people who helped them make it through.

People overwhelmingly said the Oct. 29 storm brought out the best in their neighbors, who shared generators, food, water and other supplies. Far fewer said they found help from federal or state governments.

Stranded in her darkened 20th-floor apartment in Brooklyn's Coney Island with two small children, Irina Medvinskaya was feeling desperate in the bleak days after the storm. The elevators stopped working. The food in her refrigerator spoiled.

Without the help of friends and family — particularly her boyfriend, who lugged full water-cooler bottles up the stairs — she doesn't know how she would have survived.

"People who can bring you food and water, and walk up 20 floors?" she said. "That's family, not FEMA."
But hey, the government can still bill them for their troubles...


Mark Miller responds to Jim Carrey:
I’m baffled by this sudden announcement as nothing seen in this picture wasn’t in the screenplay eighteen months ago. Yes, the body-count is very high, but a movie called Kick-Ass 2 really has to do what it says on the tin. A sequel to the picture that gave us HIT-GIRL was always going to have some blood on the floor and this should have been no shock to a guy who enjoyed the first movie so much. My books are very hardcore, but the movies are adapted for a more mainstream audience and if you loved the tone of the first picture you’re going to eat this up with a big, giant spoon. Like Jim, I’m horrified by real-life violence (even though I’m Scottish), but Kick-Ass 2 isn’t a documentary. No actors were harmed in the making of this production! This is fiction and like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorcese and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-Wook Park, Kick-Ass avoids the usual bloodless body-count of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence, whether it’s the ramifications for friends and family or, as we saw in the first movie, Kick-Ass spending six months in hospital after his first street altercation.
Jim Carrey's unintentional publicity for the film here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Post TV Generation

Networks want the FCC to loosen up:
Companies say that the rules are too vague, that they clash with broadcasters’ First Amendment rights, and that parents can control what their kids watch. But ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC also say that rules are archaic because the networks have lost so much cultural clout. Fox says in an FCC filing, “Americans today, including children, spend more time engaged with non-broadcast channels delivered by cable and satellite television, the Internet, video games and other media than they do with broadcast media.” In a separate filing, NBCUniversal observes that ”Broadcast TV is not a uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of 21st Century Americans.” Broadcast network affiliates’ total day share of viewing “was just 28 percent in the 2010-2011 television season – compared to the 53 percent viewing share held by ad-supported cable programming networks.” CBS also notes that “the day when a child watching television was almost certain to be watching broadcast television has long since passed.”
The rules haven't kept up with the times...isn't that often the case?

Water Works

Don't drink the water, or complain about it:
A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director warned a group of Maury County [Tenn.] residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered an “act of terrorism.”

“We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, according to audio recorded by attendees. “But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”

“Can you say that again, please?” an audience member can be heard asking on the audio.

Smith went on in the recording to repeat the claim almost verbatim.
Stupidity always wants to be quoted accurately...

Bread And Butter

What Americans really care about doesn't jibe with what politicians think:
on the issues that Americans actually prioritize — jobs, wages, the economy — it’s likely that both immigration reform and whatever the White House decides to do on greenhouse gases will make the short-term picture somewhat worse. The Congressional Budget Office’s recent analysis of the immigration bill errs on the side of optimism, but it still projects that the legislation would leave unemployment “slightly elevated” through 2020, and average wages modestly reduced. Given that similar estimates greeted the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in 2009, it’s reasonable to assume that carbon regulations would slightly raise the unemployment rate as well.

These costs might be more acceptable in a world where Washington was also readying, say, payroll tax relief for working-class families, or measures to help the long-term uninsured. But since those ideas currently lack constituencies in the capital, we’re left with the peculiar spectacle of a political class responding to a period of destructive long-term unemployment with an agenda that threatens to help extend that crisis toward 2020 and beyond.

In this sense, for all the (justifiable) talk about conservatism’s dysfunction, Republicans have more freedom of movement today than Democrats did after their 1984 defeat. As Yuval Levin wrote in The Weekly Standard in April, there has been no “morning in America”-style vindication for this administration; instead, “both parties give the impression of having outlived their eras,” and “the moment feels more like the late 1970s than the late 1980s.” The country clearly prefers Obama to the available alternatives, but it might prefer another alternative still.

But so far, Republicans have mostly used liberalism’s relative weakness as an excuse for not moving much at all, and sticking with an agenda that’s even more disconnected from the anxieties of the average voter than the White House’s second-term priorities.
Whether or not people actually prefer Obama is debatable, but there's no question that the great divide between the political class and the average voter class has affected the leadership of both parties.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shale Breakers

How to kill a growing industry:
Controversy is heating up over an administration plan to drastically reduce the amount of federal lands available for oil shale development in the American West.

The Bush administration had set aside 1.3 million acres for oil shale and tar sands development in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The new Bureau of Land Management plan cuts that amount by two-thirds, down to 700,000 acres, a decision that has prompted industry outrage.

"What they basically did was make it so that nobody is going to want to spend money going after oil shale on federal government lands," said Dan Kish, Senior Vice President of Institute for Energy Research.

Kish said the decision will effectively put an end to the development in America of a resource with massive potential because the energy industry will simply go elsewhere.

"The Chinese are inviting companies in, companies that may have done business in the United States if we'd had a better approach. And we don't even know the total extent (of the potential for oil from shale in America) but it's basically around a trillion barrels...which would be as much as the world has used since the first oil well was drilled 150 years ago."
The shale boom was fun while it lasted...

Time Served

Republicans discover prison reform:
If this reform push by the GOP is serious, it’s good news for two reasons. First, it will generate significant momentum towards reducing the iniquities of our current system. The policies that are being pursued by different states are too various to take a position on as a whole: some are likely sensible, others not. In general, we prefer reforms that focus on less draconian sentences for drug use and policies that seek to penalize lawbreakers without necessarily sticking them in prison.

Second, it’s a sign that the GOP is still evolving in productive ways. After the last election, many triumphant Democrats suggested that the Republican Party was in utter shambles and might never fix itself. More and more, it seems these assessments were premature. In areas from health care to prison reform, the Right has clearly been doing some soul searching.
Let the healing begin...

Friday, June 21, 2013

State Domains

How far can you take the Tenth Amendment?
An Associated Press analysis found that about four-fifths of the states now have enacted local laws that directly reject or ignore federal laws on marijuana use, gun control, health insurance requirements and identification standards for driver's licenses. The recent trend began in Democratic leaning California with a 1996 medical marijuana law and has proliferated lately in Republican strongholds like Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback this spring became the first to sign a measure threatening felony charges against federal agents who enforce certain firearms laws in his state.
The Feds may have the upper legal hand, but the current occupants of the White House haven't exactly done a good job of explaining why they should have it...


Coming soon: The NBA Obamacare endorsement?
The news, revealed recently by Massachusetts officials who have been in contact with the administration, offers a glimpse at how President Barack Obama’s team plans to push the new coverage options to a public that largely has been clueless about the new health insurance options. …

It’s unclear whether a potential partnership would put big-name ballplayers — like James, the Miami Heat superstar — at the center of ad campaigns or whether it would be as modest as permitting the administration to affix the NBA logo onto marketing materials. An agreement itself isn’t even a slam dunk; Obamacare is partisan and controversial, and the NBA could decide it doesn’t want to go near it.
How would that work, exactly? Free health care offers at games?

Unsettled Heresies

The perils of being a "denier":
Dramatic warming may exact a terrible price in terms of human welfare, especially in poorer countries. But cutting emissions enough to put a real dent in warming may also put a real dent in economic growth. This could also exact a terrible humanitarian price, especially in poorer countries. Given the so-far unfathomed complexity of global climate and the tenuousness of our grasp on the full set of relevant physical mechanisms, I have favoured waiting a decade or two in order to test and improve the empirical reliability of our climate models, while also allowing the economies of the less-developed parts of the world to grow unhindered, improving their position to adapt to whatever heavy weather may come their way. I have been told repeatedly that “we cannot afford to wait”. More distressingly, my brand of sceptical empiricism has been often met with a bludgeoning dogmatism about the authority of scientific consensus.
Challenging rigid orthodoxy in the name of science has never been easy...

Inside Man

He was a popular guy:
White House visitor logs show Shulman’s chief of staff, Jonathan M. Davis, appears to have visited the White House and adjacent Eisenhower office building as many as 310 times between the fall of 2009 and February 2013.

Davis’ background is in technology and had no expertise on tax issues , according to some IRS sources who said Davis served mostly as a political aide who served with Shulman to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, where Shulman was vice chairman, and then followed him to the IRS.

Jason Stverak, head of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, said the visits raise more questions about the connection between the White House and the IRS at a time when the tax agency was targeting conservative groups. IRS officials said the targeting was initiated internally, but lawmakers have suggested that someone higher up in the administration had actually ordered the targeting.

“Why does this person have to go there 300 times when they probably don’t have the staff expertise to be discussing tax issues?” Stverak asked.
Well, it's not like he'll tell you...

Summer Freeze

More small businesses agree: Obamacare is bad for business:
Forty-one percent of the businesses surveyed have frozen hiring because of the health-care law known as Obamacare. And almost one-fifth—19 percent— answered "yes" when asked if they had "reduced the number of employees you have in your business as a specific result of the Affordable Care Act."

The poll was taken by 603 owners whose businesses have under $20 million in annual sales.

Another 38 percent of the small business owners said they "have pulled back on their plans to grow their business" because of Obamacare.

Those are "some pretty startling answers," Friedman said.

"To think that [nearly] 20 percent of small businesses have already reduced the numbers they have in their business because they're concerned about the medical coverage is significant, and a bit troubling," Friedman said.
And the Obamacare beat goes on...


What could go wrong?
Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who electrified anti-war liberals during the 2004 presidential race, said Thursday he would consider another run for the White House – a statement that will surely be met with mixed reaction in the Democratic Party.

Dean, whose underdog presidential campaign officially launched 10 years ago this weekend, said he has "mixed feelings" about running for office again but added he would consider another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination if he doesn't think the other candidates are adequately addressing progressive issues that are dear to his heart.

"I am not driven by my own ambition," Dean told CNN in an interview at the Netroots Nation conference, an annual gathering of left-leaning political activists. "What I am driven by is pushing the country in a direction that it desperately needs to be pushed; pushing other politicians who aren't quite as frank as I am who need to be more candid with the American people about what needs to happen. I am not trying to hedge, it's a hard job running. It's really tough. I am doing a lot of things I really enjoy. But you should never say never in this business."
But can you scream it?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chairmen Of the Board

The unaccountable Obamacare board:
The board, which will control more than a half-trillion dollars of federal spending annually, is directed to "develop detailed and specific proposals related to the Medicare program," including proposals cutting Medicare spending below a statutorily prescribed level. In addition, the board is encouraged to make rules "related to" Medicare.

The ObamaCare law also stipulates that there "shall be no administrative or judicial review" of the board's decisions. Its members will be nearly untouchable, too. They will be presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed, but after that they can only be fired for "neglect of duty or malfeasance in office."

Once the board acts, its decisions can be overruled only by Congress, and only through unprecedented and constitutionally dubious legislative procedures—featuring restricted debate, short deadlines for actions by congressional committees and other steps of the process, and supermajoritarian voting requirements. The law allows Congress to kill the otherwise inextirpable board only by a three-fifths supermajority, and only by a vote that takes place in 2017 between Jan. 1 and Aug. 15. If the board fails to implement cuts, all of its powers are to be exercised by HHS Secretary Sebelius or her successor.
You wanted your Ministry of Health, you got it...


In Boston, busting...punk rock shows?

Stump Speech

President Obama didn't impress abroad:
In stark contrast to that of his presidential predecessors, Barack Obama’s message on Wednesday was pure mush, another clichéd “citizens of the world” polemic with little substance. This was a speech big on platitudes and hopeless idealism, while containing much that was counter-productive for the world’s superpower. Ultimately it was little more than a laundry list of Obama’s favourite liberal pet causes, including cutting nuclear weapons, warning about climate change, putting an end to all wars, shutting Guantanamo, ending global poverty, and backing the European Project. It was a combination of staggering naiveté, the appeasement of America’s enemies and strategic adversaries, and the championing of more big government solutions.
Even overseas, the Endless Campaign is running out of steam...

Furloughs For Thee

Paul Ryan is not a fan of those IRS bonuses:

Howard's End

Will the last one to leave CNN please turn out the lights?
FOX News Channel (FNC) has hired veteran media reporter Howard Kurtz, announced Michael Clemente, Executive Vice President of News for the network. He will begin in this new role on July 1st.

Kurtz will anchor a version of what is now called Fox News Watch, which focuses on the media, with a new format during the weekends. Additionally, he will serve as an on-air analyst for a variety of programs throughout the week, while also writing a regular column, commenting on social media news, industry trends and breakthroughs, in addition to looking at how media are used in politics. Meanwhile, Jon Scott, current anchor of FOX News Watch, who won an Emmy for his writing at NBC’s Dateline, will move to the specials unit where he will serve as anchor.

In making the announcement, Clemente said, "Howie is the most accomplished media reporter in the country. He's also a master of social media trends, information good and bad, and a veteran political reporter. Altogether, he will add even greater depth to a very accomplished team of reporters and anchors."
At this rate, Anderson Cooper will have no one left to talk to at lunch...

She We Await

It's the inevitability, stupid?
All the Clinton allies The Hill spoke to repeatedly emphasized her loyalty to Obama, pointing out that she needs some rest after her busy tenure as secretary of State. They stressed that she hasn’t made up her mind about 2016.

At the same time, however, they acknowledge that she is the early favorite for the next Democratic presidential nomination.

“There is a cautious presumption that the nomination is hers for the taking,” said Phil Singer, deputy communications manager for Clinton’s 2008 campaign.
Let the pre-coronation begin...

The Mystery Of Michael Hastings

What happened?
While the journalistic world paid tribute to their late colleague, none offered any explanation of why Hastings, who married a former Bush administration staffer two years ago, would have been driving recklessly through the palm-lined streets of northwest Los Angeles in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning. Hastings had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, but there was no immediate indication from police officials that he was intoxicated at the time of his fiery fatal accident. The Los Angeles Times reported that ‘neither the LAPD nor the coroner’s department could officially identify the body found in the vehicle,’ which was ‘burned beyond recognition.’
Curiouser and curiouser...

Church And Nanny State

He was speaking to the issue of conflict in Northern Ireland, but, Mr. President, context matters:
Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity — symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others — these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it. If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs — if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.
Yes, because telling people that their beliefs are "divisive" is a great way to encourage cooperation...

Professionals With Guns

What could go wrong?
Agents actually fired their guns accidently more often than they intentionally fired them in the field, according to an audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

The report also found that the agency, which is now training with AR-15s, does not always provide remedial training to agents who fired their weapons due to “negligence.”

The September 2012 audit examined whether IRS special agents, who execute search warrants for those suspected of violating U.S. tax laws, are being properly trained and reporting incidents when weapons are fired.

“When performing their duties, special agents carry firearms and are authorized to use deadly force to protect themselves and the public,” the report explains.

“Special training agents not properly trained in the use of firearms could endanger the public, as well as their fellow special agents, and expose the IRS to possible litigation over injuries or damages,” it warns.

According to the audit, “there were a total of eight firearm discharges classified as intentional use of force incidents and 11 discharges classified as accidental during FYs 2009 through 2011.” In other words, agents were more likely to accidentally fire their weapon than to fire it intentionally.
I think "special" might be a good word to use here...

The Lost States

President Obama seems to have forgotten someone:
Mr. Obama’s near-complete absence from more than 25 percent of the states, from which he is politically estranged, is no surprise, reflecting routine cost-benefit calculations of the modern presidency. But in a country splintered by partisanship and race, it may have consequences.

America’s 21st-century politics, as underscored by the immigration debate embroiling Congress, increasingly pits the preferences of a dwindling, Republican-leaning white majority against those of expanding, Democratic-leaning Hispanic and black minorities. Even some sympathetic observers fault Mr. Obama as not doing all he could to pull disparate elements of society closer. “Every president should make an attempt to bridge the divide,” said Donna Brazile, an African-American Democratic strategist. “It’s a tall order. I wouldn’t give him high marks.”

America’s political polarization has of course gathered force for decades; Mr. Obama merely inherited it. His aides note, accurately, that he has faced concerted, implacable Republican opposition — like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who declared his goal of ensuring a one-term Obama presidency. While a president’s destinations carry symbolic weight, the entire country sees him through news coverage wherever he goes.

But Mr. Obama burst onto the national stage as a bridge-builder whose biracial ancestry spanned the white Kansas heartland and emerging minority communities. His 2004 Democratic convention speech gained moral force by scorning the fact that “pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.”

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America,” Mr. Obama said then. “There’s not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”

As Mr. Obama’s travel shows, his White House has sliced and diced as finely as any. According to figures compiled by Mark Knoller of CBS News, an unofficial White House historian, Mr. Obama has visited the swing states of Colorado 19 times, Florida 30 times, Iowa 18 times, Nevada 17 times and Ohio 39 times.
Some states are more politically equal than others...

Yesterday's Moon

Still pretty cool:
Romanian photographer Maximilian Teodorescu recently captured this dramatic photo of the International Space Station (ISS) as it drifted across the surface of the Moon. But looking at it a bit closer, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the starship Enterprise.

And indeed, the photo recently caught the attention of non-other than George Takei who declared on his Facebook page, "My goodness, from this angle it looks like a certain starship I once flew."
Well, they've done it before:

The Last Don

RIP James Gandolfini:
Gandolfini will be forever known for his portrayal of mob boss Tony Soprano on the seminal HBO series The Sopranos, which eventually won him 3 Emmy Awards and a $1,000,000-an-episode paycheck. Overweight, balding, rough around the edges with a thick New Jersey accent, Gandolfini was the opposite of a marquee leading man, destined to be a character actor. Yet he proved through his masterful acting that he could make Tony Soprano sexy and smart, towering and powerful. Chris Albrecht who greenlighted the crime family saga at HBO in 1999 and approved Gandolfini in the role, just emailed Deadline: “Absolutely stunned. I got the word from Lorraine Bracco and just got off with Brad Grey who had just heard from David Chase. We had all become a family. This is a tremendous loss.” (Grey was the executive producer and Chase the creator of The Sopranos.) And Gandolfini’s managers confirmed the actor’s death. “It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy,’ said Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders. ”Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving.”
Godspeed, Godfather:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Deepest Cuts

Obamacare affects everyone:
While private companies are getting all this unwelcome and hostile attention, local governments across the country have been quietly doing exactly the same thing — cutting part-time hours specifically so they can skirt ObamaCare's costly employer mandate, while complaining about the law in some of the harshest terms anyone has uttered in public.

The result is that part-time government workers — many of them low-income — face pay cuts that can top $3,000 a year, and yet will still be left without employer-provided benefits.
Well, at least they're still "covered..."

Bonus Round

The timing is perfect:
The Internal Revenue Service is about to pay $70 million in employee bonuses despite an Obama administration directive to cancel discretionary bonuses because of automatic spending cuts enacted this year, according to a GOP senator.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says his office has learned that the IRS is executing an agreement with the employees' union on Wednesday to pay the bonuses. Grassley says the bonuses should be canceled under an April directive from the White House budget office.
The directive was written by Danny Werfel, a former budget official who has since been appointed acting IRS commissioner.
"The IRS always claims to be short on resources," Grassley said. "But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses. And it appears to be making an extra effort to give the bonuses despite opportunities to renegotiate with the union and federal instruction to cease discretionary bonuses during sequestration."
Apparently they didn't get the memo...

The Ugly American Presidency

Why does President Obama have so much trouble overseas?
While tangling with the leaders of two cold war antagonists of the United States is nothing new, the two bruising encounters in such a short span underscore a hard reality for Mr. Obama as he heads deeper into a second term that may come to be dominated by foreign policy: his main counterparts on the world stage are not his friends, and they make little attempt to cloak their disagreements in diplomatic niceties.

Even his friends are not always so friendly. On Wednesday, for example, the president is to meet in Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who has invited him to deliver a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. But Ms. Merkel is also expected to press Mr. Obama about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, which offend privacy-minded Germans.

For all of his effort to cultivate personal ties with foreign counterparts over the last four and a half years — the informal “shirt-sleeves summit” with Mr. Xi was supposed to nurture a friendly rapport that White House aides acknowledge did not materialize — Mr. Obama has complicated relationships with some, and has bet on others who came to disappoint him.
"Smart diplomacy" not working out so well these days?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More Pork

The Obama administration is against a farm bill because it isn't expensive enough:
The White House is threatening to veto the House version of a massive, five-year farm bill, saying food stamp cuts included in the legislation could leave some Americans hungry.

The House is preparing to consider the bill this week. The legislation would cut $2 billion annually, or around 3 percent, from food stamps and make it harder for some people to qualify for the program. Food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, cost almost $80 billion last year, twice the amount it cost five years ago. …

The White House said in its statement Monday that food stamps are “a cornerstone of our nation’s food assistance safety net.” The administration argued that the House should make deeper cuts to farm subsidies like crop insurance instead.
Maybe he's just upset that the Republicans are trying to out-Pork his own party...

Mother's Milk

Michael Bloomberg has got competition:
Venezuelan lawmakers are weighing whether to ban the use of baby bottles as part of a push to promote breast-feeding, state media reported.
The proposed measure will be up for debate in the South American country’s National Assembly on Tuesday, lawmaker Odalis Monzon said in an interview with state-run VTV.

“Every baby has the right to breast-feeding,” said Monzon, a lawmaker from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

In addition to banning bottle-feeding, the proposed revisions to Venezuela’s Law of Promotion and Protection of Breastfeeding also include plans to penalize those who advertise baby formula, she said.
Somewhere, bloomberg is saying, "Gee, why didn't I think of that?"

Change Of Command

Turning the page in Afghanistan:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced at a ceremony on Tuesday that his country's armed forces are taking over the lead for security nationwide from the U.S.-led NATO coalition.
The handover of responsibility is a significant milestone in the nearly 12-year war and marks a turning point for American and NATO military forces, which will now move entirely into a supporting role. It also opens the way for their full withdrawal in 18 months.
"This is a historic moment for our country and from tomorrow all of the security operations will be in the hands of the Afghan security forces," Karzai said at the ceremony, held at the new National Defense University built to train Afghanistan's future military officers.
Karzai said that in the coming months, coalition forces will gradually withdraw from Afghanistan's provinces as the country's security forces replace them.
Here are the keys, Mr. Karzi. Don't wreck it...

No Ma'am

In Australia, playing the gender card fails:
Gillard, the country's first female leader, last week reignited a simmering gender war by saying in a speech that government would be dominated by "men in blue ties" should opposition leader Tony Abbott assume office in September elections.

"It's a decision about whether, once again, we will banish women's voice from the core of our political life," said the embattled prime minister in the speech, desperate to shore up waning support.

"We don't want to live in an Australia where abortion again becomes the political plaything of men who think they know better."

But the ploy has backfired with a poll in Fairfax Media showing male voters are abandoning Gillard and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and there is little sign of more women getting behind her.

The telephone poll of 1,400 voters found that since the last survey a month ago Labor's standing has continued to slide, led entirely by a seven percent exodus of men.
Male bashing isn't always a winning strategy...

Parliament Of Drunks

I wish this was the explanation for our own Senate:
A parliamentary hearing on Ukraine's budget was suspended on Tuesday when opposition deputies alleged that a deputy finance minister presenting the budget report was drunk.
Anatoly Myarkovsky, first deputy finance minister, spoke for 10 minutes on the government's budget performance in 2012.
But when questions were invited, deputies from Ukraine's rowdy opposition called out "He's drunk". One shouted: "Anyone within five metres can tell he reeks of someone who has been drinking vodka. Mr. Speaker, go and sniff for yourself."
Speaker Volodymyr Rybak declined, saying it was not up to him to check on the behaviour of government officials or deputies. But he suspended the budget hearing until it had been clarified whether Myarkovsky had been under the influence or not.
Myarkovsky himself left the chamber as Rybak was speaking. There was no formal word from his office.
A deputy from the ruling Regions party, Volodymyr Makeyenko, sprang to Myarkovsky's defence.
"There wasn't any smell of alcohol coming from the deputy minister. I have known him for 20 years and he's a responsible person - these allegations are just an attempt by the opposition to undermine (parliamentary) proceedings," he told journalists.
Breathalyzer tests, anyone?

Hoosier Fraud

An Indiana election thief gets busted:
The plot successfully faked names and signatures on both the Obama and Clinton presidential petitions that were used to place the candidates on the ballot. So many names were forged -- an estimated 200 or more -- that prosecutor Stanley Levco said that had the fraud been caught during the primary, "the worst that would have happened, is maybe Barack Obama wouldn't have been on the ballot for the primary."

"I think that Obama would still have been elected president, no matter what," he said.

In court, former longtime St. Joseph County Democratic Chairman Butch Morgan, Jr. was sentenced to one year behind bars, and is expected to serve half that, as well as Community Corrections and probation. Former St. Joseph County Board of Elections worker and Democratic volunteer Dustin Blythe received a sentence of one year in Community Corrections and probation, which means no jail time.
Quite frankly, I'm surprised that only one 2008 operative is going to jail...

The Quiet Man

An activist provides a counterpoint to other Turkish protests:
Erdem Gunduz said he wanted to take a stand against police stopping demonstrations near the square, the Dogan news agency reported.

He stood silently, facing the Ataturk Cultural Centre which was draped in Turkish flags and a portrait of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, from 6pm on Monday.

By 2am on Tuesday, when the police moved in, about 300 people had joined him. Ten people, who refused to be moved on by police, were detained.

Gunduz, swiftly dubbed "standing man" on social media in Turkey, inspired similar protests elsewhere in Istanbul, as well as in the capital, Ankara, and the city of Izmir on the Aegean coast.

The silent protests were in stark contrast to demonstrations at the weekend, which saw some of the fiercest clashes so far when police fired teargas and water cannons to clear thousands from Taksim Square.
Say what you will, but sometimes silence is golden...

More Phone Follies

Want a few extra bucks? Sell your Obama phone:
The phones' legitimate purposes include poverty-level job applicants' use as contact numbers for job interviews and emergency contacts for children of single parents.

But when James O'Keefe, whose Project Veritas is a perennial thorn in the side of progressive policymakers, sent an undercover actor into a Stand Up Wireless location in Philadelphia, the man's stated purpose was to buy drugs.

'Once you guys give me this phone, it's my phone?' he asked an employee inside a Philadelphia brick-and-mortar Stand Up Wireless location. 'I can, like, sell it and stuff?'

'Whatever you want to do with it,' the worker replied.

'So I'm [going to] get some money for heroin,' he offered.

The employee coolly responded, 'Hey, I don't judge.'
Who says fraud doesn't pay...

Solar Windmills

Insanity, as defined by the Secretary of Energy:
Moniz put strong faith in solar power during remarks Monday at a Washington, D.C., conference. That continues the trend set forth by his predecessor, Steven Chu, who was a staunch advocate of the renewable energy source.

“I would argue that I believe that the scale and time frame of impact of solar technology, I believe, again, is underestimated,” he said at the U.S. Energy Information Administration-hosted event. “There are many situations today when solar is in fact competitive.”

“We are aggressively pursuing this in many dimensions,” he continued. “I think that’s an example of something we will look back on in 10 years and be surprised at the scope.”
Yes, I'm sure the list of bankruptcies will be quite impressive...

Conspiracy Country

Most Americans agree: the White House did it:
A growing number of Americans believe that senior White House officials ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative political groups, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that a majority of the public says the controversy, which involves increased IRS scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, is very important to the nation.

Republicans argue that the Obama administration used the IRS to intimidate and harass political opponents. Democrats say poor management at the tax agency, rather than political bias, is to blame. Congressional sources on both sides say that interviews with IRS workers so far have found no political conspiracy.

Last month only 37% of the public thought that the IRS controversy led to the White House, with 55% saying that agency officials acted on their own without direct orders from Washington. Now the number who say the White House directed that IRS program has increased 10 points, to 47%, virtually the same as the 49% who believe the IRS agents acted on their own.
The Obama administration's response hasn't exactly helped their case, either...

Hunting For Hoffa

In Michigan, digging for Jimmy Hoffa:
Anthony J. Zerilli, who recently published a manuscript about his claims that is sold online at, told agents that mobsters buried Hoffa alive on the property in 1975, after kidnapping him from a Bloomfield Township restaurant.

Zerilli describes himself as a good friend of the former Teamsters president. He claims he learned about Hoffa's disappearance from the "inner circle" of the Detroit mafia.

"There was an old house with an old barn on the property," Zerilli wrote, according to a copy of the manuscript handed out by a man near where FBI agents are digging. "As soon as they pulled near the barn, Hoffa was dragged out of the car, and bound and gagged. A shallow hole was already dug in the barn floor. He put up a fight, but he was easily overpowered. …(One of the men) picked up a shovel and cracked Hoffa over the head with it. …They threw him into the hole, and buried him alive. He wasn't shot, he wasn't stabbed, nothing like that. A cement slab of some sort was placed on top of the dirt to make certain he was not going to be discovered. And that was it. End of story."

Just after 11 a.m. Monday, a large truck pulling a trailer carrying a backhoe pulled onto the property. By 2 p.m., the digger was moving about the large, grassy field, surrounded by yellow police tape, a swarm of television satellite trucks and media waiting down the dirt road.
The search goes on...

Obama On Defense

President Obama hunkers down:
The president insisted that he had implemented additional safeguards to protect personal privacy, and sought to contrast his polices with the Bush administration amid charges that the surveillance programs highlight his own hypocrisy.
“Some people say ‘Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney,” Obama said. “Dick Cheney sometimes says, 'Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.’

“My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather, are we setting up a system of checks and balances?” Obama said.
The jury seems to be out on that one...

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Last Dispatch

It's the world's last telegram:
Telegraph services ended in the United States seven years ago, but in India, the century-and-a-half old communication medium is still widely used to send messages. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), India’s state-owned telecom company, recently printed a message reads, “GRANDMOTHER SERIOUS. 15 DAYS LEAVE EXTENSION,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Approximately 5,000 messages are sent every day by telegram in India, a service favored for its “sense of urgency and authenticity,” a BSNL official told the Monitor.

Once the world’s fastest form of communication, telegrams can no longer compete with text messaging and smartphones, however.

"We were incurring losses of over $23 million a year because SMS and smartphones have rendered this service redundant," said Shamim Akhtar, general manager of BSNL's telegraph services. The agency did not say what the contents of the final message would be.
The telegraph was one of the first means of mass communication, now obsolete. Stop.

No Papers, Please

About that Arizona immigration ruling:
Scalia said that the presumption doesn't apply because Congress enacted the law under the Elections Clause. (Art. I, §4, cl. 1: "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the places of chusing Senators.”)

Justice Kennedy, concurring, rejected the idea of "a hierarchy of federal powers so that some statutes pre-empting state law must be interpreted by different rules than others, all depending upon which power Congress has exercised." It's still an area of traditional state regulation, and it would make more sense to question the presumption — he says, citing an old Scalia concurrence that did just that — than to minimize the state's concern, given that they are acting in "their own historic role in the conduct of elections." But Kennedy concurs because there's no ambiguity in the National Voter Registration Act that the presumption would resolve. The preemption is clear.

Only 2 justices dissented. Justice Thomas said the Constitution gives the states the exclusive authority over voter qualifications and over whether those qualifications are met, so he adopted the narrower interpretation of the NVRA to avoid an unnecessary constitutional question. Justice Alito said that the Court got it "exactly backwards" when it rejected the presumption against preemption because of the Elections Clause. The Elections Clause manifests a reservation of "default responsibility" to the states, so Congress should have to "speak clearly" to displace the states as they carry out this function the Constitution explicitly assigned to them.
Did Arizona overreach? More to come...

Required Reading

North Korea comes with instructions:
A report from New Focus International, a North Korean news organization that runs underground to avoid the scrutiny of the tyrannical government, senior government officials got copies of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf for Kim Jong Un’s birthday in January.

Only a few copies were handed out, since most books are banned in the country; such gifts are called “hundred-copy books” in North Korea. According to the report, the book was not intended to idolize the anti-Semitic aspects of Nazism, but to focus in on Hitler’s plans for economic recovery in the country. “Kim Jong Un gave a lecture to high-ranking officials, stressing that we must pursue the policy of Byungjin in terms of nuclear and economic development,” the government source said. “Mentioning that Hitler managed to rebuild Germany in a short time following its defeat in World War One, Kim Jong Un issued an order for the Third Reich to be studied in depth and asked that practical applications be drawn from it.”
They seem to have been doing that for quite some time now...

Info Maniacs

They want information:
A new 253-page Obamacare rule issued late Friday requires state, federal and local agencies as well as health insurers to swap the protected personal health information of anybody seeking to join the new health care program that will be enforced by the Internal Revenue Service.

Protected health information, or PHI, is highly protected under federal law, but the latest ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services allows agencies to trade the information to verify that Obamacare applicants are getting the minimum amount of health insurance coverage they need from the health "exchanges."

The ruling, explained on pages 72-73 of the book-thick guidance, does not mention any requirement that applicants first OK the release of their PHI. HHS already allows some exchange of PHI without an individual's pre-approval, especially when for a "government program providing public benefits." Officials said the swapping of information is simply meant to help figure the best insurance coverge of Obamacare users.

The new ruling surprised some congressional critics. "This sounds as if HHS will have access to protected health info to me," said one top Hill aide worried about how well the administration will protect that information.
Judging by their recent actions, I'd be worried, too...

Day Of The Animals

Maybe they really are taking over:
Morris, a black-and-white kitten with orange eyes, is running for mayor of Xalapa in eastern Mexico with the campaign slogan "Tired of Voting for Rats? Vote for a Cat." And he is attracting tens of thousands of politician-weary, two-legged supporters on social media.
"He sleeps almost all day and does nothing, and that fits the profile of a politician," said 35-year-old office worker Sergio Chamorro, who adopted the 10-month-old feline last year.
Put forth as a candidate by Chamorro and a group of friends after they became disillusioned with the empty promises of politicians, Morris' candidacy has resonated across Mexico, where citizens frustrated with human candidates are nominating their pets and farm animals to run in July 7 elections being held in 14 states.
Also running for mayor are "Chon the Donkey" in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, "Tina the Chicken" in Tepic, the capital of the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, "Maya the Cat" in the city of Puebla and "Tintan the Dog" in Oaxaca City, though their campaigns are not as well organized as that of Morris.
The good news: they couldn't be any worse than what Mexico has right now. The bad news: other people still have to clean up the messes they leave behind...

The Crazy Zone

Zero Tolerance doesn't work:
“These zero-tolerance policies are psychotic, in the strict sense of the word: psychotic means ‘out of touch with reality,’” Dr. Leonard Sax, a Pennsylvania psychologist and family physician, and author of “Boys Adrift,” told

“Out-of-touch policies such as these, which criminalize behaviors which have always been common among young kids, are contributing to the growing proportion of American kids, especially boys, who regard school as a stupid waste of time and who can’t wait to get out of school so that they can get back to playing their video games,” Sax said.
Granted, lots of kids have always felt that way, but now schools are giving them an actual reason to do so...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

One Ring To Bind Them

In Russia, ring wears you:
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman denied that the leader kept a Super Bowl ring that New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft wanted back.

Both sides agree that the ring, with its 124 diamonds, changed hands during Kraft's visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2005.

The New York Post reported on remarks made by Kraft, 72, at a New York awards gala Thursday.

"I took out the ring and showed it to (Putin). And he put it on and he goes, 'I can kill someone with this ring,'" Kraft said, according to the New York Post. "I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out."
There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power...

99 Google Balloons

The age of the Internet balloons?
Still in their experimental stage, the balloons were the first of thousands that Google's leaders eventually hope to launch 12 miles into the stratosphere in order to bridge the gaping digital divide between the world's 4.8 billion unwired people and their 2.2 billion plugged-in counterparts.

If successful, the technology might allow countries to leapfrog the expense of laying fiber cable, dramatically increasing Internet usage in places such as Africa and Southeast Asia.

"It's a huge moonshot. A really big goal to go after," said project leader Mike Cassidy. "The power of the Internet is probably one of the most transformative technologies of our time."
As anyone in the NSA can tell you...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Good Morning

Who really owns "Happy Birthday?"
Good Morning to You Productions Corp. has filed a lawsuit on behalf of all those in film, television and elsewhere who are paying for rights to "Happy Birthday." The plaintiff aims to force Warner/Chappell Music to return millions of dollars collected over the years for what the lawsuit calls "the world's most popular song."
Why "Happy Birthday" is under copyright is complicated.
When the Hill sisters first composed the song in 1893, it was called "Good Morning to All." Somewhere along the line the tune evolved into the version that is currently popular. The song has traditionally been regarded as copyrighted because the lyrics appeared in a songbook in 1924 and a piano arrangement was published in 1935. As such, it would neatly fit into changes in copyright law that conferred a lengthy 95 years of protection for works created after 1923. Had the songbook been published any earlier, there wouldn't be any question as to whether a license fee was needed when, for example, Marilyn Monroe sang it to John F. Kennedy in 1962.
Now, the documentary film company says it has "irrefutable documentary evidence, some dating back to 1893, [which] shows that the copyright to 'Happy Birthday,' if there ever was a valid copyright to any part of the song, expired no later than 1921 and that if defendant Warner/Chappell owns any rights to 'Happy Birthday,' those rights are limited to the extremely narrow right to reproduce and distribute specific piano arrangements for the song published in 1935."
If the original isn't in the public domain by now, maybe it ought to be...

Who Made That Happen?

Rick Santorum, middle-class warrior?
“One after another, [business owners who were invited to speak] talked about the business they had built. But not a single—not a single —factory worker went out there,” Santorum told a few hundred conservative activists at an “after-hours session” of the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them. You know what? They built that company too! And we should have had them on that stage.”…

“When all you do is talk to people who are owners, talk to folks who are ‘Type As’ who want to succeed economically, we’re talking to a very small group of people,” he said. “No wonder they don’t think we care about them. No wonder they don’t think we understand them. Folks, if we’re going to win, you just need to think about who you talk to in your life.”
Santorum is attempting to push back against the Stupid Party label here, and, as Allahpundit puts it:
I thought, and do think, that O’s “you didn’t build that” line was a window onto his essential statism, an unusually blunt expression of contempt for private initiative. It’s one thing to demand higher taxes for the rich, it’s another to deny entrepreneurs, even rhetorically, the credit they deserve for having taken great risk to build wealth-generating enterprises. If you’re a true-believing libertarian-leaning capitalist, it’s Obama at his sneering liberal worst. But here’s the thing, and it’s something I’m reminded of constantly: Most voters aren’t ideologues. One of the lessons of last year’s campaign was that 99 percent of the daily “gaffes” and kerfuffles that political media, left and right, regularly wets its pants over mean next to nothing to the average joe. If you’re going to devote an entire convention to the other guy’s allegedly damning gaffe, you’d best be sure that gaffe is really, really damning in the eyes of most voters. It is to an ideologue like me and to America’s proud entrepreneurs. What about the other 80 percent of the electorate?
It may be just political hindsight, but Santorum does have a point. But is he the one who should be making it?

Broken Motor City

The well has officially run dry:
"We’re tapped out," Orr was quoted by WWJ-TV as saying. "We need to come up with a plan to restructure our debt obligations and our legacy obligations going forward — that is: pension, other employee benefits, health care, so on and so forth."

Orr said everyone involved needs to come to grips with Detroit's dire financial situation that has been worsened by years of procrastination and denial. He said his team is prepared for potential lawsuits from creditors not pleased with the arrangements under the plan.

"If people are sincere and look at this data, you would think a rational person will step back and say, 'This is not normal ... but what choice do we have?'" Orr said.
Detroit dug its own hole for decades. Welcome to rock bottom.

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...