Saturday, August 31, 2013

In The Dark

In the UK, it's lights out:
Britain is closing a number of aging coal-fired plants—as well as some oil and nuclear ones—to meet European Union environmental laws. One fifth of the existing power stations are scheduled to close over the next ten years. According to Reuters, the U.K. is set to lose more than 12 gigawatts of generating capacity in the next two years. Currently, the country operates 13 coal plants, but nearly half are slated to close by 2015, and all of them could be shut down by 2023, according to government figures.
Supply, meet demand...

Huff And Puff

When a liberal does it, it's a "test":
In the impromptu interview, Robert said that his tweet was a “pressure test.” According to him, vulgar tweets like these reveal “[who] is really racist.” Robert alleged that he “tweeted the same thing to her and Ann Coulter and I wanted to see which one would respond.”

Robert concluded that it proved, “Dana Loesch was the one that was really racist, Ann Coulter was not.”

Akbar then disclosed that he, an African-American was a friend of Loesch’s and contended she was not a racist.

Pressing Robert further, Robert said, “I can tell by the way she tweets, that she has racial animosity.”

“It was insanity on display,” Akbar told ViralRead, “You see this type of thing with trolls — it’s not just the Internet, these people are like this in real life too.”‘
Professional trolls get to be journalistic contributors...

The Campaign Begins (Again)

Never let a good campaign staff go to waste:
The White House is mapping out a strategy to deploy the president, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden in what will be their most coordinated effort yet to sell Obamacare, senior administration officials said.

A burst of activity will coincide with the October opening of the insurance marketplaces, but the West Wing views this next phase as something more akin to a political campaign’s push for early votes. Over the six-month enrollment period, the White House will use the Obamas and Bidens strategically, tracking the turnout for the exchanges in key states and sending them into weak markets to boost numbers. …

But in the last month alone, Obama has plugged the new health benefits on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” convened a videoconference with state health officials from the Situation Room, devoted a weekly address to the law and tweeted about it with Katy Perry, who boasts 41 million followers. …

It’s his best opportunity to prove critics wrong and begin turning around public opinion if the rollout can beat expectations, which the president is already trying to downplay with his refrain that Obamacare won’t be the first flawless enterprise in human history.
Given how apparent the flaws in Obamacare have become even to supporters, more like his last chance...

Changing Change

Time for a do-over:
While climate scientists quietly work, the noisy action has been on the policy frontiers. Activists on both sides play for the crowds, often using the standard sales tools of exaggeration and misrepresentation. Advocates of action had more supporters among journalists, and were able to do this on a larger scale. Unfortunately Mother Nature responded with the pause, undercutting their forecasts of imminent doom (forecasts beyond anything in the IPCC’s work). Now come the consequences, as people defect from the cause.
A cause that was largely manufactured by those same journalists...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Who Went There?

Keep your friends close, and their identities closer:
In a decision that is drawing intense criticism from across the ideological spectrum, the circuit court said the president has a "constitutional perogative" not to tell the American people who he or his staff meets with in the White House.

The court said the president has such a prerogative because he is not covered by the FOIA and because of "special policy considerations" that allow exemption of visitor logs from classification as agency records subject to release under the public records law.

President Obama began making public some of the White House visitor logs in 2009, but refused a Judicial Watch request for all of the logs.

Administration spokesmen have often pointed to the partial release of the logs to support the president's claim that his is "the most transparent administration in history."

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton was extremely disappointed by the decision, saying "a president that doesn't want Americans, under law, to know who his visitors are is a president who doesn't want to be accountable. The appellate court decision punches another hole in the Freedom of Information Act, the law which allows Americans to know what their government is up to."
Privacy for me, not for thee...

Land Shark

Well, it walks:
The brown and white bamboo shark pushes itself along the ocean floor as it forages for small fish and crustaceans at night, said Conservation International, whose scientists were involved in its discovery.

The shark, which grows to a maximum length of just 80 centimetres (30 inches) and is harmless to humans, was discovered off Halmahera, one of the Maluku Islands that lie west of New Guinea.

Bamboo sharks, also known as longtail carpet sharks, are relatively small compared to their larger cousins, with the largest adult reaching only about 120 centimetres (47 inches) in length.

They have unusually long tails that are bigger than the rest of their bodies and are found in tropical waters around Indonesia, Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Or maybe it's only a dolphin...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Obamacare Workaround

Illinois has found a way to get Obamacare contracts that is, shall we say, somewhat creative:
By forming an alliance with Michigan, Illinois was able to bypass a drawn-out, expensive bidding process because the state procurement code says HFS doesn’t need one if there is an intergovernmental agreement.

“The system can be built in much less time,” wrote Illinois director of HFS, Julie Hamos. “Which is saving taxpayers millions of dollars versus Illinois implementing a much costlier stand-alone system.”

CNSI, however, has encountered problems in other states.

The company sued Louisiana after a contract there was terminated during an investigation into whether CNSI and a handful of other companies violated ethical guidelines during the procurement process.

According to openthebooks.com there were also cost overruns in Washington and Maine and a lawsuit in South Dakota that ended in mediation.

However, the federal government certified CNSI, which was sufficient for Illinois to move forward with the intergovernmental agreement.

“The issues in other states since then do not in any way reflect the technological capabilities and performance Michigan has experienced with CNSI,” wrote director Hamos.
Have to keep that partnership going, you know...

Laws Of The Land

Is the government finally stepping back from the War on Drugs?
In a memo sent Thursday to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole detailed the administration’s new stance, even as he reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The memo directs federal prosecutors to focus their resources on eight specific areas of enforcement, rather than targeting individual marijuana users, which even President Obama has acknowledged is not the best use of federal manpower. Those areas include preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the sale of pot to cartels and gangs, preventing sales to other states where the drug remains illegal under state law, and stopping the growing of marijuana on public lands.
....

Washington state and Colorado last fall approved initiatives to decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Those laws go beyond provisions for the medical use of marijuana. The District and 18 states have passed laws making it legal to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Until Thursday, the Justice Department and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy had remained silent about those initiatives, despite repeated requests for guidance from state officials.
This may be a first step in that direction, and hopefully a positive one.

Head Games

Are you ready for: Brain control?

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The Unaffordable Care Act

The cost of Obamacare just keeps climbing:
Economists largely agree there won't be a sea change among employers offering coverage. But they're also saying small businesses are still in play.
Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, a health care and public policy advisory firm, said there's a calculation low-wage companies will make to determine if there's cost savings in sending employees to the exchanges.
"The amount you have to gross up their wages so they can get their own insurance and the cost of the penalties may add up to less than the cost of providing care," she said.
It's a choice companies are already making. The number of employers offering coverage has declined, from 66 percent in 2003 to 57 percent today, according to Kaiser's study.
Gee, who could have seen this one coming?

Killer Kim

What the?
Kim Jong-un’s ex-girlfriend was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by firing squad nine days ago, according to South Korean reports.

Hyon Song-wol, a singer, rumoured to be a former lover of the North Korean leader, is said to have been arrested on Aug 17 with 11 others for violating laws against pornography.

All 12 were machine-gunned three days later, with other members of North Korea’s most famous pop groups and their immediate families forced to watch. The onlookers were then sent to prison camps, victims of the regime’s assumption of guilt by association, the reports stated.

“They were executed with machine guns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band as well as the families of the victims looked on,” said a Chinese source reported in the newspaper.
He's not as crazy as his old man was. He's crazier. Good grief.

Teenage Blues

Welcome to the lost generation:
In 1999, slightly more than 52 percent of teens 16 to 19 worked a summer job. By this year, that number had plunged to about 32.25 percent over June and July. It means that slightly more than three in 10 teens actually worked a summer job, out of a universe of roughly 16.8 million U.S. teens.

“We have never had anything this low in our lives. This is a Great Depression for teens, and no time in history have we encountered anything like that,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. “That’s why it’s such an important story.”
It's not that much better for adults, either...

Hot For Teacher

Detroit teachers are looking for a few good men:
In the Detroit School District alone, 201 teachers are moonlighting as sugar babies to offset wage cuts and job losses, according to dating website SeekingArrangement.com.

Brandon Wade, the website’s founder and CEO, said the average public school teacher registered on the site is between the ages of 28- and 33-years-old, and asks for approximately $3,000 a month in financial assistance from her sugar daddy.

“You can’t expect a teacher to accept less pay for more work than their peers, and then reach into their pockets to fund your child’s classroom,” Wade said in a statement. “But that’s what’s happening. If those are the expectations and pressures we are putting on our teachers in America, than they can’t possibly be judged for whatever extracurricular activities they choose to pursue to stay afloat.”
Do, does this make them "kept women?" And if so, then where are the feminists?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dragon Debt

Our biggest trading partner also has a debt problem:
Nationwide, four-and-a-half years of breakneck growth in lending has significantly increased China’s debt burden. Outstanding borrowing by businesses and households rose to 170% of gross domestic product at the end of 2012 from 117% in 2008, according to data from the Bank for International Settlements. The 2012 figure for the U.S. was 157%.

Assuming interest rates of 6.9% on outstanding credit—the average in June—and repayment over the next decade, interest and principal payments on business and household debt currently absorb around a third of China’s GDP. At the end of 2007, on the eve of the financial crisis, the equivalent debt-service ratio for the U.S. was 21%, a figure that was broadly unchanged at the end of 2012, according to the BIS. …

The heavy debt load could also weigh on China’s efforts to tilt its economy away from heavy spending on infrastructure, often paid for with borrowed money, and towards a rise in consumption.
Autocracy and debt don't go together so well, historically speaking...

Rally For Rent

Fake candidate, fake crowds:
Some of the gung-ho Weiner crowds, including at the Aug. 11 Dominican Day Parade in Manhattan, were really actors who were paid $15 an hour by the California firm Crowds on Demand, according to a source with direct knowledge of the deal.

The source said surrogates for Weiner approached the Santa Monica-based company days after Indiana-native Sydney Leathers came forward to say that Weiner had continued his digital dalliances after resigning from Congress.

The campaign asked the company to have actors seem “like either supporters or people who met him and became supporters as a result of that encounter,” the source said.

“The people would initially be skeptical and then they ask him various questions but would appear then to be convinced by his spiel,” according to the source, who said the campaign used Crowds on Demand “several times.”
Next come the fake (or dead) voters...

Got Brains?

Scientists grow miniature brains in the lab:
The "mini-brains" have survived for nearly a year, but did not grow any larger. There is no blood supply, just brain tissue, so nutrients and oxygen cannot penetrate into the middle of the brain-like structure.

One of the researchers, Dr Juergen Knoblich, said: "What our organoids are good for is to model development of the brain and to study anything that causes a defect in development.

"Ultimately we would like to move towards more common disorders like schizophrenia or autism. They typically manifest themselves only in adults, but it has been shown that the underlying defects occur during the development of the brain."

The technique could also be used to replace mice and rats in drug research as new treatments could be tested on actual brain tissue.
Just don't call them "pea brains..."

The Presidential Tweet

Are Presidential addresses out of style?
Thrush reported on Wednesday that, based on his conversations with aides to the president, Obama will not address the American people about the mission in Syria before hostilities commence. Thrush reports that Obama’s advisors believe addressing Americans from the gravity of the Oval Office or the East Room is “passé.” Furthermore, most Americans who care about the mission in Syria will learn the logic behind it from cable news.
I guess this is what he has the MSM for...

Missing In Action

At the MLK rally, a noticeable absence:
Scott, a Republican Representative appointed by S.C. Governor Nikki Haley earlier this year to fill former Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat in the U.S. Senate after he retired, was not invited to participate in the historic event, a spokesperson for the Senator confirmed to Red Alert Politics in an email.

African-American leaders who did receive an invitation to speak at included Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – who participated in the original March – Martin Luther King III, MSNBC host Al Sharpton and movie stars Jamie Foxx, Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker.
I guess they needed Al for the comic relief...

Finalized Flexing

Well, he did say that he would be more flexible after the election:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified insurance companies on Tuesday that it would not sign final agreements with the plans between September 5 and 9, as originally anticipated, but would wait until mid-September instead, according to insurance industry sources.

Nevertheless, Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for HHS, said the department remains "on track to open" the marketplaces on time on October 1.

The reason for the hold-up was unclear. Sources attributed it to technology problems involving the display of insurance products within the federal information technology system.

Peters said only that the government was responding to "feedback" from the companies, "providing additional flexibility and time to handle technical requests."
Sounds like somebody was worried about the next election...

The Drip-Drip Effect

Obamanomics in wonderland:
The Obama administration is stuck in a surreal world, where bad news is good news for the economy it has created. Trickle down from the stock market and artificially low interest rates are the only drivers of the economy. The second-estimate gross domestic product report this week will be vital to the life-support system that President Obama has constructed for the 1 percent. If the revised GDP numbers are good – relatively speaking – it will suggest that bond-buying by the Federal Reserve will be tapered in the near future. If the tapering begins, the stock market is going to fall. If the stock market falls, the wealth effect and the trickle-down that stock market boom has produced are going to dry up.

Obviously, an economic crash would be terrible, but so would a slowing down of the conveyor belt of money between Washington and Wall Street, which is fueling what little growth we have.
When the glass is one-fourths full...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blogging In The Years: 1973

The Battle of the Sexes ends with a win for women's lib:



Call me crazy, or a male chauvinist pig, but it looks like it might have been rigged (so to speak...)

Food For Naught

Schools don't seem to like Michelle Obama's menu:
After just one year, some schools around the country are dropping out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at meals packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables that the cafeterias were losing money.

Federal officials say they don’t have exact numbers but have seen isolated reports of schools cutting ties with the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for meals served and gives them access to lower-priced food.

Districts that rejected the program say the reimbursement was not enough to offset losses from students who began avoiding the lunch line and bringing food from home or, in some cases, going hungry.
You are what they force you to eat...

The Anti-Golden Horde

The new barbarians continue their campaign against science:
Greenpeace, with its $335 million annual revenue, has nearly four times more funding than the entire International Rice Research Institute (most of whose work involves conventional plant breeding). Greenpeace has waged a decade-long campaign against golden rice because it involves transgenic technology. The scientists at IRRI insist that there was no other way to get genes for beta-carotene into rice.

Greenpeace's scaremongering includes the regular production of glossy reports spreading unscientific myths about golden rice. In China last year it successfully created a fake media scandal which landed some of the key Chinese project scientists in jail. Greenpeace Southeast Asia spokespeople took to the media to speak in support of the destruction of the golden rice trial in the Philippines.
Feed a cold heart, starve the children...

Tobacco Road

So much for revenue:
If you’re a smoker living in Minnesota near the North Dakota border, you’ve undoubtedly discovered that you can save a lot by driving a little. Since Minnesota’s cigarette tax jumped by around $1.50 a pack on July 1st, tobacco wholesalers have noticed a dramatic drop in sales.

Wholesalers like Henry Knoll have noticed a dramatic drop in sales. Knoll is president of Frank McKone Cigar Co. in Fargo. He distributes to retailers within about 200 miles of Fargo-Moorhead.”Petro Serve USA” CEO Kent Satrang says the shift to North Dakota was almost immediate. Satrang says the convenience store industry lobbied the legislature for a smaller tax increase.
Sin taxes might work if they were actually profitable-but they're not.

The Revisionist Agenda

Remembering history, or rewriting it?
Black conservatives are rankled by the liberal flavor of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

They contend the left is appropriating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory and willfully understating the degree of progress the United States has made in overcoming the egregious racial injustices that characterized an earlier era.

They also argue Americans aren’t hearing the right message from leaders — mainly Democratic and liberal — who will celebrate the anniversary from the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday.

Mia Love, the Republican mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, is black and was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.

She contends that modern-day civil rights activists, in league with the Democratic Party, de-incentivize personal responsibility and economic independence.
Empowerment goes against the party line. There is probably much about today's "activism" that Dr. King wouldn't recognize-or approve of.

Wasteland

President Obama's desert:
Obama's tenure is a vast desert of anti-achievement, a landscape of waste and ruin on every front at home and abroad, save on the ability to mobilize voters who don't know or don't care about the state of the country or the world.

The president rolled to re-election on the strength of technologies that enabled his minions to tap and turn out folks who simply are clueless that that nice fellow in the White House hasn't the foggiest idea of how to run the country.
At least he identifies with his constituents in that regard...

Flash Fakery

Do not annoy the cops:
Officer Michael Ackermann, 30, who works out of the 44th Precinct, wrote in his report that shooter Robert Stolarik obstructed government administration when he repeatedly fired his flash in the officer’s face while he was making an unrelated arrest, according to the DA’s office.

Witnesses told investigators there was no flash attached to Stolarik’s camera, prosecutors said, adding that investigators also analyzed the photos taken during the arrest and determined no flash was used.

Stolarik, who has worked for The Times for more than a decade, was photographing the arrest of a teenage girl at McClellan Street and Sheridan Avenue about 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 4, The Times reported on Aug. 5, 2012.
It's getting harder for bad cops to make stuff up...

Lock Step

It is rather obvious:
Conservatives are far less visible on MSNBC than liberals are on Fox News, and the right-leaning guests who do appear are typically critics of the conservative movement: Steve Schmidt, the Republican strategist, who says the party is too tolerant of “nuts” and “kooks”; Josh Barro, an advocate for Republican reform who describes himself as “neoliberal”; Abby Huntsman, the daughter of failed presidential candidate Jon, who has described the G.O.P. as a party of “non-inclusion.” The over-all impression is that your average Republican or conservative is simply too fanatical to be part of polite discourse.
Kind of like MSNBC's hosts?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blogging In the Years: 1495

On the treatment of freshmen:
Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation.
Do not feed thy freshmen, either...

Fuel Fight

Somebody doesn't like competition:
The corn-ethanol group Growth Energy is taking aim at the oil industry in a new multimillion dollar national TV advertising campaign, the group announced Monday.

The push portrays the oil industry as using its clout to prevent biofuels from entering the marketplace. It’s the latest in a series of escalating attacks between biofuel and oil industry trade groups.

“While Big Oil may be one of the largest and well-funded industries on the planet – they are not entitled to use their influence to control Congress to maintain unbridled control over the transportation fuels marketplace,” Growth Energy said in a statement.
You mean like you guys?

The Opt-Out Generation

Why they'd rather pay up:
About 3.7 million of those ages 18-34 will be at least $500 better off if they forgo insurance and pay the penalty.
More than 3 million will be $1,000 better off if they go the same route.
Consequently, many more will opt to pay the extremely modest tax rather than fork over many thousands of dollars to purchase coverage that became substantially more expensive for young people thanks to the misguided pricing rules imposed by Obamacare.
If you can't afford it now, you probably never will...

Blurred Red Lines

When is a line not a line?
The use of chemical weapons, itself, was not exactly Obama’s original “red line,” as he laid it out during a news conference at the White House on Aug. 20, 2012. For purposes of expediency and practicality, media outlets have simplified the “red line” as this: If Syria deployed chemical weapons against its own people, it would have crossed a threshold with the White House.
But what Obama said was a little less clear.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” the president said a year ago last week. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
It was also unclear what the consequences of crossing that “red line” would be. Obama has cautioned that unilateral action, particularly without a U.N. mandate, may be unwise and could run afoul of international law. In keeping with the strategy he used in seeking international cooperation for airstrikes against Libya in 2011, Obama warned in a CNN interview last week that international cooperation is key to military intervention.
To many, Wednesday’s attack outside Damascus would likely qualify as “a whole bunch” of chemical weapons deployed.
Well, John Kerry says as much. So, what next?

Putting On The Brakes

The debt limit is coming:
The U.S. will hit the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling in mid-October, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a letter urging Congress to raise the limit “as soon as possible.”
“Extraordinary measures are projected to be exhausted in the middle of October,” Lew said in the letter today to House Speaker John Boehner and other lawmakers.
“At that point, the United States will have reached the limit of its borrowing authority, and Treasury would be left to fund the government with only the cash we have on hand on any given day,” he said. He said the cash balance at that time is forecast to be about $50 billion.
The Treasury Department had earlier said it probably will be able to finance government operations by using special accounting measures until after Congress returns Sept. 9 from its recess. Lew said Aug. 22 a failure by Congress to raise the debt limit would “have disastrous effects for our nation” and could put at risk payments to Social Security recipients and veterans.
You can spend and pretend all you want, but the bill still comes due...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Obamacare's Payday

The creators cash in:
Major lobbying firms such as Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, The Glover Park Group, Alston & Bird, BGR Group and Akin Gump can all boast an ObamaCare insider on their lobbying roster — putting them in a prime position to land coveted clients.

“When [Vice President] Biden leaned over [during healthcare signing] and said to [President] Obama, ‘This is a big f'n deal,’” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter at the McCormick Group, “he was right.”

Veterans of the healthcare push are now lobbying for corporate giants such as Delta Airlines, UPS, BP America and Coca-Cola, and for healthcare companies including GlaxoSmithKline, UnitedHealth Group and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Ultimately, the clients are after one thing: expert help in dealing with the most sweeping overhaul of the country’s healthcare system in decades.
It's a long con, but the score is still there...

Donald, Trumped?

The Donald gets sued:
Trump's attorney accused Schneiderman of trying to extort campaign contributions from the real estate mogul through his investigation of Trump. Attorney Michael D. Cohen told The Associated Press on Saturday that Schneiderman's lawsuit was filled with falsehoods. Cohen said Trump and his university never defrauded anyone.
He said Trump University provided nearly 11,000 testimonials to Schneiderman from students praising the program and said 98 percent of students in a survey termed the program "excellent."
"The attorney general has been angry because he felt that Mr. Trump and his various companies should have done much more for him in terms of fundraising," Cohen said. "This entire investigation is politically motivated and it is a tremendous waste of taxpayers' money."
Trump's hair had no comment...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Packing District

Is President Obama trying to go the FDR route?
In June, Obama set the stage for a fierce partisan fight when he announced the nominations of attorney Patricia Ann Millett, law professor Cornelia “Nina” Pillard and D.C. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins to the bench.

Two-thirds of the current sitting judges were appointed by Republican presidents. The actual political makeup, though, is split -- four Democrats and four Republicans.

Some say that in order to make sure his regulatory legacy lives on, Obama must get the full Senate to green light all three of his judicial picks. Severino, who clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, accused the Obama administration of trying to “stretch the limits of the regulatory regime.”

Plus there’s another reason why judicial watchers keep their eye on the D.C. court -- it looks great on the resume of anyone seeking a Supreme Court position.

“It’s a political football because it’s seen as the preliminary battle to being on the Supreme Court,” Trey Childress, associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, said. “Unless you’ve done something terribly wrong, the court is widely seen as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.”
Court-packing in stages?

Skipping The Broken Record

The price of President Obama's broken promises? Nobody listens to him anymore:
Even if you stipulate that politicians often make claims they can’t keep–that some are the product of cynical deception and others the product of unforeseen circumstances–Mr. Obama is in a category all his own.

Does it matter? I think so, in part because I don’t believe it’s good to have as president someone for whom words have no objective meaning and who believes he can construct his own narrative to fit his own needs. But I also think we’re seeing an accretion occur. It’s happening later than I would have hoped, but the public does seem to be tuning out the president. The latest pivot to the economy–has that pivot occurred a half-dozen or a dozen times before?–is meaningless. Nothing has happened before; why should anything happen now?

Mr. Obama talks, and he talks, and he talks. My how he loves to talk. But his words don’t translate into anything real. And eventually that does take a toll.
Especially when nobody believes you...

The Dolphin Plague

Dolphin deaths, caused by measles?
So far this summer, there have been about 230 dolphin deaths along the East Coast, prompting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare an unusual mortality event. That clears the way for an intensive scientific inquiry into what is causing the deaths.

No definitive conclusions have been reached, but many suspect the morbilli virus. The naturally occurring virus was ultimately blamed for the last major dolphin die-off, in 1987, when 740 dolphins died.

Marine biologist Kim Durham told CBS News that this type of virus resembles measles.

“When we were doing examinations, we would find they were very skinny animals,” Durham said. “They were compromised animals. Some of them had skin lesions — they were just very sick individuals.”
I blame Jenny McCarthy...

The Founding Extremists

For today's Defense Department, liberty is apparently a dirty word:
A Department of Defense teaching guide meant to fight extremism advises students that rather than “dressing in sheets” modern-day radicals “will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place,” and describes 18th-century American patriots seeking freedom from the British as belonging to “extremist ideologies.”

The guide comes from documents obtained by Judicial Watch and is authored by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, a DoD-funded diversity training center.

Under a section titled “extremist ideologies,” the document states, “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.”
King George III thought the Founding Fathers were extremists, too...

Spy Country

Where the rules don't apply:
The National Security Agency acknowledged Friday that some of its analysts knowingly violated the agency’s rules, after the incidents were included in an inspector general report.

"Over the past decade, very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities have been found, but none under FISA or the Patriot Act,” the NSA said in a statement.

“NSA takes very seriously allegations of misconduct, and cooperates fully with any investigations – responding as appropriate.

“NSA has zero tolerance for willful violations of the agency’s authorities,” the statement said.
Except when they're the ones being the willful violators...

Working For Opportunity

Ashton Kutcher explains working:

Filner Is Out

So Filner is gone:
Mr. Filner compared his situation over the last several weeks, under accusations by more than a dozen women, to facing a “lynch mob.”

“When a lynch-mob mentality exists, rumors become allegations, allegations become facts, and facts become evidence,” Mr. Filner said in a long, emotional speech in the City Council chamber. “We had a chance to do a progressive vision in this city for the first time in 50 years. We need you to carry that vision forward — this is not the time to let it die.”

Under an agreement approved Friday, the city will pay most of Mr. Filner’s legal fees. It will also cover any punitive damages against him in any sexual harassment lawsuit and pay up to $98,000 for his private lawyers.

Mr. Filner, the first Democrat elected mayor here in more than 20 years, will step down on Aug. 30. “I never intended to be a mayor who went out like this,” he said.

“This is the toughest decision in my life,” said Mr. Filner, who devoted much of his comments to criticizing his political enemies and speaking of his vision for leading the city. He ended, to a standing ovation from dozens of supporters, by quoting Senator Edward M. Kennedy: “The cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”
Er, what dream would that be, exactly?

Friday, August 23, 2013

A French Confession

How do you say "rock bottom" in French?
France’s Socialist government has admitted that the country cannot cope with any further tax rises and promised no more hikes just days ahead of the country’s largest ever tax bill. …

Returning from their summer break, the French are about to discover stinging rises in tax bills in their letter boxes – the result of a series of new levies enacted by President François Hollande as he seeks to plug the French deficit and bring down public debt – now riding at 92 per cent of GDP. …

The total tax pressure (taxes and social security contributions) will account for 46.3 per cent of GDP this year – a historic high – compared to 45 per cent in 2012. …

Pierre Mosovici, the finance minister, told France Inter radio: “I’m very sensitive to the French getting fed up with taxes We are listening to them.” Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister followed suit, warning Mr Hollande to be “very, very careful” as “there’s a level above which we shouldn’t climb”.
And yet, socialists keep trying...

The Campaigning Dead

The personality cult continues, and gets creepier:
With the help of the omnipresent posters and slogans – “Chávez lives, the fight continues!” – the former president’s grip over politics and daily life in Venezuela appears to be as strong as ever.

The propaganda and imagery that buttressed the late paratrooper’s anti-capitalist crusade since he was first elected in 1998 serve a different purpose: assuring his immortality.

“Chávez is a source of legitimacy for [his successor, Nicolás Maduro. The revolution can continue with a Chávez that is dead, because for the people he is still very much present,” says Maryclen Stelling, a sociologist sympathetic to Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”. …

Mr Maduro built his popularity on Chávez’s legacy, which the socialist leader anointed him to continue. But he is in many ways hostage to it. Even dead, unofficial popularity polls give Chávez an advantage of almost 15 points over Mr Maduro. …

He campaigned on the basis that his predecessor spoke to him in the form of a little bird. Last week, he admitted that he regularly sleeps in the mausoleum where the comandante’s remains are kept for inspiration.
They could just run him for office again. It works elsewhere...

The Obamacare Domino Effect

The dominoes keep falling:
Many cash-strapped cities and counties facing the prospect of shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars in new health-care costs under the Affordable Care Act are opting instead to reduce the number of hours their part-time employees work.

The decisions to cut employee hours come 16 months before employers — including state and local governments — will be required to offer health care coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week. Some local officials said the cuts are happening now either because of labor contracts that must be negotiated in advance, or because the local governments worry that employees who work at least 30 hours in the months leading up to the January 2015 implementation date would need to be included in their health-care plans.

On Tuesday, Middletown Township, New Jersey said it would reduce the hours of 25 part-time workers in order to avoid up to $775,000 in increased annual health-care costs. Earlier this month, Bee County, Tex., said it would limit its part-time workers to 24 hours per week when the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

Last month, department heads in Brevard County, Fla., were told to plan similar cuts in advance of the 2015 deadline. Brevard County Insurance Director Jerry Visco estimated the new mandate would cost the county $10,000 per part-time employee — or $1.38 million a year if all 138 part-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week are covered, he told Florida Today. The Brevard County libraries have already cut hours for 37 employees.
I'm sure the public service unions will get right on this...

Down The Pipeline

Just keep punting:
The State Department’s Office of Inspector General announced Friday it does not expect to release the results of an investigation into a possible conflict of interest in the department’s Keystone XL pipeline review until January—a move that could delay a final decision on the project until next year.

Earlier this month, the OIG began an inquiry into allegations made by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups that Environmental Resources Management, a consulting firm hired to produce the draft environmental impact statement for the pipeline, had ties to TransCanada Corp. and the American Petroleum Institute, two organizations with a key stake in the project. …

The conflict-of-interest inquiry and the State Department’s review of the pipeline have been ongoing, and State has not yet said when it will make a final determination on Keystone XL. But Friday’s announcement that the OIG investigation results won’t be released until January makes it likely that a decision on the project will be pushed back to 2014.
Out of sight, but not out of mind...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Close Circle Of Friends

Fox, meet henhouse:
ABC reports that the Obama administration’s surveillance review panel will include former intelligence and White House staffers, including Michael Morell, Richard Clarke, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire. An official announcement of the members of the panel is expected soon.

The review panel was first announced in a White House press conference on Aug. 9, when Obama said the administration would form “a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies.”
....

Michael Morell was a career intelligence officer, serving in the CIA for 33 years. He retired from his position as deputy director of the CIA earlier this year after serving two stints as the agency’s acting head during President Obama’s tenure.

Sunstein and and Swire are both former Obama administration White House staffers. Cass Sunstein left his position as the administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in 2012, while Swire served on the Obama-Biden Transition team and as special assistant to president Obama for economic policy. Swire currently teaches at the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech. He previously worked in the Clinton White House where he chaired a working group on how to update wiretap laws for the Internet and has a high profile in privacy policy circles.

Richard Clarke is a former national coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism for the United States. He worked for the State Department during the Reagan administration and served on the National Security Council during the presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. Clarke also endorsed then-Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign in 2007.
I'm sure this group will be totally balanced and objective...

Brain Trust

What sets Ted Cruz apart?
Cruz is different — a Princeton and Harvard man who not only matriculated at those fine institutions but excelled at them. Champion debater at Princeton. Magna cum laude graduate at Harvard. Supreme Court clerkship, on the way to Texas solicitor general and dozens of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cruz is from the intellectual elite, but not of it, a tea party conservative whose politics are considered gauche at best at the storied universities where he studied. He is, to borrow the words of the 2009 H.W. Brands biography of FDR, a traitor to his class.
For Cruz, that's a compliment...

Dumped By Obamacare

Spouses need not apply:
Both the University of Virginia and UPS told their employees recently they are no longer offering spousal coverage to those able to obtain insurance elsewhere; meaning thousands of Americans will no longer be able to choose the benefits they prefer.

UVA said Wednesday this is only one of many “major changes” coming to their health plans as a result of ObamaCare. The university says the changes are necessary because the law is projected to add $7.3 million to the cost of the university’s health plan in 2014 alone.

“The modified plan will provide new options and reward those who participate in wellness programs,” UVA’s Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Susan Carkeek said in a press release. “But we must make adjustments or face millions of dollars in rising costs, fees and taxes that would be passed along to employees.”

Similarly, UPS partially blamed the new health law for the change, which is estimated to affect roughly 15,000 employee spouses.

The rising cost of health care "combined with the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, have made it increasingly difficult to continue providing the same level of health care benefits to our employees at an affordable cost," UPS said.

The trend has drawn the ire of Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who cite it as a clear example the Obama administration is not following through on its promise that, “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”

“American families who are already grappling with higher health care costs under the law are also coming face-to-face with the stark reality that they will lose the coverage they have and like,” their office said in a statement Wednesday.
Don't make promises you never intended to keep. Mr. President...

Gimme Some Tooth

The ultimate comeback?
A Canadian dentist is hoping to clone John Lennon using DNA from one of the singer's rotten teeth. Michael Zuk, who bought Lennon's molar at a 2011 auction, has begun sequencing the former Beatle's DNA – the first step in a process set out by scientists who propose to clone a woolly mammoth.
....

Two years ago the Red Deer-based dentist paid £19,500 for a "discoloured molar" that had been passed down by Lennon to his Weybridge housekeeper, Dot Jarlett. It was acquired in the mid-60s, and Jarlett's son said it had "been in the family ever since". At the time of the sale, Omega auction house claimed the tooth was "too fragile" for DNA testing.

Nevertheless, Zuk denies that he has bitten off more than he can chew. With new advances in genetic research, he believes that Lennon's DNA can be harvested and, in time, converted from tissue cells into stem cells, and eventually into a reborn Beatle. "To say I had a small part in bringing back one of rock's greatest stars would be mind-blowing," he said.
The clone would be a real Nowhere Man...

Loan Wars

President Obama makes an obvious point:
“We can’t price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of a college education,” Mr. Obama said. “We can’t go about business as usual.”

Mr. Obama has been promising action on rising college costs since he took office, and Republicans’ reaction to his announcement was a yawn.

“Lame speech, lame duck,” was the headline on the response from the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Obama said the government and colleges have been in a type of arms race in recent years, with the government boosting its contributions and schools raising their prices.

“So some point, the government will run out of money, which means more and more costs are being loaded on to students and their families,” the president said.
Hasn't that been happening already?

Red Shift

Who's losing money-and their economies:
Blue states like California and Illinois are struggling meeting obligations for their own public pension funds, so they certainly don’t need this latest bit of news—their tax bases are shrinking drastically. A new study on state-by-state income migration from the Tax Foundation (h/t WSJ), found that New York, California, and Illinois—the largest blue states in the country—led the country in income flight during the last decade. New York was hit particularly hard, losing $46 billion dollars of taxable income to people leaving the state over the past ten years. And these states were not alone: blue stalwarts like Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were not far behind.

Red and purple destinations like Florida, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina led the pack of states benefiting from this migration, each gaining over $10 billion in taxable income due to new migrants from other states. Although the red/blue divide breaks down somewhat towards the middle of the group—red states like Louisiana saw some minor losses while blue states like Vermont enjoyed modest gains—the overall pattern is hard to miss.
Waste not, want not. Less hostility to job creators helps, too.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dusty Trails

The ADL-CIO in Nevada isn't happy with Obamacare:
In an interview, UNITE HERE President D. Taylor said the union has been in talks with the White House and the Treasury Department over how Taft-Hartley plans should be interpreted under the law. According to Taylor, if workers under Taft-Hartley plans aren’t eligible for subsidies, employers will see little reason to remain a part of such plans down the road, potentially forcing workers to purchase their own health care on the state-run exchanges, which are unlikely to offer so much coverage at such low rates. …

“We’ve been working for over two years with essentially all aspects of the government, including Treasury, which wants to interpret [Taft-Hartley] as an employer plan, and it’s not,” Taylor said. “The Affordable Care Act has clearly been devised so that it would make our nonprofit Taft-Hartley plans completely uncompetitive.”

“We want to hold the president to his word that you can keep the plan you like,” Taylor added.
What say you, Harry Reid?

ICE Madman

Little man, big agency:
A Department of Homeland Security employee who works on, among other things, the procurement of guns and ammunition for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, spends his nights and weekends preparing for a coming race war and advocating for anti-gay causes, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Meet Ayo Kimathi, a.k.a. “the Irritated Genie," who told his bosses at the DHS that his anti-white, anti-gay site, "War is on the Horizon," was just an entertainment site that sells concert and lecture videos.
....

The content of Kimathi's advocacy demands some clarification. In some (white, conservative) circles, the term "black supremacist" is applied with a very wide brush. Black supremacy was the implication of Maine Governor Paul LePage's reported comments that President Obama "hates white people," for instance. Kimathi's site is not in this vein of this imagined threat — on the contrary, War on the Horizon calls Obama a "a treasonous mulatto scum dweller," and lists him among the movement's enemies (also on the list? Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and Condoleezza Rice, among others) Instead, the DHS employee advocates for:

The mass murder of white people. His site says, "warfare is eminent, and in order for Black people to survive the 21st century, we are going to have to kill a lot of whites – more than our christian hearts can possibly count."
A conspiracy theory arguing that white people are trying to "homosexualize" black men in order to make them more effeminate and therefore weaker. As part of this, Kimathi, praises a series of laws in some African countries that criminalize LGBT behavior and people. Kimathi also advocates for the supremacy of black men above black women — he offers tips on his site, for instance, "to help every Black woman in the world understand what she needs to do to keep a strong Black man happy."
Something that this nimrod isn't...

Seven Deadly Sins

The Peoples' Republic version:
These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past.

Even as Mr. Xi has sought to prepare some reforms to expose China’s economy to stronger market forces, he has undertaken a “mass line” campaign to enforce party authority that goes beyond the party’s periodic calls for discipline. The internal warnings to cadres show that Mr. Xi’s confident public face has been accompanied by fears that the party is vulnerable to an economic slowdown, public anger about corruption and challenges from liberals impatient for political change.
Only those at the top can be corrupt fat cats...

Summer Spike

The dog days of Obamanomics:
Outside of the federal government's Bureau of Labor statistics, the Gallup polling organization also tracks the nation's unemployment rate. While the BLS and Gallup findings might not always perfectly align, the trends almost always do and the small statistical differences just haven't been worthy of note. But now Gallup is showing a sizable 30 day jump in the unemployment rate, from 7.7% on July 21 to 8.9% today.
This is an 18-month high.
If you're lucky, you can still join the temp nation...

Best Freshman Speech Ever?

You can do that!

The Guru Speaks

He's still Super Serial:
The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned. It’s like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time a subject is mentioned and so everybody avoids the elephant in the room to keep the peace. But the political climate is changing. Something like Chris Hayes’s excellent documentary on climate change wouldn’t have made it on TV a few years ago. And as I said, many Republicans who’re still timid on the issue are now openly embarrassed about the extreme deniers. The deniers are being hit politically. They’re being subjected to ridicule, which stings. The polling is going back up in favor of doing something on this issue. The ability of the raging deniers to stop progress is waning every single day.
I guess somebody forgot to tell nature...

Non-Wage Slaves

Are interns the new underclass?
The Fair Pay Campaign, a lobby for intern rights, is trying to convince the federal government to start paying the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 mostly unpaid interns who work in Washington each summer. It's starting, of course, with the famous White House internship program.

As the White House states on its website under FAQs about the program: "White House Internships are unpaid positions." Not only that: "Any outside income, funding or housing assistance received as a White House intern must be pre-approved by the Office of the White House Counsel." It also specifies that interns work 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Fair Pay's Mikey Franklin says this policy is in conflict with Obama's speech earlier this summer in which he called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. "We don't believe the White House can, in good faith, go after minimum wage and at the same time have unpaid staff," Franklin told CNN.

The Fair Pay Campaign argues that the White House is blocking a huge number of potential applicants whose parents can't pay for them to stay the summer in Washington D.C.

"If you want to break into these industries, you have to work for free," Franklin said. "That's not a reality for a lot of people who aren't upper middle class."

John Sutter at CNN agrees. Unpaid internships are "just one of many ways middle-class and poor Americans are being left behind in the age of income inequality," he says.
Internships were created as a learning experience, but what if you can't afford to learn?

Working On The Railroad

Jerry Brown isn't going to let a little thing like a judge's ruling stand in the way of his plans:
Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that California’s high-speed rail project will not be stopped by a judge’s ruling that project officials failed to comply with provisions of Proposition 1A, the initiative in which voters approved initial funding for the project in 2008.

“It’s not a setback,” Brown told reporters at the Lake Tahoe Summit.

He said the ruling “didn’t stop our spending, so we’re continuing. As we speak we’re spending money, we’re moving ahead.”
So where's the money coming from, Governor?

The Gatherers

The NSA gets busted for illegal spying:
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court concluded that the surveillance was unconstitutional after it was notified of it in 2011. In an 86-page opinion that was declassified on Wednesday, the court ordered the NSA to take steps to limit the information it collects and how long it keeps it.

In the opinion, Judge John D. Bates admonished the NSA for a " substantial misrepresentation" of the scope of its surveillance.

Officials said the surveillance was inadvertent, and insisted that the agency ended it in 2011.

"This is not an egregious overreaching by a greedy agency seeking to spy on Americans," a senior intelligence official said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. "This is a technological problem that resulted in an inadvertent collection of a relatively small number of U.S. person communications."
It was just a "mistake..."

The Sick Man Of The Eurozone

It seems that Greece is going to get a helping hand once again:
Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has said for the first time that Greece will need another bailout to plug a forthcoming funding gap. …

His boss is Germany’s leader is Angela Merkel, who said recently it was too early to talk about new funding.

But Mr Schaeuble told an election rally: “There will have to be another programme in Greece.”

Mr Schaeuble’s comments place him as one among many who believe Greece will have to be given new funding to balance its books, but they are at odds with his party leader’s public stance on the matter.
Asking your country's taxpayers to prop up a failing welfare state won't be a popular move with some of them...

The Lost Papers

The Koch Brothers are having a hard time getting answers about the Obama administrations's investigation of their tax records:
In order for Koch Industries or the general public to see the TIGTA report, the IG’s office must refer the case to the Department of Justice for prosecution. If Justice declines to prosecute, all the relevant information remains under lock and key. Critics worry that a highly politicized Justice Department is unlikely to take up cases that have the potential to damage the Obama administration.
The Justice Department would rather embarrass themselves instead...

Parceling Out

No delivery for spouses at UPS:
The decision comes as many analysts are downplaying the Affordable Care Act's effect on companies such as UPS, noting that the move reflects a long-term trend of shrinking corporate medical benefits, Kaiser Health News reports. But UPS repeatedly cites Obamacare to explain the decision, adding fuel to the debate over whether it erodes traditional employer coverage, Kaiser says.
Rising medical costs, “combined with the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, have made it increasingly difficult to continue providing the same level of health care benefits to our employees at an affordable cost,” UPS said in a memo to employees.
Government health care+rising costs=declining quality...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Welfare Pays

When welfare pays more:
In the Empire State, a family receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, public housing, utility assistance and free commodities (like milk and cheese) would have a package of benefits worth $38,004, the seventh-highest in the nation.

While that might not sound overly generous, remember that welfare benefits aren’t taxed, while wages are. So someone in New York would have to earn more than $21 per hour to be better off than they would be on welfare. That’s more than the average statewide entry-level salary for a teacher.

Plus, going to work means added costs such as paying for child care, transportation and clothing. Not to mention that, even if it’s not a money-loser, a person moving from welfare to work will see some form of loss — namely, less time for leisure as opposed to work.
Government cheese can be hard to give up...

Axe Man

Selling Obamacare-with Paul Bunyan?
The $9 million ad campaign is supposed to get 1.3 million Minnesotans in the tent to sign up for health care. But critics call it false advertising.

“The biggest travesty here is that $9 million of taxpayer money has been spent coming up with Paul Bunyan and Babe,” GOP Rep. Peggy Scott said.

Scott says MNsure’s marketing studies, costing millions, are missing MNsure’s target audience: healthy young people.

“How many young healthy people even know who Paul Bunyon and Babe are?” Scott said.
Well, it wouldn't be the first time:
William Laughead, an advertising copywriter who had once worked in lumber camps, took the stories of an old lumberjack and reworked them into the modern character. He sold his character to the Red River Lumber Company, which published "Introducing Mr. Paul Bunyan of Westwood, California" in 1916 as an advertising pamphlet.[9] Among other things, Laughead gave the name "Babe" to the blue ox, originated the idea that Paul Bunyan and Babe were of enormous size, and created the first pictorial representation of Bunyan.
Maybe the state is worried about Obamacare being on the chopping block?

Winners Never Prosper

When are you too good?
A 9-year-old who has won five straight reading contests at a New York library now has a new challenger to his throne – the library’s director, who says the young reader “hogs” the contest prizes each year and should “step aside.”

Tyler Weaver, who starts fifth grade in September, won the “Dig Into Reading” contest at the Hudson Falls Public Library this summer by reading 63 books from June 24 to Aug. 3, the Post-Star reports.

Weaver said he felt “great” that he won the contest again, winning prizes such as an atlas, a water bottle and certificates of achievement.

“Everybody he tells, he gets high-fives. Everybody’s so proud of him,” his mother Katie told the Post-Star.

Everyone except the library’s director.

“Other kids quit because they can’t keep up,” Marie Gandron said, adding that she considered changing the rules of the contest so prizes are given to children whose names are pulled out of a hat instead of reading the most books.
Calling Harrison Bergeron...

The Regulators

Welcome to the golden age of ...bureaucracy?
Obama famously signaled his intent to use the machinery of government to further his policy goals after the 2010 elections, declaring: “Where Congress won’t act, I will.”

Since then, the administration has pressed ahead unilaterally on several fronts, including immigration, gun control, cybersecurity and sentencing guidelines for drug offenses.

Meanwhile, new federal rules are accumulating faster than outdated ones are removed, resulting in a steady increase in the number of federal mandates.

Data collected by researchers at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center shows that the Code of Federal Regulations, where all rules and regulations are detailed, has ballooned from 71,224 pages in 1975 to 174,545 pages last year.

“All incentives are to regulate more,” said Susan Dudley, the director of George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center.
Feeding the beast is a full-time job...

The 51st State?

Apparently this thing is picking up steam:
Voters in several rural Colorado counties will be asked whether they want to form a new state tentatively named Northern Colorado in the November election, a reaction to the Democrat-controlled state legislature’s “war on rural Colorado.”

The Weld County Commissioners voted unanimously at Monday’s meeting to place a measure on the Nov. 5 ballot asking voters whether they want the county to join other rural counties in forming another state.

“The concerns of rural Coloradans have been ignored for years,” William Garcia, chairman of the Weld County Commissioners, said in a statement. “The last session was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many people. They want change. They want to be heard.”

Three other rural counties — Cheyenne, Sedgwick and Yuma — also plan to place the 51st state referendum on the fall ballot. At least three more counties plan to consider the proposal this week at their commission meetings, said Jeffrey Hare, spokesman for the 51st State Initiative.
Is it time to cue Dixie yet?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Delay And Doubt

President Obama's hometown newspaper joins the ranks of those calling for a second look at Obamacare:
The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is a hugely complex law that sets up online health insurance marketplaces, requires people to have coverage or pay penalties, and doles out subsidies and incentives to nearly everyone in health care. Doctors, hospitals and insurers have spent large sums to gear up for its requirements. Employers are mulling: Hire? Fire? Cut workers' hours?

Millions of Americans, that is, stand to gain or lose from how this law is enforced — with the Obama administration bending that enforcement in ways that test, and arguably exceed, the boundaries of lawful conduct.

Every time the White House undercuts one provision of Obamacare, there is a massive ripple effect on other provisions. It's generally a zero-sum game: When someone gains, someone else loses.
Unfortunately, the losers are outnumbering the winners in this game...

No Country For Young Men

The cost of the war on boys:
Zero tolerance was originally conceived as a way of ridding schools of violent predators, especially in the wake of horrific shootings in places like Littleton, Colo. But juvenile violence, including violence at schools, is at a historic low. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2011, approximately 1% of students ages 12 to 18 reported a violent victimization at school. For serious violence, the figure is one-tenth of 1%. It does no disrespect to the victims of Columbine or Sandy Hook to note that while violence may be built into the core of a small coterie of sociopathic boys, most boys are not sociopathic.

On the other hand, millions of boys are struggling academically. A large and growing male cohort is falling behind in grades and disengaged from school. College has never been more important to a young person’s life prospects, and today boys are far less likely than girls to pursue education beyond high school. As our schools become more risk averse, the gender gap favoring girls is threatening to become a chasm.
And what happens when these boys become men?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lost Cause?

And yet the war goes on:
Just four percent (4%) of American Adults believe the United States is winning the war on drugs, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Eighty-two percent (82%) disagree. Another 13% are undecided.
Maybe this is why some are beginning to see the light...

The Second Cultural Revolution

The ghost of Mao hangs over China:
In a move sure to dismay the people inside and outside China who hoped Xi Jinping would begin a new era of democratic reform, China’s president has “lurched” to the left, as the WSJ reports, promoting a revitalized version of nationalist Maoism across the country. ”Our red nation will never change color,” Xi said during a ceremony at Mao’s old lakeside mansion in Wuhan, declaring that the villa should become a center to educate young people about patriotism and revolution.

“It isn’t just Mr. Xi’s rhetoric that has taken on a Maoist tinge in recent months,” the Journal reports. “He has borrowed from Mao’s tactical playbook, launching a ‘rectification’ campaign to purify the Communist Party, while tightening limits on discussion of ideas such as democracy, rule of law and enforcement of the constitution.”

Xi appears to have capitalized on some uncertainty at the top levels of the Party after the fall of Bo Xilai, a charismatic and popular leader who also led a Maoist revival campaign and became a threat to the stability of the Party leadership. “Many of Mr. Bo’s former supporters and several powerful princelings have thrown their weight behind Mr. Xi’s efforts to establish himself as much a stronger leader than his predecessor,” party insiders told the WSJ.

Xi’s nationalist streak comes as the country prepares for Bo Xilai’s trial and amid an economic downturn that has caused worry among investors and analysts. At the same time, China and other Asian powers are engaged in a dangerous and accelerating game of military one-upmanship.
They still ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Before The Fall

Egyptians miss their former President:
The euphoria that Egyptians exhibited across public squares after Mubarak resigned has long passed. More than two years later and prior to the removal of Mubarak's elected successor, Egyptians were noticeably pessimistic about what the resignation has gained their country. Gallup has also previously found Egyptians' optimism about their own lives declining. However, the latest levels of pessimism, coupled with recent bouts of violence related to the forceful breakup of pro-Morsi protests this week, and the ensuing violence since then, point to a dark and concerning path for the country.
Hindsight is always 20/20...

"I Knew Nothing"

He was just the boss:
Here are the facts: I’ve not been contacted in any way by those conducting the investigation and have no knowledge of it beyond what has been reported. From what has been reported, the investigation appears to be looking at a document allegedly prepared for potential investors — something I was not responsible for as chairman.

Republicans have also criticized the company for employing only about 100 people. Of course, that’s about 100 jobs that would not have existed if we had not taken a risk on this company. The company has taken longer to develop than many people expected, including me, but taking a risk on an innovative company is a critical part of the American system, and most business leaders I speak with agree that it’s not uncommon for a company to face challenges meeting its goals.
Some more on the "challenges" faced by Terry McAuliffe's company here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Something In The Air

Welcome to work:
A dozen social service staffers at an Orange County government building believe working inside the structure literally made them sick.

Forty-five new workers have been assigned to the building. Ironically, the new crew will supervise the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare.

“We don’t have any concrete assurances that this building is safe for employees to come back into,” said union rep Jennifer Muir.

The union rep believes the building — located at 840 N. Eckhoff Street — could be a ticking time bomb.

The complex has been the subject of a bitter lawsuit.
Hey, at least they've got Obamacare...

Top Secret

Finally: The government acknowledges the existence of Area 51:
Newly declassified documents, obtained by George Washington University's National Security Archive, appear to for the first time acknowledge the existence of Area 51. Hundreds of pages describe the genesis of the Nevada site that was home to the government's spy plane program for decades. The documents do not, however, mention aliens.
That's the Men in Black's department...

Workers' Rights

The freedom to choose:
The Michigan Legislature’s right to create a law that bans mandatory union membership trumps the authority of a state agency that oversees public employment, an appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The state legislature passed the “right to work” law in December amid union protests in Lansing, dealing a stunning blow to organized labor in the state that is home to U.S. automakers and the symbol of industrial labor in the United States.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the legislature had the authority to create the law that makes union fees voluntary because it has the constitutional right to “speak for the people on matters of significant public concern.”

Unions who brought the challenge argued the law intrudes on the power of the state’s Civil Service Commission because the agency has the authority to “regulate all conditions of employment.”
Isn't that the sort of thing that unions are supposed to be against?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Debt Control

The case of the mysterious stagnant debt:
Even as the Treasury was running up the $98-billion deficit it reported in the July Monthly Treasury Statement, every one of the 22 Daily Treasury Statements published for July said the Treasury had closed out the previous business day with exactly $16,699,396,000,000 in debt. The Daily Treasury Statement for Aug. 12, released Tuesday afternoon, says the debt remained stuck at exactly $16,699,396,000,000 during the first 12 days of this month, too. On May 17, the first day the Treasury reported that the debt had hit exactly $16,699,396,000,000–and was thus just $25 million below the legal limit — Treasury Secretary Lew sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner saying he was beginning to implement what he called “the standard set of extraordinary measures” to prevent the Treasury from exceeding the legal limit on the federal debt. Since Lew sent that letter–announcing that he would use “extraordinary measures”– the debt has remained stuck at exactly $16,699,396,000,000 for 87 straight days.
It would be nice to know how he managed that...

National Insecurity

Well, well:
The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by law and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The country's in the very best of hands...

Robo Comic

I for one welcome our new comic overlords:

Secret Emails And Lies

The EPA gets busted:
U. S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Royce Lamberth ordered the EPA to submit to discovery in a case brought against it by the conservative group Landmark Legal Foundation and said the foundation can seek information to determine whether top EPA officials used personal email accounts to conduct official business.

“The possibility that unsearched personal email accounts may have been used for official business raises the possibility that leaders in the EPA may have purposefully attempted to skirt disclosure under the FOIA,” Lambert wrote. “The possibility that the agency purposefully excluded the top leaders of the EPA from the search, at least initially, suggests an unreasonable and bad faith reading of Landmark’s FOIA request and subsequent agreement to narrow its scope.”

Lambert also said the EPA’s statements concerning its search for records were incomplete and “contain numerous inconsistencies and reversals which undermine confidence in their truthfulness.”
What was that about transparency, again?

Obamacare Con

The scam, and its scammers:
Consumer experts warn that the program has created a huge opportunity for swindling people by stealing their money and their sensitive personal information.

"Any time you roll out a big government program like this, confusion is inevitable," said Lois Greisman, an associate director in the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. "This confusion creates a tremendous opportunity for the fraudster."

Scammers have been at it for more than a year now, but consumer advocates and security experts warn that the problem will worsen as we get closer to Oct. 1. That's when the millions of uninsured Americans can use a health insurance exchange, set-up by their state or by the federal government, to shop for coverage.

"I believe the incidents are going to skyrocket as that date approaches," said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. "And even people who are smart and savvy could get taken, so we are very concerned about the potential for some serious financial harm."
Maybe the cons want to take advantage before Obamacare does it for them...

Premature Peacemaker

Daring to ask:
LEE: All right. And then my last one — and I will stop, I promise, after this — do you think or is the administration confident that the steps — that the policy that you have pursued thus far in Egypt and also in Syria are worthy of a president who not so long ago won the Nobel peace prize?

PSAKI: Yes, Matt.

LEE: You do. OK.
....

Obama received the Nobel prize in 2009 for what the committee called his “extraordinary efforts” to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. Given he had been in office less than nine months when the decision was announced, many called it premature.
Considering what's happening in Egypt now, I'd tend to agree...

Back To School

L.A.'s former mayor has a new gig:
Antonio Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles who racked up countless ethics violations and used taxpayers money to refurbish his yacht, will lecture at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in the fall.
....

Villaraigosa left office earlier this year upon completion of his second term. As mayor, he was the subject of numerous ethics investigations, and was forced to pay back $42,000 in sports and concert tickets that he accepted as gifts. He was also accused of nepotism, campaign finance violations and spending taxpayer money to fix up his yacht.

His wife divorced him in 2007, following revelations that he had an affair with a television reporter for a Spanish-language station.
They must be so proud...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Enter The Techies

Maybe we really are headed for Elysium, after all:
Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, said he fears that the techies are permanently inheriting the city and won't pack up and leave as they did after the 2000 dot-com crash.

"In the first boom, many of those companies went belly up. Now we are talking about some pretty well-established Internet companies such as Facebook and Google. It's hard to envision them going belly up, and that's what rescued us the first time around," Gullicksen said.

Unlike in previous booms, the tech industry isn't creating as many middle-class jobs or as much goodwill. The gap between Silicon Valley's high and low earners is widening, with average per-capita incomes going up while median household incomes have fallen for the third consecutive year, according to Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a private group that publishes an annual report card on the region.

In a region that lays claim to some of the world's wealthiest companies, food stamp participation has hit a 10-year high, and homelessness has increased 20% in the last two years, the group found.
Given that it's San Francisco, I wonder how many of the new snobs are Dems-and if they'd be willing to "share the wealth..."

The Obamacare Economy

Employer cutbacks keep happening:
Employers around the country, from fast-food franchises to colleges, have told NBC News that they will be cutting workers’ hours below 30 a week because they can’t afford to offer the health insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“To tell somebody that you’ve got to decrease their hours because of a law passed in Washington is very frustrating to me,” said Loren Goodridge, who owns 21 Subway franchises, including a restaurant in Kennebunk. “I know the impact I’m having on some of my employees.”
....

The White House dismisses such examples as "anecdotal." Jason Furman, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, said, “We are seeing no systematic evidence that the Affordable Care Act is having an adverse impact on job growth or the number of hours employees are working. … [S]ince the ACA became law, nearly 90 percent of the gain in employment has been in full-time positions.”
But the president of an influential union that supports Obamacare said the White House is wrong.
"It IS happening," insisted Joseph Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has 1.2 million members. "Wait a year. You'll see tremendous impact as workers have their hours reduced and their incomes reduced. The facts are already starting to show up. Their statistics, I think, are a little behind the time."
I don't think business owners will have to wait that long...

Rotten Foundation

From the New York Times' piece on the Clinton Foundation's questionable relationships:
For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation had become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest. It ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in.
In other words, it's been a model for Democratic governance...

Paying For The Green

Going green is turning out to be somewhat expensive for Europe:
Energy consumers are paying more for expanding, subsidised renewable power, causing tensions over such programmes amid wider austerity measures.

As a result, almost all EU countries have reduced support to keep pace with falls in technology costs, with some having made more drastic cuts, or taken retroactive action which has jolted investors and undermined confidence. …

Even Spain appears vulnerable to further cuts, after repeated attempts to remove the state’s liability for energy sector subsidies, called the tariff deficit, as Fitch Ratings agency has reported. …

German plans to further limit renewable support are on hold pending a forthcoming election; in January, environment minister Peter Altmaier proposed to cap the renewable power charge on retail consumer bills this year and next. …

Besides Spain and Greece, there are at least three other countries which have imposed retroactive changes in renewable support – the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania, usually through new taxes or grid fees for existing projects.
They have to keep pace with the welfare state somehow...

Some Friendly Advice

President Obama touts the free market...overseas:
“In dealing with the challenges that Greece faces, we cannot simply look to austerity as a strategy,” Obama said. “It’s important that we have a plan for fiscal consolidation to manage the debt, but it’s also important that growth and jobs are a focus.”

Countries that are growing and where employment is high “have an easier time reducing their debt burdens than countries where people are feeling hopeless,” the president said.
Yes, so why isn't he trying the same thing here at home?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Watchdogs

I blame Al Gore:
"Ever since the end of the Cold War, forces have been unleashed that were tamped down for centuries by dictators, and that was complicated further by this little thing called the internet and the ability of people everywhere to communicate instantaneously and to have more information coming at them in one day than most people can process in months or a year.

"It makes it much harder to govern, makes it much harder to organize people, much harder to find the common interest," said Kerry, "and that is complicated by a rise of sectarianism and religious extremism that is prepared to employ violent means to impose on other people a way of thinking and a way of living that is completely contrary to everything the United States of America has ever stood for. So we need to keep in mind what our goals are and how complicated this world is that we’re operating in."
Darn that Internet, taking away control from the government and giving it to the people...

The Furloughs That Weren't There

There was apparently enough to go around, after all:
At the center of these warnings stood employee furloughs: mandatory unpaid leave to help each department meet the lower budget caps that took effect March 1. Furloughs, combined with hiring freezes, would disrupt the proper functioning of government, agency chiefs said, as fewer employees working fewer hours could not accomplish the same amount as a fully staffed workforce.

While many federal agencies have in fact moved forward with furloughs, and there remain countless examples of sequestration interfering with government operations, most major departments have reduced, or eliminated altogether, original furlough projections.
Those projections were based on fears, which, as things turned out, seem to have been overblown.

A Dishonest Profession

If he says so: Acosta said of the exchange, “Sarah Huckabee Sanders is going off on reporters, who she is accusing of intentionally misleadi...