Monday, June 30, 2014

Lord Of The Ridiculous

If J.R.R. Tolkien were alive today:

The Gates Of San Francisco

San Francisco wants to keep out the barbarians:
While I love quirky Victorian houses as much as the next bobo, aesthetic considerations can’t justify the fact that San Francisco has become an oversize gated community. Rents in San Francisco are three times the national average, and they are rising at a fearsome clip. The housing crisis is even more severe in booming Silicon Valley, where the housing stock has barely increased over the last decade, despite the fact that the region has become a magnet for tech professionals from around the world. When skyrocketing demand meets stagnant supply, the predictable consequence is that housing costs soar and low- and middle-income families find themselves displaced.
Quirky snobs are no better than any other...

The Wrong Side Of The Street

Don't get caught jaywalking in Arizona:

Hunger In The City

Is New York City facing starvation?
One in six New Yorkers is now living in a home where there is not enough money to put food on the table, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

“It’s been steadily increasing,” Juan De La Cruz, the food program director for the coalition, told the Times. “There will be nights when we run short of food.”

The New York Times reported, that the group saw the demand at food pantries increase 10 percent in 2013. Executive Director Joel Berg said that people were already struggling in the tough economy when their food stamps were reduced last fall.
But I thought Bill De Blasio wanted people to eat less...

The Nanny

Worst house guest ever?

The Borrower

Dick Durbin calls it a loan:
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says President Barack Obama, “will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”

Durbin made the comments at a press briefing on immigration last Thursday urging House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring an immigration bill onto the floor for a vote.

"I don't know how much more time he thinks he needs, but I hope that Speaker Boehner will speak up today," Durbin said. "And if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration and he shouldn’t be sued as a result of it."
Borrow, or steal?

Need For Speed

You could call it a case of role reversal:
The trucker used his horn to signal the officer as the officer sped by and they both pulled to the side of the road. The officer approached the vehicle and stepped up into the passenger doorway. He introduced himself and indicated that he had pulled the truck driver over because he wasn't sure why he was blasting the horn. The trucker accused the officer of speeding, using a cell phone and driving recklessly in wet conditions. The officer denied the charges.

"Police officers can actually use technology when they're driving. We're exempt," the officer said. He then asked for ID.

The officer asked for the trucker's speed. The driver said, "You passed me! How fast were you driving? Are you above the speed limit as well?" The trucker said he had his cruise control set at 65 mph. When the police officer said that the police car was going 70 mph, the trucker responded, "You were going well over 70."

The cop quickly changed the subject to using a horn "when there's no good reason to," and began to issue a ticket for "unlawful use of horn." At this point, the trucker tells the officer that he is being recorded and the officer says, "You are. too."

As the two argue over who did what, the officer collected various forms and headed to his cruiser to write the ticket.
Speed for me, not for thee...

Drying Up

The Motor City runs dry:
In April, the city set a target of cutting service to 3,000 customers a week who were more than $150 behind on their bills. In May, the water department sent out 46,000 warnings and cut off service to 4,531. The city says that cutting off water is the only way to get people to pay their bills as Detroit tries to emerge from bankruptcy — the utility is currently owed $90 million from customers, and nearly half the city's 300,000 or so accounts are past due.

But cutting off water to people already living in poverty came under criticism last week from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose experts said that Detroit was violating international standards by cutting off access to water. "When there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections," Catarina de Albuquerque, the office's expert on the human right to water and sanitation, said in the communique.

"Are we the kind of people that resort to shutting water off when there are disabled people and seniors?" said Maureen Taylor, chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. "We live near the Great Lakes, we have the greatest source of fresh water on Earth, and we still can't get water here."
It's like Venezuela, with colder weather...

Comrades In Christ

So this is what they mean by Christian socialism:
"I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel," he said, citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy.

"Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian'," he said, laughing.
He was being ironic, but there are many liberal theologians who actually think this way...

Day In Court

It was a busy day in the nation's highest court. First, a win for Hobby Lobby:
A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, the first time the high court has declared that businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

The justices' 5-4 decision, splitting conservatives and liberals, means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under the health insurance plans of objecting companies.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion, over a dissent from the four liberal justices, that forcing companies to pay for methods of women's contraception to which they object violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He said the ruling is limited and there are ways for the administration to ensure women get the birth control they want.

But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the decision creates health risks for women, and he said Congress should take action to make sure they get coverage.

"President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves rather than their bosses deciding for them," Earnest said. "Today's decision jeopardizes the health of the women who are employed by these companies."
I guess they didn't read the ruling. Meanwhile, it was also a win for workers' rights:
In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.

The ruling is a setback for labor unions that have bolstered their ranks and their bank accounts in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of in-home care workers. It could lead to an exodus of members who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers don't have to share the burden of union costs.

But the narrow ruling was limited to "partial-public employees" and stopped short of overturning decades of practice that has generally allowed public sector unions of teachers, firefighters and other government workers to pass through their representation costs to nonmembers.
One victory at a time...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rich Man, Fake Poor Man

Why Democrats lie about their wealth (among other things):
The Dems are a coalition of ultra-rich cultural-elite donors on the one hand and government employees and their clients on the other. In 2012, President Obama carried those earning under $50,000 by a wide margin. But Romney easily bested him among those over that threshold.
Ever wonder why the Democrats seem to want to keep people poor?
But there’s another reason Democrats can’t talk about their wealth. It’s because they can’t say, “I made it big. Follow me and you can, too.”
....

Drug dealers create more middle-class jobs than these people do.
And they're more honest about what they are...

Hungry Hippos

The legacy of Pablo Escobar's hippos:
When Hacienda Napoles was confiscated in the early 1990s, Escobar's menagerie was dispersed to zoos around the country. But not the hippos. For about two decades, they have wallowed in their soupy lake...

Here, conditions for hippos are idyllic. The river is slow moving and has plenty of shallows, perfect for larger animals which don't actually swim but push themselves off banks, gliding through the water. Moreover, the region never experiences drought, which tends to act as a natural brake on the size of herds in Africa....

Colombian people, [one veterinarian] believes, are more vulnerable than Africans because they see hippos as cuddly, "floppy" animals...

"My father brought a little one home once," an unnamed girl told the paper. "I called him Luna (Moon) because he was very sweet - we fed him with just milk."...
They've got those big jaws for a reason...

Ice Cold

Antarctic ice is still growing:
The new record anomaly for Southern Hemisphere sea ice, the ice encircling the southernmost continent, is 2.074 million square kilometers and was posted for the first time by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s The Cryosphere Today early Sunday morning.

The previous record anomaly for Southern Hemisphere sea ice area was 1.840 million square kilometers and occurred on December 20, 2007.

Global sea ice area, as of Sunday morning, stood at 1.005 million square kilometers above average.
Maybe some people should have paid more attention to the actual research...

Helicopters

First the sports teams. Now, the military hardware. But actual Native Americans don't seem all that upset:
Wafts of the earthy aroma of wild sage filled the air as Oglala Medicine Man Roy Stone offered a prayer, blessed the South Dakota National Guards newest aircraft, the UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter, then tied an eagle feather onto it.

Native American Veterans groups from across the state stood sentry as more than 600 people watched the dedication ceremony that was held in sacred He Sapa (Black Hills) with the image of Crazy Horse one of greatest Lakota warriors to ever walk Ina Maka (Mother Earth) as a backdrop.

During the ceremony the new Delta Company, 1/112th Aviation Company of the National Guard unveiled an official patch that also honors the heritage of South Dakota Native people.
"Honor" being the operative word here...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Psycho Business

It's a crazy world out there:
"It’s a little psychotic the news business because everyone’s doing everything. That still doesn’t mean there’s not important events and information coming all of the time - think of what’s just happened this year, the news has been so dynamic internationally and domestic," the founder of the popular conservative-leaning news aggregator DrudgeReport.com said. "This is a vibrant era of media and it’s not going away anytime soon."

Drudge called himself "a heat seeking missile" that goes to where the action is.

"I will go where the action is, sometimes before it's cool to do it, that’s why I get in trouble. I make waves, I don’t surf them as I used to say. That’s not that easy in this atmosphere with so many news outlets," Drudge said.
They still don't like getting scooped...

Air Food One

Burgers for me, not for thee:
The food on Air Force One is well known among White House staff members and reporters for being plentiful in quantity and broad in appeal, but not always the perfect mirror of the nutritional recommendations coming out of the office of the first lady, Michelle Obama, who has made healthy eating and living her mission.

According to the Agriculture Department’s MyPlate guide, unveiled by Mrs. Obama in 2011, fruits and vegetables should make up half of a meal. (White potatoes alone will not do the trick, as the first lady wrote in a recent editorial.) Mrs. Obama has also emphasized the need to reduce the consumption of sugar, salt and fat in her fight to improve school lunches as part of her Let’s Move initiative against childhood obesity.

It is unclear whether Mrs. Obama has urged extending those standards to the president’s plane, where the meals are prepared on board by enlisted Air Force personnel who have credentials from military and civilian culinary schools.
The ruling class will always get their cheeseburgers...

Here Comes The Judge?

Is this the judge who could go after the IRS?
Today, Judicial Watch found a federal judge who has the integrity and fortitude to seek Justice—and this isn’t his first whack at the Department of Justice either. Enter Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia. Mark July 10 in RED on your calendars.

Now, “Internal Revenue Service officials will have to explain to a federal judge July 10 why the tax agency didn’t inform the court that Lois Lerner’s emails had been lost,” the Washington Examiner reports.

Earlier today, attorneys for Judicial Watch sought a courtroom status conference “as soon as possible to discuss the IRS’s failure to fulfill its duties to this court under the law, as well as other ramifications of this lawsuit.” It took Judge Sullivan just a few hours to grant the hearing.

Now the IRS will have to talk to Judge Sullivan about all this—and he has the power to do something about it.
It seems about time somebody did...

John Who?

President Obama dismisses John Boehner:
In his weekly address, the president didn’t directly address House Speaker John A. Boehner’s announcement earlier this week that he’ll sue Mr. Obama for supposed abuses of executive authority.

But the president did take aim at the so-called GOP “obstruction” that, in his view, necessitated the go-it-alone strategy now utilized by this White House — an approach that bypasses both the House and Senate.

“Republicans in Congress keep blocking or voting down almost every serious idea. This year alone they’ve said no to raising the minimum wage, no to fair pay, no to student loan reform, no to extending unemployment insurance,” Mr. Obama said. “This obstruction keeps the system rigged for those at the top and rigged against the middle class. And as long as they insist on doing it, I’ll keep taking actions on my own — like the actions I’ve already taken to attract new jobs, lift workers’ wages and help students pay off their loans. I’ll do my job.”
Regardless of whether it actually needs doing or not?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Blogging In The Years: 1914

The death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand may have unforseen consequences:
A new situation has been created in Europe by the tragedy at Sarajevo. While the crime cannot but arouse universal horror and indignation for the assassin and sympathy for the victims, there are political considerations which make it an event of as high importance from that point of view as in its personal dynastic aspects.
Has the fuse been lit for a larger powder keg?

Lap Of Poverty

A law professor and his money:
Today at UNC, Nichol runs the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which was founded by the now-disgraced Democrat John Edwards. The center is a self-proclaimed non-partisan, interdisciplinary institute that aims to study and mitigate poverty in North Carolina and the nation.

In his leadership role there, Nichol is known to use inflammatory political rhetoric.

For example, on the center’s website he writes that “the scourge of debilitating poverty is the largest problem faced by the people of North Carolina – even if our political leaders ignore it, or declare, with a breathtaking stupidity, that it doesn’t exist.” North Carolina has a Republican-controlled majority of lawmakers.

Yet while Nichol champions the poor – even chastising Republicans in a March News & Observer op-ed for its “unforgivable war on poor people” – it’s unclear how well he can relate to those living in poverty.

His wife, chief of staff for the UNC Health Care System and the UNC School of Medicine, earns $407,000 annually. Combining his and his wife’s salary, the couple makes at least $612,000 per year.

The Nichol family lives in a Chapel Hill home with a tax value of more than $1 million. They also own a bungalow on the beach at Emerald Isle, valued by Carteret County at more than $512,000. In the summer months, Nichol rents his four-bedroom bungalow for nearly $2,000 per week.

When asked by The College Fix about the large inequality between his income and the income of those in poverty, Nichol refused to respond.
Hypocrites rarely do...

Don't Box Me In

For those who rely on stereotypes to define people:

Exit Strategy

Could the UK leave the EU?
Britain took another step towards the EU exit door tonight as David Cameron warned that Jean-Claude Juncker’s appointment to the top job in Brussels would make it harder to persuade the public to remain in the 28-nation bloc.

Mr Cameron’s stark warning came after he suffered a humiliating defeat in his lonely battle to stop the veteran federalist becoming president of the European Commission. At a Brussels summit, EU leaders voted 26-2 to nominate Mr Juncker after Mr Cameron demanded an unprecedented formal vote on a post traditionally settled by consensus. Hungary's Viktor Orban was the only leader to back the Prime Minister.

Asked if the crushing setback had taken the UK closer to an EU exit, Mr Cameron told a press conference: “The job has got harder of keeping Britain in a reformed Europe. The stakes are higher. Do I think it is an impossible job? No.”

The Prime Minister insisted he still believed the British national interest would be served by him recommending an “in” vote in the in/out referendum he has promised in 2017. But after his embarrassing diplomatic defeat, he is under mounting pressure from Eurosceptic Conservative MPs to say he is prepared to urge an “out” vote - and moved one step closer to that today.
The door seems to be opening wider...

The Loser Of Two Evils

What do you do, when your side outdoes the other in sleazy tricks (via Hot Air)?
If Cochran trounces Childers in the general election, the lesson learned by Republican incumbents will be that there’s no cost to beating conservative challengers by any means necessary. You guys will always turn out for them in November on the theory that the Democrat is worse, no matter how nasty to you they are in the primary, so they might as well be as nasty as they like. The question is, is the Democrat worse this time? He may be worse than Cochran on policy, but is he worse than the filthy patronage system that supports Cochran and which he supports in turn?
This is the sort of thing that creates Tea Parties. Voters expecting a fair election will remember Mississippi...

Stunt Man

President Obama pooh-poohs John Boehner's legal threat:
“The suit is a stunt, but what I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is, ‘If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?’” Obama told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Thursday.

Boehner, along with other House Republicans, is arguing that the president is misusing his political power and said on Wednesday that he does not believe that Obama is “faithfully execut[ing] the laws.” The speaker also sent a memo to House Republicans on Wednesday afternoon that mentioned what he feels are general examples of Obama misusing his powers, such as executive actions on health care, energy, foreign policy and education.

“Well, you’ll notice that he didn’t specifically say what exactly he was objecting to,” Obama said. “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing.”
It's hard to be a king in a Republic, where you can be challenged...

Robot For Sale

Who wants to buy a slightly used robot?
Schaft's 1.48m (4ft 11in) tall, two-legged robot entered the contest the favourite and lived up to its reputation.

It makes use of a new high-voltage liquid-cooled motor technology that uses a capacitor, rather a battery, for power.

Its engineers say this lets its arms move and pivot at higher speeds than would otherwise be possible, in effect giving it stronger 'muscles'.

The announcement came as the next round of the robo-contest was revealed.

'The first-place finisher, SCHAFT, has elected to withdraw from the Finals to focus on the development of its first commercial product,' organisers said.
It'll work for batteries...

Blackout

Venezuela goes dark:
The OPEC nation has suffered an increasing incidence of power outages in recent years, which critics have attributed to low electricity tariffs and limited state investment following the 2007 nationalization of the power sector.

"It seems like there are some problems, we are going to investigate the problems we are having with electrical service in some parts of the country," Maduro in a live speech.

Television screens froze for several seconds during the broadcast of the awards ceremony for a national journalism prize. The words "It looks like the power went out" were audible in the background.

Power was cut off in parts of the capital Caracas, according to Reuters witnesses, while Twitter users reported outages in other parts of the country including the second city of Maracaibo and the industrial center of Valencia.

A representative of state oil company PDVSA said he had not received any reports of the oil industry being affected.
The Revolution will not be televised...

Double, Double

It's a conspiracy?
"It is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike. Rep. Lucas’ look alike was depicted as sentenced on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011," Murray said in a statement posted on his campaign website. The statement claimed Lucas and “a few other” members of Congress from Oklahoma and other states were shown on television being hanged by “The World Court.”

"I am contesting that this matter has happen [sic] since his election was blocked, because of the U.S. Defense Department’s use of Mr. Murray's DNA. To my knowledge, the U.S. Defense Department has not released to the public that information, as it is their confidential information about many people," Murray's statement said.

Bryan Dean, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board, told The Huffington Post that Murray had sent the board a copy of the statement posted on his website but had not formally filed a petition asking for a recount or alleging election irregularities. He has until 5 p.m. Friday to do so.

In the statement, Murray, who did not respond to an interview request, also reassured voters that he is not a body-double.

"I, Timothy Ray Murray, am a human, born in Oklahoma, and obtained and continue to fully meet the requirements to serve as U.S. Representative when honored to so. I will never use a look alike to replace my (The Office’s) message to you or to anyone else, as both the other Republican Challengers have," he said.
I frequently have my doubts about politicians being human, but I'll take his word for it...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gulp On

You can have your soda, and drink it, too:
Guzzlers prevailed Thursday as New York's highest court refused to reinstate New York City's ban on the sale of big sodas, ruling that the city's health department overstepped its bounds when approved the 16-ounce cap on sugary beverages.

The court largely ignored the merits of the ban in the 20-page ruling, but determined the city's Board of Health engaged in policy-making, and not simply health regulations, when it imposed the restrictions on restaurants, delis, movie theaters, stadiums and street cart vendors.

"The Board of Health engaged in law-making beyond its regulatory authority," the opinion reads. "... It is clear that the Board of Health wrote the Portion Cap Rule without benefit of legislative guidance."

The city had hoped Thursday's ruling would overturn a lower court's decision that blocked the restrictions after restaurants, theater owners, beverage companies and small stores sued.

"We are pleased that the lower courts' decisions were upheld," the American Beverage Association said in a statement after the decision was handed down. The restrictions, if reinstated, "would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers' freedom of choice."
Drink up, while you can...

The Boom Line

The benefits of Keystone:
A new study claims that a just-built 485-mile stretch of the Keystone XL pipeline has been a huge economic boon for two dozen rural and poor Oklahoma and Texas counties—and will create the same significant impact in five other states if the project’s long stalled northern segment ever wins White House approval.

As the debate rages over the future of the $5 billion mega-project, a team of university researchers has released a report showing the economic benefits of Keystone’s Gulf Coast Pipeline, which just opened in January after 17 months of construction, linking Cushing, Okla., and Nederland, Tex. The study by the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University says the pipeline has pumped $3.6 billion into the Texas economy and $2.1 billion into the Oklahoma economy, while creating thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. It has also boosted tax revenues by millions of dollars, according to the study.

“Similar state and local economic benefits can be anticipated should the United States give the go-ahead for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Hardisty, Albert, to Steele City, Neb.,” the report concluded.
Seems the debate is over, at least as far as those communities where the pipeline is allowed are concerned...

Target Switches Off

Scott Walker is apparently not being charged after all:
Randall Crocker, the lawyer for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, noted the investigation has been halted, saying, “At the time the investigation was halted, Governor Walker was not a target of the investigation. At no time has he been served with a subpoena.”
Even witch hunts require some flimsy evidence...

Hatchet Man

Why defense contractors fear a Republican victory:
Sources in the defense contracting sector told Politico’s Jeremy Herb on Thursday that the prospect of a Republican Senate majority and a Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is positively terrifying.

“I’ve heard several defense lobbyists and companies say under their breath they hope that the Senate doesn’t flip just to avoid a McCain chairmanship,” one unnamed defense contractor said.
....

“The amount of money given to these companies is staggering,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, ahead of the implementation of budget cuts mandated by Sequestration in 2013, “but what is really mind-boggling is the willingness of the DoD to provide additional taxpayer dollars to the same bad actors again and again.”
Time to bring down the curtain?

Recess Cancelled

No more recess appointments for you:
The court ruled unanimously that President Obama had violated the Constitution in 2012 by appointing officials to the National Labor Relations Board during a short break in the Senate’s work when the chamber was convening every three days in short pro forma sessions when no business was conducted. Those breaks were too short, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a majority opinion joined by the court’s four more liberal members.

Justice Breyer added that recess appointments remain permissible so long as they are made during a break of 10 or more days. But many experts say that if either house of Congress is controlled by the party opposed to the president, lawmakers can effectively block such appointments by requiring pro forma sessions every three days. Each house must get the approval of the other chamber for recesses of more than three days.

Still, Mr. Obama and the presidents who will succeed him avoided a far broader loss, one that could have limited recess appointments to breaks between Congress’s formal annual sessions and even then to vacancies that arose during those breaks. That was the approach embraced by the court’s four more conservative members.

Justice Antonin Scalia issued a caustic statement from the bench. “The majority practically bends over backwards to ensure that recess appointments will remain a powerful weapon in the president’s arsenal,” he said.

The decision affirmed a broad ruling last year from a federal appeals court in Washington that had called into question the constitutionality of many recess appointments by presidents of both parties.
They bent, but did not break...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Free Cell

The Supremes say no to cellphone snooping:
“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the unanimous court.

“Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple— get a warrant.”

Justices even said police cannot check a cellphone’s call log, saying even those contain more information that just phone numbers, and so perusing them is a violation of privacy that can only be justified with a warrant.

The chief justice said cellphones are different not only because people can carry around so much more data — the equivalent of millions of pages of documents — that police would have access to, but that the data itself is qualitatively different than what someone might otherwise carry.

He said it could lay bare someone’s entire personal history, from their medical records to their “specific movements down to the minute.”
The law catches up with technology, slowly...

Here Comes The Money

But he's their billionaire:
No, Washington Republicans aren't meeting with Charles and David Koch, the deep-pocketed energy titans -- and public enemy No. 1, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and many Democrats.

Instead, the White House, which has repeatedly bemoaned the influence of big money in politics, will open its doors to Tom Steyer, the environmental activist who has pledged to spend up to $100 million on November's elections to promote his climate-change agenda. Steyer is also a high-profile opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project the Obama administration is still reviewing.

Although progressives were unwillingly to publicly condemn the White House for the Steyer gathering, multiple Democratic sources on Capitol Hill privately said that President Obama looked like he was playing the same political game he so actively criticized.

"If a Republican president did the same thing with the Koch brothers, we would skewer them," a House Democratic lawmaker told the Washington Examiner. "If you're going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk."

"That's probably the last person I'd like White House officials to meet with," added a senior aide for a centrist Senate Democrat in a tough re-election fight.
One man's evil duo is another's benefactor...

Pork Lives?

Was Mississippi a win for earmarks?
Cochran devoted much of his campaign to defending his record on federal spending, as the Washington Post's Dan Balz explained on Tuesday.

"I think earmarks have gotten a bad name," Cochran told NPR in May. "For those who are opposed to that, [they] are for the federal agencies making the decision. This is supposed to be government of and by and for the people — not for the bureaucrats."

As Cochran points out, earmarks had already died everywhere except the tea party's list of establishment offenses. In 2010, Congress approved a moratorium on earmarks that is still in effect. It hasn't noticeably changed the amount of money being spent by the federal government; it has simply made it more difficult for legislators to steer that money back home.
Nobody likes pork, but everybody seems to want some of their own...

See You In Court

John Boehner sues the Obama administration:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Mandate Cometh

It's sooner than you thimk:
In recent weeks, criticism of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate — one of the law’s most controversial components — has intensified, as employers such as Settles complain publicly and even some Obama administration allies acknowledge that the mandate has harmed some workers.

A number of businesses, including Regal Entertainment and SeaWorld, have reduced hours for part-time workers to fewer than 30 a week — the law’s definition of full time — to avoid having to offer them health insurance. Other companies say they are holding back on hiring to avoid the insurance requirement. Seasonal employees and low-wage workers, such as adjunct professors and cafeteria staffers, have been hit especially hard. …

Many of the employers that have cut part-time hours or taken other actions to limit their costs under the law, such as fast-food restaurants and school districts, have large numbers of seasonal or hourly-wage workers. Traditionally, most of these workers have not received health benefits. And they are often difficult to categorize as part time or full time, because their hours vary.
Is anyone really ready?

The Age Of Unreason

The problem with the new intolerance:
What these disputes demand is discretion and judgment, because social tolerance is a valuable disposition rather than a principle. The people trying to silence Will and the others don't have enough of that disposition. The problem isn't that they're engaging in censorship and that censorship is always wrong; it's that they're being unreasonable.
The unreasonable will never admit that they are so...

The Bay Area Way

The San Francisco Way isn't for everyone:
The idea that there exists a single “right” urban cluster or a single “right” automobile or meal fails to take into account any number of variables, not least of which is the fact that people do not all want or need uniformly the same things, and that it is not really our business to tell them what they should want, even when we believe we know better — even when we have a pretty good body of evidence suggesting that we know better.
But some people continue to insist otherwise...

The Wealthy Conundrum

The problem of trying to get big-money liberals to act like big money liberals:
In the elite world of big Democratic money, Brock is seen as the perfect evangelist to help convince rich liberals of their moral superiority — and to help them grow some backbone. After channeling support from conservative megadonors into attacks on the Clintons, Brock renounced the right in the late 1990s and has since built an empire of well-funded liberal attack groups leading the charge against the Kochs.

At the New Mexico speech, which was hosted by a Democracy Alliance offshoot called the Committee on the States and attended by major donors including Jonathan Soros, Brock acknowledged what he called, “liberal hypersensitivity to charges of hypocrisy. After all, Democratic campaigns and organizations increasingly rely on big money, too. Why, it might even be said that it’s a bit hypocritical of me to come to a closed-door conference of big donors and the organizations that rely on them and stand up here bashing the Koch brothers. So be it.”

Brock did not dispute the characterization of the speech, but he declined to comment on it, since it was closed to the press. A source close to him, though, stressed that Brock’s goal is to focus is on the Kochs’ agenda, rather than on them personally.

He already has some influential allies in the Democracy Alliance, despite concerns in the DA ranks about Koch attacks stoking class warfare.

“Criticizing Koch-led campaign spending is not vilifying the rich,” said David desJardins, an early Google employee and DA board member. “If someone wants to vilify David and Charles Koch for being rich, I think that would be dumb. Criticizing them for attempting to buy elections and for squashing any attempts to limit the influence of money in politics is very different.”
Democrats are more adept at rigging and stealing elections than buying them outright...

Meditax

Will Yoga practitioners soon have their equilibrium upset?
Supporters of the plan, including Councilwoman Mary Cheh, point out that the tax is part of a restructuring plan intended to broaden the tax base and lower residents' tax rates.

Cheh bridled at opponents branding the tax a "yoga tax" or a "wellness tax." "We apply a sales tax to your yoga mat is that a yoga tax? We apply the sales tax to your running shoes, my running shoes, and other sporting equipment, is that a tax of wellness?" Cheh argued.

Tax opponents believe the tax will add $60 to $80 a year to fitness club memberships in the city.

Early Tuesday, members of the fitness community weighed in.

"It's already difficult enough to convince people to spend their hard-earned money on specialized classes and what this does is just make that cost a little bit more," says Tamara Berger, owner of Off Road Indoor Cycling, a small fitness studio focused on cycling, boxing and boot camp-style training.

Physical trainers and others connected with health club operations, sporting bright yellow T-shirts reading "Don't Tax Wellness," filled most of the seats in the D.C. Council chamber for the vote.
It's a veritable Wellness rebellion...

Poster Boy

Brad Pitt's alter ego?
Mills, with his jaw-length blond locks and muscular physique, has been compared to the heartthrob movie star by everyone from a national party official to adoring teenage girls. And if it seems a little trivial and objectifying — he is, after all, running in one of the more closely watched, competitive House races in the country — Mills doesn’t mind.

To the contrary, the 42-year-old businessman has put his distinctive looks front and center in his sales pitch to voters — that he is not your father’s Republican.

“Certainly, I stand out in a crowd, like I did today,” Mills said in an interview after appearing with other, more traditionally coiffed Republicans vying for state office here. “The hair — I mean, everybody else there was very groomed.” His latest ad opens with Mills saying, with a shrug, “I guess I don’t look like a typical politician.”
At least he's got a day job...

All Together Now

Clasp hands and...huh?

Fly Away

Free to fly?
U.S. District Judge Anna Brown, ruling on a lawsuit filed in federal court in Oregon by 13 Muslim Americans who were branded with the no-fly status, ordered the government to come up with new procedures that allow people on the no-fly list to challenge that designation.

"The court concludes international travel is not a mere convenience or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society," Brown wrote in her 65-page ruling.

"Accordingly, on this record the court concludes plaintiffs inclusion on the no-fly list constitutes a significant deprivation of their liberty interests in international travel," Brown said.

The decision hands a major victory to the 13 plaintiffs - four of them veterans of the U.S. military - who deny they have links to terrorism and say they only learned of their no-fly status when they arrived at an airport and were blocked from boarding a flight.
A system that requires a little more diligent checking than simply a knee-jerk reaction to a suspicious sounding name might have avoided such situations...

Come And Get It

Inside the Vault:

Return Of The Swells

The "not really wealthy" have their say:
Back in 2012, inequality crusader Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who lives in a $5 million house and whose stock portfolio totals around $8 million, boasted about her wish that no member of Congress own stocks.

And finally, anti-capitalist movie-maker Michael Moore was asked by yours truly via Twitter in 2011 why he produces movies trashing the same economic system that made him a very rich man. Let’s just say after four minutes of trying, Moore really never cogently explained that conflict of interest.

It seems the era of the “limousine liberal” has returned. Self-proclaimed crusaders for the poor who rake in millions while attempting to undermine the very system that allowed for their wealth.
Well, they think they're immune from what they would impose on others...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Poor Man Joe

Joe Biden is just an average guy?
“You know, you’re going to get to discuss all of these things today and more,” Biden said, “but if you excuse, as we used to say in the Senate a point of personal privilege, I can speak a little bit from my own experience.”
The vice president went on to talk about the “mildly expensive suit” he was wearing and the fact that “I have no savings accounts” and “I don’t own a single stock or bond.”
“But I got a great pension and I got a good salary,” Biden added.
When he joined the Obama ticket in 2008, Biden was the poorest senator (though, as Politifact reported at the time, poorest senator is still far wealthier than the average American.) In this year’s White House financial disclosure, Biden listed assets “valued at $276,000 to $940,000, including a rental property owned jointly with his wife, Jill,” according to USA Today. President Obama’s assets were “valued at about $2 million to $7 million.”
Yes, he's a real man of the people...

Ready, Aim, Fire

Darrell Issa unloads on the IRS Commissioner:

Breaking The Bank

Kevin McCarthy wants to get rid of the Export-Import Bank:
One of the biggest problems with government is that they go and take hard-earned money so others do things that the private sector can do. That’s what the Ex-Im Bank does. The last authorization with the Ex-Im Bank directed the president and the treasury secretary to wind down the Ex-Im bank, negotiate with the other countries to wind them down so we have a level playing field. We’ve got hearings going on next week in Financial Services, which I sit on. I think Ex-Im Bank is one that’s something government does not have to be involved in. The private sector can do it.
Why should the government be allowed to launder any more money than they already have?

The VA Report

CNN's Drew Griffin demolishes the VA:

Working Girl

Money? Fiddlesticks:
“It is frustrating, because who wants to grow up and follow their parents?” admits Chelsea. “I’ve tried really hard to care about things that were very different from my parents. I was curious if I could care about [money] on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t. That wasn’t the metric of success I wanted in my life. I’ve talked about this to my friends who are doctors and whose parents are doctors, or who are lawyers and their parents are lawyers. It’s a funny thing to realise I feel called to this work both as a daughter and also as someone who believes I have contributions to make.”
I'm sure it's nice to be able to afford not to care...

Odd Man Out

What if the President of the United States showed up at a Chipotle and nobody cared?

How to Plan Your Summer Vacation

Hire someone else to do it for you:
“The service is for parents that are discerning,” she said. “They seek guidance for their children so they can develop in the most appropriate manner, like a tutor or a specialist or a vocal coach.”
She said her goal is to help kids find themselves — and find a way to impress colleges.
She has advised teens to attend entrepreneur-training camps, work as interns, create service programs or try cultural experiences.
But Shawn Abbott, NYU’s dean of admissions, has doubts about the benefits of such a service.
“If one can’t figure out how to spend his/her summer in a meaningful way, I worry about what is in store for that person when they arrive on a college campus, when they will be faced with far more opportunities and choices that require independent thinking,” he said.
Well, most Ivy League schools actually discourage it, so...

Wayback Machine

Scientists simulate time travel:
In the simulation, the researchers examined two possible outcomes for a time-travelling photon.

For the first, ‘photon one’ would travel through a wormhole into the past and interact with its older version, reports The Speaker.

In the second, ‘photon two’ travels through normal space-time but interacts with a photon that is stuck in a time-travelling loop through a wormhole, known as a closed timelike curve (CTC).

Simulating the behaviour of photon two allowed the behaviour of photon one also to be studied - and the results revealed that time travel on a quantum level seems to be possible.

By definition ‘quantum’ refers to the smallest possible particles that can independently exist - such as photons.

However, whether this same simulation proves time travel is possible for more larger particles or groups of particles, such as atoms, remains unclear.
You just need more plutonium:

Le Rude

France tries to change its character:
France has long suffered from a reputation for extending a surly welcome to visitors, from haughty waiters in Paris cafés to frequent public service strikes. Just this month, the train network has been hit by a prolonged bout of industrial action.
There is even a recognised psychological disorder called “Paris syndrome” that afflicts some tourists, particularly Japanese shocked by the abrupt ways of their French hosts.
But the Socialist government, desperately seeking ways to inject new life into the stuttering economy, is rolling out a plan to transform the tourist industry – not least by addressing the delicate issue of treating holidaymakers with a little more grace.
“If there is one issue we have to deal with, it is to change the mentality of the French who see service as servitude. We are very bad at service in France,” declared Jean-François Rial, boss of Voyageurs du Monde, a specialist travel agency, at a conference held by the government last week to launch its new programme.
Well, they can be replaced...

Rich Boys' Club

What happens when wealthy liberals become wealthy Democrats:
The thinking behind the Democracy Alliance was to create a venture capital fund for new progressive groups. (The Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America were two of the charter recipients.) A central tenet of the alliance in those days was that it wanted nothing to do with the Democratic Party or elections, per se. The alliance was about creating a bolder alternative to the status quo.

It didn't take long, though, for the alliance to deviate from that course. The Silicon Valley and Wall Street contributors who were most focused on modernization started to drift away, exhausted by the endless conference calls and the knee-jerk resistance to any rethinking of the liberal agenda. The remaining "partners," as the alliance calls them, were overwhelmingly aging boomers who clung to 1960s orthodoxies.

Eventually, the alliance became, essentially, a convener and funder of the party establishment. It welcomed several big unions to the table and took up side collections for candidates. And now it's formalized that role by electing Stocks as its chairman, replacing Rob McKay, heir to the Taco Bell fortune.

To be clear, the problem here has nothing to do with Stocks personally, whom I've never met, and who has been described to me as a thoughtful and open-minded guy. It also has nothing to do with teachers generally, many of whom are nothing short of heroic, and who are struggling to adapt to the turmoil in their industry, same as the rest of us.

But if you were going to sit down and make a list of political powerhouses that have been intransigent and blindly doctrinaire in the face of change, you'd have a hard time finding a better example than the country's largest teachers union.
If you want thoughtful and open-minded, this generally isn't the way to go...

Game Name Changers

Here it comes:
Chief Wahoo, in his current form, has been used by the Cleveland Indians for more than 60 years. The team last year began giving more prominence to an alternative logo, a block letter C, causing speculation that Wahoo is on his way out — something the team has denied.

In Cleveland, there seems to be general support for Chief Wahoo, said Mike Brandyberry, managing editor of the website Did The Tribe Win Last Night?, and any controversy about the symbol isn't a topic of daily conversation. Last year, the site agreed to publish an essay from a fan who called for retiring Chief Wahoo, but it also offered to publish any responses from fans wanting to keep the logo.

“We didn’t receive one,” Brandyberry said. “I would say the majority of Indians fans and Clevelanders support Chief Wahoo,” but added that he personally is ambivalent about a logo change.
Or they just don't care and think this is another huge waste of time...

Water Relief

Will the UN help Detroit pay its water bills?
Water department spokeswoman Curtrise Garner says it’s a possibility — but for now, the water bills must be paid.
“We do have programs that do help those that are just totally in need; can’t afford it — but we also know that there are also people who can’t afford it would can not pay and we know this because, once we shut water off, the next day they are in paying the bill in full. So we do know that that has become a habit as well,” said Garner.
“At the DWAS Department — it’s not our goal to shut off water. We want people’s water on, just like they do; but you do have to pay for your water…That’s the bottom line.”
Maybe they could just ration it like certain other socialist states do...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blogging In The Years: 1941

Is it time to cut California in two?
Talk of splitting California into two States along the line of the Tehachapi Mountains has been revived....

This is a recurring discussion, due to the different temperaments and clashing personalities of the two sections.

To Northern California Southern California is "the home of the rave," where hamburgers and brainstorms alike are super-colossal.

In the North "screwball" is a satisfactory description of the South — after successive campaigns to defeat such Southern-born notions as End-Poverty-in-California, Utopianism, the Townsend Plan and the Ham-and-Eggs Theory.
Screwball is in the eye of the beholder. It may well be used to describe the entire state...

Cooked Climate Books

Surprise-climate change "data" was rigged:
In recent years, NOAA’s US Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has been “adjusting” its record by replacing real temperatures with data “fabricated” by computer models. The effect of this has been to downgrade earlier temperatures and to exaggerate those from recent decades, to give the impression that the Earth has been warming up much more than is justified by the actual data. In several posts headed “Data tampering at USHCN/GISS”, Goddard compares the currently published temperature graphs with those based only on temperatures measured at the time. These show that the US has actually been cooling since the Thirties, the hottest decade on record; whereas the latest graph, nearly half of it based on “fabricated” data, shows it to have been warming at a rate equivalent to more than 3 degrees centigrade per century.
In the absence of real heat, the "experts" had to use hot air of their own...

The Imperial Revenue Service

The IRS is an equal opportunity offender:
t’s not Commissioner Koskinen who lost the emails, he’s just on the wrong side of a bad policy that doesn’t require the IRS to be as records-conscious as the citizens it polices. But in the traditional IRS power relationship, it’s usually the subjects of its audits who feel the unfocused and overly harsh attention of a system that assumes they are guilty.
....

Democrats mocked the elaborate displays of outrage at the hearing—always a safe thing to do—but you don’t have to share Ryan’s view that the IRS is engaged in a cover-up of a scheme to target conservatives to recognize a more universal element to Ryan’s anger.
That's because the anger was justified. The arrogance on display from the IRS commissioner only added to that anger.

Pipe Heat

With Keystone becoming an election-year headache for vulnerable Dems, I expect to see a lot more of this:
It’s disappointing to see Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., once again vote against the pipeline, as he did Wednesday in the Senate energy committee.

Officially, Udall claims to have no position, his spokesman saying he “believes the technical review needs to be seen through to the end.” But nearly everyone recognizes that the delay by the federal government’s side is political, given the number of studies and how long this process has dragged on.

It would be helpful to know Udall’s position before, not after, the Obama administration officially rules on Keystone.
Trying to avoid the issue won't help, either...

Static

Do we just think we're free?
It has previously been suggested that our perceived ability to make autonomous choices is an illusion – and now scientists from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, have found that free will may actually be the result of electrical activity in the brain.

According to the research, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, decisions could be predicted based on the pattern of brain activity immediately before a choice was made.
....

The brain has a normal level of so-called background noise; the researchers found that the pattern of activity in the brain in the seconds before the cue symbol appeared - before the volunteers knew they were going to make a choice - could predict the likely outcome of the decision.

“The state of the brain right before presentation of the cue determines whether you will attend to the left or to the right,” Bengson said.

And in an email to Live Science, Bengson said: “[Though] purposeful intentions, desires and goals drive our decisions in a linear cause-and-effect kind of way, our finding shows that our decisions are also influenced by neural noise within any given moment.

“This random firing, or noise, may even be the carrier upon which our consciousness rides, in the same way that radio static is used to carry a radio station.”
If we're all just along for the ride, where are our brains taking us?

Haters Do Better?

Are haters better workers?
Haters could be characterised as less active because they do fewer things as people with a positive attitude.

But they could also be characterised as more focused because they spend more time on the small number of tasks.

‘The present results demonstrate that patterns of general action may occur for reasons other than the desire to be active versus inactive,’ the researchers wrote.

‘Indeed, some people may be more active than others not because they want to be active per se, but because they identify a large number of specific behaviours in which they want to engage.’

The findings may have implications for understanding the development of skills and expertise.

For example, likers may adopt a jack-of-all-trades approach to life, investing small amounts of time in a wide variety of activities. This means they never have expertise in one activity.

In contrast, when haters find an activity they actually like, they may invest a larger amount of time in that task, allowing them to develop a higher level of skill.
Hate the job, not the hater?

A Bridge To The 20th Century

Is Hillary Clinton old news?
NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, in conjunction with the Annenberg Public Policy Center, found that voters associated Clinton as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with the past more than the future. A plurality, 49 percent, said Clinton represents a “return to past policies” rather than someone who would “provide new ideas and vision.” That impression is even greater for Bush. 48 percent of respondents in the June 9 – 15 survey said he represents a return to the past compared to just 30 percent who said that he would “provide new ideas and vision.”
The past is always behind you, and with it, perhaps your Presidential ambitions...

Righteous Anger

If anyone else did this, they'd probably wind up in a landfill:
Calabria is the power base of the 'ndrangheta, a global drug trafficking syndicate that enriches itself by extorting businesses and infiltrating public works contracts in underdeveloped Calabria.

During his homily at an outdoor Mass, Francis denounced the 'ndrangheta for what he called its "adoration of evil and contempt for the common good. "

"Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated," he warned.

Francis greeted about 200 other prisoners during his visit there.
If you act evil, be expected to be treated as such...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

De-Boned

If you want the bare basics, you might not get to keep the bare basics:
A little-known proposed change to the president’s health care law could result in a new political nightmare for Democrats who are vulnerable in the 2014 midterm elections.

Vox.com says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposal in March that would prohibit insurers from selling fixed-benefit insurance plans as stand-alone policies.

Fixed-benefit plans are so bare bones they don’t even qualify as actual health insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate – so people who are covered by these plans only are still subject to the penalty unless they qualify for an exemption.
If the goal is to make all health insurance unavailable except through the government, then Obamacare seems well on its way towards accomplishing that goal...

The Clinton News Network

CNN, doing crowd control for Hillary?
To add “energy” to its show (attended by the Erik Wemple Blog), CNN deployed an enthusiastic stage director who coached the audience to applaud at various points throughout the broadcast — not in a partisan manner for Clinton, but for the sake of the town hall’s television optics. Approximately 15 minutes before the show, the producer ran the audience through a practice round of applause and noise-making. The results of the audience-prodding turn up in the show’s video.
Of course, now the question is, why would they have to do this at all, in deep Blue territory?

Arrogance Vs Arrogance

How do you deal with something like the IRS scandal?
What we have now is obviously not working any better than what we had in the post-Watergate special-prosecutor era. Just as in Watergate, the DoJ is a political arm of the administration and uninterested in doing its job independently to investigate and prosecute abuses of power. Congress has to find a way to effectively exercise its own checks and balances on executive power to prevent and punish those abuses. Hearings alone won’t do it, and it’s long past time for Congress to start thinking creatively about its other options.
But it may be better than nothing, which is certainly what the government would prefer...

Who Watches The Watchdogs?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns out to be...not so much:
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray evidently is feeling unfamiliar heat after resorting to a disreputable form of sophistry as a substitute for honest discussion and debate. During a June 10 hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, for example, Cordray responded to a question from Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., on the ballooning cost of CFPB’s headquarters renovation by saying: “This has been out there and taken as gospel in the public record for some time. It’s a fiction of the Washington Examiner that this project started out at $55 million and now has ballooned to higher proportions. There never was any expectation that this project could be completed for $55 million. That is false.”
They're just bigots instead...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Who Gets Furball?

Should you get a pet prenup?
Attorney Marina Korol of the California based Law Offices of Korol and Velen agreed that postnuptial agreements are also worth seriously considering for couples who purchase a pet together. As Korol explained, usually one party does most of the caretaking, and a postnuptial agreement “would make sure that upon divorce or separation the pet would go with the spouse more bonded with the animal.” If there isn’t a prenup or postnup addressing pet custody then “courts have traditionally awarded visitation.”

This, she explained, indicates that many courts are aware that pets are more than just property in the traditional sense. Judges are beginning to view them as legal “hybrids” of property and children.
I think it's more accurate to say that in many cases, we are their property...

Bully Court

When all else fails, sue the bully?
Deveri and Matthew Del Core said their son, Joaquin, was the victim of the bullying at Robert Frost Elementary in Mount Prospect outside Chicago.The lawsuit seeks $50,000 in damages from the alleged bully, his parents, the school district and Robert Frost's principal.

“There was everything from choking my son and threatening to kill him, said he was going to go home and get a knife and come back and kill him,” Deveri Del Core told 5NBCChicago after she and her husband filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court. “My son would wake up at night screaming and crying, terrified, and did not want to go to school.”

Del Core told the station that hours after filing the complaint,she was fired from her job in her son’s school cafeteria.

The lawsuit accuses the alleged bully’s parents of failing to discipline their child to stop the behavior.
Boys will be lawyered up?

Digital Rehab

For those hooked on devices:
Camp Grounded, now in its second year, offers hyperconnected attendees a brief respite from the incessant noise of Facebook, Twitter and a plethora of other media relentlessly battling for their attention.

The rules of this "digital detox" camp are clear: No work talk, no alcohol, no first names or discussion of ages, and most importantly, no phones, computers, tablets or watches.

Co-founder Levi Felix, who goes by the nickname "Fidget Wigglesworth," has stressed it is not just an experience for tech workers, although current and former Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Microsoft Corp employees were represented. This year, campers ranged from hipster college grads to recent retirees, he said in an interview with Reuters at the Navarro, California camp.

The project has gained rapid popularity, reflecting a growing need to unwind from the stresses associated with the Bay Area's tech boom. From just one weekend in the summer of 2013, this year's has grown to three consecutive weekends with several hundred people attending each session.
They're here to help...

No Apologies

Shut up, he said:
CAMP: What I didn’t hear in that was an apology to this committee.

KOSKINEN: I don’t think an apology is owed. There are not a single e-mail has been lost since the start of this investigation. Every e-mail has been preserved that we have.
That's his story, and he's sticking to it:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Robot Games

I for one welcome our new robot athletes:
“In 2020 I would like to gather all of the world’s robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills,” the Prime Minister is quoted as saying to local media.

What could these robotic technical skills include? We hope they will skew more on the ping pong tournament end of the spectrum, rather than box-packing or wifi-beaming.

Speaking at a robotics factory in the Japanese city of Saitama, Prime Minister Abe reportedly announced plans for a task force to kickstart the country’s robot production.

“We want to make robots a major pillar of our economic growth strategy,” he said.
At least you wound't have to worry about doping...

The Last Lie

He cannot tell a lie:
“Honestly, it is not because I’m a paragon of virtue, it is because that would be a terrible way to do the job,” he said at a June 18 breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

“And what you do when you can’t say is you don’t and you take the question or you explain what you can without revealing what you can’t say,” he said.

The White House sometimes can’t reveal information, he said, because of “internal deliberations and national security issues.”

In practice, since he began the job in 2011, Carney has tried to steer assertive reporters away from their difficult questions, often by describing a series of true but subsidiary and harmless information.
But at least he was being honest (sort of) about it...

Devil Doll

Could it be, Satan?
The agency's hope was that the frightening transformation of the figure would turn those in the region where he was believed to be hiding, against him, especially children, the report said.

It is unclear how many action figures, called "Devil Eyes," were produced. One source told the paper hundreds were sent on a freighter in 2006 to Karachi, Pakistan. But the spy agency told the paper that "to our knowledge" only three were developed. The project was called off shortly after creation of the prototypes, and none were delivered, the agency said.

A former Hasbro executive who helped launch the iconic G.I. Joe figure, Donald Levine, helped develop the Bin Laden doll, the report said.
The Devil made them do it?

Lower Than Low

Congress falls to single-digit territory:
Americans' current confidence in Congress is not only the lowest on record, but also the lowest Gallup has recorded for any institution in the 41-year trend. This is also the first time Gallup has ever measured confidence in a major U.S. institution in the single digits. Currently, 4% of Americans say they have a great deal of confidence in Congress, and 3% have quite a lot of confidence. About one-third of Americans report having "some" confidence, while half have "very little," and another 7% volunteer that they have "none."

Confidence in Congress has varied over the years, with the highest levels in the low 40% range recorded in the 1970s and again in the mid-1980s. Confidence rose in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but has declined since 2004, culminating in this year's historic low.
None is the loneliest number...

The Printing Of The President

President Obama in 3D:
According to The Associated Press, experts scanned Obama earlier this year using two different processes: a "light stage" face scanner and hand-held 3D scanners and cameras to help build a bust of the 44th president. It took 40 hours to print.

"You can see down to the wrinkles in the skin and the pores on his face," Vince Rossi, a 3D imaging specialist, told the AP.
Like Obama, it has no real depth...

Designed To Fail

It was meant to be broken:
Under pressure from the White House, Healthcare.gov was launched despite a wave of previously unknown warnings from consultants that the Obamacare website was insecure, untested, and prone to crashing after just 500 people got on, according to a damaging new Senate report.

“The White House continually meddled in technical decisions and put pressure on [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] officials to launch the website on time, regardless of operability and security concerns. As a result, officials ignored countless red flags to launch a website with thousands of defects. In the end, the launch failed miserably, crashing on takeoff,” said the report from Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking member of the panel, with panel member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and their staff have spent months interviewing key officials, reviewing emails and collecting reports in their probe of the website and concluded that top officials, feeling the heat to burnish President Obama’s health care legacy, ignored several warnings and flipped the switch October 1.
It's sort of keeping in line with Obamacare itself...

No Authority Necessary?

Both parties seem to agree on Iraq:
With that violence as the backdrop, Democratic leaders offered support for Obama to use a 2002 law authorizing President George W. Bush to take action in Iraq as the legal authority for new strikes.

“I do not believe the President needs any further legislative authority to pursue the particular options for increased security assistance discussed today,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement released after the meeting. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has previously backed that position.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate notably did not object to that interpretation, and Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the third-ranking GOP leader, offered public support. …

[A] source familiar with the discussion said some of the leaders present “suggested the president already has existing authorities to take additional action without congress[ional] authorization.”
Collective consensus? Or collective buck-passing?

All Hail Koch

I think Harry Reid is getting a little desperate:




Wisconsin Windmills

State prosecutors can't seem to help themselves:
The prosecutors allege that Walker and those allies raised money and coordinated spending with about a dozen conservative groups during the recall elections.

They cite a May 2011 email from Walker to prominent national GOP strategist Karl Rove saying that Johnson would lead the coordination.

"Bottom-line: R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities)," Walker wrote to Rove on May 4, 2011, the documents say.

Johnson is also top adviser to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative group that was active in the recall elections. In the documents, prosecutors write that Johnson has said, "We own CFG."

But on Thursday, attorneys for Wisconsin Club for Growth said it was prosecutors who had violated the state's election laws.

"These documents show how the John Doe prosecutors adopted a blatantly unconstitutional interpretation of Wisconsin law that they used to launch a secret criminal investigation targeting conservatives throughout Wisconsin. That legal theory has now been rejected by two courts," said Andrew Grossman of Baker Hostetler, the law firm representing Club for Growth. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this is a story that needs to be told to prevent more abuses and to hold the John Doe prosecutors accountable for violating the rights of Wisconsinites."
John Doe, still a no-go...

The Least Trusted Names In News

TV news, on a downward spiral:
Only 18 percent of the Americans surveyed expressed either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in that news medium.

Gallup has been asking the following question annually since 1993: “Now I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society. Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one--a great deal, quite a lot, some or very little?” (See Gallup Confidence Survey.pdf) One of the institutions listed is "television news."

In the latest survey, conducted June 5-8, only 10 percent said they had “a great deal” of confidence in T.V. news, and 8 percent said they had “quite a lot” of confidence.
Network gurus hardest hit...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Patent No Longer Pending

The strange saga of the team that dare not mention its name continues:
As USA Today noted before the ruling, the Redskins would still be allowed to use the mark "even if it loses on appeal." But since "federally registered trademarks keep others from selling items with the team's logos," the effect of the ruling "would be large" and dent the team's profits even if the Redskins "try to keep unauthorized merchandisers from using the marks through common law and state statues."
As the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board emphasized in the 2-1 ruling, federal law "prohibits registration of marks that may disparage persons or bring them into contempt or disrepute." The Board said it found the evidence "overwhelmingly supports a determination that" the team's name is "disparaging."
Administrative Trademark Judge Karen Kuhlke noted in the opinion that the respondent introduced "evidence that some in the Native American community do not find the term 'Redskin' disparaging when it is used in connection with professional football," but she said it ultimately "does not negate the opinions of those who find it disparaging."
Apparently the disparaged still have nothing better to do...

No Pork, Please

Liberal elites are puzzled by voters' rejection of pork in Mississippi:
The piece reflects a general amazement at the way that citizens of Mississippi are voting for McDaniel in spite of all the federal spending that Cochran has brought to the district.
One liberal professor in particular is perplexed by the concept.
“It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” Professor Marty Wiseman tells the Times. “It defies logic or reason for somebody to not only run on cutting off the supply of federal money to Mississippi, but to actually be winning the race.”
Maybe it's because they don't want to have to pay for such "generosity?"

Campus Conspiracy

A Connecticut high school student believes conservative websites are being censored on campus:
The 18-year-old decided to investigate further by broadening his search terms to political parties in Connecticut.
“I immediately found out that the State Democrat website was unblocked but the State GOP website was blocked,” Lampart said.
The student took it a step further and looked at websits focusing on abortion issues and religion. He discovered that “right-to-life” groups were blocked by the firewall but that Planned Parenthood and Pro-Choice America weren’t.
Lampart even tried to explore websites like Christianity.com and the Vatican’s site but they were both blocked. However, Islam-guide.com was not blocked.
“They’re trying to, in my opinion, shelter us from what’s actually going on around the country and around the world by blocking these web sites,” Lampart explained. “It should be the other way around. The websites should be unblocked so that students can get different viewpoints from different sides of each argument.”
But if they had access to different points of view, they might realize that there are flaws in their educational system. Can't have that now, can we?

Zoom

What it's like to sit in a really fast car:
The instrument panels features digital as well as analog readouts. The central screen shows miles per hour and Mach speed, plus output levels of the jet and rocket. If all goes as planned, the turbofan will propel the car past the 500-mph mark, at which point Green will fire the rocket, which provides a 20-second burst of power. This will push the car through the so-called measured mile—where the top speed is recorded—in 3.6 seconds. Green will control the jet with a foot pedal and fire the rocket with buttons set into the titanium steering wheel.

When I sat in the cockpit, it was incomplete, but it possessed a Machine Age beauty. Panels painted flat-gray and outfitted with more than two dozen toggles flanked the steering wheel. But the most striking elements were the Rolex instruments. Each piece is about 6 inches in diameter and has a black face with illuminated markings. On the right is a chronograph with a built-in stopwatch. On the left is a speedometer marked at 100-mph increments, up to 1,100 mph. If the digital readouts were to fail, Green would rely on the chronograph to time the firing and cooling down of the jet. The speedometer—which operates via a dedicated GPS system—would help him apply the friction brakes at the correct speed, namely, about 200 mph.
Just the sort of thing for beating rush hour traffic...

Going Nowhere Over There

President Obama has a major leadership confidence gap:
The percentage of Americans approving of President Barack Obama’s handling of foreign policy issues has dropped to the lowest level of his presidency as he faces multiple overseas challenges, including in Iraq,according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Additionally, the public is evenly split on whether Obama is a competent manager of the federal bureaucracy. And a majority of respondents – 54 percent – believe the term-limited president is no longer able to lead the country. …

Just 37 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy, which is an all-time low in the survey, while 57 percent disapprove, an all-time high.
When your presidency is adrift in its last years, somebody else has to take up the slack...

Canadian East

Canada builds its own Keystone:
Canada’s government on Tuesday approved a controversial pipeline proposal that would bring oil to the Pacific Coast for shipment to Asia, a major step in the country’s efforts to diversify its oil exports if it can overcome fierce opposition from environmental and aboriginal groups.

Approval for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project was expected as Canada needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. The project’s importance has only grown since the U.S. delayed a decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The northern Alberta region has the world’s third largest oil reserves, with 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.

Enbridge’s pipeline would transport 525,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific to deliver oil to Asia, mainly energy-hungry China. About 220 large oil tankers a year would visit the Pacific coast town of Kitimat and opponents fear pipeline leaks and a potential tanker spill on the pristine Pacific coast.
It still seems to beat the alternative...

Keep The Bums In

Maybe we really do like our incumbents, after all:
Americans aren’t exceptionally fond of big banks, big business and big government — which would have been an intriguing piece of information in 2009 when populist right-wing anger flooded out into the open. Since then, though, the revolution has been on a slow boil. That doesn’t mean the anger isn’t real. It doesn’t mean that the distrust won’t grow. And it doesn’t mean there won’t be change. It just means we rarely, if ever, blame our own. In 2010, a year that saw one of the lowest re-election rates in decades after an eruption of anti-D.C. populism, 9 out of every 10 House incumbents won their races. After 2012, the Bloomberg Government Barometer found that 9 in 10 members House and Senate won their races, as well.
....

...congressmen who take care of the little things and bring home the pork are elected in perpetuity. Perhaps there is something positive to be said for the stability of it all.
The devil you know...

The Other Water

You are what you drink:
This year’s drought has motivated California to invest $1 billion in new money on water recycling efforts statewide, a much more cost-efficient way of increasing potable water supplies. But reusing purified sewer water for brushing your teeth is not without its own set of issues. National Journal describes the biggest holdup:
The problem with recycled water is purely psychological. Despite the fact the water is safe and sterile, the “yuck factor” is hard to get over, even if a person understands that the water poses no harm. In one often-cited experiment, researchers poured clean apple juice into a clean bedpan, and asked participants if they’d be comfortable drinking the apple juice afterwards. Very few of the participants agreed, even though there was nothing wrong with it. It’s forever associated with being “dirty,” just like recycled wastewater.
While it’s not quite correct that every glass of water contains dinosaur pee, it is true that every source of fresh water on Earth (rainfall, lakes, rivers, and aquifers) is part of a planetary-scale water cycle that passes through every living thing at one point or another. In a very real way, each and every day we are already drinking one another’s urine.
When they say "don't drink the water" it may already be too late...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meditation Men

Keep your meditation on your money:
"Meditation used to have this reputation as a hippie thing for people who speak in a particularly soft tone of voice," a meditation expert explains, to correct the popular misperception. "Samurai practiced meditation to become more effective killers. It's value neutral."
To make a financial killing, be the money?

The Man In The Canvas

There's a stranger in the room:
Experts long suspected there might be something under the surface of "The Blue Room," which has been part of The Phillips Collection since 1927. Brushstrokes on the piece clearly don't match the composition that depicts a woman bathing in Picasso's studio.

A conservator noted the odd brushstrokes in a 1954 letter, but it wasn't until the 1990s that an X-ray of the painting first revealed a fuzzy image of something under the picture. It wasn't clear, though, that it was a portrait.

In 2008, improved infrared imagery revealed for the first time a man's bearded face resting on his hand with three rings on his fingers. He's dressed in a jacket and bow tie, painted in a vertical composition.

"It's really one of those moments that really makes what you do special," said Patricia Favero, the conservator at The Phillips Collection who pieced together the best infrared image yet of the man's face.

"The second reaction was, 'Well, who is it?' We're still working on answering that question."
The character who wasn't there?

California Gold Diggers

"I went to Silicon valley, and all I got was this lousy heartache:"
NYMag writer Maureen O'Connor was among 16 women chosen to participate in "Cross Country Love: Help Fly NYC Women to SF."

The five-day trip, which was crowdfunded via Crowdtilt, was thrown by Lauren Kay, the founder of dating startup The Dating Ring. The idea behind it is that Silicon Valley has become so dominated by wealthy men that it has caused a supply-demand imbalance. For some reason, this can only be solved by flying women from New York to San Francisco. Naturally, the concept is not without its flaws.

Nonetheless, women interested in attending the trip had the option of paying for different packages that include an allotted number of dates, admission to a cocktail party, flight and housing. These options range between $500 and $1,250.
....

On the third day, O'Connor and the rest of the New York gang headed to a party thrown for the Crowdtilt benefactors.

"Some of the men at this party are more eccentric than those we received as matches," O'Connor recalls.

One programmer who donated several hundred dollars to the campaign compared the situation to giving money to a homeless person—implying that it was a demeaning act of pity.

He then criticized the online dating scene, saying that he prefers to "use reality" as his platform and began to touch O'Connor.

Here's how O'Connor described the rest of her experience at the party:
As the party grows, we become inundated with men. We are experiencing gender imbalance in the wild, and it is chaos. Every time I turn, there are men lined up waiting to deliver carefully rehearsed greetings or to initiate repartee.
The next day, O'Connor sought out some weed brownies for her and the rest of the ladies on the trip. By midnight, half of those girls ended up crying in the fetal position, with O'Connor comforting one of them by stroking her hair.
You get what you pay for, ladies...

Oil Kings

The American oil juggernaut:
In its most recent analysis, which takes a five-year view of the oil market, the IEA predicted that tight oil production from outside the U.S. could account for 650,000 barrels a day of global oil supply by 2019.

Although that is just a fraction of the 5 million barrels a day the U.S. is expected to produce from its shale oil fields by 2019, it highlights the continuing impact techniques like fracking are likely to have in helping increase global oil supply even toward the end of the decade when the IEA expects U.S. oil production growth to plateau.

Indeed, by some estimates, the U.S. contains no more than 15% of the world’s total shale and light tight oil resources, but the impact of their development on the oil market is already profound. By the end of the decade the IEA expects North America to produce 20% of the world’s oil supply and to have become a “titan of unprecedented proportions” in oil product markets as its exports of refined products soar.
Oil? Yeah, we got that...

Bitter Hardball

When you've lost Chris Matthews: Without naming names, the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball” told a crowd at Florida’s Miami Dade College that ...