Friday, February 28, 2014

No Budget This Year

Senate Democrats aren't interested in doing their jobs:
Democrats in the U.S. Senate won’t bother with passing their own budget this year, arguing that a deal in December has already set spending levels for the 2015 fiscal year, and “relitigating” it would create economic uncertainty. …

“While this budget year is settled and it wouldn’t be productive to relitigate it so soon after our two-year deal, I plan to work with my colleagues on the Budget Committee to lay out our long-term vision for creating jobs, boosting the economy, and tackling our deficits fairly and responsibly,” Murray said. …

The decision by Murray not to go through the motions of passing a budget also will allow Senate Democrats to avoid an open amendment process that allows any senator to seek vote on any amendment to the budget – a process that could last days known as a “vote-a-rama.”
Needless to say, it will be up to the opposition to do it for them:
“CBO says our budget outlook is unsustainable. We’ve made some progress on the discretionary side, but on the main drivers of our debt-entitlements-we’ve got a lot more work to do,” Ryan said through his spokesman Thursday. ”House Republicans will keep offering real solutions to get spending under control, fix our broken tax code, create jobs, and put us on the path to balance.”
Sounds like they're not too worried about "vote-a-rama"-or votes...

Where Prosperity Begins

It starts with available resources:
Residents living above an oil-rich shale formation that stretches across southwest Mississippi and Louisiana have been waiting on a boom for years. A steady trickle of drilling is already boosting the rural region’s economy, and spending by two oil companies could make 2014 the year that many other locals finally cash in on the oil far beneath their feet. …

Gillsburg and surrounding Amite County lie above a prime section of the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, a geologic formation that stretches in boomerang shape across Louisiana’s midsection and into southern Mississippi. …

For the region’s economy, though, the drilling has already provided a much-needed infusion, even if it’s not an all-out boom yet.

Heavily wooded with only a handful of small towns, Amite County has relied on forestry in recent decades. But Georgia-Pacific LLC closed a plywood mill in Gloster in 2009. Combined with other business closures, Chancery Clerk Ronnie Taylor said Amite County lost as many as 850 jobs. The county’s 4,600 workers had an 8.7 percent unemployment rate in December, higher than Mississippi’s average. Here and there, pastures are reminders of the county’s fading dairy industry.

Bernell McGehee, an accountant in Liberty, said his family leased some forestland south of town to Encana for a $300-an-acre one-time payment. He stands to earn more in royalties if the land produces oil.

“Any debts we’ve had, we’ve pretty much been able to get rid of,” he said.
Recovery begins at home-and with the right to pursue it.

The Plan, For The Plan

If you no longer like your plan, you can't get rid of your plan:
"Andrew Robinson was looking forward to getting health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He has a small publishing business and works part time, so he hasn't had coverage. In early January he signed up for a plan that cost nearly $300 a month. About a half hour later he and his wife realized they could barely afford that. They quickly found a less expensive plan through Humana for $116 a month," says the reporter.

"I immediately called back the Florida Blue and asked them to cancel the policy I just set up," says Robinson.

"But he quickly learned canceling Obamacare is no easy task. ... More than six weeks later after spending 50 to 60 hours on the phone his policy is still not canceled and he is still waiting for the payment Florida Blue withdrew from his account to be refunded."
You will be assimilated...

Computer-Generated Education

Skynet goes to school:
Hoaxes in academia are nothing new. In 1996, mathematician Alan Sokal riled postmodernists by publishing a nonsense paper in the leading US journal, Social Text. It was laden with meaningless phrases but, as Sokal said, it sounded good to them. Other fields have not been immune. In 1964, critics of modern art were wowed by the work of Pierre Brassau, who turned out to be a four-year-old chimpanzee. In a more convoluted case, Bernard-Henri Lévy, one of France's best-known philosophers, was left to ponder his own expertise after quoting the lectures of Jean-Baptiste Botul as evidence that Kant was a fake, only to find out that Botul was the fake, an invention of a French reporter.

Just as the students wrote a quick and dirty program to churn out nonsense papers, so Labbé has written one to spot the papers. He has made it freely available, so publishers and conference organisers have no excuse for accepting nonsense work in future.

Krohn, who has now founded a startup called in New York that provides encryption to programmers, said Labbé's detective work revealed how deep the problem ran. Academics are under intense pressure to publish, conferences and journals want to turn their papers into profits, and universities want them published. "This ought to be a shock to people," Krohn said. "There's this whole academic underground where everyone seems to benefit, but they are wasting time and money and adding nothing to science. The institutions are being ripped off, because they pay publishers huge subscriptions for this stuff."
You'd at least expect them to make sense...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reddit Edits

When moderators attack:
The decision to clamp down on news detailing this particular leak brought a whole lot of irony with it. The efforts made to remove an unflattering story about intelligence agencies' dirty little efforts to use the internet to destroy reputations and manipulate public perception led to tongue-in-cheek speculation that Reddit itself is compromised. (And there's certainly no way to be sure it isn't…)
You're not crazy; they really are trying to ban you...

App Alert

Danger? There's an app for that:
The app, planned for release in March, will run in the background on an Android smartphone, detecting sounds like screeching tires and wailing sirens and alerting you to them by interrupting the music you’re listening to, for instance. The app will arrive with knowledge of a number of perilous sounds, and users will be able to add their own sounds to the app and share them with other people.
This could definitely help those people who walk on railroad tracks...

The Bird Squawked

A parrot solves the case:
The city police had been baffled by the murder mystery till Neelam's husband got a clue from the parrot, which showed a change in behaviour whenever a relative, Vijay's nephew Ashutosh, visited the house after the incident.

"During discussions too, whenever Ashutosh's name was mentioned, the parrot would start screeching. This raised my suspicion and I informed the police," Sharma told the Times of India.

Police interrogated Ashutosh and he confessed to the crime, according to the city's senior superintendent of police Shalabh Mathur.

"We checked his call details and took him in custody," Mathur was quoted as saying by the paper.
The bird was the word...

Unaffordable Expansion

A small business owner explains why trying to expand under Obamacare isn't worth it:

Blogging In The Years: 2009

Rick Santelli delivers an epic rant:

Hollywood Right

Hollywood finally begins outreaching to Republicans:
Last year, the MPAA replaced its longtime lead lobbying firm, considered to be close with Democrats, with a lobbyist with ties to key GOP lawmakers. Its political-action committee now gives more donations to Republicans than Democrats. And it has sent money to a GOP super PAC, a conservative antitax entity and a business lobby helping Republicans in the 2014 elections.

The turnaround comes after Hollywood was handed a major legislative defeat two years ago when Congress bowed to pressure from the high-tech industry and buried legislation that would have made it more difficult for people to illegally download movies and other copyrighted content. It was a clear signal of the rising power of Silicon Valley in Washington, at the expense of Hollywood. “We realized we have to act like a normal trade organization,” a senior executive at one studio said of the industry’s recent political moves. “We have to reach out…and we can’t be all on one side.”
It would be nice if they actually meant it...

Customer Dissatisfaction

Will consumers revolt?
It has happened before: In the 1990s, insurers hoped that by using health-maintenance organizations to move their coverage away from expensive doctors and hospitals, they could control health costs while creating an incentive for providers to lower their prices. What they created instead was a popular rebellion, with customers balking at the HMO plans and complaining loudly to Congress about it.

Some analysts see a similar climate brewing now.

"People don't like to hear 'no,' and this is saying 'no,' " said Austin Frakt, a health policy economist at Boston University.

That's clear from the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest tracking poll on the health care law. Among those the foundation surveyed, 51 percent said they'd prefer a broader network and higher premiums, compared with just 37 percent who preferred "a more limited range of doctors and hospitals" in exchange for lower premiums. And most of the 37 percent changed their minds once they were reminded that a plan with "a more limited range of doctors and hospitals" might mean the same thing as "you would not be able to visit the doctors and hospitals you usually use."
People still want choices, which they now aren't getting.

Women In Uniform

Female soldiers aren't too keen on combat:
“Less than 8 percent of Army women who responded to the survey said they wanted a combat job,” reported The Associated Press, which obtained the results of a preliminary survey of 170,000 soldiers.

The assessment was emailed last year to active duty, reserves and Army National Guard members to gauge attitudes towards women in combat.

Only 2,238 of 30,000 women, or 7.5 percent, who responded to the questionnaire said that they would want to work in one of several combat positions which included infantry, armor, artillery and combat engineer positions, the AP reported.
They wanted the right to fight...except that now it seems they don't.

Calling Out Congress

An Obama supporter takes the President to task:
“My view [is] that the president, has in fact, exceeded his authority in a way that is creating a destabilizing influence in a three branch system,” he said. “I want to emphasize, of course, this problem didn’t begin with President Obama, I was critical of his predecessor President Bush as well, but the rate at which executive power has been concentrated in our system is accelerating. And frankly, I am very alarmed by the implications of that aggregation of power.”

“What also alarms me, however, is that the two other branches appear not just simply passive, but inert in the face of this concentration of authority,” Turley said.
Inertia isn't healthy, for anyone.

Mr. Alleck Goes To Washington

Ben Affleck testifies on Africa:
Affleck has made nine trips to the Congo and hopes to travel there again soon. He praised the work of former President George W. Bush on African issues as well as the effort of Cindy McCain, wife of Republican Sen. John McCain.

"Our Republican friends have perhaps been better on Africa than my party," said Affleck, a Democrat, who has occasionally toyed with running for office himself.

In his prepared testimony, he urged Congress to provide the funds for personnel and resources for the special envoy's office and to pressure President Barack Obama to engage directly with President Joseph Kabila, among other steps.
A serious man in a usually non-serious setting...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bands Across The Nation

A map of musical tastes:
The Echo Nest provides a music intelligence platform to hugely popular services like Rdio, Spotify and MTV, so they have a ton of data on what people across America like to listen to. By digging into this well of information they were able to discern what states listen to specific bands more than other states and created a map that displays that data.
To each their own...

Father's Days

Why dads still matter:
The time a dad spends with his children is a particularly strong predictor of how empathetic a child will become, according to commission of experts who wrote a proposal asking President Obama to create a White House Council on Boys and Men. The group, which Farrell helped assemble, compiled research showing infants with dads living at home were months ahead in personal and social development. Children who lack contact with fathers are more likely to be treated for emotional or behavioral problems. Girls with absent or indifferent fathers are more prone to hyperactivity. If dad is around, girls are less likely to become pregnant as teens.

As early as 1993, studies showed that dads also influenced whether their sons became teenage fathers. A Temple University study found no boys born to teen mothers became teen fathers if they had close relationships with their biological fathers, compared to 15 percent of those who didn’t have that closeness.

“None of this implies men are better as dads than women are as moms,” Farrell and the commission emphasized. Children need both.
Unfortunately, many aren't getting that option...

Road To Somewhere

Sorry, Alaskans-no road for you:
Cove residents say a road is necessary so they can reach an all-weather airport in Cold Bay that will transport them to Anchorage, about 625 miles away, for medical treatment. They say that in emergency situations, it's a matter of life and death.

Late last year, though, the Department of Interior announced it was rejecting plans for a proposed land swap that would allow the road to be built. The Dec. 23 decision cited the negative environmental impact on grizzly bears, caribou and water fowl like the Pacific black brant.

The Cove, located on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula, is tucked in the middle of a storm corridor -- a fate that brings dense fog and high winds to the area forcing its small airport to shut down 100 days out of the year. With no functional airport and no road, at times there is no way out.
And the Federal government apparently wants to keep it that way...

A Man And His Pizza

He likes his pie:
Janssen, the founder of artisanal woodshop Imperium Woodcraft in Ellicott City, Md., was raised on a meat-and-potatoes diet but became a vegetarian for ethical reasons when he was 14 years old. There was just one problem with that.

"I hate vegetables,'' he said. "I tried for maybe a couple weeks, and then I realized the thing I really like is pizza, so I'm going to eat that."

And while many who have heard of his diet are nothing short of jealous, some are worried about his well-being.

"Eating the same food day in and day out can limit a person's ability to get a vast array of foods and nutrients he or she needs to optimize health and meet daily nutritional needs,'' said Elisa Zied, a New York-based dietitian/nutritionist and the author of "Younger Next Week." "While pizza tastes great and certainly has its virtues, subsisting on it and having little else in the diet is a recipe for an unhealthy, nutritionally-inadequate diet. Also, limiting foods/food groups can set you up for one boring diet."

Janssen eats plain pizza, but mixes it up with everything from frozen pizza to local pizza places to making his own.

"I love the nuance of pizza, so I try to vary it in different ways,'' he said. "Once a week to be healthy, I'll eat a bowl of Raisin Bran, but other than that it's just pizza."
man does not live by bread alone. But what about pizza dough?

Arizona End Game

Arizona'a long nightmare is over:
“To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes,” she said. “However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want.

“Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination.”
So there...

His Major Award

Well, that was quick:
Prior to the debut of his show, Ronan Farrow Daily, on Monday, Farrow worked as an adviser to the State Department and with UNICEF, among other humanitarian efforts; he’s contributed to various publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and The Atlantic.

This year marks the third year of award: In 2012, television travel host Richard Wiese received the award; in 2013, it went to travel writer and actor Andrew McCarthy.
What's next, a Nobel Prize for not having done anything? Oh, wait...

Absence Of Evidence

One of Greenpeace's co-founders joins the ranks of the skeptics:
Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist and business consultant who was a member of Greenpeace from 1971-86, told members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee environmental groups like the one he helped establish use faulty computer models and scare tactics in promoting claims man-made gases are heating up the planet.

“There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years,” he said.

Even if the planet is warming up, Moore claimed it would not be calamitous for men, which he described as a “subtropical species.”
We like it warm...

No Investigations Please, We're The EPA

They apparently didn't like it when the tables were turned:
EPA employees threatened Inspector General investigators, refused to cooperate, and handed out non-disclosure agreements to other employees to keep them from being interviewed, EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. wrote in response to a request for information by Vitter on the case.

“Over the past 12 months, there have been several EPA officials who have taken action to prevent [the Office of Investigations] OI from conducting investigations or have attempted to obstruct investigations through intimidation,” Elkins wrote. …

After closing its criminal investigation, the Inspector General began an audit of the lack of internal controls that allowed Beale to defraud the agency. That audit has implicated a growing number of EPA officials. …

“During the course of an OI administrative investigation, Mr. [Steve Williams in the EPA's Office of Homeland Security] approached an OI special agent in a threatening manner, preventing the special agent from conducting her official duties in an ongoing investigation involving Mr. Williams and other members of OHS,” Elkins wrote. “Additionally, Mr. Williams issued non-disclosure agreements to EPA employees that prevented these employees from cooperating with [the Office of the Inspector General] OIG investigations.”
Let's hear it for transparency!

To Hike Or Not To Hike

Harry Reid caves, for now:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday delayed action on legislation raising the minimum wage, the centerpiece of the Democrats’ 2014 agenda.

The Nevada Democrat made the surprising move amid escalating Democratic resistance in the wake of a Congressional Budget Office report released last week estimating that hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could cost the equivalent of 500,000 jobs by late 2016.

Reid has not yet unified his caucus on the issue, which is a constant in the Democrats’ election-year playbook. Of the 55 senators who caucus with the Democrats, only 32 have signed on as official co-sponsors of Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) bill.
Seems they're not that interested in falling on their swords over this...

Who Investigates The Investigators?

House Republicans have a plan:
The plan would also require the IRS to modify its interpretation of a critical provision of the Internal Revenue Code that has been used to protect the privacy of those accused of leaking confidential taxpayer records and to deny information to the victims of IRS abuse.

Under the proposed reforms, the provision, Internal Revenue Code section 6103, would require the government to disclose to victims both the status of an investigation as well as its result, including the identity of the perpetrator.
It's a start. More to come, hopefully.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Field Of Learning

Well, it's one way to make sure that your kid's future is assured:
Continuing its raid on the nation’s junior highs, LSU has offered a scholarship to and received a commitment from Somerset, Texas quarterback Zadock Dinkelmann, a 14-year-old current eighth-grader.

The kid’s got bloodlines: Dinkelmann is the nephew of BYU’s 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, Ty Detmer, who confirmed to 247Sports that the commitment was made.

This is the youngest player ever to commit to LSU, according to LSU also offered Dylan Moses — a rising eighth grader — a scholarship back in 2012. He, too, eventually committed to the Tigers, but only after entering high school first.
There are some players out there who don't make it that far...

Got Beard?

The new trend in hip facial hair:
Stubble-challenged guys are forking over up to $8,500 for the beard-boosting procedure, which has spiked in popularity in recent months, plastic surgeons told The Post.
“Brooklyn is probably the nucleus of the trend, it’s the hipster ‘look’ guys want. If you have a spotty beard, and you let it grow out, it looks sloppy, ” said Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a Midtown-based plastic surgeon.
“[Clients] want full beards because it’s a masculine look. Beards are an important male identifier,” he added.
Respect the beard?

Big Bank Boom

Small banks are getting smaller:
The number of small banks has dropped dramatically over the years. This concentration isn’t a bad thing in and of itself — some of the drop in the number of small banks reflects market-driven consolidation. However, consolidation is bad when it’s driven by regulatory burdens that make it hard and expensive for small banks to survive. Repeated waves of bank regulation — most recently Dodd-Frank — can be particularly burdensome for small banks.
And that's just not good for small business in the long term...

Nader's Billions

Big money in politics is bad...except when it's "enlightened":
Former third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader wants to shake up the two-party American political system, and he’s got just the person to do it:

Oprah Winfrey … or Bill Gates … or Ted Turner.

Nader, who ran for president as the nominee of the Green Party in 1996 and 2000 and as an independent in 2004 and 2008, is out with a new memo outlining 20 “modestly enlightened rich people” (a.k.a. MERPs) who could run for president and shake up the two-party system.

The Dream Team of MERPs include Winfrey, Gates and Turner, along with former third-party New York governor candidate Tom Golisano, former AOL chief executive Steve Case and hedge fund founder Tom Steyer, who recently suggested he might spend as much as $100 million to help Democrats win the 2014 election and push the issue of climate change.

“Presently, only very rich modestly enlightened people could have a chance to break this introverting cycle of political oligarchy, which unenlightened rich people generally approve of, that sets its own rules, makes its own laws, appoints its own judges and even brazenly forces taxpayers to finance its quadrennial political conventions,” Nader writes in the memo, which was shared with The Washington Post.
Apparently a bought presidency is only for wealthy liberals...


Are musicians finally getting over their hate for Spotify and other services?
The problem, it often seems, is one of expectations. Part of it is simply that musicians seem to forget that their labels take a giant chunk of their earnings, and that the payments that eventually trickle down to musicians are often months or years late. Also, those doing the complaining often seem unable to comprehend that these services take time to grow, and as they grow, the payouts get bigger and bigger. But the biggest mistake of all seems to be the idea that not having your music where your fans want it is somehow a good idea. We've pointed out repeatedly that making music disappear from where people are looking for it only harms the musicians.

Furthermore, as we've seen over and over again, as these services get bigger and start to catch on, artist are realizing all sorts of ways they can profit from them.
Knowing how the market actually works gives one a greater edge in being able to profit from it...

Falling Star

Oh, my. Hollywood seems to have fallen out of love with Obamacare:
It seems that not even the president’s most fervent and committed supporters want to get too close to ObamaCare. Some of Obama’s most powerful allies — figures including Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé — have stayed in the wings for the enrollment push.

Less than a year ago, Jennifer Hudson, Amy Poehler, and representatives for Winfrey and Alicia Keys were guests at the White House to discuss a strategy to promote the healthcare law.

Many expected this would lead to an advertising blitz full of famous faces. But, with limited exceptions, stars have largely failed to participate in a substantial ad campaign to promote Obama-Care’s new coverage options.
They've already moved on to the next trendy cause...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mad Money Men

If you can't beat 'em, try and outspend 'em:
Michael Podhorzer, political director of the AFL-CIO, in a New York Times piece last week said the nation’s labor unions look to spend at least $300 million going after Republicans in this fall’s elections.

Much of that spending is expected to be dropped on four industrial battlegrounds — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, traditional union strongholds. Big Labor also wants Florida.

“Their hope is to not only oust the Republican governors of those states, but also to flip several of the legislative chambers. In all five states the Republicans control both houses,” the Times piece notes.
If this doesn't work, they can always go back to bullying...

Movie Night

This sounds about right:
Two-thirds of Americans have yet to see any of the movies nominated for the best picture Oscar, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday.

Among other questions, the poll asked 1,433 Americans whether they had seen any of the nine best-picture nominees, plus two other films competing in other categories. The Academy Awards will be hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres on March 2.
Historically speaking, what the Academy likes and what the public likes have often been two different things. "Flyover country" typically knows what it likes more than Hollywood does...

Rough Diamond

The world's oldest crystal:
To determine the age of the zircon fragment, the scientists first used a widely accepted dating technique based on determining the radioactive decay of uranium to lead in a mineral sample.

But because some scientists hypothesized that this technique might give a false date due to possible movement of lead atoms within the crystal over time, the researchers turned to a second sophisticated method to verify the finding.

They used a technique known as atom-probe tomography that was able to identify individual atoms of lead in the crystal and determine their mass, and confirmed that the zircon was indeed 4.4 billion years old.

To put that age in perspective, the Earth itself formed 4.5 billion years ago as a ball of molten rock, meaning that its crust formed relatively soon thereafter, 100 million years later. The age of the crystal also means that the crust appeared just 160 million years after the very formation of the solar system.
Now there really is something older than dirt...

George Washington Drank Here

Where our ancestors got their intestinal fortitude:
We still have available the list of beverages served at a 1787 farewell party in Philadelphia for George Washington just days before the framers signed off on the Constitution. According to the bill preserved from the evening, the 55 attendees drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.

That’s more than two bottles of fruit of the vine, plus a number of shots and a lot of punch and beer, for every delegate. That seems humanly impossible to modern Americans. But, you see, across the country during the Colonial era, the average American consumed many times as much beverage alcohol as contemporary Americans do. Getting drunk—but not losing control—was simply socially accepted.
There were giants on the Earth in those days, and they liked their booze...

Crossing The Streams

RIP Egon:
Ramis leaves behind a formidable body of work, with writing credits on such enduring comedies as "National Lampoon's Animal House" (which upon its 1978 release catapulted the film career of John Belushi, with whom Ramis acted at Second City), "Stripes" (1981) and "Ghostbusters" (in which Ramis also co-starred) plus such directing efforts as "Caddyshack" (1980), "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983), "Groundhog Day" and "Analyze This."

Previously he was the first head writer (and a performer) on Second City's groundbreaking television series "Second City Television (SCTV)" (1976-79). More recently he directed episodes of NBC’s "The Office."

Ramis' comedies were often wild, silly and tilting toward anarchy, but they also were cerebral and iconoclastic, with the filmmaker heeding the Second City edict to work at the top of one's intelligence. This combination of smart and gut-bustingly funny led a generation of comedic actors and filmmakers — including Judd Apatow ("The 40 Year Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," Jay Roach ("Meet the Parents," the "Austin Powers" movies), Peter Farrelly ("There's Something About Mary," "Dumb and Dumber"), Jake Kasdan ("Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," "Orange County," both of which featured Ramis in small roles) and Adam Sandler (who starred in his own wacky golf comedy, "Happy Gilmore") — to cite him as a key inspiration.
He has now gone to the other side...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dennis Rodman's Embarrassing Adventure

Dennis Rodman's North Korean vacation, the movie?
20th Century Fox has bought the comedy pitch Diplomats, inspired by Dennis Rodman's so-called "hoops diplomacy" mission to North Korea, as a directing vehicle for Ride Along's Tim Story.

Peter Chernin, hot off the hit Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy comedy The Heat, is producing via his Fox-based shingle Chernin Entertainment. Jonathan Abrams is writing the script.
At least this will be an intentional comedy, as opposed to the real-life farce...

The Short Goodbye

Piers Morgan leaves CNN:
It’s been an unhappy collision between a British television personality who refuses to assimilate — the only football he cares about is round and his lectures on guns were rife with contempt — and a CNN audience that is intrinsically provincial. After all, the people who tune into a cable news network are, by their nature, deeply interested in America.

CNN’s president, Jeffrey Zucker, has other problems, but none bigger than Mr. Morgan and his plum 9 p.m. time slot. Mr. Morgan said last week that he and Mr. Zucker had been talking about the show’s failure to connect and had decided to pull the plug, probably in March.
It's the end of an era, such as it was...

Natural Gas Goes Boom

Release the Krakens:
Dozens of facilities are set to sprout up along the Louisiana and Texas coasts to liquefy natural gas from shale formations as far away as Pennsylvania and Ohio for export around the world. The energy boom, which is turning the U.S. into a net exporter, could drive liquefaction capacity to an eight-fold increase in the next five years alone, experts say. That could mean hundreds of thousands of new jobs along the Gulf Coast, by some estimates.

"From an economic development standpoint, it is going to be huge," said Ragan Dickens, spokesman for the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. "It is incredibly exciting to know the region will see this influx of new jobs."

More than 110 liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities now operate in the U.S., some exporting the super-cooled liquid, while others turn natural gas into an energy form that occupies up to 600 times less space than natural gas for vehicle fuel or industrial use. Worldwide, LNG trade is expected to more than double by 2040, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Natural gas's golden age may well be just beginning, and that could be a good thing for the U.S. More like this, please...

Bitter Harvest

Organic farmers run afoul of Federal regulations:
In 2010, after a years-long campaign, food-safety activists persuaded Congress to give the FDA authority to regulate farm practices. The next year, an outbreak of food poisoning that killed 33 people who ate tainted cantaloupes put pressure on the FDA to be aggressive.

Now, farmers are discovering that the FDA's proposed rules would curtail many techniques that are common among organic growers, including spreading house-made fertilizers, tilling cropland with grazing animals, and irrigating from open creeks.

Suddenly, from small family operations nestled in the foothills of Appalachia to the sophisticated organic-grower networks that serve Los Angeles and San Francisco, the farms that celebrity chefs and food-conscious consumers jostle to buy from are facing an unexpected adversary.

They're fighting back. Even though full enforcement of the rules is still years away, they are warning customers that some farms would have to close.

"They are going to drive farms out of business," said Dave Runsten, policy director for Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, Calif.

"The consumer groups behind this don't understand farming," Runsten says. "They talk out of both sides of their mouth. They demand these one-size-fits-all regulations, then say, 'I don't want to hurt those cute little farmers at the farmers market. I shop at the farmers market.' It is frustrating."
Big government in action usually is...

Knights In Missing Armor

Is chivalry really dead?
Has the women’s liberation movement really scared the bejesus out of men this much?

When did it become chivalrous to steadfastly look away and not bother to help?

If a 6am flight is anything to go by, you’d think the concept of a gentleman was well and truly dead.

I promise you, I won’t get angry or defensive or give you attitude, I’ll in fact be super-grateful and flash you an extra-big smile despite the lack of sleep.
Feminists wanted men to be absent from their lives. This is what happens when they get what they want...

This World Is On Fire

It can happen here?
But the reality is that the world is on fire right now. In some places, like Ukraine or Thailand, quite literally.

In many others (like Japan, China, and much of southern Europe), there are heaps of smoldering embers beneath a continent-wide funeral pyre.

Every living creature has a breaking point. It is in our instincts to rise up when threatened.

And rather than watching these kinds of events unfold on TV thinking, “That could never happen here,” I would suggest looking at the situation rationally, and historically. Many great civilizations before arrogantly assumed the same thing.

So the question to ask is, “Am I prepared if this kind of turmoil ever comes to my doorstep?”
The conditions in Ukraine and Venezuela are the inevitable result of governments that are unresponsive to their citizens. We have elections and a Constitution to deal with that sort of thing, but still...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Rocky Mountain Revenue

It's a gold mine:
Colorado's legal marijuana market is far exceeding tax expectations, according to a budget proposal released Wednesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper that gives the first official estimate of how much the state expects to make from pot taxes.

The proposal outlines plans to spend some $99 million next fiscal year on substance abuse prevention, youth marijuana use prevention and other priorities. The money would come from a statewide 12.9 percent sales tax on recreational pot. Colorado's total pot sales next fiscal year were estimated to be about $610 million.

Retail sales began Jan. 1 in Colorado. Sales have been strong, though exact figures for January sales won't be made public until early next month.

The governor predicted sales and excise taxes next fiscal year would produce some $98 million, well above a $70 million annual estimate given to voters when they approved the pot taxes last year. The governor also includes taxes from medical pot, which are subject only to the statewide 2.9 percent sales tax.
Pot as the way to prosperity?

What About Bob?

From Sarah Hoyt, Part One of 20 Things You Might Not Know About Robert A. Heinlein:
Heinlein wrote rags to riches stories, of which those who believe the individual is powerless before his fate disapprove. But Heinlein’s own life is a refutation of their theories, so they can go suck an egg, as far as I’m concerned.
You live and learn, or you don't live long...

Need For Speed

Meet Mr. Transparency:
Before walking away as reporters shouted questions at him, Mr. de Blasio read a brief statement referring to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s earlier comments defending the conduct of the mayor’s security detail.

“I have great respect for NYPD security training and protocals. I am committed, obviously to traffic safety and safe streets in NYC. That’s why we put forward ‘Vision Zero.’ Commissioner Bratton addressed the topic of my security detail earlier today. I am very comfortable with what Commissioner Bratton said. And I refer you to his comments,” said Mr. de Blasio.

His aides further declined to take questions on the issue.
Just call him Speedy...


Why bloggers are still needed:
Newspapers and cable media entities simply don’t have the staff required to dig through that much material on everything from budget numbers to job postings, purchase orders and more. But, as Bill explained, an army of bloggers (or one blogger willing to put in the hours and elbow grease) can comb through the mountains of data they release on government web sites. By putting in Freedom of Information Act requests on seemingly mundane budget subjects, bloggers can uncover even more if they have the time and gumption.
Bloggers got gumption! The mainstream media, not so much...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Takeout 9-11

Would you like arrest warrants with that?
The town of Le Cannet, close to Cannes in the Alpes-Maritimes is set to become the first to benefit from a 'drive-through' police station - as long as their car engines are switched off.

Inspired by the drive-through takeaways and supermarkets, already a familiar sight in France, the new service will allow the victims of crime to report an incident without leaving the comfort of their own car.

A police officer, manning the booth, will be on hand to deal with various administrative duties. The booth will come complete with an intercom to allow people to alert an officer at night.

The drive-through station, known as 'police drive', which features a three-metre wide window, was originally designed to help disabled people report incidents.

But Alain Cherqui, Deputy Director General in charge of security and crime prevention in Le Cannet realised the concept would work just as well for able-bodied residents.
No word on whether or not value meals will be included...

The Doping Years

Are schools turning kids into potential substance abusers?
Stimulant drugs don't "cure" a disease called ADHD, the way that antibiotics cure pneumonia. Instead, they seem to shift attentional abilities along that continuum. They make everybody focus better, though sometimes with serious costs. For children at the far end of the continuum, the drugs may help make the difference between success and failure, or even life and death. But the drugs also lead to more focused attention, even in the elite college students who pop Adderall before an exam, risking substance abuse in the mad pursuit of even better grades.
Remember the days when schools were against drug abuse?

Non-Union Label

This is rich:
The United Auto Workers filed an appeal with the U.S. government on Friday, asking it to set aside the results of an election last week where workers at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant voted not to join the union.

Citing what it called “interference by politicians and outside special interest groups,” the union said the U.S. National Labor Relations Board would investigate the election and decide if there are grounds to scrap it and hold a new one.

Labor lawyers and academics said last week it would be difficult for the union to make a case for setting aside the election. They said labor law does not limit what can be said in a union election campaign by politicians, as long as they are stating their own views and not doing the bidding of management.
God forbid workers should get to decide for themselves...


A free market solution:
The Green Cross, a marijuana dispensary, posted photos to its Facebook page this week of 13-year-old Danielle Lei selling her cookies outside its doors.

According to her mother, after 45 minutes, Danielle had to call for backup cookies, and within two hours she sold about 117 boxes.

Danielle's mom told KPIX that she thought this was a good opportunity to both show her daughter different areas of their city and to have a mature conversation about drugs.

"[The girls] learn that [users are] not drugged out," her mother told the East Bay Express. "Many have serious needs and are just a little different. And they get hungry after."

This might be a lesson about pot, but Danielle's marijuana money move is also getting her praise as brilliant, savvy and even genius.
Got snacks?


It's so hard to get rid of another head:
Incredibly, the buck was still alive and still had the head in its antlers when Laha’s class found it on their trapping trip. They chased the weakened deer through the woods and were able to catch it, sit on it, and free the buck from the dead weight it had been carrying. The buck ran off into the woods. Laha says he hasn’t seen it since. Laha received permission from the game warden to keep the head.
The ultimate deadhead?

The Post-Electric Age

Getting rid of those power plants may have been a bit premature:
Between 2007 and 2012, the nation's annual coal-fired electricity generation declined by about 25 percent, or 502,413 million KWH. The combined increases in natural gas, wind and solar did not make up for this decline. In 2012, natural gas produced 1,225,894 million KWH, up 329,304 million KWH from 2007; wind produced 140,822, up 106,372 million KWH from 2007; and solar produced 4,327 million KWH, up 3,715 million KWH from 2007.

The combined 439,391 million KWH increase in electricity generation from natural gas, wind and solar did not cover the 502,413 million KWH decline in the electricity generated by coal.
The demand is still there, but what about the supply?

The Farm Kings

It's the age of Big Farm:
There were fewer farms in the latest five-year span—the number shows a 4.3 percent drop during the period, continuing a long-term trend—even as the amount of land devoted to farming declined just slightly.

While the average size of farms increased slightly, to 434 acres from 418, the census shows a continuing hollowing out of midsized farms in America. The number of very small farms and very large ones remained constant.
Farming is indeed a big business in America-so why is it getting the subsidies it does?

Federal Censorship Commission

The FCC is backpedaling a bit on its media "study":
Faced with an outcry, the Federal Communications Commission’s chairman said Thursday that he would amend the effort — intended to assess whether the news media were meeting the public’s “critical information needs” — by removing questions that critics had deemed invasive. …

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to the growing furor Thursday by ordering the removal of questions about news philosophy and editorial judgment.

Last week, in a letter about the study to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House committee that oversees the FCC, Wheeler said that the commission had “no intention of regulating political or other speech.”
Not yet, anyway...

Thong Thing

Time for another Scott Walker non-scandal:
The thong controversy emerged from more than 27,000 pages of documents unsealed by a Wisconsin court on Wednesday showing substantial overlap between political and official emails while Walker was Milwaukee County executive. While Walker was running for governor in 2010, his chief of staff emailed him about a woman hired as a doctor at a county hospital that deals with mental illness and drug use.

"It isn't pornographic," wrote the chief of staff, "but it is quite suggestive (I'm told - I don't know her name). He [sic] apparently models thongs and wasn't forthright in sharing that with staff prior to her hire as an hourly paid MD at [Behavioral Health Division]."

Walker responded, “Get rid of the MD asap.”

The bottom feeders were out.
They'll always keep feeding, even if there's nothing to feed on...

You Can't Raise That

President Obama might not be able to raise minimum wage on his own:
The principal legal basis for the new minimum wage is the federal procurement law, which authorizes the president to issue directives for more “economical” and “efficient” federal contracting. Accordingly, Obama’s executive order makes claims about the government savings and efficiencies that would supposedly result from raising the minimum wage. A higher wage “increases [workers’] morale and the productivity and quality of their work, lowers turnover and its accompanying costs, and reduces supervisory costs,” the order says. This would yield “savings and quality improvements” that would improve “economy and efficiency” in government procurement.

This explanation is not credible. No purchaser insists that its suppliers pay workers more in order to lower the cost of goods. To the extent that businesses can deliver better service at lower cost by raising wages, they’ll do so themselves in response to market incentives, and their increased efficiency would result in a lower overall bid price. Moreover, what does the president know about the specific level at which to set minimum wages to optimize suppliers’ performance?
About as much as the average liberal seems to know about economics, apparently...

Skating By

Is there a skating scandal in the making?
One of the nine judges who picked a young Russian skater over two more refined competitors for the Olympic gold medal Thursday night was suspended for a year for trying to fix an event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

And another is the wife of the former president and current general director of the Russian figure skating federation. Another Olympics, another huge skating controversy involving the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The issue of inflated scores for the Russians has been a hot topic of conversation at these Olympic Games, and the women's figure skating long program Thursday night renewed the debate. Adelina Sotnikova of Russia was the surprising winner of the gold medal, upsetting reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea and Italy's Carolina Kostner.
In Russia, skating wins you...

Party All The Time

Ah, the life of a dictator's daughters:
The two daughters have allegedly converted La Casona into a social club for friends of the family. According to recent media reports, neighbors complain of “deafening” parties. Fast-food restaurants and catering agencies refuse to deliver to the mansion, allegedly, because the Chávez kids have stopped paying their bills. Even concert organizers are complaining; Chavez’s daughters allegedly force them to hand over dozens of free tickets so they can share them with their friends. (Both the country’s Information Ministry and the Chávez family were unavailable for comment.)
And you thought you had trouble with house guests who wouldn't leave...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Weather Report

Government forecast calls for inaccuracy:
Who could have predicted such a harsh winter? The Farmers Almanac did, according to a CBS News report from August 2013. The nearly 200-year old publication hit newsstands last summer and predicted that “a winter storm will hit the Northeast around the time the Super Bowl is played at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey,” and also predicted “a colder-than-normal winter for two-thirds of the country and heavy snowfall in the Midwest, Great Lakes and New England.”

The Farmers’ Almanac makes predictions based on planetary positions, sunspots and lunar cycles — a prediction system that has remained largely unchanged since its first publication in 1818. While modern scientists don’t put much stock in the almanac’s way of doing things, the book says it’s accurate about 80 percent of the time.
Which is still a lot better than the government's record...

Fairness By Any Other Name

I'm with Howard Kurtz on this one:
I know that television stations are licensed in the public interest. It’s fair for the FCC to examine how much news a station offers, as opposed to lucrative game shows and syndicated reruns. But the content of that news ought to be off-limits.

The Fairness Doctrine, which once required TV and radio stations to offer equal time for opposing points of view, is no more, and good riddance (since it discouraged stations from taking a stand on much of anything). The Obama administration swears it’s not coming back.

How, then, to explain this incursion into the substance of journalism, which seems utterly at odds with the notion of a free and unfettered press?

The FCC should keep its alternative approaches to itself, as even the posing of these questions carries an intimidation factor. The government has no business meddling in how journalism is practiced. And if George W. Bush’s FCC had tried this, it would be a front-page story.
Keep your noses out of America's newsrooms, FCC...

Anchor's Delight

Brian Williams does rap:


Who are the real Flat Earthers?
In ancient times, the notion of a flat Earth was the scientific consensus, and it was only a minority who dared question this belief. We are among today’s scientists who are skeptical about the so-called consensus on climate change. Does that make us modern-day Flat Earthers, as Mr. Kerry suggests, or are we among those who defy the prevailing wisdom to declare that the world is round?

“Consensus” science that ignores reality can have tragic consequences if cures are ignored or promising research is abandoned. The climate-change consensus is not endangering lives, but the way it imperils economic growth and warps government policy making has made the future considerably bleaker.
"Consensus" isn't always correct...

Nano Bites

Your dinner will be assimilated:
Nano additives can enhance or prevent the absorption of certain nutrients. In an email interview with Popular Mechanics, Jonathan Brown, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota, says this method could be used to make mayonnaise less fattening by replacing fat molecules with water droplets.

Nanotech also keeps food fresher over a longer period. Brown says the nanopackaging industry is actually larger than its nanofood counterpart, and has three main focuses: barriers, antimicrobials, and sensors. Ideally, the packaging would provide protection from moisture, bacteria, and pathogens. There is also a type of packaging that would involve what Brown calls oxygen scavenging, which means that the packaging would absorb oxygen before it reaches food. Other techniques have involved coating packaging with nano silver particles to make them antimicrobial, using polypropylene and or polyethylene barriers to inhibit moisture, and even embedding packages with silicon-based nanoparticles that can detect pathogens. These are currently being tested, but Brown says that the experimental food packaging has been successful in lab settings.

But even though this seems like the best way to ease nanotech into the food industry, concerns exist. "The main concern is that nanomaterials in the package would migrate from the package to the food," Brown says. "Some studies have demonstrated that certain nanomaterial packages are indeed stable, and no migration of nanomaterials was seen."
Borg burgers, anyone?

Capitol Business

Does Congress count as a business when it comes to Obamacare?
Normally, the small-business exchanges are reserved for companies with fewer than 50 employees (rising to 100 workers over the next two years). Some lawmakers have therefore questioned whether it’s fair to allow elected officials and their staffs to access the new online insurance marketplaces, which are expected to offer relatively low-cost plans, when private companies the size of Congress are excluded.

During a hearing last year on the rollout of the exchanges, for instance, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) called the rule a “special carve-out for Congress” and argued he should not get “completely different and better treatment” than other Americans under the law.
Well, they haven't lived under the same rules as other Americans before...


Insert your own conspiracy theory joke here:
There was the manager who was arrested for fleeing the police after being involved in a marijuana bust (and who was then back at work soon after, with barely a slap on the wrist). There was the manager who ordered all aluminum foil be confiscated from passengers due to the possibility of the boxes’ serrated edges being used as weapons. There were the many managers who tried to have TSA employees terminated for gum-chewing — claiming that there were terrorists casing the airport, looking for gum-chewing screeners with their defenses down.

Of course, the managers themselves were mostly acting upon orders passed down from TSA headquarters. The directives that surface in TSA agents’ morning briefings often draw groans from the officers just as loud as the groans of the public.
Somebody has to keep the skies safe from the tinfoil hat crowd:

Sharks Love Blood

Is it really a House of Cards world after all?
During a Q&A in the upcoming issue of Capitol File magazine, a reporter asked whether Wright’s White House source thought the fictional events depicted in the Netflix series were close to the mark.

“Did he think reporters sleeping with sources and members of Congress was factual?” the reporter asked.

“Oh, yeah,” the actress replied. “D.C. is more corrupt than Hollywood. It really is. It’s more sleazy than Hollywood… how much infidelity goes on.”
It does give new meaning to the phrase "in bed together..."

Men Not Wanted

The hostility against men continues:
The war on masculinity has never been so brutal – but it’s not a war being waged by women. The attack is coming directly from the top, as the establishment desperately attempts to emasculate and disempower men in order to force women to be more dependent on the state, thereby enabling more power to be centralized and aiding the growth of big government.
Who speaks for men?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Working For The Weekday

Welcome to Washington, where working less pays:
Offices have been closed in whole or in part for 27 of the 105 weekdays so far in the fiscal year, according to a Washington Times analysis of announcements from the federal Office of Personnel Management that found the government was closed for 21 days because of the shutdown, snow days or holidays. Delayed openings or unscheduled leave and telework policies were in effect for six more days.

Congress is the worst offender when it comes to time away from the main office.

Neither the House nor the Senate has worked a full Monday-to-Friday workweek in 2014.
Maybe they're just trying to keep pace with the rest of the country...

Paper Pushers

Yes, there actually is a group lobbying to save paper in Washington, D.C.:
The group — which bills itself as “a coalition of individuals and organizations advocating for access to paper-based services and information” — was set up by the Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA), officials from both organizations said. It receives financial backing from the paper industry’s largest trade group, several of North America’s biggest paper manufacturers and EMA, according to documents and interviews with company and trade association officials. The EMA and other paper companies are also pushing for Congress to pass legislation to help stabilize the Postal Service.

Consumers for Paper Options is led by a veteran advocate for the industry’s interests on Capitol Hill. His previous posts include head of federal government relations for International Paper, the largest pulp and paper company in the world, and treasurer of its PAC.
Waste paper has to come from somewhere...

Shapes Of Things

Mathematicians have found new shapes:
In the millennia since Plato's time, only two other collections of equilateral convex polyhedra have been found: Archimedean solids (including the truncated icosahedron) and Kepler solids (including rhombic polyhedra). Nearly 400 years after the last class was described, mathematicians claim that they may have now identified a new, fourth class, which they call Goldberg polyhedra. In the process of making this discovery, they think they’ve demonstrated that an infinite number of these solids could exist.
Shapes within shapes...

Down The Road

Obamacare's future is still up in the air:
The law's true impact will play out over years. It will depend in part on whether backers overcome serious early setbacks, including crippling glitches in the new online insurance marketplaces and many states' rejection of the Medicaid expansion. But another obstacle the law faces is pushback from some consumers and industry over the higher costs, complex rules and mandatory requirements it imposes.

Historians call the Affordable Care Act the most ambitious new social program in a generation. But the debate over the law reflects the tension behind a century of attempts to mandate universal health care. Many Americans are uncomfortable with programs they believe substitute government largess for personal responsibility.
Historians may well be asking whether or not Obamacare was really worth it in the long run...

Vapor Lock

Vape 'em if you've got 'em:
A surgeon general’s report released last month, on the 50th anniversary of the office’s first warning about the dangers of smoking, had little to say about e-cigarettes. Its suggestions for further reducing tobacco use were familiar, including: increase taxes on cigarettes, prohibit indoor smoking, launch media campaigns and reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes.

E-cigarettes, however, could be what we need to knock the U.S. smoking rate from a stubborn 18 percent to the government’s goal of 12 percent by 2020. We should not only tolerate them but encourage their use.

Although critics stress the need for more research, we can say with high confidence that e-cigarettes are far safer than smoking. No tobacco leaves are combusted, so they don’t release the tars and gases that lead to cancer and other smoking-related diseases. Instead, a heating element converts a liquid solution into an aerosol that users exhale as a white plume.
But it looks like a regular cigarette, therefore...

Leading From Behind Bars

I wonder if Sean Penn will have the guts to pay this guy a visit:
"If my jailing serves to awaken a people, serves to awaken Venezuela ... then it will be well worth the infamous imprisonment imposed upon me directly, with cowardice" by President Nicolás Maduro, a defiant López shouted through a megaphone Tuesday from atop a statue of 19th century Cuban independence hero José Martí in a Caracas plaza.

He then pushed his way through the crowd, waving a flower over his head, to a police line a few feet away and turned himself in to face charges blaming him for violence between opposition activists and pro-government forces last week. He was driven away in an armored vehicle, and a judge later ordered him held in jail before a court appearance Wednesday.

Friends and allies say the steely resolve exhibited at the rally is often seen in the man who competes in triathlons, is addicted to extreme sports and once escaped from the clutches of gun-firing bandits while stumping for votes in a pro-government slum. The trait has been evident in recent months as he emerged as head of an increasingly powerful opposition faction that is pushing for a stronger, but non-violent confrontation with the government.

López, 42, surrendered to authorities after a weeklong manhunt to face charges including terrorism and murder stemming from the unrest that erupted after a big anti-government protest he led Feb. 12. Most demonstrators had gone home before the deadly clashes began.
I'm sure the government will arrest them on trumped-up charges soon enough...

In Russia, Olympics Eats You

The coach of the Russian hockey team is not happy:
Q: What future, if any, do you see for your own work and for your coaching staff? Because, you know, your predecessor was eaten alive after the Olympics—

A: Well then, eat me alive right now—

Q: No, I mean—

A: Eat me, and I won't be here anymore.

Q: But we have the world championship coming up!

A: Well then, there will be a different coach because I won't exist any more, since you will have eaten me.
Are there any spare zombies around?

Boy's Town

Guess where the real "War on Women" is?
In their third annual Status of Women in the U.S. Media, 2014, the Women's Media Center revealed that women represented just 28.8 percent of speaking characters in the top grossing films of 2012, had just 16 percent of the top executive movie jobs in 2013, and of the 16 biggest paychecks for actors per film, not one went to a female actress.

The top earning actress, Angelina Jolie, earned $33 million, roughly the same amount as the two lowest-ranked men on that list provided by the New York Film Academy. It also quoted a 2013 Forbes ranking that showed the top 10 actresses making a collective $181 million versus $465 million for the top 10 men, or about 39 percent what the guys took home.

Ditto in other media, like talk radio, where there are no women among the top 10 of Talkers magazine’s “Heavy Hundred,” and print, where 36 percent of newsroom staff are women. That figure has been stable for years.

The worst field for women: Sports reporting. The report released Wednesday found that of more than 150 print publications and websites, 90 percent of editors were white males.
So, where's the outrage?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Natural Beat

A thawing lake makes its own music:
As Barbara Gwara was out running on her usual route around this lake in Poland, she heard some strange noises. Due to the warmer weather, the ice covering the frozen lake started to crack.

"It sounded amazing so I just sat down on a tree and listened to it,' Barbara said. "The quality of the sound in the video doesn't do justice to how beautiful it actually was."

Bad News, Good News

I'm not sure I'd use this as an indicator of economic recovery:
The number of Americans getting divorced rose for the third year in a row to about 2.4 million in 2012, after plunging in the 18-month recession ended June 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Whatever the social and emotional impact, the broad economic effects of the increase are clear: It is contributing to the formation of new households, boosting demand for housing, appliances and furnishings and spurring the economy. Divorces are also prompting more women to enter the labor force.

“As the economy normalizes, so too do family dynamics,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Birth rates and divorce rates are rising. We may even see them rise strongly in the next couple of years, as households who put off these life-changing events decide to act.”
Hooray for unhappy marriages?

Steal This Beer

All that trouble...for Bud Lite?

Common Names

New strategy for dealing with the unpopularity of Common Core? Call it something else instead:
With angry parents protesting the standards, and curriculum they say is tailored to it by writers of textbooks and lesson plans, several states have decided the solution is all in the name. Common Core is now referred to as “The Iowa Core” in the Hawkeye State. Florida calls it the tongue-twisting “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed an executive order to erase the name “Common Core” for their new math and reading standards and Louisiana lawmakers are mulling a name change as well.

But critics say what states really need to do is scrap the Common Core Standards Initiative altogether.

“Even under a different name, the Common Core Standards are still mediocre, at best, and continue to put American students at a significant disadvantage to their international peers,” Glyn Wright, executive director of the Eagle Forum, told
Call it whatever you like, it still sounds just as bad...

Monkey Brain

You've heard of the monkey on your back, but what about the monkey on your brain?
The monkey that served as the master had electrodes wired into his brain, while the monkey that served as the avatar had electrodes wired into his spine. The avatar's hand was placed onto a joystick that controlled a cursor displayed on the master's screen.

The avatar monkey was sedated so that he had no control over his own body. Computers decoded the brain activity of the master monkey and relayed those signals to the spinal cord and muscles of the avatar monkey. This allowed the master to control the cursor by moving the hand of the avatar. The master received a reward of juice if he successfully moved the cursor onto a target.

"Probably the biggest challenge we had was having this happen in real-time," Williams said. "In theory, you can record neuronal activity any time, analyze it offline, and use those signals to stimulate the spinal cord or muscles. The trick is being able to figure out what the monkey is intending in real-time and then stimulating the spinal cord or muscles to create the desired movements."
Planet of the Avatars?

Cat People

Can you tell a person's politics by their pets?
The stereotype is that men like dogs while women like cats; men tend to trend Republican while women trend Democratic, so there you go. When PPP polled this last year, though, it found that women preferred dogs 49/22 while men preferred dogs 55/16 — a difference, but not a stark one. Maybe Time’s data is chiefly a byproduct of location, not gender. You’ve got more liberals living in cities, where there’s less space. Apartments are tricky for all but the smallest dogs but they’re fine for even the biggest cats. Taste may be shaped by simple logistics here.
But what if you have pet fish, or a bird, in which case you might not have a cat; would that make you anti-liberal?

Greenhouse Illnesses

Green buildings can make you sick:
Deep within their crevices and corners, green buildings are susceptible to trapping humid air in which toxic mould can spread.

The problem, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), affects between 30 and 50 per cent of new or refurbished buildings.

A number of these homes have become ghost buildings after the damp seeped in and destroyed furniture and belongings.
You can go green, and wind up green around the gills...

Last Action Hero

Eric Snowden, the action figure:, based in the Pacific Northwest state of Oregon, is marketing a 12-inch (30-centimeter) likeness of the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor for $99, it said Tuesday on its website.

It comes appropriately dressed in a blue shirt, casual trousers and black high-top basketball shoes, though grey-striped business suit, Indiana Jones and combat uniform options are available.
If you put it on your shelf, you have to keep an eye on it...

The Wuss Generation

Bret Easton Ellis is not a fan of the current generation, prompting a response:
Crudely labelling an entire generation one thing or another is a futile exercise and it’s strange that Easton Ellis thinks it’s something worth getting involved in. The one major difference between Easton Ellis’s generation and my own is that we grew up alongside the internet and social networking – but rather than make us wussier, as the author suggests, I would say it helps us handle criticism.
Or at least complain about how much the truth hurts...

Wage Effect

Contrary to liberal belief, raising the minimum wage wouldn't create jobs:
Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects (see the table below). As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the range between a very slight reduction in employment and a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers…

The increased earnings for low-wage workers resulting from the higher minimum wage would total $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate. However, those earnings would not go only to low-income families, because many low-wage workers are not members of low-income families. Just 19 percent of the $31 billion would accrue to families with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold, CBO estimates.

Moreover, the increased earnings for some workers would be accompanied by reductions in real (inflation-adjusted) income for the people who became jobless because of the minimum-wage increase, for business owners, and for consumers facing higher prices.
Something that does the opposite of what it intended isn't exactly productive...

The Election After

Regrets, they've got a few:
Conducted to test the media hype about a comeback by 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the new poll found voters still uninspired by Romney, but also deeply dissatisfied with Obama who has so far failed to capitalize on his victory over 15 months ago.

The poll asked those who voted for Obama's reelection a simple question: “Do you regret voting for Barack Obama?”

After Secrets first published their poll, noted that the sample for the question was small and recharacterized the sample as "those who reported voting for Barack Obama in 2012 but would vote for someone else if the election were held again" from "those who voted for Barack Obama in 2012."

Still, given the choice of Obama versus Romney, Obama supporters said they would stick with their guy, 79 percent to 10 percent for Romney.

But his voters seem to have moved on and are ready for the next election, giving Obama very early lame duck status before the midterm elections.
Buyer's remorse often carries over into the next cycle...

Hollywood Tax Revolt

The film industry wants lower taxes-at least for themselves:
While operating costs in California have grown more expensive over the past decade, other states and countries have established film tax credits in an effort to bring production to their territory.

If California does not pass similar legislation, Film Works warns, the state will lose hold of one of its most iconic industries.

“We are now greatly concerned that the state’s status as the epicenter for motion picture production is at risk,” the petition reads.

“If policymakers fail to make our state more competitive, the film industry in California will face the same fate as other industries, including aerospace, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of jobs permanently leaving California for other states.”
And yet, they continue to hold fundraisers for the president who wants to raise taxes for everyone else...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Living In The Past

Ed Morrisey makes the case along with Mitt Romney against re-fighting old scandals:
The desire to relitigate 1998 to go back and win this argument is understandable, but it’s futile. At least at the time it had the virtue of relevance, to both the time and the person. In this case it’s irrelevant to both, unless we want to blame Hillary for her husband’s philandering. If Paul thinks that will help Republicans win the PR battle in “the war on women,” he’s going to find himself sadly mistaken. Most voters won’t even remember 1998 by the time 2016 rolls around, and those that do may be looking back fondly on the era’s economics rather than worry about its ethics. That’s not the kind of nostalgia that’s going to win Republican votes.
Be determined in 2016, not desperate.

A Brief History Of Snobbery

Looking back at the history of modern liberalism:
“The Revolt Against the Masses” is a brilliantly argued, well-timed case against reactionary snobs who were and remain disgusted with American society. Under the subtitle “How Liberalism has Undermined the Middle Class,” Siegel documents with scholarly detail the arrogance of elites who launched a movement that romanticizes the poor while trying, with distressing success, to dismantle the democratic, capitalist traditions that helped establish the middle class.

“The aim of liberalism’s founding writers and thinkers — such as Herbert Croly, Randolph Bourne, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis and H.L. Mencken — was to create an American aristocracy of sorts, to provide the same sense of hierarchy and ­order long associated with European statism,” he writes.
History is filled with examples of those who thought they knew what was best for everyone else...

Worst Regime In The World

The United Nations on North Korea:
“Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed” by the leaders of North Korea against their own people, the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights declared Monday in a report that goes on to accuse that nation’s communist regime of “crimes against humanity.”

According to the U.N. investigators, “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” They conclude, for example, that “hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished” in prison camps over the past five decades.

The High Commissioner’s report calls on the U.N. Security Council to “refer the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court.”

“The United Nations must ensure that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are held accountable,” the report concludes.
So, how will this be accomplished?

Send In The Clowns

Where are the clowns?
Membership at the country’s largest trade organizations for the jokesters has plunged over the past decade as declining interest, old age and higher standards among employers align against Krusty, Bozo and their crimson-nosed colleagues.

“What’s happening is attrition,” said Clowns of America International President Glen Kohlberger, who added that membership at the Florida-based organization has plummeted since 2006. “The older clowns are passing away.”
There's no shortage in Washington, D.C....


Another attempt to curb Presidential power:
The "Stop This Overreaching Presidency (STOP)" measure, introduced by Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.), now has 104 co-sponsors, including Senate GOP hopeful Reps. Jack Kingston (Ga.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Stockman (Texas), Paul Broun (Ga.), Steve Daines (Mont.) and Phil Gingrey (Ga.).

In an interview with The Hill, Rice explained that STOP resolution is aimed at reversing Obama's delay of the employer mandate, enactment of the DREAM Act, extension of "substandard" health insurance plans and ending work requirements for welfare.
The divine right of kings and presidents?

Lost Change

George Will isn't buying the debate:
“When a politician, on a subject implicating science,” he continued, “says, ‘the debate is over,’ you may be sure of two things; the debate is raging and he’s losing it.”

Will added that the debate presently underway is over “how much wealth are we going to forego creating” to have “zero discernable impact on the environment.”
If you're John Kerry or Al Gore, not much...

Great Moments In Alternate American History

President who?
“Groupon Celebrates Presidents Day by Honoring Alexander Hamilton,” its latest press release blares. “Starting tomorrow, Groupon will be kicking off Presidents Day weekend by giving customers 10 dollars off 40 dollars when they purchase a deal for any local business.”

And then comes the money quote:

The $10 bill, as everyone knows, features President Alexander Hamilton — undeniably one of our greatest presidents and most widely recognized for establishing the country’s financial system.
Next up: A look at the accomplishments of President Henry Clay...

Tea Time

Why European Tea Party movements are on the rise:
"...Governments encouraged consumers to borrow, let the banks run wild and designed the euro as the pinnacle of the European project.” And “in the past five years ordinary people have paid a price for these follies, in higher taxes, unemployment, benefit cuts and pay freezes.” As a result, more Europeans are viewing the modern state as being “designed to look after itself, rather than the citizens it is supposed to serve.
Welcome to our world...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Big Labor Pains

Why the U.A.W. lost big in Tennessee:
After the votes were counted, Mike Burton and Mike Jarvis stood outside the VW plant wearing T-shirts with a line struck through the letters U.A.W. Mr. Jarvis said most workers had voted against the U.A.W. because they were convinced it had hurt Detroit’s automakers.

Mr. Burton, leader of the anti-union employees, said, “A lot of us came to work here because it didn’t have a union.”

One reason the U.A.W. lost was that many VW workers said they already felt that they were paid well and treated well, leading them to question why they needed a union and to pay union dues.
Nobody wants to be Detroit South...

The Cure Is More Expensive Than The Disease

And yet another Obamacare promise broken:
People with serious pre-existing diseases, precisely those the president aimed to help with ObamaCare, could find themselves paying for expensive drug treatments with no help from the health care exchanges.

Those with expensive diseases such as lupus or multiple sclerosis face something called a "closed drug formulary."

Dr. Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute explains,"if the medicine that you need isn't on that list, it's not covered at all. You have to pay completely out of pocket to get that medicine, and the money you spend doesn't count against your deductible, and it doesn't count against your out of pocket limits, so you're basically on your own."

The plan had claimed it would rescue those with serious pre-existing conditions.

"So it could be that a MS patient could be expected to pay $62,000 just for one medication," says Dr. Daniel Kantor, who treats MS patients and others with neurological conditions near Jacksonville, Florida. "That’s a possiblity under the new ObamaCare going on right now."
If you like your...oh, you know the rest.

Coming Of Age

They were already more grown up than the opposition, but now the Tea Party may be reaching adulthood:
The movement may have begun as a grass-roots collection of activists in funny hats, but as Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson of Harvard University have pointed out, it has become powerful by linking those activists to established fundraising organizations such as Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks and an old-line conservative think tank, Heritage.

None of this means that the civil war in the GOP is over, just that a smarter tea party may be less inclined to sabotage itself. Almost 90% of John Boehner’s House Republicans voted against the speaker on the debt ceiling, but they didn’t make a scene while doing it.
Smarter power?

Kitty Litter

When all else fails, use kittens:
Cat lovers across the country are expressing their displeasure with the administration’s use of kittens in an advertisement to promote Obamacare signups.

The offending image, found on the website “The Adorable Care Act,” shows four adorable kittens in a supposed Valentine’s Day greeting with the caption: “Treat yourself right this Valentines Day. Get pamPURRED with health care.”

Henrietta Fourpaws of Felix, IL, made the point that the ad was stupid, but also claimed that exploiting young kittens in this fashion was cruel and unjust.

“Just look at their faces,” she said. “They’re bored and unhappy. Wouldn’t you be if you were forced to shill for a total disaster? It’s like putting them in the front seat of an Edsel.”
What were they promised? If you like your cat food, you can keep your cat food?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Boom Country

North Dakota's very good year:
Lynn Helms, director of the state Mineral Resources, said Friday that North Dakota produced an average of 923,227 barrels of oil daily in December. The monthly total of 28.6 million barrels was down from 29.2 million barrels in November due to worse-than-normal winter weather that caused the slowdown in oil production, he said.

"The big story in December was the weather," he said.

Helms said it was the first time since January 2013 that the state did not set a monthly oil production record. December production figures were the latest available, because oil production numbers typically lag at least two months.

Tessa Sandstrom, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Petroleum Council, called the state's surging oil production good news.

"Oil and gas production continue to have a positive impact on the economy and jobs," said Sandstron, whose group represents hundreds of companies working in the state's oil patch. "There are impacts and we look forward to addressing those in the coming year."
This is what a successful energy economy looks like...

Out To Sea

Apparently there's nothing going on in New Jersey:
A group of local politicians in New Jersey would like to rewrite maps of Asia.

On Monday, five New Jersey Democrats introduced a bill that would rename the sea between Japan and the Korean peninsula.

Currently, the sea is known as the Sea of Japan. But, according to the Star-Ledger newspaper, the bill would require “the state and all its political subdivisions, ‘to the extent practicable’” to refer to the body of water as both the “East Sea” and the “Sea of Japan.” Textbooks in New Jersey schools would have to adopt the new names starting in 2016.
Liberal imperialism isn't pretty...

The Last Outpost

Who's up for a trip to the North Pole?
In a letter to U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, Secretary of State John Kerry said he planned to name a "high-level individual of substantial stature and expertise" to serve as Special Representative for the Arctic Region.

"For a long time now, I've shared the view that the Arctic region really is the last global frontier, and the United States needs to elevate our attention and effort to keep up with the opportunities and consequences presented by the Arctic's rapid transformation," Kerry wrote in the letter, released by Begich's office Friday. "Properly managed, this region provides an opportunity for creative diplomatic leadership — but truly establishing and capitalizing on this leadership role will require making the Arctic region a higher U.S. priority; greater attention paid by senior policy makers; and, in keeping with President Obama's call for 'national unity of effort' on the Arctic, coordination of operational departments."
I'm guessing the person who gets the job will have paid the least for it...

Unfair Play

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