Monday, March 31, 2014

Final Lap

Obama's presidency has its legacy:
He’s been in the Oval Office so long that it is obscene to blame his problems on George W. Bush, the weather or racism. Obama owns the world he made, or more accurately, the world he tried to remake.

Nothing important has worked as promised, and there is every reason to believe the worst is yet to come. The president’s casual remark the other day that he worries about “a nuclear weapon ­going off in Manhattan” inadvertently reflected the fear millions of Americans have about his leadership. Not necessarily about a bomb, but about where he is taking the country.
And, like a nuke, the fallout from his policies will last for years...


This doesn't look good:
Federal regulators decided not to open an inquiry on the ignitions of Chevrolet Cobalts and other cars even after their own investigators reported in 2007 that they knew of four fatal crashes, 29 complaints and 14 other reports that showed the problem disabled air bags, according to a memo released by a House subcommittee on Sunday.

Then in 2010, the safety agency came to the same decision after receiving more reports that air bags were not deploying.

The memo also revealed that General Motors approved the faulty design of the switch in 2002 even though the company that made the part, Delphi, warned the automaker that the switch did not meet specifications. This followed a warning the year before — when the Saturn Ion was being developed — but G.M. said that “a design change had solved the problem,” according to the memo.

The striking new details in the memo bolster the contention that both G.M. and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than previously acknowledged, ignored or dismissed warnings for more than a decade about a faulty ignition switch that, if bumped, could turn off, shutting the engine and disabling the air bags.
Laziness or corruption? Either one can be just as bad...

Blue Divide

Can't they all just get along?
"This is a coming divide for the Democratic Party," said one progressive strategist, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. "Not only about explaining 2014, but laying the groundwork for 2016."

The split between the party's progressive and centrist wings isn't new, and the looming difficulty of the midterms play only a part in their ongoing conflict. But the threat of losses later this year is exacerbating the existing tensions.

In Third Way cofounder Matt Bennett's telling, it wasn't a lack of populism that caused the party's problems. It was an incessant focus on class-war rhetoric in 2013 that repelled some voters.

"Democrats lost touch with the middle class," he said. "We engaged in arguments that have intellectual but not emotional resonance. Income inequality is a problem, but that doesn't make it something that will land in public," Bennett said.

Bennett's group has led the charge for Democratic lawmakers and the president to back a socially liberal but economically centrist platform—and in doing so, has become enemy No. 1 of many activists.
Go fight amongst yourselves...

Cheats On The Run

A pair of wealthy welfare con artists are on the run:
Andrea Chisholm, 54, and Colin Chisholm III, 62, allegedly collected more than $167,000 in welfare, food stamps and medical assistance across two states over a period of around seven years, according to a complaint filed with a Minnesota State court.

For the past month, Hennepin County Sheriff’s department has been searching for the couple who are still at large, according to a statement issued by the Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman.

“Mr. … sorry. Lord and Lady Chisholm the third, are fraudsters of the first degree,” Freeman said. “These folks ripped off the system.”
Unfortunately, that does seem to be easy to do...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bench Warmer

The judge wants her job back:
Brim was found not guilty of misdemeanor battery by reason of insanity last year for shoving a sheriff’s deputy outside the Daley Center during a manic episode in March 2012. A day earlier, while on the bench, she broke into an extended rant while presiding over a traffic court call at the Markham courthouse.

“I just broke like a pencil,” Brim told the commission Friday, saying she was feeling stressed that day because there was only one courtroom deputy present for a busy call. “It was totally inappropriate for me to say what I did at that time – or any other time.”

Brim was effectively suspended from her duties as a judge after the battery charges were filed but was nonetheless returned to the bench by voters weeks later. She has continued to collect her $182,000 salary since her 2012 suspension.

On Friday, Brim said she was once again able to fulfill her duties as judge. Over the last two years, she said, she has consistently taken her medications – a requirement of her probation in the battery case – and has not had any psychotic episodes.

“I can serve as a judge with full capability as long as I continue to take the medication as prescribed,” she said. “I've had two years to think about this, and I have a different perspective and understanding of my condition. I realize now I have to stay on my medications and see a psychiatrist on a regular basis.”
In all fairness, you can't be a judge in Chicago without going a little crazy...

Mob Man

A former hit man turns tour guide:
Mr Cullotta became an FBI informant in the 1980s, served time in prison, and said he had since struggled to figure out how to make a legal living.

"It is a challenge to do things on the legal side," Mr Cullotta told The Daily Beast.
"Sometimes the legal isn't so legal, you know what I'm trying to say?

"There's graft in anything you do, even on the legal side. It's difficult to be legit, and I am legit. But I'm always having to fight the system for some reason. It seems like nobody wants me to be legit."
Mr Cullotta had the idea of leading a bus tour, and the 75-year-old obtained permission from the Las Vegas authorities to take visitors around scenes of murders and casino scams.
Back when things were probably actually more legit than they are now...

His Inner Arms Dealer

Who is Leland Yee?
A child psychologist, he backed a law “to ban the sale of violent videogames to minors,” which the Supreme Court struck down by a 7-2 vote in the 2011 case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association . The most interesting aspect of that case was the two very different dissents: Justice Clarence Thomas would have upheld the law on the ground that the First Amendment was never meant to apply to children, while Justice Stephen Breyer argued that it was constitutional because it was based on sound social science.

But on one topic he held to the standard liberal line. “He was involved in efforts to regulate guns, particularly after the 2012 mass murder of children at a Connecticut elementary school, a tragedy that Yee said touched him,” the Times notes. National Review’s Tim Cavanaugh elaborates, noting that his arrest in the alleged gun-running conspiracy comes “less than a year after [he was] pushing wide-ranging bills to require micro-stamping, restrict magazine choice, and regulate private handling of legally owned weapons.”

By contrast, the Times reports that in dealing with his alleged co-conspirators, “the senator’s approach to arms dealing was ‘agnostic,’ the 137-page [affidavit] says. ‘People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don’t care,’ Yee allegedly said. ‘People need certain things.’ ”

One marvels at the evident hypocrisy. Was Yee’s zeal for gun control an expression of a guilty conscience–a moralist’s battle with his own inner demons? Or was he consistent in doing whatever seemed expedient?
My money's on the latter...

That Old Green Religion

A Green speaks out against contemporary Greens:
Speaking to the Guardian for an interview ahead of a landmark UN climate science report on Monday on the impacts of climate change, Lovelock said of the warnings of climate catastrophe in his 2006 book, Revenge of Gaia: "I was a little too certain in that book. You just can’t tell what’s going to happen."

“It [the impact from climate change] could be terrible within a few years, though that’s very unlikely, or it could be hundreds of years before the climate becomes unbearable," he said.

Lovelock's comments appear to be at odds with dire forecasts from a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday, which leaked versions show will warn that even small temperature rises will bring "abrupt and irreversible changes" to natural systems, including Arctic sea ice and coral reefs.

Asked if his remarks would give ammunition to climate change sceptics, he said: "It’s just as silly to be a denier as it is to be a believer. You can’t be certain."

Talking about the environmental movement, Lovelock says: "It’s become a religion, and religions don’t worry too much about facts." The retired scientist, who worked at the Medical Research Council, describes himself as an "old-fashioned green."
Maybe a bit too old-fashioned for the current crowd...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Non-Free Markets

The path to controlled prosperity:
Russia and China and some of their old satellite states have traded Marx and Lenin for Market Leninism.

The militaristic one-party state endures – but the nomenklatura now attracts global capital, swilling champagne in jet set nightclubs instead of behind dacha walls.

To some extent, this is a mark of the West's Cold War victory.

Even ex-communists recognise that capitalism – albeit a corrupt, crony, command-and-control version – is more effective at lifting people out of poverty than endless programmes and slogans about the proletariat. This is helpful for holding on to power.

What's insidious about this alternative to Western governance is that it promises prosperity at the expense of individual freedom, while dismissing democracy as ineffective.
Re-branded socialism is not a substitute for real freedom...

The Last Primitives

A "lost tribe" makes contact:
The tribe, which numbers about 200, lives in Acre State. The Government follows a policy of not contacting them but monitors their land as it is threatened by logging, mining, cattle ranching, fishing and hunting.

Leaders of the Ashaninka tribe, which shares territory with this tribe and other uncontacted ones in the Amazon, have asked the government and NGOs for help in controlling the encroachment of these tribes in their own area, according to Reuters.

According to Survival International, an organisation working for tribal people's rights worldwide, this particular uncontacted Amazonian tribe grows crops, peanuts, bananas, corns and more.

The pictures also show banana plants near the tribe's straw-roofed huts.
They don't have to deal with government bureaucrats-the tribe may be better off than they realize...

Dropping Out

If you don't like your exchange, you don't have to keep your exchange:
Maryland officials are set to replace the state’s online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, according to two people familiar with the decision, an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair.

The board of the Maryland exchange plans to vote on the change Tuesday, the day after the end of the first enrollment period for the state’s residents under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. …

It was not immediately clear how much more money Maryland may have to invest to get a fully functioning system, according to the two individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the changes.
Well, nobody likes to face pitchforks...

Car Parts

GM's recall grows:
General Motors Co expanded its global recall of cars with defective ignition switches to 2.6 million on Friday, adding 971,000 later-model vehicles due to concerns over faulty replacement parts.

The recall now includes all model years of the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Saturn Ion, Saturn Sky, Pontiac G5 and Pontiac Solstice made from 2003-2011. …

GM redesigned the faulty part for model years after 2007, but it did not change the part number, and it fears that some newer-model cars could have been repaired with defective older-model switches.

Switches still available in parts stores may not be defective, but it is nearly impossible to tell new ones from older-design ones unless they are taken apart or the manufacturing history is checked, Reuters reported.
This does seem rather odd...

Life After Death

Death becomes her:
Eccentric billionaire Alki David said he's planning to bring back the soulful singer from the dead using a hologram in order to take "her" on a world tour. "With an orchestra and her hologram, she can take to the stage and fans can see her perform her legendary hits," David told the Sun newspaper.

Winehouse's father Mitch is apparently on board, too. "The most important thing to Amy was the music and I'm sure a lot of people would like to hear her sing again," he previously told the newspaper. Whether it's a "book, an album or a hologram" he said supports efforts to keep Winehouse's memory alive.
The ultimate in self-projection?


One picture could have been worth so much more:
O’Lear took a one-time payment for the photo rather than trying to negotiate a license fee. Even a tiny fee per Windows XP license would have yielded him a hefty payday over the years.

Surprisingly enough, the photograph was actually taken on the side of a highway in Sonoma, California, rather than Ireland or New Zealand. According to a somewhat hazy estimate by The Sydney Morning Herald, a billion people have viewed the scene since Microsoft bought it.

Of course, when Microsoft originally licensed an operating system to IBM all those decades ago, the computer giant wanted to buy the platform for a one-time fee. Crafty Bill Gates insisted on a licensing fee structure. It is unlikely Microsoft would have made the mistake of agreeing to a licensing deal with a random photographer when it could have simply gone on asking other people to agree to a one-off payday until it found a willing seller.
Or, how to spend the rest of your life kicking yourself...

Crossed Out

Um, okay:
Crossword puzzles in a local Venezuelan newspaper are calling readers to violent protests with conspiratorial messages, the country’s information minister said today.

Delcy Rodriguez called for an investigation of El Aragueno daily from the industrial town of Maracay, 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of Caracas for putting “encrypted messages” in its puzzles, she said in a post on her Twitter account. She didn’t give any details. …

Brain teasers have triggered the alarm of Venezuela’s socialist government before. In May 2012, state television accused the biggest national newspaper Ultimas Noticias of trying to organize the assassination of then-President Hugo Chavez through coded crossword messages. Chavez died from cancer a year later.
What's an eight-letter word for "paranoid?"


Ebony apologizes for a slight, ah, "misunderstanding":
Yesterday, the spirit of this mission was disregarded by Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux in a personal Twitter exchange between herself and RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams. In part of the exchange, Lemieux responded to an attempt at discourse from Williams with words that curtly dismissed him and his suggestion that she be interested in the “diversity of thought.” She also misidentified him, unintentionally, as White. Williams is Black.

EBONY strongly believes in the marketplace of ideas. As the magazine of record for the African American community, Lemieux’s tweets in question do not represent our journalistic standard, tradition or practice of celebrating diverse Black thought. …

EBONY acknowledges Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux’s lack of judgment on her personal Twitter account and apologizes to Raffi Williams and the Black Republican community.
He dared to think differently. That's what got Ms. Lemieux confused...


What was stolen, now is found:
"Basically everything of value — be it electronics, jewelry and items — that could be stolen in seconds would be removed from bags," LAX Police Chief Pat Gannon said. "They'd just open up the suitcases and rifle through them and pocket valuables."

A joint task force of LAX and Los Angeles Police Department detectives swarmed the airport and the homes of some suspects late Wednesday night, detaining 14 people as they collected evidence. Six people were arrested, and Gannon said as many as 25 were thought to be involved in the scheme.

Police said that the workers took the stolen items home and sold them, sometimes using Craigslist. LAX is still trying to determine how long the ring was operating and the exact value of all the stolen property. They suspect thousands of items were taken.
I guess this means that the TSA will have to work on its own now...


Spy as we say, not as we do:
Microsoft will no longer snoop on customers’ private communications during investigations of stolen property, the company’s general counsel said on Friday.

Instead, the general counsel, Brad Smith, said Microsoft would hand over any such investigations to law enforcement agencies. Those agencies can then obtain court orders to inspect private communications on Microsoft’s various Internet services, which include and Skype.

The change came a week after Microsoft faced an uproar over the methods it used in 2012 to investigate the suspected leak of software code by a former employee. An important break in that inquiry, which was conducted by an internal team at Microsoft, came when Microsoft read the private Hotmail emails and instant messages by an unnamed French blogger, which led it to the former Microsoft employee, Alex Kibkalo.

Microsoft said it performed such searches of private communications only in rare circumstances. Even though the searches appeared to be legal and in compliance with its own terms of service, the company faced criticism from privacy advocates and others who warned that it would discourage bloggers, journalists and others from using Microsoft communications services.

Reactions to Microsoft’s investigation were intensified by the fact that the company, along with peers in the technology industry, has been a vocal critic of spying by the United States government, practices that have been revealed by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden.
They were for the practice before they were against it...

If You Could Read My Mind

Apparently you can:
Scientists have used brain scanners to detect and reconstruct the faces that people are thinking of, according to a study accepted for publication this month in the journal NeuroImage.

In the study, scientists hooked participants up to an fMRI brain scanner – which determines activity in different parts of the brain by measuring blood flow – and showed them images of faces. Then, using only the brain scans, the scientists were able to create images of the faces the people were looking at.

“It is mind reading,” said Alan S. Cowen, a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley who co-authored the study with professor Marvin M. Chun from Yale and Brice A. Kuhl from New York University.
Anyone up for a mind-meld?

Go, Or Stay

Should I stay or should I go?
The State Department issued a Ukraine travel warning on March 21 warning “U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine and to defer all travel to the Crimean Peninsula and eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Lugansk due to the presence of Russian military forces in the Crimean Peninsula, and in Russia near the Ukrainian border.”

Three days after that warning was issued the State Department’s official Twitter feed disseminated an official video promoting travel to Ukraine and arguing that all is safe for tourists.

“Disinformation: Kyiv is a burned out battle ground filled with rampaging lawless groups,” wrote a caption on the video, which was posted by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. “Fact: The effects of the Maidan confrontation are extremely localized, relegated to three or four streets in the center of the city.”

The video struck some foreign policy observers as confusing given the sharp contrast between the two messages.

State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf told the Free Beacon that the video is an effort to combat “Kremlin propaganda” that aims to distort the situation in Ukraine and mislead the international community.

“It is meant as a vivid counterpoint to the lies and disinformation being spewed forth by Moscow,” Harf told the Free Beacon when asked about the film.

The travel warning and video should be viewed separately, she said.

“The video is not a travel ad—it is a rebuttal to Kremlin propaganda. It was meant to counter Russian claims that Kyiv and Ukraine is somehow in the throes of lawless, nationalist thugs looking to persecute Russian-speaking minorities,” Harf said. “The video simply shows a nice, calm spring day in Kyiv, where Ukrainians of all walks of life are going about their business.”
Until they get invaded, I guess...

Final Broadside

So here's Piers Morgan's farewell to America:
My point is simple: more guns doesn’t mean less crime as the NRA repeatedly says. It means more gun violence, death and profits for the gun manufacturers. And to those who claim my gun control campaigning has been “anti-American”, the reverse is true. I am so pro-American that I want more of you to stay alive.

But I’ve made my point. I’ve given it a tremendous whack. Now it’s down to you. It’s your country; these are your gun laws. And the senseless slaughter will only end when enough Americans stand together and cry: Enough!

I look forward to that day. And I look forward to seeing you all again soon. Goodnight, thank you, and God bless America.
Don't let the door hit you on the way out, old chap...

Son Of Soros

"Good" money versus "bad" money:
Soros, 43, doesn’t fit the stereotype of the dowdy good-government scold. Wearing gray jeans and an open collared shirt, he smiles easily, flashing what seems like disregard for the long odds his effort faces. Soros began his mission to solve the problem of money in politics in 2012 when he founded Friends of Democracy PAC, a hybrid political action committee and super PAC with a staff of three. The group, which has an office in Washington, D.C, jumped into eight competitive congressional elections that year and spent more than $1.7 million backing candidates who pledged to support a series of campaign-finance principles, including proposals to strengthen election law enforcement and institute publicly financed elections. Seven of their candidates won office.

This year, the organization wants to ensure those seven stay in office, while getting behind another eight candidates yet to be determined. The group is also taking aim at lawmakers in state legislatures around the country who have been attempting to loosen regulations on campaign financing. This effort has involved a rather un-Soros-like strategy: Friends of Democracy has found a couple of Republican candidates in close contests willing to buck their party establishment and support clean elections. “The new McCains,” Soros calls them, and the hope is that they are willing to take a dollop of Soros cash in exchange for pledging to limit the role of the rest of the big money funders. The outfit is still scouting possible beneficiaries of its handouts, but Soros mentioned Rep. Walter Jones, the maverick North Carolina Republican, as a possibility—and he said the group is eyeing other candidates who hail from deep blue states. “We might be able to get away with it in Massachusetts,” he says.
The anti-Pac Pac?

Hope And Change

Yes we can! Heh:

Tall Tales

Harry Reid knows not of these lies of which you speak:


Some have better memories than you, Senator...

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Cable Creep

This is pretty creepy:
Meeks said it started more than a week ago — “he” or someone has taken control of her AT&T cable box and typing messages on two of her TVs.

The family showed us a few. One wrote: ‘ISEEYOUHAHA’. Others even threatened to hurt Alana’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Aniya.

“He wants to do more than hurt her,” said Meeks. “He wants to have sex with her. Pervert.”

Some were quick to judge. However, an officer who stopped by saw it himself, according to a police report.

Meeks even tried covering her windows in case someone was watching. It didn’t work.

“If you want me, come get me,” she said. “You know where I’m at, but you can’t have my grand baby.”

FOX59 cameras were rolling when it happened again. Whoever was typing knew we were there, too.

“It’s astonishing. It’s spooky because there aren’t a lot of ways you can get into someone’s cable box,” said Fred Cate, research director for the Indiana University Center for Applied Cybersecurity. “The most common ways would be using a remote control, an infrared device, but that’s line of sight. You usually have to be in the room or within a close distance and clear vision to the box you’re changing the channel on or doing the typing on.”
Maybe those fears of being spied on through your TV aren't so paranoid, after all...

Cattle Wind

The White House recognizes the "cow problem":
The White House has proposed cutting methane emissions from the dairy industry by 25 percent by 2020. Although U.S. agriculture only accounts for about 9 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it makes up a sizeable portion of methane emissions — which is a very potent greenhouse gas.

Some of these methane emissions come from cow flatulence, exhaling and belching — other livestock animals release methane as well.

“Cows emit a massive amount of methane through belching, with a lesser amount through flatulence,” according to How Stuff Works. “Statistics vary regarding how much methane the average dairy cow expels. Some experts say 100 liters to 200 liters a day… while others say it’s up to 500 liters… a day. In any case, that’s a lot of methane, an amount comparable to the pollution produced by a car in a day.”

“Of all domestic animal types, beef and dairy cattle were by far the largest emitters of [methane],” according to an EPA analysis charting greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. Cows and other animals produce methane through digestion, which ferments the food of animals.
But what ferments the flatulence that comes from government regulators?

Off The Rolls

Some California lawmakers won't be going to work for a while:
The California Senate voted Friday to suspend three lawmakers who face charges in separate criminal cases after the latest one to be hauled into court refused to step down, the most serious house-cleaning action the chamber has taken in more than a century.

Friday's 28-1 vote in the 40-member chamber came amid one of the most severe ethical crises in modern times for the Legislature in the nation's most populous state.

The Senate leadership said that before Friday, the chamber had never suspended a lawmaker in the institution's 164-year history, but it has taken the more serious step of expelling lawmakers, the last time in 1905. The Assembly speaker's office said that chamber has never suspended or expelled a lawmaker.
A bit overdue, then...

Rush The Vote

And that's assuming they even read it first:
Owing to the tight deadline, leadership opted to bring the bill straight to the floor “under suspension of the rules,” meaning it needed a two-thirds vote to pass — a higher threshold than the normal simple majority. But it was not clear that a sufficient number of votes could be found.

The bill is somewhat controversial — some lawmakers want to strike a deal for a more permanent solution. Others, like Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, think the way the patch is paid for — which partly involves shifting sequester cuts to Medicare from 2025 to 2024 — is a “gimmick.”

But the potential to not get enough votes turned out not to be an issue. Instead, most members did not get to vote at all.
"Democracy" by minority rule?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rat's Tale

That's a big rat:
An exterminator eventually killed the rat, which measured 15 inches from nose to claws -- not including the tail. Ordinary rat traps wouldn’t do for Ratzilla: For this task, the exterminator brought in special giant rat traps.

“When they build mouse traps or rat traps, you think that the mouse or rat should be killed by the spring when it is activated. This was so big over the neck the trap didn’t kill it,” Korsas said.

He had heard tales of rats that grow to the size of dogs in New York City subways, an urban myth apparently known around the globe.
Got cheese?

Game Show Time

The math behind Wheel of Fortune wins:
Historically, if all bonus-round contestants had guessed the combination of HGBO at every opportunity, the four letters would have revealed 22.5 percent of all bonus round letters. In reality, however, contestants rarely guess HGBO—and sometimes they guess strange combinations of unlikely letters, like PKWI or ZJWI. Based on each letter’s frequency in the bonus round, statistics would suggest that their guesses should have revealed only 18.5 percent of all letters. However, contestants’ guesses have actually revealed 21.9 percent of all letters, not far off from the 22.5 percent my HGBO advice would yield. It appears contestants are making educated guesses based on what RSTLNE has already indicated about a given puzzle.

That said, every letter counts. De Leon came up empty with his guess of HDMO. If he had guessed my grouping of HGBO, he’d have been looking at this: NE_ B_B_ B_GG_. Ultimately, he didn’t need the help. But for most contestants, those letters might have been the difference between winning $45,000 or going home empty-handed.
There's luck, dumb luck, and game show luck...


What happened to bowling?
In the “golden era” of the 1960s and 70s, they made twice as much money as NFL stars, signed million dollar contracts, and were heralded as international celebrities. After each match, they’d be flanked by beautiful women who’d seen them bowl on television, or had read about them in Sports Illustrated.

Today, the glitz and glamour has faded. Pro bowlers supplement their careers with second jobs, like delivering sod, or working at a call center. They share Motel 6 rooms on tour to save on travel expenses, and thrive on the less-than-exciting dime of beef jerky sponsorships.
It was a different time, certainly.

Crossing The Bridge

Chris Christie talks about Bridgegate:
“I spent a lot of time the last 11 weeks thinking about what did I do if I did anything to contribute to this,” Christie said. “I don’t believe that I did.” …

“I do believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Christie said. “It’s been a very, very tough time professionally. Not the toughest time in my life, but certainly the toughest time in my life professionally.”

The report, released by law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, said no concrete evidence existed that indicated Christie knew of the bridge’s lane closures last September in advance.

“That’s the truth,” Christie said about the inquiry’s conclusion.
That should be the last word. But it probably won't be...

Rise In The Yeast

It's the first designer chromosome:
Artificial chromosomes have been built before. But those were relatively faithful copies of natural chromosomes, the tiny thread-like structures made of tightly packed DNA that serve as the body's blueprints. By contrast, the new chromosome is a product of purposeful tinkering, but the yeast that carry it act like normal yeast.

Previous artificial chromosomes were "copy-and-paste, more or less. It was plagiarism with a few edit marks in it," says Adam Arkin of the University of California-Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who was not involved in the research. The new structure is "a serious redesign of a chromosome with lots of very clever ways of … making it more engineerable and more understandable."

The result "is a tour-de-force in synthetic biology," Boston University's James Collins, another outside researcher, says via e-mail.
Coming soon to a sandwich near you?

Pole Position

Is Russia headed for the last frontier?
The race for the Arctic is quietly underway, and Russia seems to be winning so far. This is especially troubling for the rest of the North Pole. The region is already locked in what's known as a security dilemma, explains Kristian Atland, a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment. World powers have a tendency to assume the worst about their neighbors, and any measure taken by one nation to increase its sovereignty or security could be perceived by another as a threat. It also doesn't help that all of Russia's Arctic neighbors are NATO members.

If the other Arctic states have learned something from the Ukraine crisis, it's that the Russians will protect what they feel is rightfully theirs.

Russian territory accounts for about half of the Arctic region, but there's a lot more to the country's lead in the game than size. In 2001, Moscow sent the first-ever territorial claim for the North Pole to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which defines nations' rights in the world's oceans. The commission told Russia that it needed more scientific evidence that the Arctic shelf is part of the country's landmass, and a decision has not yet been made.
It really is a Cold War, after all?

For Love And Country

In Denmark, having babies is patriotic:
Denmark’s perennially low birth rate places it with Germany (8.33), Japan (8.39) and Singapore (7.72). And the downward trend has left people worried in Denmark. Most couples say they want two or three kids, according to the Copenhagen Post, but one in five couples wind up childless. …

According to its promotion, the company will give prizes to couples who get pregnant while on vacations purchased through them. First, the couple must select a “romantic” city — it recommends Paris and Rome — then “let yourself be seduced by the city pulse.”
And by the promise of government pensions?

Both Sides Of The Hood

there are two sides to every situation:
“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American,” he said. “That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, we’ve progressed as a society, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”
That's as it should be. Unfortunately, too many people did react without all of the facts.

Funny Animals

What makes animals laugh?
The idea that animals can appreciate comedy isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds, considering some of the other groundbreaking discoveries scientists like Bekoff are making about animal behavior: They have found dogs that understand unfairness, spiders that display different temperaments, and bees that can be trained to be pessimistic.

As Bekoff points out, Darwin argued that the difference between human and animal intelligence is a matter of degree, not of kind. Or as Bekoff put it, “If we have a sense of humor, then nonhuman animals should have a sense of humor, too.”
They certainly have us as a source...

Crime Rhyme

If you can't do the time, don't brag about the crime?
The proliferation of cases has alarmed many scholars and defense lawyers, who say that independent of a defendant’s guilt or innocence, the lyrics are being unfairly used to prejudice judges and juries who have little understanding that, for all its glorification of violence, gangsta rappers are often people who have assumed over-the-top and fictional personas.

“If you aspire to be a gangsta rapper, by definition your lyrics need to be violent,” said Charis E. Kubrin, an associate professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine.

But prosecutors say the lyrics are an important tool for battling criminals who use an outspoken embrace of violence as a weapon of control. “Just because you put your confession to music doesn’t give you a free pass,” said Alan Jackson, a former senior prosecutor in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

In some of the cases, the police say the lyrics represent confessions. More often, the lyrics are used to paint an unsavory picture of a defendant to help establish motive and intent.

And, increasingly, the act of writing the lyrics themselves is being prosecuted — not because they are viewed as corroborating an incident, but because prosecutors contend that the words themselves amount to a criminal threat.
There's a fine line between art and prison...


Time for a cold nap?
Roughly once a month, UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh receives a patient who has suffered a cardiac arrest after some kind of traumatic injury (gunshot, stabbing, etc.), and hasn’t responded to normal methods of restarting their heart. Because there’s currently no other kind of treatment, and because these kinds of wounds are nearly always fatal, the surgeons don’t need consent to carry out the suspended animation. The technique will be used on 10 patients, with the outcome compared against 10 people who didn’t. Samuel Tisherman, the surgeon who is leading the trial, told New Scientist that they’ll then refine their technique and try it out on 10 more patients — at which point, there should be enough data to work out whether suspended animation is worth rolling out to other hospitals.

The process is much the same for humans as it was for pigs. The first step is to replace all of the blood in the heart and brain — the two areas most sensitive to hypoxia — with with cold saline. Then, the saline is pumped around the rest of the body. After 15 minutes, the patient’s temperature reaches 10C — they have no blood, no brain activity, and they’re not breathing. Technically they’re dead — but because the metabolism of your cells slow down at low temperatures, they can survive for a few hours using anaerobic respiration (usually it’s just a few minutes). ”We’ve always assumed that you can’t bring back the dead. But it’s a matter of when you pickle the cells,” said Peter Rhee, who helped developed the suspended animation technique.
But what if you wake up in a world ruled by dirty apes?

Boom Towns

Go west, construction man:
New 2013 census information released Thursday shows that cities are the fastest-growing parts of the United States, and a majority of the metro areas showing that growth are located in or near the oil- and gas-rich fields of the Great Plains and Mountain West.

Neighboring cities Odessa and Midland, Texas, show up as the second and third fastest-growing metro areas in the country. Sara Higgins, the Midland public information officer, has a simple explanation: oil. "They're coming here to work," Higgins said.

Energy production is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, the Census Bureau said. The boom in the U.S. follows the use of new technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, to tap oil and gas reserves.

"Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries were the most rapidly growing part of our nation's economy over the last several years," Census Bureau Director John H Thompson said.
This is where the money-and America's economic recovery-is...

Grand Old Parolee

Not to be outdone by the Democrats, we have this guy:
Glenn Champ, who is listed as an “engineer and businessman” on the state election website, has a lengthy rap sheet. He was nabbed for picking up an underage prostitute in 1993, which resulted in him pleading guilty to two counts of assault with intent to commit rape and becoming a registered sex offender.

In 1998, Champ also pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter. An Associated Press article at the time said authorities accused Champ of running over a competitor in the garbage collection business with his truck after an argument, killing him. Champ told the incident was a "tragic accident."

He received 12 years in prison and says he served 10 and three-quarters before he was released in 2009.

Champ is now running against several established politicians and government officials for the GOP nomination, including Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, ex-Treasury official Neel Kashkari and state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly. Despite his past, he stood alongside them and delivered a 10-minute speech at the GOP convention.

Champ, though, says he's a changed man. He told that during his time in prison both his faith in God and his love of politics grew. He said he knows how to effectively deal with lawmakers he claims are violating the political system and the Constitution, because of his time in jail.

“My past is good, it's bad and it’s ugly,” Champ said. “I don’t have any problems with people scrutinizing it.” But, he added, “You should also look past it and see what I’ve learned.”
So, he'd be a good crook, then?

Russian Dressing

More territory for Putin?
A petition on the White House website created by “S.V.” of Anchorage is calling on Alaskans and others to "vote" for Alaska to secede from the U.S. and become a part of Russia.

In less than a week, the petition, titled “Alaska Back to Russia,” has garnered nearly 30,000 signatures, though it's unclear where they are from.

“Vote for secession of Alaska from the United States and joining Russia,” the petition says.

The petition, though strangely worded and difficult to understand, describes how Alaska was originally settled and populated by native Russians.
In Alaska, state leaves you...

Save A Prayer

Well, he does need all the help he can get:
The talks between the first Latin-American pope and first African-American US president will focus on tackling the gap between the rich and the poor, but are likely to spill over into thornier issues such as abortion, homosexuals and contraception.

The meeting at the Vatican comes as a welcome rest-stop for Obama during a six-day European tour dominated by the crisis over Crimea, and the US leader will doubtless be hoping some of the pope's overwhelming popularity will rub off on him.
Bless him, Father, for his administration has spin...


It was a bad day for those with a "D" after their name:
Democrats in California, New York, and North Carolina were targeted by the FBI on Wednesday. All are targets of unrelated federal investigations.

Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco was taken in by federal authorities on public corruption charges after a series of FBI raids Wednesday morning. Also arrested as part of the investigation was “infamous Chinatown gangster Raymond ‘Shrimp Boy’ Chow,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Yee was a candidate for California Secretary of State.

New York Assemblyman William Scarborough (D., Queens) had both his Queens and Albany offices raided by FBI agents on Wednesday and was met by agents at his hotel room.

The FBI is investigating per diem payments that reimburse legislators for days spent in the Capitol.

Scarborough told reporters that the FBI raid is the result of a “tabloid hit job.”

Charlotte, N.C., Democratic Mayor Patrick Cannon was arrested on public corruption charges of theft and bribery as a result of a four-year FBI sting operation.

Cannon collected cash bribes and other items of value from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do business in Charlotte,according to U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Anne Tompkins.
They've certainly been living up to their reputation these days...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Barber's Blues

In North Korea, haircut wears you:
Until now, everyone in North Korea had to choose their haircuts from a list of state-approved styles. But now, all men in the hermit kingdom will be required to sport the same hairstyle as supreme leader Kim Jong Un, the BBC reports.

Pyongyang introduced the new law two weeks ago but is now rolling it out across the country. Unfortunately, some North Koreans may not be thrilled about the new look. According to a former Pyongyang resident now living in China, the Kim Jong Un cut is unpopular because it apparently resembles the style of Chinese smugglers. “Until the mid-2000s, we called it the ‘Chinese smuggler haircut,” the source told the Korea Times.
It will be a nation of Mini-Me's...

Shields Negative

John Cornyn is not a fan of selective journalistic approval:
“They want to pick and choose which journalists are covered,” the Texan Republican told Breitbart News. “In other words, if you’re a blogger they might not cover you, but if you work for the New York Times they might. Given the changes in the way we get information and the way we consume news, that really smacks to me in essence of government licensing who’s an official ‘journalist’ for the purposes of a shield law and who’s not. If there is one thing I can glean from the First Amendment, it is that government should not be in the business of licensing the news media.”
True. It's even worse when the media wants it that way...

Food Photo Finish

Food is for eating, not snapping:
Those who write and blog about food for a living say the best policy is to ask first and don’t assume every chef will be flattered by his or her creations being labeled as food porn. Elizabeth Minchilli, a Rome-based food writer and author of the best selling apps, Eat Rome, Eat Florence, and Eat Venice, says taking photographs of every dish can be horribly annoying, which is why she always asks ahead of time before snapping. “In general, I'm with the chefs on this one,” she told The Daily Beast. “I think if you're in their restaurant, they have the right to either grant, or deny, permission to photograph. I always ask ahead of time, just in case I'm annoying anyone else in the room. Most chefs are happy to have me photograph their dishes, but then again, I'm not an amateur and my photographs are always flattering—or else why post them in the first place?”
It's certainly food for thought...

The Speakeasies Of Tehran

Why Prohibition doesn't work:
Despite the ban on alcohol and frequent police raids, drinking in Iran is widespread, especially among the wealthy. Because the Shia-dominated Muslim state has no nightclubs, it all takes place at home, behind closed doors.

Some of the alcohol is smuggled in, but many resourceful Iranians make their own.

“My friends and I routinely gather to stamp down on grapes in my bathtub,” said Hesam, a 28-year-old music teacher in Tehran, asking to be identified only by his first name. “It’s fun, a cleansing ritual almost.”

Some take considerable pride in their results. “I have a friend who makes wine for his own consumption but gives me around 30 bottles per year as well,” said 36-year-old Mousa, speaking from the central city of Isfahan.

Only members of religious minorities – Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians – are allowed to brew, distil, ferment and drink, in their homes, and trade in liquor is forbidden. Catholic priests make their own wine for Mass.

Yet wine-making has a long history in Iran. Scientists believe Stone Age settlers in what is now Iran drank wine with their olives and bread as early as 5,000 BC.

The renowned Shiraz variety of grape, named after the city in the south of the country, is said to have been brought back to Europe by the Crusaders.

Persian poets Hafez and Omar Khayyam extolled the virtues of the grape.

“What drunkenness is this that brings me hope? Who was the cup-bearer and whence the wine?” Hafez wrote in the 14th century.
Those who don't remember their drinking history are bound to ban it...

Investment Opportunity

Cuba, a tax haven for investors?
Cuba is proposing a new Cuban foreign investment law that would cut the profits tax in half to 15 percent and exempt most investors from paying it for at least eight years, official media said on Wednesday. …

Cuba is promising legal protection for foreign investors, who have generally been averse to risking capital in the Soviet-style economy, and new incentives such as dramatically lowered tax. The National Assembly is expected to approve the draft of the law with little, or no changes.

However, foreign ventures that mine natural resources, including oil, can be subject to a higher profits tax of up to 22.5 percent, depending on how those ventures are negotiated with the state, according to details published in the official Juventud Rebelde newspaper.
At least they have beachfront property...

Ride The Shark

A man and his shark:

Who Navigates The Navigators?

Considering who they work for, this isn't too surprising:
Half of the navigators who’d had run-ins with the law had failed to disclose it on their applications, despite the requirement to do so — but they received Division approval anyway, the records show.

And before the open-enrollment push began, insurance commissioner Scott Kipper briefly approved conditional certification for some navigators before their background checks were complete, prematurely clearing them to access consumers’ confidential information, including Social Security numbers, home addresses, and financial records.

All of this calls into question the suitability and integrity of some Obamacare navigators, as well as the judgment of the Nevada Division of Insurance.
It takes crooks to know crooks...

Crime, Incorporated

Where crime pays?
With a turnover of 53 billion euros ($73 billion) in 2013, the 'Ndrangheta mafia from southern Italy made more money last year than Deutsche Bank and McDonalds put together, a new study said Wednesday.

The study by the Demoskopika research institute detailed the international crime syndicate's sources of revenue, including drug trafficking -- which brought in an estimated 24.2 billion euros -- and the illegal garbage disposal business, which earned it 19.6 billion euros.

The southern Italian mafia earned the equivalent of 3.5 percent of Italy's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last year, said the report based on analysis of documents from Italy's interior ministry and police, parliament's anti-mafia commission and the national anti-mafia task force.

The 'Ndrangheta is thought to have some 400 key "operatives" in 30 countries, but its activities are believed to involve as many as 60,000 people worldwide, the report said.

Extortion and usury last year brought in a substantial 2.9 billion euros, while embezzlement earned the mafia 2.4 billion euros and gambling 1.3 billion euros.
Of course, considering McDonalds' fortunes these days, that might not reflect well on Micky D's...

The Last Laugh

Yes, they are:
Sen. Ted Cruz believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian leaders no longer respect President Obama because of his failure to lead.

"The only thing Putin respects is strength ... At this point the Russians are openly laughing at the president," Cruz, R-Texas, told the Washington Examiner.

Cruz added that Putin's aggressiveness was "a direct consequence" of the absence of American leadership in the world.

"The weakness and incoherent foreign policy of the Obama administration -- from President Obama, under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and under Secretary [John] Kerry -- has undermined our allies and has strengthened our enemies and put Putin in particular in a far stronger position," Cruz declared.
It's tough being an afterthought in the eyes of others...

The Uneducated Internet

Harry Reid blames the ignorance:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to explain the Obama administration's latest decision to extend a key ObamaCare deadline by saying people just "are not educated on how to use the Internet."

The explanation, which glossed over the myriad technical problems had for weeks after its October launch, came as the administration faced Republican criticism for a late-breaking decision to extend a looming deadline for some. Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act federal exchanges is set to end March 31, but the Department of Health and Human Services will let those who start the application process before that date have a bit more time to finish.

"We have hundreds of thousands of people who tried to sign up and they didn't get through," Reid said during a press conference, before describing the difficulties people have with the Internet in general.

"There are some people who are not like my grandchildren who can handle everything so easily on the Internet, and these people need a little extra time. ... The example they gave us is a 63-year-old woman came into the store and said, 'I almost got it. Every time I just about got there, it would cut me off.' We have a lot of people just like this through no fault of the Internet, but [because] people are not educated on how to use the Internet," he said.
But haven't the Democrats been relying on the uneducated for years?

Who Are You

Name that Senator-anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Bank Run

Wait until the real thing happens:
Savers feared the bank in Yancheng, a city in Sheyang county, had run out of money and soon hundreds of customers had rushed to its doors demanding the withdrawal of their money despite assurances from regulators and the central bank that their money was safe.

The panic in a corner of the coastal Jiangsu province north of Shanghai, while isolated, struck a raw nerve and won national airplay, possibly reflecting public anxiety over China's financial system after the country's first domestic bond default this month shattered assumptions the government would always step in to prevent institutions from collapsing.

Rumors also find especially fertile ground here after the failure last January of some less-regulated rural credit co-operatives.
Maybe it's time to re-think that whole state-owned thing?

Roll Away The Stone

This too shall pass:
Grossman’s pain-level was a 10 on a scale of 1-to-10, Allard said, and yet he fervently answered questions on everything from transgender rights and mandatory sex education to issues facing youth and aging members of the LGBTQ community.

Grossman has suffered chronic kidney stones, getting them on and off for the last 30 years, said Allard. He woke up in pain at 3:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, but she said he insisted on continuing with the day, which included attending GetKonnected’s Diversity Game Changer Awards ceremony after the forum ended.

Word of Grossman’s stone -- which has inspired a parody Twitter account -- spread via the micro-blogging website, as did the news that he finally passed the stone, sometime during the awards ceremony.

“I’m grateful that I made it out, but I know some of my fellow stones remain confined. We must #FreeTheStones! #mapoli,”@grossmansstone tweeted Wednesday morning.
Passed stones gather no moss...

The Office

Working for the First Lady is apparently not a happy place to be:
The First Lady’s office has become a “confining, frustrating, even miserable place to work,” according to Reid Cherlin, a former West Wing assistant press secretary, who provided a rare account of the inner workings of the East Wing department in an essay for The New Republic.

Cherlin, who worked for the Obamas from 2007 to 2011 but has since become a writer, dished about the First Lady’s high expectations and staffers’ sense that everything has to be just right.

“The First Lady having the wrong pencil skirt on Monday is just as big of a f--k-up as someone speaking on the record when they didn’t mean to or a policy initiative that completely failed,” Cherlin wrote, quoting an unnamed former colleague.
team Obama does have a record of bad metaphors, at that...

Union League

Are you ready for some unionized college football?
NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr cited the players’ time commitment to their sport and the fact their scholarships were tied directly to their performance as reasons for granting them union rights…

CAPA attorneys argued that college football is, for all practical purposes, a commercial enterprise that relies on players’ labor to generate billions of dollars in profits. That, they contend, makes the relationship of schools to players one of employers to employees.

In its endeavor to have college football players be recognized as essential workers, CAPA likened scholarships to employment pay — too little pay from its point of view. Northwestern balked at that claim, describing scholarship as grants.

Giving college athletes employee status and allowing them to unionize, critics have argued, could hurt college sports in numerous ways — including by raising the prospects of strikes by disgruntled players or lockouts by athletic departments.
They'd better enjoy it while they can...

Farm Talk

This is Bruce Braley, running against his opponent, who happens to be from a farm state:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Presidential Drinking Detail

You think they would have learned by now:
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan confirmed Tuesday evening that the agency “did send three employees home for disciplinary reasons” and that they were put on administrative leave pending an investigation. Donovan declined to comment further.

According to two people familiar with the Amsterdam incident, the three are members of the Secret Service’s Counter Assault Team, known in the agency as CAT.

The alleged behavior would violate Secret Service rules ­adopted in the wake of a damaging scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, in April 2012, when a dozen agents and officers had been drinking heavily and had brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms before the president’s arrival for an economic summit.
At least these guys seem to have been drinking alone...

Robot Beat

The rise of the robo-reporters:
According to Singularity Hub’s Jason Dorrier, Professor Hammond, “thinks some 90% of the news could be written by computers by 2030.” And don’t think this will just be restricted to sports results or earthquakes. Hammond also believes that “a computer could write stories worthy of a Pulitzer Prize by 2017.”
This speaks to the increasingly redundant role of mainstream news reporters. Journalists working for the corporate press have abandoned their role as adversarial checks against the state to such a degree that they are now being replaced by computers.
Mainstream reporters have become so adept at merely regurgitating official narratives and echoing government talking points unchallenged that they are now being replaced by robots – and nobody is even noticing.
At least the robots have an excuse for being programmed...

Car Wars

Small business vs. big-city business:
Like the taxi and limo drivers they oversee, the regulators haven’t had to deal with disruptive technological change for decades. The committee was created to protect consumers, of course, but after all this time working exclusively with the industries they regulate, it’s not surprising to find something at work akin to what psychologists call Stockholm Syndrome.

And it may well be that the same technology that makes UberX possible has also become a far more effective regulator than out-of-touch regulators. Consumers, not bureaucrats, rate the quality of the vehicles and the rides, and do so at the time of service, not at random checkpoints. The smartphone calculates the cost of the ride and takes payment, reducing the opportunity for drivers to cheat the rules. Constantly-updated data lets everyone know where traffic is worse, and when there are more drivers than passengers, or visa-versa, optimizing the number of vehicles on the road not once every twenty-four years but in real time.
At least some people understand this.

The Stinking Dead

The smell of death is all around you:
The concoction is a mostly a combination of two appropriately named foul-smelling chemical compounds, putrescine and cadaverine, which coincidentally are emitted by decaying flesh. Add a dash of methanethiol, the molecule that produces the rotten egg smell, and you’ve got yourself a true stinker. And if you smell like a rotting corpse, says Burks, chances are good that zombies will pass you by for a fresher meal.

"This cologne is an evasive method, which when coupled with zombie mannerisms (as seen in ‘The Walking Dead’ or ‘Shaun of the Dead’), would be effective in avoiding a zombie attack when moving among a zombie horde. One could also wear it when casually waiting out the zombie apocalypse so as not to attract the attention of a roaming horde of zombies,” Burks told NBC News via email.
Look dead, smell dead...

The Honor Roll

One more time:
The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health-care plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline.

Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth. …

Administration officials said the accommodation is an attempt to prepare for a possible surge of people trying to sign up in the final days before the deadline. Such a flood could leave some people unable to get through the system.
Everyone gets a pass (again). Lucky us...

Save Our Subsidies

They want their cash back:
A coalition of biofuel advocacy organizations sent a letter Monday to the top tax lawmakers in the Senate urging them to renew expired tax credits that helped their industry.

The credits, which incentivized advanced biofuel production and infrastructure, expired Dec. 31, along with a slew of popular tax breaks.

“Advanced biofuel tax credits have allowed the biofuels industry to make great strides in reducing the cost of production and developing first-of-kind technologies to deploy the most innovative fuel in the world,” the groups said in their letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). …

Representatives of the Advanced Ethanol Council, the Advanced Biofuels Association, the Algae Biomass Organization, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, the National Biodiesel Board and the Renewable Fuels Association signed the letter.
How can you be a special interest without the interest?

Hobbled Hobby

Hobby Lobby goes back to Court:
Much of the challengers’ argument is centered on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which is aimed at preventing laws that substantially limit a person’s religious freedom. The law grew out of a conflict over whether two Native Americans could be dismissed from their jobs as drug counselors for using drugs in a religious ritual. The architects of the law said they intended it to be a protection of religious rights, not an excuse to foist religious principles on others.

Justice Ginsberg said it “seems strange” that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed by both parties, could have generated such support if lawmakers thought corporations would use it to enforce their own religious beliefs.

Justice Kagan added that the corporate challengers are taking an “uncontroversial law” like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and making it into something that would upend “the entire U.S. code,” since companies would be able to object on religious grounds to laws on sex discrimination, minimum wage, family leave and child labor.
But what if you're a "corporate challenger" trying to fight against discrimination-which is what I thought Hobby Lobby was doing?

Water, Water, Everywhere

Don't cross the EPA's streams:
In what critics are describing as a government land grab, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a change Tuesday to the Clean Water Act that would give it regulatory authority over temporary wetlands and waterways.

The proposal immediately sparked concerns that the regulatory power could extend into seasonal ponds, streams and ditches, including those on private property.

"The ... rule may be one of the most significant private property grabs in U.S. history," said Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The EPA proposal would apply pollution regulations to the country's so-called "intermittent and ephemeral streams and wetlands" -- which are created during wet seasons, or simply after it rains, but are temporary.
Better watch out for those puddles...

The Robot Class

Why unions and wage protesters are increasingly nervous:
Based on a 2013 paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne of Oxford, occupations in the U.S. that pay at or near the minimum wage — that’s about one of every six workers in the U.S. — are much more susceptible to “computerization,” or as defined by the authors, “job automation by means of computer-controlled equipment.” The researchers considered a time frame of 20 years, and they measured whether such jobs could be computerized, not whether these jobs will be computerized. The latter involves assumptions about economic feasibility and social acceptance that go beyond mere technology.

The minimum-wage occupations that Frey and Osborne think are most vulnerable include, not surprisingly, telemarketers, sales clerks and cashiers. But also included are occupations that employ a large share of the low-wage workforce, such as waiters and waitresses, food-preparation workers and cooks. If the computerization of these low-wage jobs becomes feasible, and if employers find it economical to invest in such labor-saving technology, there will be huge implications for the U.S. labor force.
Yes, you can be replaced, and it will be partly your fault...

There Goes The Judge

Hey Joe, where you gonna run to now?
The star of the television show “Judge Joe Brown” has been arrested and charged with five counts of contempt of court in Tennessee, court officials in Memphis said Monday.
Shelby County Juvenile Court officials said the 66-year-old Brown was sentenced to five days in jail after causing an outburst Monday in a child support hearing. Brown is running in the Democratic primary for Shelby County district attorney general.
Magistrate Judge Harold “Hal” Horne charged the former TV judge with contempt of court, said Dan Michael, chief magistrate judge of the Shelby County Juvenile Court.
“He darn near caused a riot in the courtroom, he had people so inflamed,” Michael said of the former TV judge.
Maybe he was looking for the cameras...

Brothers Backfire

Going after the dreaded Koch Brothers doesn't seem to have worked out so well:
After months (years, even) of vilification, the brothers’ negative numbers (25 percent) are actually less horrible than those of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who gets thumbs down from 35 percent, or the president who draws a negative reaction from 49 percent of voters. This only highlights how daft is the scheme to run against two private citizens not on the ballot and largely anonymous. (The effort, of course, is more properly seen as a fundraising ruse and lame attempt to engage the Democratic base.) But, it’s all the Democrats have these days.
Careful, Democrats, your desperation is showing.

Gun Show

Don't try this at home:

“As well as the comedians and singers, part of a music hall programme would include dancing, acrobatics or aerial acts. Novelty acts came in all shapes and sizes and might include any of the aforementioned skills, but with some unusual twist to make them more sensational or, as in this case more dangerous – the rifles have bayonets attached.”

Money Makers

Where prosperity happens:
North Dakota has recorded the highest personal income growth among all states for the sixth time in the last seven years.

Statistics released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicated that the state's personal income grew 7.6 percent in 2013. Utah ranked behind North Dakota with a 4 percent growth.

The federal report tied the state's income to various business sectors including agriculture, construction and energy development.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple says the report shows that the state's efforts to create jobs and career opportunities are getting results.
Blue states, take notice...

Air For Sale

How about a drink of fresh air?
Product manager Long Peng said: ‘The air in Tianmu mountain is so fresh that negative oxygen ion is 3,300 per cubic centimetre, much higher than the normal level.

‘The problem is that there are not enough negative ions in daily life. All the modern things we have generate an overabundance of positive ions that make us feel tired, depressed and irritable.’

The inspiration for the idea reportedly came from tourist shops near Mount Fuji in Japan, where cans of fresh air have been a huge success.
Well, it worked for President Skroob:

Waiting For The Change

Looking for that Obamacare bounce:
Congressional leaders and senior White House advisers have been saying since 2010 that public opinion will turn their way sometime soon. Be patient, they have told anxious members of their party again and again.

“I think as people learn about the bill, and now that the bill is enacted, it’s going to become more and more popular,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in March 2010. “So I predict ... by November those who voted for healthcare will find it an asset, those who voted against it will find it a liability.”
“I think that [the Affordable Care Act] over time, is going to become more popular,” David Axelrod, then a senior adviser to President Obama, declared on the same show in September of that year. Two months later, Democrats ceded six Senate seats and 63 House seats to Republicans.

ObamaCare helped catapult Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) to the speakership of the House, and demolished dozens of Democratic political careers.

Democrats now face the prospect of a second midterm drubbing in 2014, and the healthcare law is even more unpopular than it was last time around.

According to a Pew survey released last week, 53 percent of the public disapproves of the Affordable Care Act, with only 41 percent saying they approve. Opinions were split almost evenly in the fall of 2010 before the Republican wave election, which Obama called a “shellacking.”
Yep, still waiting...

Lessons Learned

Indiana drops Common Core:
The state began moving away from Common Core last year, when Indiana lawmakers "paused" its implementation. This year, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a measure requiring the State Board of Education to draft new benchmarks for students.

The draft for those standards, put out for review last month, has already drawn skepticism from Common Core critics, including an analyst hired by Pence to assess the new program. That analyst, retired University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky, says the proposal is just too similar to Common Core.

Stotsky released an internal Indiana Department of Education report that found that more than 70 percent of the standards for sixth through 12th grade are directly from Common Core, and about 20 percent are edited versions of the national standards. About 34 percent of English standards for kindergarten through fifth grade were taken straight from the national standards, and an additional 13 percent were edited.

Stotsky called the proposal a "grand deception." The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on it on April 28.

"It makes a fool of the governor," Stotsky said. "The governor is being embarrassed by his own Department of Education if the final version is too close to Common Core."
Familiarity breeds suspicion...

Who Lost Crimea?

According to Harry Reid, it was those evil Republicans:
The Nevada Democrat's charge came despite widespread bipartisan support for providing Ukraine with much-needed economic assistance and hitting Putin's government with sanctions. And GOP Senate aides noted the House has passed different legislation, meaning the Senate bill could not have become law before recess anyhow. They blamed Reid and Democrats for blocking the Senate from taking up the House legislation.

Reid "sounds completely unhinged," fired back Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "The House has acted, and is continuing to act, in a reasonable and responsible way to give the White House the tools it needs to hold President Putin accountable."
Putin shouldn't worry. Harry will find some way to blame the Republicans for whatever happens next...

Earth Red

There are those who believe that life here began out there:
Scientists originally discounted the theory that planets around M dwarfs could be habitable because the stars give out such little light and heat, compared to our sun.

However, in 2005, astronomers began searching for habitable planets around these dim stars.

The planet recently discovered by Nasa’s Ames Research Centre is what’s called a goldilocks planet, orbiting around an M1 dwarf.

Goldilocks are planets that orbit inside a star’s habitable zone - a zone in which proximity to the host star is a certain distance that temperatures on the surface are suitable for water to appear.
So if we ever go there, will the planet's three bears show up?

Hollywood And The 'Hood

John Singleton goes after Hollywood liberals:
"They ain't letting the black people tell the stories," the Oscar-nominated director-writer told students at Loyola Marymount University, expanding on a theme he addressed in a Dec. 18 Hollywood Reporter op-ed piece. "[Studio executives say] 'We're going to take your stories but, you know what? You're going to go starve over here and we're not going to let you get a job.' The so-called liberals that are in Hollywood now are not as good as their parents or ancestors. They feel that they're not racist. They grew up with hip-hop, so [they] can't be racist. ‘I like Jay Z, but that don't mean I got to give you a job.' "

He added: "They want black people [to be] what they want them to be. And nobody is man enough to go and say that. They want black people to be who they want them to be, as opposed to what they are. The black films now — so-called black films now — they're great. They're great films. But they're just product. They're not moving the bar forward creatively. … When you try to make it homogenized, when you try to make it appeal to everybody, then you don't have anything that's special."
But they all supported Barack Obama! How can they be racist?

The Barricades

Europeans aren't feeling the welfare state:
With jobless rates still high in many countries across the European Union, entrepreneurship could help ease unemployment in some of these nations by opening up new sectors of economic activity that stimulate job creation. However, majorities in many EU countries -- including nearly all Italians and Greeks -- say their government makes it difficult to start a business, potentially discouraging entrepreneurship where it is needed most.

While residents in most EU countries are more likely to feel the government makes it hard, rather than easy, to start a business, this perception is particularly troublesome to future growth in countries such as Greece and Spain, where unemployment is not expected to drop much lower than 26% this year. New jobs in these and several other European countries will largely need to come from the private sector after austerity measures forced some of the deepest public-sector job cuts in a generation.
Austerity as the mother of privatization?

Shields Down

They've been that way for a while:
New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” The administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting,” Risen said, to “create a path for accepted reporting.” Anyone journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, “will be punished.”

The administration’s aggressive prosecutions have created “a de facto Official Secrets Act,” Risen said, and the media has been “too timid” in responding.
Shut up, they said-and the press did...

The Boss's Bosses

Ready for some uninvited guests?
SEIU and other labor unions can accompany the government inspectors on site visits due to a quiet and contested Obama administration rule clarification issued last year in response to a request from a union representative.

SEIU agents recently accompanied an inspector from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the Department of Labor, on three visits to nonunion work sites under contract with the Houston-based janitorial company Professional Janitorial Services (PJS).

The union representatives are allowed to accompany OSHA to nonunion work sites due to an Obama administration rule clarification that was accused in congressional testimony of violating federal laws.
They just need to "double check..."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Free Hate On Campus

Yes, you can be prosecuted:
Miller-Young led a small mob that approached a group of pro-life demonstrators who were holding signs. The mob chanted “tear down the sign.” Miller-Young then grabbed one of the signs and stormed off with it, eventually engaging in a physical altercation with 16-year-old Short, one of the pro-life demonstrators, when Short tried to retrieve the stolen sign.

The confrontation took place in the university’s designated “free speech area.”

The 3 by 5 foot sign contained graphic images of aborted fetuses as well as statistics and facts about abortion. The scuffle left the 16-year-old Short with visible scars and scratches on her arms.

Even though she injured the teenager, Miller-Young defended her actions and told police she felt morally justified. She told police that images of aborted fetuses “triggered” her to act the way she did, and that she felt she had set a good example for her students by physically confronting the teenage demonstrator.

Nevertheless, authorities warned that her actions constituted vandalism, battery, and robbery.

Late last week, Santa Barbara officials announced that Miller-Young is being prosecuted for misdemeanor theft, battery, and vandalism in connection with her assault on Ms. Short.
Free speech for me, beat-downs for thee...

Penalty Box

Rush Limbaugh explains why the media got it wrong on Matt Drudge:
They called him a liar. They told him he didn't know what he was talking about. Mainstream media reporters! The White House jumped all over Drudge with their agents on Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the mainstream media. They said that Drudge was lying to embarrass Obama, that Drudge didn't know what he was talking about, that Drudge was stupid and that you don't have to pay your Obamacare penalty until 2015 because it's been delayed for a year.

Matt Drudge pointed out, "No, not for us. I have to pay my 2015 taxes starting in April of 2014," and they can't understand this. It is amazing the degree of ignorance. He has talked to three or four of these people in person. The last one he talked to has admitted that he's probably not lying but that he still doesn't have to do what he's doing. The fact of the matter is, when you file your taxes next April for this year, in 2015 for 2014, everybody will have to pay the penalty.

It's on the IRS website, and still the media is running around calling Drudge a liar. Drudge is abiding by the law. They are calling him a liar; they're accusing him of trying to damage Obama. He is now referring to them as "The Obama Media." "Additionally," ladies and gentlemen, "the IRS form (1040-ES) for estimating quarterly taxes..." The ES there is for "estimates," for those of you in Rio Linda.

"Additionally, the IRS form (1040-ES) for estimating quarterly taxes specifically recommends adding the mandate penalty to line 12 for 'other taxes' -- to pay before the first quarterly deadline of April 15. 'It is true that thousands of small businesses will be forced to pay Obamacare taxes quarterly in 2014,' a Senate Budget Committee aide told Breitbart News on Friday afternoon."
So, who's lying now?

Where The Paper Trail Ends

The strange lost world of the last paper pushers:
This is one of the weirdest workplaces in the U.S. government — both for where it is and for what it does.

Here, inside the caverns of an old Pennsylvania limestone mine, there are 600 employees of the Office of Personnel Management. Their task is nothing top-secret. It is to process the retirement papers of the government’s own workers.

But that system has a spectacular flaw. It still must be done entirely by hand, and almost entirely on paper.

The existence of a mine full of federal paperwork is not well known: Even within the federal workforce, it is often treated as an urban legend, mythic and half-believed. “That crazy cave,” said Aneesh Chopra, who served as President Obama’s chief technology officer.

But the mine is real, and the process inside it belongs to a stubborn class of government problem: old breaking points, built-in mistakes that require vital bureaucracies to waste money and busy workers to waste time.
Some dinosaurs don't die-especially government-run ones...

The Good Divide

Washington's politics are not America's:
A USA TODAY/Bipartisan Policy Center poll taken this month, the fourth in a year-long series, shows no change in the overwhelming consensus that U.S. politics have become more divided in recent years.

But sentiments have shifted significantly during the past year about whether the nation's unyielding political divide is a positive or a negative. In February 2013, Americans said by nearly 4-1 that the heightened division is a bad thing because it makes it harder to get things done.

In the new poll, the percentage who describe the divide as bad has dropped by nearly 20 percentage points, to 55% from 74%. And the number who say it's a good thing — because it gives voters a real choice — has doubled to 40% from 20%.

"Honestly, I feel like Congress is designed to be slow, so it could be frustrating but that's how they are designed to be," Gage Egurrola, 23, a salesman from Caldwell, Idaho, who was among those surveyed. "It helps stop bad policies."

Shar Wright, 65, of Bodfish, Calif., disagrees. "I think this is the new normal, and I think it's terrible," she says. "They're putting their own agendas first and they should be voting on what the people want and what the country needs. What we need is a lot more care, a lot more concern and a lot less of tomfoolery."

The shift in public opinion toward Egurrola's view may reflect broadening acceptance of Washington's polarization as an inevitable fact of life. Skepticism about the government's ability to solve big problems, fueled by concerns about the Affordable Care Act, could play a part as well. It sets a landscape that could boost Republicans in the November elections, minimizing the impact of Democratic charges that GOP forces have been obstructionist.

Now, Americans say it's more important for their representative in Congress to stop bad laws than to pass new ones. On that, there is no partisan divide: 54% of Republicans and 51% of Democrats say blocking bad laws should be their priority.
The less they do, the better off we are...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Social Game Theory

Getting rid of politically incorrect gaming:
A central theme for several talks at this week's Game Developers Conference has been how to deal with the abuse generated by a small segment of gamers. BioWare's Manveer Heir says he wants the industry to stop being scared of challenging the most outspoken and vituperative members of the gaming community. His GDC talk focused on 'misogyny, sexism, racism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia and other types of social injustice.' He said, 'We should use the ability of our medium to show players the issues first-hand, or give them a unique understanding of the issues and complexities by crafting game mechanics along with narrative components that result in dynamics of play that create meaning for the player in ways that other media isn't capable of.' Meanwhile, Adam Orth, who became the center of an internet hatestorm last year after an offhand comment about always-online DRM, said game developers should make an effort to encourage their playerbase to behave in a more civilized manner.
Remember, when you shoot the zombies, don't be prejudiced...

No Hackers Near Her

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