Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Poor Man's Con

How Obamacare is a big scam against the poor:
Americans who participate in government-brokered medical insurance can get subsidies from the federal treasury if their households earn less than four times the government’s official ‘poverty’ level. That situation describes 64 per cent of all U.S. residents, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But far more are qualifying, suggesting that the Obamacare subscriber base is dramatically tilted toward low-income earners.

And as poor Americans depend inreasingly on handouts to manage their monthly health insurance bills, the U.S. Supreme Court could be months away from invalidating the entire subsidy system that supports the 34 states that chose not to run their own Obamacare marketplaces… Insurers are bracing for the possibility that 87 per cent of their new customers in the 34 states without insurance exchanges could suddenly find Obamacare policies financially out of reach – leading to lapsed premiums and a systemwide collapse.
If you're too poor to afford health coverage, you won't be able to keep what little you were promised...

Pay Up Or Lockup?

Are we returning to the era of debtor's prisons?

Trees Heart Carbon

Trees actually like emissions:
As emissions add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, forests worldwide are using it to grow faster.

However, the rate at which they absorb this has been hard to estimate with many studies producing contradictory results.

As many rainforests consist of mature trees that are often hundreds of years old, they were not thought to absorb much carbon dioxide.

Young fast growing trees tend to absorb more carbon dioxide as they use the carbon as they grow.
Do environmentalists want to stunt a young tree's growth?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Billions Poorly Spent

So who spent the most on their candidates in 2014?
Out of all the billionaires who donated money to causes or campaigns for the midterms, the top two were Democrats and they outspent everyone else on the list, combined. David Koch isn't even near the top.

Billionaire Tom Steyer's pet issue is global warming. With the amount of money Steyer spent, a whopping $74.3 million, and the results he received in return, he got trounced. Michael Bloomberg has of course been focused on gun control. Neither one of these topics is popular with the majority of American voters and the results of the election, a Republican landslide, prove it.
Was it worth it?


Here's one more blast from the past from Jonathan Gruber:
“The problem is it starts to go hand in hand with the mandate; you can’t mandate insurance that’s not affordable. This is going to be a major issue,” Gruber admitted in an October 2, 2009 lecture, the transcript of which comprised the policy brief.

“So what’s different this time? Why are we closer than we’ve ever been before? Because there are no cost controls in these proposals. Because this bill’s about coverage. Which is good! Why should we hold 48 million uninsured people hostage to the fact that we don’t yet know how to control costs in a politically acceptable way? Let’s get the people covered and then let’s do cost control.”

Gruber also said that the only way to control costs is to effectively deny treatment.

“The real substance of cost control is all about a single thing: telling patients they can’t have something they want. It’s about telling patients, ‘That surgery doesn’t do any good, so if you want it you have to pay the full cost.’”

“There’s no reason the American health care system can’t be, ‘You can have whatever you want, you just have to pay for it.’ That’s what we do in other walks of life. We don’t say everyone has to have a large screen TV. If you want a large screen TV, you have to pay for it. Basically the notion would be to move to a level where everyone has a solid basic insurance level of coverage. Above that people pay on their own, without tax-subsidized dollars, to buy a higher level of coverage.”

And despite the president’s pitches to the contrary, Obama also knew that his health care bill was unlikely to control costs, Gruber said.

“I wish that President Obama could have stood up and said, ‘You know, I don’t know if this bill is going to control costs. It might, it might not. We’re doing our best. But let me tell you what it’s going to do…” Gruber said on a San Francisco podcast in 2012.

“If he could make that speech? Instead, he says ‘I’m going to pass a bill that will lower your health care costs.’ That sells. Now, I wish the world was different. I wish people cared about the 50 million uninsured in America…But, you know, they don’t. And I think, once again, I’m amazed politically that we got this bill through.”
It was stupidity all the way down...

Lunch Is Over

A winning battle-against Michelle Obama's menu?
As the opening bell sounds for the 114th Congress, don’t be surprised to see GOP lawmakers take on school nutrition. The $1.1 trillion omnibus this month included provisions to allow states more flexibility to exempt schools from the Department of Agriculture’s whole-grain standards if they can show hardship and to halt future sodium restrictions

But that was only the opening salvo in the long-running fight over new reforms championed by first lady Michelle Obama.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, has been leading the charge on school lunch, along with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a key member of the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee. But their cause is about to be picked up by the House Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), and the Senate Agriculture Committee, chaired by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), as they begin work to reauthorize the law governing school nutrition programs.
The food fight begins anew...

Narrative Control

The year when facts didn't matter:
Perhaps the most prevalent narrative of the year was found in a mere gesture. Following the August death of African-American teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer, protesters adopted the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture, adopting the narrative that Brown was attempting to surrender when he was shot. Yet the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated that Brown attacked officer Darren Wilson in his squad car, then charged at Wilson in a second altercation before Wilson shot Brown to death.

Nonetheless, narrative trumped facts, and looters set Ferguson ablaze on the night the grand jury announced its decision to not charge Wilson with Brown's murder. Even after all the forensics and testimony were made available, the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture lived on in protests around the country. In essence, "hands up, don't shoot" became a stand-in for African-American distrust of police departments around the country; distrust intensified by the officer-instigated deaths of Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee.

Yet poor areas weren't the only place where the wish became the father of the facts. On college campuses, feminists pushed the "rape culture" narrative, trying to convince Americans that sexual assault on elite campuses was more prevalent than in violent Third World nations. President Barack Obama himself cited an extremely wobbly statistic that claims 20% of women on campus are victims of sexual assault; near the end of the year, the U.S Department of Justice reported that the number was more like 0.6%, and women were actually safer on college campuses than in society at large.

But the need for the campus rape narrative to be true was so intense that journalistic standards sometimes placed a distant second. In November, Rolling Stone published a widely praised article that claimed a grisly gang rape took place at a University of Virginia fraternity, causing the university to shut down all fraternity activity on campus. Soon, the story unraveled, but the narrative marched on. Feminists set fire to the straw men who criticized the story because they believe "rape doesn't happen." One Washington Post contributor wrote a column claiming that we should automatically believe rape claims, evidently believing "To Kill a Mockingbird" was a guidebook to ornithology.
The truth will out, but liberals refuse to listen...

Pay Up

Get ready:
The individual requirement to buy health insurance went into effect earlier this year. But this coming tax season is the first time all taxpayers will have to report to the IRS whether they had health insurance for the prior year.

The fines for the 2014 year were relatively modest -- $95 per person or 1 percent of household income (above the threshold for filing taxes), whichever is more.

But insurance scofflaws face a sharp increase if they don't get covered soon. The fine will jump in 2015 to $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is higher. By 2016, the average fine will be about $1,100, based on government figures.
You will pay what they want you to pay...

An Army Of Obamas

Get ready, America:
The OFA Fellows Program set a goal of training 10,000 new organizers to follow in the footsteps of Obama, according to a fundraising email the group sent out Sunday with the subject line “The next Barack Obama.”

“We take pride in the fact that the President of the United States got his start organizing the families affected by closed steel mills on Chicago’s South Side,” the OFA email stated. “This work isn’t just playing the long game, though — the whole idea is that these 10,000 folks will be working their tails off on the issue organizing we’re doing today.”

“And years from now, these are the same people who will be progressive leaders in their communities. Some will be elected officials, and — yeah — one may even go on to be the organizer-in-chief.”
Every cult needs recruiters...

Revenge Of The Geeks

It wasn't North Korea?
Researchers from the cyber intelligence company Norse have said their own investigation into the data on the Sony attack doesn’t point to North Korea at all and instead indicates some combination of a disgruntled employee and hackers for piracy groups is at fault.

The FBI says it is standing by its conclusions, but the security community says they’ve been open and receptive to help from the private sector throughout the Sony investigation.

Norse, one of the world’s leading cyber intelligence firms, has been researching the hack since it was made public just before Thanksgiving.
So much for the cyber war?

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Dangers Of Being Good

Why it's so hard to help someone these days:
Today, doing what’s right is often unlawful. This is not because of bad leaders, or polarized politics, but because of a governing structure that is fatally flawed. Sending reformers into this vast regulatory jungle with pairs of shears is a fool’s errand. There’s no way to prune this vast tangle. It has grown from a rotten root—striving to replace human judgment with detailed dictates.

It’s time to confront the incoherence of our legal utopia. Yes, humans are fallible, and often make errors. But millions of rules result in perpetual error, and, as a terminal side effect, make leadership and accomplishment illegal.
Can we stop the regulatory Frankenstein?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Clown Spooks

The NSA apparently once had a Clown Club:

That's right, there was a whole troupe of clowns at the NSA, until they "disbanded at some unknown date."

This is not to be confused with other government agency clown clubs, which are obviously still in operation...

Paving The Green

Why we should pave the rainforests:
The official line on this is that the high carbon emission we’re seeing are produced by burning of biomass associated with the current Southern Hemisphere planting season. But there are two features of the data that make this rather obvious nonsense.

1. The tropical high-emission areas are much larger than the regions where slash-and-burn agriculture is practiced, and they’re the wrong shape – that is, not a core with a plume trailing in the direction of prevailing winds. The African one is especially problematic – if that was produced by biomass combustion it would extend north to the edge of the Sahel.

2. See that one dense area over northern China? That is totally in the wrong location to be associated with the rainforest biomes in the SW of the country, and it isn’t planting season there anyway. That can’t be burning biomass, it has to be Chinese industrial emissions or something else we don’t understand.

So the big Southern hemisphere emission areas are probably just plants normally exhaling CO2, and in the process dwarfing the CO2 emissions of all humans everywhere except northern China. Oops, how embarrassing for the religion of AGW.
But climate change doctrine insists that humans be responsible. Maybe people are growing too many trees?

Final Mission

The American phase of the war in Afghanistan officially ends:
The 13-year occupation by the United States and its NATO allies started with airstrikes against Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors after the 9-11 terror attacks and ended Sunday with a ceremony at the joint-military headquarters in Kabul.

As part of the ceremony, Gen. John Campbell, commander of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, rolled up and sheathed the green-and-white ISAF flag and unfurled the flag of the new international mission, called Resolute Support.

"Resolute Support will serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership" between NATO and Afghanistan, Campbell told an audience of Afghan and international military officers and officials, as well as diplomats and journalists.

The passing of 2014 will not see the complete departure of American soldiers from Afghanistan, as the ISAF will transition to a supporting role with 13,500 soldiers, almost 11,000 of them American, starting Jan. 1.
It's been a long road, but part of it is ending. Godspeed for the New Year.


Who could have foreseen this coming?
The Affordable Care Act provided a big increase in Medicaid payments for primary care in 2013 and 2014. But the increase expires on Thursday — just weeks after the Obama administration told the Supreme Court that doctors and other providers had no legal right to challenge the adequacy of payments they received from Medicaid.

The impact will vary by state, but a study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, estimates that doctors who have been receiving the enhanced payments will see their fees for primary care cut by 43 percent, on average.

Stephen Zuckerman, a health economist at the Urban Institute and co-author of the report, said Medicaid payments for primary care services could drop by 50 percent or more in California, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, among other states.
If you like your Medicaid doctor, you may not be able to keep your Medicaid doctor...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Weighing England By The Pound

In the UK, you can now be too fat:
Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, said it was time for Britain to "get back in shape" in order to protect millions of people from a host of obesity-related diseases.
Under the scheme, family doctors will be asked to identify anyone who has gained weight and is at risk of diabetes – particularly those aged below 40.
They will then be offered tests for pre-diabetes, followed by healthy lifestyle advice and close monitoring to ensure they are eating better and exercising more.
It comes as new figures show Britain is now the second fattest nation in Europe, with almost 25 per cent of Britons classified as obese - compared with a European average of 16.7 per cent.
You will lose weight, or the Nanny State will do it for you...

That Smell

What does a famous dead person smell like?
Visitors to the Museum of the Image in the Netherlands with a sense of the morbid are invited to lie in a series of four silver metal boxes similar to those found in a morgue.

The boxes, which are pitch-dark inside, are rigged with pipes leading to bottles containing pressurised smells.

A soundtrack is played and different scents are released into the box to recreate a specific 'final moment'.

For about five minutes, visitors can relive the smells and sounds believed to have surrounded four people whose deaths are etched into the world's collective memory: Kennedy (1963); Diana, Princess of Wales (1997); Muammar Gaddafi (2011) and Houston (2012).
The rich and famous (and infamous) smell different from the rest of us...

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Drink A Day

I don't drink, but maybe I should start experimenting:
The tightly controlled study, which looked at individuals between ages 55 and 65, spanned a 20-year period and accounted for variables ranging from socioeconomic status to level of physical activity. Led by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin, it found that mortality rates were highest for those who had never had a sip, lower for heavy drinkers, and lowest for moderate drinkers who enjoyed one to three drinks per day.
Science marches on...


Why did the IRS freeze Christine O'Donnell's accounts again?
Ms. O’Donnell told The Washington Times that she discovered the levy when she couldn’t access her checking account as she was preparing to visit relatives over Thanksgiving.

“The day before I was heading out of town for the Thanksgiving weekend, my bank told me the IRS had frozen my accounts. They didn’t give me a reason why, just a phone number to call,” Ms. O’Donnell said in an interview this week.

She said she called the Internal Revenue Service and was told the agency had concluded she owed $30,000 in taxes from a 2008 house transaction, which was long ago accounted for on her federal returns. She said she implored the agency to check her tax records and eventually was told the levy was generated in error and her accounts would be freed up.

Although IRS officials removed the levy, they first withdrew all the funds from her account. They said that, too, was in error and the funds would be returned to her. The funds have not been replaced, Ms. O’Donnell said.
The spirit of intimidation past?

Going Under In Iowa

In Iowa, another Obamacare "success story":
The Iowa Insurance Division announced Wednesday that Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart was taking over CoOpportunity Health, a struggling cooperative that sprouted out of the Affordable Care Act.

A local court had granted Gerhart's request to be appointed as "rehabilitator" of the nonprofit, after the state warned of its "hazardous financial condition." Gerhart now has the authority to manage the company -- and either restructure it or have its assets liquidated.

Gerhart told customers that those who enrolled before Dec. 15 and make their premium payments can keep their insurance.

But anyone who signed up Dec. 16 or later will not have coverage and now must enroll in other plans to stay insured. Further, if CoOpportunity Health goes under, a government safety net could protect those left holding their policies. However, the coverage "may be limited," the state warned. And Gerhart is advising that most of the 120,000 CoOpportunity Health policyholders in Iowa and Nebraska "may find it in their best interests" to find new carriers by Feb. 15 -- the deadline for open enrollment for 2015 coverage.

CoOpportunity Health will no longer offer its policies through Iowa's online marketplace, either.

For critics of the law, Wednesday's announcement was more evidence of the ACA's problems.

"Here in Iowa, we were promised more [choices] and lower premiums, yet now we learn that one of two [companies] responsible for providing affordable insurance can't provide what the law promises," Drew Klein, director of the Iowa chapter of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, said.
Single payer! Oh, wait...

Driver's Court

In Saudi Arabia, the fear of women drivers reaches new lows:
The Specialized Criminal Court, to which their cases were referred, was established in the capital, Riyadh, to try terrorism cases but has also tried and given long prison sentences to a number of human rights workers, peaceful dissidents, activists and critics of the government.

Human Rights Watch recently warned that the “Saudi authorities are ramping up their crackdown on people who peacefully criticize the government on the Internet.” It said that judges and prosecutors are using “vague provisions of a 2007 anti-cybercrime law” to charge and try Saudi citizens for peaceful messages posted online.

This is the first time women detained for driving have been referred to the court, activists said.
Our "allies" at work...

The Dirty Details

A lawsuit reveals NSA violations:
The reports detail violations including instances of communications to, from or about people in the U.S. being “inadvertently targeted or collected” by agency analysts. Some resemble violations previously reported by The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations following disclosures of NSA programs by former contractor Edward Snowden.

Among other incidents, the reports list “overly broad or poorly constructed data queries that potentially targeted” U.S. persons, improper handling of data, and information about Americans being improperly disseminated in reports. “U.S. persons” is a category that includes citizens, permanent residents, companies incorporated in the U.S. and unincorporated organizations to which a “substantial number” of Americans belong.
Spy on 'em all, let God sort it out...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Holiday Film Fun

Yes, it is a Christmas movie:
The film begins with “Jingle Bell Rock” and ends with a family united around a Christmas tree. But don’t worry: Danny Glover and Mel Gibson spare the sentimentality when they’re shooting bad guys or griping with one another.

I Eat Explorers

Now you know:
In 2007, filmmaker Fraser C. Heston (son of Charlton) discovered a lost cache of 16 mm film shot by Milt Machlin, the editor of Argosy magazine who coined the phrases “Bermuda Triangle” and “the Abominable Snowman.”

The footage was taken during Machlin’s expedition to the New Guinea in 1969 in search of the lost scion, inspired by an eyewitness report that Michael Rockefeller was alive and being held against his will by stone-age savages.
But did he taste like chicken? (Inspiration for this post's title here.)

Don't Be A Holiday Ass

Somebody really doesn't like Christmas:
“Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” the man shouted before brushing past her.
Once on the plane, he was warmly greeted by a flight attendant who also wished him a “merry Christmas.” That was the last straw.
“Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” the man raged before lecturing the attendants and the pilot about their faux pas.
The crew tried to calm the unidentified man, but he refused to back down and continued hectoring them.

He was escorted off the plane as other fliers burst into cheers and applause.
And he didn't even get a lump of coal...

Monkey Shines

A monkey aves its companion:
The injured monkey had fallen between the tracks, apparently after touching high-tension wires at the train station in the north Indian city of Kanpur.

His companion came to the rescue and was captured on camera lifting the friend's motionless body, shaking it, dipping it into a mud puddle and biting its head and skin - working until the hurt monkey regained consciousness.

The first monkey, completely covered in mud, opened its eyes and began moving again.
Planet of the EMTs?

Blogging In The Years: 1968

The crew of Apollo 8 wish the people of Earth a Merry Christmas:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Broke Diplomats Abroad

Why North Korean diplomats are broke:
Why these diplomats are penniless is the subject of another, overlapping Colin Freeman story that appears in the same issue of the Telegraph. Pyongyang, he writes, expects all North Korean embassies to be "self-financing." The result is that North Korean officials in other countries have been "arrested for using their diplomatic status to run bootlegging and drug-dealing rackets." An impressive case occurred in 1976, when the North Korean embassy in Denmark tried to import 2.5 million cigarettes "for personal consumption.
Even diehard Communists need to make a living...

Thus Falls Marduro

Venezuela's socialist experiment ends pretty much as expected:
Venezuela still boasts some of the world’s largest known crude reserves, but it has continued for too long spending more on government programs than it has collected in oil revenue, analysts say. The average price of oil has dropped from more than $100 a barrel to less than $60 during recent weeks, only adding to Venezuela’s woes.

Simply put, the “current situation in Venezuela is unsustainable if the price continues to fall,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy research group in Washington. “You can debate what a failed state is and what it looks like, but Venezuela can’t continue like this.”
Communist states never do...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cool Science

Global warming is actually a good thing, says...President Obama's science adviser:
“We know beyond any reasonable doubt that humans are the main cause of the warming of the earth’s climate that has been measured over the past few decades. The warming is unequivocal.

“While the climate of the earth has changed over the millennia as a result of natural factors – principally changes in the tilt and orientation of the earth’s axis and rotation, and in the shape of its orbit around the sun – those changes occur far too gradually to have noticeable effects over a period of mere decades. In their current phases, moreover, they would be gradually cooling the earth – taking us to another ice age – if they weren’t being more than offset by human-caused warming.”
More human activity, please...

French Twisted

Merry Christmas from French feminists:
According to The Telegraph, French feminist group FièrEs have secretly inserted pamphlets inside children’s toys from plastic guns to Barbie dolls issuing a warning that “this toy is sexist.”

“We targeted games that are emblematic of boy-girl stereotypes,” Delphine Asian, a legal representative for the feminist group, told The Telegraph. “We have caused no damage or ripped any plastic. We simply slipped the message in boxes, or in books.”

“Around 500” of such pamphlets were inserted into a range of toys in about a dozen shops in Paris, according to The Telegraph. The pamphlets requests parents sign a petition and send it to those "responsible."
Le blame, le blame!

The Christmas Dead

No zombies for Christmas:
"I wanted a Nativity and I worked with what I had," Jasen Dixon, who manages a nearby haunted house, told Fox 19. "The neighbors don't like it. My father hates it and anything bad that happens he blames it on that."

The Nativity scene features life-size figures and a zombie baby Jesus, with pale skin and pure white eyes. At night, the figures are illuminated by red and green lights.

"I didn't really pay it any attention until the different color lights came on, then finally the baby was put in the manger," Dan Fluker, a neighbor, told the station.

According to documents obtained by Fox 19, Sycamore Township, which is outside Cincinnati, does not allow structures to be located in the front or the side yard to occupy more than 35 percent of the area. Also, the primary structure must be 3 feet from the street, and 6 feet from the house.

Dixon, who manages 13 Rooms of Doom, says this is his second violation since the exhibit was put up. He indicated that his First Amendment right is being infringed upon due to the religious element.

"I've lived here for 15 years and I've never had a violation of any kind," Dixon said. "It's a holiday decoration. I know if it was a real pretty Nativity scene they wouldn't be saying anything."
Well, that depends on where you live these days...

High Times

A reporter accidentally inhales:

No More Fear

Sony will release The Interview, after all:
The release will likely be in the 200-theater range; exhibitors typically cap the rollout of films that offer day-and-date VOD at around 300 sites, because it usually cuts attendance significantly.

The studio announced the move Tuesday morning and issued this statement:

“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.

“I want to thank our talent on ‘The Interview’ and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month. While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”
Careful, you might make Kim mad...

Icky Thud

Yes, the IRS doesn't like conservatives:
One IRS employee called a conservative group “icky” while another griped that they would probably “have to” approve a different group’s application for nonprofit status, according to the latest findings Tuesday by the House Oversight Committee.

In a new staff report released by Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who is term-limited as chairman of the committee, investigators also found IRS officials had “repeatedly changed their stories” about what went on and who was responsible for targeting the conservative and tea party groups who applied for nonprofit status.

The different stories, and roadblocks erected by the tax agency, the White House and congressional Democrats have made it difficult to figure out exactly what went on in the agency as it was targeting tea party and conservative groups for improper scrutiny and delaying approval of their applications, the investigators said.
Suppression of dissent is really icky, too...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Be A Felon For Your Family

Oh, this is a good idea:
The 3-minute clip, posted by San Francisco-based independent film director Rejina Sincic, walking into his parents’ bedroom without their knowledge. He opens a drawer where he finds a gun and then takes it back to his room and stuffs it in his backpack.

He goes to school with the gun in his bag. When the class ends and the rest of his classmates have already left the room, he removes the gun from his bag, walks over to the teacher’s desk and, after startling her with the firearm, places it on her desk.

“Can you take this away? I don’t feel safe with a gun in my house,” the boy tells the teacher.
That depends, kid. Are you willing to be expelled and go to jail?

Hollywood Hitters

Just because you're paranoid:
Google is going after the major movie studios with guns blazing after learning of a secret legal campaign against it.

Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, said in a blog post Thursday that he is “deeply concerned” about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America is leading a “secret, coordinated campaign” to revive the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and block access to websites.

He noted that defending free expression is a founding principle of the MPAA. “Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?” he asked.

The allegations are based on recent news reports and leaked Hollywood executive emails from the hack of Sony Pictures.

Kate Bedingfield, a spokeswoman for the MPAA, called the blog post “shameful,” and argued that free speech is not a “license to steal.”
But it is a license to criticize. Maybe some of the folks in Hollywood deserved to get hacked...

Hometown Hunger Games

President Obama's home town dumps Michelle's menu:
Mundelein High School District 120 is officially dropping out of the National School Lunch Program, making it at least the second one in the Chicago area to do so this school year.

Leaving the federal program allows the school “total flexibility to design the food service to our students’ needs,” Superintendent Kevin Myers tells the Daily Herald.

According to district leaders, lunch sales have fallen about 6 percent since last school year. The school has about 2,000 students enrolled.

Despite giving up the tighter “healthy” restrictions championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, the school will not be giving up on quality or the healthiness of lunches.

“Nutrition and good choices would also be a significant component of the wellness committee’s work,” business manager Andy Searle says. The committee with be tasked with creating new rules.
I assume actually making them edible will be one?

Cops, Iraq Style?

Watcha gonna do when they come for you?
"In the Grip of the Law," brings convicted terrorists face-to-face with victims in surreal encounters and celebrates the country's beleaguered security forces. The show, produced by state-run Iraqiyya TV, is among dozens of programs, cartoons and musical public service announcements aimed at shoring up support for the troops after their humiliating defeat last summer at the hands of the Islamic State group, which now controls about a third of the country.

On a chilly, overcast day last week, the crew arrived at the scene of one of the attacks for which Motar was convicted, with a heavily armed escort in eight military pick-up trucks and Humvees. Passing cars clogged the road to watch the drama unfold, but were quickly shooed away by soldiers.

After being pulled from an armored vehicle, a shackled Motar found himself face-to-face with the seething relatives of the victims of the attack. "Give him to me — I'll tear him to pieces," one of the relatives roared from behind a barbed wire barrier.

A cameraman pinned a microphone on Motar's bright yellow prison jumpsuit as he stood alongside a busy Baghdad highway looking bewildered by his surroundings.

"Say something," the cameraman said to him.

"What am I supposed to say?" a visibly panicked Motar asked.

"It's a mic check! Just count: 1,2,3,4..."
No rehearsal required...

North Korea Down

North Korea goes even darker:
North Korea’s already tenuous links to the Internet went completely dark on Monday after days of instability, in what Internet monitors described as one of the worst North Korean network failures in years. …

Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, an Internet performance management company, said that North Korean Internet access first became unstable late Friday. The situation worsened over the weekend, and by Monday, North Korea’s Internet was completely offline.

“Their networks are under duress,” Mr. Madory said. “This is consistent with a DDoS attack on their routers,” he said, referring to a distributed denial of service attack, in which attackers flood a network with traffic until it collapses under the load.
Now Kim really ronery...

The Reign In Spain

Remember, they are our betters:
Princess Cristina, 49, and Urdangarin are among 17 people ordered to stand trial in the case involving his Noos Foundation charity, the High Court of the Balearic Islands said on Monday.

Cristina and her husband have both denied any wrongdoing.

Urdangarin has been charged with breach of legal duty, embezzling public funds, fraud, influence-peddling and money-laundering. The princess is accused of two tax crimes.
In America, the tax collectors only prosecute those who disagree with the government...

The End Of Al?

Years of race-baiting may have finally caught up with Al Sharpton and his ilk:
Civil rights leaders Sunday condemned the ambush killings of two New York police officers and expressed fear that the backlash over the bloodshed could derail the protest movement that has grown out of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner…

Similarly, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has called for peaceful protests, condemned “eye-for-an-eye” violence and called it absurd to blame protesters or politicians for the officers’ deaths.

“We are now under intense threat from those who are misguided – from those who are trying to blame everyone from civil rights leaders to the mayor rather than deal with an ugly spirit that all of us need to fight,” he said.

Sharpton added: “There are those of us committed to nonviolence and making the system work. And there are those committed to anarchy and recklessness who could care less about the families of police or the families who have raised questions about police accountability.”
There's no money in it for him, is the problem...

Payback, Please

Um, yeah:
The United States urged North Korea on Monday to admit it ordered a cyberattack on the Hollywood studio Sony Pictures and to pay for the damage it had caused.
"If they want to help here they could admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages that they caused," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
Washington accuses Pyongyang of being behind the hack that led to the release of embarrassing company emails and caused Sony executives to halt the debut of the comedy action film "The Interview."
Team Collection Agency?

Up Where We Belong

RIP Joe Cocker:
Cocker was known for his bluesy, gravely voice and skyrocketed to prominence with his cover of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which he performed at Woodstock in 1969.
In 1975, his song “You Are So Beautiful”, reached No 5. in the charts in the US. He also won a GRAMMY award in 1983 for his US No. 1 duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong.”

Born in Sheffield, England, Cocker started performing in various groups at a very young age. He formed the Grease Band in 1966, and later performed on TV shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show and This Is Tom Jones.

Known for his twitchy, erratic movements on stage, Cocker played SNL in 1976 and was playfully impersonated by John Belushi.
Here he is with a signature song:

The Color Of Journalism

TNR's new boss says his magazine will be, well, less white:
Snyder also announced a crew of new contributors to upcoming issues including Ann Friedman, Batya Ungar-Sargon, Cathy Park Hong, Inga Safron, Jazmine Hughes, Jeff Ball, Thomas Rogers, Jen Doll, William Giraldi and Jeet Heer. Snyder wrote that these new voices and experts will “be diverse in race, gender, and background.”

“As we build our editorial staff, we will reach out to talented journalists who might have previously felt unwelcome at The New Republic. If this publication is to be influential, and not merely survive, it can no longer afford to represent the views of one privileged class, nor appeal solely to a small demographic of political elites,” Snyder wrote.
Like the liberals who read the magazine?

Tribal Grass

Native American tribes debate growing their own weed:
Marijuana isn't tied to tribal culture, like tobacco commonly used in religious ceremonies, and any pot growing operation would run counter to the message that tribes have preached for decades that drugs and alcohol ruin lives, said Carl Artman, former U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs assistant secretary and member of the Oneida Tribe in Wisconsin.

"When you look at what tribes have to offer - from gaming to ecotourism to looking out over the Grand Canyon, just bringing people out on the reservation for art or culture - this is not one of the things they would normally want," Artman said. "It hearkens back to something that's archaic and stereotypical as opposed to what the modern day Indian is about."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Planet Of The Activists

In Argentina, an orangutan gets human rights:
In a landmark ruling that could pave the way for more lawsuits, the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) argued the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object.
The court agreed Sandra, born into captivity in Germany before being transferred to Argentina two decades ago, deserved the basic rights of a "non-human person."
"This opens the way not only for other Great Apes, but also for other sentient beings which are unfairly and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty in zoos, circuses, water parks and scientific laboratories," the daily La Nacion newspaper quoted AFADA lawyer Paul Buompadre as saying.
Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty lawyers?

King PB

It's the Elvis sandwich:

And, from the history of peanut butter:
The modern form of peanut butter was invented by Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal. According to Wikipedia, he was the first to patent peanut butter, in 1884. Peanut flour already existed. His cooled product had “a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment,” according to his patent application. He included the mixing of sugar into the paste in order to harden its consistency.

Edson, a pharmacist, developed the idea of peanut paste as a tasty and nutritious staple for people who could hardly chew on solid food, which was not uncommon back then. Peanut paste, according to Wikipedia, was initially sold for six cents per pound.

His U.S. patent described “a process of milling roasted peanuts until the peanuts reached a fluid or semi-fluid state.”

George Bayle, a snack-food maker in St. Louis, also started to make peanut butter in the 1890s.

John Harvey Kellogg, who served peanut butter to his patients at his Battle Creek Sanitarium, boiled his peanuts to make the product.

In 1923, Heinz became the first company to homogenize the product into the consistency we enjoy today.
And a fine one it is...

Liberalism In Retreat

Liberals are facing an epic existential crisis:
Shell-shocked liberals are beginning to grasp some inconvenient truths. No gun massacre is horrible enough to change Americans’ ideas about gun control. No UN Climate Report will get a climate treaty through the U.S. Senate. No combination of anecdotal and statistical evidence will persuade Americans to end their longtime practice of giving police officers extremely wide discretion in the use of force. No “name and shame” report, however graphic, from the Senate Intelligence Committee staff will change the minds of the consistent majority of Americans who tell pollsters that they believe that torture is justifiable under at least some circumstances. No feminist campaign will convince enough voters that the presumption of innocence should not apply to those accused of rape.
People just don't seem to want to think the way the Left wants them to...

Facepalm Book

In Russia, Facebook unfriends you:
Russian authorities convinced Facebook to shut off a page inviting people to attend a rally in support of an opposition politician, drawing ire from Internet users Sunday.

Supporters on Friday created an event page for January 15, the day President Vladimir Putin's biggest critic Alexei Navalny will hear his verdict in a controversial embezzlement case which could see him sent him to prison for up to 10 years.

Russia's Internet watchdog Roskomnadzor said Sunday that the page has been blocked on orders of the general prosecutor.

The prosecutor "demanded to limit access to a number of resources calling for an unsanctioned mass event, including social networking groups. The demand has been fulfilled," RIA-Novosti news agency quoted spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky as saying.
Et Tu, Mark Zuckerberg?

Team GOP

Censorship makes strange bedfellows:
The Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus (ryns PREE'-bus), says in a letter to theater chain executives that he's concerned that a foreign regime would be allowed to dictate the movies Americans can and cannot watch.

Noting that Hollywood and the GOP have had their differences, Priebus says the situation with "The Interview" is about freedom and free enterprise.

Priebus says he will ask Republican supporters to buy tickets "to show North Korea we cannot be bullied into giving up our freedom," and suggests part of the proceeds go to military charities.
We have the right to watch dumb movies, which is one of the things Hollywood does best these days...

Final Duty

In the wake of the shootings of two NYPD officers, New York's Mayor is not a popular man:
"There's blood on many hands tonight," Patrolman's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said late Saturday. "Those that incited violence on this street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did everyday.

"We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated," Lynch continued. "That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor."

Also on Saturday evening, video obtained by the New York Post showed several officers turning their backs on the mayor as he made his way down a hallway at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, where Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu had earlier been pronounced dead.

The Post also reported that earlier in the evening, de Blasio approached a group of officers outside the hospital and told them, "We're all in this together."

"No, we're not," an officer responded, according to the Post, which cited another policeman who witnessed the exchange as its source.
The mayor's past statements certainly won't help him, and neither will his "friends."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Women's Daily

President Obama, reverse sexist?
Obama took questions from the Associated Press’ Julie Pace, Bloomberg BNA’s Cheryl Bolen, McClatchy’s Lesley Clark, Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown, Reuters’ Roberta Rampton, the Wall Street Journal’s Colleen Nelson, the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and American Urban Radio’s April Ryan.

No one from major TV networks — and no men — were called on. No Ed Henry, no Jon Karl, none.

The move was intentional, according to TIME political reporter Zeke Miller, who quoted Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

“The fact is, there are many women from a variety of news organizations who day-in and day-out do the hard work of covering the president of the United States,” Earnest said. “As the questioner list started to come together, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to highlight that fact at the president’s closely watched, end-of-the-year news conference.”
The war on men?

Fears Of A Clown

McDonald's gets hit by the NLRB:
In a significant victory for fast-food demonstrators, the Obama administration filed 13 legal complaints on Friday against McDonald’s USA, LLC, alleging 78 instances in which it violated federal labor law by punishing workers for taking part in fast food protests.

The complaints allege that the company and its franchisees retaliated against protesters by reducing their hours or firing them. It’s illegal to retaliate against any worker for “concerted activities” to protest workplace conditions, even when no union organizing takes place — which was almost always the case in the fast food protests.
Maybe, but why are communists involved?

Nothing Left To Lose

Obama goes for broke in his final years:
“’Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose’ — Barack and Bobby McGee,” says former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry. “President Obama is free to take the risks and use executive authority that will either make him a much more popular president with rising approval rates or get him impeached by a Republican Congress that won’t be able to control itself. We can contemplate the possibility of each result while smoking a Cuban cigar.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says Obama’s newly aggressive stance – exemplified by his unilateral moves on immigration and Cuba – poses an early challenge to new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and to House Speaker John Boehner, who are trying to re-shape the GOP into a party that can actually run a government. “Mitch and Boehner have to deal with the fact that Obama is becoming bolder and more radical,” Gingrich told me a few days before Obama announced his move to normalize relations with Cuba.
As opposed to before?

Back To The Cave

Sony does not know of this cave of which you speak:
Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that Sony did not cave to the hacker group Guardians of Peace by pulling the movie…

He said the decision to pull “The Interview” came only after the major theater chains decided not to show the film. It wasn’t because Sony didn’t want to distribute the movie.

“Movie theaters came to us … one by one and announced they would not carry the movie,” Lynton said.

“We have not caved,” he said.
Even so, their new masters seem pleased.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Green Mountain Goes Bust

Vermont has scrapped single payer:
"I am not going (to) undermine the hope of achieving critically important health care reforms for this state by pushing prematurely for single payer when it is not the right time for Vermont," Shumlin said to reporters and two boards advising him on health care changes.

Legislation Shumlin signed in 2011 put the state on a path to move beyond the federal Affordable Care Act by 2017 to a health care system more similar to that in neighboring Canada. Shumlin adopted the mantra that access to quality health care should be "a right and not a privilege."

The legislation called for the administration to produce a plan for financing the Green Mountain Care system by 2013 but it wasn't completed until the last several days. Shumlin said it showed the plan would require an 11.5 percent payroll tax on businesses and an income tax separate from the one the state already has of up to 9.5 percent.

Shumlin said small business owners would be hit with both, and he repeatedly expressed concern about whether those businesses, many of which now don't offer health insurance or offer much less costly insurance, could cover the new expense.

The governor said he had asked his health care team for alternative designs, but no one could come up with a plan to offer quality coverage at an affordable cost.

"The bottom line is that, as we completed the financing modeling in the last several days, it became clear that the risk of economic shock is too high at this time to offer a plan I can responsibly support for passage in the Legislature," the governor said.
This hasn't stopped him from fantasizing about keeping it, but the writing seems to be on the wall, not just for Vermont, but for other states.

The Wizardry Of Oz

Should you trust TV doctors?
There’s clearly a market for doctor talk shows. “The Dr. Oz Show” ranks in the top five talk shows in the United States, bringing in a haul of roughly 2.9 million viewers per day. And the talk show “The Doctors,” also studied in the paper, nets around 2.3 million viewers per show. These days, Oz considers disease in terms of marketability. Cancer, he told the New Yorker, “is our Angelina Jolie. We could sell that show every day.”

But some doctors have expressed alarm at Oz’s willingness to sell it. “Although perhaps not as ‘sexy’ as Dr. Oz would like, the public needs more information about the effects of diet as a whole on cancer risk,” commented one paper titled “Reality Check: There is no such thing as a miracle food” in the journal of Nutrition and Cancer. It lambasted Oz’s assertion that endive, red onion and sea bass can decrease the likelihood of ovarian cancer by 75 percent.

“Mehmet is now an entertainer,” New York doctor Eric Rose told the New Yorker. “And he’s great at it. People learn a lot, and it can be meaningful in their lives. … [But] sometimes Mehmet will entertain wacky ideas — particularly if they are wacky and have entertainment value.”
Pay no attention to the publicity behind the curtain...


Literally, in this case:
Nigel Golden, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin who took part in the project told the BBC that the ground temperature around the rodents’ burrows was higher than in the surrounding area. “’They are soil engineers,” he said. “They break down the soil when they are digging their burrows, they mix the top layer with the bottom layer, they are bringing oxygen to the soil and they are fertilizing the soil with their urine and their faeces.

“We saw an increase in soil temperature in the soils where the arctic ground squirrels were occupying. This is a major component. As that permafrost begins to warm, now microbes can have access to these previously frozen carbons that were in the soil. And because they mix the soil layers, they are being exposed to warmer temperatures.”
The cows must be breathing a sigh of relief...

Coal For Me, Not For Thee

Divest as I say, not as I don't:
The Washington Spectator reported in 2013 that while Steyer was senior managing partner at Farallon Capital Management — a post he held until 2012 — the firm had $440 million worth of stock in oil and gas companies, about 10 percent of the company’s publicly disclosed equity portfolio.

Only days before Steyer announced that he would be leaving Farallon, the San Diego Reader reported that he still had investments in several companies that provided energy from coal and oil. His company held these investments even while Steyer was campaigning against California’s Proposition 23, which would have suspended California’s self-imposed cap-and-trade law.
Being a hypocrite means never having to apologize for your own investments...

The Silent Era

George Clooney condemns Hollywood cowardice:
Now, this isn’t finger-pointing on that. This is just where we are right now, how scared this industry has been made. Quite honestly, this would happen in any industry. I don’t know what the answer is, but what happened here is part of a much larger deal. A huge deal. And people are still talking about dumb emails. Understand what is going on right now, because the world just changed on your watch, and you weren’t even paying attention.
Not everyone is interested in surrendering to North Korea...

The Quaint Communist State

Not everyone is happy about the prospect of Cuba opening up:
'On the one hand it is very evident that change will come at some stage, and that the younger generation of Cubans are waiting for that to happen. While they have excellent education and healthcare, there is still real poverty, and they lack things that we all take for granted such as a choice of goods to buy (food is mostly from ration shops) and access to the internet and to world news.'

He goes on to add: 'On the other hand, part of the charm and intrigue of Cuba as a travel destination is that it is 'stuck in time', with few shops, no global brands and of course a huge number of old gas guzzling 50's American cars on the roads.

'I have no doubt that change will happen quickly once diplomatic relations start to build, and especially if congress agree to start lifting sanctions, which looks likely to happen now,' he added

'All these things will take some time, but if you want to see Castro's Cuba before change starts to happen and I would really recommend travelling soon.'
See the last Communist dictatorship before it becomes commercialized?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

They So Ronery

Now this is just un-American:
Forget those plans by Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and other theaters to run Team America: World Police in place of The Interview. The Austin-based chain says that Paramount has now decided not to offer South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s 2004 satire that focuses on Kim Jong-il, the late father of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Alamo says that the cancellation at its Dallas theater is “due to circumstances beyond our control” and says it will offer refunds to those who have already bought tickets. Cleveland’s Capitol Theater also tweeted that Team America “has been canceled by Paramount Pictures.”
Team Sony, FU!


Michael Moore will be pleased:
“Obesity can constitute a ‘disability’ within the meaning of the Employment Equality Directive,” the European Court of Justice ruled.
“While no general principle of EU law prohibits, in itself, discrimination on grounds of obesity, that condition falls within the concept of ‘disability’ where, under particular conditions, it hinders the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life on an equal basis with other workers.”
The EU court ruling, which is binding on British employers, follows a case brought by Karsten Kaltoft, a Danish childminder, who claimed he was sacked by his local authority employer because he was so overweight.
You can never be too irresponsible in the EU...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Produce Or Perish

TIME warns its reporters to get readers or else:
The warning comes from Time’s Washington boss who told the Washington Post that he has “the right” to fire a reporter who is unpopular on the internet.

Once home to many reporters who poured their scoops into a blender that editors turned into impactful stories, the goal now appears to be dragging in as many “eyeballs” to the website as possible, helping to drive up advertising rates.
That's assuming they're still doing real journalism. These days, it's hard to tell...

The Ring

Did she at least get fries with that?

It's Not Showtime

Somebody doesn't want to be made fun of:
Although the film’s Los Angeles premiere last week did proceed as planned, it was a low-key affair with minimal media attention. Earlier on Tuesday, appearances by the film-makers including a Buzzfeed Brews conversation, as well as on Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talkshows, were pulled.

The scaling back of publicity came as the Carmike Cinema chain announced that it would not be screening the film, due to open in the US on Christmas Day. Shares in Carmike, as well as the country’s three other biggest cinema chains — AMC, Regal and Cinemark and Carmike — all fell after news of the threat broke.
One thinks that Hollywood would be braver than this; they usually claim to be...

Hand Out To Havana

Cuban-American relations get a makeover:
Under the new measures, the United States plans to reopen its embassy in Havana and significantly ease restrictions on travel and commerce within the next several weeks and months, Obama said. Speaking from the White House, he declared that a half-century of isolation of the communist country “has not worked.”

“It’s time for a new approach,” he said.

The history-shaping overtures come after more than 18 months of secret negotiations with the Cuban government of President Raul Castro. The final touches appeared to be arrangements for a series of simultaneous prisoner releases.
Apparently Pope Francis was the one who helped make this happen. A historical moment-or historical mistake?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Free Birds?

Did the prisoners involved in the last escape from Alcatraz actually make it?
"We didn't know exactly when the inmates launched their boats, or their precise starting point, and so we decided to release 50 'boats' every 30 minutes between 20:00 and 04:00 (11 p.m. and 4 a.m.) from a range of possible escape spots at Alcatraz to see where they would end up," Fedor Baart, a hydraulic engineer at the Netherlands-based research instituteDeltares, said in a statement. "We added a paddling effect to the 'boats,' as we assumed the prisoners would paddle as they got closer to land."

If the three men left Alcatraz any earlier than 11:30 p.m., they would have been swept out to sea by strong currents, Baart and his colleagues found. But if the prisoners set off on their raft between 11:30 and midnight, it's likely that they could have landed just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, at Horseshoe Bay. The models also show that any debris after the landing might have drifted toward Angel Island, north of Alcatraz, which is where the FBI found a paddle and some personal items linked to the men.

"Of course, this doesn't prove this was what really happened, but the latest and best hydraulic modeling information indicates that it was certainly possible,"another study author, Rolf Hut, of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said in a statement.
Patrick McGhoohan would not be pleased...

Silent Victory

Congress quietly ends the Feds' ban on medical marijuana:
Pot advocates had lobbied Congress to embrace the administration's policy, which they warned was vulnerable to revision under a less tolerant future administration.

More important, from the standpoint of activists, Congress' action marked the emergence of a new alliance in marijuana politics: Republicans are taking a prominent role in backing states' right to allow use of a drug the federal government still officially classifies as more dangerous than cocaine.

"This is a victory for so many," said the measure's coauthor, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa. The measure's approval, he said, represents "the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana."
Congress displays some common sense, for once. Can the Federal government follow suit?

The Bear Is Still There

What happens if a wounded bear decides to bites back?
Putin is like a Augusto Pinochet or a Juan Perón … but with much more steely resolve, a massive military, and nuclear bombs.

But even with Putin's extremely visible and frightening track record before us, it's clear the Obama administration and even the investment community is still not prepared for the extent of the damage the Russian leader can unleash on his own people, on his neighbors, and on the U.S. financial markets.

There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. Vladimir Putin is wounded — and he's not known for holding back.
There's a bear in the woods. And eventually, he may decide to come out...

Bank To The Future

Banks lower their standards:
"As banks continue to reach for volume and yield to improve margins and compete for limited loan demand, supervisors will focus on banks' efforts to maintain prudent underwriting standards," said Jennifer Kelly, the OCC's chief national bank examiner. She said the trends are "very similar" to those from 2004 through 2006.

The annual survey looked at 91 of the largest banks with loan portfolios amounting to about $4.9 trillion, or 94% of loans in the federal banking system. The report predicted that credit risk will continue to increase in 2015.
What could go wrong?

Woman Meets Monkey

A woman tries to take a selfie with a monkey:

Hi Mom

Mom calls in:

Non-Green Machine

Researchers find that electric cars actually cause more pollution:
The findings showed a dramatic swing the positive and negative effects on health based on the type of energy used. Internal combustion vehicles running on corn ethanol and electric vehicles powered by electricity from coal were the real sinners; according the study, their health effects were 80 percent worse compared to gasoline vehicles. However, electric vehicles powered by electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar energy might reduce health impacts by at least 50 percent compared to gasoline vehicles.

"We were surprised that many alternative vehicle fuels and technologies that are put forward as better for the environment than conventional gasoline vehicles did not end up causing large decreases in air quality-related health impacts," Tessum says. "The most important implication is that electric vehicles can cause large public health improvements, but only when paired with clean electricity. Adapting electric vehicles without taking steps to clean up electric generation would be worse for public health than continuing to use conventional gasoline vehicles."
"Green" vehicles need energy sources, too. And those might not be so green...

Martian Breath

Has the Curiosity rover found life on Mars?
An instrument on the six-wheeled robot identified mysterious spikes of methane that cannot easily be explained by geology or organic material transported to the planet by comets or asteroids.

While scientists cannot be sure what is producing the methane, they acknowledge the source could be bacteria-like organisms.

If the existence of living, breathing microbes on Mars is confirmed, it will be one of the most monumental discoveries in history.
Even Martians can get too much gas...

The Law And The King

It seems President Obama can't simply rule by decree:
According to the opinion by Judge Arthur Schwab, the president’s policy goes “beyond prosecutorial discretion” in that it provides a relatively rigid framework for considering applications for deferred action, thus obviating any meaningful case-by-case determination as prosecutorial discretion requires, and provides substantive rights to applicable individuals. As a consequence, Schwab concluded, the action exceeds the scope of executive authority.

This is the first judicial opinion to address Obama’s decision to expand deferred action for some individuals unlawfully present in the United States.

This isn’t the only case challenging the lawfulness of the Obama’s immigration actions. Some two-dozen states have filed suit challenging Obama’s recent immigration policy reforms. Led by Texas, these states claim that the president as exceeded the scope of executive authority in this area. As I’ve noted before, I’m skeptical of these arguments on the merits (as is Ilya), and wonder whether the states will be able to satisfy the requirements of Article III standing to bring their claims. Yet as this case shows, even if the states don’t have standing, the legality of the president’s actions could nonetheless be decided in federal court.
Doing what Congress wouldn't?

Dude, She's Old

College students learn how old Hillary really is:
Of those interviewed at the public research university, home to roughly 50,000 students, only six guessed Clinton is in her 60s, but of those, they still thought she was younger than 67, Cooley told The Fix. Most thought she is in her 40s or 50s, and expressed surprise at her real age, according to a video of the interviews.

But they were even more stunned to learn Clinton gets chauffeured around everywhere, and by her own admission has not driven a car since 1996. Several students interviewed said they thought she drove herself around, and expressed amazement after learning the truth.

“Students tend to be uninformed about the candidates they support,” Cooley said in an email to The College Fix. “When confronted with the truth – that Hillary is a career politician and is out of touch with the American people – college students quickly changed their tune and Hillary lost her appeal.”
Hard truths are often the most difficult to accept...

The E Generation

E-cigarettes are making teens smoke less:
Electronic cigarettes have surpassed traditional smoking in popularity among teens, the government’s annual drug use survey finds.

Even as tobacco smoking by teens dropped to new lows, use of e-cigarettes reached levels that surprised researchers. The findings marked the survey’s first attempt to measure the use of e-cigarettes by people that young.

Nearly 9 percent of eighth-graders said they’d used an e-cigarette in the previous month, while just 4 percent reported smoking a traditional cigarette, said the report being released Tuesday by the National Institutes of Health.
So, if they are going to be toking, isn't this actually a good thing?

Play Money

The millionaire who wasn't:
In an exclusive interview with Mr. Islam and his friend Damir Tulemaganbetov, who also featured heavily in the New York story, the baby-faced boys who dress in suits with tie clips came clean. Swept up in a tide of media adulation, they made the whole thing up.

Speaking at the offices of their newly hired crisis pr firm, 5WPR, and handled by a phalanx of four, including the lawyer Ed Mermelstein of RheemBell & Mermelstein, Mr. Islam told a story that will be familiar to just about any 12th grader—a fib turns into a lie turns into a rumor turns into a bunch of mainstream media stories and invitations to appear on CNBC.
It was fun while it lasted...

Bush III

Jeb Bush is in:
Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush and the son of President George H.W. Bush, announced in a Facebook post that he decided to take the step after spending Thanksgiving with his family.

"As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States," he wrote.

Bush also said that he will establish a leadership PAC -- a political fundraising organization -- in January.

"The PAC's purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans," he said.
The dynasty continues?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Magic Wand

It's a magnet that cleans up oil spills:

Cats And Dogs, Being Rescued Together

Remember when getting a pet wasn't just about saving them?
Dogs, cats, and horses are domestic animals, shaped by millennia of selective breeding for temperament to overcome the aggression of their wild fore-bearers. Until the rise of the rescue movement, it was generally understood that the best way to acquire a pet was to take the time to go to a breeder whose first concern was temperament, and to acquire the pet at an age when it could be well-socialized top the family in which it would live out its life. Badly bred animals who were innately aggressive, or those which had been badly socialized were destroyed before they could hurt someone, and wisely so. People and other animals were safer and happier with one another, and aggressive animals did not reproduce, and did not live out what otherwise would have been their angry, fearful lives. That approach took a kind a maturity, discipline, and emotional strength that appears to be missing from the current rescue movement.
Rescuers, save thyselves...

Koch's Way

David Koch, the evil...libertarian?
It’s actually quite well-known that the Kochs are socially liberal and fiscally conservative — a.k.a., “libertarian”. Koch was the 1980 vice presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party who campaigned on things like drug legalization and a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Koch is a board-member for the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason magazine) and the Cato Institute. Both groups have long been vocal supporters of gay rights, drug legalization, civil liberties, non-interventionist foreign policy; and vocal opponents of things like police abuse, executive overreach, and excessive government spending on all things including the GOP’s sacred-cow military. Heck, the demonized brothers reportedly once gave $10 million each to the American Civil Liberties Union to fight the PATRIOT Act.

In fact, in some ways it is arguable that these Koch-funded organizations have done more for many so-called “progressive” causes than progressives themselves. Koch funding has helped produce countless writers who have blown the lid off rampant police abuse, exposed horrific injustices from the War on Drugs, and repeatedly criticized the foreign policy blunders of both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Unfortunately, people like Barbara Walters only know what they're told...

Super Blend

The cult of super coffee:
The recipe — a riff on the yak butter tea Mr. Asprey found restorative while hiking in Tibet — calls for low-mold coffee beans; at least two tablespoons of unsalted butter (grass-fed, which is higher in Omega 3s and vitamins); and one to two tablespoons of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, a type of easily digestible fat. Mr. Asprey claims having the 450-plus-calorie cup of coffee instead of breakfast suppresses hunger, promotes weight loss and provides mental clarity.

“It’s a gateway drug for taking control of your own biology,” said the well-caffeinated Mr. Asprey.

Fans insist the beverage tastes like an amazingly creamy latte, though Mr. Rubin was more exclamatory: “like crisp toasted rye bread slathered with lots of butter blended in hot coffee,” he wrote in an email. “A wild classic-tasting breakfast in a cup.” For best results, the chef Seamus Mullen, another enthusiast, advised a hand blender instead of an electric one, because the electric blade heats up the oil, denaturing it and changing the taste. And start small with the MCT oil, which used to be given to hospital patients lacking enzymes to digest fat. “It can wreck your digestive tract,” Mr. Mullen said.
But you'll still be hipper than other coffee hipsters...

Mom's Tea

An American mom gets compensation for a false arrest:
Genovese was arrested while taking pictures of a decorative helicopter in front of the Gabreski Airport Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach for a “Support Our Troops” website. She was charged with criminal trespass and spent four days in jail before the charges were dropped.
Southhampton cops searched her and found a legally owned rifle that she was transporting from a nearby rifle range. She contends a deputy sheriff arrived on the scene later and said to her, “I bet you are one of those Tea Party people.” When Genovese said she’s gone to Tea Party rallies, he allegedly said, “You’re a real right-winger, aren’t you?” and “You are a ‘Teabagger’” and then added that she’d be arrested for terrorism to make an example of other “right wingers.”
“Ms. Genovese was subjected to a level of abuse because [authorities] did not share the same political views as she did and saw this as an excuse to deny her even the most basic civil rights,” her lawyer Frederick Brewington said.​​
Those still matter, even for those that liberal deputies disagree with...

Goodbye To The Green

Cheap oil is killing the green economy:
A new “era of cheap oil” would be good news for consumers and motorists – but analysts say the consequences for politics, industry and the climate could be even more radical.

“Renewable energy subsidies have been mostly sold to the public on the basis of the economic benefits,” said Peter Atherton, an energy analyst with Liberum Capital. “But the economic arguments hinged on the idea that fossil fuel prices would get more expensive, while expensive renewable subsidies would be able to come down over time. That’s looking doubtful now.”

Anne Robinson, director of consumer policy at the uSwitch price comparison website, said: “More subsidies are likely to be needed [for green power] as the gap between the cost of fossil fuel power and renewable power gets bigger.” The extra subsidies would be borne by households in the form of higher energy bills.

Green energy technologies such as solar and wind had been banking on sharp increases in fossil fuel prices to make them increasingly competitive and help to attract the huge amount of investment required to build renewable power plants. But that “economic case” is now in danger of being lost, with the environmental argument seen by many as being insufficient to drive through high levels of green energy investment.
The Green Revolution is over, and the Greens lost...

Terror Down Under

A hostage crisis in Sydney ends, with the perpetrator dead. So who was he?
Self-described cleric, Man Haron Monis, 50, first came to attention of police when he penned poisonous letters to the family of dead Australian soldiers seven years ago.

Last year he was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and mother of two.

Most recently, he was charged with more than 50 allegations of indecent and sexual assault relating to time allegedly spent as a self-proclaimed “spiritual healer” who dealt with black magic at a premises in western Sydney more than a decade ago.

Monis, who has also gone by the names of Sheikh Haron and Mohammad Hassan Manteghi, was born in Iran and most recently has been living at Bexley North in Sydney’s south.

He recently likened himself on his own webpage to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, claiming the most recent charges against him have been laid for “political reasons”.

His website also carries a quote, posted earlier this month stating: “I used to be a Rafidi, but not any more. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah”.
He was a murderous loon, and now he's a dead loon. No virgins for you, creep.

Short-Term Memory Loss

Is history repeating itself?
Just last week:

— Congress acted to loosen the regulation of the high-risk investments that ignited the 2008 crisis.

— Housing regulators cut minimum down payments on home loans.

— The Institute of International Finance declared it "worrisome" that global indebtedness, as a share of world economic output, has reached record levels.

All this comes as subprime auto loans for financially stretched buyers are surging. And the so-called too-big-to-fail banks that needed a taxpayer bailout in 2008 now loom even larger than before the crisis: America's five biggest banks account for 44 percent of bank assets, up from 38 percent in 2007, according to SNL Financial.
The memory fades; the risks remain...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Michelle, Ma Belle

Is this Michelle bachmann's final bow?
Bachmann, who, amid a probe into possible campaign finance violations during her 2012 presidential run, announced last year that she would not seek a fifth term, put a lot of thought into that final “substantive word with the president,” as she puts it, even if it did make her the holiday guest from hell. “I made the conscious decision I was going to run hard through the tape at the end” of her time on the Hill, she said in a long interview in the borrowed committee room where her staff has been camped out since they packed up her office before Thanksgiving. And using even those few seconds with Obama in the most provocative possible way is just one reason the 58-year-old firebrand feels “like an accomplished person” as she exits stage right.

“I feel almost like my life is over, in a positive way,’’ she says.
One life over, a new one on the horizon?

Busting Bill

A police union doesn't want Bill de Blasio at cop funerals:
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association distributed a flier to members, blaring: “DON’T LET THEM INSULT YOUR SACRIFICE!” Cops were encouraged to sign and submit the “Don’t Insult My Sacrifice” waiver to ban the cop-bashing pols from their funerals.
“I, as a New York City police officer, request that Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito refrain from attending my funeral services in the event that I am killed in the line of duty,” the waiver states.
“Due to Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito’s consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve, I believe that their attendance at the funeral of a fallen New York City police officer is an insult to that officer’s memory and sacrifice.”
Just stay away, Bill...

The Lunatic Enters The Asylum

Meet North Korea's newest resident:
He said the electoral system in the United States “is unfairly built for the benefit of the wealthy through the necessity of costly fundraising for political candidates seeking office. The democracy of this nation is an illusion and its representatives act as nothing more than power brokers for those who can offer them.”

Of the wealthy people in the United States, he said, “These billionaires in power are nothing short of sociopathic megalomaniacs on the path to absolute world domination.”

He also talked about unidentified flying objects, CIA involvement in the cocaine trade, “ultrasonic” devices that cause people to hear voices and experience bodily discomfort and how the Western news media unfairly portrayed North Korea.
As a place run by people like him?

No Dues For You

Non-union workers win another round:
The momentum for right-to-work measures at the local level across the country might be gaining steam: Kentucky’s Warren County — which includes Bowling Green — just passed a local right-to-work ordinance. A 5–1 bipartisan majority of the country legislature voted to make union dues voluntary for private-sector workers.

The measure comes up for a second and final reading next week. If it passes, then unions will lose the ability to compel workers in Warren County (home to a sizeable GM plant) to pay union dues — at least until the inevitable court challenge.
Remember the days when unions actually cared about workers, instead of their own wallets?

The Not So Green Hills Of Europe

Europe is not greener than us:
Europeans sip gasoline while Americans guzzle it, or at least that’s how the story goes. But as the Economist reports, once you look under the hood, Europe’s fuel efficiency emissions standards are a little suspect. . . .

Contrast that with the U.S., which, under President Obama, has enacted some very strong fuel efficiency standards that are putting a sizable dent in our nation’s carbon footprint, even without the kinds of test fudging seen across the Atlantic. Europe likes to think itself a paragon of green policies, but with electricity costs spiraling and coal consumption rising, it looks like it’s having to resort to some fuzzy math to defend its eco-friendly status.
I am shocked that they would lie about this...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

California Charity Case

California's Attorney General seems to have a lot of free time on her hands:
Attorney General Harris in October took advantage of an old requirement under state law that California “charities” must submit copies of IRS public filings, known as the Form 990 that lists donors over $5,000 on “Schedule B.” Harris’ office threatened AFP that failure to comply would result in suspension of the “charity” and daily fines against each member of the Board of directors individually, according to the complaint.
Conservatives were shocked at the demand and suspicious that Attorney General Harris intended to engage in the type of alleged unethical action by IRS manager Lois Lerner, who may have used the IRS to retaliate against Tea Party members.
Americans for Prosperity complained that they had registered every year in California since 2001 and had never received such a request in the past. But then Harris’s office also demanded that another conservative group called Center for Competitive Politics 501(c)(3) hand over their donor list.
Harris warned the “charitable foundation” this summer that AFP’s registration was “incomplete” for 2011 and 2012 because the group did not include a “Schedule B” list of donor names and addresses. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the Attorney General’s spokesman preposterously stated AFP had been out of charitable compliance for over a decade, but did not receive a demand because the “section responsible for enforcement has been chronically underfunded for years.”
According to an article by Steven Greenhut of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Americans for Prosperity stated in their civil rights lawsuit against Harris’s office, “California's Attorney General, for reasons known only to her, is nonetheless trying to compel disclosure of the confidential Schedule B by nonprofits around the state.” The foundation warned that releasing the names could result in violence against the donors: “Grotesque threats have been leveled against known associates of the foundation, ranging from threats to kill or maim to threats to firebomb buildings.”
Every local thug needs goons...

Working For The Weekend

The budget battle drags forward:
Reports state that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to force a quick Friday afternoon vote to send the CR-Omnibus budget to the President to be signed into law, but Republican Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Jeff Sessions wanted Reid to agree to allow a vote to defund Obama's amnesty plans before they would agree to vote for the budget.
A senior Capitol Hill aide noted that a quick end to Senate deliberations was blocked when Harry Reid refused to allow any vote on defunding Obama's amnesty. Reid’s refusal, the staffer said, has become an "ongoing problem."
The aide went on to assure Breitbart News that "Senate conservatives will consider any tactical means to achieve their ends" to put a halt to Obama's amnesty.
Republicans, though, were not the only ones making tough demands on Reid. Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren demanded that Reid strip out financial deregulation provisions in the budget the House passed. Reid was reluctant to agree to that, as well.
This failed Friday deal has pushed the budget debate into a Saturday session. But Reid has a whole list of things--including some of Obama's nominees--that Democrats want dealt with before they lose the majority to the incoming GOP victors of November’s midterm election, and the budget bill will likely come only after some of these items are dealt with on Saturday.
Harry Reid should be careful what he wishes for...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Burning For You

The day humans learned fire?
Archaeologists studying an ancient cave in Israel say they've figured out when humans managed the feat: about 350,000 years ago, reports Science.

Researchers discovered that burned flints began showing up regularly around that time in Tabun Cave near Haifa. Humans were using the cave as long as 500,000 years ago, and they apparently had the occasional fire way back then, but they didn't learn to control it and start campfires at will for a while.

'While the earliest evidence of fire associated with hominin activities is much older, the data presented here indicate that fire became a regular and constant part of hominin behavioral adaptations in Eurasia only after 350,000 years ago," says Ron Shimelmitz of the University of Haifa, as quoted in the Daily Mail.
No word on whether or not any black monoliths were present...

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...