We're from the California EPA, and we're here to help
They gave us be-bop. "Soap doesn't work. Toilets don't flush. Clothes washers don't clean. Light bulbs don't illuminate. Refrigerators break too soon. Paint discolors. Lawnmowers have to be hacked. It's all caused by idiotic government regulations that are wrecking our lives one consumer product at a time, all in ways we hardly notice."
Surely, the gas can is protected. It's just a can, for goodness sake. Yet he was right. This one doesn't have a vent. Who would make a can without a vent unless it was done under duress? After all, everyone knows to vent anything that pours. Otherwise, it doesn't pour right and is likely to spill.
It took one quick search. The whole trend began in (wait for it) California. Regulations began in 2000, with the idea of preventing spillage. The notion spread and was picked up by the EPA, which is always looking for new and innovative ways to spread as much human misery as possible. -- Jeffrey Tucker
Do guns in "the hands of criminals and dangerous people" in the United States lead to gun violence in Mexico? President Obama seems to think so:
"Most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States," President Obama said during a speech at Mexico's Anthropology Museum. "I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms. And as president, I swore an oath to uphold that right, and I always will."
"But at the same time, as I’ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people. That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States. It’s the right thing to do," Obama added.
But the single greatest source of American guns in Mexico appears to be the U.S. Government. No, not via Fast and Furious, but via legal "direct commercial sales" authorized by the State Department.
Here's how it works: A foreign government fills out an application to buy weapons from private gun manufacturers in the U.S. Then the State Department decides whether to approve.
And it did approve 2,476 guns to be sold to Mexico in 2006. In 2009, that number was up nearly 10 times, to 18,709. The State Department has since stopped disclosing numbers of guns it approves, and wouldn't give CBS News figures for 2010 or 2011.
But the real outrage is Obama suggesting that the US Constitution has anything to do with Mexican gun "incompetence and corruption." The reason for this strawman is patently obvious.
Just make sure you're moving in the right direction. Interest-free loans are for children, siblings, and the occasional down-on-his-luck drifter who just needs someone to believe in him again, not for the U.S. government. There are crazy Asian central banks that are willing to lend to our government at negative real interest rates. You should let them be the ones to give Uncle Sam free money. Keep your own money in the bank, where it belongs.
Happy Tax Day advice from Megan McArdle suggesting that I adjust my withholding to stop giving Uncle Sugar a large loan. I am quite aware of the problem -- and no, Megan, I don't just do it so I have a big check to blow on a new TV. I get a huge refund every year of late. But am I supposed to make up kids I do not have to increase exemptions?
UPDATE: My blog brother laughs at deflation, and yet:
Obama Administration: 15 years of life after retirement "reasonable"
From Bernie Becker in "On the Money" THE HILL'S Finance and Economy Blog:
President Obama's budget, to be released next week, will limit how much wealthy individuals - like Mitt Romney - can keep in IRAs and other retirement accounts.
[For those of us who don't know what a "wealthy individual" is, Becker gives us a helpful example.]
The proposal would save around $9 billion over a decade, a senior administration official said, while also bringing more fairness to the tax code.
["Fairness" is the most offensive F-word I've ever heard.]
The senior administration official said that wealthy taxpayers can currently "accumulate many millions of dollars in these accounts, substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving."
Under the plan, a taxpayer's tax-preferred retirement account, like an IRA, could not finance more than $205,000 per year of retirement - or right around $3 million this year.
There's the American dream, boys and girls: Work hard (or get a plum "Obamacare Navigator" position) and invest wisely (or get a public defined-benefit pension) so that you can have a "reasonable" retirement of NO MORE than $205,000 per year for "right around" 14.63 years. THIS year.
The tax-law regulation's other exception had the biggest impact. Clubs that provided strictly instrumental music to which no one danced were exempt from the cabaret tax. It is no coincidence that in the back half of the 1940s a new and undanceable jazz performed primarily by small instrumental groups--bebop--emerged as the music of the moment.
"The spotlight was on instrumentalists because of the prohibitive entertainment taxes," the great bebop drummer Max Roach was quoted in jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's memoirs, "To Be or Not to Bop." "You couldn't have a big band because the big band played for dancing."
Now, there's some bebop I dig, but American Swing music was our gift to the art world for all eternity. Anything that cut that short is to be decried.
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves. -- T.S. Eliot
The quote ends a superb Cliff Asness piece in The American about the "No Labels" folks. I am confident every ThreeSourcer would enjoy it in its entirity.
The chart below comes from an article explaining why Filipino prize fighter Manny Pacquiao's chief adviser told Yahoo Sports that a match in Las Vegas is a "no go" because of the IRS top marginal rate of 39.6% on earnings in the USA.
The other options Pacquiao and his management team have considered are Macau and Singapore: both casino and gaming markets comparable to Las Vegas and ideal to host a grand boxing event.
Singapore's top rate is roughly half of America's, and they are reputed to have a balanced budget. Irrefutable proof that they "don't care about children or the underprivileged." Don't even get me started on Macau.
You folks keep the lamp of liberty lit. I just don't think I can take it anymore. Pursuant to the "anti-dog-eat-dog act:"
The Justice Department filed suit Thursday to block Anheuser-Busch InBev NV's $20.1 billion deal to buy Grupo Modelo SAB, saying U.S. consumers would suffer harm if the makers of Bud Light and Corona Extra merged.
The Justice Department said it filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to prevent the companies from merging. The deal "would result in less competition and higher beer prices for American consumers," said the department's antitrust chief, Bill Baer.
I should be glad they are doing their mischief out of the technology sector for a change; I assume that will be less harmful. But the beer cooler at DaveCo offers at least four or five different selections if my memory serves. I don't recall that market's being underserved.
How long has it been? Too long. Today's 'I Am Not Making This Up' entry prompts another quote from Heinlein's excellent 'Life-Line' short story, excerpted three times already on these pages.
There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.
Were it a Dave Barry column, no doubt this WSJ guest editorial would be so captioned. But as close as Burleigh C.W. Leonard can get is "You read that right."
When the farm bill (why do we have farm bills again?) expires, the rules reset to the New Deal's "permanent law." These are so awful as to present a fiscal cliff style food bomb.
Permanent law is embodied in the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938 and the Agricultural Act of 1949. It directs the federal government to provide financial help to farmers by artificially inflating the prices of the commodities they produce.
Price supports for eligible commodities are set according to a formula known as "parity," which is based on a price index from the period 1910-14. You read that right--permanent law's subsidies are calculated based on farming conditions a hundred years ago.
This formula does not take into account the technological advancements and productivity gains that have dramatically altered our agricultural system over time. Consequently, parity prices bear no resemblance to today's market prices.
Parity for corn is $12 per bushel versus an actual market price of $7.01; for wheat $18.30 versus $8.33; for rice $42.20 per hundred weight versus $14.80 and for milk $52 versus $21.10. The disparity between parity and market prices is even starker when one considers that current commodity prices are at historically high levels.
For all their faults, I think my bright but misguided Facebook Friends can understand this. I have most of them converted against ethanol subsidies. Here's the same deal and I suspect they'd say in their best Mr. Mackey voice: "That's bad, mmkay."
And yet -- how do you get them to make the leap to view whatever thing they're grinding for today: more education subsidies, free abortifacients, wind farms, &c. Mohair and ethanol subsidies are "bad," as are billion dollar checks to Ted Turner from the US Taxpayer. But their thing is good.
Politicians generally make noise or law, but rarely both at once. That's why I'm not too concerned about the gun-grabbing hysteria in the news these days. The noise achieves multiple goals: It makes the loudest politicians look like they care the most and are "doing" the most; It also distracts from real issues like debt, spending, Benghazi, and the "Global 'Currency War.'"
The massive Fed balance sheet expansion has resulted in the U.S. dollar declining about 11 percent against a basket of world currencies since QE began in 2009. In the meantime, stock prices have doubled since their March 2009 lows and the Morgan Stanley Commodity Related Index has gained about 80 percent.
With the U.S. as its guide, competitive devaluation is expected to accelerate.
Strategas investment strategist Jason Trennert included the "race to the bottom" as one of his five principle investment themes of the year.
And yet, fuel prices continue to fall as domestic production soars (and world demand shrinks.) Think how inexpensive energy would be if you could buy it with a sound dollar.
* You thought "race to the bottom" was my characterization, didn't you? Actually it was, even before reading the article in full.
Salazar ordered the Park Service to help the oyster company remove property, oysters and racks from the estuary and assist oyster company employees in relocating and finding jobs and employment training.
"We are taking the final step to recognize this pristine area as wilderness," Salazar said. "The estero is one of our nation's crown jewels, and today we are fulfilling the vision to protect this special place for generations to come."
My first thought was that this operated on leased Federal land and the operators should not be too surprised by political vicissitude. The real trouble being that there is Federal land, not the surprise of its being managed capriciously.
But the back-to-the-caves argument grows within me, watered by schadenfreude tears of disappointed Marin-county organic foodie customers. Rachel Maddow asks why we don't build Hoover Dams anymore -- her people won't let you dig a clam out of the sand.
California is a beautiful place. But it is more amazing for its rational achievement. Steve Martin's L.A. Story talks about the people who made a magical place in the desert. Steinbeck chronicled migration to the Golden State's agricultural wonderland. Silicon Valley's contribution to wealth and culture will be studied for centuries.
But it's over, kids. Human reason is no longer welcome there. And one fears the bright folks on the West Coast may once again be leading the nation.
"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as 'bad luck.'" -- Robert A Heinlein
Yahoo Finance: The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Henry Blodget discuss America's standing in the world.
Here are two quotes from the same analyst:
First, in order to address the "increasing inequality" that is causing us to "lose" our middle class:
"We should balance the bottom line with employment and employee salaries and benefit to the community. Reduce profit margins and reinvest in the country - that's what we need to do."
Then, in response to the growing cost of starting a small business and the very low levels of startups:
"What I assume they're looking at is the cost of the red tape and everything else and legislation and so forth; the regulations that go with and if that's the case we've gotta work on paring that down, there's no question."
So what is his plan for diverting more business profit to employees and communities that doesn't rely upon red tape, legislation or regulation?
Unless of course he believes that American Olympic athletes are "those at the very top" and therefore deserve to have one-third of their Olympic honoraria confiscated by their government.
Americans who win bronze will pay a $2 tax on the medal itself. But the bronze comes with a modest prize--$10,000 as an honorarium for devoting your entire life to being the third best athlete on the planet in your chosen discipline. And the IRS will take $3,500 of that, thank you very much.
Silver medalists will owe $5,385. You win a gold? Timothy Geithner will be standing there with his hand out for $8,986.
So as of this writing, swimmer Missy Franklin--who's a high school student--is already on the hook for almost $14,000. By the time she's done in the pool, her tab could be much higher. (That is, unless she has to decline the prize money to placate the NCAA--the only organization in America whose nuttiness rivals the IRS.)
"Free the fretboards!" is not exactly Patrick Henry, but it comes with a much cooler picture:
Gibson guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz has a guest editorial in the WSJ today in support of a house bill to prevent business from what befell Gibson (discussed extensively 'round these parts). More importantly, a broader look at the criminalization of ticky-tacky business regulation:
This is an overreach of government authority and indicative of the kinds of burdens the federal government routinely imposes on growing businesses. It also highlights a dangerous trend: an attempt to punish even paperwork errors with criminal charges and to regulate business activities through criminal law. Policy wonks call this "overcriminalization." I call it a job killer.
In America alone, there are over 4,000 federal criminal offenses. Under the Lacey Act, for instance, citizens and business owners also need to know--and predict how the U.S. federal government will interpret--the laws of nearly 200 other countries on the globe as well.
Many business owners have inadvertently broken obscure and highly technical foreign laws, landing them in prison for things like importing lobster tails in plastic rather than cardboard packaging (the violation of that Honduran law earned one man an eight-year prison sentence). Cases like this make it clear that the justice system has strayed from its constitutional purpose: stopping the real bad guys from bringing harm.
Lobster guy was on Stossel, whose show last night discussed minimum sentencing and prosecutorial misconduct. At the risk of a short digression, I used to believe that economic battles were most important and I was willing to let Radley Balko and the occasional meritorious ACLU suit police the justice system. Yet liberty lovers can no longer ignore the growing criminalization of -- well -- everything.
Given the utter devastation that can result from forest fires near urban areas, and the near unanimity about why their frequency and magnitude is peaking, one may wonder why no efforts to reduce the threat seem to be under way. The good news is that 11 years ago, five federal government agencies joined efforts to create an integrated wildland fire managment system called Fire Program Analysis or FPA. A comprehensive computer modeling system, FPA would "help them weigh the benefits of fire suppression versus forest thinning, evaluate where to station people and equipment and decide how many planes to buy." The bad news is that the effort was undertaken by federal government agencies. Denver Post:
The idea was to figure out how much money to devote to fire suppression, and to reducing fuels to improve overall forest health, and where to do it.
But when the tool was used for a preliminary analysis in 2006, not everyone liked what it found, Botti said. The results showed which areas needed more resources and which needed less, throwing into uncertainty budgets used for staff programs and some administrative overhead, he said.
For instance, one recommendation was to move resources from coastal Alaska, where wildfires are relatively rare, to California, where they regularly wreak havoc in populated areas, Botti said.
"We're talking about a couple of billion dollars in federal wildland-fire funds here," he said. "Any time you tinker with that, it becomes political in a hurry. There was pushback from the bureaus that the answer was not acceptable.
Part of the problem turned out to be the presumption that a computer model could provide a sort of holy grail of fire management planning.
"Quite honestly, I don't think there was any plot" to scuttle the original system, he said.
But he agreed that people in Forest Service field offices feared -- and still fear -- a computer model that could deprive them of people and equipment.
Naaaah, nobody ever invests too much confidence in the pure and objective conclusions of comprehensive computer models!
But the failure of the computer modeling solution seems to me merely a scapegoat.
Asked how this year's fire outbreak might be different if the original FPA were in place as planned, Rideout said: "I think the responses to fire would be more cost-effective. I'm not sure whether we would have gotten to these fires any faster or later or better, or with less expense."
"More cost-effective" but not sure there would be "less expense?" How's that again?
Most officials seem to agree on the basic problem:
In 2008, the GAO reported to Congress that federal wildland-fire costs had tripled since the mid-1990s to more than $3 billion a year, citing three factors: "uncharacteristic accumulations of vegetation" from fire suppression; increasing human development in wildlands; and severe drought "in part due to climate change."
Setting aside the suggested causes for accumulations of vegetation and severe drought, both are clearly evident conditions. So why has the firefighting aircraft fleet been cut from 40 planes to 9? And why, during this period when the air fleet was dismantled, have federal wildland-fire costs tripled? Unfortunately, sometimes technology prevents the application of common sense: More potential for fire - expand fire mitigation and suppression resources. QED.
Forest health, fire risks and wood utilization will be on the agenda at the Keystone Conference Center Nov. 15 as top state and federal officials hold a forest health summit meeting. This image by Derek Weidensee shows an area in Montana where a fire burned through stands of mature lodgepole pines, while an area cut previously for regeneration apparently withstood the blaze relatively unscathed.
Top state and national officials, including Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Gov. Bill Ritter and Senator Mark Udall, will gather at the Keystone Conference Center Nov. 15 for the Governor’s Bark Beetle Summit in a public meeting that hasn’t received much publicity.
Governor-elect John Hickenlooper has also been invited.
“Scott’s success in selling paper will help Colorado effectively and efficiently move the large amount of bark beetle lumber from the forest and into the marketplace, creating tons of jobs and making lots of money,” Hickenlooper said. “This is a unique opportunity to resolve Colorado’s forest health and budget issues.”
“Scott will be a wonderful addition to our paper team, focusing particularly on the use of beetle kill in paper production,” Hickenlooper said. “We hired him based on his skills, personal drive and love for ‘That’s what she said’ jokes.”
Firefighters have been in a see-saw battle with the northern Colorado blaze, extending their lines along the eastern flank but losing ground on the west and north sides as flames burn through a dry forest thick with trees killed by bark beetles.
Investigators said lightning triggered the fire, which is about 15 miles west of Fort Collins and 60 miles northwest of Denver.
The fire is burning on land owned by private parties and the U.S. Forest Service. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service, is scheduled to meet with fire managers on Saturday.
A 30-acre blaze near Lake George in Park County was 50 percent contained. It started Wednesday and was also caused by lightning.
Separately, a fire believed to have been caused by lightning destroyed a house four miles outside Rollinsville on Friday. Gilpin County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cherokee Blake said no one was hurt.
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order Thursday banning open burning and the private use of fireworks throughout Colorado.
Not guilty on all counts. That's the return on millions of tax dollars, dozens of witnesses, ludicrous Congressional hearings and nine hours of deliberation. Today, a jury acquitted pitching great Roger Clemens on all counts of lying to Congress about steroids and human growth hormone.
A refresher: "...the process began with a February 2008 congressional hearing in which Clemens made statements to a committee that the government believed to be false, and continued through a mistrial in July 2011.
Thankfully, there is nothing seriously wrong with the country of government that requires attention.
According to blogger Sean Paige at the Monkey Wrenching America blog, a contract with Aero Union, a fire fighting company with seven 4-engine slurry bombers, was canceled during renewal negotiations in August, 2011. No reason was given, just "We don’t want the airplanes, have a nice life." This brought the US Forest Service air tanker fleet down to 11 heavy aircraft, and today it's only 9. The report cites Rep. Dan Lundgren(R-CA) saying the fleet was 40 planes a decade ago.
This reminds me of that old lefty bumper sticker, "Wouldn't it be great if the Air Force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber?" Apparently, now they do.
WATCH YOUR MAILBOX!!!!
Just wanted to let you know - today I received my 2012 Social Security Stimulus Package.
It contained two tomato seeds, cornbread mix, a prayer rug, a machine to blow smoke up my butt, 2 discount coupons to KFC, an "Obama Hope & Change" bumper sticker, and a "Blame it on Bush" poster for the front yard.
The Obama Administration is once again poised to begin harassing Gibson Guitars of Nashville, Tennessee, this time taking its grievances with the company to musicians and fans at summer concerts across the nation.
Administration officials have threatened to raid summer concerts in order to seize what it deems to be illegal guitars made from wood that has been banned.
I hoped this was a hyper-sensitive blogger gone off the rails, but we have at least two Senators involved.
A meeting was held today between [Sen. Lamar (R - TN)] Alexander, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., representatives from the music industry and the wood import business, and conservation and environmental groups to come up with a workable solution.
As the bible says: "wheresoever two or more Senators gather together with industry representatives, thy property rights be unsafe" (Something like that -- Brother Keith might tweak it a bit).
Again, my hope is that the insanity of this will show non-ThreeSourcers the true costs of government overreach. One hopes...
Jamie Dimon's loss of $2 Billion on a private portfolio, which dominated the news cycle for several days and caused three JP Morgan executives to be fired: catastrophe!
Gub'mints' loss of our money: campaign advertisement!
It's all been said, but Lawrence Lindsey says it purdy good in the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page today:
Consider two other recent episodes. The Obama administration guaranteed a $535 million loan to Solyndra, then lost everything on its bet when the solar-energy company went bankrupt last September.
Then there is the auto-industry bailout. According to the TARP inspector general's April 25 report, taxpayers have been paid cash and securities worth $50.9 billion on the $79.7 billion extended to General Motors, General Motors Acceptance Corp. (now Ally Financial) and Chrysler. That is a $28.8 billion loss.
Nevertheless, the president's re-election campaign is running an ad bragging about the bailout's success. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan's much smaller loss is the subject of speeches and hearings and a howling chorus in the media.
I'll back off the "private" description a bit. Certainly JPMorgan enjoys TBTF status and a concomitant government put indemnified by, yes, you and me. Sign me up for a way to fix that. But on what planet does a 1% loss matter more than a 100% loss (Solyndra) or a 36% loss (GM)?
After introducing the motto "Forward!" -- identical to slogans of Socialists of the past and present-- Obama rolled out an imaginary vision of Julia, in which the government is involved in all aspects of a person's life.
No need for virtual reality. There is a real-life timeline for an average person in a society where the government plans, regulates and provides free services for its citizens in countries past and present — the USSR, Cuba, etc.
I personally lived that life in the former USSR until age 30. When my young family of three immigrated to the USA, my parents stayed behind. After botched medical procedures in a free hospital, my father screamed from pain for three days before he died at age 70.
Like President Obama, Russians also evolved on the gay rights issue. Homosexuality used to be outlawed in the Socialist Soviet Union. Today it is not a crime in Russia. Even so, facing an alarming decline in number of newborns and an eventual demographic disaster, they do not play with the redefinition of marriage.
Otherwise there's a lot in common among an Obama administration striving for total government involvement in people's lives, the communists of the former Soviet Union and modern Socialists in Russia.
Last year's "Occupy" protests brought the term "1 percenter" back into our familiar lexicon. Supposedly representing the "super rich" who "control" America, it is a term of derision used by some who declare themselves representatives of the "rest of us" or the "99 percent."
But surprisingly, as Walter Williams observed, those arrested at Occupy demonstrations are overwhelmingly white and above average in both income and home value.
The median value of the homes of the arrestees was $305,000 – a far higher number than the $185,400 median value of owner-occupied homes of the rest of us. Ninety-five of the arrestees lived in homes valued at more than $500,000. Those who rented paid a median rent of $1,850 per month. Of the 984 protesters arrested, at least 797 are white. One Occupy Wall Street protester arrested – presumably, if you listen to the mainstream media, penniless and from a blue-collar family – lived in an $850,000 home in the nation’s capital.
And less surprisingly, America's wealthiest counties are the suburbs surrounding our nation's capital, Washington D.C. As Williams puts it, "The nation’s richest counties are close to Washington, D.C., where people come to do good and wind up doing well for themselves." But do just 1 percent of Americans "run" America? This article claims that about 1 percent of us have held elective office, now or in the past. But that's about as close as you can get to showing such a small sliver of society "runs" a nation and economy as great and diverse as America's. To actually, functionally "run" a country has been shown to require, at a bare minimum, a group I like to call The 6 Percenters.
Via Brit Hume's twitter feed, I found this info sheet at the Department of Labor. Look at question four:
Question: Are these proposed revisions in response to any event or accident, or string of events or accidents, or child labor violations?
Answer: The Department of Labor has continuously reviewed the federal child labor regulations to better protect working children while still allowing them to enjoy the positive work experiences that they can safely perform. Secretary Solis directed the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to take steps to update the child labor regulations in agriculture after the WHD had concluded a similar rulemaking in May, 2010 for children working in nonagricultural workplaces. The Department's comprehensive proposal is based upon the enforcement experience of the WHD, recommendations made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the desire to bring transparency to the agency's procedures for assessing child labor civil money penalties, and a desire to equalize as much as possible the agricultural and nonagricultural child labor protections. The child labor provisions for agriculture have not been updated in more than 40 years.
I've heard this both ways since the big Obama-lead union takeover of GM and Chrysler - Ford survived the big recession without a bailout, and Ford received government loans that haven't been repaid. The first point of view seems most popular, as repeated in dear dagny's 'Article of the day' today.
Ford was the only U.S. automaker to save itself without the help of a government lifeline in 2008. As Dan points out in the accompanying video, the story of Ford is perhaps the only successful non-bankruptcy restructuring seen in the U.S. over the last thirty or forty years.
Okay, I give the Mulally team serious props for turning around a huge corporation that was near junk bond status in 2006. The greatest single factor, in my opinion, was the removal of Bill Ford as CEO but that's a separate story. But even if they didn't take federal aid in 2008 their claims of bailout purity are tarnished somewhat by their DOE loans.
If DOE-guaranteed loans aren't repaid, taxpayers foot the bill, but that's not the only downside of federal-government financing of private businesses, as I've written about previously. Companies that don't tow the Administration line, that don't employ favored constituent groups, or are headed by outspoken CEOs (like Steve Wynn) would probably have their loan applications treated differently than was Ford's. And as economist John Tamny writes in his most recent column, "once an institution is the recipient of government largesse" it must serve its "political masters" who will seek "payback in the form of coerced business activity that has nothing to do with profit."
Doing your taxes sucks. Paying someone else to do your taxes sucks, too. But you know what sucks most of all? Having the person who does your taxes go out of business (or dramatically raise prices) thanks to an IRS power grab.
Last year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) got into the business of licensing tax preparers. The IRS wasn't granted the authority to do this by Congress, they just decided to go for it. At a time when unemployment is still awfully high, 350,000 people--many of whom are self-employers or own small businesses--will be hit by rules that axe their jobs or make it more difficult and expensive to keep their calculators clacking.
The Constitutional question has, rightfully, received the most attention. But the Meta weighs heavily on me: you create a system that is too complicated for people to do themselves; then you charge the people they hire a fee for the privilege of breathing.
The Obama administration will extend mortgage assistance for the first time to investors who bought multiple homes before the market imploded, helping some speculators who drove up prices and inflated the housing bubble.
Landlords can qualify for up to four federally-subsidized loan workouts starting around May, as long as they rent out each house or have plans to fill them, under the revamped Home Affordable Modification Program, also known as HAMP, according to Timothy Massad, the Treasury's assistant secretary for financial stability. The program pays banks to reduce monthly payments by cutting interest rates, stretching terms, and forgiving principal.
Need I comment? What could I possibly add? How about Hat-tip: Jim Geraghty [subscribe]
As one lunch story fizzles, another rises to take its place:
By the way, I purposely skipped over the part of the story that describes the lunch Zambrano packed for her daughter. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T FREAKING MATTER. It's not about whether chicken nuggets from a school cafeteria are more or less healthy than whatever parents choose to feed their kids. It's not about whether a homemade lunch meets a government agency’s "necessary guidelines." It's about the fact that there are "necessary guidelines" in the first place, and now they're even sending agents around to enforce them. It's about yet another busybody government bureaucracy intruding on yet another aspect of our daily lives. You're never going to see a Bureau of Leaving Everybody the Hell Alone. -- Jim Treacher @jtLol
On July 21, 2011 Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies joined county animal control personnel in a warrantless raid on a private farm in Arvada, Colorado. Goverment agents were acting on an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers.
The owner, Debe Bell, 59, was charged with 55 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty after Jefferson County investigators found "deplorable conditions" at the Arvada farm. Nearly 200 animals were seized from her property at 12820 W. 75th Ave. in Arvada. The "deplorable conditions" included: Cages the animals were kept in were urine-soaked, caked in feces and had little or no food; with few exceptions they had no water; animal's fur was matted and caked in feces; 20 dead animals were found in a freezer.
After seizure the 200 animals were moved to a private animal shelter where they were cleaned, fed and watered then, adopted out to other owners. The original owner filed a legal motion to halt the adoption, which included sterilization of the confiscated breeding stock. "The court denied the motion," Mollie Thompson with the Foothill Animal Shelter said.
On January 27, 2012 a jury found Debe Bell guilty of 35 counts of animal cruelty. Sentencing is scheduled for March 20. Each misdemeanor count carries a potential sentence of up to 18 months in jail, according to the Denver Post.
According to Bell's attorney a potential fine of $1000 per count may also be assessed. The private shelter may also seek reparation for costs it incurred.
You've noticed by now I intentionally omitted the animals' breed. I did so to prevent your prejudice in this case from being affected by cute cuddly bunny rabbits. The County Court judge in Ms. Bell's case, however, had less concern over prejudice - she granted a motion by the state to prohibit defendant's council from referring to the rabbits as "livestock."
Ms. Bell and her attorney, having lost the legal battle under terms imposed by the court, appealed their case to the court of public opinion in an interview with Jon Caldera on the Mike Rosen Show Friday morning.
Among her comments:
"Rabbits are food."
"Yes, I put the rabbits in my freezer. I also put in some chickens and some pork chops."
"I sold rabbits to the Denver Zoo. Now they buy them from China."
"Rabbit is the number one meat sold in California."
"I thought I lived in America."
Also discussed (11:30) is the Crime Stoppers program and its well publicized $2000 reward for animal abuse tips.
I'm also including a link to the first account that I read of this story. It is on Huffington Post. The comments are, I believe, indicative of the mindset that enables our legal system to apply anthropomorphic attitudes to livestock and their producers.
After watching a large part of this David Stockman interview with Bill Moyers I'm about ready to adopt the dirty hippies #Occupy meme. When they villified "Wall Street" and "Greedy Corporations" I always had a mental image of Fidelity Investments and WalMart. But if I replace that with Goldman Sachs and General Electric I think we would agree on more than we differ.
This also magnifies my distrust of the GOP establishment and, by association, the Romney candidacy.
No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others.
As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro- growth economic policy, there'll never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have.
As a loyal opposition, who put patriotism and national success ahead of party or ideology or any self-interest, we say that anyone who will join us in the cause of growth and solvency is our ally, and our friend. We will speak the language of unity. Let us rebuild our finances, and the safety net, and reopen the door to the stairway upward; any other disagreements we may have can wait.
The speech itself was excellent, and the delivery by Indiana's Governor Daniels had the added benefit of making Mitt Romney sound, by comparison, like a dynamo.
Blog friend Terri has an awesome scoop today. With all the, deserved, strum and drang about Mayor Bloomberg's pitiful liquor store reduction fiasco, most missed the worst part:
The big story should not have been the nannystatishness of such a statement. (since retracted with all the Drudge outrage)
The big story should have been his use of a "Community Transformation" grant funded by your health care tax dollar through Obamacare to pay for all of this.
Yes -- that would have been ok had people not protested the ridiculousness of the proposal.
Your tax dollars to pay for fewer jobs in NYC, fewer business establishments in NYC, and fewer opportunities to imbibe in said city.
The book, of course, is the oft Reynolds recommended Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. And the surprise is that it is really not a diet book. In fact, I was forced to pony up another thirteen bucks for an actual diet book to follow Taubes's precepts.
Good Calories, Bad Calories is an epistemology book. He examines data from more than a century of dietary research. At the risk over over-synopsizing 500 pages, he suggests that the accepted wisdom is built on unproven concepts and weak data, while dispositive results are thoughtlessly discarded. The fundamental bedrock principle of "eat fewer calories and exercise more" to lose weight is (my words) a bunch of hooey.
We've broached the idea of bad government programs on these pages, and I like to reference "The Four Food Groups" and "The Food Pyramid" when my interlocutor suggests government involvement in our private lives to be a good thing. But Taubes documents the medical community's misfeasance and government's malfeasance in propagating these bad ideas. Of course, it continues to this day in FLOTUS's "MyPlate.gov" which I understand is being quietly withdrawn.
Epistemologically (a great MadLibs® adverb), I cannot help but draw a parallel to climate change. You start a logical assertion: "more CO2 in the atmosphere will retain more heat" or "calories ingested must be less than calories expended." Both statements are demonstrably true -- and yet, both operate in the context of a sophisticated, un-modelable, incomprehensibly complex and chaotic system. Neither the Earth nor your body is designed for ceteris paribus. The Earth can raise clouds and you can moderate your metabolism or digestion.
Yet the science is very much settled in both fields. The core principles are never truly proven but are accepted. Then a body of work investigates ancillary principles with scientific rigor. It's as if we accept that the moon is made of cheese, then commission elaborate measurement of cheese viscosity and density to complete our understanding.
Before the hate mail comes: of course both could be correct. Global warming might be real and low-fat diets and exercise plans might be effective weight loss in some group of people. But both should be evaluated by scientists who exhibit a bit of skepticism.
Five stars for what it is. He has a follow up, "Why We Get Fat," which is shorter and has more practical advice. But the comprehensiveness and serious of Good Calories, Bad Calories is a great read.
[Personal note: I lost 70 pounds and never felt better when I was on Atkins several years ago. I convinced myself that it would be difficult now but have reconsidered. Cliché though it may be, the new year will bring my triumphant return. I will start "induction" Jan 3, so that I might enjoy beer for the NHL Winter Classic on the 2nd.]
Spoiler alert: the TSA wins. Here's the end to a superb interview with the great guitarist Elvin Bishop:
On the way to see B.B., I was at the Oakland airport going through security, and I had a jar of jam -- see, I make home made jam and I raise a big garden and can vegetables and stuff -- and B.B. loves my jam, so I was bringing him some. I forgot all the new rules and I had it in my carry on. So there was a black guy named Elvin there. He took the jam out and says "Is this home made jam?" I said, "Well, yeah." He says, "It looks delicious, is it any good?" I said "They tell me it’s pretty tasty." He said "That’s great, but you can't carry it through." He stuck it under his table here on a shelf. He didn't toss it into the trash, you know. I tried to cop a plea. I said, "Oh please, that's for B.B. King. Can't you make an exception in this one case?" He looks at me, thinking for a minute and says "Well, you tell B.B. King that the thrill is gone, and so is his jam." (Laughing)
As a lover of liberty and free markets, I join the WSJ Ed Page in disapprobation for the scuttled ATT - T-Mobile merger. Fatal Conceit writ large:
AT&T and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA announced a tie-up in March because the former needed spectrum to serve its customers better, and the latter was faltering and wanted out of the U.S. market. AT&T customers would benefit from faster service, and T-Mobile shareholders would get a fat premium that other potential buyers weren't willing to pay. Union workers would benefit from more jobs as AT&T built out its 4G network. AT&T even agreed to hand over $3 billion in cash and spectrum rights with a book value of $1 billion to the Germans if the deal fell through.
Enter the Justice Department, which sued in August to block the deal on antitrust concerns, a move later seconded by the Federal Communications Commission. The regulators claimed the merger would crimp competition, based on ancient market-share models like the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index.
On the other hand, as a television viewer, if this means six more months of Carly Foulkes ads, I am willing to abandon my ideals.
I think the folks at Heritage swing and miss on this superb article. Yeah, it's Obama's Ag Dept (all Humphries Executor v. United States and all), and it is not my job to defend the President's keen stances on personal liberty and the free market, but...
I think it is a perfect story to highlight libertarian principles. And the blame of President Obama makes it less useful -- though I still hurled the message below at my Facebook friends this morning. The sheer absurdity of taxing Christmas trees to promote Christmas trees is even more enjoyable than a whack at the President.
Dear Agriculture Dept:
Maybe the government could write songs about Christmas Trees to promote them. Just a thought. Whatever happens, I am glad to see you guys taking this important project on.
"President Obama's Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees--the Christmas Tree Tax--to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees."
"Gov. Dan Malloy has declared Thursday 'Diaper Need Awareness Day' as part of a campaign by The Nutmeg State to pressure Washington into providing free diapers to low-income families." Rep. Rosa DeLauro, like Malloy a Connecticut Democrat, is pushing legislation that "would allow Uncle Sam to . . . provide funding for diapers and diaper supplies."
Maybe Obama should take it one step further and ask Congress to create a new cabinet-level Department of Infant Care to provide free diapers to all Americans. (Would that include the elderly? Depends.) -- Taranto
How much longer do we have to endure government economic estimates based on static analysis of tax rate changes?
In November the mail-in ballot votes will be tallied to decide whether Colorado will lose 7,400 to 11,600 private sector jobs [you know, the ones that pay their own way and don't require a new tax every year to keep them going?] The culprit is Colorado's Proposition 103, a five-year plan to hike three different state taxes on individuals and businesses, conceived and placed on the ballot almost single handedly by Senator Rollie Heath (D-Boulder) and his personal fortune.
Voters will decide between the projected outcome voiced by one Senator Mary Hodge (D-Brighton) who said "she’s optimistic that state finances will not take a turn for the worse," or that of Barry W. Poulson, Senior Fellow in Fiscal Policy and Professor of Economics (retired), University of Colorado, Boulder and John D. Merrifield, Professor of Economics, University of Texas whose analysis resulted in the job loss estimate in the lede. To understand the magnitude of the job loss you can read the paper or just watch this video from a Jon Caldera press conference that, somehow, I haven't seen reported by Denver's Fox 31.
By the way, there weren't enough dominoes to have one for every job lost. Each domino represents TWO jobs.
Gibson Raided, Tea Partiers and Charlie Daniels hardest hit.
Daniels, 74, who plays a Gibson guitar as well as his trademark fiddle, calls the raid a form of harassment that may hurt the company and its workers. Gibson has about 1,200 U.S. employees, including more than 500 at the Nashville factory that was raided.
"These people are about to destroy some jobs in Tennessee," Daniels, whose hits include "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," said in an interview. "The federal government is spending too much time for stupid things like raiding a little guitar company."
A Taylor rep displays a disturbing lack of solidarity. Hrmmm, I have a few Taylors, probably no more. On the good side, Reps. Marsha Blackburn, Jim Cooper and Mary Bono Mack -- who says there's no bipartisanship? -- have crafted legislation to protect instrument owners,
There's been a lot of talk radio chatter this week about a Colorado man who was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Denver but subsequently had all charges against him dismissed. My judgement of the matter is that the man did intend to solicit but, upon detecting that the young lady he was conversing with was a police officer, spit the hook. But the issue that caught my attention was when the man's attorney recited the legal statute under which his client was charged. C.R.S. 18-7-207
Any person who by word, gesture, or action endeavors to further the practice of prostitution in any public place or within public view commits a class 1 petty offense.
So the list of speech which is no longer free, under threat of criminal penalty, must be amended:
- Yelling fire in a crowded theater.
- Making physical threats against the president.
- Discussing sex and money at the same time.
This petty offense statute is bad enough on its own, but thanks to the Colorado legislature we now have a new $5,000 to $10,000 fine that can be imposed so that, as then Colorado Senate President Brandon Schaffer said,"a major goal of his bill is to increase fines so that cash-strapped municipal police forces have an incentive to go after johns and send them to treatment."
(3) Now, therefore, the general assembly hereby declares that legislative action is required to address the scourge of human trafficking and prostitution in the state of Colorado, which action should include:
(a) Authorizing one or more municipal courts to create and administer a program for certain persons who are charged with certain prostitution-related offenses, with the purpose of reducing recidivism; and
(b) Significantly increasing the fines associated with certain statutory prostitution-related offenses.
To "address" human trafficking crimes a new government treatment regime has been instituted and a large new fine created to pay for it, said fine to be levied against offenders of certain "prostitution-related" offenses. Even, it appears, if those offenders only talk about trading something of value for sex. The statute is young and has yet to be tested in a case of college date-night. The phrase, "Aren't you at least going to buy me dinner first?" may become a criminally risky utterance.
This strategy mimmicks that used in the decades-old "war on drugs" and promises to be just as effective, or not. But getting back to that treatment program and recidivism: Over a twelve-year history a similar "John School" cut the recidivism rate nearly in half - from 8 percent to "less than 5 percent." Gosh, it's almost an epidemic!
Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek has found: it's not "government." It's more your "Federal Family." He quotes the Palm Beach Post:
In a Category 4 torrent of official communications during the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has repeatedly used the phrase "federal family" when describing the Obama administration’s response to the storm.
The Obama administration didn't invent the phrase but has taken it to new heights.
"Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family is leaning forward to support our state, tribal and territorial partners along the East Coast," a FEMA news release declared Friday as Irene churned toward landfall.
In other news, Mom does not want your eating Cheerios or Peanut Butter.
I made jokes about this yesterday, but it is not funny. The Gibson guitar factory has been raided, wood impounded, and they have been told that shipping product will be considered "obstruction of justice."
A lengthy video with the CEO is chilling (sorry I cannot embed). But it is one more business guy who hired 500 people last two years shut down this time because the US Fish and Wildlife service is enforcing Indian trade law. The government still holds wood impounded in a 2009 raid even though there have been no charges (at least Eliot Spitzer would have you on TV).
UPDATE: Nor should I have laughed at possible personal implications. The WSJ has a nice follow up:
It isn't just Gibson that is sweating. Musicians who play vintage guitars and other instruments made of environmentally protected materials are worried the authorities may be coming for them next.
If you are the lucky owner of a 1920s Martin guitar, it may well be made, in part, of Brazilian rosewood. Cross an international border with an instrument made of that now-restricted wood, and you better have correct and complete documentation proving the age of the instrument. Otherwise, you could lose it to a zealous customs agent--not to mention face fines and prosecution.
John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University and a blues and ragtime guitarist, says "there's a lot of anxiety, and it's well justified." Once upon a time, he would have taken one of his vintage guitars on his travels. Now, "I don't go out of the country with a wooden guitar."
UPDATE II: A press release: "The Justice department bullies Gibson without filing charges"
This is almost funny even though it appears to be real.
Federal agents are in the process of raiding the offices of the Nashville-based Gibson Guitar Corporation.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents began executing search warrant this morning on guitar factories and corporate headquarters in Nashville and Memphis, according to Nicholas Chavez, special agent in charge with the Fish and Wildlife.
Chavez said the raid included both the corporate headquarters on Park Plus Boulevard and a factory on Elm Hill Pike.
A raid by the US Fish and Wildlife Service -- do they have green Kevlar vests?
Hat-tip: Ed Driscoll via Insty, both of whom have the temerity to suggest that this might scare the next entrepreneur from starting a business in the US -- or at all.
From my cold, dead hands, Mr. President. From my cold, dead, hands.
JK linked an excellent article on the UK "riots" [scare-quoted since they're more accurately characterized as looting sprees] that revealed the failures of government as protector of property and liberty. But one expects a Libertarian to recognize these realities. What is remarkable is when a self-proclaimed "left-winger" does so. Brendan O'Neill blogs from Great Britain:
This is not a political rebellion; it is a mollycoddled mob, a riotous expression of carelessness for one's own community. And as a left-winger, I refuse to celebrate nihilistic behaviour that has a profoundly negative impact on working people's lives. Far from being an instance of working-class action, the welfare-state mob has more in common with what Marx described as the lumpenproletariat. Indeed, it is worth recalling Marx’s colourful description in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon of how that French ruler cynically built his power base amongst parts of the bourgeoisie and sections of the lumpenproletariat, so that 'ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie rubbed shoulders with vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, swindlers, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, brothel-keepers, organ-grinders, ragpickers, knife-grinders, tinkers, beggars... and from this kindred element Boneparte formed the core of his [constituency], where all its members felt the need to benefit themselves at the expense of the labouring nation.' In very different circumstances, we have something similar today -- when the decadent commentariat's siding with lumpen rioters represents a weird coming together of sections of the bourgeoisie with sections of the underworked and the over-flattered, as the rest of us, 'the labouring nation', look on with disdain.
This fraction of English society, 'the laboring nation' as O'Neill applies Marx' term, is what I would call the analog to America's TEA Party. Those Americans are fed up with being taxed to support a free ride in food, lodging, healthcare and pensions in our Euro-style welfare state, and in the wake of the latest wave of English hooliganism a comparable share of Britons are fed up when the lumpenproletariat that their taxes support roll through town and "shit on their own doorstep."
Shall we play, duelling pretty-smart folk? While the WSJ Ed page can find some nuggets to praise in the Gang-of-Six plan outline, the pretty-smart people at Investors Business Daily's Ed page see worse and worser.
And what details it does contain show that the gang has employed some of the most egregious budget tricks available to make the spending cuts look bigger and tax hikes smaller than they actually are.
The best example of this is the plan's tax proposal, which alternately boasts that it cuts taxes by $1.5 trillion and raises them by $1 trillion, but which more likely will result in taxes going up by more than $3 trillion.
And then there are the spending "cuts."
Plus, most plans take current spending levels as a given, and make "cuts" off this hugely inflated base, ignoring the fact that federal spending has rocketed upward by an astonishing 24% in just the past three years.
A credible plan would bring spending as a share of the economy back to prerecession levels. That would mean a spending cut in the neighborhood of $450 billion next year.
And the close:
The fact that more and more lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are willing to sign onto the phony Gang of Six plan, and that Obama would lend it his effusive praise, is a testament to why the country is in such deep fiscal trouble.
I must admit that my darling baby sister recognized this one before I did. Now I've found a nice writeup on it in IBD Editorials:
Wait! What happened to Social Security's "guarantee"? You know, the iron-clad assurance of Social Security benefits in exchange for paying into the program your whole working life? It's something Democrats constantly talk about, particularly when attacking Republicans who propose privatizing the program.
As Nancy Pelosi once put it: "Social Security has never failed to pay promised benefits, and Democrats will fight to make sure that Republicans do not turn a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble."
The AFL-CIO warned in 2005 about "President Bush's plan to replace Social Security's guaranteed benefits with risky private accounts." The AARP describes Social Security as "the guaranteed part of your retirement plan." Etc., etc.
Turns out, this "guarantee" is a lie.
And the close...
Whatever happens, the fact remains that Obama has accidentally made a pretty good case for Social Security reform by revealing the program for what it really is.
Colorado's GOP candidate for governor last year was ridiculed for suggesting that the UN had designs on World Government. Now a new UN report admits it.
The press release for the report [calling for a "technological overhaul" "on the scale of the first industrial revolution" to reach a "goal of full decarbonization of the global energy system by 2050"] discusses the need "to achieve a decent living standard for people in developing countries, especially the 1.4 billion still living in extreme poverty, and the additional 2 billion people expected worldwide by 2050." That sounds more like global redistribution of wealth than worrying about the earth’s thermostat.
The entire article is a series of jaw-dropping objectives from Turtle Bay. It's worth a click.
If the Obama Administration is liberty's Imperial Cruiser, the United Nations is its Death Star.
Last week JK wrote about the FDA's anti-prosperity ruling on the clinical use of Avastin to treat breast cancer. Two days later, American Spectator's Robert M. Goldberg wrote in FDA Decision Dooms Cancer Patients some background on the individuals at FDA who were responsible.
Goozner -- who has no medical background -- was appointed to an FDA advisory committee on pharmaceutical science. Two senior Public Citizen operatives, Peter Lurie and Larry Sasich, now set policy for the FDA. Fran Visco, the head of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, applauded the FDA decision after lobbying for it over the past year. Visco, a Democrat, is also on Experts Advisory Panel for the Universal Health Insurance Program at the New America Foundation, a left-wing think tank supporting Obamacare. The NBBC also supported the administration's decision not to cover mammograms for women under 50 though many breast cancers grow faster and earlier in African-American women.
Goldberg goes on to predict that Medicare and some other health plans will try to stop paying for Avastin, but he also makes this prediction:
To these groups, the FDA decision was a triumph. But their effort to manipulate the FDA will backfire. The EMA and every major group of cancer providers support Avastin's use. Cancer patients moblilized spontaneously to keep Avastin's label. They will take on the anti-innovation establishment and the FDA with greater intensity and vigor.
Victor Davis Hanson, descendent from farmers himself, argues for "plowing under" the Agriculture Department.
The Department of Agriculture no longer serves as a lifeline to millions of struggling homestead farmers. Instead it is a vast, self-perpetuating, postmodern bureaucracy with an amorphous budget of some $130 billion -- a sum far greater than the nation's net farm income this year.
In fact, the more the Agriculture Department has pontificated about family farmers, the more they have vanished -- comprising now only about 1% of the American population.
Originally, the food stamp program focused on the noble aim of supplementing the income of only the very poor and the disabled. But now eligibility is such that some members of the middle class find a way to manipulate such grants. In fact, 2011 could be another sort of record year for the Agriculture Department, as it may achieve an all-time high in subsidizing 47 million Americans on food stamps -- nearly one-sixth of the country.
In these days of record federal deficits and unsustainable national debt, it is long past time to eliminate the department -- or least rename it "The Department of Food Subsidies."
Senator Jon Kyl went on Fox News Sunday yesterday to explain why he withdrew from deficit reduction negotiations over the President's conditional requirement that government revenues be raised as part of a "balanced" solution. "But isn't one dollar of new taxes for every three dollars of spending cuts a fair deal" asked Chris Wallace?
But you don't want to pile taxes on at a time when companies don't have the ability to invest and hire people. That's the primary reason we are opposed to raising taxes right now.
Treasury Secretary Geithner explains the real reason for insisting on tax hikes.
"If you don't touch revenues," Geithner said, "you have to shrink the overall size of government programs, things like education, to levels that we could not accept as a country."
What do you mean "we" Kemosabe? Investor's Business Daily opines:
Some factions just won't accept shrinking the size of government. Most in them run in the same tight circles as Geithner. Never hearing anything other than support for increasing the size of government, they assume that's what Americans want.
But quite a few Americans have been wanting to cut government for decades, and that number is growing as the almost intractable problems created by overspending have become more obvious.
From Social Security and Medicare to housing assistance and farm subsidies to, yes, even education, federal programs need to shrink or be eliminated. There's not a single item in the budget, including defense, that can't use some judicious trimming.
No Tim, America's economy has shrunk. Americans' net worth has shrunk. It's well past time for America's government to shrink.
John Goodman at Health Affairs Blog (his picture does not look like the beloved comedic actor who plays Walter in "The Big Lebowski") has some bad news and some bad news about the epidemic of drug shortages.
First the bad news:
Doctors at the Johns Hopkins cancer center are rationing cytarabine, a drug used to treat leukemia and lymphoma. They are literally deciding who will live and who will die.
About 90 percent of all the anesthesiologists in the country report they are experiencing a shortage of at least one anesthetic
Currently, there are about 246 drugs that are in short supply and as the chart shows, the number has been growing for some time.
Hospitals are scrambling to make up the shortfall, in some cases rationing medications, postponing surgeries and using alternative drugs.
What's the problem? Supply-chain? We can fix that. Shortages in transportation or labor? That can be fixed. The FDA? Oh crap. And that's the bad news:
The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been stepping up its quality enforcement efforts -- levying fines and forcing manufacturers to retool their facilities both here and abroad. Not only has this more rigorous regulatory oversight slowed down production, the FDA's "zero tolerance" regime is forcing manufacturers to abide by rules that are rigid, inflexible and unforgiving. For example, a drug manufacturer must get approval for how much of a drug it plans to produce, as well as the timeframe. If a shortage develops (because, say, the FDA shuts down a competitor's plant), a drug manufacturer cannot increase its output of that drug without another round of approvals. Nor can it alter its timetable production (producing a shortage drug earlier than planned) without FDA approval.
Emphasis added, which I rarely do, but the emphasized statement is utterly gobsmacking.
Why doesn't the Administration simply outlaw shortages?
EPA: "Employee salary is our highest budget priority"
On his radio show today Mike Rosen read a copy [2:00 to 4:55] of an internal memo from EPA Regional Administrator James Martin to all Region 8 EPA employees. Subject: Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Decisions.
I want to update you on the status of Region eight's budget. The most important thing to tell you is that we continue to protect salary for our on-board EPA employees. It is our highest budget priority and that has not and will not change.
Our OCFO has been able to provide us with some relief for our payroll shortfall. This will allow us to maintain our support services at the current levels as we work to meet our agency's mission. We are continuing to work with headquarters for additional relief. In the meantime, to meet the remaining payroll needs we'll be reducing our programmatic funds by 30 percent, as well as some regional support funds.
A distinct difference, to be sure, from EPA's stated policy on private sector jobs.
"If the government goes ahead with what it said it would do, then Germany will be a kind of laboratory for efforts worldwide to end nuclear power in an advanced economy," said Mark Hibbs, a senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "No other country in the world is taking those steps."
I would call it a laboratory for something else - economic self-destruction.
The powerful Federal Association for German Industry, known as B.D.I., sent a letter on Monday morning to the chancellery, warning her about the consequences for German business.
"How will the international competitiveness of German industry be guaranteed?" Hans-Peter Keitel, B.D.I.’s president, wrote. "Industry last year accounted for two-thirds of Germany’s economic upswing."
What could possibly go wrong?
Hat Tip: Wikipedia's "in the news" section. (I sure didn't read it first in the Times.)
UPDATE: The reader may wonder at my connecting this Times story to coal, since it never mentions that fuel which provides half of Germany's electricity. It was, however, mentioned in a reference cited in the Wiki entry. There's also a picture of the very down-to-earth Environment Minister who dismisses more cautious and practical energy strategies. Minister Tritten:
"Ten years ago people told us that there would never be enough capacity to have a relevant share produced by wind - now the same people tell me we have too much wind, and have to export electricity because we have such a huge share of wind energy," he stated.
"So I can't take these arguments seriously."
He stressed he was "convinced" Germany would reach its target.
And he dismissed Dr Pfaffenberger's concerns about cost out of hand.
"He is wrong - simple," he said.
"To hear such arguments from people who haven't learned anything in the last half century - I am very calm on that."
Although not specifically mentioned by name in the rate review rules finalized last Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the rule that exempts Medigap insurance providers is clearly designed to benefit the largest seller of such policies and the biggest lobbyist for ObamaCare -- the American Association of Retired Persons.
So you can add AARP to the list of favored unions, corporations, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's constituents and even entire states such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Nevada that have received exemptions or waivers from various requirements of ObamaCare.
The amount AARP will gain from ObamaCare, with cost-effectiveness mandates that will lead to rationed care, less medical innovation and health care decisions made by bureaucrats rather than doctors and patients, is staggering.
Equally staggering is the brazenness exhibited by the Obama administration and the beneficiaries of what can only be called crony health care.
I wanted to write here today that "I hereby call out Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to apply for an Obamacare waiver for the entire state of Colorado." After all, another path to repeal, thought I, is for the entire country to be waived from the law's requirements. Needing a foundational article upon which to rest my "great idea" I found Mona Charen:
A few wags [ouch!] have suggested that the HHS grant the rest of the country a waiver and be done with it. But the implications of what Professor Richard Epstein has called "government by waiver" aren't funny. As Congress has ceded more and more power to regulatory agencies, the opportunities for abuse of power multiply. Writing in National Affairs, Epstein notes that among the companies and entities that successfully sought waivers from Obamacare's provisions were PepsiCo, Foot Locker, the Pew Charitable Trusts, many local chapters of the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and numerous public-employee unions.
But, asks Epstein, "(W)hat about employers who do not have the resources to navigate the waiver process? What about those lacking the political connections to make their concerns heard in Washington? And what happens when the one-year waivers run out? Will they be renewed? Under what conditions? And what rights will insurers have to waive then in order to avoid going out of business?"
The world of Obamacare is no place for the little guy.
The danger of waiver power is that it will be used differentially, giving one private entity a competitive advantage over another. The company denied a waiver can bring suit -- but litigation is expensive and slow.
Additionally, companies may fear government retaliation: "It is no accident that it is often public-interest groups or patient groups that take on the FDA, for instance. It is simply too risky for a pharmaceutical company with multiple applications before the agency to challenge one action if it is vulnerable to a government-induced slowdown on another," writes Epstein.
So it isn't just the threat of tax hikes that makes the Obama Administration such a threat to American free-market liberty; or massive deficit spending, or hostility to energy production or the subjective law of appointed judges or the proliferation of unelected "Czars" or any of the other "gangster government" ploys the administration has so quickly and expertly embraced. It is the 2000-pages of statutory "we can do what we want" called the Patient Protection and Affordability Act that makes these government bureaucrats so dangerous.
It looks like the First Lady and the Vice President will be safe in the air:
Los Angeles -- The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday issued new orders requiring that air traffic control supervisors oversee the arrival and departure of planes carrying the vice president and first lady.
The directive came two days after an incident in which a Boeing 737 carrying Michelle Obama got too close to a massive military cargo jet as both planes were trying to land at Andrews Air Force Base.
The managers in one air traffic control center were unaware of a potential problem, and the manager in the Andrews tower was reluctant to say anything when he noticed that the two planes were two miles closer than FAA standards allow, federal sources said.
I was so concerned. I was thinking that we might fix the broken, antiquated, government monopoly flight control system so that everybody would be safe.
But special protection for Michelle Obama and VP Biden will be much easier -- that Ray LaHood, he's quite the genius.
So I am not going green with a hybrid/electric. No offense to Prius owners who are doing their part. It is just not for me. I am sticking with a regular gasoline car that gets good mileage but also has good performance. My other car, a 2010 VW GTI is one of those. It is a blast to drive. The 0 to 60 time is sub-6 seconds and it gets 31/32 mpg on the highway. Cost only $25K too. A real winner.
My dear Hawaiian auntie asked, "Does anyone know how much it costs to "fill one of these cars up with electricity"? I've never seen a quote,only how far you can drive & how long it takes to charge them. I realize it depends on how much your electrictricy costs are,but I've never even seen any estimates. Also how many windmills is it going to take to make all this extra electricity. Just wondering."
She's right. The only time the "fill-up" cost is ever talked about they just say "a few dollars." So I did some calculating from data I found at Wikipedia for the Nissan LEAF. [Yes, I know it's a bit long winded but I think you'll enjoy this.]
The Nissan LEAF has a 24 kwh (kilowatt hour) battery. At 10 cents per kwh and assuming perfect conversion of line current to DC and then battery charge the cost to charge the battery from empty would be $2.40.
But it isn't just the cost of the charge that needs to be evaluated. There's also the TIME to recharge.
On 240VAC 30 amp circuit the charge time is 8 hours. On 115VAC 15 amp household outlet the charge time would be about 4 times as long, or 32 hours. They provide this type of charging for "convenience use when making stops or for emergency charging." They tell you to count on about 5 miles of range per HOUR of charge time by this method. Nissan has developed a fast charger that can fully refuel 80% of the 100-mile range of a LEAF in ... 30 minutes. You can buy one for $16,800. (Be careful though, because "Nissan warns that if fast charging is the primary way of recharging, then the normal and gradual battery capacity loss is about 10% more than regular 220-volt charging over a 10-year period.")
IT'S JUST ALL SO COMPLICATED!!!
Enviros and 'Lectric car apologists will try to tell you that all of these limitations are just because the technology is "new" and it will improve rapidly as more people buy the things and by becoming mainstream the car companies will compete with each other and solve all the problems. But electric cars are NOT new. I rode in one in Denver that dad took from the University to Cinderella City to show off to normal people. That was about 40 years ago. FORTY!
Why can gasoline engines get the same range on a couple gallons of gasoline that 'Lectrics get on 32 hours worth of power into the biggest electric heater you can plug into your wall socket? Even though gasoline engines are less than a quarter as efficient as electric motors? Because gasoline has a TREMENDOUS energy content.
"A single gallon of gasoline contains 131.76 megajoules of energy, compared to 2.1 megajoules in a stick of dynamite. 1 gallon of gas therefore equals 63 sticks of dynamite.
An average lightning bolt releases 500 megajoules, or 3.8 gallons of gasoline energy."
Now, going full circle back to the Nissan LEAF ... that 24 kwh battery pack it carries can hold 86 megajoules. That's 0.65 gallons of gasoline. (86 MEGAjoules sounded like a lot for a second there, didn't it!) Cost to fill up: $3.69 per gallon equivalent. Well, at least it's got that in common with gasoline powered cars.
If you don't mind sweat, dirt, or the smell of manure, this is a great time to be a farmer. Incomes are up, land values are high, and global demand is growing. Oh, and if you're one of the lucky farmers, there's a bonus: a tap on the federal treasury.
Whether it is Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, or Franklin Raines, or Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, or "Wall Street" who is really to blame for the 2008 mortgage crisis that launched the current recession, the silver lining is that we've seen what harm can be done by lending large sums of money to people who can't pay it back and the government will certainly put an end to that dubious practice, right? Umm, no.
The Federal Government has a home loan program specifically for federally enrolled tribal members, on or off reservation land.
• 30 year fixed rates with NO PREPAYMENT PENALTY
• Maximum loan amount $544,185
• Minimum down payment 2.25% (in some cases 1.25%)
• Seller can pay up to 6% of your closing costs
• No credit history required
• Flexible underwriting for credit issues
• No history of receiving per capita required
• No monthly mortgage insurance required
• Single family, 2-4 units, condos, manufactured homes
• Purchase loans
• Rehab loans
• Construction loans
• Homebuyer counseling service available for all clients
Forbes' Patrick Michaels called General Motors a liar for the claim that their Volt hybrid is an "all-electric vehicle" and the onboard generator is only to extend its range. That's a serious charge, considering the huge federal subsidy to buyers of the car is based on that dubious premise.
"It's not a hybrid! It's an electric car with a range-extending, gas-powered generator onboard." That was the party line during most of the masterfully orchestrated press rollout of what we've been promised will be the most thoroughly new car since, what, the Chrysler Turbine? The Lunar Rover? Well, the cat is now out of the bag, and guess what? It is a hybrid, after all. Yes, Virginia, the Chevy Volt’s gas engine does turn the wheels. Sometimes.
The salient difference between the Volt and the Prius is that the Prius' gas engine turns on at 60 mph and the Volt's at 100 mph. Motor Trend explains this as a second electric motor giving the Volt its top-end boost but glosses over the fact that the second motor, called a motor-generator, doesn't appear to recharge the battery through regenerative braking as the Prius does. In their diagram they show only "power in" from the engine and motor-generator of the Volt.
So is the Volt better or worse than the Prius? Or even really that much different?
....And I don't just mean the relative competence and devotion to liberty of President Clinton.
Nossir, in '96 (that's how us old timers talk about the 20th Century), you could buy an inexpensive and effective washing machine. Anywhere.
In 1996, top-loaders were pretty much the only type of washer around, and they were uniformly high quality. When Consumer Reports tested 18 models, 13 were "excellent" and five were "very good."
Thankfully, government stepped in to fix it.
By 2007, though, not one was excellent and seven out of 21 were "fair" or "poor." This month came the death knell: Consumer Reports simply dismissed all conventional top-loaders as "often mediocre or worse."
In 2007, after the more stringent rules had kicked in, Consumer Reports noted that some top-loaders were leaving its test swatches "nearly as dirty as they were before washing." "For the first time in years," CR said, "we can't call any washer a Best Buy." Contrast that with the magazine's 1996 report that, "given warm enough water and a good detergent, any washing machine will get clothes clean." Those were the good old days.
My $200,000 Washer-Dryer came with a free condo. Moving in and showing the place, several folks commented on what a great washer we were getting. And it is. It gets clothes just as clean as the 1964 Maytag I left at the house. Yeah, it smells a little funny, but there are products you can buy that make the $1000 machine almost as good as the $50 one.
Facebook friend JC linked to a DOE report on energy subsidies in a comment to this post that is about to scroll off the page. I think he may have thought I'm a fan of oil subsidies, since I am an avowed supporter of oil and oil companies. But I want the market to decide, not my congressman. (Well, maybe if it was only mycongressman without the other 434, but I digress.) The linked report offers this nugget on the ability of subsidies to produce more product.
Notwithstanding the doubling of Federal energy-related subsidies and support between 1999 and 2007, and a significant increase in most energy prices over that period, U.S. energy production is virtually unchanged since 1999 (Table ES2). Basic economic principles suggest that higher real energy prices together with the significant incentives provided to various production segments of the energy sector would tend to raise domestic energy production. A variety of factors unrelated to prices or subsidy programs such as State and Federal statutory limitations imposed on onshore and offshore oil and natural gas exploration in environmentally sensitive areas, uncertainty regarding future environmental policies possibly restricting future emissions of greenhouse gases, and declines in future production from previously developed domestic oil and natural gas resources may have impeded growth in energy production despite modest growth in consumption.
[Emphasis in original.]
Did anyone else notice that none of the regulatory restrictions affected wind, solar, ethanol or biogas? Yet energy production was unchanged. Go figure.
As a taxpayer/shareholder, I am appalled that GM has sold only 281 Volts last month
Peruse Chevrolet's February sales release, and you'll notice one number that's blatantly missing: the number of Chevy Volts sold. The number -- a very modest 281 -- is available in the company's detailed data (PDF), but it certainly isn't something that GM wants to highlight, apparently. Keeping the number quiet is a bit understandable, since it's lower than the 321 that Chevy sold in January.
In my less-fiduciary role as an admirer of American spirit and human pragmatism, I am "plum tickled."
Did you know that those in the federal government--the folks who brought you $1.6 trillion of yearly deficits, brought you $14 trillion of debt, and make Elmo a reality--offer Americans 56 separate programs to help them better understand their finances? Where will these citizens go for sage advice if Washington shuts down? -- David Harsanyi
Yesterday I wrote about thousands of "clean energy" jobs that could be eliminated if Colorado's largest power company cuts its solar power subsidy in half (per installation). I suggested that those jobs probably wouldn't have existed without the subsidy, which distorted market signals to create economic activity for an economically unviable product.
Building this new economy starts with understanding how clean energy legislation can create jobs. During my four-year term in Colorado, I signed 57 pieces of clean energy legislation. In 2007, for example, we doubled the proportion of energy in the state that is required to come from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2020. In 2010, we increased that to 30 percent for our biggest utility. As a result, Colorado now ranks fourth among the 50 states in its number of clean energy workers per capita, and 1,500 clean energy companies call our state home — an 18 percent increase since 2004. Wind- and solar-energy companies that have built factories and opened offices in Colorado have brought in thousands of new jobs.
But governor, have you not heard that the American economy is no longer robust enough to support elective boutique energy "just in case" environmental scientists might be partially correct? It's about as popular with voters right now as free pensions and sweetheart health insurance for unionized Wisconsin teachers. Feel-good energy layoffs are happening now in the U.S. European plants are closing now. Why not just wait until the science and technology is sufficient for sustainable energy to be sustainable? It will save a lot of wasted money and effort building new plants and then closing them.
JK did a great write-up on the Wisconsin revolution against state employee union looting of the treasury. As I thought about covering the same story I had some phrases in mind: Here comes the sun... It's always darkest before the dawn... Finally, hope and change! Stuff like that.
But how can something like this happen in Wisconsin? Home of the U of W in Madison, birthplace of the AFSCME union and a long-time leftist bastion? Check the leadership:
The EPA has proposed examining every aspect of hydraulic fracturing, from water withdrawals to waste disposal, according to a draft plan the agency released Tuesday.
Does this come as any surprise? With so much new oil becoming accessible through the new process the energy nazis at EPA have to find some way to put a halt to it.
The EPA proposal notes that 603 rigs were drilling horizontal wells in June 2010, more than twice as many as were operating a year earlier. Horizontal wells can require millions of gallons of water per well, a much greater volume than in conventional wells.
One point of contention is the breadth of the study.
Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, said he understands the need to address any stage of the fracking that might affect drinking water, but he's skeptical that water withdrawals meet the criteria.
President Obama issued an executive order yesterday that "requires Federal agencies to design cost-effective, evidence-based regulations that are compatible with economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness." This is not quite the "reform" language that was peddled in the press but that is ostensibly the goal: Start to get government out of the way of private sector job growth, at least a little bit.
On the same day, Politico reported that Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), incoming chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, sought input from the private sector on what sorts of reforms would be helpful. This led to predictable outrage at HuffPo that Issa intends to mount a "purely partisan crusade" aimed at "protecting big corporations instead of creating middle class jobs." As if it is inconceivable that private sector job growth is the purview of corporations and trade associations.
I found this story while searching for reform ideas. Since I didn't find any I will start, as a public service, a group-sourced list of suggested reforms. My first entries are as follows. Please pile on in the comments.
- Abolish the federal minimum wage.
- Abort EPA efforts to regulate CO2 emissions.
- Eliminate all federal mandates for health insurance coverage and eliminate any federal restrictions on writing policies across state lines.
- Eliminate oil and gas severance taxes and expedite leases on so-called "public" lands outside of the National Parks system.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was a political overreaction to the 2002 scandals. It did nothing to prevent the financial crisis of 2007-2009. So we now have a similar overreaction in the Dodd-Frank Act, which I call the "Faith in Bureaucracy Act." The vast bureaucratic outpouring it commands will generate excessive cost and damage to U.S. competitiveness. -- Alex Pollock
If you believe the results of a study that included this quiz by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Of the sample size, [over 2500 adults] 164 identified themselves as having been successfully elected to government office -- whether federal, state or local positions -- but the subset performed even poorer than the national average on questions about the government.
"Overall, the average score for officeholders on the civic literacy test was 44 percent, compared to 49 percent for those who have not held an elected office." I scored 91 percent without even being careful.
In President Obama's first year in office there was a major push to create "green jobs" in the U.S. In October of that year his Commerce Secretary said, "Building a green economy isn't going to be easy, but if government and businesses work together, America can and will be a world leader in clean energy."
Oops.Evergreen Solar to Shut Down U.S. Manufacturing, Move to China
CEO Michael El-Hillow commented: "While overall demand for solar may increase, we expect that significant capacity expansions in low cost manufacturing regions combined with potential adverse changes in government subsidies in several markets in Europe will likely result in continuing pressure on selling prices throughout 2011. Solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry. While the United States and other western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar energy, we expect the United States will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint."
"Low cost manufacturing regions..." and their "low manufacturing costs" put the U.S. at a "disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint." Perhaps there are forces at work here other than generous government subsidies for preferred sectors. Maybe it's just too damned expensive to hire employees in the U.S.
“These new numbers show that even though global wage differentials are narrowing, policy-induced costs in the United States, especially corporate taxes, continue to undermine manufacturers’ ability to compete with our largest trading partners,” Duesterberg said.
John Stossel pleads: Stop helping Us! "...the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act. It was supposed to really end the alleged abuses perpetrated by the credit card companies. The law forbids some penalties and interest-rate increases on existing balances."
Finally! Protection! A new bureaucracy will stop greedy credit card companies from unfairly penalizing you. And it won't threaten the credit business. Yippie!
Of course, the companies tightened credit on marginal customers (I thought myself outside the margins but my favorite card tightened my limit from $32K to $2500 and forced me into the plastic arms of another card). Less fortunate lost credit and turned to payday loans (how's 500% sound?). States have come down on payday lenders, driving their customers to loansharks ("Time, Spike, is what turns kittens into cats...").
I have tried to go easy on the First Lady. It's an unusual position, where one is expected to "do something" while not asserting authority that does not exist.
But it is not within the consciousness of the current WH occupants to not turn their brainchildren into legislation. And Michelle Obama has decided that legislation is needed to combat a national security threat! "We can't just leave it to the parents." Ahh, the scourge of childhood obesity.
Warning: sections of this video may upset ThreeSourcers; viewer discretion is advised.
Enjoyable as it is pounding on the TSA, I do not intend to develop a sudden aversion to the radiation produced by the body scanners. Fourth Amendment, yes, Junk science, no.
But Ann Althouse suggests an interesting comparison. We (us 'Merkuns) refuse to accept irradiated food products that are proven safe, yet we accept irradiated us.
Is it that we are not only irrational, but we are also irrational in our choice of what to be irrational about? I don't think so. Food radiation was something that businesses were permitted to do, but they stopped because we avoided buying the product. The government isn't asking us whether we want our bodies irradiated if we want to travel by plane. It's not like going to the grocery store and picking one package of hamburger instead of another. We still get our hamburger. We don't have a choice of flying with radiation or without radiation. The only choice the government gives us is not to fly or to accept a groping.
A commenter suggests 4000 Americans die every year of food poisoning. Looking up that alarming number before I pass it along, the CDC claims 5000:
To better quantify the impact of foodborne diseases on health in the United States, we compiled and analyzed information from multiple surveillance systems and other sources. We estimate that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Known pathogens account for an estimated 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths. Three pathogens, Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma, are responsible for 1,500 deaths each year, more than 75% of those caused by known pathogens, while unknown agents account for the remaining 62 million illnesses, 265,000 hospitalizations, and 3,200 deaths. Overall, foodborne diseases appear to cause more illnesses but fewer deaths than previously estimated.
We're comparing apples to Tonka® trucks in the moral realm here, but just to look at the numbers, we could safely prevent a 9-11 every year and don't. Yet we provide the TSA, who have yet to catch a terrorist or knowingly foil a plot with a much more questionable tool.
It's a mixed up, muddled and shook-up world 'cept for Lola...
This week the euphoria has given way to the task of making the new GM successful again. I'm optimistic, though with a cautionary note. I was in Detroit on the company's coming-out day and was surprised by the level of local skepticism among people who have every reason to root for the new GM.
One man, a retired components-company executive, told television interviewers that unionized auto makers can't compete over the long term with their nonunion counterparts. Another retiree, who worked 40 years for GM, said he decided not to buy IPO shares when the company announced sponsorship of an Indy Car racing team. A sure sign, he told me, that cost discipline is being tossed aside for dubious and ephemeral marketing benefits.
I was thinking the same last night watching a commercial about how GM was planting trees to sequester carbon. If any new data were needed to prove that this crony union behemoth is not serious about competing in the actual automotive marketplace, there it is.
Another key cultural indicator will be whether Detroit's managements can resist believing their own hyperbole. Exhibit A is the Chevy Volt, GM's new plug-in hybrid vehicle, which is setting records in miles per gallon and in hype per mile. The Volt runs mostly with electricity. But it will be sold mostly with enormous federal tax credits--$7,500--to defray a price of around $42,000.
It's outrageous, really. America is running trillion-dollar budget deficits. The taxpayers have shelled out tens of billions of dollars to rescue GM. And the company's accumulated tax-loss credits could shield it from paying federal income taxes for years. So why are we also paying people to buy GM cars, or any brand of alternative-fuel vehicle for that matter? If GM thinks a lower price is necessary to sell the Volt, it should cut the price itself.
Economist Steven Horwitz findsthat more Americans will die travelling because of the TSA:
As the nation readies for one of the busiest traveling holidays, Steven Horwitz, a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University, told The Hill that the probable spike in road travel, caused by adverse feelings towards the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) new screening procedures, could also lead to more car-related deaths.
"Driving is much more dangerous than flying, as you are far more likely to be killed in an automobile accident mile-for-mile than you are in an airplane," said Horwitz. "The result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway."
I'm uncomfortable saying that the FDA or the TSA is "killing" Americans. I think that charge requires mens rea. But unintended consequences that result in needless fatalities need to be recognized.
I have heard this one. The plastic from water bottles is making you fat, giving you cancer, giving you diabetes. (Evian Belly?)
The back to the caves crowd holds a particular enmity for bottled water. It's a sure sign of the curse of affluence. Easier to make fun of than to defend, you can attack it for frugality, environmentalism, and brands' identification as status symbol. Brother jg has contributed to a lengthy Facebook dialogue with a friend espousing "voluntary simplicity." Bottling and transporting Norwegian glacier water strikes him as the apogee of environmental arrogance.
Our sainted betters up North (no, not Norway-- Canada!) have declared prohibition on plastic. John Stossel points out that not even the lame-ass FDA (my description, he calls them "notoriously risk-averse") sees the link to danger that have caused Canada, Connecticut and Minnesota to legislate.
Nonsense. Not only is there no good evidence that BPA locked into plastic can hurt people, it actually saves lives by stopping botulism.
"Since BPA became commonplace in the lining of canned goods, food-borne illness from canned foods--including botulism--has virtually disappeared," says the American Council of Science and Health.
You never hear the good news about BPA in the mainstream media. Fear-mongering gets better ratings.
Does anybody remember when politicians used to at least pretend to tell the truth? Now they just deny there is such a thing as truth.
Fast forward now to 2008, after the risky mortgages had led to huge numbers of defaults, dragging down Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the financial markets in general -- and with them the whole economy.
Barney Frank was all over the media, pointing the finger of blame at everybody else. When financial analyst Maria Bartiromo asked Congressman Frank who was responsible for the financial crisis, he said, "right-wing Republicans." It so happens that conservatives were the loudest critics who had warned for years against the policies that Barney Frank pushed, but why let facts get in the way?
Ms. Bartiromo did not just accept whatever Barney Frank said. She said: "With all due respect, congressman, I saw videotapes of you saying in the past: 'Oh, let's open up the lending. The housing market is fine.'" His reply? "No, you didn't see any such tapes."
One of the Update links at the linked article in the Dr. Hal Lewis resignation story was a copy of the APS's public response with rebuttal by Dr. Lewis and two others interspersed in context. While the resignation letter itself is scathing evidence of Global Warming as hoax, it doesn't directly address the issue of "well-funded people believing" and thus, it "not going away." This does: [First the APS' statement, then Lewis' rebuttal.]
Dr. Lewis’ specific charge that APS as an organization is benefitting financially from climate change funding is equally false. Neither the operating officers nor the elected leaders of the Society have a monetary stake in such funding.
The chair of the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) that re-endorsed the 2007 APS Statement on Climate Change sits on the science advisory board of a large international bankhttp://annualreport.deutsche-bank.com/2009/ar/supplementaryinformation/advisoryboards.htmlThe bank has a $60+ billion Green portfolio, which it wishes to assure investors is safe…not to mention their income from carbon trading. Other members of this board include current IPCC chief Pachauri and Lord Oxburgh, of Climategate exoneration fame. The viability of these banks activities depends on continued concern over CO2 emissions. Then there is the member of the Kleppner Committee (that reviewed the APS 2007 Statement prior to POPA) who served on that committee while under consideration for the position of Chief Scientist at BP. The position had been vacated when Steve Koonin left to take a post in the administration at DOE. Soon after the Kleppner Committee report in late 2009, this committee member took the BP job. BP had previously funded the new Energy Laboratory at Berkeley, which was headed by current Energy Secretary Steve Chu.
UPDATE: Reformatted for clarity and bolded text for emphasis.
Last November 20 I posted this first news of Climategate, which included James Delingpole's headline: Climategate: The final nail in the coffin of 'antropogenic global warming?'
JK was more circumspect but by December 1 admitted that the scandal was a "game changer." Yet, he still hedged: "But it does not expose a hoax as some have claimed. The believers truly believe. As long as well funded people believe, it is not going away."
Today, or rather October 8, the hoax is exposed.
Harold Lewis - Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board - resigned from the American Physical Society over events that have transpired since Climategate.
In discussing the publicly released resignation letter Anthony Watts says,
This is an important moment in science history. I would describe it as a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door. It is worthy of repeating this letter in entirety on every blog that discusses science.
From the letter:
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford's book organizes the facts very well.) I don't believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
He then goes on to expose the calculated lengths that APS management went to defeat his efforts to establish a Topic Group on Climate Change within the APS. Sharp, smart and irretrievably damaging to APS and the Climate Change movement.
The first lady doesn't mind ordinary families eating out on special occasions. But, she claimed, restaurant efforts to reduce calories and fats have been insufficient. And too slow. "We just don't have the time to waste," Mrs. Obama added. -- Andrew Malcolm
Hat-tip: James Taranto. If you think FLOTUS's obesity campaign is mostly harmless, I suggest you follow the links and read her remarks.
Republican candidate for CO governor Dan Maes took some heat in early August for suggesting that statist influences at the United Nations are inserting themselves into state and municipal governments through an organization called ICLEI. I'll admit that if you've never heard of these self-important busybodies the whole idea can sound a bit conspiratorial. Even our own jk joked "See the bikes all come in black helicopters..."
Yet today, from the "just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not really out to get me" department, we have the White House's Ocean Policy Initiative.
What the administration in effect is putting in place is an alternative power structure that circumvents existing state and local decision-making bodies and replaces them with made-in-Washington zoning. All of this is taking place without the consent of Congress, without the consent of the governors, and, most important of all, without the consent of the governed.
Suddenly the idea that similar efforts to influence local decision-making by the U.N. might "threaten our personal freedoms" doesn't seem like such a crackpot remark. JK commented "Let's pick smarter fights than this, boys." I'll counter with, "Someone has to start connecting the dots for voters sooner or later. Let's hope that when they do it isn't too late to get our liberty back using the ballot box."
John Sherman was first sent to the Senate in 1861. He had a distinguished career, serving in the Executive and legislative branches. In 1890, after returning to the Senate he passed the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Liberty is timeless. The words of Jefferson, Locke, and Cicero move us today. But legislation has a shelf life -- and this one had a little green fuzz around it in the nineteenth century.
One could not explain to the august Ohioan what a "Google" was, yet his 120 year old eponymous legislation is being employed by the firm's rent seeking competitors.
A debate in the WSJ Ed Page today asks "Is Google a Monopoly"
Amit Singhal of Google argues the competition is one click away. Charles Rule, an attorney whose firm represents corporations suing Google, counters that the company commands a share of search advertising in excess of 70%—the threshold for monopoly under the Sherman Act..
I/you/we have had a lot of bad things to say about Google. The firm warrants its own category and I see the latest post is entitled "Really, Really Evil."
But no firm has more honestly won its market share in the history of market share. Anybody can compete with them today and reach 100% of their customers. We were negotiating to sell our start up to a Google competitor as a last gasp to save ourselves. The company competes with <scary music>Microsift</scary music>, phone directories, Yahoo and is now threatened by Social Media sites.
They own no infrastructure to fend off competition. Like 'em or not, they (I tried to keep them singular, really I did) earn their monopoly every day by giving people what they want.
Requiescat in pace, Senator, your ghost is not needed here.
Our brothers and sisters in the Keystone state probably already know about PleaseNoMoreTaxes.org but I just discovered them. Apparently there was a recent video contest to explain why you think taxes should not be raised further. I liked this one.
I'm not a reflexive gold-standard guy, but I do believe that the Federal Reserve Banking system is hopelessly corrupt. I'd be glad to see stuff like this discussed in our nation's capitol:
Paul said everyone accuses him of wanting the gold standard but he said he doesn't accept that. “I accept the idea of a gold coin standard and I think we can do much better than what we had," he said. "There was a lot that they did pre-Fed that was not exactly right but we never had a disastrous loss of purchasing power long-term, we didn’t have a great depression, we didn’t have the 1970s with stagflation and we wouldn’t have what we have right now.”
Paul also said he wants to legalize the freedom for people to choose. “My proposal for now is to legalize the constitution to use gold and silver as legal tender in a parallel standard and have it compete with paper money. If people get tired of using the paper standard they can deal in gold or silver,” he said.
Perhaps you've heard about the "green" power initiative called "smart grid." According to Wikipedia,"A smart grid, is, in essence, an attempt to require consumers to change their behavior around variable electric rates or to pay vastly increased rates for the privilege of reliable electrical service during high-demand conditions." Well, who in their right mind wouldn't want THAT in their home?!
As it is often eager to do, the city of Boulder, Colorado wanted to be a pioneer in transforming the smart grid into reality so they colluded with utility company Xcel Energy to wire up 23,000 homes at a projected cost in the neighborhood of $20 million. Now that the experiment is over and the final price was $45 million Xcel says, "We would not do that again over the whole service area," But in bailing out on the added cost Boulder says, "There is not a clear consensus among the members of the Boulder City Council with regard to the value of SmartGridCity in its present state or the prudence of this investment."
What? Boulder City Council considering the "prudence" of "investing" residents' money based upon "value?" Pinch me!
I hope you caught at least a few of Drew Carey's awesome awesome awesome Reason.tv videos examining his home town's descent into craptitude. From being America's fifth largest city, the Cuyahoga Riviera has faded into irrelevance and privation, while municipal leaders call for more regulation and control. This'll bring 'em home! Insty calls them Big Brother Trash Carts:
Starting next year Cleveland residents face paying a $100 fine if they don't recycle, and the city's new high-tech trash cans will keep track if they don't. The new cans are embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes which keep track of how often residents take them to the curb. If the chip shows you haven't brought your recycle can out in a while, a lucky trash supervisor will go through your can looking for recyclables. From the article: "Trash carts containing more than 10 percent recyclable material could lead to a $100 fine, according to Waste Collection Commissioner Ronnie Owens. Recyclables include glass, metal cans, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard."
Hat-tip: Insty (Though I think he just posts because she's attractive. I am deeply committed to reduced government spending.)
Flashback: Ms. Muccio on these pages in Feb 2009. Sigh. I may have mentioned her appearence back then as well.
UPDATE: Watch the old one and think about what could have been. For the same money as the Stimulus, we could have given a whole year payroll tax holiday. I don't think we'd have been looking at ~10% unemployment had we listened to an econ student instead of Washington.
AND: I wanted to assure our female viewership (both of them) that we will give equal time to the next super-hunky male economist that comes along. We might even institute a centerfold!
Rush Limbaugh was the first I heard use the construction 'Happy Dependence Day' as a celebration of the Fourth of July under President Obama and the Democrat Congress. It's a fitting title for sharing the words of a more contemporary version of the song 'God Bless America' which I started last night and put the finishing touches on this morning. "Enjoy."
Gaia, bless America,
Land I assume;
Stand astride her,
And guide her,
Through the night,
With your might,
Where's my bailout;
Where's my health care;
Where's my solar,
Gaia, bless America,
Gaia, bless America,
Copyright holder 'johngalt' in the year of "Tbe One We've Been Waiting For" II (2010) and licensed for public use.
I have not read Carroll Quigley's "The Evolution of Civilizations" but blog friend tg has turned me onto one theme from it that has changed my life: the idea that organizations begin as "instruments" with a fixed purpose but morph into "institutions" devoted to their own self-preservation. Again, I am paraphrasing a paraphrase (tg's was quite good, maybe he'll provide a link?) I'm certain to be missing much nuance.
But I am struck by its application to government agencies. It provides a very good reason not to create them.
Instapundit, Breitbart, and PowerLine talk about and embed an interview with Charles Bolden of NASA. Bolden tells Al-Jazeera (Tagline: hey, we're better than CNN!) that the President tasked him "to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering." Aww, isn't that sweet.
Paul at PowerLine notices that space exploration does not make the top three in President Obama's ToDo list. "The other two are 're-inspire children to want to get into science and math' and 'expand our international relationships,'" Man, I'm just feeling better about myself by the minute.
I'd suggest that no Federal agency has a clearer aegis than NASA. And yet, it is just one more honey pot of money that the current occupant of the White House can use for whatever pleases. President Huckabee will probably develop some great tasting Diet Tang®.
For several months now I've taken scant comfort in the belief that "after the healthcare disaster there's no way that congress or the American people will allow the energy tax bill to pass." Then I read this analysis by RCP's Jay Cost:
The only reason to pass such a major piece of legislation during a lame duck session is because the proposal is unpopular. If Democrats could sell the bill to their constituents, they would pass it before the November elections then campaign on it. Party leaders must also expect that the political will for this bill will not exist in the 112th Congress after the voters have spoken in November. In other words, the new representatives coming in are not going to vote for it - so Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama had better get the representatives who were just fired to support it before they're forced into early retirement.
But Jay says the president would be wise to use caution, lest he hurt his own chances for re-election in '12:
Passing health care reform over howls of popular protest then jamming energy reform through a lame duck Congress might solidify the impression that this President is a bully who doesn't care what the people think. That would hand the Republicans a great valence issue for 2012. Nobody likes a bully, after all.
But if the president has already acquiesced to a belief that his re-election is doomed anyway...
John Stossel brings word that Senator Chuck Grassley (R - C2H5OH) is going to watch out for us on the college football realignment:
"Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) ... said his staff is exploring options through nonprofit and antitrust laws to approach the realignments.
'I'm concerned about what's happening the Texas universities and the PAC 10 and what would possibly be leaving some Big 12 teams out in the cold,' Grassley said in a Wednesday conference call. 'All I can tell you is my staff's looking into what can be done from a non-profit, anti-trust standpoint.
What a relief! I was afraid that was going to continue with little or no Federal oversight.
JK recently invoked a long-standing theme put forth by Blog Brother Silence: That without government guidance a capitalist economy necessarily results in an extreme gentrification of society, or a "Dickensian" world if you will. I noted in the comments that "it is not only the wealthy who can create wealth. At every level of the economic ladder, when value is traded for value wealth is created." A more thorough explanation of this fact is offered in a Wendy Milling essay: 'No Thomas Friedman, Capitalism is Perfect.'
Some degree of economic malady exists and will continue to exist under any system, including capitalism. It is not the responsibility of capitalism to eliminate, and it is not a feature of capitalism, but of a special facet of reality: Man's free will.
Individuals must perform mental and physical work in order to attain material values, but this requires an act of free will. The existence of free will means that some people will choose to have a different value system, and some will choose not to have values at all. In a pure capitalist system, the opportunity to achieve whatever prosperity level desired is available to everyone.
It is not the proper purpose or function of a politico-economic system to override the free will of man, and any attempt to do so is immoral. It would be an attempt to violate the rights of the virtuous for the sake of those who reject virtue, because in reality, the only way to start equalizing results for people who have chosen to reject effort is to rob from those who have not. To insist that people who demonstrate no commitment to achieving material values, value the materials anyway-and then blame capitalism for their not having them-is to border on the psychotic.
Now, what Wendy has described is only valid in a special place we like to call "reality." Opponents of capitalism can't prevail in the face of these facts using reason. In fact, many deny that reason exists. Instead, as Wendy writes, "they rely on obfuscations, equivocations, and an attitude of militant evasion. One trick is to make inappropriate demands of capitalism, then stomp and pout and denounce capitalism when those demands are not met." She calls this approach "crybaby metaphysics." That is apt teminology, and the reacton to the BP oil leak by President Obama casts him as Crybaby in Chief. ("Just plug the damn hole!")
Milling concludes by answering Friedman's sneering taunt, "But what say the tea partiers today? Who will step forward now and demand that the ‘energy market' be rescued from regulatory bondage?"
Observe that the government, beholden to an insane environmentalist ideology that views nature as an intrinsic value and superior to human beings, forbade oil companies to drill nearer to the coast line where there were shallow waters. In the shallow areas, an oil leak could be directly accessed. Instead, companies were only allowed to drill in areas too deep for current technology to address.
The liability risk in deep waters was too great for the oil companies to accept. This is an example of the inherent safety features in a free market. However, because we need the oil for our economy, politicians had to entice companies to drill there by capping liability limits on accidents, legally shielding them from the consequences of failure they would bear under a capitalist system. It is government that removes the safety controls and engenders unacceptably risky situations.
There is no regulation that can override the reality of a fundamentally flawed set-up like this, which is why the statists do not offer to explain why such regulations were not already in place in one of the most heavily regulated sectors of the economy.
It is also an open question what the actual economic damage will be, what it would be were the federal government not interfering with local authorities' attempts to mitigate the spill, and what adaptations the private sector will make to counter the new adversities.
Thus, if it were not for government interference, there might still have been an accident at some point, but there would have been no "disaster." Statism was the problem, and laissez-faire would have prevented this situation.
Capitalism is not to blame for the flaws of our mixed economy, the do-gooders' "fettering" is.
Those who question global warming alarmists’ claims and policy prescriptions have been compared to holocaust deniers. Yet what are we to call environmentalists whose policies have resulted in the deaths of millions and could exacerbate poverty and hunger? The movie title Not Evil, Just Wrong may be too charitable.
Snap! Now that's what I call 'Hope and Change' in the news business. How did this happen? The story was written by Carrie Lukas, VP of Policy and Economics at the Independent Women's Forum (because "All issues are women's issues.") Their mission:
The Independent Women's Forum is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and educational institution. Founded in 1992, IWF focuses on issues of concern to women, men, and families. Our mission is to rebuild civil society by advancing economic liberty, personal responsibility, and political freedom. IWF builds support for a greater respect for limited government, equality under the law, property rights, free markets, strong families, and a powerful and effective national defense and foreign policy. IWF is home to some of the nation's most influential scholars—women who are committed to promoting and defending economic opportunity and political freedom.
OK, sounds good so far. They may have been founded in 1992 but it's hard to believe this has been their mission all along. I think JK'd have linked 'em by now! ;) Better late than never though.
UPDATE: Here's the link to the entire US N&WR entry and not just the excerpt on balanced-ed.org. It's an editorial. Oh well, the flicker of hope felt really good for those few minutes. Still check out iwf.org though.
"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," LaHood said in a statement. "Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families."
Just as the housing bubble can be traced to the Community Reinvestment Act, the American health care 'crisis' can be traced to EMTALA. This act, part of the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is the origin of the treatment-on-demand mandate on American hospitals. The stick that makes hospitals comply is continued receipt of Medicare reimbursements. So why can't a private hospital choose to stop treating Medicare patients and, as an added bonus, indigent patients?
As with the CRA, EMTALA was made worse by subsequent amendments. Like this one:
"Though patients treated under EMTALA may or may not be able to pay or have insurance or other programs pay for the associated costs, they are legally responsible for any costs incurred as a result of their care under civil law. Patients whose advance intention it is to receive medical care and fail to pay cannot be held criminally liable unless they intentionally and knowingly provide false identifying information to dodge billing."
And yet, as amended...
"The patient cannot receive a negative credit mark for failure to pay the hospital or any related services, or any third-party agent collecting on their behalf."
My favorite story remains that President Madison, when brought a bill to finance internal improvements (Erie Canal, perhaps?) said "I cannot lay my finger on that part of the Constitution which gives me the authority to do this."
Y'know, I think -- even dead -- James Madison would be a better President than the recent crop. He is always rated low by historians. But historians typically do not appreciated enumerated powers nor limitations on Executive authority.
Got a link to complete this segue, jk, or are you just ramblin'? I got a link:
WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve issued new rules on Tuesday to protect Americans from getting stung by unexpected fees or restrictions on gift cards.
Free at last, free at last! Great God Almighty, service fees on my $25 Chili's gift card will be free at last!
UPDATE: Oh man, do not miss tg's link!. "The Good and Welfare Clause!" First laugh I have had since Sunday night, tg, Though...you;re right...it's really not funny...
DISCLAIMER: This is an anecdote, and as such proves nothing. Unless you're the president or the speaker of the House. -- Matt Welch, who did much to elect President Obama, yet is rewarded with QOTD honors on the darkest political day of my adult life.
Pretty sporting of me, huh? The short post is well worth a read.
I hadn't seen this before. It's from last October and even if you've seen it, watch it again. Among other things the judge explains how federal government lawyers act to prevent unconstitutional laws from being judged so in court.
UPDATE (3/15): For those who didn't listen, and just because I want to see it in print, here is one of those other things the judge said: [closing minute]
"These gatherings are more important than anything you can imagine. Because in the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its maximum hour of danger. You are that generation! This is your role! Now is that time! Freedom must be defended from every assailant in every corner of this country, from outside the country, from inside the country, and especially from the government that wants to take it away from us. [applause] God bless you."
I'm sick of all the libertarians (like John Stossel) insisting that we can live with less government! Who will protect us from the scourge of unregistered beer?
More than a dozen armed State Police officers conducted simultaneous raids last week on three popular Philadelphia bars known for their wide beer selections. The cops confiscated hundreds of bottles of expensive ales and lagers...
Although the bar owners had bought the beer legally from licensed Pennsylvania distributors and had paid all the necessary taxes, the police claimed that nobody had registered the precise names of the beers with the state Liquor Control Board ....
Based on a complaint from someone the State Police refuse to identify, three teams of officers converged last Thursday on the three bars, run by Leigh Maida and her husband....
The House of Representatives recently passed its own version of the largely symbolic, but very expensive, 15 ba-billion dollar jobs bill. What frustrates me most of all about this is how they ignore a simple and inexpensive way to create real, private-sector jobs, increase tax revenue, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. EnergyTomorrow.org sez:
Increasing access to oil and natural gas resources could generate nearly 160,000 new, well-paying jobs, $1.7 trillion in revenues to federal, state and local governments and greater energy security. And according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study, the U.S. oil and natural gas industry already supports 9.2 million American jobs and contributes more than $1 trillion to the national economy, or 7.5 percent GDP.
Our nation has vast on-and-offshore oil and natural gas resources that could be produced safely to put this country's economy back on its feet.
But it's not just domestic oil and gas that will provide the jobs and energy our nation needs. Canada, our friendly neighbor to the north and top supplier of oil, will continue to play a vital role as we seek greater energy and economic security.
According to a recent CERI study, the economic impact of Canadian oil sands development is expected to lead to 342,000 U.S. jobs between 2011 and 2015, and an estimated $34 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 and $42.2 billion in 2025.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - Many answers to our economic woes are easy to find; if government hacks really intended to fix the economy they would do it.
Colorado is looking to close offices, layoff teachers, and auction off elk herds on eBay to fill a budget gap, but the BillionDollarFasTraxBoondoggle is sacrosanct! If we have only $3 left, we're going to waste it on light rail.
George Soros, Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and others are proposing to curb speculative trading and even outlaw it in credit default swap (CDS) markets. Their proposals appear to be based on a misconception of speculation and could harm financial markets.
This is the lead paragraph from a superb WSJ guest editorial that deserves a more serious link. It's one of my favorite topics the non-evil of speculation. The author is Professor Darrell Duffie of Stanford's Graduate School of Business.
Professor Duffie waxes his evil mustache and provides a credible defnse to those who absorb risk and provide information to markets.
For convenience, I use one credit card for everything and I pay the balance every month. I have had this card for 11 years and it has been my exclusive card for three or more years. I have others but I seldom use them.
Yesterday, a charge of $25 or so for lunch was declined. I called to inquire today, and was told that my credit limit had been reduced from $33,500 to $3900. Thank you and have a nice day.
I don't think it rises to black helicopter conspiracy theories to believe that the adjustment, dated February 18, 2010 came just before the new credit card rules take effect February 22, 2010.
THANKS FOR LOOKING OUT FOR ME!! I REALLY APPRECIATE IT!!!
A British farmer who secretly built a castle and hid it behind haystacks to avoid trouble from local planning authorities was ordered by a court Wednesday to demolish it.
Farmer Robert Fidler built the mock Tudor castle in Surrey and moved into it with his family in 2002.
He says he had applied in 1996 to build a house on his farmland, but the authorities wouldn't grant him permission. So, when he and his wife were feeling "desperate," they found a loophole in the British law.
Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson is calling the GOP's bluff on their claims to have ideas other than "no" for economic and health care reform. Most of her examples are flippant or revisionist so the main reason to link is for her accusation. OK, I'll give you an example:
You can't just wish something into being, like the heading in their "No-Cost Jobs Plan" that reads, "Tear Down Self-Imposed Obstacles to Economic Growth." In other words: clear-cut pesky regulations about mine safety and meat packing. We might die, but we'll be more competitive.
Now, for my money I think President Obama himself actually had the best idea. I don't remember which policy retreat he said this at, probably the one with the GOP, but he more or less said, "In order to make federal outlays match revenues we would have to cut spending across the board by something like sixty percent."
Tell you what, Mr. president - I'll settle for fifty.
Faced with severe budget shortfalls after a steep economic recession, state legislatures and governors are trying to raise money without raising taxes — at least not technically.
A fee hike, an increased penalty or fine, the elimination of a tax exemption — none of these technically counts as a tax increase, as far as many state lawmakers are concerned. Fiscal conservatives argue that a tax hikes are exactly what they are, but their arguments are likely to fall on deaf ears for legislators and governors wrestling with some of the worst budget deficits since the Great Depression.
"There's a certain American antipathy to raising taxes, so even if these are tax increases, there's an incentive to call them something else," said Joseph Henchman, director of state projects at the conservative Tax Foundation. "It's a trend we always see, but it's certainly going to be one that's stronger this year."
I feel for my friends from Colorado, but I suspect none of us are going to escape this.
On Monday, the Colorado House of Representatives approved eight bills eliminating tax exemptions on items ranging from online sales and farm equipment to restaurant napkins and plastic foam containers. The bills passed with no Republican support.
Were those tax increases? It depends on your political bent. To Democrats, the votes merely rid the books of tax breaks and loopholes for big business in order to avoid cuts to public schools and social services.
"It's time for corporate and other special interests to pay their fair share, and suspending a small fraction of the over $2 billion Colorado loses every year in corporate loopholes and giveaways is not too much to ask," Alan Franklin, president of ProgressNow Colorado, said in a statement after the vote.
To Republicans, the bills meant raising taxes on many of those who can least afford it: struggling farmers and ranchers, people running Internet-based businesses out of their homes, small businesses teetering on the brink of insolvency.
"At the worst possible time, we're making a choice to raise taxes on people who can't afford them anymore," state Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican, said during the floor debate. "It's an overreach by government."
I read the list of GOP ayes thinking I'd find a handy checklist of big-government Republicans to campaign against in future elections, but some of the names on the list surprised me. Tennessee's Bob Corker and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, most notably. Here's the rest of the list:
Sprint showed us what it would look like "If Firefighters Ran the World."
Senators Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, Richard Durbin and Christopher Dodd show us what would happen "If the Mafia Ran the World."
Problem is, the Sprint ad was hypothetical and the Senate's actions are all too real. It can legitimately be argued that the Democrat party has become a full-fledged criminal syndicate. Just listen to Judge Napolitano.
Is what we are seeing today much different than if a majority of Mafioso had been elected to Congress?
What do progressives love most? It's not global warming or taxes or shutting down a Walmart*
If you guessed "light rail" grab yourself an apple and granola bar.
Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post writes today on the Western High Speed Rail Alliance.
The brainchild of public agencies in four states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah — the rail alliance believes "the future mobility of people and freight in the West depends on high speed rail lines." Yet in supporting this dubious thesis in their opening press conference, officials misstated so many elementary facts as to cast doubt on whether they'd studied the issue at all.
An introductory video contained the first whopper. After explaining that in the future, "most of the fastest growing states will be in the West" — true enough — the narrator went on to claim that "for nearly a half century the primary focus for passenger rail has targeted the development and funding of Amtrak's Eastern corridor, an area losing population."
Which it isn't. but whatever...
To compound the demographic muddle, the general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Jacob Snow, told reporters that "our densities here in the West are very high and probably much higher than those areas referenced in much of the rest of the country."
Huh? What? Mister Snow should join a rock band. I have driven across those states a time or two, and the word "density" does not come to mind.
Yet when asked about the economic viability of their plans to link cities in the four states, Snow blithely mentioned the profits of the Central Japan Railway Co., which serves one of the densest, highly populated corridors in the world.
A beloved non-moonbat relative is not a fan of expanding government, yet is convinced that the reason the local grocery store doesn't sell bad meat is fear of the USDA, not fear of reputation or lawsuits.
I just sent a link to this USA Today piece (no doubt the print version has a cute little graph showing tainted chickens...)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the meat it buys for the National School Lunch Program "meets or exceeds standards in commercial products."
That isn't always the case. McDonald's, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.
And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.
For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food. Called "spent hens" because they're past their egg-laying prime, the chickens don't pass muster with Colonel Sanders— KFC won't buy them — and they don't pass the soup test, either. The Campbell Soup Company says it stopped using them a decade ago based on "quality considerations."
This represents an insidious acceptance of government power. Living a whole life of regulation -- many assume that they have been protected by regulation, when they would be better served by free markets.
New York City is famous for lots of things. For one, New York pizza. Unfortunately, the city is also known for its ridiculous nanny-state laws. One pizzeria owner wrote in to a food blog about his struggles with regulators
Even though there are ZERO reports of anybody getting sick from reheated pizza-by-the-slice, Bloomberg's Nanny Brigade has moved in to restrict consumer choice and business opportunity.
We're from the government and we're here to help: protected from the scourge of pizza!
Hide your Brazillian Rosewood! They've raided Gibson!
An international crackdown on the use of endangered woods from the world's rain forests to make musical instruments bubbled over to Music City on Tuesday with a federal raid on Gibson Guitar 's manufacturing plant, but no arrests.
A Federal raid for f***ing wood! Executive power at its finest!
UPDATE II: I wish I could start over and make this post more serious. A good friend of the blog emailed the classical values link to me this morning. This is how liberty ends. Whatever happens to health care, the Feds (the Executive Branch) are now in charge of wood. Anything with wood in it. Anything made of wood. It's all in their purview now.
The people who run your city, the politicians who are full of bright ideas for improving your life by infringing on others' rights, and the black-robed genius who is tasked with interpreting our founding documents; NONE of these people are smarter than you.
NONE of these people are gifted with superior insight on how better to run your life or use our native resources. But they believe that they are. So without the brake of morality or explicit law, these geniuses and pols and town busybodies will extend professional courtesy to each other as they go about dismantling your life for some dubious utopian idea.
WASHINGTON — Just as Congressional leaders are calling to extend a popular tax credit for first-time homebuyers, government investigators are reporting new findings that point to widespread fraud in the program.
Only the Times could make that so completely free of irony.
White Guilt and other byproducts of modern public education
My word, what are they teaching at Berkeley these days? First from JK's morning read we have Cal Berkeley American History major Jennifer Burns writing a doctoral dissertation cum biography of Ayn Rand and next we see another Berkeley girl, this time a psychotherapist, quoting the late philosopher in her explanation of why whites voted for Obama.
Given the brainwashing of several generations, did millions of whites vote for Obama out of white guilt? Yes, but it runs deeper than this.
What's happening is not just white guilt, but white shame. Shame is a much more devastating emotion.
We feel guilty about an action, for instance, cheating on taxes or spouses. Shame makes us feel bad about who we are, as though something is wrong with us.
That is what happened with Julie, Joe, and Rose. They were dumped on so often by so many that they absorbed the shame and started detesting themselves.
Interestingly, Obama, in one of his autobiographies, reports being intrigued by Malcolm X's statement that, as a biracial man, he despised his whiteness; that he wished there was some way that he could excise his white blood.
Now we have millions of whites who are ashamed of their white blood. Coincidence?
And there's more.
Along with white guilt and shame, there's another reason why whites flocked to a leader with no experience in leading: white fear. While many liberals reside in safe towns, still there's always a threat.
Turn on the 6 o'clock news and hear about the latest cop murder or mob rampage. Rodney King riots in LA, the mayhem in Oakland, murdered police officers. Then listen to reportage that blames the victims.
Thuggery is celebrated. Bad guys are hecka cool; the innocents stupid and naive. Write a rap song about beating up a whore and killing a cop, and win a Grammy.
Think I'm exaggerating? If there isn't an atmosphere of racial fear, why did people threaten a race war if Obama lost? Why are dissenters tarred with the vile label of racist? (Translation: pure evil)
Many liberals voted for Obama in the hopes that all would be forgiven. That if whites handed over some power, finally we can move on and get along. We'll be safe.
Had someone like General Colin Powell or former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. been elected, we probably would not have a foreboding, fearful atmosphere. Though they lean left, both men are patriotic, experienced leaders who may have facilitated racial healing.
Ironically, White America envisioned forgiveness, a letting go of old wounds. Instead we have emboldened people obsessed with evil deeds carried out by citizens long dead.
If you want to see her Rand quotes you'll have to read the article. I've excerpted enough already.
This thought occurred to me last week, but I can't claim to be the first: The futuristic scenario painted by the Obamacare proposal, H.B. 3200 is remarkably similar to the 1972 sci-fi film 'Soylent Green.' Rick Carpenter at "Right Wing vs. The Wingnuts" blog posted his take last month:
What is interesting to me is that in the movie, the euthenasia of old people is a government-run program. Under ObamaCare, we are starting with 'death panels'.
What is discovered about the food product Soylent Green at the end of the movie seems far-fetched, in that they used the remains of the dead to produce the food wafers. I use the word 'seems' instead of 'is', because the Obama administration has already done some things that are so far-fetched and corrupt that I can't put anything outside the boundaries of their morals (lack), their conscience (lack), their defense of the Constitution (betrayal), or their love for the sovereignty of America (hatred).
Think Rick and I are just two of the strange ones? Jonah Goldberg is nearly with us.
Now, I don’t think Soylent Green-style solutions are coming down the pike. (...) But every nationalized health-care system to one degree or another rations care based on the quality of life and number of “life years” a procedure will yield. That’s perfectly reasonable. If you put me in charge of everyone’s health care, I would do that, too. That’s a really good argument for not giving me — or anyone else — that power.
I still contend that brother jk is missin' out by not having cable. FNC's 'America's Newsroom' regularly features US congressmen or senators commenting on affairs of the day and they tend to say the darnedest things. Just yesterday a congressman said, in essence, "these people who have gold plated health care coverage don't have the right to force everyone else to subsidize their coverage and that's why we should tax them." I wanted to give the verbatim quote with attribution but didn't think to record him. I didn't make that mistake today.
Representative Steven Lynch (D-MA) is chairman of the Postal Service Oversight Subcommittee. Commenting on the GAO report downgrading the USPS' credit worthiness in the wake of $2.8 B lost last year and $7 B projected to be lost this year he was asked by FNC's Bill Hemmer, "Fed-Ex is profitable. UPS is profitable. Is it time to start taking a serious look at making this government service private?"
"Well look, if Fed-Ex did what the post office did and if UPS did what the post office did they would not be profitable."
I'll leave the obvious conclusion to the reader, but there's more. In the very next breath he seemed to be channeling Jon Caldera on healthcare reform, but in reverse, and without even realizing it.
"They provide universal coverage six days a week to every business and home in America for forty-four cents, basically, for a letter. If you don't want that service then you could probably reduce the postal service's costs as well."
The only surprise is really that any in the Administration or Congress could promise -- with a straight face -- that they would not meddle. Chairman Barney Frank (D - America!) famously got caught keeping a parts depot in his district from closure. Now Senator Harkin (D - C2H5OH) thinks, surprise, that we should force the companies to support flex fuel. After all "we own them!"
Sen. Tom Harkin said he wants Congress to use a climate bill to force auto companies to make new cars and trucks capable of running on 85 percent ethanol as well as conventional gasoline.
"We own the automobile companies. Why not? I think that will be an easy one," Harkin said Thursday, referring to the government interests in Chrysler and General Motors.
Hat-tip: Instapundit. Professor Reynolds has received a couple of emails from me questioning his support of a flex fuel mandate. This is just brazen enough to float him into my camp on this. Harkin's a uniter, not a divider!
I know the subject comes up at breakfast all the time. But rest assured, good people, your Government has protected you. And if it says "Rasin Bread" on the package, the full faith and credit of the Executive Branch will stand behind it:
(b) The name of the food is “raisin bread”, “raisin rolls”,“raisin buns”, as applicable. When the food contains not less than 2.56 percent by weight of whole egg solids, the name of the food may be “raisin and egg bread”, “raisin and egg rolls”, or “raisin and egg buns”, as applicable, accompanied by the statement “Contains – medium-sized egg(s) per pound” in the manner prescribed by Sec. 102.5(c)(3) of this chapter, the blank to be filled in with the number which represents the whole egg content of the food expressed to the nearest one-fifth egg but not greater than the amount actually present. For purposes of this regulation, whole egg solids are the edible contents of eggs calculated on a moisture-free basis and exclusive of any nonegg solids which may be present in standardized and other commercial egg products. One medium-sized egg is equivalent to 0.41 ounce of whole egg solids.
There's more if you can stand it on radio host Mike Slater's website.
More than one person on these pages has declared that there is a "consensus amongst the majority of serious scientists that man made global warming is a real phenomenon." The obvious implication is that anyone who disputes this is either an un-serious scientist or a crackpot. I now ask any of you who may still hold that belief, which label would you apply to Dr. Alan Carlin, the EPA's own Senior Operations Research Analyst? Previous ThreeSources blog posts here, here and here have referenced the internal dissent by Dr. Carlin against the hasty and apparently premeditated regulation of CO2 as an atmospheric "pollutant." In Carlin's own words, here is what he has to say about the state of the GHG/CO2/AGW "science."
I have become increasingly concerned that EPA has itself paid too little attention to the science of global warming. EPA and others have tended to accept the findings reached by outside groups, particularly the IPCC and the CCSP, as being correct without a careful and
critical examination of their conclusions and documentation. If they should be found to be incorrect at a later date, however, and EPA is found not to have made a really careful
independent review of them before reaching its decisions on endangerment, it appears likely that it is EPA rather than these other groups that may be blamed for any errors. Restricting the source of inputs into the process to these these two sources may make EPA’s current task easier but it may come with enormous costs later if they should result in policies that may not be scientifically supportable.
This is profound enough in its own right. But there is more:
It is of great importance that the Agency recognize the difference between an effort that has consumed tens of billions of dollars by the IPCC, the CCSP, and some additional European, particularly British, funding over a period of at least 15 years with what I have been able to pull together in less than a week. (...) What is actually noteworthy about this effort is not the relative apparent scientific shine of the two sides but rather the relative ease with which major holes have been found in the GHG/CO2/AGW argument. In many cases the most important arguments are based not on multi-million dollar research efforts but by simple observation of available data which has surprisingly received so little scrutiny. The best example of this is the MSU satellite data on global temperatures. Simple scrutiny of this data yields what to me are stunning observations. Yet this has received surprisingly little study or at least publicity. In the end it must be emphasized that the issue is not which side has spent the most money or published the most peer-reviewed papers, or been supported by more scientific organizations. The issue is rather whether the GHG/CO2/AGW hypothesis meets the ultimate scientific test—conformance with real world data. What these comments show is that it is this ultimate test that the hypothesis fails; this is why EPA needs to carefully reexamine the science behind global warming before proposing an endangerment finding. This will take more than four days but is the most important thing I can do right now and in the coming weeks and months and possibly even years.
Emphasis mine. In Dr. Carlin's 85 page review report, composed in about 4 of the 5 days he was given to review the Draft Technical Support Document for Endangerment Analysis for Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act he made 19 specific recomended revisions to the TSD. In the Executive Summary section he pretty much sums up his opinion with this:
These inconsistencies between the TSD analysis and scientific observations are so important and sufficiently abstruse that in my view EPA needs to make an independent analysis of the science of global warming rather than adopting the conclusions of the IPCC and CCSP without much more careful and independent EPA staff review than is evidenced by the Draft TSP. Adopting the scientific conclusions of an outside group such as the IPCC or CCSP without thorough review by EPA is not in the EPA tradition anyway, and there seems to be little reason to change the tradition in this case. If their conclusions should be incorrect and EPA acts on them, it is EPA that will be blamed for inadequate research and understanding and reaching a possibly inaccurate determination of endangerment. Given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until about 2030 given the 60 year cycle described in Section 2) there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain much of the available data.
"Balanced" and "sensible" climate change bill passes House
That's the spin thrown on the bill by President Obama yesterday. Surely it was far from either of those qualities at the time, but prior to passage another 300 pages were shoe-horned in ... at 3 am this morning! [What in the hell is the fixation that Washington politicians have with that time of day?] Minority Leader Boehner said the obvious:
Rep. Geoff Davis, a Republican from Kentucky, said the cap-and-trade bill represented the "economic colonization of the heartland" by New York and California.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) called the bill a “scam” that would do nothing but satisfy “the twisted desires of radical environmentalists.”
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) called it a “massive transfer of wealth” from the United States to foreign countries.
Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio countered that, without the bill, the United States would remain energy-dependent on people who want to “fly planes into our buildings.”
I'd hoped to insert a bulleted list of ways that this bill is a colonoscopy for America but then I realized, Who the hell knows what it does... it jumped from 1200 pages to 1500 overnight!
Citi has to raise salaries for retention, because of restrictions on bonuses. AP:
NEW YORK -- Citigroup Inc. is increasing base salaries for many of its employees as it restructures its compensation program amid new restrictions on bonus payments.
The increased salaries will offset lower bonuses, according to a person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because the plans have not been made public. The higher salaries are not the equivalent of annual raises, the person added.
Citi faces restrictions on bonuses as part of a new government compensation oversight plan because the bank received bailout funds from the Treasury Department.
Of course, salaries are paid irrespective of personal or corporate performance, so this will be a drag on Citi's balance sheet and give the firm less flexibility to manage labor -- but at least there will be no embarrassing (to Congress) bonus stories.
Ahh, let's see, what can we fix next? Chairman Barney Frank has a great idea: lower the standards for Fannie and Freddie to underwrite Condo loans. What a brilliant idea. WSJ Ed Page:
Back when the housing mania was taking off, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank famously said he wanted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to "roll the dice" in the name of affordable housing. That didn't turn out so well, but Mr. Frank has since only accumulated more power. And now he is returning to the scene of the calamity -- with your money. He and New York Representative Anthony Weiner have sent a letter to the heads of Fannie and Freddie exhorting them to lower lending standards for condo buyers.
You read that right. After two years of telling us how lax lending standards drove up the market and led to loans that should never have been made, Mr. Frank wants Fannie and Freddie to take more risk in condo developments with high percentages of unsold units, high delinquency rates or high concentrations of ownership within the development.- this is the kind of thinking we cant get in the provate sectpor. WSJ Ed Page:
Imagine what these people could to health care -- no, wait, you don't have to! They're already running the VA. Take it away, AP:
WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is calling for more centralized control of the VA medical system after recent breakdowns in cleaning colonoscopy equipment exposed thousands of veterans to the risk of contracting HIV and other infections.
In prepared remarks to be delivered at a Wednesday hearing, Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii said that disparities in quality control procedures at VA medical centers raise questions about whether local or national leaders are in charge.
Don't thank them -- it's all in a day's work for The Government!
I really wanted to include a little graphic showing the state of California with a FOR SALE sign planted in it right about at Sacramento. Well, just use your imagination.
California's Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed selling a number of state landmarks (state ownership of which is in some doubt) to raise cash and balance the state budget. One-time proceeds are estimated at $1 billion. The budget shortfall is $15.4 billion, just for the next fiscal year. Obviously state officials need more stuff to put in their garage sale. Hmm, I wonder what California has that someone might be willing to pay cash for (other than federal bailout dollars, that is.) Gee, that's a tough one!
According to this handy interactive graphic the total government lease royalty revenue that would result from lifting current oil and gas production moratoria is $1695 billion and of that amount, $1386 billion of it comes from the outer continental shelf (Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf regions combined.) A summary report here provides numerous tables showing the breakdown by area but none were clear enough for me to cite specifically. Let it suffice to say the California budget shortfall, at $15.4 billion, is a bit over 1 percent of the possible OCS government windfall. If the Governator would simply work toward responsible development of his state's natural resources he could balance its budget overnight, and for decades to come.
Today's Denver Post featured this story about a couple of young entrepreneurs in Salida, Colorado. These kids, nine and ten respectilvey, spent their winter building bird houses to sell in the spring. The enterprise was encouraged by their father.
Hunter's dad, Eric Beem, dreamed up the idea for his son's birdhouse business as a way to teach him things like self-reliance and money management.
"It's hard for parents," he said. "When kids want something, it's easier to shell out money" than to figure out how to teach them how how to leverage their talents for pocket change.
Sounds quintessentially American. Unfortunately, the long arm of government stepped in, which is also becoming quintessentially American.
It all stopped when the code enforcer told them they could get a ticket for peddling products without the proper paperwork.
Then she handed them a business card with a number at city hall to call for information about the license and how much it would cost.
For now, the kids are shut down. The Salida City Council is considering and ordinance change. Wow. Responsive government in action.
Of course, that's just the beginning of the lesson. Soon, the kids will learn that they need to register their business with the State of Colorado. As part of that process, they'll need to get an Employer Identification Number from both the IRS and the State. They must also call the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and get a separate UI number.
As a seasonal business, they'll need to determine their filing status and likely file form 941 on a quarterly basis. Failure to file can result in penalties, interest and criminal charges. At the same time, they need to file form 1000-100 with the State on a quarterly basis for state withholding. In addition, they must file and pay the Quarterly Unemployment Wage Report on the first $10,000 of income per annum based on a rate provided by the state. This must be paid by the business and cannot be withheld from employee's paychecks, and no one is exempt. At year end, send all employees a W2 and all contractors a 1099. Then, send form W3 to the IRS, Social Security Administration, and the State Department of Revenue. Be sure to file on time to avoid penalties and interest.
They also must not forget to obtain worker's compensation insurance as mandated by the State. As business owners, they can exempt themselves from coverage, but must file the appropriate affidavit. Appropriate notifications and posters must be posted in a conspicuous location so that all employees can see their rights regarding unemployment and worker's compensation. Failure to do so can result in fines. They must also select a state-approved healthcare provider for all worker's comp injury examinations and claims.
It's not a bad idea for them to look into a general business liability umbrella policy as well. Should one of the wires holding the bird house break and the house hit someone on the head, there could be signficant business liability.
The bird houses were almost certainly made using saws, so OSHA has oversight regarding workplace safety. The fire marshall is also entitled to inspect the premises annually, without notice. Failure to comply with any related regulation can result in closing the business and fines.
The bird houses probably were painted or varnished to protect against the weather. OSHA can determine whether or not adequate ventilation and personal protective gear is available. If not, see above regarding business closure and fines. EPA and state agencies have oversight regarding the disposal of the empty paint/varnish containers and paint brushes. They must be disposed of in approved locations.
Because bird houses are often handled by kids, the houses must be tested and certified as lead-free. Any inventory that has not been tested must be disposed of as directed by EPA.
There you go, kids - have fun! Learn what America, the Land of Opportunity, is all about. Of course, you might consider a lemonade stand, but then we'd have to get the health department involved...
I don't think this is quite what Mister Madison had in mind. At the John Murtha Airport, the screeners outnumber the passengers -- but Federal Jack keeps it in operation.
Inside the terminal on a recent weekday, four passengers lined up to board a flight, outnumbered by seven security staff members and supervisors, all suited up in gloves and uniforms to screen six pieces of luggage. For three hours that day, no commercial or private planes took off or landed. Three commercial flights leave the airport on weekdays, all bound for Dulles International Airport.
The key to the airport's gleaming facilities -- and, indeed, its continued existence -- is $200 million in federal funds in the past decade and the powerful patron who steered most of that money here. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year's stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway.
The facility, newly renamed the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, is a testament to Murtha's ability to tap streams of federal money for pricey, state-of-the-art projects that are rare among regional airports of comparable size.
The WSJ (news pages) today carry a chilling story of the man Sec Paulson brought in to oversee TARP funds.
As the government continues to pour cash into the economy, Mr. Lambright, 38 years old, has become one of the most powerful men in American finance. Unknown to most outside the Treasury building, he's an embodiment of how power in the economy has shifted -- for good or ill -- to Washington.
The chief investment officer of the Troubled Asset Relief Program has engineered $350 billion in deals for the U.S. government since October, more than many investment banks would do in a good year. His team interviews candidates for company board seats. Top executives regularly call him and his team for advice.
Neither gub'mint nor Wall Street is beanbag, but the story of Lambright's "toughness" is disturbing. Don Luskin highlights his intransigence on New Year's Eve as companies desperately tried to get funds deposited before the new year. No, we don't want a cream puff shoveling out taxpayer dollars, but Lambright was appointed by a guy who was appointed. He was neither elected nor explicitly under oversight. He is a free range actor with billions of our dollars to prop up the financial system -- or his own, non-diminutive ego.
"My specific reference was to dictatorial powers, that I thought that Secretary of the Treasury Geithner was asking for, where he would decide what companies to take over, he would decide under what circumstances, and let me tell ya, the American system was not built for one bureaucrat to decide whether or not they're gonna take your property. (...) And then look at what they're trying to do on the budget, where they're trying to ram through a resolution, to break the rules of the Senate, to be able to get through both an energy tax increase and a massive change in our health system on 51 votes, which is clearly a power grab of unprecedented proportions. I think dictatorial is a strong word, but it may frighteningly be the right word."
Is anyone else beginning to wonder why Obama doesn't seem concerned about re-election?
But even if man-made climate change was real (sorry tg, is real) and even if "renewable" energy sources were beneficial to counter it, the least effective entity to make them a reality is - wait for it - government.
Industries generally develop in three stages. First is scientific feasibility, second is engineering feasibility, and third is economic feasibility.
Using the airline industry as an example, the question in the 1800s was: "Is long-distance air travel possible?"
In the 1800s, balloons were already in use but were not practical. The problem to solve was the heavier-than-air machine.
The Wright Brothers in 1903 proved scientific feasibility. They risked their time, money and lives to show that a heavier-than-air machine could fly.
Lindbergh, in 1927, proved engineering feasibility. He risked time, money and his life to show that long-distance air travel was possible.
This gave investors enough confidence to risk their money in the aircraft industry. In 1935 the Douglas Company came out with the DC-3, which was the beginning of economic feasibility.
The modern airline industry resulted from all this risk-taking. Today, a middle-class American can go anywhere in the world much faster, and in much greater comfort, than a Roman emperor could. Travelers fly because the benefits are greater than the costs. This is economic feasibility.
This three-step model explains why governments are terrible at economic development. The "experts" who comprise the government gamble with other people's money, so they tend to confuse scientific and engineering feasibility with economic feasibility.
Once science and engineering prove something can be done, those who comprise the government will do it - even if the costs are greater than the benefits. [emphasis mine]
This economic development of the economically unfeasible is precisely the modern story of:
Solar photovoltaic power
Ethanol (both glucosic AND celluosic)
Hydrogen fuel cells
Dual-mode hybrid cars
The list goes on...
Yesterday I commented that there's "another important dragon to be slain before" the next elections for congress and for president. That dragon is the myth of man-made global warming caused by our use of economical, safe and abundant energy sources. Many of us have long contended that the idea is founded upon pseudo-science. The late Michael Crighton agreed and in an appendix to his wonderfully entertaining and thought provoking novel 'State of Fear' he wrote "Why politicized science is dangerous."
Imagine that there is a new scientific theory that warns of an impending crisis, and points to a way out.
This theory quickly draws support from leading scientists, politicians and celebrities around the world. Research is funded by distinguished philanthropies, and carried out at prestigious universities. The crisis is reported frequently in the media. The science is taught in college and high-school classrooms.
I don't mean global warming. I'm talking about another theory, which rose to prominence a century ago.
Building upon the success of the February 27th "Chicago Tea Party" Rallies, many of the organizers are now working to develop an even larger day of protests set to happen on April 15th, 2009.
These protests are known as the Tax Day Tea Party rallies.
It's really the perfect day.
Likely a beautiful spring Wednesday spent standing around with fellow conservatives and libertarians with signs and chants.
Completely not like the original Boston Tea Party.
In fact, looking at the Wikipedia article, these protests are exactly NOT like the Boston Tea Party.
There's no inspired action.
Samuel Adams said to the assembly "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country". As though on cue, the Sons of Liberty thinly disguised as either Mohawk or Narragansett Indians and armed with small hatchets and clubs, headed toward Griffin's Wharf (in Boston Harbor), where lay Dartmouth and the newly-arrived Beaver and Eleanor.
The Sons of Liberty was a revolutionary secret society... and they were likely Longshoreman on this night.
The casks were opened and the tea dumped overboard; the work, lasting well into the night, was quick, thorough, and efficient. By dawn, over 342 casks or 90,000 lbs (45 tons) of tea worth an estimated Ł10,000 or $1.87 million USD in 2007 currency) had been consigned to waters of Boston harbor. Nothing else had been damaged or stolen, except a single padlock accidentally broken and anonymously replaced not long thereafter.
I think it's a disservice to our earliest patriots to call a tax protest a Tea Party. Standing around like a bunch of dopey lib-tards swinging signs and chanting is no way to run a protest.
You say you want a revolution? Don't wear a seatbelt.
You say you want a revolution? Buy your cigarettes or prescription drugs duty-free or in Mexico.
You say you want a revolution? Idle your car in the driveway all day long, polluting the earth, making Gaia cry. I'd settle for burning leaves in a barrel.
You say you want a revolution? Dig around your drawers and find old stamps and mail envelopes around!
You say you want a revolution? If you're on a 1099 don't file quarterly estimated payments. W2ers are hosed. *
You say you want a revolution? Make a bon-fire / marshmallow roast with stacks of tax forms and tax guides. Invite your neighbors.
You say you want a revolution? On April 15th, don't file your 1040... or send it back empty.
That, my friends, would be a real tea party. How many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of tax payers (out of the 150 million) would it take to put a wrench in the works? (I guess you would have to mail it back though)
It is tax fraud, however... and you're guilty until proven innocent in the IRS's eyes. That's where you need to focus, if you want a "tax" revolution.
Standing around with your friends and future friends? Really inspirational... for the history books.
* It's a sign of how f'd up our system is that your government forces you to pay your taxes! You can't withhold your withholding!
"As far as getting somebody worse, I've no doubt that there are worse ideologues than Senator Daschle. Yet his book about Health Care calls for an American equivalent to the NHS's NICE panel which would provide approval of all treatments and procedures based on government-decided efficacy and cost efficiency. Senator Daschle is radical enough to scare me and is a sophisticated enough player that he seems likely to be able to achieve many of his goals."
If only JK had known how prescient those words might be. The Hudson Institute's Betsy McCaughey quotes the former senator thusly:
A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition. “If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it,” he said. “The issue is too important to be stalled by Senate protocol.”
So we shouldn't be surprised to find (McCaughey link) a Daschle-like health care trojan horse in the "we can't afford to delay it" economic stimulus bill, H.R. 1:
Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).
The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.
But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”
Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.
Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)
What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.
The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system. [Emphasis mine.]
The good news is that this was discovered, and is seeing the light of day on Fox News. The bad news? What the hell ELSE is in there??
I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason: The country cannot afford not to take action.
The unemployment figures announced Friday, the latest earnings reports and the continuing crisis in banking make it clear that failure to act will leave the United States facing a far deeper crisis in three or six months. By then the cost of action will be much greater -- or it may be too late.
Wave after wave of bad economic news has created its own psychology of fear and lowered expectations. As in the old Movietone News, the eyes and ears of the world are upon the United States. Failure to act would be devastating not just for Wall Street and Main Street but for much of the rest of the world, which is looking to our country for leadership in this crisis.
In related news, the Washington Post graphs how immediate the stimulus really is.
Answer: 10% gets spent this year... in the year we cannot afford to delay (tm).
I've whined a little about a dear relative who is devoted to creating a Kucinich-style "Department of Peace." A few days after the election, I realized that the electoral stars had probably aligned and that it's likely this nightmare dream might come true.
Today a good friend emails:
When I heard that Quincy Jones had a petition to call for a Secretary of
the Arts in our new administration, my answer was a resounding YES! I
am sending this because I know you understand the importance of art in
Art is the core of what makes us human beings. Art is the language of
our soul. Art is our true unique gift and legacy.
Art brings out the best in us, makes us stronger and lifts our
spirits. Art has been known to help heal those who have severe
physical ailments as well as those who have spiritual wounds.
Art programs make a difference in our lives; bringing hope, self esteem,
emotional well being and a renewed connection to our spirit and to each
other. "Art can't hurt you."
I recently was proud to learn that I am related to Q. Maybe I should call "cuz" up and speak to him. Why why why do these folks think that because something is "important" government should be involved? The folks at Samizdata have a great riff that "The Ministry of X is established to ruin X." If you think of US Departments, the law seems universal. Education? Energy? I've muttered, sotto voce, that when the US D. of Peace is fully staffed that the Amish and Quakers will be engineering drive-bys.
For 23 days a year in July, I become a Frenchman. I enjoy the picturesque countryside and struggle to pronounce "le coeur de croix de furre" (Which is not, as I suspected, the mountain of the fur cross, rather the mountain of the cross of iron).
But when the tour ends, I want to go back to freedom. Grand, philosophical John Locke and Thomas Jefferson freedom to be sure. But also, to live in a land where you might get a good idea for a child's toy and sell it on eBay, or at a local independent store. No more.
It seems there were children to protect, and Speaker Pelosi leaped into action:
After last year's scare over contaminated toys made in China, Congress leapt in to require all products aimed at children under 12 years old to be certified as safe and virtually lead-free by independent testing. The burden may be manageable for big manufacturers and retailers that can absorb the costs of discarded inventory and afford to hire more lawyers. Less likely to survive are hundreds of small businesses and craftspeople getting hit with new costs in a down economy.
Starting in February, you'll have to have a gub'mint certificate proving that those little wooden cars you make in you garage are safe for kids. And, you gotta read the whole thing, even bikes and books are subject. Reps. Pelosi and Waxman boasted that they will pulling toys off the shelves.
Maybe I'm not fair to France. I seem to be overly fair to the USA of late. But the mixed-economies of Western Europe embrace guilds and regulation (would the lollipop guild make the toys?) and the idea of being licensed to make toys does not fit with Locke, Jefferson, or the United States.
With apologies to T S Eliot (who would likely have agreed with me) This is the way freedom ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
I think we can look forward to the next administration for some clarification regarding proper green product labeling:
The January 8th issue InsideEPA.com's Daily News briefing highlight the many hurdles involved in establishing a national eco-labeling regime.
EPA and some key lawmakers are attempting to address the rising demand from consumers and retailers for eco-labeling as the popularity and awareness of “green” building materials and organic certified foods grows. EPA is poised to respond to recommendations to set up a voluntary program for pesticide labeling, as well as for its in-house Design for the Environment program to expand its labeling initiative to new chemical-intensive products. Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is crafting legislation to establish an eco-labeling oversight panel.
Some of the potential hurdles for the EPA and the lawmakers highlighted by InsideEPA.com include:
Limited development of methodologies for measuring lifecycle impacts of products
Potential conflicts with current legal requirements
Whether there would be incentives to develop even “safer” products
If EPA and Congress will be able to stay ahead of the developments made by the private sector.
With so many interests in the mix, these challenges may seem insurmountable, but at least the dialogue has begun and action will (hopefully) follow soon.
Bad enough we have to live through terrorism, recession, and athletes using steroids -- how much longer can the government let us wonder if the green products we buy are really green?
None of this is consistent with capitalism. As the economic system that fully recognizes and protects individual rights, including the right to private property, capitalism means, in Ayn Rand’s words, “the abolition of any and all forms of government intervention in production and trade, the separation of State and Economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of Church and State.” Laissez-faire means laissez-faire: no welfare state entitlements, no Federal Reserve monetary manipulation, no regulatory bullying, no controls, no government interference in the economy. The government’s job under capitalism is single but crucial: to protect individual rights from violation by force or fraud.
America came closest to this system in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The result was an unprecedented explosion of wealth creation and consequent rise in the standard of living.
JK, like the respected Denver radio host Mike Rosen, constantly reminds us to practice the "politics of the possible." But why should it be impossible for a majority of voters to recognize that the big government policies Obama and company may enact just made the problem worse - and they will - and abandon him in droves for the 2012 GOP candidate? This is the "new Reagan" scenario that many have written about. But for this to happen there needs to be a GOP candidate who understands the capitalist ideal before he jumps into the hog wallow to compromise with collectivists. John McCain and George Bush (both of them) despite all their admirable traits, were not that candidate.
Normally, foraging honey bees alert their comrades to potential food sources only when they've found high quality nectar or pollen, and only when the hive is in need. They do this by performing a dance, called a "round" or "waggle" dance, on a specialized "dance floor" in the hive. The dance gives specific instructions that help the other bees find the food.
Foraging honey bees on cocaine are more likely to dance, regardless of the quality of the food they've found or the status of the hive, the authors of the study report.
I agree with Terri. Really, we learned all about that just watching John Belushi...
In one of the biggest heists in American history, the Daily News "stole" the $2 billion Empire State Building.
And it wasn't that hard.
The News swiped the 102-story Art Deco skyscraper by drawing up a batch of bogus documents, making a fake notary stamp and filing paperwork with the city to transfer the deed to the property.
Some of the information was laughable: Original "King Kong" star Fay Wray is listed as a witness and the notary shared a name with bank robber Willie Sutton.
The massive ripoff illustrates a gaping loophole in the city's system for recording deeds, mortgages and other transactions.
The loophole: The system - run by the office of the city register - doesn't require clerks to verify the information.
Less than 90 minutes after the bogus documents were submitted on Monday, the agency rubber-stamped the transfer from Empire State Land Associates to Nelots Properties LLC. Nelots is "stolen" spelled backward. (The News returned the property Tuesday.)...
...Of course, stealing the Empire State Building wouldn't go unnoticed for long, but it shows how easy it is for con artists to swipe more modest buildings right out from under their owners. Armed with a fraudulent deed, they can take out big mortgages and disappear, leaving a mess for property owners, banks and bureaucrats.
By conceding the true causes of the Panic of '08 -- thanks to our populist Presidential candidate -- Republicans block the road to repairing the real problems, while paving the road to repetition. The same, damn, week.
A WSJ editorial points out that they will now do for credit cards what they did for home mortgages:
The freedom to manage risk has resulted in an unprecedented expansion of the credit card market. According to a Government Accountability Office study, 75% of the population possessed a credit card in 2005, up from only 30% in the 1980s. "The movement towards risk-based pricing for cards," said the report, "has allowed issuers to offer better terms to some cardholders and more credit cards to others."
Under the Maloney bill, such risk-sensitive pricing would be severely curbed. With few exceptions, companies would be prevented from raising interest rates on existing balances, even if the cardholder has become less creditworthy. This is anathema to responsible lending, which is about making sound assessments about the ability to repay a loan. It's also a major reason mortgage lenders are in their current predicament -- think subprime and "liar loans." So it's ironic that Democrats want to punish credit card companies for taking into account the changing risk of the borrower.
The Maloney bill would also dictate how creditors allocate payments against balances. Where credit balances are subject to different interest rates -- e.g., zero-percent interest for a balance transfer, but 12% for new purchases -- the legislation would ban the current common practice of directing payments toward the lower interest rate balance first.
I think of Dr. Zhivago: "Yes, Comrade that is much more...fair." It's fair to make me pay the same interest rate as an unemployed jazz guitarist who's just come home from bankruptcy court (guitar players, sheesh!) It's not fair to allow a credit card company to entice me with a 0% balance transfer, because some idiot doesn't understand it.
Actually, it's not Dr. Zhivago, it's Santayana: those who cannot learn form history are doomed to repeat it. But in the same week?
You've had a tough week of politics and Wall Street. Have a little fun:
"Hello! You've reached the United States Treasury's automated bailout hotline. Please listen carefully, because our options have recently changed. If you're too big to fail, press or say 'one.' If not, hang up and dial 1-800-FOR-FEMA.' "
Blog sister Dagny hits one of my favorite topics in a comment below: all government power is enforced at the point of the gun. I almost posted this video last week because Drew Carey does such a good job with that. If you sell fries with trans-fats, you get a fine; don't pay the fine, you get a summons; don't show up for the summons, they'll come get you. No matter how small the infraction, it is always enforced at gunpoint. Take it away, big man:
Great bit from the esteemed political philosopher, Emily Dickenson:
The surgeon must be very careful,
When to use the knife.
For underneath his fine incision,
Lays the culprit, life.
(From memory, so don't complain if I missed a comma or something)
Fed plans new rules to protect future homebuyers When I read the headline, a shiver went down to my feet in sort of a reverse Obama-Matthews. Reading the story did not make it go away. Broad new powers for the Fed (expanding our services because we rock so much at our other tasks) to regulate home loans.
Under the proposal unveiled last December, the rules would restrict lenders from penalizing risky borrowers who pay loans off early, require lenders to make sure these borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance and bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower's income. It also would prohibit lenders from engaging in a pattern or practice of lending without considering a borrower's ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home's value.
Government comes up with some hare-brained ideas now and then but I think this one will indeed work. If you make it too expensive or perhaps impossible to get a loan, that should inhibit defaults.
Mortgage crisis solved! I knew getting a Princeton Man in would be a good idea!
I suggested, on January 5, 2007 that a Sirius -XM Merger was a good idea, but that "I cannot imagine getting approval for such a merger in the 110th. Democratic committee chairs and TR Republicans are not going to allow a monopoly in Satellite Radio. Even though, as usual, the FTC is not capable of seeing whom a firm or technology actually competes against."
Six weeks later, I said that I was not backing off but that "Against prescience points, however, I am hoping for the deal to succeed. I don't think either firm is strong enough to compete and innovate by itself. A strong satellite provider could bring new offerings to the market. (Maybe I'll even get my beloved Luna back.)"
Well, I was wrong. The 110th will approve the merger. But Don Luskin enumerates the costs of having the government "allow" something it has no moral or Constitutional right to preclude:
...* set aside 4 percent of their spectrum capacity (what now amounts to 12 channels) for non-commercial educational programming;
*lease another 4 percent to groups like minorities and women who are underrepresented in broadcasting...
It’s a free country so we can’t complain that activist groups such as Public Knowledge agitate for the special interests of the left, but we ought to bitch and moan that they succeed at their game of policy piracy. Not many know that groups like this get funded by corporations who want to use them as a weapon, or, worse yet, as a form of protection money.
This is the Bush FCC. While it has some well documented intransigents on it, hands up those who believe that President Obama or McCain will staff it more liberty-friendly or business-friendly members.
On May 1, Pennsylvania state troopers arrived at the home of Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt, seizing a reported $20,000 to 25,000 worth of farm equipment and placing Nolt under arrest. His crime? The illegal sale of unpasteurized milk and other dairy products. And Nolt isn't alone. In February, federal investigators subpoenaed two employees of Mark McAfee's Organic Pastures Dairy in California. Though the subpoenas do not indicate the purpose of the investigation, McAfee told me the feds were seeking evidence that his dairy was selling unpasteurized milk for human consumption across state lines.
I could go for a couple pieces of sashimi right about now.
Convinced that private lenders were making too much profit on federally insured loans, Democrats enacted changes last fall that rendered most new student loans unprofitable. As numerous firms abandoned the market amid the credit crunch and just before the peak of college financing season, the anxious pols realized their blunder and are now seeking a bailout of the same lenders they had just finished punishing.
I suggested Ethanol subsidies were a perfect, archetypal microcosm of government intrusion into free markets. I blogged that our grandchildren would study the folly and tease us about it. But why wait? The WSJ lead editorial (quoted above) captures it perfectly well today.
No need to worry about the risk for taxpayers in direct lending, however. Congressman Miller is so confident that the bureaucrats can manage everything this time that he is now trying to amend the law to eliminate some regular audits of the program. This auditing refinement, which has passed the House but not yet the Senate, specifically eliminates the requirement to report how much the program contributes to the national debt. If no one is counting, then no one can say it costs the taxpayers any money, right?
From start to finish, it is hard to imagine a more thorough example of Congressional blundering while covering its tracks by blaming everyone else and getting the Fed and taxpayers to clean up the mess. Enjoy the free lunch while you can.
I'd encourage a thoughtful reader to read the whole thing.
The good people of Pennsylvania (I am not piling on, it just happens to be the location) will be protected from the ravages of cheap medication:
A 67-year-old law is preventing Pennsylvania residents from obtaining the full list of $4 prescription drugs sold at Wal-Mart.
Will it take that many years to decide if the 1941 law is doing more harm than good?
A bill that would allow the $4 prescriptions has lingered in the state Legislature for 13 months, with no debate and no action scheduled.
In late 2006, Wal-Mart began selling 331 medications for $4 for a 30-day supply.
The drugs are generics -- cheaper equivalents of brand name drugs.
The $4 offerings include medications for many common illnesses, including infections, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and depression.
Because of the 1941 law, 56 of the drugs have to sell for $9 in Pennsylvania.
Club for Growth links to the story and wonders "So...if you're a liberal, what side of the argument do you support? Do you defend Wal-Mart (God forbid) and repeal the law so that people can get their much-needed drugs at "an everyday" low price? Or do you side with the mom-and-pop pharmacies that supposedly can't compete against the big, bad Wal-Mart?"
President Bush had previously requested $350 million for the year. Durbin and Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) held a press conference Monday calling for an additional $200 million in food aid to be added to the upcoming war supplemental bill.
“This global food crisis now risks creating a series of failed states, as anger at inadequate food stocks spur riots and political instability,” said Casey. The Democrats said the additional $200 million would go primarily to the U.N.’s World Food Program, which provides emergency food aid for up to 78 million people annually.
Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Dana Perino said the administration is monitoring the situation closely; the administration recently announced it was releasing an additional $200 million in wheat reserves to be sent to developing countries.
Oh, and let's give it to the UN, of all people. A model of efficiency.
The President doesn't escape blame, but is anyone in government willing to look at the real cause of the global food crises?
... specifically the US and EU mandates for Ethanol production and consumption.
When it pays better to burn food for fuel than it does to sell it for food, is anyone, outside of Democrats and liberal do-gooders, really surprised?
Prof. Reynolds links to a cool car on the Amazon Car Lust blog, the Toyota Sera.
It's worth a click if you like cars, but what caught my eye was this little government intrusion gem:
The United States allows non-U.S.-certified automobiles to be imported once they are 25 years past production date. This has allowed a few enterprising souls to import older cars like the Chrysler Valiant Charger, but it will be some time before the exotic Kei cars will be eligible for import. The situation is somewhat different in Canada, however; our northern neighbors require only a 15-year wait, meaning some of the interesting Japanese-market cars from the early 1990s are now fair game. There are quite a few dealerships in Vancouver, B.C., that do a strong business in such formerly forbidden fruit.
Barnacle's Resort in Lake Mille Lacs turned its normal Saturday night business into a play, testing a loophole in Minnesota's smoking ban. The production included programs and buttons that said "Act Now!"
"You are looking at a stage. You are looking at a playhouse," said Mark Benjamin, a nonsmoking lawyer who worked the bar dressed in Shakespearian garb. "Those are not cigarettes -- those are props."
The law allows actors and actresses to light up in theatrical performances -- but it doesn't define what that means. The idea of stretching the definition came to Benjamin at the Renaissance Festival, an annual event where people dress up in costumes.
It turns out that the federal government currently operates 1,776 subsidy programs. These include subsidies for states, cities, individuals, non-profit groups, and businesses.
They end with a swipe at President Bush: "He's no Thomas Jefferson." While I can't make an impassioned defense, it seemed odd to single him out. We've had 220 years and a lot of not-Jeffersons to get where we are.
Chairman Powell is Colin Powell’s son. As much as I respect Dad, Michael’s policy and beliefs comport better with mine, and he clearly is the better for spending fewer years with the striped-pants crowd at the State Department. He is pushing to bring FCC Regulations into the 21st Century. Regulations on ownership that were crafted when America got its news from Eric Sevareid can be relaxed now that many get news from Andrew Sullivan. Chairman Powell understands the effect of cable TV and Internet information sources and he believes in the free market enough to fight for a more modern approach.
Come home, Michael, we need you. Today, the WSJ Ed Page takes a few whacks at his successor, Kevin Martin (paid link until Rupert gets the keys...):
At a meeting scheduled for tomorrow, Chairman Martin plans to push a slew of new regulations on cable operators. Among other things, he wants to force cable companies to reduce, by as much as 75%, the already regulated rates they charge to lease channels to programmers. He also wants to require cable operators to settle carriage disputes, like the current one involving the NFL Network, through an arbitration system set up by the FCC. Apparently Mr. Martin, a Republican appointee to the agency no less, has lost faith in the free market's ability to handle commercial disputes. Either that, or he has some personal animus against cable.
Mr. Martin says more regulation is needed because monopolistic players are dominating the cable industry. But his premise doesn't remotely square with reality. Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, recently reported a drop in subscriptions. Cable share prices generally are getting hammered, trading near 52-week lows. According to a report last week in Broadcasting & Cable, since Comcast's last earnings report its stock is down 17%; Time Warner is down 21%; Cablevision is down 16.5%; and Charter Communication is off 47%.
To justify his meddling, Mr. Martin describes a marketplace that doesn't exist. He pretends there's no DirecTV and EchoStar option. He pretends that Verizon and AT&T's video offerings pose no threat to Comcast and Time Warner. But if the FCC chairman is most concerned about costs, the goal should be more competition via different platforms. In other words, he should want current trends to continue. His odd and untimely proposals are more likely to retard them.
Some people still wonder why so many businesses donate to Democrats. Some of it is explained by rent-seeking and staying close to power -- but how can you ask business to donate to the GOP when their Cabinet Chairs think like Mr. Martin?
UPDATE: Never give up hope. The vote may be in trouble:
WASHINGTON -- A vote Tuesday on a proposal that could lead to stricter regulation of the cable industry was in jeopardy Monday, as internal squabbling at the Federal Communications Commission and outside pressure from Congress and the White House threatened to delay, if not completely derail, the plan.
A private fire crew dispatched by a national insurance company that caters to wealthy clients is guarding 22 high-end homes threatened by the Castle Rock Fire, a blaze that has forced the evacuation of hundreds of million-dollar homes west of Ketchum.
The crew will protect only homes insured by AIG Private Client Group, an insurance company that offers "loss-prevention services" to its wealthiest customers. A truck and two-man crew sent by AIG from Montana arrived in Ketchum about 2 p.m. Wednesday to start dousing properties with Phos-Chek, the same fire retardant dropped from U.S. Forest Service aircraft.
"We're not going out there to fight the fire," said Dorothy Sarna, vice president and national director of risk-management services and loss prevention for the New York-based company. "We're out there to protect our clients."
Veteran fire managers now working the Castle Rock fire say they've never heard of a private fire crew protecting individual homes in the midst of a wildfire, said Dave Olson, a spokesman for the Forest Service.
The private crew has been granted access to areas closed to residents, but not all officials with public fire agencies were thrilled by the sight of the truck scooting through a smoky web of government fire crews.
"That sounds ridiculous to me," said Kim Rogers, a Ketchum Police Department spokesman, "especially since we haven't lost any structures. I mean, this is a Forest Service fire, not a private fire."
Would she rather they let them burn? Here is the whole story.
Half a cents worth of tap water is now worth a dollar and a half.
According to the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company website, our local plant is the fourth largest nationwide with over half a billion dollars in annual sales. Both Pepsi and Coke have reported that bottled water sales are among the fastest growing in their companies and may soon catch up or even overtake the sale of carbonated beverages. That means there are a lot of potential water consumers in Philadelphia.
The simpler way to profit off of water is to tax Pepsi and Coke at a higher rate for their water usage. I had some trouble figuring out the PWD’s business tax rate (hello Philadelphia, can we get some good city websites up or what?), but for consumers, it costs about $17 in taxes for 600 gallons of water. Philly Coke’s website says it serves about 5 million consumers a year. If one-third of these people buy one 20 oz. bottle of water a year, we’re talking at least 278,437 gallons of water sold annually.
I don’t really care how we make money off of water, but the point here is that in these cash strapped times, we are stupid if we don’t.
Our water supply is currently being exploited by Coke and Pepsi. As the largest municipality collecting and cleaning water for drinking in the region, Coke and Pepsi can’t really get the tap water they need for Dasani and Aquafina anywhere else but Philly (and shipping tap water from other places would likely cut too deeply into their bottom line). That means that whether we tax them more, or bottle our own water, Philadelphia is in a good place to be able to better take advantage of a natural resource.
Admittedly, I am not a degreed economist, but I'm sure this is a catastrophically bad liberal idea, but I repeat myself.
I'll say it slowly. (Please read along slowly for full effect)
1) If the city of Philadelphia can not control crime within it's own boundaries, how in the hell is it supposed to compete with two massively global companies that have had their horns locked for years?
2) If the city of Philadelphia charges big soda more for water, they can go bottle tap water somewhere else. There is nothing special about what Trenton flushes into the Delaware River. Really. Nothing.
Bonus part of that is when they close their bottling plants in the city and move them outside of the city limits, the city loses wage tax collection, property taxes, etc... a win-win!
Never mind that whole issue of a government specifically targetting two industrial consumers of water to the exclusion of the other industrial consumers. How many gallons of water go into a box of Oreos from the Nabisco bakery? ... what about my precious Tasty-Klair Pie? or a case from the Yards Brewery? *
Ideas like this are nicely nucleated examples of liberalprogressive thinking.
... and it goes without saying that if you buy bottled water that's municipal sourced, you're a dope, no matter who puts a screw top on it.
Get a Nalgene bottle and fill it before you leave the house... and use the bottle again, and again, and again. It takes two liters of water to make a one liter plastic bottle, btw.
See? You can be conservative and environmentally conscious!
* Note: I'd list more water consuming businesses within city-limits, but great business friendly ideas like this have chased most out into the suburbs, or the south or Mexico.
In the wake of the bridge collapse in Minnesota, The New York Times recently published a piece on the bizarre spending habits of the government when it comes to transportation:
Despite historic highs in transportation spending, the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need, has typically driven where much of the money goes. That has often meant construction of new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones.
Further, transportation and engineering experts said, lawmakers have financed a boom in rail construction that, while politically popular, has resulted in expensive transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters.
Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent out a news release last month boasting about Minnesota’s share of a recent transportation and housing appropriations bill.
Of the $12 million secured for the state, $10 million is slated for a new 40-mile commuter rail line to Minneapolis, called the Northstar. The remaining $2 million is divided among a new bike and walking path and a few other projects, including highway work and interchange reconstruction.
Reading the article, I could not help but to be reminded of this:
I read hb's charming post on the success of private efforts to help Katrina victims, complete with his admonition that "the inability to provide ample support is not confined to the administration, but rather to government itself."
Shortly after that, I read this editorial, Union Doozy, in the Wall Street Journal. The contrast is explicit. The State of Indiana contracts with private companies to deliver state welfare services, using the efficiency of the private sector. Unfortunately for AFSCME, the program is a mad success and they have to get their Democratic lapdogs in the 110th Congress to overrule the State law (so much for laboratories of democracy, Justice Brandeis!)
Indiana's goal is to deliver welfare benefits more efficiently to those who qualify for them. Its reform aims to save $500 million over 10 years by moving some 1,400 government jobs to the private sector -- which AFSCME likes to call "domestic outsourcing." But while this could mean fewer dues-paying union members, the state contract with IBM specifically requires that all current employees be offered work on the new system. And what do you know? More than 99% chose the private sector. Adding call centers and online resources will also help reduce welfare fraud: In December, a federal-state investigation found more than 1,000 ineligible drug felons collecting welfare in Marion County alone.
But no effort to make government more accountable goes unpunished. Under the House provision, the Hoosier state would be forced to cancel the $1.16 billion 10-year deal with IBM, while taxpayers would have to shoulder the more than $100 million in additional costs to bring the operation back into the bureaucracy. Worse, the money to make up the shortfall would likely come out of the same purse that's been funding an increasing number of child-welfare caseworkers -- which was another goal of reform.
There are a hundred good arguments against government running things, but the best to me is the Hayekian preference for distributed control and knowledge. Allowing a few Senators to have veto privileges over innovation will guarantee inefficiency every time.
The program is likely safe for now, but won't be under a Democratic administration. And why would the next IBM bother to get involved with such a program?
They could just as easily do what young people typically do during their precious summer free time: work various odd or part-time jobs, lounge around a beach or do nothing at all.
But for thousands of young people from across the country - in a few cases, other countries - this summer has been different.
Despite tales of thick, suffocating summer heat and entire neighborhoods still scarred with floodlines and wrecked seemingly beyond repair, young people continue to flock to New Orleans. They come not to revel in the neon glow of Bourbon Street, but to continue the cleanup nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina.
Many of the young volunteers have never been to the city and team up with local organizations, such as the well-established Catholic Charities or the newer Beacon of Hope Resource Center, to fill the voids in neighborhoods where the need for help remains great.
On a recent afternoon, a group of high school students from Westlake, a town just outside Lake Charles, spent part of their day in Mid-City, hand scraping old paint from the porch of a white shotgun double and applying a fresh coat to the inside walls. Even though the house is raised about 3 feet, a waterline remains about 2 feet high on the screen door.
"Something as simple as a fresh coat of paint can do so much," said Sam Turner, 16, who was in town to work with other young members of his church, First Baptist Church of Westlake.
The homeowner, Chareen Black, 41, said the volunteers have made a major contribution.
"Imagine without the volunteers - the house would still be in disarray, and I can't do it myself," said Black, who was welcoming a second group of volunteers to her home. "It's been a big help, a huge blessing."
Those who criticized FEMA and Bush in the same breath fail to realize that the inability to provide ample support is not confined to the administration, but rather to government itself. This story is free of the rhetoric and is a great example of human compassion and the free market.
Conservative icon Rush Limbaugh has struggled with this question, arriving speculatively at the conclusion that the religious president considers it one of his "good works." I've pondered the root cause myself over the past many months since the original Senate proposal last year, with no defensible theory having come forth - until today.
I've defended the concept of unfettered immigration on these pages many times, including once with a checklist of prerequisites. Unfortunately, the single most important prerequisite is also universally understood to be nigh on impossible: Entitlement reform to eliminate the welfare state and end government enforced transfer payments amongst individuals. But now, I think the president has figured out how to actually make this happen.
By adding millions upon millions of new dependents to the American welfare state the system will collapse under its own weight, with massive shortfalls of capital. Future congresses will have only two options: Increase the money supply, creating hyperinflation and economic collapse or, cancel most entitlement programs outright. Brilliant! Life imitates art as Ayn Rand's epic 'Atlas Shrugged' provides the template for productive Americans to demand the second option, leaving the government with no choice but to comply.
Having chosen 'johngalt' as my blog pen name it would be hypocritical of me to continue opposing such a strategy. I just hope Dubya and JK will forgive me for taking so long to come around.
Officially, tax day isn't until Tuesday (due to the 15th being on a Sunday and the 16th being an official holiday in D.C.) but the well known and lamented date of April 15th mustn't go by without some discussion of the state of taxation in America.
"Work hard. Be faithful. You'll get your just reward."
Those words appear on a statuette my father was given on the occasion of the closing of the College of Engineering at the University of Denver, where he had tenure. (The statuette was of a conscientious gentleman with a giant blue screw through his torso.) They can just as well be applied to American taxpayers who have earned a high school diploma or better in their educational career.
Chart 7 compares households headed by persons without a high school diploma to households headed by persons with a high school diploma or better. Whereas the dropout-headed household paid only $9,689 in taxes in FY 2004, the higher-skill households paid $34,629— more than three times as much. While dropout-headed households received from $32,138 to $43,084 in benefits, high-skill households received less: $21,520 to $30,819. The difference in government benefits was due largely to the greater amount of means-tested aid received by low-skill households.
Households headed by dropouts received $22,449 more in immediate benefits (i.e., direct and means-tested aid, education, and population-based services) than they paid in taxes. Higher-skill households paid $13,109 more in taxes than they received in immediate benefits.
OK, so you're probably wondering, what's new? What's new is the trend in dropout households in the U.S. According to the World Net Daily article that cites the study:
About two-thirds of illegal alien households are headed by someone without a high school degree. Only 10 percent of native-born Americans fit into that category.
I have advocated on these pages (and stand by it today) that immigration should be free and unlimited to non-criminal aliens, provided that citizenship (and voting rights) must still be earned and that entitlement programs that make immigrants a burden on the taxpayer are first reduced or eliminated.
The Rector report explains the realities we face.
Politically feasible changes in government policy will have little effect on the level of fiscal deficit generated by most low-skill households for decades. For example, to make the average low-skill household fiscally neutral (taxes paid equaling immediate benefits received plus interest on government debt), it would be necessary to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, all 60 means-tested aid programs and cut the cost of public education in half. It seems certain that, on average, low-skill households will generate deep fiscal deficits for the foreseeable future.
Click continue reading to see the report's conclusion in its entirety.
Households headed by persons without a high school diploma are roughly 15 percent of all U.S. households. Overall, these households impose a significant fiscal burden on other taxpayers: The cost of the government benefits they consume greatly exceeds the taxes they pay to government. Before government undertakes to transfer even more economic resources to these households, it should have a very clear account of the magnitude of the economic transfers that already occur.
The substantial net tax burden imposed by low-skill U.S. households also suggests lessons for immigration policy. Recently proposed immigration legislation would greatly increase the number of poorly educated immigrants entering and living in the United States. Before this policy is adopted, Congress should examine carefully the potential negative fiscal effects of low-skill immigrant households receiving services.
Politically feasible changes in government policy will have little effect on the level of fiscal deficit generated by most low-skill households for decades. For example, to make the average low-skill household fiscally neutral (taxes paid equaling immediate benefits received plus interest on government debt), it would be necessary to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, all 60 means-tested aid programs and cut the cost of public education in half. It seems certain that, on average, low-skill households will generate deep fiscal deficits for the foreseeable future. Policies that reduce the future number of high school dropouts and other policies affecting future generations could reduce long-term costs.
Future government policies that would expand entitlement programs such as Medicaid would increase future deficits at the margin. Policies that reduced the out-of-wedlock childbearing rate or which increased the real educational attainments and wages of future low-skill workers could reduce deficits somewhat in the long run.
Changes to immigration policy could have a much larger effect on the fiscal deficits generated by low-skill families. Policies which would substantially increase the inflow of low-skill immigrant workers receiving services would dramatically increase the fiscal deficits described in this paper and impose substantial costs on U.S. taxpayers.
Supporters of having the government, instead of the private market, determine wage rates have said that there has been no solid evidence supporting claims that increasing the minimum wage leads to lost jobs. But just tell that to the roughly 70 Kennywood Park employees who were laid off as a result of the recent increase in the state’s minimum wage. The southwestern Pennsylvania amusement park was forced to lay off these workers – largely high school and college students – and raise ticket prices to make up for increased labor costs. Another 20 workers were laid off at nearby Idlewild Park.
The fitness chain store operator in the Lehigh Valley who laid off 100 part-time workers
The central Pennsylvania business that reduced its work force by three “marginal” workers; will attempt to automate additional work and will consider a reduction in health-care benefits
The central Pennsylvania business that runs an apprenticeship program for engine repair had to reduce available opportunities to just one
The large multi-state food retailer that will raise prices to consumers to cover additional costs
The eastern Pennsylvania-based retailer that cut hours back in its stores and still surrendered profits
The western Pennsylvania manufacturer that laid off two employees
The business owner with a young family who must now work 15 more hours a week at his pizza shop because he cannot afford the financial hit of the increased minimum wage
[The Tax Foundation] find that America's lowest-earning one-fifth of households received roughly $8.21 in government spending for each dollar of taxes paid in 2004. Households with middle-incomes received $1.30 per tax dollar, and America's highest-earning households received $0.41. Government spending targeted at the lowest-earning 60 percent of U.S. households is larger than what they paid in federal, state and local taxes. In 2004, between $1.03 trillion and $1.53 trillion was redistributed downward from the two highest income quintiles to the three lowest income quintiles through government taxes and spending policy.
It still ain't fair... the poor hardly pay any taxes!
Taxes take a bigger bite out of the Big Apple than any other urban area in the nation, according to an analysis released Wednesday.
The Independent Budget Office report said local government taxes absorb $9.02 of every $100 of taxable resources here. The rate is 47 percent more than the $6.16 average for the most populous U.S. cities.
"No other large city comes close," the report said.
After New York, Philadelphia rated next highest, with $7.16 per $100, and Los Angeles followed with $6.88. Of the nine cities, Dallas had the lowest rate, with $5.20 per $100.
To reach those numbers, analysts estimated each city's gross taxable resources, made up of city household incomes and business surpluses , in other words, the main spending power used to pay taxes. For New York, that number is $502.1 billion. The portion of tax capacity being used by government was calculated using direct municipal taxes, estimated state collections within a city, and any overlapping local governments like counties.
The highly charged dispute over the speak-English sign at Geno's Steaks is about to heat up.
The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations notified Geno's owner Joey Vento this week that it had found probable cause that his sign urging patrons to order in English is discriminatory. The next step is to schedule a hearing to settle the dispute or to escalate the charges against the owner of the South Philadelphia sandwich stand.
Vento, who argues that the sign expresses opinions protected by the First Amendment, has enlisted the support of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a conservative public-interest law firm in Atlanta that last year won a settlement for an Ohio bar owner who faced similar charges.
"I'm shocked the city is pursuing this," said Albert G. Weiss, Vento's attorney in Philadelphia. "You'd think they have more important things to deal with."
Heaven forbid Joey Vento cater to his choice of customers.
I suppose that soon the "no shoes, no shirt, no service" signs will be coming down. They're discriminatory to leg amputees.
The need for scrutiny is even more compelling on price controls for Medicare prescription drugs. Under the Medicare Part D benefit that took effect last year, private companies negotiate prices. Democrats want to allow the government to deal directly with drug companies. They argue that this would lead to lower prices for medicines, but the more likely outcome is fewer drug choices and price controls.
Democrats point to the Department of Veteran Affairs as a model, but we doubt seniors will like that story when they learn about it. The government already negotiates drug prices directly with the VA. But as Robert Goldberg wrote last month in The Weekly Standard, "Far from negotiating prices, the VA imposes them. Federal law requires companies to sell to the VA at 24% below wholesale price. If they won't, they are banned from selling medicines to Medicaid, Medicare and the public health service."
The VA has created a list of approved drugs for its patients. Companies that don't pay the VA price don't make the list, and a slew of drugs fall into that category. They include Azilect and Tysabri, two of the newest therapies for Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, respectively. That's what happens when keeping prices down takes priority over getting the best available medicines to patients. Both drugs are available through Medicare Part D, by the way. Maybe Congress ought to debate this.
More than a dozen states sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today to lower soot levels from smokestacks and exhaust pipes, a move the state officials argue would save thousands of lives.
The states argue that the Bush administration is ignoring science and its own experts in refusing to slightly reduce the allowed threshold for soot. The "fine particulate matter" in soot contributes to premature death, chronic respiratory disease and asthma attacks, said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The pollution also leads to more hospital admissions and other public health costs, he said.
Officials from Pennsylvania, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia joined New York in the action filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.
"It is unfortunate that this coalition of states must resort to legal action to get the EPA to do its job — protect the environment and the public health," said Spitzer, the Democratic governor-elect.
EPA lied, people died.
The states want to reduce the current limit of 15 micrograms of soot allowed per cubic foot of air. States say even a reduction of 1 microgram would save as many as 11,000 lives. They don't agree on a specific amount to cut the limit.
It's not clear how much the states want to lower it. But if one is good enough, why not five?
Folks still clamor for public finance of elections. I always ask "who decides who gets to run?" There are only two reasons to oppose public finance of elections: those who run and those who don't.
It doesn't seem right that a long shot would have to compete with a publicly financed candidate, and if Senator McCain gets his way, anybody who spends more than $300 would be thrown in jail.
We need to seriously rethink the amount of money we currently provide. It's not enough for legitimate candidates, all of whom eschew the funds to avoid the attached strings. So, who is getting this money? The Charleston Daily Mail lists a few:
EVERYONE who laughed when the elfin Dennis Kucinich threw his hat in the ring to run for president in 2004 should realize why he smiles.
He had 2,955,963 reasons to smile. That is how many bucks federal taxpayers gave his ridiculous campaign for president.
Kucinich had no chance.
Yet under the bizarre federal election rules, taxpayers had to give this fool $2,955,963 just to humor his vanity.
Ralph Nader took $798,827 from taxpayers in 2004 to indulge his fantasy of being elected president. Consumers beware. I look for this demagogue to run again.
Lyndon LaRouche is another likely candidate. Last time, he squeezed $1,456,019 from taxpayers.
In 2000, Pat Buchanan hit the jackpot, drawing $16,635,624 in federal matching funds. He drew just 0.4 percent of the popular vote.
Do you want $3 of your taxes to go to ending this travesty? Why, yes.
As Great Britain prostrates itself over the urgency to save the world from Global Warming [all caps because this is a proper name, not an actuality] David Cox writes in The Guardian that we're "back on the road to nowhere."
So off we go. But are we going anywhere? This is not the first time that the peoples of the world have been mobilised to confront a common danger. Success has usually proved elusive. You may remember the "war on drugs", or, if memory fails you on that one, the "war on terror". Ten years ago, a hundred countries, including Britain, pledged to halve global hunger. During the following decade, the number of starving people rose by 54 million, and that was with pop concerts, TV pictures of starving babies and Bob Geldof leading the charge.
Cox's conclusion is encouraging, however:
So all the curbs on free flights, higher motoring taxes and increased fuel bills which Mr Juniper has in mind for us would be unlikely to do the planet much good. In due course, this is likely to become apparent to both our politicians and to voters. Sacrifice that is clearly pointless soon loses its allure. So we need not be too fearful that the harsh measures currently being canvassed by the likes of David Miliband will actually materialise.
"When the smoking is all banned, next they will decide that bacon is a crappy habit and I will not be so happy waiting in that restaurant since I will not be able to get an avocado, bacon burger to go with my fries. Maybe no fries either and the burger won’t be beef!"
As if on cue, New York and Chicago legislators are discussing ideas to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants.
The aldermen voted in April to forbid restaurants to sell foie gras. They have weighed a proposal to force cabbies to dress better. And there is talk of an ordinance to outlaw smoking at the beach.
Even Mayor Richard M. Daley, who often promotes bicycle riding and who not long ago appointed a city health commissioner who announced he was creating health “report cards” for the mayor and the aldermen, has balked at a trans-fat prohibition as one rule too many.
“Is the City Council going to plan our menus?” Mayor Daley asked.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City's Health Department on Tuesday proposed a near ban on the use of artificial trans fat at restaurants, likening its health danger to that of lead paint.
The proposal would limit the use of the artery-clogging fat, which is often used in fast foods, to 0.5 grams per serving. The proposal comes after a year-long city campaign to educate restaurants on the effects of such fats and encourage them to stop their use.
The city said the voluntary campaign failed and while some of New York's more than 20,000 restaurants reduced or stopped using artificial trans fat, overall use did not decline at all.
This falls into my official category of, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH PEOPLE?” I would really like to know what happened to the concepts of individual rights and personal responsibility in this country.
"Then they will start on whatever YOUR crappy habit is so watch out!"
"Lead-Free" - The International Environmental Boondoggle
In honor of today being the unofficial "L day" I'm posting this item that came to my attention last Monday.
In case you wonder what might have happened if the Kyoto Protocol had been adopted and implemented world wide, consider what happened when the EU unilaterally determined that the lead in solder used to produce electronic devices is a "hazardous substance" and mandated its elimination from all products marketed in Europe by the July 1, 2006.
On Monday a colleague emailed several of us a list of issues related to lead-free electronics manufacturing that was provided to him by our assembly vendor. Before reading the attachment I had no idea just how disruptive this lead-free process business is. Why would we voluntarily evolve into a process that is less reliable, more expensive, fraught with extra hoops to jump through and, by the way, is WORSE for the environment?
This all stems from an EU directive called the "Reduction of Hazardous Substances" directive, or "RoHS" adopted January 27, 2003. Here's what I found when I investigated.
According to the authors, "The study presents extensive data that show that heavy metal concentrations in leachate and landfill gas are generally far below the limits that have been established to protect human health and the environment."
By then, it was too late – the "train had left the station" and the momentum for new legislation was too great. But, by 2005, the US Environmental Protection Agency had got its act together and produced a 472-page report, assessing the full, life-cycle environmental impact of banning lead solder.
From this work, it emerged that when the impact of mining and refining substitutes was taken in to account, the higher energy consumption in using the lead-free solders, which require higher temperatures, and all the other issues were factored in, the banning of lead – far from having a positive impact on the environment (and worker health) – actually had a significant negative impact. Amazingly, though, this work had never been done by the EU and the legislation was, by then, already in place.
And then there are the long-term reliability concerns. Also from the EU Referendum blog:
On the basis of this charade, proprietors of firms not obeying this cretinous law can face unlimited fines and imprisonment yet, worryingly, there are still many serious doubts about the reliability and suitability of lead solder substitutes, so much so that military equipment has been exempted.
But not all lead is the same. Lead in paint and gasoline is easily absorbed into human cells. Lead in metallic forms such as solder is not.
In addition, evidence indicates that soldered lead, once inside landfills, does not leach out into drinking water, said Laura Turbini, a materials science faculty member at the University of Toronto.
Turbini has studied and tried to help diminish the impact of industry on the environment since the days of CFCs in refrigerators. Her presentations declare "humanity is off course" environmentally. She also strongly advocates recycling electronics. But she does not support lead-free.
"From cradle to grave," Turbini said, "lead-free soldering is not better for the environment." Replacements for lead solder cost more to mine and require more energy to use and produce.
As for “state mandated deadlines for compliance” are we sure there are, or will be, any? Consider this, also from the news article:
No U.S. firm is legally bound to use lead-free solder. Only California has any restrictions on lead, and no federal laws are pending. But not conforming to European standards means giving up a lucrative market, and potentially that of China and Japan. China is expected to announce a restriction policy soon.
But since our market is exclusively the U.S. and not even Canada, much less Europe or East Asia, it appears that we should do everything possible to avoid lead-free like the plague. The problem with this strategy is that component manufacturers, forced to comply with RoHS by customers who market products in Europe and eager to avoid the added cost of parallel leaded and lead-free product lines, are gradually discontinuing the leaded components.
And so we have a world-wide economic and environmental travesty all because one man, the EU minister of state for energy, Malcolm Wicks, signed the final RoHS document declaring, "I have read the regulatory impact assessment and am satisfied the benefits justify the costs."
And angry-left nutjobs worry that we are sliding into a monarchy!
Take the disruptions, cost increases and environmental unintended consequences of this and multiply them by ten, or even a hundred, and you'll have an idea of what Kyoto could have wrought.
(Click "Continue Reading" to see the list of issues related to lead-free soldering processes.)
Company x’s Lead – Free Process Issues
1. Lead-Free assemblies are less reliable: Company x says we should expect 30% more solder joint failures in a lead-free process.
a. Through-hole joints will not be filled up to IPC-Level 1, but should conform to the IPC Level-2 soldering standard.
b. Our QA group should expect to see less flow and poorer overall solder joints. These joints are more susceptible to mechanical stress and vibration.
c. Tin solder will “grow” thin shards (whiskers) over time. These whiskers can eventually short higher density designs
2. Lead-Free assembly processes cost more: You will see why as you read the issues here.
3. Gold PCBs: Company x prefers Immersion Gold on top of Nickel. Company x is having issues soldering to our Immersion Silver boards:
a. The silver oxidizes fairly quickly, so the PCB shelf life isn’t very long with silver
b. Company x uses a lot of cardboard, which is one of silver’s worst enemies. They try to be careful, but find they still set a lot of bare boards directly on cardboard.
c. The flux isn’t powerful enough to break down the silver oxide when soldered
d. The lead-free solder doesn’t adhere well to silver even when it is not oxidized
Company x prefers 180-200 micro-inches of Nickel over the copper and 3-8 micro-inches of Gold over the Nickel. This finish has a good shelf life, doesn’t react with materials used in handling and storage, and readily adheres to the tin solder.
It may cost us more per board up-front, but Company x is saying due to the soldering issues, it saves us money on the overall assembly.
4. High-Temp FR-4: Most assembly houses request a higher temperature rated FR-4 material for lead-free processing. Company x hasn’t seen any PCB issues due to the higher oven temperatures yet. However, de-laminating and warping may occur, especially on PCB areas with few parts. Data Circuits/Merix hasn’t charged us more for this material in the past, so I suggest we start using it on all of our PCBs.
5. High-Temp Parts: Company x has settled on 245 C as their lead-free oven temperature. Many aluminum electrolytic capacitors and connectors will be destroyed at these temperatures. I have found that many ROHS rated aluminum electrolytic capacitors aren’t specified to handle this temperature and are rated to only 235-240 C, especially the larger caps. All of the parts we want to run through a lead-free reflow process must handle at least 245 C, although 260 C is preferable, but hard to obtain in the larger caps. Due to the higher oven temperatures required for lead-free reflow, we must re-evaluate each part in the assemblies we want to become lead-free.
6. Hand soldering is difficult: Lead-free solder not only requires a higher temperature to flow properly, but it doesn’t wet, flow, or adhere as well as lead based solder. Interestingly, soldering iron tips only last 8-10 hours due to the aggressive tin reaction to the tips themselves. To increase the soldering temperature, the soldering iron tips are larger which makes it more difficult to solder small parts. Company x has asked us to change the following in our designs:
a. Increase annular rings around hand-soldered holes or anything we will want to ever be re-worked. 15-20 mil per side is desirable. Use elliptical holes for finer-pitch parts.
b. Try to always use thermal rings to connect pads (SMT and thru-hole) to ground planes and copper pours. The pads must get hotter for good reflow and direct plane/copper connections pull that heat away.
7. Wave Soldering:
a. Only boards stuffed completely with lead-free parts can run through a lead-free wave soldering process. Otherwise the lead will contaminate the solder, costing upwards of $50K to empty, clean, and refill the wave soldering pot. So we must be absolutely certain all of our parts are lead-free before we request a lead-free wave process. Lead-free wave soldering requires a higher temperature pre-heater for the board, which is not desirable.
b. Due to higher reflow temperatures, Company x does not want to run parts through the wave soldering process for a second reheating. Many parts won’t survive a second re-heating, which is 500C. To prevent damage to SMT parts on the bottom side of the PCBs, they are using “selective wave fixtures” that attach to the boards and only exposes the parts needing wave soldered. These fixtures costs $300-$400 although they may need several to allow them to continue running boards as other fixtures cool enough to be handled. The fixture rules are:
i. No SMT component on the bottom side of the PCB can extend more than 0.125" from the PCB surface. If they are taller, then a more expensive fixture can be built (double layer) or they will have to hand solder the parts. Either way costs us more for assembly.
ii. All SMT parts should be at least 0.100" away from the parts to be wave soldered. This leaves room for the fixture to fit tightly to the PCB. Obviously all of the parts can’t adhere to this rule. In these cases, we should provide build instructions to specify to either glue the intruding part to the PCB and wave solder it (indicating it can handle the heat for a second pass) or to have them hand solder the part to the PCB after the wave process.
8. Pre-Fabrication DFM Review: Company x wants 24 hours to review our PCB artwork before fabrication. This allows them time to review the board and suggest changes for better manufacturability. This also gives them time to look at some of the parts to see if they can handle the lead-free processes and high-pressure post-washing.
When TSA searches your checked luggage they used to put a note in saying "Hey we opened your bag."
When did this policy end? Was there any official notice? Is it something that the TSA in Philadelphia decided to do on it's own?
Yesterday I checked a bag with some clothes and some fly fishing gear. The fishing gear included a hemostat (looks like scissors, but used like pliers), flies, hooks, and fly floatant. For those who don't know, fly floatant is a liquid/gel product that you put on the fly to keep it afloat. All of the fly fishing gear was stored in a glorified fanny pack, which was velcroed shut.
When I unpacked, I noticed that the fly floatant wasn't in the pouch anymore. There's no way it could have flopped out of the pouch. It was laying loose in the suitcase, and the pouch was still velcroed shut.
I'm amazed that they found the floatant. I suspect that the hemostat showed up on an x-ray and figured that they opened it up then. But where's my note? ... and why not put it back where it belongs?
For what it's worth, a month ago, I carried the same setup on the plane. No problems... I wish they would profile frequent fliers and let us be.
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn has an innovative idea that will cost the federal government virtually nothing and provide the public with a depth of knowledge on government operations unparalleled in American History.
The Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommmittee on Federal Financial Management has introduced a bipartisan bill to create a Google-like online searchable database of all federal spending. Currently, said Coburn, there is no way for taxpayers to find out what the federal government is paying individuals, groups, localities, and contractors. "This bill will empower citizens investigators to root out waste, fraud, and abuse," the Oklahoma Republican, a leading opponent of pork, told U.S. News.
He has earned a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Republicans John McCain and Rick Santorum and Democrat Barack Obama. Since most of the information is already online or in digital data records that could be easily posted, the cost would be comparatively small.
This is a good thing. There's plenty of shame to go around.
Hopefully you can group it by Senator / Congressman and see what they've introduced... and give you a dollar total.
Last month I posted a link to a WaPo story of non-farmers receiving farm subsidies. Today, the same paper finds, in the same state of Texas, that you don't really need a drought to get drought aid.
CHANDLER, Tex. -- On a clear, cold morning in February 2003, Nico de Boer heard what sounded like a clap of thunder and stepped outside his hillside home for a look. High above the tree line, the 40-year-old dairy farmer saw a trail of smoke curling across the sky -- all that remained of the space shuttle Columbia.
Weeks later, de Boer was startled to learn that he was one of hundreds of East Texas ranchers entitled to up to $40,000 in disaster compensation from the federal government, even though the nearest debris landed 10 to 20 miles from his cattle.
No doubt if farmers had the time, Senators Harkin and Grassley would co-sponsor a bill to reimburse farmers for damage by extra-terrestrial debris. Willie Nelson and John Cougar could do a big concert.
New Yorkers enjoy an extra set of protection that we do not.
Perry at Eidelblog details a city ordinance to protect its vulnerable citizenry from spoiled milk.
In its benevolence, government at all levels has uncountable regulations and statutes just for what we ingest. It's the tip of the iceberg that the FDA's legions must approve pharmaceuticals and inspect and/or supervise food production. New York City, for example, has decided that milk's usual expiration dates are too long. Once fluid milk is pasteurized, it's legal to sell it only within 96 hours of 6 a.m. on the next day (which is about three days earlier than what most dairy producers stamp on the containers).
Perhaps Colorado doesn't care if its hardworkin' taxpayers drink sour milk. Or perhaps New Yorkers are considered too bashful to speak up and complain when a vendor has sold them something old.
Perry wonders about "The Freedom to Assume Risk." Finding some brave souls who dared to purchase raw milk from an Amish farmer in Ohio, before government stepped in to protect us.
And he quotes Bastiat's "The Law" essay more than I say "stunning exegesis." How can you lose?
"This was an unintended consequence of the farm bill," said former representative Charles W. Stenholm, the west Texas Democrat who was once the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee. "Instead of maintaining a rice industry in Texas, we basically contributed to its demise."
But, gosh darn it, we tried! This quote is from a WaPo story that details $1.3 Billion in farm subsidies which go to those who do not farm.
EL CAMPO, Tex. -- Even though Donald R. Matthews put his sprawling new residence in the heart of rice country, he is no farmer. He is a 67-year-old asphalt contractor who wanted to build a dream house for his wife of 40 years.
Yet under a federal agriculture program approved by Congress, his 18-acre suburban lot receives about $1,300 in annual "direct payments," because years ago the land was used to grow rice.
Two things I do not understand:
Will the Washington Post ever translate this abuse of government power and tampering with markets into opposing a new government program? Or will they just pat themselves on the back for "discovering and exposing" this failure? [Ummm, that was rhetorical, you don't have to answer.]
As non-farmers outnumber farmers (though not at ThreeSources), why can we not kill these subsidies? Yeah, they have ADM and its lobbying Army, Willie Nelson, John Cougar Mellancamp, &c. But why cannot the urban liberals and small government rural conservatives team up to kill these market abominations. It would lower taxes for the rich and reduce food prices for the poor. Why does it not happen?
The second question is less rhetorical: why is the Ag lobby so strong?
Some do-gooder activist group is upset because the FDA does not have the authority to mandate nutrition labeling in restaurants. They've filed suit with KFC and now want to go after Starbucks.
It seems that a double chocolate chip mocha frappucino with a cinnamon doughnut has 990 calories. They want the government to require nutrition labeling. Starbucks makes this information available on its website and in printed brochures "But that's not good enough!" for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Does any sentient being really think that double-chocolate chip mochas with whipped cream and doughnuts are diet food? The ABC News video is, of course, quite deferential to the activists. "They're just trying to help us be healthy, right?" I guess John Stossel was sick that day.
At 6 a.m. the next morning, Harper handed this reporter a green, self-addressed stamped envelope[ with his ID] and entered the checkpoint line, which even at that early hour was filled with travelers facing a 20-minute crawl to the magnetometers.
Harper told the identification checker he had no ID, and the attendant quickly wrote "No ID" with a red marker on his ticket and shunted him off to an extra screening line -- generously allowing him to bypass the longer queue of card-carrying passengers.
There Harper was directed into the belly of a General Electric EntryScan puffer machine that shot bits of air at his suit in order to see if he had been handling explosives.
TSA employees wearing baby blue surgical gloves then swiped his Sidekick and his laptop for traces of explosives and searched through his carry-on, while a supervisor took his ticket, conferred with other employees and made a phone call.
Meanwhile, a TSA employee approached this reporter, who was watching the search through Plexiglas, and said, "It's pretty awkward you are standing here taking notes," but he did not ask for identification or call for a halt to the note-taking.
The TSA supervisor returned from her phone call and asked Harper why he didn't have identification and to where he was traveling. But she was satisfied enough with his answer -- that he had mailed his driver's license home to Washington D.C. -- that she allowed him to pass.
At 6:30 a.m., standing 50 yards away on the other side of the glass screen, Harper phoned to say he now had two hours to kill, having gotten through screening perhaps even faster than he would have if he'd shown ID. He guessed he was able to get through without much hassle by being polite and dressing well.
In the pre-9/11 world I knew this was possible. I've been tempted to try it a number of times, but since I rely on being able to fly to keep the rain of my kid's head.
I confronted Gilbert Casellas, head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Clinton. He said the ADA is a wonderful law, and had the nerve to say it isn't complicated. "None of this stuff is rocket science," he said.
So I asked him about Janofsky's example: If you come to me applying for a job, and your arm is in a sling, can I ask you why your arm is in a sling?
"You can ask -- you know what? I'm going to ask you to stop the tape, because we're getting into -- "
I was incredulous. "You want to check?"
The head of the EEOC had just said the law wasn't complicated, and every employer in America is supposed to obey it, but he had to consult one of his experts.
This is one of those articles that's infuriating to read.
I grew up in Denver and can barely tolerate it now. New Orleans and Boston were always fun for a three day trade show. But Minneapolis was a tertiary home to me. I have had family on both sides, friends, and business there, so I've spent some time and come to dig it. I’ll be there at the end of May, though I’ll be staying outside the cities.
Sadly, I think the little Marxists have completely taken over there, refusing to fight crime lest it offend some minority somewhere. Powerline calls it "Murderapolis." That is probably way too far but for a pleasant collection of friendly Midwesterners, good economics, pretty scenery, and happy Scandinavian-Americas it does have some scary places.
LILEKS takes a whack today. It seems Target Corporation (It was Dayton-Hudson in my day) cannot upgrade a store in its hometown.
Target would like to raze the store and build a gigantor UberHyperTarget with a grocery store and twice the shelf space and a petting zoo and underground NASCAR track, etc. But! The city wants to upgrade the entire area, make it a new downtown with the usual pedestrian amenities. This means bisecting the aforementioned blocks with a “spine” that connects dead old Southdale with the housing to the south.
Here’s the catch: the new store Target wants to build does not sufficiently respect the spine. The city says: we’d like you to put affordable housing facing the spine, please. Target says: uh, we sell laundry soap and shoes and batteries; we’re not exactly in the housing business. The city says: you are now. And so the latest proposal to build the new Target was rejected. Rejected! New Urbanism, triumphant!
A friend of mine tried to build a new stereo store in Boulder and was told his company would have to put affordable housing on top (umm, mightn't that be a little loud?) Again, I fight the fight nationally, and these little Stalins ruin everything on a local level.
(The same "Bleat" also has some kind words about "Firefly.")
Hugh Hewitt links to a WaPo story, Parks Feel '80 Percent' Squeeze. It seems park managers are being asked to operate at 80% of previous budgets. You'll want to grab a Kleenex before you read this:
But park officials in the field said the initiative was forcing "gut-wrenching" decisions that visitors will notice. At many parks, volunteers will take on larger roles, and there will be fewer interpretive ranger programs, the officials said.
At Rocky Mountain Natl. Park (a little more than an hour from my front door), they're forced to prioritize:
At Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, one of six visitor centers was closed and two water stations were shuttered as a result of the initiative.
Kyle Patterson, a park spokeswoman, said the decisions prompted "soul-searching" but that one of the park's most popular visitor centers was able to stay open four more hours a day thanks to the money saved by closing a less-used one.
I would ask every, non-military segment of the Federal Government to work at 80%. This happens in the private sector everyday and companies trim ineffective programs.
I found this article by Robert J. Samuelson on the lack of progress on the tax system overhaul interesting. I'd be interested to hear comments on his arguments for why the current system is unlikely to change and the benefits that would accrue from implementation of the plans proposed by the President's commission in November. Let the schoolin' begin.
I don't want to make light of bird flu. As I recall, I already have. But it is worthwhile to watch government growth more like a virus. Once it gets hold of the host its raison d'etre is to grow and spread.
The Wall Street Journal has enjoyed many clever "Meathead" headlines following Rob Reiner's troubles of late. Reiner has come under scrutiny for spending the government funds of "First 5" which he has headed, unelected, for years. He has doled them out like the political pro he is, getting patronage for money that's not his. (Paid link)'
This is not the commission's only questionable contract. First 5 has received to date $800 million -- about 20% -- of the tobacco proceeds that Mr. Reiner convinced California voters to impose on themselves in a 1998 referendum. Of this, the commission has awarded contracts totaling about $230 million to firms or individuals known to Mr. Reiner -- some of them without competitive bidding. Meanwhile, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office is mulling whether to launch its own investigation to determine if there was any cronyism involved in awarding the ad campaign contract to a firm with long-standing ties to Mr. Reiner.
Now, he is in trouble for spending those funds to support the election of a new government program: universal pre-school. I guess the government in California is doing so well educating those in its K-12 system, it's obviously a great time to expand public education to younger students.
Mr. Reiner's ad campaign mentions neither the indifferent results of universal preschool nor its budgetary consequences. This, in itself, would not be a problem, because a democracy counts not on any one person's script, but many partial ones from numerous interested parties, to get the full story across to voters. But there is a problem when someone has unfair access to taxpayer dollars to bankroll his script over others. This is why California authorities need to give close scrutiny to Mr. Reiner's tactics -- and California voters to his grand taxing plans. As Archie Bunker would say: Hands off my fridge, Meathead.
Once these people get a little power and money, they inevitably use it to create an inexorable new government creation machine. Cuts (that would be a reduction in the rate of growth for you newcomers) and cutbacks are slow, difficult and always ripe for retraction. New programs are eternal.
Maybe it's just me, but I'm a little sensitive to any kind of government's bass-ackwards usage of common words when it comes to taxation.
A house erroneously valued at $400 million is being blamed for budget shortfalls and possible layoffs in municipalities and school districts in northwest Indiana.
An outside user of Porter County's computer system may have triggered the mess by accidentally changing the value of the Valparaiso house, said Sharon Lippens, director of the county's information technologies and service department. The house had been valued at $121,900 before the glitch.
County Treasurer Jim Murphy said the home usually carried about $1,500 in property taxes; this year, it was billed $8 million.
Budget shortfalls? It's not like they "cut taxes." They overspent! Waaaaay over spent money they never had.
Most local officials did not learn about the mistake until Tuesday, when 18 government taxing units were asked to return a total of $3.1 million of tax money. The city of Valparaiso and the Valparaiso Community School Corp. were asked to return $2.7 million. As a result, the school system has a $200,000 budget shortfall, and the city loses $900,000.
Officials struggled to figure out how the mistake got into the system and how it could have been prevented. City leaders said Thursday the error could cause layoffs and cost-cutting measures.
Lesson here? Any government will spend as much money as it thinks it can.
If I were an up and coming Porter County politician, I might be campaigning on a "rainy day fund" platform.
Security concerns have caused the government to suspend plans for an ambitious program to check every domestic airline passenger's name against government watch lists, Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley said Thursday.
Hawley told the Senate Commerce Committee that he has directed that the program's information technology system "go through a comprehensive audit."
A comprehensive audit would be an understatement.
Nearly four years and $200 million after the program was put into operation, Hawley said last month that the agency hadn't yet determined precisely how the it would work.
I’ll start us off by presenting my idea (that has been discussed by many others before) to use an expansion of public transportation to create new jobs, improve the city’s neighborhoods and bridge the gap between all Philadelphians.
It goes on to list all of the ways....
In total, for the transit expansion projects I propose above, we are talking anywhere from $20-$30 billion in capital spending. This may seem like a lot of money. However, because a lot it could be bonded, the actual cash outlay would be a lot less. A billion dollars a year for 30 years is a better way to think of the expense. And, as I will report in the next section, this level of transit infrastructure investment would have an astounding impact on our city’s economy which would pay for the $1 billion a year in debt service easily.
So the plan is to spend a billion dollars a year to cover a billion dollars a year in debt using money that might come from tax revenue based on new jobs!
I guess compounding interest never figured in to the calculations. To be fair, Ray did admit to some guessing in his calculations.
Nevertheless, I still have a philosophical problem with centrally planned problem solving like this. It would be a total and complete racket. It's begging for mismanagement and graft.
If the objective is to lure better paying jobs BACK into the city, I guess getting the city on the correct side of the Laffer Curve isn't in the cards.
In related news, a new paper from the Cato Institute came out last week.
Prior to 1964, when Congress began subsidizing transit, the industry was mostly private. Since then, the industry has been almost entirely taken over by state and local governments. Today more than three of every four dollars spent on transit come from taxpayers, not transit riders.
The effectiveness of local transit systems is undermined by federal subsidies, which encourage the construction of highly visible and expensive services such as light-rail trains to suburban areas despite the chronically low number of riders on those routes. Federal subsidies to transit advocacy groups and misguided environmental and labor regulations also encourage a large investment of taxpayer money in wasteful transit systems.
Public transit is a tricky question. In urban areas, you have to have it.
Mass rail-transit has pretty much been a financial loser since automobiles were invented, and were heavily subsidized by freight reciepts when real railroads has shiny classic passenger trains. However, when your entire income stream is based on passengers themselves that need to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, it becomes very difficult to do.
Subways, "El"s and trolleys, as light rail used to be called, are in that same vein. The physical plant maintenance is high, and you can only make money in high volumes, but even then with government subsidies.
Buses have always been expensive to run, but cheaper than rail, as the "tracks" are someone elses problem.
I think the solution to transit funding is that we need to abandon the idea of public transit monopolies.
With regards to rail, the government should offer tax incentives (not subsidies) for self-contained railcar development and passenger service companies to run them. Though some lines would need to be improved for the additional traffic, they can co-exist with freight traffic when properly dispatched.
For example on the Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington, why not allow multiple companies to run the operations? Not just Amtrak sharing with NJ Transit, MTA or Septa, but with an airline style model. The service can either be contracted out by the municipality OR companies could run them on their own schedules, offering first-class, upscale or economy style service. Additionally, premium slots during rush-hour can be sold to the companies. In addition to frequency or quality of service, competition could also be based on speed of service. Trains could make the local stops or the bigger city stops (express), or some mix (limited).
For those locations where rail service might not exist, or exists on terrible economics, why not contract the service out? Instead of completely wasting money, there would be a better return. The competitive bidding process still works... Since we're already paying for some service to these areas, can't we pay less? I'm sure we can.
We can do something similar with buses. It would actually be better than trains. There's a lower cost for the infrastructure. Another government bureaucracy is maintaining the roads. Heck, we could fold some of the rails into the DOT's as well. In any case, a bus can go anywhere. Greyhound, Martz, et. al. do it now.
With unmonopolized public transit any bus company can run a bus from anywhere to anywhere. I bet they would do it at far better efficiency than a "transit authority."
Free our transit.... either that or perfect "tube technology" ala Logan's Run. Except we all know how that turned out.
“Worried that too many young Americans are turned off by the idea of working in government, Congress has provided $600,000 for a research project to develop strategies to raise interest among college students in federal service.”
The fact that the government has to spend $600,000 to make itself more appealing should reveal the obvious fact that it needs to be reform. But heavens, that’s just flat out crazy talk for bureaucrats.
It's fiscally conservative and snarky.
I would love to get paid just to blog like that everyday. I don't have the ability to be full-time snarky at my current position!
The House successfully passed a $56 billion tax cut this afternoon, designed to further spur economic growth. Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) said passage of the bill would be good for the economy.
"Republican efforts to deliver hard earned money back to American taxpayers is sparking America's economy, creating jobs, strengthening markets, and improving the lives of every American" DeLay said. "Republicans will continue to create an economic atmosphere that expands our nation's economy and provides entrepreneurial and job opportunities to all Americans."
Not ready for Presidential signature, but it's only a few weeks away.
Americans surveyed had a generally dim view of U.S. automakers' efforts. Viewed most favorably for their hybrid plans were Toyota, with 41 percent of respondents, and Honda, with 40 percent.
Ford's hybrid efforts got the nod of only 14 percent, GM's only 13 percent and Chrysler was last at 8 percent.
Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid grew 90 percent in September.
But are hybrids really as superior in fuel efficiency as automakers claim in their multimillion dollar advertisements? Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, has thrown a half-bucket of cold water on that nouveau conventional wisdom. In an October cover article the magazine reveals how their own fuel economy test results compare to the "EPA estimates" behind the mileage claims of every automaker selling cars in the USA.
Highlights of our study:
• Shortfalls in mpg occurred in 90 percent of vehicles we tested and included most makes and models.
• The largest discrepancy between claimed and actual mpg involved city driving. Some models we tested fell short of claimed city mpg by 35 to 50 percent.
• Hybrids, whose selling point is fuel thriftiness, had some of the biggest disparities, with fuel economy averaging 19 mpg below the EPA city rating.
Everyone who's ever computed his own gas mileage knows the EPA figures are unrealistically high, even after they were arbitrarily "adjusted" with a 10 percent reduction in 1984. But the government mandated test regimen for measuring fuel economy is still the same dinosaur it was when originally cobbled together in 1975. So how does it deal with these newfangled "hybrid" cars? They start their testing with a fully charged battery! If the test is long enough this advantage will be minimized, but the test protocol runs for only 31 minutes in the "city" test and 12.5 minutes for "highway." Consumer Reports, on the other hand, starts their hybrid tests "with the battery at the charge level you normally find--about half." Their "city" test is not as long at 16 minutes, but "highway" is longer at 37 minutes. Larger "real-world" discrepancies exist too, like the EPA test's professional driver following a prescribed speed and acceleration curve on a dyno vs. CU's two test drivers making 6 test runs on real roads, and EPA's variable "highway" speed of 30 to 60 mph, averaging 48 vs. CU's constant 65 mph.
So what's the result? Here are the tallies for select cars from Honda and Toyota:
From the chart we can see that, if you believe Consumer Reports' "real world" tests, hybrid cars 'city' fuel economy is often no better than good old fashioned gas only cars from the same maker. And no expensive, complicated, heavy, limited lifetime battery/motor system is required to achieve it. Just lightweight, aerodynamic and underpowered - the classic japanese car formula.
If you really want the best gas mileage try driving slower. I typically get 26 mpg while commuting in my 6 cylinder Audi "upscale car," mostly on an interstate highway. One day I tried driving at the speed limit on every street in my route and the on-board computer reported: 30 mpg.
When daylight-saving time starts earlier than usual in the United States come 2007, your VCR or DVD could start recording shows an hour late. Cellphone companies could give you an extra hour of free weekend calls, and people who depend on online calendars may find themselves late for appointments.
An energy bill President Bush is to sign today would start daylight time three weeks earlier and end it a week later as an energy-saving measure.
And that has technologists worried about software and gadgets that now compensate for daylight time based on a schedule unchanged since 1987.
Motorists filling up in this borough are allowed to pump their own gas - but only if they're supervised by an attendant.
It's been this way for three decades, ever since a motorist overfilled a car tank, sending some 50 gallons into storm sewers.
Mount Pleasant's ordinance, which requires an attendant within 15 feet of the pump, is apparently unique in Pennsylvania. A recent effort to allow self-serve gas in the borough failed, but a state legislator is pushing a bill that would require stations to offer full service.
W. Curtis Thomas, D-Philadelphia, said his bill wouldn't eliminate self-service gas pumps. The bill is still being tweaked, but Thomas said he favors offering full-service along with self-service, which he says would be helpful to the elderly and disabled.
These are the kind of nanny-state nonsensical ideas that we laugh at over-taxed and under-gunned New Jersey over.
Has Rep Thomas paid for gas lately? It's nearly $2.50 a gallon. What do you think forcing a gas station to have a babysitter or a pumper on hand going to do for the price of gas?
Any article like this needs to be replete with quotations.
I present some for your consumption.
My biggest concern as a fire chief was the overflow of gasoline which can go in the storm sewers," said [Mount Pleasant's mayor and fire chief] Gerald Lucia.
Besides the spill three decades ago, there have been other accidents, Lucia said, including one about six years ago where a trucker was pumping diesel. Even with an attendant within the required 15 feet, "I don't know how it happened ... but (the trucker) ran about 100 gallons of diesel fuel down the street," he said.
100 gallons of fuel? Me thinks this is a wee bit of hyperbole. I'm pretty sure I've never seen a pump that pumps more than a few gallons per minute. I've got an 18 gallon tank, and five minutes at the pump is not out of the question. This must've been a firehose of a pump, or the pumper (and the attendant) both dosed off.
Perhaps from the fumes.
I stick the pump in the tank all the time and wash my windows. It cuts off when the tank is full. I like to have an even amount of money on the meter (to the nearest 10 or 25 cents). I have to work to put more gas in the tank. How is a hundred gallon spill possible?
I suspect screwing around. Or huffing.
One of them is Diane Pieszak, who was having her Dodge Durango filled up on Thursday.
"I don't like to pump my own gas," she said, as she was out running errands.
Her SUV Durango? I really feel for her. I mean, my heart weeps.
Drive a PRIUS. You won't need as much gas.
And another one..
Rachel Williams, also of Mount Pleasant said, "Having an attendant around to check my oil while pumping my gas is a great thing. Think of how it will lower the local unemployment rate."
Ok, I made that one up.
I've got an idea.
All of those overpaid State Reps and Senators.... maybe they can start pumping gas for the elderly, the lame and indigent.
Never say Congress isn't willing to accept blame -- as long as it can assign it to someone else. Having mandated the use of the fuel additive MTBE, the Members now want to shake down the companies foolish enough to have made the product.
This is the real story behind the debate over MTBE, which has once again become the sticking point in the House-Senate conference over the energy bill. The House has passed modest liability protection for MTBE makers, while Senate Democrats are threatening a filibuster if there's any such thing in the final bill. If we're lucky, the dispute will cause the hot-air dirigible that is the energy bill to crash and burn one more time. But it's more likely the Members will "compromise" by dropping the House provision and thus blame private business for Congress's mistakes.
Refiners and other companies now face more than 100 lawsuits, even as they are striving to meet growing energy demand and more elaborate fuel specifications. Draining cash from these companies to finance trial-lawyer contingency bonanzas will not lower gas prices.
Bear in mind that the House liability waiver would only be for "product defect" lawsuits, which are the most frivolous and deadly because they only require plaintiffs to show that a company made the product for sale. Defendants would still be liable for larger MTBE spills, and the current Congressional negotiations include talk of some sort of industry-financed clean-up fund. In about 95% of spills, a responsible party has been identified and most are already paying for a cleanup.
I paid attention to this in the 1990s as I was quite concerned about MTBE and Ethanol’s effects on vehicles. I guess I'll have to confess to being wrong on that count -- but right about gub'mint meddling in general.
Markets work. While we're on that topic, Arnold Kling, an oxymoronic "fun economist" over at TCS is starting a new series on the effects of regulation -- a good excuse for even non-economists to learn about the CAPM. Jk gives it four stars!
Want a tangible result from your charitable giving? Help build a hotel!
The US Supreme Court's recent ruling in 'Kelo v. City of New London' removed the last obstacle preventing this project from moving forward. The 'Lost Liberty Hotel' project had previously been blocked by the current use of the desired development site as a private residence for a single American family. Now that the Supreme Court has obliterated the Constitutional restrictions on emminent domain, the process of bribing city officials to obtain condemnation of the property can begin in earnest.
"This is not a prank" said Clements, "The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter we can begin our hotel development."
Who's that? Souter? Yes, Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, whose residence at 34 Cilley Hill Road in Weare, New Hampshire is the future building site for the hotel.
Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.
So there you have it. A site is "necessary" just because the developer says it is. As long as the local government goes along the individual is powerless to stop them. We'll see how David feels when he faces Goliath by himself, without his flowing robe.
And there's a delicious coup de grace, for me anyway: "Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged." HOO-rah.
Tom Wilson is faced with a problem many city administrators would envy: How to spend $1.5 million on a bus stop.
Wilson, Anchorage's director of public transportation, has all that money for a new and improved bus stop outside the Anchorage Museum of History and Art thanks to Republican Sen. Ted Stevens - fondly referred to by Alaskans as "Uncle Ted" for his prodigious ability to secure federal dollars for his home state.
Wilson is prepared to think big.
The bus stop there now is a simple steel-and-glass, three-sided enclosure. Wilson wants better lighting and seating. He also likes the idea of heated sidewalks that would remain free of snow and ice. And he thinks electronic signs would be nice.
Much like West Virginia and Robert Byrd, Alaska is becoming one giant monument to Senator Uncle Ted Stevens.
It's senseless spending like this that is really making a lot of people disillusioned with the Republican party.
What ever happened to fiscal restraint?
Sure, it's great if you're an Alaskan, but for the rest of us, I say, "what the f*ck?"
The party of smaller government starts with cutting taxes. But it shouldn't end there. Cutting spending is the next step.
We're not seeing it. The Democrats certainly aren't going to provide it. The Libertarians are far too academic and weird to get it done.
Where's the party of financial restraint?
"We have a senator that gave us that money and I certainly won't want to appear ungrateful," he said. At the same time, he does not want the public to think the city is wasting the money. So "if it only takes us $500,000 to do it, that's what we will spend."
Oh, well that's a relief. Only $500,000 for a bus stop. Glad to know that they're going to show self-control.
Thanks to Alaska-born ATG, who writes "The current bus stop works fine, I drive by it every day!"
In America, "money talks and bullshit walks." Seems it's exactly reverse from that at the UN: "Bullshit talks and the money walks" anywhere except where it's intended to go. Mark Steyn writes:
"Which brings me to the John Bolton nomination process, which is taking so long you'd think the U.S. Senate was run by Indonesian customs inspectors. Writing of near-Ambassador Bolton's difficulty getting his paperwork stamped by the Foreign Relations Committee, National Review's Cliff May observed that "the real debate is between those who think the U.N. needs reform -- and those who think the U.S. needs reform.''
Any more excerpts than this wouldn't do the piece justice. The whole thing is noteworthy. Enjoy.
A consortium of business and government leaders took on the awesome responsibility to rebuild the World Trade Center area. As readers of this blog can imagine,"3 1/2 years after the 9/11 attacks Ground Zero remains just that: a hole in the ground."
So sez the Wall St Journal Ed Page in a plea to have their old neighborhood rebuilt by Donald Trump:
As for us, we'd like to steal a line from Mr. Trump and say to Governor George Pataki, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the Ground Zero redevelopment team that has failed the city, the state and the country in this important effort: You're fired. This is a job for a man who knows what he's doing, not for a bunch of bungling apprentices. Mr. Trump's detractors hate him because he puts up impossibly tall, glassy, gaudy, sightline-destroying buildings. In other words, given the current failed thinking about Ground Zero, he's the perfect man for the job.
It seems "The Donald" is not too keen on the current plan for "Freedom Tower" (but it is rumored that he loves the fries...)
"I think the World Trade Center should be rebuilt on the site, only stronger and a little bit taller, even if it's only one story taller," the billionaire builder told the New York Post last week. Asked for his opinion of architect Daniel Libeskind's Freedom Tower, the centerpiece of the redevelopment plans, Mr. Trump said: It's "an egghead design, designed by an egghead, which has no practical application and which, frankly, didn't look very good."
I'm not a huge fan nor adversary of Mr. Trump. But he certainly seems a good choice for this job.
I have been blogging a long time to be such a nobody, but that's a harmless aside, not the thesis of this post.
Two years ago, I wrote some longer posts and kept them around as essays. This one compared the service and decor of the free-market enterprises offering oil changes with the state-monopoly-dictated provider of emissions checks.
It’s been two years and the State still dictates emissions tests. It is a grisly experience. Government appointed bureaucrats get into your car and treat it roughly on a dynamic test bed. I expect they still don't take credit cards, and I expect the facilities are still dingy and uninviting. Why fix it? Customers are forced to visit you every two years.
But I am going to reopen the whine because of my situation. I have Multiple Sclerosis and my wife has been in the hospital for more than four weeks. I leave the house at 7:00 am to see her; I juggle as much time as I can at work, rush home to let out and comfort the dog, rush back to the hospital for every meal and come home late every night.
Sorry to get out the violins, but now I have to find time for this insane government mandate. It will take two-three hours out of my day that I would love to have for laundry, or to get a haircut, or some other frivolous thing.
I'm not the only busy guy in town. Everybody has got something. Why do we allow the State to waste our time so? I cannot imagine anybody is left who believes that these exams reduce half the pollution generated by everyone driving 20 extra miles to get them.
I have always joked that I wanted to open a GOP registration office next door. We’d offer coffee and sympathy and an ATM machine to the deer caught in gub’mint headlights. It’s a great place to catch people who might be receptive to the idea of a little more freedom.
CHICAGO - Being overweight is nowhere near as big a killer as the government thought, ranking No. 7 instead of No. 2 among the nation's leading preventable causes of death, according to a startling new calculation from the CDC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Tuesday that packing on too many pounds accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States. As recently as January, the CDC came up with an estimate 14 times higher: 365,000 deaths.
The new analysis found that obesity — being extremely overweight — is indisputably lethal. But like several recent smaller studies, it found that people who are modestly overweight actually have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight.
Biostatistician Mary Grace Kovar, a consultant for the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center in Washington, said "normal" may be set too low for today's population. Also, Americans classified as overweight are eating better, exercising more and managing their blood pressure better than they used to, she said.
Anybody can miss a prediction, but it takes a government agency to miss by a factor of 14. Whadaya say we let the private sector handle diet concerns, and have the government stick to important things like the mohair subsidy.
UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru links to the mypyramid.gov site and asks "WHAT WOULD WE DO without the federal government telling us what we should eat?"
I like TR, and will stand to being corrected if he is not the villain in anti-trust legislation But whoever got the ball rolling deserves disapprobation.
The current crop of deal breakers are myopic to what constitutes competition. It's a fact that DirecTV and Echostar should merge and use their combined assets to take on Comcast. But no! You can't have a single satellite TV provider.
Today Blockbuster is backing out of M&A for fear of sating the trust lawyers. A WSJ news story gives the facts right up top:
Blockbuster Inc. said it won't pursue its $991 million offer to acquire rival video chain Hollywood Entertainment Corp., clearing the way for Hollywood to pursue a previously agreed deal with Movie Gallery Inc.
Blockbuster, Dallas, said it was dropping its unsolicited pursuit of Hollywood because obtaining antitrust approval likely would be difficult. The company said it will promptly return any shares that had been tendered under its offer. Earlier this year, Hollywood accepted an $850 million, or $13.25 a share, offer to merge with Movie Gallery, Dothan, Ala.
Anti-trust? Blockbuster is about to get smooshed like a bug by NetFlix and online content delivery. Why not allow them to bulk up and defend their sector with all available means?
The Utah governor is deciding whether to sign a bill that would require Internet providers to block Web sites deemed pornographic and that could also target e-mail providers and search engines.
Late Wednesday night, the Utah Senate approved controversial legislation that would create an official list of Web sites with publicly available material found to be "harmful to minors." Internet providers in Utah must offer their customers a way to disable access to sites on the list or face felony charges.
Here's a case where the government isn't involved in distribution of content. They want to impose these rules on private entities.
Can you only imagine if they had control over it?
Opponents, though, worry that the legislation could go far beyond just broadband and dial-up providers. "Does this cover only major Internet providers, or are they talking about the local coffee shop that offers Wi-Fi?" asked Kate Dean, manager of the U.S. Internet Service Provider Association in Washington, D.C.
The measure, S.B.260, says: "Upon request by a consumer, a service provider may not transmit material from a content provider site listed on the adult content registry." A service provider is defined as any person or company who "provides an Internet access service to a consumer."
Of course, it billed as "for the children." Maybe the parents should take the initiative in watching their kids.
Is that really too much to ask?
If signed, this will pretty much immediately go to court.
Where who knows what will happen?
Smokers who have bought cigarettes online are starting to get notices from the state to pay up the $2-per-pack cigarette tax they avoided.
A Canton woman who got a state bill last weekend for $2,500 in back cigarette taxes is among the bulk cigarette buyers learning that avoiding taxes -- the state can go back up to four years -- can be expensive in the long run.
The state's lost tax dollars were estimated at $1.7 million from just one of 13 online cigarette retailers.
In a bold push to catch tax scofflaws, the state Treasury Department has subpoenaed the online retailers in other states to get the names, addresses and purchase records of Michiganders who bought cigarettes from them. In virtually all cases, such sales do not include the cigarette tax that must be paid to the state, regardless of who the seller is or how much is purchased.
So far, the sweep has resulted in letters sent to 533 people the state says bought from just the one online seller.
If the government of Michigan were really interested in stopping people from smoking (as all good governments claim), they would have sent these people "How to Stop Smoking" packets or something.
Instead, they reveal themselves to be what we all knew... just out for the money.
And how long till we all get subpeonaed for purchases on eBay or Amazon or anyone of hundreds or thousands of online retailers?