Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Those unintended consequences

Remember that this is the signature "achievement" of Obama's first (and last) term.  Weekly Standard: "Study: Under Obamacare, employees will likely engage in 'targeted dumping' of employees."
Minnesota Public Radio reports, “A loophole in the federal health care overhaul would allow many employers to game the system by dumping their sicker employees [into] public health insurance exchanges, according to two University of Minnesota law professors.” Such “targeted dumping” of sicker employees would cause Obamacare’s taxpayer-subsidized exchanges to cost more — potentially far more — than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected.
This seems to be a pattern with the Obama administration from Stimulus I to Cash for Clunkers to Obamacare to Solyndra: it won't work but at least it will cost a lot of money.
"Something had to give" - Megan McArdle has a good review of American Airlines' declaration of bankruptcy and the pressures on the legacy airlines.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another warning - Fox Business: "Fitch keeps U.S. credit rating at AAA, cuts outlook to negative."
Obama to Joe Sixpack: drop dead

From the New York Times (!): "The future of the Obama coalition"
For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.
All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.
I'd like to believe that the American electorate is running the gamut from concerned to mortified by the inexorable rise in the national debt, and the working class in particular is tuned in to the bill coming due to future generations.  It was only six months ago when a Democratic candidate who "promises to...raise taxes only on the super rich" was up against a Republican "running as a business-minded opponent of deficit spending."

It's a message that's going to resonate beyond New York-9.

Extra - From Opinion Journal.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An inconvenient truth - Opinion Journal: "The non-green jobs boom - Forget 'clean energy.' Oil and gas are boosting U.S. employment."
Crimson tide of debt

Mark Steyn: "SS Spendaholic sailing into debt abyss"
In return for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling (and, by the way, that's the wrong way of looking at it: more accurately, we're lowering the debt abyss), John Boehner bragged that he'd got a deal for "a real, enforceable cut" of supposedly $7 billion from fiscal year 2012. After running the numbers themselves, the Congressional Budget Office said it only cut $1 billion from FY 2012.
Which of these numbers is accurate?
The correct answer is: Who cares? The government of the United States currently spends $188 million it doesn't have every hour of every day. So, if it's $1 billion in "real, enforceable cuts," in the time it takes to roast a 20-pound stuffed turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, the government's already borrowed back all those painstakingly negotiated savings. If it's $7 billion in "real, enforceable cuts," in the time it takes you to defrost the bird, the cuts have all been borrowed back.
The United States is uncomfortably close to spending $2 for every $1 we raise in revenue; all of this is going on to the national credit card.  At some point we have to envision a government that has to make due with half a defense budget, half a Medicare budget, half of everything - except we can't even cut enough of what we're overspending in a single day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

That guy who lives on Air Force One - Keith Hennessey: "The President's missed opportunities for deficit reduction."  Let's face it: he doesn't give a fig about debt.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Erskine Bowles doesn't feel the love - Via Jennifer Rubin's blog at the WashPost, the former co-chair of the first debt commission all but accuses Obama of abandoning the commission's recommendations so he could play his "sensible guy" schtick.
USA to OWS - "Meh."
Spending commitments a'comin'

Robert Samuelson reminds us what is really driving the federal deficit over the next couple decades:
As is known, these "entitlements" are the central cause of long-term budget deficits. From 2005 to 2035, their cost will nearly double as a share of national income, projects the Congressional Budget Office. How big a government do we want? What's the balance of fairness between young and old? How much should other programs be reduced or taxes raised? Many Democrats duck the fundamental policy questions and reject any benefit cuts.
Let's be clear about one thing: there is not enough money that could be culled from the "rich" to pay for all the Medicare and Social Security spending coming down the pike which will soon enough suck up every penny in federal revenue.
Time for a diet - Here's Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe with a good review of our federal debt problem: "Kicking our spending habit."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Epic finish - Tonight was the final race in the NASCAR championship and it was a two-man brawl between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards.  In the end, Stewart finished one slot ahead of Edwards and they actually tied in total points, but Stewart won the championship because he had the most wins in the Chase.

Edwards was classy in defeat and really you couldn't take anything away from Stewart who won half of the 10 races in the NASCAR Chase series.  I was rooting for Edwards, but Tony won it outright.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Except they're not

Fox News: "Deficit panel facing political, fiscal consequences without budget deal."

Really?  Virtually nobody believes that the 2013 budget axe will fall since future Congresses are not bound by the intentions of the past.  And I don't think the political consequences are going to effect the re-election efforts of John Kerry in Massachusetts or Jon Kyl in Arizona.

I was highly skeptical of this budget supercommittee since it carried the political baggage that was mostly muted in the first debt commission chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.  Still, I kinda hoped they would find some middle ground that got somewhere near the target of $1.2 trillion in savings.  As this graph from the Washington Examiner demonstrates, that figure is almost a rounding error compared to the sum of federal spending over the next decade:

Depressing.  As Casey Stengel once griped about another inept committee: "Can't anybody play this here game?"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Western Massachusetts makes OWS news

This is currently the top story on MassLive which is the main news site for Western Massachusetts: it's about some kid from Northampton who was on MTV because of his involvement with Occupy Wall Street.  These paragraphs are beyond parody:
His family owns the Easthampton restaurant Tavern on the Hill. He dropped out of Greenfield Community College, where he was an art history major. Amy Guyette, his mother, said he has only been home twice, for a total of about five days, since the occupation began.
“I’m just a middle-class white kid from Northampton, Massachusetts,” Bryan Guyette says in the TV show. “I’ve seen a lot of communities in my area become pretty economically depressed. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and that doesn’t seem fair to me.”
So, to recap, the art history major college dropout is raging against his family which owns a premier restaurant in Easthampton and clearly resides in the 1% he loathes.  Furthermore, young Bryan thinks it's unfair that the rich keep getting richer while hippies with green dye in their hair keep getting poorer.  You can't make this stuff up.
Abt naturally - WTOV: "Man tries to rob bank, teller can't decipher note."  I believe the note said: "I am pointing a gub at you."
Ways to have fun with vibration

Oh grow up.  I found this video today while I was looking up information on ultrasonic cleaning.  The vibration from the violin bow sets up constructive and destructive waves which appear on the metal plate.

Science is fun-damental!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Golden years are mainly pyrite - As if it wasn't bad enough that Social Security is going to go bankrupt the very year I plan to retire, there's this news from Zero Hedge: "The new retirement normal: the average American must work for two extra years after death."  But I'm tired.
After the sugar high - Hit & Run: "CBO on the stimulus: "A net negative effect on the growth of GDP over 10 years."  The shorter version is that we spent a bunch of cash on a stimulus that didn't work but we still have to pay interest on all the money we borrowed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Solyndra scandal takes shape

Here's Megan Mcardle over at the Atlantic:
But these days, the real scandal is starting to look like . . . real scandal.  Contrary to earlier White House denials, we recently found out that major Obama fundraiser George Kaiser does indeed seem to have discussed Solyndra with members of the administration (In fairness, it was after the loan had closed.  However, given that there were ongoing approvals required for disbursements, and later, for modifications in the loan, this is not very comforting.)
Meanwhile, Hoover's Peter Schweizer's new book claims that 80% of the loans in the DOE program that Solyndra tapped went to companies owned or run by Obama backers.  Of course, one would expect that most "green energy" types would be enthusiastic Democrats.  Still, the thing has a certain whiff about it.
Then today we learn that Solyndra, which was originally going to announce layoffs in late October 2010, held off on the announcement until November 3rd (aka election day).  And they seem to have done so at the behest of the White House.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu was on NPR this afternoon and an exasperated Melissa Block tried to get a handle on how a half-billion dollars went up in sunshine while independent accounting firms and the Office of Management and Budget were throwing up red flags.

Unintentional humor update - A Solyndra adviser writes: "They [DOE] did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date."  That is most peculiar!

Monday, November 14, 2011

This country is in the very best of hands

Homer Simpson: "Weaseling out of things is important to learn.  It's what separates us from the animals...except the weasel."

I’m afraid I have some rather shocking news for you. I want you to sit down first. Are you sitting? Yes? Good.
Remember that Congressional committee charged with figuring out how to reduce the deficit? Well, it turns out they’re looking to delay the tough decisions until next year.
With great conviction and love of country, they punted.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Team Edwards vs. Team Stewart

This may not be of interest to most, but the NASCAR championship has (finally!) come down to two guys who are not Jimmie Johnson.  Heading into the championship race in Miami, only Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are in contention; all others are mathematically eliminated and only three points separate the top two.  Essentially, this means that leader Carl Edwards has a three-position margin heading into the final race which, all things considered, is not much of a lead.

If I had my druthers, I would pick Tony Stewart although he's already won two championships back when he was driving the Home Depot #20.  So I'm going to root for Edwards to make his signature backflip next week.  Go Carl!  Win one for (bailout-free) Ford.

Extra - Evil scenario proposed by my son: what if Carl Edwards purposely crashed his #99 into Tony Stewart's #14 on the first lap of the race, incapacitating both cars?  Theoretically, Edwards would win the championship but with the same sense of sportsmanship that greeted Chick Hicks when he "won" the Piston Cup.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Media bias?  Yeah, so what.

Atlantic magazine writer Conor Friesersdorf in "James O'Keefe is capitalizing on the cult of journalistic objectivity" puts forth that in an "era of diminished privacy" any journalist could be caught in a "gotcha" moment but that should not undermine his or her body of work.
Under a different system of norms, this reporter or her editors could say, "Look, I regret that my private remarks were made public, and I shouldn't have called the governor a profane name. But the only way to judge me as a journalist is to examine my work. If you find something you regard as objectionable, point it out. I am eager to defend it from scrutiny. And if I've erred in some way, I am glad to acknowledge it. My personal opinions are beside the point."
Well, in my mind, it's not so much a sin of commission than omission.  Where was that famously objective media when James O'Keefe was blowing open the lid on the now-defunct ACORN?  Hot Air: "Jon Stewart to media on ACORN: Where the hell were you?"
Kudos to Jon Stewart, who doesn’t sugar-coat the embarrassment at all — to the apparent delight of his audience, who get kudos of their own. How can the national news media ignore the many allegations of corruption at ACORN, which gets millions of dollars in federal funding, and allow a couple of independents with $3,000 and a bad wardrobe scoop them on the undercover story of the year? It’s easy when newsrooms are more concerned with political direction than truth.
Political direction, it's well known, that only bends in one direction.  I don't know how to resolve this problem (affirmative action for conservative journalists?) but it's beyond reason to believe that reporters can separate their bias from reporting or lack thereof.  If the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, it might be refreshing to see journalists admit their biases instead of feigning some kind of superhuman capability for objectivity.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Electric slide - This news will be of concern to the dozens and dozens of drivers who have purchased a Chevy Volt.  NY Times: "Batteries in electric cars examined after Chevy Volt fire."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Dick Durbin praises those compromising Republicans

Well, you could knock me over with a feather.  The Hill: "Durbin, breaking with Democrats, applauds GOP offer on taxes as a breakthrough."
Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democratic leader, chose to focus on the positive and hailed the latest development as a “breakthrough.” He was worked on a massive deficit-reduction package for more than a year as a member of the Simpson-Bowles commission and the Senate’s Gang of Six.
“The fact that some Republicans have stepped forward to talk about revenue, I think, is an invitation for Democrats to step forward and talk about entitlement reform as well as spending cuts. Therein lies the core of an agreement,” Durbin said.
Everybody knows that the structural deficits in Washington cannot be tamed without entitlement reform and now is the time for the Democrats on the Supercommittee to make a counterproposal.  But by various accounts, they've walked away from the debt commission, confirming my long-held belief that Democrats cannot do Medicare reform because "scaring Grandma" is their biannual re-election strategy.  It's the reason that brave, brave President Obama - who has never proposed a reform plan in public - scotched the debt deal he had with Speaker Boehner during the debt ceiling showdown.

Extra - Ace chimes in: "Their electoral plan is to do Mediscare, so they will not actually agree on any reforms, no matter what the GOP proposes. They will always contrive a reason why Sacred Honor compels them to walk away."

More - From Protein Wisdom.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

European endgame - Opinion Journal: "Europe's entitlement reckoning - From Greece to Italy to France, the welfare state is in crisis."

Here's a joke making the rounds: An Irishman, an Italian, and a Greek walk into a bar.  Who pays for the drinks?  The German.
Promising 8% in a 2% economy - Zero Hedge: "Next in line for implosion: pension plans."

Monday, November 07, 2011

A small victory for free speech

At least in the sense that the government can't compel people or companies to make statements against their own interest.  Hot Air: "Judge blocks disease pics on cigarette packs".
But unless the government wants to make them illegal, they do not have the authority to seize the property of the manufacturer to conduct advocacy instead of requiring a dispassionate warning of the dangers associated with the use of the product.  And in what has become an obvious and overwhelming hypocrisy, the government has no intention of outlawing cigarettes, because they make too much money off of cigarette sales.
The government's addiction to cigarette taxes is sparking a growing black market that is, in turn, funding organized crime while robbing states of revenues.
Lemon law - Hit & Run: "Cash for Clunkers was a bad idea."  Well, at least we spent a lot of money.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Heartless, union-hating city officials to cut pensions in San Francisco

You read that right: there are now more city pensioners in San Fran than city workers. American Interest: "Blue San Francisco plans to stiff the unions"
California’s shortsighted unions and politicians have left their successors in a horrible position: do you slash pensions that old people rely on, or do you cut government services like police, fire protection and education?  Taxpayers generally favor the first alternative; it is hard to persuade hardworking immigrants struggling to raise kids that they should send their kids to bad schools on dirty, unsafe streets to save the money necessary honor abusive contracts made by past generations of labor and political bosses.
I look forward to the Occupy San Francisco marches and the Wisconsin-style recall elections.
Don't you hate it when complications develop during surgery? - Fox News: "Former 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney dies."  Ah, he was a good egg.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Stuff my kids tell me about - Go to Google and type in "do a barrel roll."
Anarchy in the CT - So I had a very short workweek because the power to my company in Connecticut was only restored on Wednesday afternoon.  But my commute to work was somewhat hampered by the fact that the traffic lights at every intersection were out.  People in the Nutmeg State are getting really upset at the slow pace of power restoration, going on a solid week now.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

West coast Big Dig - Washington Examiner "California's high-speed train wreck": "In 2008, when California voters approved the project in a ballot measure, the system was projected to cost $33 billion to build. Now, the revised projection is that the system would cost a whopping $98 billion, accounting for inflation over the life of the project. The date of completion was pushed back 13 years, to 2033."

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

More Solyndras - Politico: "DOE inspector general: 100+ stimulus-related criminal probes."
It's a sign of the times

I got a laugh out of this opening paragraph from a Masslive story on the Western Massachusetts' power outage:
The question on everyone’s minds is when they will have heat and lights again and Internet service.
Ah, that precious, precious Internet service.  How I've missed you!  Oh, and you too refrigeration of perishable food.
People want stuff but they want someone else to pay for it

No, this isn't a post about those clowns at OWS.  First here's Tyler Cowen with an excellent post at Marginal Revolution about "Why Greece is turning down the bailout":
This is a way to back out of everything, under the guise of “democracy” and ex post blame the speculators and the rest of Europe.
Good heavens how I chuckled last week when this "grand deal" was announced last week to save the Euro and the markets soared.  Really?  Greece was going to vote to slash their public pension programs?  The rest of the EU should have just tossed the Greeks out a year ago and hasten this play's inevitable conclusion.

Meanwhile, half-a-world away, Colorado voters decided they don't want to pay either: "Prop 103 falls: Tax increase measure dead"
Colorado voters have rejected an attempt to raise state income and sales taxes to fund education, The Denver Post has declared.  With 61 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 103 was going down in flames across the state, with 35 percent in favor to 65 percent against.
Shocking, I know, but no less than those polls cited over and over that Americans favor raising taxes on "the rich" (read: someone else) to pay for the government.  It would be nice if our leaders in Washington were honest about the unsavory outcomes ahead and take responsibility for tough choices before they're made for us.  But there's no discernible action from the debt supercommittee, the Simpson-Bowles plan was shelved, and Captain Teleprompter has other things on his mind when he's not stoking class warfare.

I would much prefer that we acknowledge that if we ever want to escape the debt spiral, taxes need to rise on everyone and there needs to be a significant contraction of the government at all levels.  We've run up the credit card and it needs to be paid.
Six is a magic number - There's a glimmer of hope within the feckless debt supercommittee: a gang of six has emerged among the rabble of twelve, trying to strike a compromise proposal before the Thanksgiving deadline. Well good luck with that.
The power is ON

It's been cold but now it's warm.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Hello everyone, remember me?

Well it's been an eventful couple of days.  Here in Western Massachusetts the wet, heavy snow started Saturday afternoon and did not let up until the destruction was complete.  The October trees still had all their leaves and the snow weighed down the boughs until they snapped.  We lost one tree and the yard is littered with sheared branches.

The power has been out since Saturday night.  Fortunately, I have quite a bit of camping equipment (ice chests, propane heaters, lanterns, etc.) and a half-cord of firewood to burn if things get too cold.  But it is cold at night and now they're saying power may not be restored until Thursday.  At first I didn't believe it until I took a ride around the area: power lines are down everywhere.  I would guess - without exaggeration - that there's a tree laying across a power line every 100 yards or so.  That means crews have to make sure the line is de-powered, cut the tree off, re-string the lines, and then move on to the next junction.  The news claims there are 300,000 people without power in Massachusetts but 600,000+ in the dark in Connecticut.  This is my second day off work because the emergency storm line is disconnected, meaning there's no power there either.

So it's cold and I'm bored silly with card games ("Call of Duty Black Ops" withdrawal is real!) but we'll survive.  One thing I guarantee: the tree surgeons here in New England will be working around the clock for months.