Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tubs of fun, indeed

Sometimes I read a story and say to myself "Can't possibly be true."  Today: "New Hampshire man spends $2,600 while trying to win kids prize on $5 game."  Allegedly there was some "double or nothing" action on the side but - by any fair estimate - the guy must have played hundreds of games and spent several hours trying to win an XBox he could have purchased with his losings.  I just don't buy it.
Journalists prepare to enter job world of blacksmiths

Make way for those who can scribble into notebooks.  AoSHQ: "Half of L.A. Times staff may quit if Koch brothers buy the failed and undistinguished newspaper."  Shocker, but I agree with Ace here:
Prediction: About five of these guys would quit.
Get a load of these guys and their "specialized skills."

Extra - From Rick Moran.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Welcome to Massachusetts.  Please don't kill us.

To the surprise of virtually nobody in the Bay State, the Boston Herald reports that "Tsarnaev family received $100G in benefits"
The Tsarnaev family, including the suspected terrorists and their parents, benefited from more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded assistance — a bonanza ranging from cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing from 2002 to 2012, the Herald has learned.
“The breadth of the benefits the family was receiving was stunning,” said a person with knowledge of documents handed over to a legislative committee today.
Of course, we shouldn't let this information enter the debate on either immigration reform or welfare policy because we just can't.  Just keep feeding that crocodile and hope for the best.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cutting to the bone - Zero Hedge: "Europe's fauxterity in three simple graphs."  Just like here in America, "austerity" means very slightly slowing the rate of government spending.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The biggest asshat I've ever sat next to on a plane

I saw this story on AoSHQ about e-cigarettes and it reminded me of my flight out to Arizona last week.  Now let me preface this by saying that I've done a fair amount of air travel, both for business and vacations.  I know the drill.  Go to the bathroom right before you board, bring something to read, stay awake for the meal and then sleep when you can.  Most of all, don't be a jerk to other passengers.  This became 10X truer after 9/11.  We're all stuck in this tin can for a couple hours so just keep it together.

This was a flight to Las Vegas so it was mostly older travelers but there's always a couple of kids on board (including mine) so it's a good idea to watch your language and demeanor.  Not this guy.  He was cursing it up with his like-minded dad while he puffed up his head pillow.  Vegas, baby! F-yeah!  Then he prepared these adhesives to the back of the seat in front of him so he could attach his IPad and watch his own in-flight movies.  Ah, very clever, I thought.  Then he proceeded to watch parts of "The Departed", "Casino", and one of those "Harold & Kumar" movies, complete with violence and nudity, for all to see from his aisle seat.  At least he kept his headphones on so the only profanity you could hear was his personal brand.

Then, THEN, he "lit up" an e-cigarette.  I was dumbfounded.  Seriously?  What the hell is the purpose of that thing other than to draw attention to yourself?  The flight attendant came over quickly and told him to put it out.  And this jagoff actually said: "Hey, we're all adults here" which is exactly the tagline from the commercial for the Blu e-cigarette.  Wow.  Like he's striking a blow to the man.  Oh well, back to Malin Akerman taking off her shirt.

By the end of the flight, my annoyance had gradually turned to pity.  I have never seen a man so needy to show off his testosterone level.  His buddies must have caught him flipping through Vogue while eating a cucumber sandwich and watching "Steel Magnolias."

Hey, let's make this a weekend open thread.  Anybody have a similar experience?  By the way, on the flight back home, I sat next to a quiet guy (an RPI student I think) who placidly read his Mad magazine and occasionally chuckled to himself.

The peasants are revolting

Mediate: "The narcissism of the White House Correspondents' Dinner is hurting the media's already tarnished brand."  Here's Tom Brokaw, who's staying home:
The breaking point for me was Lindsay Lohan,” Tom Brokaw recently said. While this statement could apply to so many circumstances, he was specifically referring to the annual gala event known as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “[W]hat we’re doing with that dinner, as it has been constituted for the past several years, is saying, ‘We’re Versailles. The rest of you eat cake,’” 
In related news, our Boy King has closed off the palace to the people.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Let's hear it for "Danny"

I read the story on the Boston Globe today but the re-telling on NPR today was better.  "Danny" is the Chinese engineer who was carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers after the Boston bombing.  He stayed cool, saw his chance for escape, then alerted the cops that his IPhone and car could be tracked.

Extra - From Patterico.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Die Kinder sind gut - The German kids are all right..and they're working.  NPR: "The secret to Germany's low youth unemployment."  The secret is internships and apprenticeships, keeping the wheels of commerce turning.  (Hat tip: Maggie's Place.)

Meanwhile, almost everywhere else is Generation Jobless.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The horror, the horror - Harold Meyerson of the WashPost has an unintentionally hilarious article today griping about the Koch brothers' pending takeover of the Tribune Newspaper group.  Apparently it would lead to a pandemic of advocacy journalism with a partisan bent!  Legal Insurrection: "Writer aboard Titanic worried about who's buying other ocean liners."  "But no column I’ve seen is more self-unaware than What would the Koch brothers do to the Los Angeles Times? by Harold Meyerson"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Profile in courage

Here's our idiot Senator Elizabeth Warren standing up for civil rights...or not:
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren says federal prosecutors need to "find the right balance" in deciding whether to read Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights.
Huh?  Must be fancy Harvard-talk.

Monday, April 22, 2013

NYC says "Let's help out the mob" - Hit & Run: "NYC considers hiking cigarette age in apparent effort to boost black market."  "Assuming that your goal is to get everybody to go to the black market, what else can you do to nudge retailers and smokers to deal with the guys selling off the back of trucks? Well, how about raising the smoking age — effectively imposing prohibition on some existing smokers so that they have to go underground to get their smokes? That's the plan in New York City, where officials, including a leading mayoral candidate, want to rase the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21."

I'm going to go against my libertarian friends here in support of this new age restriction since it will lead to a precipitous drop in tax revenues from death sticks.  It's up to you, New York.

Extra - Andrew Stuttaford: "Revolting."
I think we saw this coming - Gateway Pundit: "Boston bombers were motivated by 'radical Islam.'"  And yet the brothers weren't tied to any Islamic groups.

Extra - Michael Mukasey in the WSJ: "Make no mistake, it was jihad."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Back from the American Southwest

Well, I just got back from Route 66 and there are a couple things I wanted to note.  First of all, at virtually every store or restaurant we visited there's a sign at the entrance reading something like: "Please don't bring firearms in."  It was a subtle reminder that while issues like gun control and immigration don't resonate for many Americans in the Northeast, they're a prime concern in the border states.

Also of higher concern (I imagine) is the price of gas since the distances between destinations can be vast.  As somebody who grew up in New Jersey where gas stations are spaced out by the football field, I started to worry when I didn't see a gas station for a hundred miles.

The Grand Canyon is as breathtaking as promised.  This is a school vacation week across Massachusetts and I think everybody there was either from the Bay State or another country.  I heard every language under the sun except Latin: French, Russian, German, Spanish, Arabic, Italian and others unplaced.

Naturally, everybody wearing a Nantucket T-shirt or a New England Patriots sweatshirt was following the events in Boston from Monday through the end of the week.  Neither the Internet sources nor the mainstream media demonstrated much integrity reporting on the manhunt but the so-called "professional" journalists completely beclowned themselves.  I'm looking at you, CNN and the New York Post.  Remember, we bloggers who didn't go to a fancy-schmancy J-school, are the ones who are irresponsible for sure.

Speaking of an "Army of Davids," Boston was brought to a standstill as hundreds of police officers swept the city looking for Suspect #2...who was found when some guy went out to his backyard for a smoke.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring break - I'm taking a week off.  See you soon.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Every Thursday night

That's one way to deal with gender wage disparity - Legal Insurrection: "Elizabeth Warren pays interns $0 per hour."
The cult of Gaia - Via Bookworm Room's "Global warming is a global hoax" here's part of a letter by Prof. David Deming: "One might think that the foregoing facts would raise doubts in scientists interested in pursuing objective truth. But global warming is not so much a scientific theory subject to empirical falsification as it is a political ideology that must be fiercely defended in defiance of every fact to the contrary."
Not a hint of discipline - The President's budget seeks to lock in record spending levels with Obamacare thrown in to boot.  The upshot: "U.S. debt to hit a gnarly 78% of GDP in 2014."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Slow news day - Meh.  If you expected anything different (I didn't), Obama's budget has a worse debt trajectory than the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  Plus, the debt reduction he counts assumes the sequestration never happened.  (Psssst...it did).  Let's move on the entirely rational shift on Social Security inflation indexing as a sign we're going to be serious.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Where the money is - Coyote Blog: "I would be willing to bet him that within the decade, it will become a mainstream idea in the progressive community to fund shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare with a full or partial seizure of 401K's."  Oh, yeah, the grasshoppers are coming for the ants' cache.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Architect in Amherst - Tomorrow night, Karl Rove will be speaking at the University of Massachusetts. We'll see how the tolerant, open-minded, free-speech loving students will greet Mr. Rove.
Coming after your 401(k) - Prof. Mankiw "The President's latest bad idea": "Retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401k plans, are one way our tax code has gradually evolved from an income tax toward a consumption tax.  The use of these accounts should be encouraged, not discouraged."  But...fairness!
Rest in peace, Prime Minister

Wall Street Journal: "Not for turning."

Saturday, April 06, 2013

The latest front in the class war

Obama 2010: "At a certain point you've made enough money."

Obama 2013: "At a certain point you've saved enough money."
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.
The proposal would save around $9 billion over a decade, a senior administration official said, while also bringing more fairness to the tax code.
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.”
Nine billion is a shade more than what the government spends every day.  At a certain point, you have to wonder if the Obama administration is more concerned about punishing the rich than building the economy.

Extra - Ben K @ Ace of Spades: "Don't worry though, they'd never come after your retirement account."

More - From Hot Air.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Remembering "The Game" by Queen

I heard "Another one bites the dust" on Pandora tonight and it reminded me of Queen's biggest hit album in the States: "The Game."  What I remember about "The Game" is that I chose it as my favorite album in my high school Music Appreciation class and I had to explain why I liked it.  Back then, I said my fave song was the under-appreciated Brian May song "Dragon Attack."

One cheer for Obama - none for Boehner

Since I consider Social Security reform my specialty, let me give a nod of approval to President Obama who (apparently) is going to include modest entitlement reforms to his late budget.  As I've noted, Obama talks and talks about making these programs solvent for the next generation but never puts anything on paper.  Well, now he has, so let's acknowledge the proposal.

On the other side, it seems churlish of Speaker Boehner to reject the budget out-of-hand because it contains tax hikes.  First of all, that's what Obama does: class warfare and tax hikes.  But then of course Obama is going to seek something in exchange.  Perhaps it's a poison pill maneuver, but Boehner could have at least waited until the budget actually arrived at the Capital before ripping it apart.  Maybe this is all "a good offense is the best defense" inside-Washington gamesmanship, but I think the Republicans are blowing an epic opportunity here.

In my fevered mind, where debt is a cancer eating at the national soul, I think a dollar-for-dollar swap of new revenues for entitlement cuts is a good deal.  Furthermore, I think the Speaker could make the case for a deal this way: "We'll match revenues for entitlement reform but that includes the revenues from the taxes just raised in January."  There have been no commensurate spending cuts matched to these tax hikes - make them a starting point for budget negotiations.

Only Nixon could go to China and only a Democrat can reform our out-of-control entitlements.  Given the brewing backlash by the left wing against the One, I'm pretty sure he'll back down soon enough.  In the meantime, why not keep open the lines of discussion?  If there's an agreement to extend the lifetime of Medicare and Social Security, it will be good for the country and fairer for future generations.  If we can make it an even trade while neutering the Democrats' perpetual campaign cry, that's a win-win.
Economy that has nowhere to go but up...doesn't 

In case you missed it, the economy created 88,000 jobs in March, less than half of what was predicted.  As James P. notes, do you know when we get back to full employment at that job creation rate?  Never.

This is now officially a Jimmy Carter economy with the lowest labor force participation rate since 1979.  But don't worry, President "The Buck Stops There" knows it's not his fault.  Must be time for another interview with Steve Kroft.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The greater good - Maggie's Farm says "blame the politicians" for the march towards institutionalized confiscation.  For society.  Longer version here.
Quod erat demonstrandum - Hit & Run: "Obamacare was designed, passed, and implemented by Democrats.  Obviously Republicans must be responsible for its failures."  Makes sense.
The big brain at Princeton on climate "scientists"

Freeman Dyson is the top guy at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, holding the position once held by Albert Einstein.  What does he think of the global warming kooks?  Not much.  NJ Star Ledger: "Climatologists are no Einsteins, says his successor."
"I just think they don’t understand the climate," he said of climatologists. "Their computer models are full of fudge factors."
"The models are extremely oversimplified," he said. "They don't represent the clouds in detail at all. They simply use a fudge factor to represent the clouds."
Dyson's physicist buddy weighs in:
"There are people who just need a cause that’s bigger than themselves," said Happer. "Then they can feel virtuous and say other people are not virtuous."
To show how uncivil this crowd can get, Happer e-mailed me an article about an Australian professor who proposes — quite seriously — the death penalty for heretics such as Dyson. As did Galileo, they can get a reprieve if they recant.
Furthermore, Dyson believes that atmospheric carbon dioxide is beneficial to the environment because it helps agricultural yields.  Gosh, why haven't we heard about this?
In fact, there’s more solid evidence for the beneficial effects of CO-2 than the negative effects, he said. So why does the public hear only one side of this debate? Because the media do an awful job of reporting it.
"They’re absolutely lousy," he said of American journalists. "That’s true also in Europe. I don’t know why they’ve been brainwashed."
Because saving the earth is always more ego-boosting than reporting facts.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

You can have anything you want if you don't care about the cost

Well, here's a dumb idea from the WashPost and the "non-partisan" New America Foundation: "The case for expanding Social Security, not cutting it."  The problem is that Americans are doing a bad job of saving for retirement.  The answer: double the payroll taxes for Social Security.
So how much would this cost in taxes? Quite a bit. At the moment, Social Security is expected to experience a funding shortfall by 2033. Congress will need to raise taxes by between 1 and 1.5 percent of GDP just to maintain current benefits. On top of that, the expanded benefits proposed by New America would cost an estimated 3.7 percent of GDP. The net cost: About 5 percent of GDP.
This plan is so outlandish that even the Wonkblog author admits it's going nowhere fast:
Needless to say, this isn’t the sort of proposal Congress is likely to take up anytime soon. Hiking taxes by 5 percent of GDP is far outside the bounds of what either party is contemplating. 
No kidding, especially so since payroll taxes are paid by all workers and the burden can't be shifted to the "rich."  But I also object to the idea that this creaky, Depression-era program that already has a negative rate of return should be expanded because some Americans mistakenly believed it would be a sole source of retirement support.  These silly counter-intuitive studies are good for a headline and nothing else.
So Joe Klein said this - Hot Air: "Joe Klein: My, the administration is looking pretty incompetent in Obamacare implementation."  I don't know if it's so much incompetence than Obamacare is an impossibly byzantine, poorly designed piece of legislation that has never been popular among Americans.  Only one-third of states have agreed to set up insurance exchanges, businesses are laying plans to either self-insure or cut workers down to the magic payroll of 49, and doctors are preparing to move to concierge service.
There's that "unsustainable" word again - Hit & Run: "Obamacare's unsustainable revenue raisers."  "The revenue mechanisms built into the law are starting to fall apart. The spending, of course, remains."

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Stockton: the meteor of California

Herman Melville called abolitionist John Brown "the meteor of the war" because his raid set in motion events that precipitated the Civil War.  Now a federal judge may have planted the seeds to California's decline by ruling that the city of Stockton can declare bankruptcy:
But despite yesterday’s ruling, the fight over debt in Stockton, and the rest of California is far from over. Not only did [Judge] Klein open the door for the city’s bondholders to take significant payment and principal cuts, but he also left open the possibility that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) would see their payments cut, too. Under state law, cities may not cut their payments to Calpers. But a federal court could rule that U.S. bankruptcy law trumps state law. That would open the door for hundreds of California cities to cut their payments to Calpers, which would only send the state government deeper into debt because Sacramento would have to make up the missing payments.
California's retirement fund is already underfunded to the tune of $87 billion because cities and towns are struggling with the worst economy in the Union.  If the quarter-trillion dollar Calpers system starts to unravel as municipalities start to bail out, we could be looking at another "too big to fail" bailout.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A golden state of debt - Ricochet: "California, in context."  The American Interest also took a shot at the NY Times' cheerleading with "NY Times pushing California 'comeback' over heads of poor, jobless."
Expected consequences - Millions of low-skill manufacturing jobs have been either outsourced or replaced by robotics.  Guess what's going to accelerate the exodus to China?  Hot Air: "Obamacare could give advantages to some businesses that ship jobs abroad."  You got it, America.