Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's not racism if you're a Democrat - Alec Baldwin has a long history of homophobic slurs but it's totally OK.  Because he was so funny on "30 Rock."
John or Paul? - Slate: "Who wrote it, Lennon or McCartney?"  It's a quiz on who was the primary writer of the songs on "Please Please Me."  I got 10/14 but mainly because I knew a lot of the songs were covers of songs written for American artists.
Fiddling while Paris burns - Hot Air: "French auditor: You need to slash spending or no way economic growth is happening."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Witness for the prosecution defense

The other day I wrote about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case: "Call me when we get to witness 'John'."  This was Jonathan Good who was the only person known to have seen the actual fight between Martin and Zimmerman; he was unwavering in his testimony that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, raining down blows "MMA-style."  Today he was called to the stand by the State and, well, I'll let the unparalleled blogging from Legal Insurrection take it from here:
The testimony of State witness Jonathan Good was remarkably, almost shockingly, destructive to the State’s theory of the case.
The prosecutor for the was reduced to asking if Good could tell who exactly was calling for "help": the pummeler or the pummel-ee.  And pummelled Zimmerman was as evidenced by the pictures shown in conjunction with testimony by physician's assistant Linzee Folgate.  Andrew Branca explains how this narrative helped the defense:
This line of questioning seems remarkably foolish, for two reasons. First, there is no requirement under the law of self defense in Florida, or any other state, that a person must suffer so much as a scratch before they can use force, and even deadly force, in self-defense. All that the law of self-defense requires is that you have been REASONABLY IN FEAR of imminent death or grave bodily harm–it does NOT require that you ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE death or grave bodily harm before you can act in self-defense.
The State's push for a second-degree murder charge now seems like a ridiculous overreach.  This case never should have gone to court and appears to have been moved forward strictly for political cover.

Extra - Minuteman: "I'm proud to be an American, a great country that does a miserable job with show trials."

More - The Conversation.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A thermometer also has many degrees - Maggie's Farm: "The Higher Ed Hustle."
Your government at work - Ace: "Hey, the IRS went after liberal groups too!  Treasury department: Um, no."  For those of you keeping score, the extra scrutiny count is 292 to 6 and 100% of groups with "Tea Party" in their name got an extra-special delay.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Motivation low

It seems like all the heat and light right now is focused on immigration but this is an issue I just can't get animated about.  I know it's of intense interest on the border states but I can't wrap my head around it.  Does a "path to citizenship" essentially reward illegal immigrants for sticking it out?  Or is the current policy an untenable melange of gray-area law?  The views of a guy up in Western Massachusetts are inconsequential to the business man in El Paso.

Obama's "major" global warming speech is getting the attention it deserves, which is virtually nil.  I like this takeaway from the WashPost:
3. The president is willing to demonize climate skeptics. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth society,” the president said, a shot across the bow given the fact that most congressional Republicans question the link between human activity and global warming.
Yeah, so situation normal: Obama wants to save the world and everybody else wants to see it burn.

What else?  The Zimmerman trial?  Call me when we get to witness "John".

How about the Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Right Act?  This outlandish reaction is why I stopped subscribing to the Atlantic: " lamentable as Plessy or Dred Scott."  Really?  This isn't 1965 anymore and most Southern states have reached parity in terms of voting participation rates.  I suppose the argument could be made that this is a classic example of judicial activism since Congress recently renewed the VRA by unanimous margins, but that's not the argument being made by the usual firebrands.  It's all-racism, all-the-time.  Incidentally, here's a picture of the mayor of Selma, Alabama.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Legal-ease - SCOTUSBlog helps out: "The Fisher decision in plain English."  Basically, colleges can still employ the diversity standard but the Court ruled it can't just be diversity for diversity's sake.

Extra - Maggie's Farm: "The Supremes kick the can down the road, sort-of."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dave, I don't think your uniform is period authentic

The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is less than two weeks away and thousands of Civil War reenactors are descending on the farmlands of Adams County.  I was fortunate enough to see the 130th anniversary reenactment and it's quite a scene including genuine cannon fire (minus the grapeshot), spare campsites, and some hardcore Civil War buffs.

By the way, the single best book on the subculture of Civil War re-enactors IMO is "Confederates in the Attic" by Tony Horowitz.  As I recall, there is a some tension between the hardcore reenactors who wear 19th century underwear and stay in character versus the "Farbs" who wear digital watches and sneakers.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fame has changed Kelly Clarkson - Via the Smoking Gun, I got a laugh from the "American Idol" winner's backstage rider. When she performs she wants - nay, demands! - water.  Kelly wants some room temperature water and some hot water.  Oh, and some coffee mugs to put said water.  What a diva.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Soggy in Berlin - George Will: "Obama’s vanity is a wonder of the world that never loses its power to astonish, but really: Is everyone in his orbit too lost in raptures of admiration to warn him against delivering a speech soggy with banalities and bromides in a city that remembers John Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall”?"
Speeder is not fond of a certain New York town - Via the Truth about Cars, here's a small victory for the First Amendment.  It seems that a certain leadfoot got a speeding ticket in the town of Fallsburg and, when he mailed in the fine, added an editorial comment.  He was arrested but a judge (in a different town) threw out the case.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Noted Rutgers graduate dies - CNN: "Actor James Gandolfini dead at age 51."  Dang.
The train wreck rolls on

As we keep peeling the onion of Obamacare, here's a new one: the language of the legislation very explicitly states that federal subsidies can be distributed only through state-run health exchanges.  But only 16 states have been foolish enough to sign up so the Administration just says "never mind."  Hit and Run: "Obamacare backers: Ignore what Obamacare says!"
The law expands health coverage by providing subsidies to people buying health insurance through government-run health exchanges—online marketplaces intended to allow people to compare and purchase health plans. But the text of the law clearly states that those subsidies are only available to individuals who purchase insurance in exchanges erected by states. The Internal Revenue Service, however, has ruled that the subsidies will be also be available in the 34 exchanges run by the federal government. 
One argument by Obamacare backers is that Congress wouldn't be so stupid to add a "poison pill" to its own legislation.  (Oh, don't be so sure.)  So the work-around is to say "never mind" in exactly the same way they insisted the individual mandate was not a tax before arguing at the Supreme Court that the mandate was contained in the government's power to tax.

Update - I'm not a lawyer (although I play one on TV) and this comment is a thoughtful rejoinder so I'll reproduce it here, if it's OK with Scotus:

"There are a lot of other words in those 20,000 pages we heard so much about. Let's look at some of the words in Section 1321. It states that if a state "will not have any required Exchange operational" by the deadline - that is, an exchange required by Section 1311 - then the federal government "shall (directly or through agreement with a not-for-profit entity) establish and operate such Exchange within the State."

The law's defenders will certainly argue, with ample legitimacy, that the phrase "such Exchange" refers specifically to a state exchange operated by the federal government, identical to the others other than its oversight. That is, the law tells states "you can drive your car, otherwise we will." The exchanges are required; the state's participation is optional. Should they opt out, they cede the operation and cost to Washington.

Further, the "commandeering" principle argued in the lawsuit has little legal basis. Premium subsidies can be offered by Congress to entice states to participate, but Congress cannot compel states to participate. See Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining (1981), in which the Court found "If a State does not wish to submit a proposed permanent program that complies with the Act and implementing regulations, the full regulatory burden will be borne by the Federal Government.",23&as_vis=1

This is a federal law. For those states that decline to "opt in," the law provides for a federal replacement in whole - not in part, and not at a lesser rate of funding.

The counterargument that Congress created a two-tiered system of greater and lesser universal coverage is going to be a tough one for the petitioners to sell. Especially after Hodel above, and also after the Supreme Court's decision in New York v. United States (1992):,23&as_vis=1

Backdoor underfunding is a fine political strategy, but it's not case law."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't want to give you short shrift - Mental Floss: "12 words that survived by getting fossilized in idioms."  Fun for your kith and kin!
Welcome to the party, pal!

So, many, many times on this blog I've argued that unless entitlement spending is reformed, the inexorable rise in mandatory spending will crowd out discretionary spending.  The editorial page editor for the WashPost reached the same conclusion with a twist: "Liberals should lead entitlement reform."
But while federal programs aimed at the young and the poor — and at investments in the future — are slated to dwindle, the entitlement programs are on track to give ever richer benefits to a growing older generation, some of whom don’t need all that much help.
Social Security, for example, is designed not just to provide a floor for all seniors but to give each succeeding generation more generous benefits than the one before. That’s a nice idea but one the country can no longer afford, at least not without robbing the future.
Hiatt posits that because discretionary spending will be squeezed no matter what, it's better for liberals to take the lead to shape reform while there's a progressive in the White House.  Good luck with that.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day - I plan to read the paper and watch NASCAR.

I was doing the Boston Globe crossword puzzle and the clue was "It topped the best-seller list for two years."  I had the "THE" and then there were eleven letters trailing, so I thought it was "The Hunger Games" but it was "The Davinci Code."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

Some dude...wears a tie - Hot Air: "FBI director Mueller: I don't know who is the lead investigator on the IRS probe."  Mueller expressed surprise: "Is that what you guys wanted to talk about?"

Extra - Ace of Spades: "FBI Director Robert Mueller: The IRS Scandal, Whatever That Is, Is Totally A Top Priority for the FBI."
The White House will remain closed to tours - Obama's trip to Africa this month will cost somewhere between $60 and $100 million.
Stuff they said to get what they wanted

There's a line in a Simpsons episode where the Itchy & Scratchy exec is selling animation cels and claims they are "absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed to increase in value."  And then the announcer says quickly and almost imperceptibly "not a guarantee!"

Over and over during the debate media blackout over the details of Obamacare, we were told that health care premiums would go down with the teaser of $2500 in savings.  Not true.  Chris Jacobs at Heritage: "Ezra Klein can't save Obamacare's broken premium promise."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Another U.S. company hits the skids

CNBC: "India's Apollo Tyres to buy Cooper Tire for $2.5 billion."

Here's what the car experts at The Truth About Cars have to say about that: "Weakened by Obama's union coddling, Cooper Tires is sold to the Indians."
Aren't you a little short for a Civil War reenactor? - I laughed way too hard at this.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Social Security, job insecurity - Zero Hedge: "Social Security: the New Deal's fiscal Ponzi".  "When the American economy was riding high in 1960, Paul Samuelson’s Ponzi was extracting payroll tax revenue amounting to about 2.8 percent of GDP. A half century later, after a devastating flight of jobs to East Asia and other emerging economies, the payroll tax extracts two-and-one half times more, taking in nearly 6.5 percent of GDP. So the remarkable thing is not that wooly-eyed idealists who drafted the 1935 act succumbed to social insurance’s Faustian bargain at the time. The puzzling thing is that 75 years later—with all the terrible facts fully known—the doctrinaire conviction abides on the Left that social insurance is the New Deal’s crowning achievement. In fact, it is its costliest mistake."

Monday, June 10, 2013

President Jekyll and Senator Hyde

Here's Victor Davis Hanson on the Corner: "You don't say..."
Whether on the issues surrounding the War on Terror, spending, the debt ceiling, the filibuster — in fact almost any issue — the indicators of Obama’s partisan demagoguing are his constant accusations that others are thinking, and must be doing, precisely what he has. After nearly five years of this, his projected moral censure has become comical.
The systematic filibustering of judicial nominees started in Obama's Senate and he supported the pro forma sessions to prevent recess appointments.  Now he affects outrage that his own nominees are blocked and unilaterally decides when the Senate is really in session.  Then there's his high dudgeon against "fishing expeditions" under the Patriot Act that became quite convenient as President.

Does this guy look familiar?

How about this fellow?  "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can’t pay its own bills. ... I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit." - March 16, 2006.

Extra - From Gateway Pundit.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Great idea, chief! - Economist: "Deluded bosses - the powerful overestimate the support of underlings."
I did not have relations with that Administration - Ricochet: "Completing the Limbaugh theorem."

Friday, June 07, 2013

How the other half budgets

In a post closely related to mine about how young Americans will respond to the Obamacare mandate, Megan McArdle recounts the opinion of a pastor who deals with "median" Americans who aren't so good with their money (via Instapundit):
What I’m saying is that for a large minority of people opting out of the ACA probably won’t even be a conscious choice. It will just happen because of the complexity, the upfront sticker cost and the lack of ability to make good financial decisions.
The individual mandate assumes most people are rational about health insurance when, clearly, they are not.
Set up 'em, knock 'em down - Hit & Run: "Obama preps army of straw men, false choices to defend NSA surveillance."

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Satan says: "Damn it's cold in here" - Fox News: "New York Times editorial board says administration has 'lost all credibility'."

You know who built this extra-Constitutional monster, NYT?  The Gray Lady, that tireless cheerleader of everything Obama, whose editorial page (typically) reads like a Jay Carney press release.  Did your crack staff of quote-unquote journalists break any one of these scandals?  No you did not because you were busy doodling "Obama" in your notebooks.

This one's for you, NY Times:

Blair Litton: "Oh, you think anyone who's proud of the work we do is an ass-kisser."
Aaron Altman: "No, I think anyone who puckers up their lips and presses it against their bosses buttocks and then *smooches* is an ass-kisser."

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


In a bit of counter-intuitive legerdemain, Michael Hilzik of the L.A. Times says "Social Security should be expanded, not cut."  The premise of his article is that Americans have done such an awful job of saving for their own retirement and are now so dependent on anticipated Social Security benefits that, gosh darn it, it's up to the government to come to the rescue.  (You'll never guess where we're going to get all the money for this expansion.  Oh, you did.)

But this got me thinking: since the decline of defined benefit plans and the rise of defined contribution plans (e.g. 401(k)s), Americans have been warned and cajoled and urged to save for their own retirements.  But they don't because the abstract of the future is so less tangible than the consumer goods of today.  So young workers save grudgingly, if at all.

The success of Obamacare fulcrums on a critical funding mechanism: the so-called "young invincible" workers have to enter the insurance pool to subsidize older (and sicker) Americans.  But what happens when these kids experience the rate shock of health costs that may more than double?  Will they sign up?  I would guess the young'uns would have even less incentive to join the health insurance pools than they would fund their own retirement plans.

Here's why: for 401(k)s or 403(b)s, your contribution is going into an investment account that will belong to you, no matter what.  Your investments in Enron might have tanked but a conservatively balanced portfolio in index funds will return a solid 6% or so a year.  It's your money.  The new "affordable" care law requires a large hike in premiums for a comprehensive policy when most 20-year-olds can get by with cheap catastrophic coverage.  There is very little value to a expanded policy.  It's a car you are (likely) never going to pull out of the driveway.

So younger workers are likely to do...nothing.  They'll do nothing because signing up for insurance is a pain, they can sign up instantly if they need it, the tax penalty is almost certainly going to be less than the cost of insurance, and the penalty can only be assessed if these kids expect a refund on their tax returns.  A simple re-filing of a W-2 form will fix that.  But mostly they won't do anything for the same reason they don't fund retirement plans: when you're a "young invincible" the prospect of an expensive disease is as far-flung as retirement at age 65.

I know this to be true because the kids aren't buying insurance now:
Most young childless adults in most states could purchase catastrophic insurance right now for about the cost of a cell phone data plan.  They have not done so.  Maybe this is because they don't realize how cheaply they can acquire bare-bones coverage.  Or maybe they have a hard time fitting even $100 a month into a tight budget. The monthly take-home for someone making $32,000 a year and living in a major city is probably something under $2,000.  As I well recall, carving an extra $100 out of that is not easy. 
And $200 is less easy on top of crushing student loan debt and virtually no jobs.  As Megan McArdle notes, this is the genesis of the death spiral:
Without the subsidies from "young invincibles" paying $150 a month for almost nothing, the older, sicker part of the insurance pool will have to pay more.  The healthier ones may eventually decide that they simply can't afford it; better to pay the fine, tolerate the tiny risk of a huge ER bill, and count on the fact that you can always sign up for insurance if you get sick.  Rinse and repeat until the only people in the market are incredibly expensive to cover.
What's it going to be kids?  Take your lumps now and pay up for expensive coverage or take your chances?  If retirement plan funding is the guideline, it's going to be a rough ride for Obamacare.

Extra - Weekly Standard: "CBO: Uninsured under Obamacare never falls below 30 million."  Well, at least it was expensive.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap - Note to NBC Sports: try to avoid the open mike when Pittsburgh is losing to the Bruins on their home ice.  Tsk tsk.
Let's light this rocketship to recovery! - Big Government: "Unexpected: Manufacturing shrinks in May."

In related news: entrepreneurs are saying "no thanks."  Hold tight to your current jobs, America.  It's going to be a long slog.
Speaking of the late 1980s - This condemnation comes 25 years too late: "Al Sharpton's long bill of goods from Tawana Brawley to primetime."
I have a Frank Lautenberg story

New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg passed away today, the last WWII veteran in the Senate.  Despite his unfortunate choice of political parties, he was a great man: a war hero, a successful businessman, and an advocate for the people of New Jersey.

Back in 1988, I was a junior at Rutgers and Frank Lautenberg was running for re-election against Republican Pete Dawkins.  Dawkins had a dream resume: he had won the Heisman Trophy for West Point in 1958, became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, got his PhD from Princeton, became a Brigadier General in the Army, won two Bronze Stars in Vietnam, and then became a partner on Wall Street.

The man had done it all.  But the peripatetic trappings of a life in the military meant that Dawkins didn't have deep roots in New Jersey and the Lautenberg campaign ran a commercial (can't find it on YouTube) that just cut him to the core.  I remember it was a video of Dawkins responding to a question about running in NJ and the awkward answer concluded with a black screen and an exasperated voiceover: "C'mon Pete."  It was devastating and Dawkins lost the election by eight points.