Thursday, February 27, 2014

The abuse of power

Powerline reviews the White House assault against conservative groups with "The IRS scandals: At the King's behest."  And Kimberley Strassel reports that the harassment continues: "All the President's IRS agents."
Few presidents understand the power of speech better than Barack Obama, and even fewer the power of denying it to others. That's the context for understanding the White House's unprecedented co-option of the Internal Revenue Service to implement a political campaign to shut up its critics and its opponents.
Perhaps the biggest fiction of this past year was that the IRS's targeting of conservative groups has been confronted, addressed and fixed. The opposite is true. The White House has used the scandal as an excuse to expand and formalize the abuse.
Let me guess: this is "old news."

Related - From the PJ Tatler.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Other peoples' money

Eugene Robinson of the WashPost is like Paul Krugman at the NY Times: he writes the same article, over and over, and considers it output.  Today he wants you to know that the government should spend more money and Republicans suck:
At the risk of repeating myself, 
No, no, don't stop now.
...the federal minimum wage is far too low and needs to be raised.
Right, because except for the half-million jobs that will be lost, there are no downsides to this at all.  At a time when labor participation is at a historic low and long-term unemployment is just now backing off, raising the cost of labor is the right move here.  But, hey, tell me more Eugene.
The first thing to do is extend the long-term unemployment benefits that expired at the end of last year.
Yep, more government spending.  What else ya got?  Cancelling the sequester?  Why not.  Because spending more:
According to the CBO, the $800 billion stimulus -- much maligned by Republicans as a waste of money -- created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs per year from 2009 through 2012. Now that most of the money is spent and the impact of the stimulus is waning, clearly it's time to give job-creation another boost.
Can Robinson do simple arithmetic?  Because my math says that $800 billion into (1.6 million x 3 years) = $166,000 which is a boatload of money per job created or saved.  Or saved which means next to nothing.  But then that $800 billion appears magically - it's not like it's taxpayer money confiscated from American workers or borrowed money shuffled off to future generations.

Of course, Democrats and Republicans can disagree on the best way to stimulate the economy and get people back to work.  But only one party shrouds themselves in the sanctimony of spending other people's money:
Obama and the Democrats still believe that no one who works full time should have to be poor. Despite their new rhetoric, Republicans obviously disagree.
Sure, Eugene, sure.  As the national debt balloons to $17 trillion and the economy sputters to a crawl thanks to Obamacare and White House mismanagement, your good intentions will keep you and Obama warm at night.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lucas with the lid off

Man, this is a slow news day.  Here's a video done in one continuous shot:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Quod erat demonstrandum

The NY Post criticized a Manhattan high school and then.....
Red-faced administrators encouraged a student letter-writing campaign to attack The Post and defend its “blended learning” program. Eighteen kids e-mailed to argue that their alma mater got a bad rap.
Almost every letter was filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.
One student defended the school's "blended learning" program since you can learn at your own "paste."

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Is there anything more satisfying than the condign punishment seeing a state trooper pull over the jerk who blew past you five minutes previous?  Oh, Lord, how I laughed.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I told you so

Everybody act surprised: Obama is backing off from his proposal to very slightly cut Social Security:
Obama is scrapping his previous offer to trim cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs. That idea had been a central component of his long-term debt-reduction strategy, even though it was considered odious by many Democrats.
Last March, I wrote this:
But I guarantee that Democrats will run screaming from even this paltry, barely-a-scratch, adjustment because "scaring Grandma" is their biennial approach to winning elections.
The chained-CPI proposal aims to bring benefit increases closer to reality by factoring in substitution costs.  The Social Security Administration's chief actuary estimated this would reduce typical benefits by $4 a month.  Denying Grandma of a copy of People magazine was a bridge too far, I guess.

I've also written before that we will never reform entitlements and more's the pity for younger Americans who may be foolishly credulous about future benefits:
For Social Security to continue to exist as it does today, Congress must figure out a way to shore up the expected deficit in the program. Otherwise, it will have to resort to paying out reduced benefits.
According to forecasts made by the Social Security Board of Trustees, there should be enough money coming into the program to pay out only about three-quarters of total expected benefits starting in the year 2032. “So if you were to receive $1,000 a month, it is projected that you would only receive $750 a month instead,” says Derrick. “Those benefits should be intact through the year 2086,” she notes.
That's right, kids, Social Security is on a glide path to an automatic cut.  The average SS monthly benefit is around $1200 right now so a one-quarter cut is $300.  But $4 today?  Oh heavens, no...election's coming.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Bill Gates read

I found this list via Reddit.  The only book on here that I've read is "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis.

By the way, I just finished the science history book "A short history of nearly everything" by Bill Bryson and thought it was just fabulous.  There's a whole progression about how a series of scientists kept taking guesses at the age of the Earth, each time adding an order of magnitude.

Forty-one activists spend four hours in Florida

And sign up 25 people for Obamacare.  Hit and Run: "Here's how hard it is to sell Obamacare."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The new normal of high debt

Keith Hennessey: "Why high government debt is a problem".  "Government debt is twice as large a share of the economy as it was before the financial crisis. In addition to increasing the risk of another catastrophic financial crisis, high government debt squeezes out other functions of government, creates pressure for higher taxes, leaves policymakers less able to respond to future recessions, wars, and terrorist attacks, and lowers future wage growth. This problem will only increase as entitlement spending growth kicks into high gear a few years from now, but simply stabilizing debt/GDP in the mid 70s is an insufficient goal."

Monday, February 17, 2014


The Foundry: "Obama's budget to be late again."  "This will be Obama’s fourth late budget submission in five years. Indeed, he will now be the first President to present three consecutive late budgets."

The sugar mines are understaffed

I LOL'ed at Stephen Green's latest take on Obamacare: "How is the law functioning these days? If you read the comments at DailyKos while heavily medicated, you might be under the assumption that ♡bamaCare!!! has given free insurance and care and puppies to six or maybe even seven trillion Americans, who before the law were forced into slavery to toil in underground Republican sugar mines."

He's dead, Jim

Commentary: "The UAW's Waterloo."  I wonder how many VW workers based their vote on this:
According to, of the top ten political donors in the last 25 years, six are unions. And they all overwhelmingly donated to Democratic causes and candidates. The UAW, for instance, has donated $41.7 million over the last 25 years. That’s well over twice what the infamous Koch brothers have donated, mostly to Republican causes. (The Koch brothers actually gave 8 percent of their money to Democratic causes and candidates.)

Of the UAW’s donations, 71 percent went to Democrats and zero percent went to Republicans. 
There were billboards around Chattanooga reading "United Obama Workers" which, for all intents and purposes, is accurate.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Down the line

Zero Hedge: "The chart that really has the Fed worried."  "Japanization here we come."

Volkswagen workers think on Detroit

Hot Air: "Tennessee VW workers reject unionization bid by UAW."

I was listening to a story on NPR about the union vote and it said that VW, far from fighting the United Auto Workers, has "practically rolled out the welcome mat."  And, still, the UAW couldn't get the vote.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A sudden, and awkward, realization

Our son's birthday is November 14th.  Thanks, Ikea!

Unexpected consequences that were expected

Charles Krauthammer says "I told ya so" on Obamacare:
With the weakest recovery since World War II, historically high chronic unemployment and a shockingly low workforce participation rate, the administration correctly fears the economic consequences of its own law — and of the political fallout for Democrats as millions more Americans lose their jobs or are involuntarily reduced to part-time status.
Conservatives have been warning about this for five years. This is not rocket science. Both the voluntary and forced job losses were utterly predictable. Pelosi insisted we would have to pass the law to know what’s in it. Now we know.
Nancy Pelosi said that back then.  Now she says: "You shall love it, plebes!"

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Is this something? This seems like something.

Wired: "We’re One Step Closer to Nuclear Fusion Energy."  "Scientists with the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced today that they have achieved a critical step in fusion research: For the first time, their hydrogen fuel has given off more energy than it took in."

Overtaken by events

Ron Fournier can't pretend anymore: "It’s getting difficult and slinking toward impossible to defend the Affordable Care Act."

And climatologist Roy Spencer says: "I’m seeing a lot of wrangling over the recent (15+ year) pause in global average warming…when did it start, is it a full pause, shouldn’t we be taking the longer view, etc.  These are all interesting exercises, but they miss the most important point: the climate models that governments base policy decisions on have failed miserably."

I do wha I want!

Politico: "The Whatever President."  "Obama is legislating without the legislative branch. This is corrosive of self-government, counter to our constitutional system and contemptuous of the rule of law."

Not a smidgen of corruption here

Townhall: "Surprised?: All 501(C)(4)'s Audited By IRS Were Conservative"
That's right -- "somehow," every single 501(c)(4) that the IRS selected to endure the time, expense, distraction and stress of an audit just happened to be conservative.
Nothing to see here.  Move along.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Do you freeze in the land Down Under?

Watts up with That - "Forensic science reports more deaths in Australia than Sweden due to cold."  "Despite considerable demographic, geographic and climate differences, the death rate from hypothermia was slightly higher in South Australia than in Sweden, which is a very surprising result,” says the leader of the project, the University’s Professor Roger Byard AO."  I would say so.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Entitlement nation

When it comes to the slowly-dawning reality that entitlement spending will crowd out everything we call the "government", Robert Samuelson is a kindred soul:
An aging population and higher health spending automatically increase budget outlays, which induce the president and Congress to curb spending on almost everything else, from defense to food stamps. Over the next decade, all the government's projected program growth stems from Social Security and health care, including the Affordable Care Act. By 2024, everything else will represent only 7.4 percent of national income (gross domestic product), the lowest share since at least 1940, says Douglas Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office.
As I've noted many times, when discretionary spending is squeezed down to a limited number of options, the government essentially does no "governing."  Instead, it's just going to take money from one group of Americans and send it along to another group.

Of course, this will always have the enthusiastic support of the latter.

The experience trap

Ricochet: "The meaningless initiative to prevent discrimination against the long-term unemployed."  "There are things the long-term unemployed can do to get a job. Expecting this initiative to help is not one of them."

Car trouble

A request for advice from my ten - maybe dozens! - of readers.  My wife's car needs repairs that equal the Kelly Blue Book value of the car.  I know that the Car Talk guys always say you should always keep a car until it turns to rust, but this seems like throwing good money after bad.

The main problem for me is that I can't commit to a big purchase now because I will need to pay for a much larger purchase in September (depending on scholarships.)  Should I bite the bullet on repairs?  Or find a junker for my wife's short commute?  Lease?  Make her ride the bus?  Anybody have a similar situation?

Monday, February 10, 2014

They don't want to overwhelm America with Obamacare's awesomeness

The Obama Administration has wisely delayed another so-called mandate of the so-called law because, well, 2014 elections:
At this point, they are just making it up. Any pretense that they are implementing an actual law, as enacted by Congress, is pretty much gone.
Of course, by delaying Obamacare again, doesn't this keep Americans from reading a bedtime story to their kids at night?  Well, that's a shame.

Extra - From Nice Deb.

More - Charles Krauthammer: "It’s as if the law is simply a blackboard on which Obama writes any number he wants, any delay he wants and any provision. It’s now reached a point where it is so endemic that nobody even notices or complains."

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Movie reviews

I saw "American Hustle" this weekend and it was great.  I have to say that even though the dialogue was a little uneven (it was often ad-libbed), it was amazing to watch five actors of such talent.  In case you didn't know, American Hustle captured Best Acting nominations in every category for the Academy Awards.  The only person who didn't get a nomination was the excellent Jeremy Renner (who won it I couple years ago for "The Hurt Locker".)

Christian Bale continues to demonstrate an unhealthy commitment to his art.  He gained 40 pounds for this role and, according to IMDB, Robert DeNiro didn't recognize him when he arrived on set.

On the other end of the spectrum is the execrable Elysium.  There are the "Haves" up in space and the "Have Nots" down on Earth, who keep trying to get to Elysium for the sole purpose of using these health-generative machines that cure everything.  Why wouldn't the Richie Riches share this technology?  We never know.  But somebody writes some software and - voila - hospital ships, all ready to go, are dispatched to Earth to cure all maladies.  They should have put the script in this thing.

This silliness aside, approximately 95% of the movie is either gun play, exoskeleton fisticuffs, or futuristic explosions.  Even Bruce Willis said "This is too much for me."

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Time for another speech on the endless campaign

Here's George Will: "President Obama's magic words and numbers"
Barack Obama, the first president shaped by the celebratory culture in which every child who plays soccer gets a trophy and the first whose campaign speeches were his qualification for the office, perhaps should not be blamed for thinking that saying things is tantamount to accomplishing things, and that good intentions are good deeds. So, his presidency is useful after all, because it illustrates the perils of government run by believers in magic words and numbers.
In case you missed it, Byron York noted that when it comes to Obamacare enrollment numbers, the President is just making stuff up.

And one other thing: why was it necessary for Obama to jet off to Michigan to sign the Farm Bill?  Allegedly it was to honor Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow but, of course, it gave the One the chance to soak in the remnant adulation from Michigan State students.  Go Spartans!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

About those Obamacare risk corridors

The one bright note in the CBO report on Obamacare is that there might not be a bailout of insurance companies because the "risk corridors" which are partially funded by the insurance companies may not need government assistance.  As this Hit and Run article notes, the CBO is basing this estimation on what happened with Medicare Part D:
What CBO is saying, then, is that if Medicare Part D’s experience with risk corridors is any indication, the government will ultimately be paid more from the program than it pays out.
The difference is that the insurance companies were pretty sure who were going to sign up for the Prescription Drug benefit and in what numbers.  For Obamacare, there is much less certainty:
Is that what we should expect from insurers selling plans through Obamacare? With Huamana [sic] saying in an SEC filing that the demographic mix in its exchange plans is “more adverse” than expected, Cigna’s CEO warning that his company might take a loss on the exchange plans, and Aetna’s CEO bringing up the possibility that the company might eventually pull out of the exchanges? The gloomy financial outlook for exchange plans is an industry-wide phenomenon. When Moody’s cut its outlook for health insurers from stable to negative to negative last month, it cited “uncertainty over the demographics of those enrolling in individual products through the exchanges” as a “key factor.”
Given that virtually every promise made about Obamacare has proven false, why would we now believe that we're going to pull a profit on this scheme?  C'mon man, that's Twilight Zone.

Fun-employment for all

The Federalist: "5 Devastating Obamacare Facts From CBO’s Latest Economic Report."

Sounds about right

Anonymous NY Times staffer on their editorials: "They’re completely reflexively liberal, utterly predictable, usually poorly written and totally ineffectual."

Update - You really have to hand it to the Times.  The lipstick-to-pig application has reached trowel level.  From today's editorial (no link):
It [CBO report] also found “no compelling evidence” that, as of now, part-time employment has increased as a result of the reform law, a frequent claim of critics. Whether that will hold up after a mandate that requires employers to provide coverage, which was delayed until 2015, kicks in is uncertain.
"We really have no idea how incentives work."

Cutting hours

WSJ: "The jobless care act."

Also: "White House grilled over CBO report on Obamacare".
However, [White House flunky] Furman argued by definition if someone makes a decision with respect to lowering their weekly hours for the purposes of attaining government assistance that person could not be worse off. “There’s no way you have a set of stuff; you can make exactly the same choice you made before, and now, I give you something else, that you could be — that you’re worse off as a result of that,” he said.
Henry interjected, asking Furman how introducing an incentive for some people to work less is not tantamount to inducing those people to become less productive.
Furman, seeming to sense he was cornered, pivoted to the administration’s talking point that Obamacare in aggregate actually increases economic productivity.
Heh, pivot.

Extra - Dana Milbank: "This independent arbiter, long embraced by the White House, has validated a core complaint of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critics: that it will discourage work and become an ungainly entitlement."  Once again: told ya so.

Things that don't work in Oregon

Besides Cover Oregon, that is.  Ricochet: "Community organizers chase Trader Joe's out of Portlandia."  "The company selected two acres along Martin Luther King Blvd. that had been vacant for decades. It seemed like the perfect place to create jobs, improve customer options and beautify the neighborhood. City officials, the business community, and residents all seemed thrilled with the plan. Then some community organizers caught wind of it."

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

You gotta break a couple eggs to make an omelette. Two million eggs.

Like your dash-mounted GPS system, the Congressional Budget Office has recalculated.  Hot Air: "CBO: Actually, Obamacare is kinda’ like a tax, and it’s going to result in 2 million fewer workers by 2017."
The Affordable Care Act is projected to reduce the number of full-time workers by roughly 2.3 million people through 2021 and insure 2 million fewer people this year than previously estimated, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.
The CBO had previously estimated the labor force impact would be around 800,000 people in that time frame.
Unexpectedly!  Except for those of us on the evil side of the aisle who predicted this exact thing would happen, those of us who said that incentives matter:
In the short term, however, businesses will simply hire fewer workers. And why? Because the ACA has increased labor costs. This fact isn’t just a theoretical exercise, it’s a current reality.
It's real enough for fry cook Darnell Summers who has seen his hours cut back due to Obamacare.  Not to worry, Mr. Summers: President Obama has a pen and a phone and - most importantly - someone to blame.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Superbowl Prediction

Seattle wins: 23-16

Update - Just to clarify, I meant that the Seahawks would score 23 points in the first half and 16 in the second half.  So, pretty close!

Philip Seymour Hoffman ODs

Geez, I've been watching "Brain Games" all day and opened my laptop to check the news.  And here it is: "Philip Seymour Hoffman dead of an apparent drug overdose."  Yeah, I'd say that finding a corpse with needle sticking out of an arm takes "apparent" off the table.

What a shame.  If you get a chance, check out Hoffman in the underrated "Owning Mahowny" about a Canadian banker who systematically empties a client's account to feed a gambling addition.  Of course, I'll always remember Hoffman as Lester Bangs from the excellent "Almost Famous":