DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

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Archive for the 'Your tax dollars at work – and play.' Category

More Gridlock Than Ever

28th July 2015

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As the Antiplanner noted a couple of weeks ago, the source of the gridlock is Congress’ decision ten years ago to change the Highway Trust Fund from a pay-as-you-go system to one reliant on deficit spending. This led to three factions: one, mostly liberal Democrats, wants to end deficits by raising the gas tax; a second, mostly conservative Republicans, wants to end deficits by reducing spending; and the third, which includes people from both sides of the aisle, wants to keep spending without raising gas taxes.

This third group is no doubt the largest because it is politically the easiest position to take, and it is responsible for the Senate bill. Gas taxes and other federal highway user fees bring in about $40 billion a year, while Congress is currently spending about $52 billion a year and wants to increase it by at least the rate of inflation. To make up the difference, the Senate bill includes a hodge-podge of ideas such as increasing customs fees and selling oil from the strategic petroleum reserve. As the Post noted, the one thing these sources of funds all have in common is that “none is related to surface transportation.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis, these funding schemes will only be enough to last through 2018, after which Congress will have to find another $51 billion to keep the spending going for another three years. That shortfall alone is probably what killed the bill in the House, though it would be nice to think that House members were also wary of a 1,000-plus-page bill sprung on them at the last minute (scroll down to “SA 2266? or search for “DRIVE Act”).

 

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NASA May Have Invented a Warp Drive

26th July 2015

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The EmDrive, an experimental propulsion device, may be producing a warp field.

According to posts on the NASA Space Flight forum, when lasers were fired into the EmDrive resonance chamber, it was found that some of the beams were travelling faster than the speed of light.

But, being a government agency, they will find some way to screw it up while making it impossible for anybody else to do anything with it.

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Restaurants Warn NY Push for $15 Wage Could Close Hundreds of Businesses

25th July 2015

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There appears to be an informal requirement that an ignorance of basic economics is necessary for public office.

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Your Tax Dollars at Work: 1,000-Page Funding Bill Dropped on Senate Floor One Hour Before Vote

23rd July 2015

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The legislative sausage-making process is apparently so streamlined that many sausage-makers are barely involved in the process. It’s not that they don’t want to be. It’s that other sausage-makers want their product to be pushed out the door with a minimum of inspection.

Senator Mike Lee posted a video to his Facebook page that contained a rather graphic depiction of expeditious sausage-making. As his printer whirred away behind him, Lee noted that a $47-billion, 1,033-page transportation funding bill was up for a vote. In less than an hour.

The bill — which failed to obtain the number of votes needed to open debate — was a bipartisan effort (led by Barbara Boxer [D] and Mitch McConnell [R]). That’s probably the best thing that can be said about it and the legislators behind it. Rather than prove lawmakers can occasionally put aside their differences and actually move forward with the business of legislating, this bill simply signals that both sides of the aisle are willing to resort to bullshit tactics.

The bill arrived at the last minute because the effort itself was last minute. Federal highway aid to states is up against a July 31st expiration deadline. Despite its length, the bill is still far from finished. It takes money from a variety of unrelated programs to fund federal aid for the next three years. The problem is the bill authorizes spending for the next six years. That’s the other reason the bill’s champions were hoping to shove this through with a minimum of debate: the bill leaves it up to the next Senate class to figure out where it’s going to get the other $45-60 billion it will need to keep the federal aid flowing.

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First They Came for Your Light Bulbs. . .

22nd July 2015

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I’m always struck by the irony that the same kind of people who say government should stay out of your bedroom have no hesitation about getting into your bathroom, and have mandated such splendors as low-flow shower heads and toilets (or commodes that are no longer commodious). And then they moved on to light bulbs and clothes washers and dryers.

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Tollbooth Worker Fired for Paying Driver’s Fee

21st July 2015

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A Florida tollbooth worker who had been on the job for nearly three decades was fired for paying a driver’s $5 toll, according to WBBH.

Vladislav Samsonov said that when he realized he charged a tractor-trailer driver too little earlier this month, he paid the difference out of his own pocket.

No good deed goes unpunished.

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Obama Collecting Personal Data for a Secret Race Database

20th July 2015

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A key part of President Obama’s legacy will be the fed’s unprecedented collection of sensitive data on Americans by race. The government is prying into our most personal information at the most local levels, all for the purpose of “racial and economic justice.”

Unbeknown to most Americans, Obama’s racial bean counters are furiously mining data on their health, home loans, credit cards, places of work, neighborhoods, even how their kids are disciplined in school — all to document “inequalities” between minorities and whites.

This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.

Big Brother Barack wants the databases operational before he leaves office, and much of the data in them will be posted online.

So civil-rights attorneys and urban activist groups will be able to exploit them to show patterns of “racial disparities” and “segregation,” even if no other evidence of discrimination exists.

I wonder how many ‘fake black people’ these records will contain. I suspect that the ‘one drop test’ will get a new lease on life.

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Obama Has Not Ordered Flag Flown at Half-Staff for Servicemen Killed in Chattanooga Terror Attack

19th July 2015

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Hey, it’s not as if they were black people killed by police or something significant like that.

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Obama’s Awesome New Race Database Even More Awesome Than You Imagined

19th July 2015

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We recently discussed a story that wasn’t particularly popular here (to be charitable) which dealt with a new White House plan to implement enforced neighborhood diversity in American towns and cities through the power and influence of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The rest of the nation wasn’t exactly pleased with the idea either, but it did raise some interesting questions. One of the biggest among those was the puzzle of exactly how the federal government plans to figure out precisely how many people in each racial pigeonhole are living where and how they are interacting. Is that sort of data even available to be used in making such determinations, assuming you wanted to do it?

The short answer seems to be “no.” The longer – and apparently more accurate – answer is, “not yet.” But never fear, citizens! As Paul Sperry reports for the New York Post, the required data collection is on the way and it’s going to be mind blowing.

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The Refugee Resettlement Scam in Minnesota

19th July 2015

Read it. And watch the video.

The following video was recorded at a town council or board of supervisors meeting in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota on July 7, 2015. The gentleman speaking — a concerned local citizen — has a good handle on the “refugee” scam being foisted on Minnesota by the federal government.

As he notes, the Somalis being unloaded on the state bring no skills and will generally be unable to support themselves for the indefinite future. Local welfare agencies will be picking up the tab, yet the “stakeholders” — unelected citizens, mainline churches, and NGOs — are making big money off the deal. After a few months the federal subsidy will expire, leaving the state holding the bill. In ten years or so the municipalities of Minnesota will be facing bankruptcy as their culturally enriched neighborhoods slide into Third World conditions:

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Obama Moves to Reverse Two Decades of Success in Reducing Crime

18th July 2015

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Having empowered Iran’s criminal regime and all but ensured its long-term survival, President Obama is turning his attention to doing what he can for American criminals. In one day this week, he commuted the sentences of 46 criminals, the most presidential commutations in a single day since at least the administration of President Lyndon Johnson, according to the White House.

The president also took the time to write a personal letter to each of the 46 criminals. He has not, however, contacted the family of Kathryn Steinle who was murdered in San Francisco by an illegal alien and convicted felon who was released from prison earlier this year.

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Senior Obamacare Official Becomes Top Health Insurance Lobbyist

17th July 2015

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In January, Marilyn Tavenner stepped down from her position as the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).Tavenner was one of the administration officials most involved with the flopped launch of Obamacare’s federal health insurance exchange—the administration sent her to Congress to apologize—and her agency crafted thousands of pages of regulations ordered up under the law.

Essentially, Tavenner played the role of Obamacare’s caretaker within the administration, helping to craft its many tedious rules and procedures while serving as a public face when implementation failed.

Earlier this week, news broke that Tavenner would be joining America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance lobbying group, as chief executive. Tavenner, in other words, will continue to be Obamacare’s caretaker—only now she’ll be operating from the private sector.

My, what a surprise! Aren’t you surprised? I’m sure surprised.

‘And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.’

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Obama: $80 Billion Spent on Incarceration Could Eliminate Tuition at Public Universities

16th July 2015

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Or even – gasp! – be given back to the people who actually earned.

Naw….

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Teachers Union Wants to Make Costly Ethnic Studies Classes Mandatory

16th July 2015

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In thousands of districts throughout the country, the teachers union’s push to make high school students take an “ethnic studies” course could mean additional staffing costs — and more dues-paying members for NEA.

That’s the case in Los Angeles, where the city school district initially projected the new requirement would cost $4 million. After a few months of planning, the district now expects ethnic studies will cost $73 million to implement.

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Doing Well by Doing Good

15th July 2015

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Top ObamaCare official Marilyn Tavenner, who until February was “administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that insures one in three Americans and has an annual budget of more than $800 billion,” will take over August 24 as the “top lobbyist for America’ health insurance industry,” taking over as “president and chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group whose members include Aetna, Anthem, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and many Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies,” the New York Times reports.

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The Middle Ages Unlocked: Starting a Fire

15th July 2015

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Rub your hands together real fast, like Superman.

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11 of 12 Fake Applicants Get Through Healthcare.gov Obamacare Website

15th July 2015

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My, what a surprise! Aren’t you surprised? I’m sure surprised.

Oh, and then there’s this: HealthCare.gov Re-enrolled Fraudulent Obamacare Accounts—and Gave Some of Them Bigger Subsidies

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Obama’s Education Secretary Loves Common Core For Your Kids, BUT NOT HIS

14th July 2015

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My, what a surprise! Aren’t you surprised? I’m sure surprised.

For extra credit, look up how many Congressmen send their kids to public schools in D.C. That will tell you everything you need to know about government education.

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Taxpayers Have Now Spent $3.5 Million to Find Out Why Lesbians Are Obese

14th July 2015

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Inquiring minds want to know.

The project, now entering its fifth year, received another grant worth $658,485 this summer. The total funding for the research is now $3,531,925.Funding has more than doubled since the study was first revealed in 2013.

A paper published this June co-authored by the project’s lead investigator, S. Bryn Austin, an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School, found that young males think about their muscles.

Hey, tenure doesn’t grow on trees, you know.

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The Transactional Bill de Blasio

13th July 2015

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Most of the water de Blasio carries for his backers these days flows from city reservoirs. He has awarded the richest labor contracts in city history, and support for his 2017 reelection bid from the union recipients of his public largesse may ward off any primary challenge.

SEIU signed one of those contracts — valued, when combined with the nurses union, at $879 million. Hotel workers don’t have a city contract, but are pleased no doubt by the mayor’s enforcement war against hotel competitor Airbnb. And de Blasio, whose chief of staff used to work for Wilhelm at HTC, backed a bill this year that banned the residential conversion of hotels for two years, an unprecedented restriction on property rights championed by the union.

In another bow to a backer, de Blasio didn’t just deliver big bucks to the teachers union, he’s effectively surrendered the management of the schools to it, even letting it vet the parents chosen to sit on school committees. The mayor has a nonprofit that collects gobs of donations to support his policy initiatives, and the American Federation of Teachers is its biggest donor, giving $350,000 shortly before de Blasio announced the new teachers contract.

SEIU contributed its own, equally timely, $250,000 to what’s called the Campaign for One New York — though it, too, may require a name change, to the Campaign for One New Yorker.

Further evidence that every ‘reformer’ is actually for sale to the highest bidder.

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Study: Federal Student Loans Increase Tuition, Not Enrollment

11th July 2015

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There must be some law that in order to get a government paycheck you have to be ignorant of fundamental economics.

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How to Justify Spending $8M on Something Nobody Wants

10th July 2015

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The Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Council is gambling $8.7 million on a project to alleviate pedestrian congestion that might exist in 5 to 10 years if we’re somehow able to build two additional light rail lines and they are operating at full capacity for 10 days a year.

That’s like buying flood insurance on the house you have yet to buy.

Moral: Don’t live in a Blue State. They take your money and they break your heart.

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Oregon: Bakers’ Statements to National Media Were “Unlawful”

8th July 2015

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Most of us probably assume that if legal charges are filed against us and we consider them unjust, we have a First Amendment right to raise a ruckus in the press. But last week’s controversial Oregon cake ruling suggests that some public officials are not so sure about that.

 

This decision is very disturbing. Hopefully it will be overturned on appeal, but the fact that it was entered in the first place is frightening.

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Obamacare Co-ops Paying Exorbitant Salaries to Executives

8th July 2015

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17 of the 23 existing non-profit co-ops created by Obamacare are paying their executives exorbitant salaries as high as $587,000, according to reporting by the Daily Caller’s Richard Pollock. Not only do almost all co-op executives have zero insurance experience, but according to Pollock, their salaries may violate provisions in both federal law and Obamacare rules that limit executive compensation.

Several executives had portions of their salaries hidden in “obscure tax return footnotes” or did not report them at all. As Pollock points out, the median executive healthcare pay is $135,000 but at least five states paid their executives over $487,000 – more than three and a half times the average. These salaries likely violate a section of the Bipartisan budget Act of 2013 which prohibits federal contractor executive compensation from exceeding this amount. In addition, at least six co-ops (in New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Arizona, Louisiana, and Illinois) hid $26.5 million in additional pay in their footnotes as “management fees.”

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Fraud Crackdown Sends Illegal Immigrant Licenses Plummeting in NM

8th July 2015

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A crackdown on document fraud has sent the number of driver’s licenses issued to illegal aliens in New Mexico plunging by 70 percent, while revealing that the state likely issued tens of thousands of bogus licenses after becoming the first state to adopt the controversial policy a dozen years ago.

Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

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Clinton, California Lawmakers Condemn San Francisco’s ‘Sanctuary’ Policy

8th July 2015

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So where were they when the policy, which has been in place for years, was established?

The mayor’s office has said it reached out to Homeland Security officials to determine if there’s a way to cooperate while still upholding the city’s sanctuary policy.

Uh, no. What keeps getting lost in all this blather is that foreigners who are in the U.S. illegally ARE CRIMINALS ipso facto. When a unit of government decides that it is going to enforce the law selectively, then people have no way of predicting what will happen. ‘Are we enforcing law X this week?’ is not something that a citizen ought to be forced to ask.

“Mayor Lee shares the senator’s concerns surrounding the nature of Mr. Sanchez’s transfer to San Francisco and release,” said Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the mayor. “As the mayor has stated, we need to gather all of the facts as we develop potential solutions.”

I have a ‘potential solution': ENFORCE THE LAW. ALL OF IT. That is, after all, your fargin job.

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Anne Bayefsky Explains

5th July 2015

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The United Nations Human Rights Council is a body whose essential purpose is to stigmatize the Jewish state for imaginary crimes. The Obama administration therefore deems it important for the United States to fund and participate in the work of the body, such as the farcical investigation of alleged war crimes conducted by its Gaza Conflict Commission of Inquiry. Having concluded its investigation and issued its report, the commission concluded that both Israel and Hamas may have committed war crime in the course of Operation Protective Edge last year, but the commission unloads on Israel.

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Would You Let the I.R.S. Prepare Your Taxes?

5th July 2015

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Around this time every year, Joseph Bankman, a professor of tax law at Stanford Law School and a longtime advocate of using technology to simplify tax filing, gets on the phone with reporters to explain what is wrong with how we do our taxes in the United States. Every year he says pretty much the same thing: No other industrialized country asks its citizens to jump through as many hoops to calculate their taxes as ours.

It isn’t just lawmakers or the hapless-seeming Internal Revenue Service that is perpetuating the annoyance of tax time, he adds. Instead it is the private sector — specifically, the software company Intuit, which makes TurboTax, the most popular tax program in the country.

Whenever there are burdensome regulations, there always arises an ‘industry’ to help people comply with those regulations — often built by people who were responsible for creating them (or administering them) in the first place. This ‘industry’ then becomes a powerful lobby against any attempts to break their rice bowl by simplifying the system. For example, in a world in which the wife of a Senator (and future First Lady) can get a bespoke job as ‘diversity officer’ at a public institution (which is then allowed to lapse when she moves on), ‘diversity’ is going to be hard to get rid of.

The reform plan would work like this: Today, employers, banks, brokerage firms and pretty much every other financial organization in the country send the federal government detailed records about our economic activity every year. These organizations also send you, the taxpayer, a similar set of documents, which are forms with names like W-2 and 1098. After you file your taxes, the government matches its two sets of documents to make sure you have filed correctly.

To Mr. Bankman, this double documentation doesn’t make much sense. If the government is already collecting financial data from employers and banks, why can’t the I.R.S. use that information to precalculate our tax returns for us? At the very least, why can’t tax software just connect to the government’s database to download all the information that the government has collected, saving us all that record-keeping and data entry?

I like it, although I also like the fact that it costs people time and money to do their taxes, thus creating a potential constituency for tax reform. (Just think of how people would scream if the withholding regime didn’t make the paying of taxes more painless than the filing of tax returns.)

But Intuit’s opposition to return-free filing has been ferocious. In the last five years, according to disclosure documents, Intuit spent nearly $13 million on federal lobbying. That is about the same amount that companies many times its size have spent on lobbying. Apple, which has an annual income about 40 times that of Intuit, also spent about $13 million on lobbying in the same period. While documents show that Intuit lobbies on several issues, including immigration, cybersecurity and intellectual property law, the company’s largest lobbying contracts all involve the issue of tax administration.

My, what a surprise! Aren’t you surprised? I’m sure surprised.

Intuit is far from the only opponent of return-free filing. Groups that call for lower taxes, like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, say it is a “conflict of interest” for the government to both collect taxes and calculate how much people owe.

Bullshit. The IRS already calculates what people owe, and if that disagrees with the return, the IRS will send you a letter telling you that they are changing it, which taxpayers can challenge. Why not eliminate the burdensome front end? My wife and I both have MBAs and we have yet to see a year where the IRS doesn’t find something they think we did wrong, mostly in the application of some pissant rule that their software is built to catch. We’ve gotten to the point where we just fill in the information that we have and let them calculate the tax; this has the added advantage that if they think we owe something they send us a bill, which typically gives us a couple of penalty-free months after April 15 to come up with the money.

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I Guess Jeb Bush Won’t be Speaking at Kathryn Steinle’s Funeral Either

4th July 2015

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There’s no word from the White House yet over whether the President will speak at the funeral of the American woman murdered on the San Francisco waterfront Wednesday by a five-time deported illegal alien from Mexico.

I’m thinking No, since she wasn’t of a fashionable color.

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Pentagon’s Vaunted F-35 Earns Lousy Review From Test Pilot in Secret Report

4th July 2015

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And that’s because it’s a lousy plane.

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Aging Hipsters Priced Out of Obamacare

3rd July 2015

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When insurance companies across the country requested hefty hikes for their Obamacare plan premiums, we noted that regulators might deny or scale back the requests. But the first official numbers are in from Oregon, and the results aren’t pretty for the ACA. Not only did the state’s Insurance Commissioner approve big premium hikes, she has even required insurers that didn’t request any increases to raise their prices.

Be careful what you vote for; you just might get it.

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Paul Krugman Sticks It to Poor People With $225,000 Salary to Study Income Inequality

2nd July 2015

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At taxpayer expense, of course.

This week, trustees of the cash-strapped, taxpayer-funded City University of New York (CUNY) system approved a hefty annual salary as well as the fancypants title of “distinguished professor” for Paul Krugman.

New York City’s public college system pays Krugman $225,000 each year to analyze the vexing problem of income inequality at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Luxembourg Income Study Center, Gawker notes.

Nice work, if you can get it. I can make up as many liberal fairy tales about ‘income inequality’ as Krugman; maybe I should apply.

The decidedly left-leaning economics professor is also employed by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs as well as by the London School of Economics. Additionally, he works as a columnist at The New York Times. He has written books, too. His publisher is W. W. Norton & Company.

Pretty sweet.

Thus Krugman, who has long criticized substantial wealth inequalities in the United States, has a net worth that is over 39,000 percent of the net worth of the poorest quintile of Americans.

Well, I guess he won’t have to look far to start his study.

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US Reportedly Blocks Arab Allies’ Attempts to Deliver Weapons to Kurds Fighting ISIS

2nd July 2015

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Obama really is the Worst President Ever.

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What ‘Education’ Teaches

1st July 2015

The Other McCain turns over a rock.

My stance as a critic of public education began while I was in fifth grade at Lithia Springs (Ga.) Elementary School, but it was not until our eldest daughter spent a year in kindergarten that I realized that the system is inimical to liberty. Your local public schools are destroying America, and are ultimately a greater threat to our nation’s survival than ISIS.

The first lesson of school is, your parents are idiots.

See, this is why we need school: If parents were smart enough to teach their own children how to read and write, there would be no need for this massive government bureaucracy to provide education to our youth. Silly parents! How dare you think yourselves competent to educate your own child! Education is only possible when conducted by a government-trained expert and provided in a government-controlled classroom under the direction of government-certified bureaucrats.

The second lesson of school is, your parents are wrong.

This was not really a problem so much when I was in school four or five decades ago, when our parents and our teachers shared similar or identical religious, moral and political beliefs. Adult authority in that time and place spoke in a single voice that was patriotic, Christian and dedicated to basic values like hard work and honesty.

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The Secret Scam of Streetcars: How to Sell a 100-Year-Old Technology as the Future of Transportation

1st July 2015

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The DC government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade trying to erect a streetcar line in the up-and-coming neighborhood of H Street. The project has been an epic disaster, perfectly demonstrating how ill-suited streetcars are to modern urban life.

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Regulations Strangling Small Business Growth

1st July 2015

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Big businesses can cope pretty well with regulatory uncertainty and regulation creep. When the minimum wage jumps to $15 an hour in a big city, a chain of drugstores can afford to install expensive automatic check out machines to replace all those human workers with some nice robots who won’t get $15 an hour plus overtime plus health care. A start up doesn’t have that freedom. At just the moment when our economy desperately needs a wave of innovation and small-scale entrepreneurialism, the Left has decided to do everything in its power to make the American system as inflexible and corporatist as possible.

Business is the horse that socialists beat to keep their kleptocracy running. A big horse can take this beating better than a small one, that’s why socialists favor the big horses. But you know all this.

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Test Pilot Admits the F-35 Can’t Dogfight

30th June 2015

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A test pilot has some very, very bad news about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pricey new stealth jet can’t turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemy’s own gunfire, the pilot reported following a day of mock air battles back in January.

“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” the unnamed pilot wrote in a scathing five-page brief that War Is Boring has obtained. The brief is unclassified but is labeled “for official use only.”

Well, it’s not as if this is news.

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Texas University’s VP of Diversity and Inclusion to Earn More Than Any Governor

29th June 2015

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Here we see the Diversity Scam at its finest: Government makes burdensome regulations that eventually provide cushy jobs for ordinary people who are trying to cope with said burdensome regulations (and institutions desiring some assurance that they won’t be sued under said burdensome regulations). After all, who better to steer people away from the Regulation Rocks than the bureaucrats who were charged with enforcing them in the first place?

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How the White House Abandoned American Hostages

28th June 2015

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In the last 10 months, the Islamic State has brutally executed four American hostages. As Americans died, their government was powerless to stop the slaying. For while European governments tirelessly toiled to secure the release of European hostages, President Barack Obama’s administration’s passive approach doomed their American cellmates.

The U.S. government’s principal channels with the four families largely consisted of mid-level officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The FBI was useless. Its tasks were alternately to extract information and to comfort the family. It never shared intelligence. One European hostage, who was incarcerated with the Americans and subsequently released, told me he was shocked that the FBI seemed more interested in gathering evidence to prosecute the hostage-takers than it was in locating the Americans. Our lead agent misled me on several occasions, employing convoluted legalisms that would have impressed the greatest Talmudic scholars. His tactics so frustrated the Sotloffs that they finally asked him to address all queries to me. Though Steve is dead, our nightmare with the FBI continues. The bureau still refuses to give the Sotloffs the original letters he smuggled out of prison, claiming it is studying them for clues.

The FBI could have helped most when the Islamic State initiated contact with each of the families. Instead, it relied on hostage training manuals designed for dealing with psychopaths. That was the wrong approach. The hostage-takers did not have fractured egos that needed soothing. This was a pure money racket. Its ringleaders were not driven by ideology and displayed no psychological disorders.

The State Department was no better. When the mother of one of the hostages requested a senior point of contact at the White House, a State Department official rebuked her for going over her head. When Steve’s father asked that I attend a government meeting, a consular official claimed the room was too small. When Steve’s father offered to give up his seat, the official demurred. The decision to prohibit family representatives from government meetings was made at the administration’s highest levels. The White House knew that some representatives, like the one retained by the family of James Foley, one of the four slain hostages, had intelligence and political experience. Banning them allowed the administration to manage expectations and control the tempo of consultations. Indeed, some families were so confused on secure conference calls that they could not identify the government officials on the other end of the line.

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Obama Scolds Transgender Immigrant Who Heckled Him at White House: ‘Shame On You!’

26th June 2015

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As if Obama or any other Democrite activist would have hesitated for a second to do the same to Bush or any other Republican President.

Uh, Barry? It’s not your house; it’s the American people’s house. Get over yourself.

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Social Security Paid the Dead $47M, Audit Says

26th June 2015

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) paid individuals acting as representatives for disabled beneficiaries nearly $50 million even though they were dead.

An audit from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is just the latest example of the SSA’s inability to figure out who on their rolls is still alive.

The audit focused on “representative payees,” or a person who manages another’s finances due to mental or physical limitations. The OIG found that many payees acting on behalf of disability beneficiaries had died.

“SSA did not ensure new representative payees were selected when current payees died,” the OIG said. “Based on our sample results, we estimated 2,548 deceased payees received approximately $46.8 million in [Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance] OASDI benefits and [Supplemental Security Income] SSI payments.”

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Michelle Obama’s America: Salt ‘Black Markets’ Arise in School Cafeterias

25th June 2015

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Kids in a school district in Indiana have created a black market in salt packets, which they trade and sell to help mitigate the disgusting taste of the so-called healthy lunches mandated under federal guidelines.

These guidelines were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Like so many other clumsy government attempts to make people healthier by forbidding the consumption of things they like, the initiative is a costly failure.

‘Black market’ is a tendentious slur-word for situations in which the pricing and availability of goods are dictated by someone’s political agenda rather than free exchange. They are always a symptom of tyranny.

Posted in Your tax dollars at work - and play. | 1 Comment »

New York Police Investigate Parking Tickets Given to Driver Found Lying Dead in the Car’s Front Seat

25th June 2015

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New York traffic wardens issued two parking tickets to a car whose driver was later found dead in the front seat, it has been reported.

Police have launched an investigation into whether wardens saw the body of 47-year-old Mamadou Barry but failed to report it.

Two parking tickets were found on the car, which was sitting in a zone where vehicles are not allowed to park between 11.30am and 1pm.

And while the first ticket was discovered inside the car and dated 16 June, another was still fixed to the windscreen when police were called, witnesses said.

Not my job, man.

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Most Illegal Immigrants From Border Surge Skipped Court Date After Release, Records Show

24th June 2015

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My, what a surprise! Aren’t you surprised? I’m sure surprised.

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The Kelo Debacle Turns 10

23rd June 2015

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Ten years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued one of the most destructive and appalling decisions of the modern era. In Kelo v. City of New London, a 5-4 majority allowed a local government to bulldoze a working-class neighborhood so that private developers would have a blank slate on which to build a luxury hotel, a conference center, and various other upscale amenities. The city’s goal was to erase that existing community and replace it with a new commercial district that would (hopefully) fill the local coffers with more abundant tax dollars. According to the Supreme Court, this unsavory land grab qualified as a legitimate use of the city’s eminent domain powers because the city “has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community.”

In the wake of the Court’s decision, the final holdouts in New London were given the boot and the bulldozers rolled in, leveling the neighborhood. But then nothing else happened. The redevelopment scheme fell apart and the project died. If you visit New London today, you’ll find that the razed neighborhood still stands empty, a depressing monument to the folly of “expert” government planning.

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Obama Wonders If Dylann Roof, Who Passed a Background Check, Could Have Been Stopped by a Background Check

22nd June 2015

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Sharp as a tack, that guy. What would we do without him?

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Texas Return of Deep Fryers to Schools Raises Obesity Concerns

22nd June 2015

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A decision this week to return deep fryers and soda machines to Texas schools has raised criticism among nutrition experts who say it will worsen a childhood obesity problem in the second-most populous U.S. state.

Is there a problem? No evidence is presented. Perhaps if they worked with obese kids on an individual basis rather than just making everybody eat salad….

Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said on Thursday putting fried foods and sugary drinks back in schools restores choices for districts who have been unable over the past 10 years to help cut down on obesity rates under present guidelines.

Not that ‘nutrition experts’ care anything about choice.

“They have resulted in millions of dollars of food not being eaten and thrown away, and I’m here to put an end to that,” Miller said in a news release.

Not that ‘nutrition experts’ care anything about facts.

School lunches have been a politically charged topic for years, with states such as California banning sodas from schools and local officials sometimes criticizing the Obama administration’s policy to make school food more nutritious.

In the new ‘progressive’ regime, every aspect of life is a political question. Now, what does that remind me of?

On Friday, the American Heart Association (AHA) said the Texas move makes little sense and cited surveys showing most parents support nutrition standards for school meals.

Preventing food waste ‘makes little sense’? Restoring choice ‘makes little sense’? I guess the AHA doesn’t have time for facts, either.

Posted in Your tax dollars at work - and play. | 1 Comment »

Left Argues for Keeping Fascist Law Because It Saves Money

20th June 2015

Sonic Harm understands the dialectic.

If you’re wondering why repealing ACA costs money, the answer appears to be that while ACA includes what one might think of as ‘Obamacare’ itself – you know, the actual stuff righties complain about – it also includes stuff about Medicare which (as far as I can tell) basically says ‘uh so we’re gonna just basically spend lots less on Medicare in the future? I guess?’. (Plus stupid boutique taxes like the medical-device tax that nobody likes but are presumably just put there to get the budget-scoring over the top.) Whether all these we’re-gonna-spend-less plans will indeed be followed to the letter with no other repercussions or feedback effects, in light of, y’know, political economy and reality, is left as an exercise to the reader. But CBO is required to take these future we’re-gonnas at face value either way, and so they rightly did. (Keep this in mind, by the way, because it’s the reason a raw CBO scoring of something, however good and respectable CBO is thought to be (and it is!), is not a valid part of a cost-benefit analysis of that thing.)

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Company That Got Millions From US Taxpayers Now Profits Chinese Owners

20th June 2015

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The good news is electric car battery maker A123 Systems is finally on track to turn a profit.

The bad news is taxpayers don’t figure to see any of the $133 million the federal government spent and the estimated $141 million in tax credits and subsidies secured from Michigan to help the company take off in 2009, only to see A123 Systems crash, declare bankruptcy in 2012 and then get purchased by a privately held Chinese conglomerate.

“In the case of A123, they created some jobs and a year or two later those jobs were gone, so taxpayers weren’t getting that money back,” said Jarret Skorup, a policy analyst at Michigan’s Mackinac Center, a free-market think tank.

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Civil-Rights Groups, Teachers Union Clash Over ‘No Child Left Behind’

19th June 2015

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Civil-rights groups and the country’s largest teachers union are at odds over the role of testing as Congress moves to fix the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, setting up a battle among Democratic-aligned groups that could make it tough to forge a bill that will garner necessary votes for passage.

In a letter to senators, officials with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and three dozen other organizations said the current Senate bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, doesn’t have sufficient provisions to identify poor schools and hold them accountable when students do not meet performance goals based on test scores. In addition, the civil-rights groups asked for requirements around data-reporting and equal funding for schools.

“The highest priority of civil rights community for improving this law is also the National Education Association’s highest priority to defeat,” said Ms. Haycock.

Leaders of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, say that the heavy reliance on testing to assess teachers and schools creates a toxic environment for schools. While testing could be one variable in that mix, union leaders maintain that it cannot be the only measure. They advocate instead for a “dashboard” of indicators on student progress.

Since laws can’t magically increase the intelligence and diligence of children, the only sure way to leave no child behind is to make sure no child gets ahead.

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