DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

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

Syracuse Pushes Retirement Buyouts After Audit Finds 200 Managers Supervise One Person Apiece

6th August 2015

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I’d love to have such a job.

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U of WI Pays ‘Queer Migration’ Professor $87k a Year

6th August 2015

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Prof. Karma R. Chavez is an associate professor at UW-Madison’s Department of Communication Arts. According to a UW employee salary database maintained by the Wisconsin State Journal, Chavez made $87,224 during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and has achieved tenure at the school.

Chavez teaches seven different courses, ranging from “Queer Theory” (CA 969) to “Queer Migrations” (CA 610) and “Rhetoric and Queer Theory” (also CA 610).

The name is perfect. This is somebody’s Platonic ideal of a ‘diversity’ hire.

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Teacher Training Doesn’t Work

6th August 2015

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Taxpayers are spending vast sums of money on time-consuming teacher development programs that don’t actually improve teaching quality, according to a study conducted by The New Teacher Project.

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

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Thought for the Day

6th August 2015

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National Raisin Reserve

6th August 2015

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Bet you didn’t know we had a National Raisin Reserve, didja? Well, those raisins are a strategic asset, yesirreebob.

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Lawmakers Take Aim at EPA ‘Sue-and-Settle’ Collusion

6th August 2015

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Faced with President Obama’s vastly expensive Clean Power Plan to remake the U.S. electrical system and other looming regulatory decisions that dramatically affect energy supplies, Republican lawmakers have renewed their offensive against alleged under-the-table legal collusion between the administration and environmental lobbyists in the cascading anti-carbon agenda.

A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday heard witnesses argue that “sue-and-settle” legal arrangements involving the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and hyper-aggressive environmental organizations have cut energy suppliers and state regulators out of the discussion, speeded up the agenda to force unrealistic environmentalist priorities on the energy market, and are likely to cost consumers and producers billions of dollars in the years ahead.

“The sue-and-settle model takes policy making away from the public and puts it into the hands of one special interest driving an agenda to ultimately prevent the use of fossil fuels,” declared Katherine Sgamma, vice-president of the Western Energy Alliance, a Colorado-based lobbying organization for small oil and gas producers.

Sgamma noted that as of October 2014, there have been 88 sue-and-settle cases since the Obama Administration took power, and that 79 of them had been launched by environmental groups.

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Denver Activist Arrested for Passing Out Pamphlets, Which Apparently Is a Felony in Colorado

5th August 2015

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Last week Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey charged a local political activist, Mark Iannicelli, with seven counts of jury tampering, a felony punishable by one to three years in prison, for handing out pamphlets in front of the Lindsay-Flanigan Courthouse. Morrissey’s office says “Iannicelli set up a small booth with a sign that said ‘Juror Info’ in front of the courthouse and provided jury nullification flyers to jury pool members.” According to the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), he distributed a FIJA brochure explaining that jurors have a “right to judge the law itself and vote on the verdict according to conscience,” along with “a flyer from another organization.”

You may wonder how threatening someone with prison for passing out political literature can possibly be consistent with the First Amendment. The short answer is that it’s not. The longer answer is that local and federal officials periodically harass activists like Iannicelli under the pretense of preventing unlawful interference with jury deliberations. The statute cited by Morrissey makes it a Class 5 felony to “communicate with a juror” outside of judicial proceedings with the intent to influence the juror’s “vote, opinion, decision, or other action in a case.” But Iannicelli was not trying to affect the outcome of any specific trial at the courthouse. He was merely passing out pamphlets with general information about the rights of jurors.

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The Obama-Hillary Libya debacle

5th August 2015

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Everyone understands by now that our intervention in Libya produced a disaster. But many fail to appreciate the magnitude of the disaster. And few understand that the stated reason for the intervention, to prevent a bloodbath, lacked any real basis in fact.

Writing in Foreign Affairs, Alan Kuperman, an associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, provides clarity on these points. The article is called “Obama’s Libya Debacle.” However, given the leading role Hillary Clinton played, the former Secretary of State must take a major portion of the blame, just as she planned to take major credit (see her email traffic with Sidney Blumenthal) when she thought the policy had succeeded.

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Medicare at 50: Did It Solve the Right Problems Without Creating New Ones?

4th August 2015

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Hint: No.

Aside from the basic numbers of budgetary imbalances and continuing fiscal pressures, Medicare’s institutionalization as the dominant payer in US health care also has locked in the worst features of a costly and inefficient fee-for-service delivery system that still rewards providing more volume, instead of better value, in most health care decisions. The mismatch between Medicare’s claims on the economy and our political willingness to pay for them in turn has produced an ever-more complex web of reimbursement rules and health care regulations in response that are far more successful in hiding or transferring costs than in reducing them. Moreover, although elderly Americans achieved substantial gains in insurance coverage and financial security through Medicare, younger ones fared far less well.

Imagine the worst insurance company you can think of. Then imagine it run by the government. That’s Medicare.

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Pennsylvania Rep Indicted on Racketeering Charges Vows Re-election Bid

4th August 2015

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U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah is vowing to run for re-election next year despite a federal racketeering indictment and says he expects to resume his leadership position on a powerful congressional committee by year’s end.

The 11-term Democrat said Monday he is “innocent of any and all of these allegations,” telling reporters he hasn’t been involved in the misappropriation of funds as an elected official.

Funny how it’s always Democrites who wind up facing these racketeering charges.

 

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Pentagon Can’t Account for Nearly $1 Billion It Spent

4th August 2015

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Frankly, I’m surprised that it’s only that small a sum.

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As Dem Rep. Grayson Runs for Senate Seat, Girlfriend Reportedly Runs for His

4th August 2015

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And why not? How hard could it be?

 

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Navy Official: Not Ruling Out Charging Service Member Who Fired on Chattanooga Shooter

4th August 2015

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A Navy official told Fox News that punishing a lieutenant commander who used an unauthorized weapon to fire back at the Chattanooga gunman who shot and killed five service members could not be “completely ruled out,” and two high-profile former military officers, including presidential candidate Jim Webb, say the Navy is at least seriously considering charging the man.

No good deed goes unpunished, especially when the government is involved.

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White House Mulling Intervention in Massive Judgment Against Palestinians in Terror Case

4th August 2015

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The Obama administration has signaled it may intervene next week in a civil lawsuit in which 11 American families won a potential billion-dollar judgment from the Palestinian leadership over a series of bombings and shootings that killed or wounded dozens of U.S. citizens, a move that critics say would find the government siding with terrorists over its own citizens.

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

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Clean Power Plan: Barack Obama Ignites War on Coal to Hit Climate Change Targets

3rd August 2015

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When coal was king, it fuelled the generation of more than half of America’s electricity. And US presidential hopefuls paid homage to coal, courting mine owners and miners.

Barack Obama was no exception. As a state legislator in 2004 and again as a US senator, he supported proposals for huge federal subsidies to turn coal into motor fuel and ease America’s reliance on oil imports.

All of that has changed. Today, the Obama administration takes on the coal industry with the final version of rules it has dubbed the Clean Power Plan, a complex scheme designed to reduce, on a state-by-state basis, the amount of greenhouse gases the nation’s electric power sector emits. The main target? Coal.

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Clintons Reaped Millions From Foreign Bank After Hillary Intervened in UBS Tax Case to Reduce IRS’s Requested Disclosures of Americans’ Offshore Accounts by 91%

1st August 2015

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A few weeks after Hillary Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, she was summoned to Geneva by her Swiss counterpart to discuss an urgent matter. The Internal Revenue Service was suing UBS AG to get the identities of Americans with secret accounts.

If the case proceeded, Switzerland’s largest bank would face an impossible choice: Violate Swiss secrecy laws by handing over the names, or refuse and face criminal charges in U.S. federal court.

Within months, Mrs. Clinton announced a tentative legal settlement—an unusual intervention by the top U.S. diplomat. UBS ultimately turned over information on 4,450 accounts, a fraction of the 52,000 sought by the IRS, an outcome that drew criticism from some lawmakers who wanted a more extensive crackdown.

From that point on, UBS’s engagement with the Clinton family’s charitable organization increased. Total donations by UBS to the Clinton Foundation grew from less than $60,000 through 2008 to a cumulative total of about $600,000 by the end of 2014, according to the foundation and the bank.

The best government money can buy.

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Obamacare’s Government-Backed Nonprofit Health Plans Are a Disaster—and Could Cost Taxpayers Billions

31st July 2015

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

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White Ex-DD Official Sues City, Claims He Was Called ‘Cracker’ and Fired Over Race

31st July 2015

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A former District of Columbia official brought in to help straighten out mismanagement at the Department of Public Works is suing the city, claiming he was harassed, intimidated and then fired for being white.

The former city worker says he was repeatedly called “cracker” and “white boy” by black members of the department while in the presence of other managers. On his last day on the job as a deputy fleet administrator, Christopher Lyons said he found a sign on his door that said, “Get Out White Boy!”

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished in Taxachusetts

28th July 2015

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George Simolaris is a member of the Board of Selectmen (the town council) in Billerica, Massachusetts. According to him, some of the crosswalks around town have become unsafe because the paint has faded, and it’s been taking forever to get the town manager and/or Board to repaint them. After more than six months of waiting, he says, he decided to help, so he went out last week and painted several of the crosswalks himself, at no cost to the city. He even used his own paint. Then they looked nice and were easy to see.

For this, he will be prosecuted.

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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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