October 31, 2013

Russell Brand Doesn't Care About Socialism

Russell Brand is being hailed by many of the far left, including people I know, as some sort of uber-intelligent socialist guru.  He's not.

Zo takes a crack at debunking Brand's brand on PJTV:

Happy Halloween!

Keeping with the Thursday Hillary Bash theme, as well as the horror of the occasion, here's a visual that will keep you up at night.

Uh, enjoy?

October 30, 2013

Republican Storm A-Brewin'

If the RINO faction of the GOP is going to go after the Tea Party.  They are attempting to battle stupid with even-more-stupid.

Sebelius Job Countdown?

If Sebelius goes, as acidic as many find her, she's nothing more than a scapegoat. Obama, Pelosi, Reid should top the list of political casualties for Obamacare.  Sadly, justice does not always prevail.

That said, I'm sure not too many people will be sorry to see her go.

It’s Kathleen Sebelius’s turn now. On the Hill, they’re calling for her resignation and tossing around words like “subpoena.” Pundits are merrily debating her future. (She’s toast! Or is Obama too loyal to fire her so soon?) Her interviews, more closely parsed than usual, seem wobbly. Though never a colorful presence on the political scene, she’s suddenly a late-night TV punch line.

And on Wednesday morning, the embattled secretary of health and human services will submit to a quintessential station of the Washington deathwatch — testifying before a congressional committee — to discuss her agency’s failings in the botched rollout of the federal health-insurance Web site.
Perhaps it's a bit early to be talking about her losing her job, but it would certainly be politically expedient for the president to throw her under the bus.

October 29, 2013

Obamacare follies

Some entertaining reading from around the nation as it suddenly dawns on the clueless that Obamacare comes with a  hefty price tag.  As you read these, you'll find yourself wondering about these people the following question: "How could you not see this coming?"

The first one also sets up some context, the rest are shorter (or maybe not).
In one of the most stunning examples of political hypocrisy in recent memory, some of the very congressional Democrats who rejected efforts to delay full implantation of the “Affordable” Care Act – then blamed Republicans for the resulting partial shutdown of the federal government – are now supporting the very thing they opposed only a couple of weeks ago...

..much of the backlash [against Obamacare by voters] has been due to an economic reality that should have been expected – but, in some cases, clearly was not.

“Of course, I want people to have health care,” said retired teacher Cindy Vinson of San Jose, Calif., told the Mercury News. “I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”
Via the LA Times:
Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.

"She said, 'I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,'" Kehaly said.
Examiner.com picks up some of the hilarity directly from the comments on the Facebook page of Healthcare.gov. The hilarity continues unabated over there.
"I am so disappointed," one woman wrote. "These prices are outrageous and there are huge deductibles. No one can afford this!"

"There is NO WAY I can afford it," said another person who used the Kaiser Subsidy Calculator, who claimed to not qualify for a government subsidy even though he made $8.55 per hour...

"I knew when the democrats called it the 'Affordable Care Act' that it would be un-affordable," another Facebook user said.

Another person said his premiums tripled as a result of Obama's law.
In Florida there was this story:
"When I got this bill, I was outraged," Barrette said. Technically she didn't get a bill — last month Florida Blue wrote to let her know that her old plan was being discontinued and she'd be offered a new, more expensive but more comprehensive plan, in its place. Currently she pays $54 a month. The new plan will cost $591 a month. "What I have right now is what I'm happy with, and I just wanna know why I can't keep what I have," Barrette asked.
Heritage Foundation's The Foundry column has a truly schadenfreude moment for those of us who knew that people who proudly voted for Obama and supported Obamacare would eventually face sticker shock.  It's a terrific read and they've conveniently put one of the key stories into a nice visual for everyone to share:

Even uber-liberal Daily Kos'ers got into the act:
My wife and I just got our updates from Kaiser telling us what our 2014 rates will be. Her monthly has been $168 this year, mine $150. We have a high deductible. We are generally healthy people who don't go to the doctor often. I barely ever go. The insurance is in case of a major catastrophe.

Well, now, because of Obamacare, my wife's rate is gong to $302 per month and mine is jumping to $284.
This could go on all day. But the post would become too long.  There's more coming though, I assure you.  Obamacare ensures it. 

With Obamacare Cost of Coverage Rising, Do You Care About Excuses?

Shop, sure.  Good luck finding it though.
CNN Money just posted an article admitting that Obamacare is getting pricier for individuals but they are quick to point out - there's a reason for that.  The problem with the reason they offer, is that not only is it lame, it still doesn't justify anything that's happening now.
(emphasis added)
Attention those with individual insurance policies: Get ready to shop on the Obamacare exchanges and likely pay more for coverage.

Millions of Americans who now have insurance on the individual market will not be able to keep their policies, as President Obama had promised. That's because the plans don't meet the minimum standards required under the Affordable Care Act, including a $6,350 limit on annual out-of-pocket costs and coverage of mental health, maternity and medication.

These new requirements are forcing many insurers to either add benefits or terminate the policies. The new offerings usually come at higher rates because they offer more comprehensive coverage and must be offered to people with pre-existing conditions. Many insurers have been able to keep rates low because they offered catastrophic plans with high deductibles and minimal benefits, and they could cherry pick among applicants to only pick the healthiest ones.
President Obama  promised Americans that they could keep their policies. They can't.  The Affordable Care Act prohibits some existing plans from existing as is. Therefore the law explicitly is causing policies not to be grandfathered but rather mandated out of existence.  He signed the Affordable care Act into law.  Did he even read it?  Maybe he was waiting to pass it to find out what was in the bill. Either the president was lying when he said that you could keep your coverage, or like he claims is the case with NSA spying on world leaders, he has been clueless about the details.  Deceitful or incompetent, those appear to be the choices regarding the leader of the free world.
Assuming they didn't know these unintended consequences would occur, what makes any liberal think that they are right about the costs of Obamacare, or anything else related to it's implementation?
On a related note - they've said that the Healthcare.gov website would be fixed by the end of November.  Don't hold your breath.  Firstly, it's a big task and rushing the job will only exacerbate the underlying issues.  Secondly, under Obamacare, you are not likely covered for holding your breath.  There's a "breath panel" for that.

I've lost interest in the official unemployment rate

Frankly, I'm not sure I even care any more about the official U3 unemployment rate that gets published by the U.S. Department of Labor.  After seeing months of weird results where the economy adds an anemic number of jobs or actually lost jobs and the unemployment rate still dropped, a number of bloggers and journalists on the right did our part to start explaining the U6 unemployment rate which includes people who have stopped looking for jobs and is always a worse, but more realistic picture.  But the U6 started to look odd as well.  As labor force participation dropped to historic lows, the unemployment rate continued its gradual decline.  Certainly the government department wasn't fudging the results by doing things like constantly revising upward the numbers after the initial release hoping nobody would notice.  Oh wait, they were doing that.

Last week the unemployment rate in the U.S. for September was released.  It dropped in September (it was announced late incidentally, because of the government shutdown) to 7.2%.  But the economy doesn't feel like things are getting better.
U.S. businesses added a modest 148,000 jobs in September, far short of the 180,000 analysts were expecting. Still, job gains were enough to lower the unemployment rate to 7.2 percent, the lowest in nearly five years. But, the first jobs report since the government shutdown suggests the U.S. economy may be losing steam.

Concerns about the tepid U.S. recovery may be hurting the job market.
How many Recovery Summers does it take to actually equal a full recovery?  The saying numbers don't lie is being overpowered by the Mark Twain saying "there are lies, damned lies and statistics." The economy is sputtering not flourishing. Businesses are retrenching in order to maintain profit margins. Sears is just the latest example.
I guess the message here is trust your senses, and not what you read or see in the news and certainly not what your government is telling you.  Or at the very least, consider them before swallowing whole the official line of the Department of Labor.

October 28, 2013

Obamacare costs will not be neutral

CNN today has an article about the 'real story' behind what will actually happen with government spending as a result of Obamacare and tries to come down on the side that it might help a little.  In 1965, the government projected costs of Medicare/Medicaid and it was grossly underestimated. 

Is government too big to fail? Or just to big to do any good?

That progressives want to keep finding new areas for the government to get involved in (healthcare for example) is a misguided effort. It's based on the notion that government can always do things better and in a more compassionate way than any other delivery mechanism that exists.  But if it is possible that government does something worse than the private sector or charities or some other mechanism does, then the government is harming the effort to help the poor or whatever other objective progressives have in mind when they call for government involvement in an issue.  If that's the case in some circumstances, then progressives, wedded to the idea that government must be the solution, are misguided in their attempts at compassion.  Government is not the solution for everything.

October 27, 2013

Sunday Laugh - sleep

After explaining why we need sleep yesterday comes this shocking 'news' story via The Onion:
BOSTON—According to a new study published in The New England Journal Of Medicine this week, human beings were never meant to wake up after falling asleep, but were rather supposed to remain in a deep, peaceful slumber until eventually expiring. “Our research team of evolutionary biologists conducted an extensive and thorough examination of human physiology, past and present, and determined that human beings were, in their ideal state, supposed to be born, spend a solid 12 hours awake as an infant, and then lie down for a tranquil, dream-filled sleep from which they would then not awaken,” lead researcher Dennis Zeveloff said of the findings, which also suggest that life for early man was not supposed to last longer than one day. “Eventually, after spending three or four weeks lying comfortably in bed, humans were meant to just slide directly into death. In fact, the truly optimal state toward which human evolution aspired was for all individuals to succumb to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome almost instantly after exiting the womb.”
I guess lately I've gotten a lot closer to my biological imperative. 

October 26, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - sleep

Why do we need sleep anyway?

Saturday Learning Series - Connections re-work required

James Burke, historian.
The series I have been posting with such enthusiasm, Connections 2, one of 4 great series from historian James Burke, just turned private and I am not able to post any new videos from that source.

Worse still, all the previous videos have switched to private as well.  So they all need to be re-worked as well.  Luckily, the videos exist from other sources as well and I will hopefully be able to continue next week after the re-work is done.

Meanwhile I will post another unrelated Saturday Learning Series video later today to make up for the interruption.

October 25, 2013

On Democrats delaying Obamacare

How the World Works, on the possibility of Democrats delaying Obamcare.

Friday Musical Interlude - Chvrches

The Mother We Share by Chvrches:

October 24, 2013

Thursday Hillary Bash - Slagged by The New Yorker?

A quick bonus item on Hillary Clinton today - apparently someone unexpected sees her candidacy as a train wreck - New Yorker Magazine had this to say;
Do people really think that a Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign is a good idea—for the Democratic Party, our collective sanity, even for her? Maybe it doesn’t matter; some political locomotives just move ahead, even if the wreck is predestined, and her campaign is now coming around the bend...

This is not a matter of a woman in politics being unfairly asked about her husband’s business. Saying that her position as Secretary of State was not part of the bundle of power and what might be called glamour that the Foundation offered is not a serious proposition. And by adding her name at the moment she, to all appearances, is getting ready to run, she has effectively made future influence part of the Foundation’s prospectus...
You can read the article here.
yes, it's an attack from the left flank, but her path which will start to seem even more inevitable in the coming weeks as she rolls out her return to politics, in reality is becoming less so.

Thursday Hillary Bash - Hecklers

Hillary Clinton was heckled in a speech before 6,500 people in upstate NY.  While her response drew her a standing ovation among the highly supportive crowd, it be-speaks a hypocrisy that she, like Obama, will never be called to task over, by the mainstream media.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turned the tables on a heckler Wednesday, in an effort to make a point about the need to find common ground to solve the nation’s problems.

During a speech at the University at Buffalo, Clinton first ignored the man’s shouts as she spoke of Buffalo as a model for problem-solving through cooperation.

“Because we can’t move from crisis to crisis, we have to be willing to come together as citizens to focus on the kind of future we want,” she said. As the shouts grew louder from an upper section of bleachers, she added, “which doesn’t include yelling. It includes sitting down and talking.”
Hillary was not afraid to bash Obama during her presidential run of 2008. And her husband has been a frequent attack dog on her behalf in the subsequent years so she didn't have to sully herself with attacks but could them occur nonetheless.  In a cynical effort to prove herself to be in the middle of the political spectrum she's bashed the left as well.  She's bashed the media as not being up to the standards of Al Jazeera.

Most hypocritically, Clinton herself has attacked her political opponents recently in a moment as much do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do as we have seen in a long time;
Hillary Clinton has accused Republicans of pursuing "scorched earth" politics at her first campaign event in five years, raising hopes among supporters that she is preparing to run for US president in 2016.

At a rally in Virginia on Saturday night, the former secretary of state warned that the Republican Party's Right wing was determined to "hijack this great experiment" of America.

She urged the state's voters to elect her friend Terry McAuliffe as their next governor and "lead the way of turning from divisive politics and getting back to common sense and common ground".

"When politicians choose scorched earth over common ground, when they operate in what I call the evidence-free zone with ideology trumping everything else, we see that families in Virginia and across the country have felt the consequences," said Clinton.

Democrats such as Clinton accuse Tea Party conservatives of sabotaging the US political process by refusing to compromise on their opposition to President Barack Obama's agenda.
She wants the freedom to attack or demonize her opposition but wants them to sit down and compromise? That's not compromise or common ground - it's capitulation.

October 23, 2013

Shut down the government (for good)?

What's Next's take on the government shutdown should be good for a cynical laugh, no?

Calm, cool, and collected it isn't.  But I do get it.

Wouldn't you love to hear THIS conversation?

You know the NSA wants to hear it and probably already have.  Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called president Obama to complain about her mobile phone being targeted by the NSA.
News site Spiegel reported that Merkel's mobile may have been spied on by the US and the German Chancellor is taking the allegations seriously.

She demanded an explanation in the telephone conversation with Obama, Spiegel said.

Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel made it clear that she found such practices "completely unacceptable".

"The chancellor today telephoned President (Barack) Obama" and "made clear that she unequivocally disapproves of such practices, should they be confirmed, and regards them as completely unacceptable," he said.
Of course the U.S. spies on enemies and allies alike.  They have done so, like every other country, for centuries.  While Merkel's complaint is valid, I'm sure she isn't actually surprised.

The real question here is whether the NSA has lost its ability to keep what it's doing under the cover of darkness.  They are being outed regularly this year.  Has spying become too much for the NSA to handle, or does the bungling actually come right from the top?

Remember, all of this exposed spying is coming with a press compliant with the Obama agenda.  Yet no other president has seen so many spying efforts exposed as this one has.  It must be a real mess in D.C.

October 22, 2013

THIS is where 3rd party candidates work

When third party candidates crop up with a leftward tilt, it's worth fully supporting getting that information out there.  It's far better to see the left split the vote than to see it happen on the right and see Tea Party candidates killing GOP candidates thereby effectively enabling more Democratic rule. A fractured right is damaging in the long term for conservatives. A fractured left is always helpful. So seeing this sort of thing, is encouraging.
Marianne Williamson, the best-selling author whose “A Return to Love” spent 39 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 1992, announced Sunday that she is running as an independent for the US House of Representatives in California’s 33rd District, a seat currently held by 74-year old Democrat Henry Waxman, one of the most powerful members of Congress.

Williamson, who made her candidacy official Sunday afternoon at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, has written extensively about the moral and spiritual underpinnings of US politics in many of her books, including “Healing the Soul of America,” a 2000 best-seller that focuses on transforming spiritual activism into social activism.

The theme of Williamson’s campaign is “Create Anew.”

Williamson writes on her campaign website that Waxman has been a good representative for 38 years and that she does not consider him an opponent. Rather, she sees them both as simply different candidates for the same position. In seeking to encourage “a new consciousness regarding our political discourse,” Williamson hopes to stem the trend toward corporatism that has been so prevalent in recent decades.

“American government has lost its ethical center and its deep commitment to democracy, drifting ever more consistently in a corporatist direction,” Williamson writes. “And no one specific legislative initiative can fix that. I believe that a wave of independent candidates, all committed to a huge course-correction, is necessary to turn our ship around. I feel my campaign, and most importantly my win, can help inspire such a movement.”
That's a certainly a liberal candidate.  Let's hope it amounts to a serious challenge. If the left splits functionally, that would be the only viable way for the Tea Party to split off from the GOP and be anything more than a spoiler party.

Obamacare website is a symptom, not the disease

There's no doubt that the website for Obamacare has been a disaster.  If you ask anyone in the White House they might be more inclined to describe it as merely 'problematic'.  Even accepting that optimistic premise, the issue is merely a sideshow to the real problem.  The problems with Obamacare extend far beyond the website failures and even beyond the lack of sign-ups to the entitlement program.  The real problems are within the legislation itself, and the website issues are a mere symptom of the root problem: government fallibility.  The government despite what progressives would have you believe is very far from a perfect institution and much of what it does results in failure.  That problem, combined with the mindset of the current White House crew, is what ensures that Obamacare will be a disaster, and the website issues are a mere reflection of how the entire program will get snarled up and bogged down.

The 1965 Social Security Act Amendment to establish Medicare and Medicaid (Public Law 89-97, 79 STAT 286) had fewer words than there are pages in Obamacare.  In fact the Social Security Act of 1935 had just under 9000 words.  Obamacare is 2700+ pages. If you take the failings and shortcomings of Medicare and Medicaid and anticipate an order of magnitude increase in the number of problems you're getting to the right ballpark. 

The fact that the Healthcare.gov website was problematic after years of time to be prepared and built is not surprising.  What is surprising disturbing is the government being caught so flat-footed and deceitful in response to it.  A business expecting to roll out a new product does product testing, in technology projects stress testing and user acceptance testing are common practice.  Typically delayed launches result when there are issues so close to the launch.  Not so the government.
For the three weeks of the ObamaCare exchange rollout debacle, the White House has tried to claim that the issues relate to the overwhelming popularity and web traffic at Heathcare.gov. As late as yesterday, Barack Obama himself claimed that “the number of people who’ve visited the site has been overwhelming, which has aggravated some of these underlying problems,” in a speech that mentioned no other causes to the failure. Last night, the Washington Post reported that the Department of Health and Human Services tested the system just before launch with just a few hundred concurrent connections — and experienced the same failures we’ve seen since...
Given the bureaucratic nature and massive size of government it actually isn't that surprising that the Titanic would continue sail with the iceberg of technical failure dead ahead.  But the iceberg of technical failure are not what will sink Obamacare.  They merely reflect the nature of future problems within the law itself.  This 'super-smart' leadership has never shown an inclination to be forward thinking and have the ability to anticipate and prepare for problems.  Look at developments in Egypt, Iran or the BP oil spill.  All fluster, bluster and no contingencies. 
In real terms, the technical problems will be minor compared to the implosion destined to happen when the full mandate takes effect.  The Republicans trying to block the implementation of Obamacare are in effect trying to do Obama a favor (as well as the nation) by stopping this cluster bomb (you thought I was going somewhere else with the metaphor?) before it dropped on America.  They would have saved Obama the embarrassment of his signature legislation being the biggest, most humiliating boondoggle in the history of American governance.  It's almost tempting enough to stand back and watch it happen and then play the "see we told ya so" card.  If it were not for America's national economic well-being, I'd say let it happen.  Oh wait, it looks like the GOP is already on top of that idea.

October 21, 2013

Science, religion and the Dark Ages

I've long held a notion to post an essay about how science and religion can co-exist quite successfully but I've never gotten around to doing more than mentioning it, and not done it justice.  As part of the discussion, an entire book could be written on the subject of debunking the notion that the Dark Ages were a result of Christianity and the Roman Catholic church (in fact all organized Christian religion).

Now it looks like that portion of the effort - the Dark Ages part - is less necessary. RealClearScience has a terrific article by Alex B. Berezow and James Hannam that does a lot of that legwork in refuting the discussions of Jerry Coyne.
Historians have long realized that the great conflict between science and religion is a myth. But it continues to be an article of faith among the New Atheists. In contrast to his views on evolution, Dr. Coyne thinks that he can ignore the evidence from history and disregard the settled view of experts in the field. But, being a scholar and a rational man, we’re sure that he will change his mind if shown to be wrong.
From that premise, they take apart portions of Coyne's arguments with astute observations.
Actually, historians start the Western scientific tradition with the “12th Century Renaissance” 500 years before Galileo. If you want to know why there were not many people doing natural philosophy before that, the answer includes words like “barbarian invasions,” “collapse of civilization,” “Huns,” “Goths,” and “Vikings.” The fact that some scientific knowledge survived the upheaval after the fall of the Roman Empire was largely due to the Church.
They argue that Christianity was not a barrier to scientific achievement but that it in fact supported it in spite of all of the other factors that kept impeding progress.
What’s truly amazing is just how much science early Christians were doing. John Philoponus (c. 490 – c. 570) was one of the first Christian professors in Alexandria. Historians today are stunned by his achievements.

As a Christian, Philoponus was happy to ditch pagan orthodoxy and start afresh. So he was the first to actually do the experiment of dropping stones, proving Aristotle wrong about falling objects. Alas, shortly after he died, Egypt was invaded by the Persians and then by the Arabs. Alexandria lost its status as an important center of learning, while the Byzantine Empire went into siege mode as it fought an existential struggle for survival. Not a great environment for science!
It's worth reading, and certainly worth a lot more discussion. For too long Christianity has shouldered the blame for a millennia of turtle-like scientific progress and such is not the case.  Never has there been a need to view science as the antithesis of religion.  There have been times and places where it has been, but the story has been oversold as THE cause for delay in human progress.  However there were also times and places where monasteries were the ones keeping the candle of knowledge from flickering out entirely in Europe. Credit, where it is due, is lacking.

What Liberals Think - Overpopulation Countdown

There's a portion of the liberal crowd that believes that there are too many people in the world and what would be best for Mother Earth and the environment is a drastic reduction in the number of people who exist.  In more simplistic terms, people are bad.  No doubt given the opportunity to decide whom to remove from the planet, conservatives would be their first targets.

Unfortunately, now they have some opinion, masquerading as authoritative science behind them in the form of a book called Countdown by Alan Weisman.

It sounds like time to panic.

October 20, 2013

Sunday Laughs - Help Obama start WW3

Want to help Obama kickstart WW3?  Watch this and just enjoy the comedy.

October 19, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - New Harmony

James Burke, historian.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997). 
Series continued from Episode 10.
Note - If you are interested in the Connections series or Connections 3 or The Day The Universe Changed, they can be found here.

Here's episode 11 of Connections 2, New Harmony.

October 18, 2013

Friday Musical Interlude - Men At Work

The 1981 hit from Men At Work that preceded Down Under, Who Can It Be Now?   Making paranoia catchy and up-tempo and fun.

For Ford's sake, now it's "peak car"?

Popular Science had an infographic not only implying, but stating that we have hit peak car - the notion that the number of cars will decline over time.  There are a lot of flaws with taking a single statistical trend and making such broad based assertions based upon it. 
First, let's assume that the data in the infographic is irrefutable. 
What the author concludes, that "Since the country hit 'peak car' in 2005, Americans are now driving the same number of miles they did 15 years ago. That's the longest downward trend recorded."  The use of the term peak car is particularly egregious.  The author does admit that gas prices and an economic downturn have contributed to the trend but notes that the trend has been dramatic. 
It's not difficult to take issue with the notion that peak miles means peak car.  Of course gas prices have impacted pleasure driving. But business driving has also been impacted.  Commuters certainly have the option of taking public transit for example.  But that does not mean those commuters do not still have a car and are simply driving to a train station instead of all the way to work.  Similarly, with the advent of the Internet, email and cheap mobile communication salesmen no longer need to drive around a tri-state area in order to get sales.  Websites, emails and calling have made their jobs more efficient and less dependent on vehicular travel. 
Destination driving is less prevalent.  If I want a particular type of torque wrench I no longer need to drive from hardware store to hardware store looking for it.  I can find out online who has one in stock, at the best price, in the model I prefer and drive to that store only to purchase it instead of driving around town shopping for one.  Heck, I can buy it online if the job can wait a few days.
But perhaps the author means peak car usage as opposed to peak car volume.  That also assumes that trucks are not calculated in the equation.  Even if personal small trucks are factored into the infographic, my torque wrench example above, is probably being delivered by a FedEx truck if I order it online.  Those miles are not likely included in the above measurements.
More important than the cause and effect discussion is the notion that the long term trend will be a decline or stabilization of the trends.  What is that based on?  To declare that car driving will never reach or exceed previous recorded levels is tantamount to saying mankind will never fly.  It is short-sited and based on nothing more conclusive than a downturn in a graph.  Perhaps the author is right.  Perhaps the information age has replaced the need for as much transportation as in the past.  But that remains to be seen and there is startlingly insufficient evidence presented here to make that case.
It overlooks potential advances in transportation, such as electrical or hydrogen powered cars that may someday make travel by car so inexpensive that it vastly exceeds the 2005 'peak'.  50 years from now the car driving environment could easily be radically different from today.  Such bold predictions tend to inevitably be proved silly.  It's almost enough to make me wonder if this is merely an offshoot of the peak oil environmentalist movement with a hidden agenda.  The conclusion is too simplistic, too lacking in supporting data to belong in a science magazine and the publishers should know better.

October 17, 2013

Thursday Hillary Bash - Hillary Clinton racking up 'awards'

Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize before he did anything for peace.  Not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton is racking up awards at a blistering pace that smacks of PR for both her and her nominators.  I mentioned the Elton John driven award a while back.  But there have been more - a lot more, according to the Washington Post.  These may serve her storyline well going into 2016, but do they really mean anything at all?
This summer, the American Bar Association gave her its highest honor for her work as a lawyer. The National Constitution Center feted her work as a public servant. Save the Children gave her an award for . . . helping save children. Last week, Clinton flew to London to receive yet another award — this one a scroll signed by Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her work as a diplomat.

In all, Clinton has racked up at least 15 awards in the nine months since she left the State Department, with more to come at the same time she is weighing a presidential campaign in 2016. Her supporters say the accolades are well deserved. But it also appears that Clinton has figured out how to leverage the awards to her political advantage, just as the groups honoring her benefit from having the would-be candidate promote their causes.

The awards circuit has effectively become Clinton’s pre-campaign campaign, allowing her to speak out on issues of her choosing and cement ties with key Democratic constituencies — all with little apparent political risk.
The awards come from constituencies she needs to tie up before the 2016 primaries.  She will.  These awards in some small part will help with that.  But in the general election, they won't matter much. Still, the Post does eventually point out the benefit to Clinton is what will draw her to an event that will benefit the event holders;
Most of Clinton’s public appearances this year have come at tightly choreographed awards ceremonies or at closed-press trade conventions, such as one held Tuesday morning in Atlanta by the National Association of Convenience Stores. Some appearances net her upward of $200,000.

“It appears the only way to get Hillary to do an event is to either write her a big check or to give her a trophy,” said Tim Miller, executive director of America Rising PAC, the leading Republican group going after Clinton in anticipation of her 2016 candidacy.
Hmm. Tightly choreographed seems to be the defined Clinton approach.

Thursday Hillary Bash - The Clampdown

Control, at a freakish level, is the approach of team Hillary as far as her speaking engagements have gone.  The story is starting in small part to become about the level of control she wants to exert over her appearances rather than what she actually has to say.  She's clamped down on reporting of her events.  Tight control of the message is one thing, being secretive is entirely another.

Via the Washington Post:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) is riding a compelling Hillary Rodham Clinton story. It’s not so much about her quite-possible presidential run. Nor is it about the Clinton family’s foundation. Nor Benghazi. It’s about how Clinton is attempting the impossible: Turning a speech into something approaching an off-the-record occasion.

This morning, the former secretary of state was in Atlanta for a speaking engagement before the National Association of Convenience and Fuel Retailing (NACS). As the AJC reported yesterday, members of the media were barred from the session. Today it reported that a “cone of silence” had descended on her remarks. “Convention officials banned all video and sound recording, social media, and naturally, journalists,” wrote the AJC’s Greg Bluestein and Jim Galloway...

Other sites are already picking up on the AJC’s story, which the newspaper concedes is none too solid: “Hearsay from Hillary Clinton: On Joe Biden and the Osama bin Laden raid,” reads the headline.
The latter paragraph speaks to a story about Hillary apparently bashing her perceived opponent Joe Biden but not wanting the public to hear about it. It's as if she's got a Mitt Romney 43% moment coming for her and she wants to prevent it. If she's not careful, she'll manufacture her own.

Thursday Hillary Bash - I park for free, understand?

In London to pick up an award for her 'contribution' to international diplomacy, Hillary Clinton got a parking ticket.  Apparently she thinks she's too big of a deal to have to pay for parking.
"The former U.S. secretary of state was parked for nearly 45 minutes without paying. I'm sure she will understand that we have to be fair to everyone, regardless of their status on the world stage, Councilor Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council Cabinet member for business, told the Mail.

"Despite our traffic marshal being questioned by the secret service for just doing his job, he was in the right," he added.

The ticket came with an £80 ($128) fine but could be reduced to £40 ($64) if it's paid within two weeks.

A Clinton representative wasn't immediately available to comment.

The former First Lady had been attending an award ceremony at Chatham House to pick up a prize related to her contributions to international diplomacy.
A parking ticket is not a big deal, worthy of a bash.  Perhaps however, the lack of planning that should go along with paying to park at an event in London is an issue.  It's a simple thing to bring along some money or a credit card to pay to park.  Otherwise perhaps, she just feels it is beneath her to have to pay.  Constables in London, feel otherwise.

October 16, 2013

Quite simply, I agree

Zo talks about the government's maxed out credit cards

Despite my own feeling of ennui (a sense of weary boredom - from French and Latin) with the antics surrounding government shutdown, and the debt ceiling there is still meaning in what's being debated.  Let's not lose sight of that.

Zo breaks it down for those who haven't paid attention:

The boring default

I haven't written much about the current political standoff in D.C. over the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, the possible government default and the effort to delay or impede the implementation of Obamacare.  It's not that I haven't been following the situation - I have.  Neither is it that the issues at stake are not tremendously important - they are.  But for the most part this has been a "nothing new under the sun" non-event for me.  It's the same old, same old and it isn't going to make one bit of difference from the last attempt at brinksmanship by all concerned.

October 15, 2013

Liberal Shenanigans

I'm calling Shenanigans on the liberal Democrats running the country.  Two stories on Fox News caught my attention today, firstly, one about Democrats nixing the GOP proposal to solve the debt ceiling showdown - BEFORE they have even seen what is in the plan.  They continue to get away with such ludicrous behavior because the press are unwilling to call them on such blatantly hyper-political acts, in a climate where Democrats claim the sky will fall if a deal isn't reached.
The White House and its Democratic allies in Congress moved to shoot down an emerging House Republican budget proposal before it even left the ground, blasting the late-breaking plan as a "partisan" product that would imperil efforts to meet the looming debt-ceiling deadline.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid turned a deaf ear, declaring categorically that it "won't pass the Senate."

But Republicans, who say their counter-proposal is still being worked out, claimed the details of their plan are not so far off from a bipartisan approach being crafted in the Senate. Both plans would fund the government through mid-January and raise the debt ceiling through February -- a key difference is the House framework would delay a controversial medical device tax in ObamaCare. Republicans urged Democrats to give it a chance, and questioned why they would preemptively reject it.
How long until Democrats claim the Republicans aren't serious about solving the crisis and have put nothing on the table? Shenanigans. But it doesn't end there. Here's another scandal in the making - former ACORN staff are working on behalf of Obamacare, getting people to sign up for the program.
A group formed from the ruins of ACORN is hard at work signing people up for ObamaCare, and may be collecting taxpayer cash for their work despite Congress' efforts to cut the organization and its affiliates off from government funding, a watchdog group charged.

The United Labor Unions Council Local 100, a New Orleans-based nonprofit, announced last month it would take part in a multi-state "navigator" drive to help people enroll in President Obama's health care plan. The labor council was established by ACORN founder Wade Rathke after his larger group was broken up amid scandal in 2009 and banned from receiving taxpayer funds.

“At a time when our government has ceased functioning due to an appropriations gap, it is ironic that America’s tax dollars are being doled out to an entity whose poor stewardship of our funds was well-established by Congress,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, a nonpartisan watchdog group based in Washington.
Shenanigans. This administration has been up to shenanigans on an epic scale and will continue to do so until 2016 because they simply are not going to be forced to answer for them. Benghazi, the IRS scandal, the NSA snooping on journalists and regular Americans like all other scandals have simply been ridden out. The stomach turns at it.  How is this all allowed to continue?

Progressive Pope Redux

Quite a while back (well, in April) a said I had an issue with the new Pope - he was a socialist, progressive.  While he might attract a new crowd to the church, he is still pursuing a progressivist (i.e. socially liberal, anti-capitalist) agenda.  It looks like the Washington Post has caught up to the fact that conservative Catholics are catching up to the Papal political predilections.
Rattled by Pope Francis’s admonishment to Catholics not to be “obsessed” by doctrine, his stated reluctance to judge gay people and his apparent willingness to engage just about anyone — including atheists — many conservative Catholics are doing what only recently seemed unthinkable:

They are openly questioning the pope.
But what the Washington Post regards as liberal, isn't in synch with what the Pope is actually propagating. In fact, the WaPo misses what is at the root of the question, entirely.  Nevertheless, they forge ahead with the premise.
During the previous three decades, popes John Paul II and Benedict shared a focus: Make orthodox teachings crystal clear so Catholics don’t get lost in an increasingly messy, relativistic world.

Catholics also became accustomed to popes who were largely speaking to “the Church,” rather than the public. These men often communicated in the language of Catholic theology, and through books, not through long, freewheeling interviews, like Pope Francis.
So the Pope is trying to get converts to Catholicism by talking to non-Catholics rather preaching to the choir, so to speak? That's not so radical. But that's not all the Pope is doing.  In addition to what I blogged about, a lot has been made about the Pope's comments on the world financial system: not that money is the root of all evil, but that preventing governments from doing good was a problem of capitalism.  That is highly debatable - what about corruption, and governmental inefficiency and despotic governments to name a few other causes.

Papal infallibility may be a difficult mental hurdle for some to overcome but not all Catholics just swallow Papal statements as pardon the expression, gospel.
Speaking to newly accredited ambassadors to the Vatican, Pope Francis attacked the ‘‘dictatorship’’ of the global financial system, and warned that the ‘‘cult of money’’ was making life a misery for millions.

He blamed “ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and “thus deny the right of control to states”, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.”

He further blamed inadequate regulation which has resulted in “a new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny … one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules.”

He said, “Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life,” he said, quoting St. John Chrysostom. “It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs.”
Again, I'm not Catholic though I was baptized Catholic.  So my opinion may not resonate with devout Catholics.  But it seems to me that "Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them ..." is again a simplification.  Doesn't it make more sense to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish?  In the end, the former choice is actually more compassionate.  You can feed a man for life if you teach him to catch the fish himself.  To do otherwise is to short change the man by giving him one fish instead of thousands.  Alternately you could give the man a fish every day but then he becomes dependent on you.  That might serve your own sense of moral goodness (falsely) but it takes away the mans self-sufficiency, and sense of self and his own moral obligation to try, and to work.  That to me, is really robbing the poor.
It's okay to help, but if it becomes a crutch, it serves no one well.  I'm no Pope but that is my opinion.

October 14, 2013

Canadian Thanksgiving / Columbus Day

I'm off today and not really writing.  It's Thanksgiving here in Canada.  Just like we like to get our July 1st Canada Day in before the U.S. gets in it's July 4th holiday, we like to be first with Thanksgiving as well.  Or it might be related to the fact that it does get colder here earlier and we don't want to be eating frostbitten fare at our Thanksgiving Day celebrations.  Other than that, it's pretty much the same as in the U.S. - turkey and lots of other food, giving thanks, and watching football. 
Of course there are some differences.  Our Thanksgiving football does not include the Lions or the Cowboys, just Canadian Football League and whatever NFL Monday Night game is on.  Oh, and we don't have a Black Friday following it since our Thanksgiving is on a Monday.  The American Black Friday has become our Canadian Black Friday, since we all used to go cross border shopping and Canadian businesses were losing out by not competing.   The same is even more true for cyber-Monday, it's not just an American phenomenon.
In any case, Happy Columbus Day to my American friends and Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends.

October 13, 2013

Sunday Laugh - Halloween Edition: scary pranks

Some entertaining scary pranks since it's Halloween this month.

October 12, 2013

Saturday Learning Series - Connections 2, Deja Vu

James Burke, historian.
James Burke's series Connections and The Day The Universe Changed in the late 1970s and mid-1980s respectively were very successful at taking a historical and philosophical look at scientific change.  The two series led to a Connections sequel (Connections 2) in 1994, with James Burke still at the helm of the project (and another, Connections 3 in 1997). 
Series continued from Episode 9.
Note - If you are interested in the Connections series or Connections 3 or The Day The Universe Changed, they can be found here.

Here's episode 10 of Connections 2, Deja Vu.

October 11, 2013

Friday Musical Interlude - Pumpin' Blood

The 2013 release Pumpin' Blood from Swedish trio NONONO.  It's an uplifting song that I dare you to not find catchy. It was featured recently in an NFL pregame show (I don't recall which one).


October 9, 2013

Talk is cheap - it costs Obama nothing

And the promise to talk, if only the GOP buckles and raises the debt ceiling first, costs even less than nothing.  It's an Obama "let me win" ploy that sets up any talks.  The good news is that at least Boehner gets that if he gives up his cards, he's got nothing left to bargain with.

Via CNN:
Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama is ready to talk even on Republicans' terms, he insisted Tuesday, so long as Congress acts first to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling -- even for a short period.

At a news conference, Obama indicated Republicans could essentially set the agenda for budget negotiations, but only if Congress agrees first to a short-term spending plan to fund the government and to raise the federal borrowing limit to avoid a possible first-ever U.S. default next week.

"I will talk about anything," the president said.

House Speaker John Boehner, speaking Tuesday afternoon after what he called a "pleasant" but ineffectual phone call with Obama, promptly rejected the president's comments as nothing new.

"What the president said today was if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk to us," Boehner said. "That's not the way our government works."
It reminds me of the joke about the guy who offers a woman $5 to sleep with him, and when she's offended he offers her $100,000.  When she accepts he tries again at $20.  She asks what kind of woman he thinks she is and he responds "We've already established that, now we are just haggling over price."
Obama wants the GOP to capitulate 'if only a little', because he knows once they have done so, they can't go back to bargain from a strong position.  In fact they can't go back to their constituency and say they stood firm.  He knows that.  He knows he has again won the PR battle.  By appearing conciliatory the press can gloss over Boehner's response or portray it as steadfast obstinacy. 
Given that, there's now no point in capitulating if the press goes there.

Yellen at the Fed

If The Telegraph is to be believed, the next Fed chair (whom the author of the piece, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, seems to highly regard) is going to keep pumping.

After an entire article in which Yellen gets praised, the lead of the story is buried near the final paragraph;
So there we have it. The next chairman of the Fed is going to track the labour participation rate. Money will stay loose. Markets have been spared again. The Brics can breathe easier.

This leaves me deeply uneasy. We are surely past the point where we can keep using QE to pump up asset prices. My view is that emergency stimulus should henceforth be deployed only to inject money directly into the veins of the economy as an adjunct to the US Treasury, by fiscal dominance, as deemed necessary.
So despite all her supposed savvy and prescient skills, she's going to do exactly the wrong thing.  The article fills me with unease as much for all the misguided praise as for the correct conclusion.

October 8, 2013

New York Times, SCOTUS docket news and/or editorializing

Yesterday, someone left a copy of the New York Times on the train.  I don't normally get to see the NYT, because (1) I'm in Canada, not New York, and (2) I certainly wouldn't buy one at a local newsstand here (yes, many do carry it, as well as USA Today and the Washington Post) because I'm well aware of their biases. 
So, out of curiosity I picked it up to peruse the articles.  A lot of what gets reported about the New York Times are their more liberal pieces.  I found out that the reason is because most of their articles are indeed from a very liberal bent.  That was certainly the case yesterday at least.
There's so much I could comment on and point out their liberal slant, but the effort would be tiresome.  Bias aside, there was one article about the docket for the Supreme Court in its term that started yesterday.  Strip out the bias and there is some important factual stuff in there about a number of precedents that are in play and could be overturned by the Supreme Court.  Among them are issues relating to political contributions, the First Amendment, government prayers, federal treaties, affirmative action (again) and abortion.
That is indeed news, and worth conservatives taking note over.  Good reporting in this instance, but bad editorializing.  Honestly though, who among us reads the NYT?  It's a shame they are so clearly liberal that conservatives that cannot stomach it, do not bother to read the NYT paper.  I found the article online, you can read it here, if you really want to do so.

China to US: Raise your debt ceiling.

Make no mistake, China is America's geo-political adversary of the 21st century.  There are no scenarios in the Chinese mindset that equate to a win-win with the United States and China both benefiting from the relationship.  So when China gives advice like this, you have to wonder not about the short term implications of their statements, but rather the long term ones;
The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Zhu Guangyao, told America’s deadlocked politicians on Monday that “the clock is ticking” and called on them to approve an extension of the national borrowing limit before the federal government is projected to run out of cash on 17 October.

“We ask that the United States earnestly takes steps to resolve in a timely way the political issues around the debt ceiling and prevent a US debt default to ensure the safety of Chinese investments in the United States,” Mr Zhu told reporters in Beijing. “This is the United States’ responsibility,” he added.
China clearly has to protect its investments, there's no issue with them wanting to protect their holdings.  But a debt default is not really at risk.  The real concern when China wants you to raise your debt ceiling is that you know that they know it weakens the United States in the longer term.  China also has to know that they are under no real short term risk.  The U.S. will not default on it's debts. Doing so would be catastrophic.
So China is playing the long game, wanting to do what it can to undermine U.S. power down the road and supplant them as the single global superpower.  It's all the more reason to get your fiscal house in order.   I doubt however that will happen anytime soon.  So as we speak, China, suggestions are not, are still winning.  and the United States keeps losing ground.

October 7, 2013

Quote of the Day

It's only Monday or this gem from Allahpundit at Hot Air, would get quote of the week.  As a matter of fact, I don't see anyone topping this one this week.
Said O this weekend of his massive technological faceplant, “Folks are working around the clock and have been systematically reducing the wait times.” No doubt that’s true; the shutdown might stop the feds from manning the Amber Alert site, but rest assured they’ll find a loophole to keep repairs to Healthcare.gov humming.
Summing up the hypocrisy of the White House, while pointing out the complete failure of the Obamacare web portal in two short sentences is quite impressive.

No more Obama SCOTUS nominees please

So it begins - the not so subtle liberal attempt to squeeze out Ruth Bader Ginsberg from the Supreme Court before president Obama is gone and the risk of the next president being a Republican means a more likely conservative replacement Supreme Court Justice.  The not so subtle subtext of a Washington Post piece reads as a hint to Ginsberg to 'hit the bricks'.

The puffery of the WaPo piece, designed to flatter Ginsberg, begins almost immediately;
Ginsburg is doing what she always does this time of year. On a respite from one of her passions — the law — she is indulging the others: opera and family. Ginsburg considers the Santa Fe Opera the finest summer opera company in the world. For years, first with her late husband, Marty, and now with her children and grandchildren, she spends a week in Santa Fe, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and when she returns east she says to herself: “What happened to my sky?”

There are tours of the countryside and hikes in the hills. There is VIP access to the works of Georgia O’Keeffe. There are sumptuous dinners prepared by her daughter, Jane, that last until 2:30 in the morning.
But it not so subtly gives way to the title of the article - stay or go? - with a clear hint that GO is the way to go.
“We need her to stay forever,” says one woman after Ginsburg walked past.

“Or,” her companion replies, “leave right now.”
The article pays lip service to the notion that it's because of her advancing age before laying out the real reason liberals want her gone (and it's not because she's fallen asleep during cases).
There are no set rules for when a justice leaves her lifetime appointment, although for Ginsburg there is no shortage of advice. The first justice nominated by a Democratic president in 26 years when President Bill Clinton chose her, she has been nudged to leave ever since the election of another Democratic president who could choose her replacement.

The court has four consistent liberals, including Ginsburg, and four consistent conservatives, and the justice in the middle, Anthony M. Kennedy, is a Ronald Reagan-nominee who more often than not sides with conservatives. If the court’s membership does not change before the 2016 election, the new president would see a Supreme Court with four of its nine members older than 77, including half of the liberal bloc.

“The reality of the court, and the parties, these days is that Ginsburg ... should know that a justice selected by President Rubio or President Jindal or President Cruz is going to produce a very different nation than one selected by Barack Obama,” wrote political scientist Jonathan Bernstein in The Washington Post. He was not the first.
We should be happy the Clinton appointee is a target of liberals these days. But for conservatives, or any one who prefers an non-interventionist Supreme Court, right now is probably the worst time for her to go.  If there's a chance for her to outlast Obama, we should encourage her to stay on.  Failing that, I say we Bork whoever Obama nominates.  And not in a limp-wristed way the GOP did with Sotomayor or Kagan.
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