Thursday, May 31, 2012

Your California high-speed choo-choo update


Since we didn't put our marker down, we can't take any credit for seeing this one coming but we really should've seen it such was the predictableness of it all.

In what looked like merely shuffling of the deck furniture when the California High-Speed Rail Authority swapped out HMFICs, turns out to be quite juicy if you're into political intrigue, arm-twisting, conflicts of interest and cronyism.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority on Tuesday named Jeff Morales, an executive for a contractor working on the bullet train project, as its chief executive, filling a position that has been vacant since early January.

Morales, a former Caltrans director, had been working on the project as an executive of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the project manager for the rail authority.

Morales, a 1983 biology graduate of George Washington University, was appointed Caltrans director by then-Gov. Gray Davis. Morales left Caltrans 31/2 years later when Davis was voted out of office. Morales has also served as executive director of the Chicago Transit Authority, the Obama transition team and former Vice President Al Gore's attempts to improve federal efficiency.

Of course, he did.

And what of the outgoing boss?

Morales will fill the job that was last occupied by Roelof van Ark, who had shunned the political aspects of his post and attempted to focus on the engineering challenges. But that approach led to a wholesale loss of confidence in the Legislature, and ultimately Gov. Jerry Brown asserted greater control over the project, jettisoning Van Ark in January.

For the largest engineering/construction project in this nation's history and all the troubles that have befallen it, the previous paragraph illustrates perfectly how it's no longer about building the skids rather greasing them.

Back to the article:

The hiring of Morales appears to further strengthen the ties between the rail authority and its top contractor, Parsons Brinckerhoff. The contractor, which was a major contributor to the 2008 campaign to approve a $9-billion bond for the bullet train, has hundreds of employees assigned to the project, compared with fewer than 50 for the authority.

Outside activists say that although Morales may be a good choice, they are increasingly concerned about the tight relationship the authority has created with Parsons Brinckerhoff and the larger revolving door between the authority and its contractors.

"Those lines are becoming more blurred every day," said Elizabeth Alexis, a co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design.
(italics, ours)

... further strengthen the ties...

Yes, that would be one way of putting it.

Skepticism is bipartisan:

"The rail authority claims it conducted a nationwide search just to end up with an executive from its biggest contractor?" asked state Sen. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale). "How can we expect this insider to provide an independent review of the project, when he helped write the plan that's already doubled the cost to taxpayers? It's difficult to believe that Mr. Morales can be counted on to drive a hard bargain with the company that has been paying his salary."

Senate transportation committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) said, "I am troubled by the relationship. It is hard to separate the conflicts."

Good god. Does this all stink to high heaven or what? Massively over-budget, massively behind schedule and massively understaffed so they do the only thing they can do at this point: they bring in a politically-connected fixer from the project's largest contractor to get this thing done by hook or by crook regardless of the shady appearances it bears.

Of course, they did. Of course, they did. And we never saw it coming. Shame on us.


Solyndra: explained? (UPDATED)


(please scroll down for update)

So many different directions to go with but suffice to say that explaining how private equity's private dollars are utilized versus how $535 million public/tax-payer dollars and over one-thousand jobs are flushed down the toilet of crony capitalist wastefulness is a tough sell to a White House press corps that finally appears to be taking an interest in this scrap that Team O wants to fight.

(warning: we may have outlawed waterboarding but this is still going to be a torturous 51 seconds for White House press secretary, Jay Carney)

uhh... what we think he is trying to say is that even when picking winners and losers loses, the President is obliglated to spend even more money to re-train, re-locate or otherwise prop up the lives and careers of people in which he had no business in the first place. Being a paternalistic big brother is a full-time gig, people. Just ask Julia.

We do feel bad for Carney, however. Explaining away the failures of corporatism and crony capitalism is never an easy gig, especially when it's not you but your boss that's responsible. Maybe we can help out Carney and find his boss a new gig on K Street or the rubber chicken circuit come November to put an end to this crap.


Maybe this guy can explain it:


Mitt Romney arrived at the shuttered headquarters of Solyndra Inc. this morning, a surprise visit that was shrouded in secrecy and part of the presumptive GOP presidential candidate’s attack on President Obama’s record on jobs creation.

“Two years ago President Obama was here to tout this building and this business as a symbol of the success of his stimulus,” said Romney, stepping off a bus and onto the public sidewalk in front of the Solyndra buildings just outside Silicon Valley. “Well you can see that it’s a symbol of something very different today.”

“It’s a symbol not of success but of failure,” he said. “It’s also a symbol of a serious conflict of interest. An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family – to campaign contributors. This building, this half a billion dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team.”

“It’s also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise,” said Romney. “Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”

Hitting Obama for failing to understand and respect free enterprise? Check.

Hitting Obama for not job creation but rather job destruction? Check.

Hitting Obama for cronyism. Check.

This was Romney's first campaign event since he clinched the GOP nomination and Solyndra provided the perfect backdrop in which to highlight the failings of the Obama administration.

Exit question: For you O-bots out there that decried the corporatism of the Bush administration: How do you square the circle of the current administration that has turned corporatism into an art form?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Your mid-week, martini-worthy photo image


This past Saturday afforded us the opportunity to do a day-trip with family and friends out at Joshua Tree with a mandatory trip to the road house Pappy and Harriet’s afterwards for some grub and brews. (Hot tip: get the Santa Maria tri-tip which is open pit-grilled over mesquite lumps. Fellas: is there any finer smell on the planet?)

We stumbled across the following gem on our Gram Parsons Pandora channel a few days ago. Unfortunately, the particular version with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris is not available on Youtube so instead we’re posting a very worthy version of this beautiful country-spiritual “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night” featuring Emmylou and Rodney Crowell.

Oh, for cryin' out loud... Embed no workie so please go here. Trust us - you'll love the song or your money back.

And is Pappy and Harriet's an appropriate place to take children?

Hey, no worries, they've got a day care center...


California's disgrace


The dismal state of the state of California owes much to basic incompetence and a religious zeal for failed statist policies but as you are about to find out there is also a moral failing that is at once symptomatic and causal to California’s overall wretchedness.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, California lawmakers sought a way to channel the patriotic fervor and use it to help victims' families and law enforcement. Their answer: Specialty memorial license plates emblazoned with the words, "We Will Never Forget."

Part of the money raised through the sale of the plates was to fund scholarships for children of California residents who perished in the attacks, while the majority -- 85 percent -- was to help fund anti-terrorism efforts.

But a review by The Associated Press of the $15 million collected since lawmakers approved the "California Memorial Scholarship Program" shows only a small fraction of the money went to scholarships. While 40 percent has funded anti-terror training programs, $3 million was raided by Gov. Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to plug the state's budget deficit.

Millions more have been spent on budget items with little relation to direct threats of terrorism, including livestock diseases and workplace safety.

Moreover, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been advertising the plates as helping the children of Sept. 11 victims, even though the state stopped funding the scholarship program seven years ago. The specialty plate fund continues to take in $1.5 million a year.

Somebody ought to do something about this, right? Well, how about one of the people responsible for this pilfering in the first place?

Late Tuesday, in response to the AP report, Brown ordered his finance department to audit California's entire specialty license program, which was established by the Legislature in 1992, said Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for the governor.

We imagine the Governor was shocked, shocked such behavior was taking place.

Of the $15 million that has been raised through this program, only $21,000 has been allocated to scholarships and even that portion of the program was discontinued in 2005 even though the plate program still advertises the scholarships being an active part of the program.

The original legislation said the remainder of the money would go to law enforcement, fire protection, and public health agencies to be used "exclusively for purposes directly related to fighting terrorism."

But in 2008, Schwarzenegger, a Republican, borrowed $2 million to close a budget gap. Last year, Brown, a Democrat, borrowed another $1 million.

So, are there any plans to repay the program? Shut up, they explained:

Neither loan has been repaid nor are their deadlines to ensure they will be. Ashford, said the loans have done no harm and that the governor has no immediate plans to repay them.

"We're trying to simultaneously balance the budget and fund important programs," she said. "If there was an indication that borrowing this money was going to negatively impact this program, we wouldn't borrow the money."

How the hell can you negatively impact this program when effectively, there is no scholarship program? Absolutely disgraceful.

What makes this all the more pathetic is that the amount that is significant with respect to college scholarships for the intended sons and daughters of California’s fallen is just a rounding error when it comes to California’s budget and specifically, California’s budget shortfall.

To put a wrap on this, allow us to feature your typical world-weary and disgruntled California Texas citizen:

Patricia Anderson, who paid $98 for a personalized memorial plate reading "WE R 4US," said she signed up for the program primarily to show respect for victims of the 9/11 attacks. Anderson said she was disheartened but not surprised to learn that much of the money has gone to fill the state deficit or used for general purposes.

"That's California," said Anderson, who now lives near Austin, Texas. "It's kind of a given these days -- nothing is spent on what it's supposed to be."

And this is precisely the reason why we are giving a big fat No to Prop. 29.

Misallocation of funds and having no intention of repaying the funding source while spitting on the graves of 9-11 victims. Congratulations Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown on your very, very special trifecta.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The President, combating terror and the paper of record


Alternate headline: How he stopped worrying and learned to love the drone.

Lengthy but fascinating read regarding Obama's, eh, evolving views and actions with respect to combating the war on terror in today's New York Times.

The Times goes to significant lengths to shade and nuance things... a treatment that we're positive would not be extended to the previous administration if a similar piece were to be written. To wit, behold the headline of the article: Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will. Puffery to follow?

Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve.

In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.

They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”

We suppose it's good to be the king but we don't know how comfortable we are with the Commander-in-Chief being so cavalier with respect to a life and death decision of a U.S. citizen.

The article sneaks in this paragraph before darting off in another direction:

His first term has seen private warnings from top officials about a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counterterrorism; the invention of a new category of aerial attack following complaints of careless targeting; and presidential acquiescence in a formula for counting civilian deaths that some officials think is skewed to produce low numbers.

Wait, what? Did they just suggest they manipulate the body count to produce lower civilian bystander numbers? That's pretty much how we read it.

Later in the article they get around to how this was accomplished?

It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

We don't want to go off on a tangent but this fairly represents the hypocrisy both in the media and the President's water-carriers public and private. There is a legitimate discussion to be had regarding the legality and ethics of what's going on here but no one wants to have it. Where Bush and Cheney were seen as power-mad war-mongerers, Obama is seen as edgy but shrewd and cagey.

And dig this paragraph regarding his failure to close Gitmo:

It was not only Mr. Obama’s distaste for legislative backslapping and arm-twisting, but also part of a deeper pattern, said an administration official who has watched him closely: the president seemed to have “a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.”

That pretty much sums things up, now, doesn't it?

And not being able to close Gitmo has perhaps driven lethal drone policy:

Yet the administration’s very success at killing terrorism suspects has been shadowed by a suspicion: that Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into American custody, and the president has balked at adding new prisoners to Guantánamo.

“Their policy is to take out high-value targets, versus capturing high-value targets,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the intelligence committee. “They are not going to advertise that, but that’s what they are doing.”

We've suspected all along that the President doesn't want the hassle of actually capturing suspected terrorists and interrogating them and would just rather wack them instead.

Here's Ann Althouse on the matter:

Is there really a paradox here? He has chosen not to close Guantanamo, but to make it a low-profile political issue by never sending anyone there, and to build his reputation as tough on terrorism by regularly blowing somebody away. The careful "moral calculation" in the individual cases isn't reexamining the general policy; it's about the risks of screwups.

More rubble, less trouble.

The tone of the article is starting to grate on us now. Read this:

The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”

But he has found that war is a messy business, and his actions show that pursuing an enemy unbound by rules has required moral, legal and practical trade-offs that his speeches did not envision.

Oh for cryin' out loud. Even any implicit criticism of the President is pawned off on an abstraction related to the man.

We're running long so we'll try to wrap this up with some closing thoughts. The article touts Obama's professorial and lawyerly approach to the war on terror in order to preserve his principles but 3 years on, we are wondering just what his principles are. Remember, this is the man who wanted to try KSM in civilian court but when asked what would happen if KSM was actually acquitted, Obama assured us that, regardless, KSM would never see the light of freedom. Huh? I believe the term of art for that is "show trial".

Also, this is the same man who wants to confer the same legal rights enjoyed by U.S. citizens upon monsters like KSM but signed into law last November provisions that would give him the power to indefinetely detain U.S. citizens without cause and also the power to kill U.S. citizens overseas without traditionally recognized due process. How one goes about squaring these circles is beyond our comprehension.

While we do appreciate that the President realizes combating terrorism on a global scale is not for the dainty or meek of heart (somewhere, Dick Cheney is smiling and/or having a bemused chuckle), there are some glaring inconsistencies with respect to policy that lead us to believe that the President is playing politics with his tactics just as much as anything else.


Video clip of the day


We normally like to get to's Nanny of the Month on a regular basis but since we missed last March's edition and since the subject matter seems so relevant, we'll pick up the action from last year, here:

Funny. The guy seemed to get along quite well and it certainly doesn't appear that his career aspirations have been, uh, blunted by his affection for the stuff.

Oh well. Suppose we can chalk this up to more "evolving" in office.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012


Whether you are out and about, relaxing at home or grilling with family and friends, please take some time out to honor those that went before us and gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

Hope everyone is enjoying this Memorial Day.

We'll catch up with you tomorrow.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quickies: the Choom edition


A round-up of news items, articles, columns and blog posts that caught our eye this past week.


From ABC News:

Maraniss portrays the teenage Obama as not just a pot smoker, but a pot-smoking innovator.

“As a member of the Choom Gang,” Maraniss writes, “Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends.”

The first Obama-inspired trend: “Total Absorption” or “TA”.

“TA was the opposite of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” explains Maraniss. Here’s how it worked: If you exhaled prematurely when you were with the Choom Gang, “you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around.”…

Maraniss also says Obama was known for his “Interceptions”: “When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!,’ and took an extra hit.”

The Choom Wagon

Good lord. Far from being the blank canvass upon which we could project all our hopes or something, who knew the President's formative years were a combination of That 70s Show and Dazed and Confused?

Too bad he's still quite comfortable with throwing people in jail for an activity he pursued with the zeal of an Olympic demonstration sport athlete.

And speaking of Bill Clinton...

... quote of the week:

“I hope this doesn’t hurt his re-election or whatever he’s trying to run for."

Adult film actress, Tasha Reign, upon meeting and getting a photo-op with Bubba at a fund-raising event in Monaco.

Here endeth the People magazine portion of this edition of Quickies.

Our buddy Max lamented to us that management at Hoffer's simply refuses to hire any "hot chicks" to work behind the bar. We informed Max that it's just not his management getting in the way of the desired hiring opportunities.

The Obama Administration, which harps on its “War on Women” meme, has a war on women of its own: the EEOC is now investigating the coffee chain Marylou’s because the chain hires pretty young women dressed in pink to hawk its product. The investigators have been asking the female clerks about their co-workers’ gender, age, race and body type for over a year.

The company’s founder, Marylou Sandry wrote state Sen. John F. Keenan (D-Quincy): “We have never had a complaint against us for age discrimination or any kind of discrimination. We feel that the EEOC is on a witch hunt.” Keenan said he wouldn’t get involved, and EEOC officials would not comment.
(itlalics, ours)

Body type..? Completely inappropriate and quite possiblby akin to harassment if we understand the workplace rules correctly.

(Max was thinking purely from a business model standpoint as he is currently dating a beautiful young lady. We swear.)

And speaking of a solution in search of a problem...

House lawmakers will consider an international proposal next week to give the United Nations more control over the Internet.

The proposal is backed by China, Russia, Brazil, India and other UN members, and would give the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) more control over the governance of the Internet.

It’s an unpopular idea with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress, and officials with the Obama administration have also criticized it.
“We're quite concerned,” Larry Strickling, the head of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said in an interview with The Hill earlier this year.

He said the measure would expose the Internet to “top-down regulation where it's really the governments that are at the table, but the rest of the stakeholders aren't.”

Normally, this amount of bi-partisanship is cause for skepticism (they're all too chummy up there on the Hill, wonder what they're up to?)

But considering the subject matter and the fact that both China and Russia are in favor of it, this is a wrap-yourself-in-the-flag All-American no-brainer.

Mark Steyn, once again, hits it out of the ballpark:

So how's that old Arab Spring going? You remember – the "Facebook Revolution." As I write, they're counting the votes in Egypt's presidential election, so by the time you read this the pecking order may have changed somewhat. But currently in first place is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi, who in an inspiring stump speech before the students of Cairo University the other night told them, "Death in the name of Allah is our goal."


Later on in the article:

But it is also a sign of desperation to talk up amiable diversions for pampered solipsistic Westerners as an irresistible force of modernity. One of the basic defects of the Bush administration's designation of a "war on terror" was that it emphasized symptoms (bombs and bombers) over causes (the underlying ideology). In the war of ideas, the West has chosen not to compete, under the erroneous assumption that the ever more refined delivery systems for its sensual distractions are a Big Idea in and of themselves. They're not. If you know your Tocqueville, they sound awfully like his prediction of a world in which "an innumerable crowd of like and equal men ...revolve on themselves without repose," a phrase which nicely distills the unending busyness of our gaudy novelties.
(italics, ours)

Back at Seminary, this was referred to as a "circle jerk".

Here's B-Daddy on prejudice, bigotry, racism, diversity and the ultimate dangers of suppression, speech codes and "acceptable thought."

Our society is creating a climate of persecution and victimization that diversity bullies use to impose their own agenda. Racial prejudice is certainly ugly, but the answer is not speech codes and racial quotas, which do harm to our freedoms and threaten our progress in insidious ways. Diversity is in fact a good thing, but by imposing only one kind of diversity, that of race, we exclude real diversity from our colleges and universities.


If America's universities are to remain the center of intellectual achievement for which they were once known, this false pretense of diversity has to end. The imposition of speech codes and all the Marxist-Orwellian claptrap regarding acceptable thought must end. The existence of racists, will be met, not with intolerance, but ridicule and well crafted argument. Ultimately, suppression of speech is incompatible with a free society. Suppression does not persuade, it only intimidates and drives behavior underground. Better to have the debate in the open and allow prejudice to sink or swim on its own merits.

Wasn't it Rosalynd Carter who said of Reagan: "He makes us comfortable with our prejudices."?

We're not sure what that meant but after reading B-Daddy's piece, was she possibly saying that Reagan didn't approach racism and bigotry in the normally-accepted Beltway/establishment manner. Reagan, as a defender of freedom probably felt, no, no, no...let the fools say their piece so there will be no doubt as to their foolishness.

Carter probably thought this was a form of tacit approval rather than allowing bigots, racists and their ilk to hoist themselves upon their own pitards.

KT: asking the questions that need to be asked:

Do you still use Microsoft Word?

Us: not so much.


OK, gang. Time to grill. Hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day Sunday!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Of spiking the ball


Hubris: exaggerated pride or self-confidence

After the capture of Sadaam Hussein, George W. Bush:

The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq . The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence who found the Dictator’s footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them.

Barack Obama, on Sunday, May 1, 2011:

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as I continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network. Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan . And finally, last week, I determined that I had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad , Pakistan.

And this from B-Daddy of The Liberator Today:

I am almost sick to my gut today, over the blatantly political attempts that spilled previously classified information about the killing of bin Laden, including the identity of the Seal Team Six Commander. Our President has no shame, blatantly using classified information to lure Hollywood pals to make a film in which he will be portrayed as heroic, no doubt. And Democrats complained that Bush politicized the war.

It has become apparent that the man suffers from security issues in more ways than one.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Graph/Chart of the day


Via Secular Apostate:

In other totally related news, San Diego State has become the second university or college in North America to offer a degree in LGBT studies.

From the school's website:

LGBT Studies is an interdisciplinary program, not affiliated with any one department. Courses offered include LGBT literature, history of sexuality, media and sexuality, psychology of human sexual behavior, sexuality in modern society, valuing human diversity, lesbian lives and cultures, among many others. There are also over a dozen internships in LGBT organizations.

As the graph suggests, that and a dollar bill will get you a soda from a vending machine.

If you read nothing else today, please get ye on over to Secular Apostate's place at the link above for an excellent deconstruction of how we delude ourselves into thinking home-ownership and college educations are results and not causes.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Crony capitalism by the numbers


Entrance question: Just how incompetent do they have to be that they cannot even make crony capitalism work?

Marc A. Thiessen in writing for the Washington Post helpfully explains that if Mitt Romney's private equity record is fair game then so should be Obama's public equity record. Through either the stimulus bill or the Department of Energy's loan program, the administration has invested billions of taxpayer dollars in private businesses. And how's that been working out?

By the numbers...

33 million: The amount of money given to Raser Technologies to build a power plant in Utah. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 and owes $1.5 million in back taxes.

126 million: The amount of tax-payer dollars given to ECOtality for the installation of 14,000 electric car chargers. ECOtality’s own SEC filings, the company has since incurred more than $45 million in losses and has told the federal government, “We may not achieve or sustain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis in the future.”

98.5 million: The size of a loan guarantee to Nevada Geothermal Power (NGP) in 2010. The New York Times reported last October that the company is in “financial turmoil” and that “[a]fter a series of technical missteps that are draining Nevada Geothermal’s cash reserves, its own auditor concluded in a filing released last week that there was ‘significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.’ ”

3 billion (yes, that's billion with a "b"): the amount of tax-payer dollars given to First Solar in the form of a loan guarantee for power plants in Arizona and California. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report last week, the company “fell to a record low in Nasdaq Stock Market trading May 4 after reporting $401 million in restructuring costs tied to firing 30 percent of its workforce.”

400 million: the amount of a loan guarantee given to Abound Solar, Inc. to build solar panel factories. Currently, the company has halted production and laid off 180 employees.

43 million: the size of the loan guarantee given to green-energy storage company Beacon Power. According to CBS News, at the time of the loan, “Standard and Poor’s had confidentially given the project a dismal outlook of ‘CCC-plus.’ ” In the fall of 2011, Beacon received a delisting notice from Nasdaq and filed for bankruptcy.

From linked article:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. A company called SunPower got a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the Obama administration, and as of January, the company owed more than it was worth. Brightsource got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee and posted a string of net losses totaling $177 million. And, of course, let’s not forget Solyndra — the solar panel manufacturer that received $535 million in taxpayer-funded loan guarantees and went bankrupt, leaving taxpayers on the hook.

And our favorite numbers from this article:

71: the percentage of DOE grants and loans that went to “individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.” This according to Peter Schweizer's book, "Throw Them All Out".

100: the number of criminal investigations that have been launched by the DOE's inspector general related to the department's green-energy program.

Here's some more on private equity firms from Democrat Lanny Davis:

Private equity firms often invest in distressed companies by putting in cash and cutting expenses in order to save a company that is already close to bankruptcy. Sometimes the investment works and the company and jobs are saved. And sometimes, to save the company, jobs need to be cut or wages and benefits reduced.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s called the General Motors bailout, widely touted by President Obama and Democrats as a success story, which it was.

Except that it wasn't. GM stock is currently trading at $22/share, down from the $33/share at its IPO. And that price will have to get up to $50/share in order to break even on the bailout. As it stands right now, we have lost billions to General Motors and we, most likely, will never get it back.

And one last thing regarding public equity and Obama's miserable track record regarding the same, next time you hear a Team O water carrier or someone from the administration itself pop-off about the people Romney laid off, remember this:

The Treasury Department encouraged automakers seeking TARP funds to rapidly close their dealerships, even though the plan contributed no specific savings to the companies and caused job losses at a time of mounting unemployment, according to a scathing new audit published Monday.

The report focuses on the plans by Chrysler LLC and General Motors Corp. to rapidly reduce their number of dealerships by about 25 percent each, and the role that Treasury played in encouraging the automakers to do so quickly instead of over the course of five years.

The audit was prepared by Neil Barofsky, a former federal prosecutor who now serves as special inspector general for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Chrysler eliminated 789 dealerships in June 2009, and GM plans to wind down 1,454 dealerships by October of this year. The rationale behind those moves was that the old dealership network was too big, and that by closing some of the dealerships, the remaining ones would be more profitable and better positioned to re-invest in their businesses.

Wow. Kind of sounds like something Bain would've done.



Great moments in the history of ObamaCare

The human mind being what it is will, at times, and depending upon the circumstances, gloss over some of the more unsavory aspects of the past either as a coping mechanism or perhaps as an unconscious appeal to our better nature.

Conversely, that's why the interwebs and more precisely the archives here at Beers with Demo are such a valuable tool in reminding us of just how awful things were and how it's important to never forget just how awful things are bound to be. In this case, we're talking about the crafting of the legislation which would become ObamaCare. We don't know if we're going to do this on a regular basis but we think we might as a reminder of just how atrocious a manner this law was cobbled together.

The following is a re-post of what we originally generated back on December 13 of 2009:

Hey, do you remember when they told us if we voted for McCain it would represent a vote for continuing the secrecy of the Bush years? Well, they were right.

Recall how we’ve been challenging proponents of Obamacare to divulge some of the specifics contained in the legislation as reasons to support the same. With even major points of the Obamacare bill appearing, disappearing and then reappearing, it’s a fool’s errand for supporters of the Senate bill.

But it’s not just us John Q. Publics out here in fly-over country that aren’t in the loop with the Senate version of the bill, the #2 Democrat in Senate has nary a clue regarding what’s in the bill.

Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin admitted Friday that he is "in the dark" about the national health care bill currently under construction by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In an exchange on the Senate floor, Republican Sen. John McCain asked Durbin, "Should we not at least be informed as to what the proposal is that the Senate Majority Leader is going to propose to the entire Senate?" Durbin's answer: "I would say to the senator from Arizona that I am in the dark almost as much as he is, and I am in the leadership." Durbin explained that during a Democratic caucus, Reid and the small group of senators involved in crafting the bill turned to their fellow Democrats and "basically stood and said, 'We are sorry, we can't tell you in detail what was involved.'"

You see, we’re all supposed to just trust Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, who with his staff and health care lobbyists are writing and re-writing this legislation in the secrecy of his office.

Durbin claims that Reid is not to blame for the secrecy rather the Congressional Budget Office which Reid has asked to do a cost estimate on the bill. (Insert jaw-drop face, here).

That damn CBO and their rather inconvenient scoring of the various permutations of Obamacare has been a thorn in Congress’ side since they took up their task late in the spring of this year. CBO can’t score what CBO can’t see. Brilliant strategy, Harry.

Back to the future...

Perhaps it was brilliant strategy by Reid as the Senate version of the bill was passed on a Christmas Eve vote before going on to the House where more backroom miracles were performed (see: Stupak)

Any clues as to ultimate effectiveness of this law were foretold in just how it was fashioned: under the shroud of secrecy, deceit and good ol' fashioned business-as-usual pork barrel-ing.

Wasn't Hopenchange everything you expected?

Yeah. That was fun, now wasn't it? We do think this will be a regular feature.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Here's some more of that new civility we've been hearing about: a round-up

Alternate headline: You know you're winning the battle when the liberal-Left responds with violence and misogyny but we're being redundant.

The liberal-left is hitting back against conservatives in the only way they know how.

First up, here's an AFL-CIO honcho taking it to a South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, pinata. Click here for Youtube video as embed was disabled.

That probably was not that egregious but ask yourself something: do those look and sound like the kind of folks your Mom and Pop would be pleased to see you hanging out with?

Next up, Hustler (yes, it's still around) published a photoshopped image of conservative pundit/talker S.E. Cupp performing oral sex. If you must, a blurred image can be found here.

A couple of things raced through our mind when we found out about this: the real outrage here would be if Hustler didn't pull a sophmoric toilet-stall stunt like this. And, who really thinks the 82 zit-riddled 16 yr. olds that don't have internet and which comprise Hustler's target demographic out there would know who S.E. Cupp is?

And yes, Twitter has been blowing up at #istandwithsecupp.

Our favorite contribution thus far: S.E. Cupp: still faster than LarryFlynt.

(shameless plug: get in on the Twitter fun and follow us at @deanriehm)

And finally, conservative blogger/writer Robert Stacy McCain (The Other McCain blog) and his family have taken flight from their home in Maryland to an undisclosed location due to credible threats on him by convicted terrorist and lefty sweetheart, Brett Kimberlin.

Law enforcement officials have been made aware that convicted terrorist Brett Kimberlin appears to be engaged in an attempt to intimidate me into being silent about his sordid criminal history.

Appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of my family and others who might be endangered if Kimberlin resorts to violence to accomplish his malicious purposes. At the urging of concerned friends, we have vacated our former residence and I am now blogging from a secret location which Kimberlin will be unable to discover or reach. Nevertheless, we sincerely ask for intercessory prayer, that God will send angels to guard us in this grave crisis.

In fact, this crisis is an answer to prayer: My wife and I had been contemplating whether to leave Maryland, and had asked that God would give us a sign. Guess we got what we prayed for — unexpectedly!

Nevertheless, my sudden relocation — The Mother of All Road Trips, as it were — will involve large expenses. We will have to rent a new house, pay people to pack up the belongings at our former residence, and move everything to the new location.

Remember that this is still a Shameless Capitalist Blog, and keep in mind The Five Most Important Words in the English Language . . .


We could never figure out just what is the fascination with violent criminals and terrorists and the liberal-Left of this country. Blowing up stuff and trying to blou up people is not romantic. It's stupid. And your a damn fool if you think otherwise.

With the election season heating up, we suppose we should brace ourselves for more of the same.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ObamaCare is so popular...


(c'mon, all together now...)

How popular is it?

ObamaCare is so popular that the Department of Health and Human Services is going to spend $20 million of your money to convince you of how much you like it.

The Health and Human Services Department has signed a $20 million contract with a public-relations firm to highlight part of the Affordable Care Act.

The new, multimedia ad campaign is designed to educate the public about how to stay healthy and prevent illnesses, an HHS official said.

The campaign was mandated by the Affordable Care Act and must describe the importance of prevention while also explaining preventive benefits provided by the healthcare law. The law makes many preventive services available without a co-pay or deductible, and provides new preventive benefits to Medicare patients.

The PR firm Porter Novelli won the contract after a competitive bidding process. The $20 million contract was first reported by PR Week. Porter Novelli did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, you are way to accustomed to the M.O. of this administration. Via Hot Air, Matt Lewis reports:

Yesterday, The Hill reported that the Health and Human Services Department signed a $20 million deal with a PR firm to “describe the importance of prevention while also explaining preventive benefits” of ObamaCare.

The story notes that the public relations firm Porter Novelli “won the contract after a competitive bidding process.” Interestingly, the managing director of Porter Novellis’ Washington D.C. office is Catherine “Kiki” McLean — a true “D.C. insider,” according to her bio.

Indeed she is. Among her other accomplishments, McLean’s bio also notes she was “an on-air surrogate for the Obama for America campaign.”

This, of course, raises a few questions, including: Just how competitive was the competitive bid process that went to a senior Democrat?

And isn’t this the kind of insider access Obama decried in 2008?

Also worth noting is that this all comes amidst a probe investigating “deals the White House made to help pass the health care overhaul”

If you are going to saddle someone with the unenviable task of trying to make people like a government program that takes health care decisions out of those same people's hands, you might as well line the pockets of some cronies in order to do it, right?

Team O: Change As predictable as the day is long. And they're getting longer.


So it begins (cont.)


Last week, we saw Franciscan University drop its health care coverage for its students and employees rather than be forced to comply with the ObamaCare mandate to provide contraceptive procedures and devices.

This week, 43 plaintiffs, including Notre Dame University and the Archdiocese of New York filed suit against the Obama administration over the contraception mandate.

Some of the most influential Catholic institutions in the country filed suit against the Obama administration Monday over the so-called contraception mandate, in one of the biggest coordinated legal challenges to the rule to date.

Claiming their "fundamental rights hang in the balance," a total of 43 plaintiffs filed a dozen separate federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the requirement. Among the organizations filing were the University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of New York and The Catholic University of America.

The groups are objecting to the requirement from the federal health care overhaul that employers provide access to contraceptive care. The Obama administration several months ago softened its position on the mandate, but some religious organizations complained the administration did not go far enough to ensure the rule would not compel them to violate their religious beliefs.
(italics, ours)

This is nonsense. There was no softening. The regime merely allowed Catholic institutions to pass along the cost of the mandated provisions to the insurer. This hardly solves the core issue of Catholic institutions being forced to provide through their insurance plans, contraceptive devices.

At the end of the day, ask yourself this question: what in the hell is Barack Obama, Kathleen Sebelius or any other person on the face of the planet, outside of the Pope, we suppose, doing in telling what the Catholic Church what they can and cannot do? It's just that simple.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Video rant of the day


We'll get to Notre Dame's (and many, many other's) lawsuit against the ObamaCare contraceptive mandate later but we wanted to share this little gem from Penn Jillette regarding company policy (see: US federal law) with respect to the war on drugs.

This is aimed directly at you college-educated white suburban kids who receive the majority of your political content intake from the likes of Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon:

(language warning begins... raaght now...)

Maybe a little blow

Isn't that kind of like being a little pregnant?

I believe this is Obama chortling with Jimmy Fallon about lower-class people. Does anyone believe for a moment that if Obama had been busted for marijuana under the laws that he condones, would his life have been better?

... he would not have gone to his fancy-ass college...

He and many others that have matriculated through suggested Ivy League institutions over the past couple of generations that have managed to make quite a mess of things for our beloved country.

As for this "evolving" business with respect to drug legalization, we are evolving, ourselves. As recently as 10 or 15 years ago, there was no way you were going to get us to consider even the legalization of marijuana. However, back in 2010, we voted for the legalization of the same here in California (yes, we considered the overarching federal ban, so we hit the "go" button to send as much as a "message" vote as anything else) as we are coming around on the failure of the drug war.

However, the Chief Executive, as it is, is not afforded the same luxury as is a neighborhood blogger. Perhaps his shameless cynicism that guided his route to a heavily-qualified support of gay-marriage may extend also to drug legalization. Let's just see which way the political winds blow, shall we?

H/T: Dueliing Barstools


Oddly enough, we don't think he'll take his own advice


Alternative headline: Like engineers, ask an environmentalist and you'll get the truth.

The big tent of Malthusians and warmists have really fallen on some hard times. They keep getting their hands caught in the cookie jar when it comes to cooking the books with respect to climate data and when they're not doing that, they're basically admitting that their efforts aren't really about stopping and reversing global warming climate change but rather wealth distribution.

Think we're joking?:

Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Working Group III on Mitigation of Climate Change (say that twice), told the Neue Zurcher Zeitung last week: "The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War." After all, redistributing global wealth is no small matter.

Edenhofer let the environmental cat out of the bag when he said "climate policy is redistributing the world's wealth" and that "it's a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization."

As we're finding out with the current administration, if your policies aren't working, don't talk about them. Talk about anything else except that at which you have failed.

Anyway, all that may not be the biggest problem with the faith-based AGW set. What pales in comparison to the above is a messaging problem. The message is this: they don't like you (humans) too much and would kindly desire that you excuse yourself from this mortal coil either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Here's Finnish environmentalist Pentti Linkola on the miserableness of the human condition:

"What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and there is only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship's axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides."

"The composition of the Greens seems to be the same as that of the population in general — mainly pieces of drifting wood, people who never think."

"A minority can never have any other effective means to influence the course of matters but through the use of violence."

"Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent dictator, that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. Best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and government would prevent any economical growth."

(ed. note: this is working out exactly as desired in places like North Korea and Cuba)

"The most central and irrational faith among people is the faith in technology and economical growth. Its priests believe until their death that material prosperity bring enjoyment and happiness - even though all the proofs in history have shown that only lack and attempt cause a life worth living, that the material prosperity doesn't bring anything else than despair. These priests believe in technology still when they choke in their gas masks."

"That there are billions of people over 60kg weight on this planet is recklessness."

"Alternative movements and groups are a welcome relief and a present for the society of economic growth."

"We will have to...learn from the history of revolutionary movements — the national socialists, the Finnish Stalinists, from the many stages of the Russian revolution, from the methods of the Red Brigades — and forget our narcissistic selves."

(ed. note: the entirety of the message of the 20 the century was this: "Oh... we learned, alright.")

"Everything we have developed over the last 100 years should be destroyed."

"A fundamental, devastating error is to set up a political system based on desire. Society and life are been organized on basis of what an individual wants, not on what is good for him or her...Just as only one out of 100,000 has the talent to be an engineer or an acrobat, only a few are those truly capable of managing the matters of a nation or mankind as a whole...In this time and this part of the World we are headlessly hanging on democracy and parliamentary system, even though these are the most mindless and desperate experiments of the mankind...In democratic coutries the destruction of nature and sum of ecological disasters has accumulated most...Our only hope lies in strong central government and uncompromizing control of the individual citizen."

Boy, oh, boy. If there is a more anti-BwD message, Linkola wins and the place and show horses aren't even in the picture.

Linkola then goes on to call for licensed birth-giving, the involuntary confiscation of private property, the end of competition and the return to a hunter-gatherer culture. He wants to turn back the clock of humanity to a time from which we've progressed from because, well... not having a car and having to hunt or fish for our meals every freaking day of one's miserable existence on this planet sucked.

There's a term for folks like Linkola besides idiot and it's totalitarian fascist. They aren't nice people. Does he sound nice? We don't like them and we encourage you to not like them as well.

We know what you are saying, though. You're saying, "Look, he's some crank that lives on a boat that no one outside of Finland (or maybe even his own dock) have heard of. That is true but what he is calling for and the means in which to accomplish it, have also been called for by far more main stream-accepted doom-and-gloomers like Paul Ehrlich, though in somewhat softer terms. What Ehrlich provides is some window-dressing to arrive at the same conclusion as Linkola (we swear that sounds like some blog-sharing program).

Scratch not too far below the surface of the environmental agenda and you find yourself a wide-ranging slew of propositions whereby the god-given rights and desires (remember: there's a reason why we don't live in caves, anymore) of the individual are subjugated to the will of the collective as determined by others be they rulers, committees, bureaucrats, even benevolent despots which is the extreme green's ultimate dream.

It's all a lie. Precisely because we have pursued freedom and liberty, we have been able to develop technology, much to the ironic chagrin of the Linkster, that has allowed this planet and its people to survive past the doomsday hour predicted by the likes of Ehrlich and his kind.

Let's face it: they are not really concerned with the fate of you or even the planet. For whatever sick reason, these people hate freedom. They hate liberty and the power within the individual that it has the potential to unleash.

Hey, we can't figure it out. Go catch a fish, bring it to Linkola and maybe he can tell you why he is so filled with hatred.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Caption Contest


Zero Hedge is sponsoring a caption contest for a photo image of what one can only surmise was an exciting conclusion to this past week's G-8 conference in Chicago Camp David, Maryland.

Our contribution:

"And Chelsea has just defeated Bayern Munich on penalty kicks to win the Champions League title!"


Great Moments in Presidential history


Back at the beginning of last week, it was discovered that the Obama administration had dropped bullets touting their own accomplishments into the biographies of every President since Calvin Coolidge in the Presidential biographies section of the White House website (the additions have since apparently been removed but they were captured prior to by Capt. Ed of Hot Air).

A couple of our favorites:

President John F. Kennedy famously suggested the American people: “Ask what you can do for your country.” In 1961, the Peace Corps was created, facilitating service among citizens working toward peace in developing countries. In 2011, President Obama celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps with a Presidential Proclamation.

A Proclamation!

And this about Reagan:

In a June 28, 1985 speech Reagan called for a fairer tax code, one where a multi-millionaire did not have a lower tax rate than his secretary. Today, President Obama is calling for the same with the Buffett Rule.

Who says the official White House biographies are off-limits to some campaigning and opportunistic politics?

But here is the one that caught our eye:

President Barack Obama awarded George H.W. Bush the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his commitment to service and ability to inspire volunteerism throughout the country, encouraging citizens to be “a thousand points of light.” The administration continues to promote service and civic engagement, honoring heroes of local communities as “Champions of Change” and fostering civic participation.

There was something fishy - we couldn't quite put our finger on it but we believed we had blogged about something similar when President Obama fist took office so we did a word search and sho' 'nuf...

Back in April of 2009, President Obama signed into law the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act (yep, the GIVE Act). It was essentially a federal funding give-away to charitable and federally-favored volunteer oraganizations like Americorps, the Clean Energy Corps and the National Civilian Community Corps.

But do you want to know what else it did? It defunded the Points of Light foundation established by George H. W. Bush and which we blogged about here:

To many, this is the Americorps mandatory volunteerism Act as it boosts funding for this outfit and other community-related organizations. Yes, many other charitable organizations will be strengthened with your tax dollars except one.

Hazard a guess? Perhaps one established at the behest of the father of the President’s predecessor? Perhaps one whose initials don’t form pronounceable acronym that is still relevant to its intent?

Think PoLF.

Think Sec. 1831 of the bill…

(Sec. 1831) Eliminates federal funding for the Points of Light Foundation.

Yep, we’re throwing around trillions of dollars to god knows who on god knows what but this bill still takes time to stop, turn around and kick a political adversary in the nuts before merrily skipping along. Awesome.

We'll hand it to the Prez, though: snipping the federal umbelical cord after awarding President Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom would've been completely classless, but we'll grant the President a certain measure of respect in performing the wing-clipping and then inviting the champion of that foundation to accept the award. Audacity, indeed.

We here at Beers with Demo are proud to bring you this Great Moment in Presidential History.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Radio KBwD is on the air


A certain person near and dear to our heart has a tough time with our contention that while Stevie Ray Vaughan is our favorite guitar player, we recognize Jimi Hendrix as the greatest guitar player of all-time. It is indeed a distinction with a difference.

It is our opinion that over 40 years on, people are still trying to catch up to what Hendrix was doing. Where things were pretty much on a linear scale and black and white, he went 3-dimensional and full-blown technicolor with his guitar style.

And while we possibly confused Hendrix's free-wheeling style for being a little ragged around the edges, we always felt Stevie to be the more technically proficient player.

Since making this a covers competition would belittle the talents of both men and which would be an exercise in unsavoriness, you can find Jimi's "Voodoo Chile" very easily on Youtube. In the meantime, here is Stevie performing that song off his album Couldn't Stand the Weather:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Images and some random thoughts for the day


Michael Ramirez, the best political cartoonist in America has been on it lately.

Here's his take on "Julia", the Obama composite woman and statist love-child of which our thoughts can be found here.

(click to enlarge)

Because submitting yourself to a comprehensive, full-service, cradle-to-grave nanny state is what (full-circle) feminism is all about. Hey, there's an undeniably attractive kink to a statist slave-girl, wouldn't you say?

You've come a long way, baby!

And while we're in the neighborhood...

Ramirez's take on the President's flip-flop pandering evolution with respect to gay marriage, days before his big Hollywood/meet George Clooney fund raiser.

By the by, gang, we're now full-tilt boogie on Twitter. Follow us at @deanriehm

We've been having a lot of fun of late especially with #FunnierthanCordova, the namesake of a whiny Comedy Central writer who has complained that Twitter has been ruined by conservative hashtag games which, of course, spawned a game of its own.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Beers with Demo Caucus springs into action


But first, Chuckie Schumer outrageously outraged over the fact one of the Facebook co-founders skipped the country to avoid paying capital gains taxes.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has a status update for Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin: Stop attempting to dodge your taxes by renouncing your U.S. citizenship or never come to back to the U.S. again.

In September 2011, Saverin relinquished his U.S. citizenship before the company announced its planned initial public offering of stock, which will debut this week. The move was likely a financial one, as he owns an estimated 4 percent of Facebook and stands to make $4 billion when the company goes public. Saverin would reap the benefit of tax savings by becoming a permanent resident of Singapore, which levies no capital gains taxes.

At a news conference this morning, Sens. Schumer and Bob Casey, D-Pa., will unveil the “Ex-PATRIOT” – “Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy” – Act to respond directly to Saverin’s move, which they dub a “scheme” that would “help him duck up to $67 million in taxes.”

The senators will call Saverin’s move an “outrage” and will outline their plan to re-impose taxes on expatriates like Saverin even after they flee the United States and take up residence in a foreign country. Their proposal would also impose a mandatory 30 percent tax on the capital gains of anybody who renounces their U.S. citizenship.

The plan would bar individuals like Saverin from ever reentering the United States again.
(italics, ours)

Good god, man. The tortured, pretzel twisting vocabulary of it all to come up with verbage that somehow relates to the legislation's acronym. Or is it the other way around? Who knows - damn our head hurts.

But alas, we went into the bunker of the Beers with Demo caucus to come up with appropriately-named legislative responses to what we see as objectionable and/or unserious Acts.

So in response to the honorable Senator Schumer we offer up: DIPSHIT

The Democrats Introducing Phaux Serious Hysteria If Tempted Act.

Fed up with over-regulation which is choking out jobs in this country?: HACK

The Harming America with Crappy Kontrols Act

Frustrated with the Senate's inability to pass a budget? We've got an Act for that: IDIOT

The Idle Democrats In Opposition to Timeliness Act

Want to break-down restrictions on home-schooling, vouchers and charter schools?: DOPE

Democrats Opposed to Private Education

Want to shut down the completely counterproductive yet hard-to-kill ethanol lobby?: ASSHAT

Attempting to Stop Subsidized Hackery All the Time Act

And finally, we have our own BUFFETT Rule:

Budget Unsavoriness not Fixed From Excessive Top-end Taxes

Man, this is fun and a lot easier than we thought it would be.

Hey, give it a shot and help out the Beers with Demo legislative caucus in coming up with similarly inane and mildly offensive legislative acronyms.


ObamaCare: Forcing Catholic institutions to violate religious conscience and mandating maximum coverage working out pretty much as you would expect.


The President's assurances that if you liked your health care coverage, you could keep it, not very reflective of reality. National Franciscan University, to our knowledge, becomes the first but certainly not the last Catholic institution to stop providing health care coverage to their students and employees.

National Franciscan University appears to be the first casualty of the new Obama HHS mandate that requires Catholic colleges, groups and businesses to pay for drugs that may cause abortions and birth control for their employees.

Although President Barack Obama declared "If you like your health care coverage you can keep it," when it came to passing Obamacare, a Catholic college in Ohio has determined it will no longer offer a student health insurance plan.

"The Obama Administration has mandated that all health insurance plans must cover "women's health services" including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing medications as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)," the university says in a new post on its website. "Up to this time, Franciscan University has specifically excluded these services and products from its student health insurance policy, and we will not participate in a plan that requires us to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life."

And it's not just the conscience violations that are cause for Franciscan University for dropping their healthcare coverage. When you mandate additional coverage, that has to come out of hide somewhere and almost invariably that hide will be increased premiums for the individual.

"Additionally, the PPACA increased the mandated maximum coverage amount for student policies to $100,000 for the 2012-13 school year, which would effectively double your premium cost for the policy in fall 2012, with the expectation of further increases in the future," FUS continues.

"Due to these changes in regulation by the federal government, beginning with the 2012-13 school year, the University 1) will no longer require that all full-time undergraduate students carry health insurance, 2) will no longer offer a student health insurance plan, and 3) will no longer bill those not covered under a parent/guardian plan or personal plan for student health insurance," the college said.
(italics, ours)

Expectation. Allow us to translate: With a healthcare law littered with verbage like "The Secretary (of Health and Human Services) shall determine...", you can expect even more mandates for additional coverage and thus higher costs.

Back to the linked article:

Franciscan University says the current student health insurance plan will expire on August 15.

Writing at CatholicVote, Tom Crowe, an employee at Franciscan University, blamed the mandate for Franciscan's decision.

"Employers, until Obamacare was passed, were not compelled to offer health insurance but they did do because it is expected and good for business-good luck getting top-notch employees if health insurance coverage is not among the benefits. Under Obamacare employers can both assure that employees have health insurance coverage by dumping them onto the exchanges, and can save lots of money and headache. Win-win," he writes. "But now there is another device by which Obamacare violates the "if you like it you can keep it" pledge: the HHS Mandate."

Bingo. For all you folks out there bummed out that ObamaCare did not contatain a public option: relax. Through a combination of heavy-handed dictates and inherent incompetence written into the law, expect many, many more Americans to get booted from plans they like and dumped into expensive, one-size-fits-all government exchanges subsidized by the tax payer.

More from Crowe:

"See, part of reason I like my current health insurance plan offered by my employer, Franciscan University of Steubenville, is that it does not waste money on things I will never use because they are morally repugnant to me, like contraceptives, sterilization, and abortofacients. The HHS mandate purports to force me into a plan that I do not want rather than the plan I've been very happy with. But that's a still-pending issue because of the one-year extension given (not that we will comply even after a year, of course)," he continues

In a similar vein of befuddlement, our healthcare plan covers us for drug and alcohol counseling which we find highly dubious because we figure if we put ourselves into that situation where we required counseling, we should pay for it out of pocket instead of putting the rest of our risk pool on the hook for it. We're paying higher premiums for coverage we find morally objectionable and which we cannot opt out of.

How about a little smack? Mr. Crowe?:

Crowe says the Obama mandate has left students "high and dry" and some students now may not have health insurance as a result.

"Who knows how many will have insurance, how many will not, how many will have insurance of the quality we offered before, how many will be able to stay on their parents' insurance through the extended adolescence provision of Obamacare," he writes. "But there you have it: thanks to the government's firm desire to make sure the one or two women left in the country who did not have easy and cheap access to contraceptives, abortofacients, and sterilization procedures, our 2,500 students will no longer have an insurance plan ready and waiting for them."
(italics, again, ours)

Our buddy and devout Catholic, KT of The Scratching Post shared his thoughts on the matter via email:

This is really sad. What a waste of time. Five years ago (to pick a time frame at random), these Catholic institutions were behaving normally, educating kids and providing social services. Now they have to waste their time fighting that idiot, Obama. And all of it so he could score a couple of political points with single women.

You don't need to be a Catholic or even a person of faith to realize what a grave threat to freedom ObamaCare represents.

The One who came to unite has only served to divide us instead.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your California high-speed choo-choo update


Another day and another round of bad news for high speed choo-choos here in California. Well, to be precise, it's not really more or new, just news that we've known now broken down in a different way that basically illustrates what a disaster this all will prove to be.

What we do know is that if the first 130 miles of track to be built (between Bakersfield and Fresno) is not completed by September of 2017, the project faces the loss of federal funding. That first section of track is expected to cost $6 billion, so on a per day basis that means that $3.5 million every calendar day in resources would have to be spent on that portion of the project.

If you are asking yourself what could possibly go wrong, you would not be alone.

If California starts building a 130-mile segment of high-speed rail late this year as planned, it will enter into a risky race against a deadline set up under federal law.

The bullet train track through the Central Valley would cost $6 billion and have to be completed by September 2017, or else potentially lose some of its federal funding. It would mean spending as much as $3.5 million every calendar day, holidays and weekends included - the fastest rate of transportation construction known in U.S. history, according to industry and academic experts.

Over four years, the California High-Speed Rail Authority would need as many as 120 permits, mostly from a tangle of government regulatory agencies not known to rush their business. It would need to acquire about 1,100 parcels of land, many from powerful agriculture interests that have already threatened to sue. And it would need to assemble five teams of contractors with giant workforces positioned from Fresno to Bakersfield, moving millions of tons of gravel, steel rail and heavy equipment across the valley.

Again, it has never been made clear to us if the estimated cost of the high-speed rail project takes into account the eminent domain compensation paid out to land owners whose property lies in way of the track. There has been a suspicious lack of discussion in what we see as a deal-breaker area. That amount alone may total in the tens of billions.

More from the article:

Even if the authority avoids any delays, its ability to complete the first construction section on time will require a breakneck pace of activity.

"It is a very aggressive plan," said Manuel Garcia, associate director at the Construction Industry Institute affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin. "It does appear that it will be a challenge."

If the rail authority runs into technical problems, legal disputes, permit delays or political roadblocks, it could end up building less track and potentially leave an uncompleted project, according to warnings contained in its own business plan. If the project blows past the federal deadline, for example, the flow of money could be stopped. And the scramble to meet that deadline could lead to construction problems and drive up costs.

Please stop us at any point when this does not stop resembling an absolutely unpassable minefield.

Rail officials, putting on a brave face, point out that the Bay Bridge project will have a "burn rate" of $1.8 million/day once it completed in 2013 but, of course, that is just over half of the required burn rate of the high speed choo-choo project.

And what does it say of this grand statist make-work scheme that it's success is measured in how much money they can blow through on a daily basis rather than meters of track laid?

Back to the article:

John Popov, a construction expert at Parsons Brinckerhoff, a consulting firm working with the rail authority, said he believes the project can be completed on time. Popov calculates that the job will spend $2.7 million per day, which excludes the cost of land acquisition, environmental work, management oversight and reserves. But construction experts say that including all of its costs, the authority would spend $3.5 million per day. Popov added that the authority is considering whether it can legally shift as much as $1.3 billion of work past the 2017 deadline, an option that has not been vetted with the Legislature.
(italics, ours)

That still doesn't answer our question if land acquisition is even in the overall budget. We're leaning "no" but we could be wrong.

And dig this:

The rail authority has just 37 employees and has been operating for months without a chief executive, a deputy chief executive or a chief financial officer. It also has no single executive overseeing construction, which outside consultants say is needed.

"You have 37 mere mortals who have never done anything like this before," said Robert Bea, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a retired UC Berkeley professor of civil engineering and director of the National Science Foundation's project on California's transportation infrastructure. "They need God, because he's the only one who can handle this management challenge."

Forget "God is my co-pilot" or "My boss is a Jewish carpenter", we'll hook up the rail authority employees with "God is my CEO and CFO" bumper stickers.

Want more?

A final environmental report on about half of the 130-mile project is uncompleted and months behind schedule, forcing the agency to start work initially on a 29-mile section from Madera to Fresno and hope that it can get the review problems with the rest of the line cleared up later this year.

In a status report this month, Mark Ashley, a senior vice president with the rail authority's consultant T.Y. Lin International Group, noted that the project has identified 25 issues in the Merced-to-Bakersfield construction plan as high risk or very high risk and that the project is now nine months behind schedule in securing official approval from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Oh, and here's some more discussion regarding land acquisition:

"Fresno to Bakersfield is going to be really tight," Ashley said. The acquisition of land is facing problems, including slow progress in getting agreements with freight railroads, he added. "It is dicey right now whether that is going to hold up our construction or impact our schedule."

Given the deadlines both past due and imminently looming, you think land-holders might have some leverage in which to squeeze the rail authority and by extension, the state and by further extension, the tax payers?

Please link to the article for more dreadful expectations regarding the bid process and how potential contractors are scared to death because of the faltering start high-speed choo-choos have got off to.

As you all know, we have been following this thing since it was a proposed bond issue back in 2008 and where we urged our readers to reject the ballot measure because there was simply no need for high-speed rail in California. Now that we know what a god-forsaken disaster this thing already is before a single length of track has been laid down (see also: ObamaCare) we would've been even more vociferous in our opposition to high-speed choo-choos.

But like the State Water Project back in the 70s, Governor Brown has hitched his wagon to an astronomically expensive public works project of highly dubious need and value and such is the ideological rigidity of big government statism that he just can't shake bad habits.