Monday, April 29, 2013

Your California high-speed choo-choo update

Before a single length of track has been laid, the short yet sad and corrupt saga of California's high-speed choo-choos continues apace.

The contracting consortium of Tutor Perini-Zachry-Parsons was recently awarded the bid to lay down the first 29 mile section of track between Fresno and that other bustling burg of the Central Valley, Madera for the sum of $985.1 million. For those of you who broke out your Rand-McNally atlas Google Maps and did some number crunching, this works out to $34 million/mile.

(Please bear in mind, and this is worth repeating every time we speak of this foul subject that the near-$1 billion awarded to TPZP is strictly for the tracks; the stell itself. Contrary to the language of the ballot initiative voted on by Californians back in 2008, there is no money in the $68 billion budget for electrifying the tracks nor is there any money for the actual choo-choos, nor is there any money to purchase land upon which the tracks will be laid. This explains why more realistic estimates of the entire project are in the $100-120 billion range.)

Before we go any further, it might please you to know that Richard Blum, the husband of California Senator, Diane Feinstein, is the principal owner of TPZP. Just put that one in your back pocket before continuing.

It was revealed that TPZP was the low-bidder in what amounted to a five team race for the contract award. TPZP also scored the lowest of the five in technical merits which is based on safety measures, engineering, scheduling, quality of design, project approach and solutions to possible construction problems.

There would appear to be a problem with this as the L.A. Times explains:

In March 2012, the rail authority's board set up a two-step process for weighing the bids. In the first step, the bidders were supposed to be narrowed to three based only on a technical evaluation.

Only the bids submitted by the remaining contenders would be opened.

The winner was to be selected on a combination of price and technical scores.

Those of you in Placentia, California are probably thinking to yourself, how the hell did TPZP make it out of the first round if they scored lowest on the technical side? This would be sound thinking and sound thinking for which the California High Speed Rail Authority has come nowhere close to answering.

More from the Times:

Fellenz (the Authority's lead attorney0 said at the time that "non-substantive" changes could be made in consultation with board Chairman Dan Richard.

The agency changed the evaluation process in July, according to an agency spokesman. The official did not provide details of the internal process used to alter the criteria.

But he said the state potentially would save hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the decision to change the evaluation criteria.

We don't think it would be out of the realm of possibility to question the validity of "non-substantive" when the bidder with the lowest technical score, the lowest bid and with um, you know, other stuff wins the contract award outright in clear contradiction of the original contract award process.

Elements within the TPZP consortium have, for years, had a sketchy reputation in the government/defense contracting arena in regards to squeezing the contracting entity via "change orders". Change orders are unanticipated obstacles or difficulties in the contracted work that was not budgeted for in the bid.

There are legitimate change orders and then there are the change orders where the government will simply roll over and pay the contractor because of a lack of will and/or resources to challenge the claim. TPZP has made a habit of the latter.

And dig this:

According to the New York US Attorney’s office: “Following a four-week trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn yesterday (March 9, 2011) found Zohrab B. Marashlian, the former president of Perini Corp.’s Civil Division, an international construction services corporation, guilty of fraud and conspiracy to launder money. The charges arose out of Marashlian’s false representation to New York government agencies that Disadvantaged Business Entities (DBE’s) were performing work in connection with major public works contracts, when, in reality, Marashlian had non-disadvantaged businesses favored by Perini Corp. do the work.” Tutor Perini paid Marashlian $14 million in salary while all this was going on. Two days before Marashlian was to receive a multi-year prison sentence he committed suicide. A fellow employee is currently doing a long prison term for the same case.

Perini has been caught doing such things over and over again. They are absolutely ridiculous in California projects. … According to the Seattle News some of the Perini headlines read: “In February, Tutor-Saliba and Perini agreed to pay $19 million to settle racketeering and fraud allegations in a San Francisco airport project.” … “The companies are embroiled in an 11 – year legal battle over $16 million in extra costs on a Los Angeles subway job.”

Go to the link above for more Blum/Feinstein/federal government Kevin Bacon-ness.

Before a single length of steel has been laid in a former pistachio field in the Central Valley, California's high-speed choo-choo project is proving itself to be the apex of cronyism, favortism, malfeasance and government/private enterprise hand-in-glove corporatism. At the end of the day, train wreck analogies won't even suffice.

H/T: drozz of The Double Standard


Saturday, April 27, 2013

What we've been Tweeting


Effectively, taking over our weekly "Quickies" feature.

"Avid consumers of news, political news, now believe they have to consume journalism as a Kremlinologist of another era would parse the statements of Soviet bureaucrats in order to divine their true meaning."

Too true. Nearly six years ago, this blog was going to be devoted primarily to sports as the figurehead would indicate. Unfortunately, we have become self-styled experts at separating the wheat from the chaff and divining the real news behind the bullshit that we are fed on a daily basis from this country's sad-sack excuse of a 4th estate.

Congress is moving to lift the furloughs of air traffic controllers. What should be considered a no-brainer is viewed in D.C. as a bipartisan breakthrough. The administration is exacting the maximum amount of pain from this sequestration non-sense and they are being called on it. Good. Get this legislation on the President's desk, pronto, and have him undo the mess in which he has been complicit.

More on the same topic:

Attempted assassin was going to smear 15 Chik-fil-A sandwiches that he had purchased in the faces of his victims. Where is the outcry for a 7 sandwich purchase limit? And where is the outcry against the SPLC providing the addresses of (conservative) organizations it deems hate groups?

No, Ms. Sebelius, if no one is appointed, you are effectively the highly controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

From Thursday evening and the year-around sport that has become the NFL:

Strangest draft we have ever witnessed: zero running backs and only one QB taken in the first round. Offensive linemen and defense ruled the day.

Not us...

... but we could not have said it better ourselves.

Being forced to live with the consequences of their own actions, just now dawning on some folks:

"Journalists" forming a human shield around a gun-control advocate:

Worst mayor in America living out the statist mantra of never letting a crisis go to waste.

A 1 percenter that contributes to the economy by paying his fair (see: legal) share and by creating jobs. Go figure.

OK, gang, computer is starting to act up so we'll wrap things up before everything goes completely south.


Radio KBwD is on the air


We've featured these guys a few times before as not only do they make great music they also put on extraordinary live performances, our first witnessing thereof being back in 2001. Hipsters love them for their moodier pieces but we've always digged them for their kick-ass mariachi/Spaghetti Western-fueled numbers.

Ladies and gentlemen, from the dusty, sun-scorched recesses of your desert south-west psyche, here's Calexico performing "Minas de Cobre".


Thursday, April 25, 2013

An affront to rodents everywhere

Last week, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), chief architect of ObamaCare, said he feared the implementation of ObamaCare would be a "trainwreck". And this week, in the ultimate /drops mic maneuver, Baucus said he would not be running for re-election in 2014. Peace out, Senator.

And in other totally related news....

It's been said that rats are the first to sense a sinking ship. In this case, then, we would be giving rats a bad name by comparison because only now is Congress coming around to the fact that the healthcare law they voted for is a steaming pile of crap.

The very people that put together the hopelessly byzantine, unworkable and unsustainable Affordable Healthcare Act (aka ObamaCare) are now frantically trying to exempt themselves and their staff from that which they championed and that for which they voted.

Though these folks aren't the sharpest tools in the shed, neither are they stupid. They knew. They knew what a disaster this thing was going to be even as they were foisting it upon the rest of us. What else explains solid Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate that still required bribes, backroom arm-twisting and mid-night Christmas Eve votes in order to get it through.

And now, when reality is about to crack them upside the head with a two by four, they are all looking to bail out.

From Politico:

Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.

The talks - which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers - are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.

A source close to the talks says: "Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done."

Funny. We recall that being the general sentiment and strategy to get ObamaCare passed in the first place.

Back to the article:

Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office.

Democrats, in particular, would take a public hammering as the traditional boosters of Obamacare. Republicans would undoubtedly attempt to shred them over any attempt to escape coverage by it, unless Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) give Democrats cover by backing it.

There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn't revised, could lead to a "brain drain" on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.

The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer - in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers - especially low-paid junior aides - could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.

We also recall being told it would be the young and elderly that would benefit most from ObamaCare. It's always a revelation when people find out that reality doesn't square with the snake oil sales pitch.

Plus, lawmakers - especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts - are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.

Plus..! Cry us a river. Color us cynical but we remain skeptical that any public servant with "long careers" will be too concerned with their own wallets unless they were just too stupid to carve out a golden parachute for themselves during all those years in D.C.


House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is worried about the provision. The No. 2 House Democrat has personally raised the issue with Boehner and other party leaders, sources said.

"Mr. Hoyer is looking at this policy, like all other policies in the Affordable Care Act, to ensure they're being implemented in a way that's workable for everyone, including members and staff," said Katie Grant, Hoyer's communications director.

Congress' approach to implementing ObamaCare reminds us of how we approached final exams back at Seminary. The biggest difference being, of course, our panicked running around at 11 at night looking for the "pony" exam from last semester didn't screw over an entire nation. In fact, Congress hopes that their flailing in the wee hours will result in a passing grade even after blowing off the exam.

What more evidence does one need that ObamaCare was negotiated and legislated in bad faith? And what more evidence does one need that the entire Washington D.C. governing apparatus is a corrupt and illegitimate cabal.

For those of you out there that continue to vote in favor of "Free S#it", this is what it results in. Elected representatives giving you exactly what you want and having the sense to know what a bad deal it is and exercising the most basic self-preservation instincts by exempting themselves from the negative consequences of what you have asked/voted for.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fisker: we scarcely knew ye


Of all the Department of Energy's green loan debacles and there have been many, Fisker stands above even the Solyndra disaster for a combination of audacity and incompetence.

(For previous posts regarding Fisker, please go here)

To quickly recap: Fisker Automotive was to build electric hybrids cars and was approved for $529 million in loan guarantees (more than they requested) from the Department of Energy to do so. Originally, the two models of cars they were to build were going to be in the $50,000-$60,000 range. In short order, that price escalated upwards to the $110,000 range for it's high-end model thus going from hybrid to luxury hybrid.

The cars were to be assembled at a plant in Delaware as part of the justification for this massive loan was that it would create good paying green manufacturing jobs here in the U.S. The only problem was that the Delaware plant never produced a single car, rather the assembly operations had been relocated to... Finland.

If you were thinking that perhaps a stipulation of the loan would be that our tax dollars wouldn't go to pay the salaries of Paavo, Heikki and the rest of the boys over there, you and we are in the same company.

After falling drastically short of production and sales goals (last year, they sold only 900 out of the 48,000 market-wide plug-ins), the cars plagued by mechanical, electrical and software problems and the failure of A123 batteries (yet, another DOE green loan #fail) last year was a harbinger of doom for Fisker and its aptly-named luxury model "Karma".

And on Monday, there was even more bad news for the car company that has not produced a car since last August.

From the New York Times:

The all-but-closed company skipped a large loan payment that was due on Monday, leading the federal government to take the unusually aggressive step of seizing $21 million from the company's cash reserves to begin recouping the $192 million in taxpayer dollars spent on the company's flawed strategy.

Which means, of course, Fisker is still on the hook to U.S. taxpayers to the tune of $171 million.

The fall-out from this extends beyond merely financial as green technology and our wisdom of taxpayer subsidies for green technology takes a P.R. hit:

Some environmental activists worry about the potential ramifications of a Fisker bankruptcy.

"We can't get to where we need to be in electric vehicles without government help," said Dan Becker, head of the Safe Climate Campaign, an advocacy group in Washington.

Mr. Becker, good sir, if $192 million committed out of $529 million promised isn't considered "help", we scarcely know what is and Fisker still managed to bollox things up.

And if the Obama administration has committed tax-payer money to other, more established auto-manufacturers like Ford and Toyota for their EVs without such disastrous results what is the explanation for what happened with Fisker?

From CBS News:

The Obama administration was warned as early as 2010 that electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. was not meeting milestones set up for a half-billion dollar government loan, nearly a year before U.S. officials froze the financing after questions were raised about the company's statements, newly released documents show.

An Energy Department official said in a June 2010 email that Fisker's bid to draw on the federal loan may be jeopardized for failure to meet goals established by the Energy Department.

Fisker continued to receive money until June 2011, when the Energy Department halted further funding. The agency did so after Fisker presented new information that called into question whether key milestones - including launch of the company's signature, $100,000 Karma hybrid - had been achieved, according to a credit report prepared by the Energy Department.

The December 2011 credit report said "DOE staff asked questions about the delays" in the launch of the Karma "and received varied and incomplete explanations," leading to the suspension of the loan.

Recall that the Fisker loan was approved in mid-2009 so it only took a year for the warning flags to go up. One year.

If the warning flags were going up that early, it would suggest perhaps that exercising some due diligence at the front end would've revealed that the loan should not have been made in the first place. Just sayin'.

As it stands, and we are being polite, what this represents is a dereliction of duty by Team O in the stewardship of the taxpayers' scratch. There's really no other way to look at it and yet there will be no repercussions for this willful negligence.

Committing tax-payer money to not-yet-market-ready technology is a losing proposition and committing the same to a start-up using that same technology that can't find sufficient private backing is a guaranteed losing proposition.

Unfortunately, Team O won't learn this lesson. The pursuit of currently suspect green technology subsidized by your money is an article of faith embedded in their collectivist religion and for the smartest kids in the classroom picking winners and losers with respect to directing the economy and "creating" jobs is a divine rite not to be left to the whims of market realities. That we should be so fortunate to be blessed by their benevolence and wisdom.

* Perhaps the quintessential image of the Karma. Being towed off the track after breaking down shortly into Consumer Reports test drive of the car. On the bed of that truck, the Karma achieves the greenie dream of a zero emissions vehicle lumbering down the highway at 50 mph.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The week that was...


For some unfathomable reason, someone named Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls felt compelled over the weekend to put pen to paper to squeeze out what is apparently an ode to the younger Tsarnaev brother, Dzhokhar, the Boston bombing terrorist who was taken into custody, gravely wounded, on Friday evening.

If you must, the poem can be found here. You'd be pleased to know that a sympathetic piece of poetry (which, strictly on poetic merits is unbearable) to an indiscriminate blood-thirsty slaughterer comes with a warning disclaimer with respect to "hateful commenters".

Any sort of Christ-like offering of redemption and forgiveness are going to need a cooling off period in these parts as we are currently feeling more like the Lion of Judah. No matter. That type of forgiveness and empathy is not what Amanda Palmer has in mind, however. It's the very same progressive juvenile fascination Palmer and her ilk held for Christopher Dorner while he was on his murderous rampage here in Southern California just a few weeks back.

It all comes back to the victim and in Palmer's case the victim isn't the 3 dead people or the dozens of people who had their limbs shorn clean-off by the blasts created by Brothers Tsarnaev last Monday, rather the brothers themselves.

You see, to Palmer's fans, what the Tsarnaevs and Dorner did could not have happened unless they were faced with such an oppressive and overwhelming set of physical, emotional and psychological circumstances, they had no other option than to lash out as a way of emoting and acting-out all their accrued angst and anger.

Of course, this is ultimately de-humanizing. This level of victimization strips away the element of human responsibility and thus humanity itself from the Tsarnaevs. It views them as nothing more than a mass of cells absent a moral compass, incapable of critical thinking and capable of only knee-jerk reactions to the stimuli provided to them (we can't help get this sick image out of our heads of Palmer viewing the Tsarnaevs as rescue puppies).

Of course, they would like to know why they did this but they would be drawing the wrong conclusions and looking in entirely different directions than would be, say, the CIA, FBI and 85% of the rest of us in sane and rational America.

This is the sort of unhinged displays of "sympathy" churned out by our grievance industry in our country that seeks victimization rather than that old, crude and antiquated notion of personal responsibility.

Personal responsibility is probably pretty hard to match to any sort of meter, after all.

Alas, some of our favorite Tweets associated with the subject:

Most specifically, "our" nation.

Yep. We fell for it but it was for a good cause don't ya think?

To cleanse the palate, we offer up some poetry ourselves on what went down last week from the incomparable, Iowahawk:

That Was the Week That Was

At the Boston Marathon, someone set us up the bomb

Backpack tax attacks, at least that's what they say

Talking heads smelling Tea, live on MSNBC

New York Times solving crimes, suspects the NRA

Journalist, media, Google Wikipedia

Experts, head hurts, CNN's a wreck

In their guts, they see nuts, homegrown Boston PatriotsAPB for Tom Brady, hunt for Belichek

This was a one week cycle

It started Monday

And drug on to Sunday

This was a one week cycle

No I didn't need it

But I tried to tweet it

Gosnell trial, victim pile, coverage in a little while

News vans, spray-on tans, updates overnight

Michael Moore connects the dots, Alex Jones detects the plots

Blogger dope holds out hope the perpetrator's white

Hot mess PBS sanity under stress

Mississippi senator gets something in the post

Slicin', dicin', envelope of ricin

Perry White Daily Planet, Great Caesar's Ghost

This was a one week cycle

It started Monday

And drug on to Sunday

This was a one week cycle

No I didn't need it

But I tried to tweet it

What was that? Something loud, in Texas there's a mushroom cloud

Gun check vote wreck, Obama hissy fit

Minnesota snowstorm, kegger at the bomber's dorm

Labor force getting worse, economy is shit

Oh noes, photos, big nose frat bros,

Asia shakes, China quakes, nature on a bender

Ricin perpetrator is an Elvis imitator

He wrote, I quote, Return to Sender

(read the rest at the link)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cartoon of the week


Pretty much indicative pretzel-twisting logic progressives have put themselves in regarding the "demography" and motives of the two Boston Marathon bombers.

Prior to yesterday, there was a fervent hope among many on the left that it would be a white male and preferrably the left's favorite bogey-caricature: the white, pro-gun, anti-government, male (and any association with the tea party, however tenuous, would constitute a royal flush).

Given that the Tsarnaev brothers we're definetely 3 of those 4, you'd think our lefty friends would be pretty ecstatic. Alas, very credible evidence is emerging that the two gentelmen in question might've been possibly motivated by Islamist influences/impulses has suddenly changed the narrative: now, we must not rush to judgement. The very David Sirota who was hoping to get whitey (linked above) is now Tweeting that "demography" and motivation are not important factors in this act of terrorism. (We had the tweet but our timeline from Thursday evening up until 2 hours ago has disappeared)

Indeed, if Tsarnaev is to be tried in civilian court, demography and motivation* do not matter but that's not the point he is making with respect to the broader issue of radical Islam and its ability to turn citizens and residents of this country against this country.

Once again, the left of this country confronts the inconvenient truth that radical Islam represents an existential threat to Western liberalism and most of all, it's standard-bearer, the United States of America. To say that they have in the past and continue to shy away from contact on this issue is an understatement of epic proportions.

Exit question for any legal beagles out there: How does Tsarnaev being tried in civilian court effect our ability to get information out of him regarding who he was in contact with, who he may have been working with, anyone else operating within his "cell" and any or all info that will hopefully help prevent future terror attacks?


* There should be hate crime considerations given to the charges against Tsarnaev, should there not? We hate the whole concept of hate crime laws but if they're on the books, should they not be applied across a level playing field?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A few thoughts on what went down yesterday in D.C.

We're not sure if the President grasped just what the Senate (gun) control bill that went down in stunning defeat Wednesday evening was all about.

The President proved he could get elected President and then re-elected in a national race after uttering his "bitter-clinger" statement which was demonstrable of his condescension towards broad swaths of the American public. However, despite using his bully-pulpit of the highest office in the land and shamelessly exploiting the families of the Newtown victims, the President failed to grasp this was more of a local or regional issue and certainly more of a culture issue than he realized.

A recent Gallup poll showed that only 4% of Americans viewed gun control as the most pressing issue facing this country despite the fact that a majority of Americans favor more comprehensive background checks proving only that 96% of Americans don't really care that they themselves favor stronger background checks. (No shocker that the economy, jobs, dissatisfaction with government and government deficit/debt, in that order, topped the poll, so we assume the strategy here is that if you've failed miserably in addressing American's most pressing concerns, you just keep moving down the list until you hit legislative paydirt).

But back to this issue of culture and its many facets and interpretations. We scratch our heads when he hear the term "gun culture" Gun culture. We have no idea what that means. Are they talking about the gun culture of the inner city where gun play is glorified in music and which occurs in areas with the strictest gun control laws in the land? Or are they talking about the gun culture of pick-ups and gun racks that pretty much exists, geographically speaking, in 95% of the country excluding the D.C.-NYC-Boston corridor and that strip on the West Coast west of Interstate 5? We're not sure because gun culture has never been adequately defined for us.

Given that, we're left to assume that gun culture is merely a sloppy and scatter-shot short-hand pejorative used towards gun owners by gun control folks who don't know into what they are wading. And this is why the Senate (gun) control bill was doomed.

We can't link to it right now but there was an essay two or three weeks ago that was representative of a broader theme that has emerged recently regarding mass shootings in America and it is this: what's up with white males and why isn't there any examination of the white male culture that apparently leads to these shootings? A lazy and sloppy broad-brushing that we've come to expect from the (gun) control lobby but we give them credit for at least being in the ballpark.

What needs to be examined is the middle and upper middle class progressive, participation trophy culture to which we have subjected our white suburban males for the past 30 or so years and which may very well be a contributing factor in these shootings. In a nutshell: are we going to sit here and say those goofy win or lose, post-game victory tunnels do anything to prepare our children for the kick-in-the-teeth that life really is? Is it beyond the realm of possibility to wonder that after a lifetime of coddle culture (see, we can play the game, also), young, post-adolescent males that may be mentally afflicted, lose it when they find that their life no longer matches that vision given to them by their high school self-esteem coach? No one seems to be looking in that direction, which, perversely enough, is proof of its potential viability.

Accepting the premise of the coddle culture, it's not a stretch, then, to imagine much of America described above looking at the horrific slaughter that occurred in Newtown and thinking that's a "them" problem and not a "we" or "us" problem. Did not Adam Lanza get exposed to enough ass-kickings out on the baseball diamond or soccer field to give him a taste of the real world?

A couple of weeks back, when the imbecilic Joe Biden made the crack about the "black helicopter crowd" and how Special Ops were going to swoop down and take our guns, it confirmed in our mind this: we have never seen an administration hold more contempt towards its fellow citizens than this one. Again, you can win national elections after "bitter-clinger" remarks but you are not winning the hearts and minds of the electorate on more focused issues when you hold condescension towards law-abiding Americans who happen to own guns. And as social media has proved, those same law-abiding gun owners will become even less willing to be open to any sort of (gun) control legislation when they are charged with being complicit in the slaughters in Virginia Tech, Aurora and Newtown.

Yes, there were certainly political considerations as defecting Democratic Senators were from rural states with large gun-owning populations but this was against a larger backdrop of a cultural battle and the President's petulance at the press conference yesterday revealed that it wasn't just a political battle he lost but a cultural one as well where the statist worldview of "do something... anything" in the wake of crisis lost out to a world view that is, frankly, weary of panic management by a culture that has nothing but disdain for them and, unfortunately, this is something the President, because he leads such an insular existence, will never figure out.

This wasn't so much about guns but about a public tired of being bullied and harried by the political class of this country that will stop at nothing to reshape the fly-over bumpkins in their image.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Maybe she'll have better luck than us in explaining this thing

If you thought that a law written in secretive fashion by a combination of members of Congress, their respective staffs and health care and big Pharma lobbyists and which was cobbled together to provide enough aptly-named sweeteners (Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Gator Aid) to garner sufficient votes and which also was ramrodded sideways through no fewer than 3 congressional committees might experience some minor problems with its roll-out, you would not be alone.

From The Hill:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Wednesday he fears a "train wreck" as the Obama administration implements its signature healthcare law.

Baucus, the chairman of the chamber's powerful Finance Committee and a key architect of the healthcare reform law, said he fears people do not understand how the law will work.

"I just see a huge train wreck coming down," he told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Wednesday hearing. "You and I have discussed this many times, and I don't see any results yet."

Baucus pressed Sebelius for details about how the Health Department will explain the law and raise awareness of its provisions, which are supposed to take effect in just a matter of months.

"I'm very concerned that not enough is being done so far — very concerned," Baucus said.

Remember, we were told by the glittering jewel of colossal ignorance, then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, that we had to pass ObamaCare so we can find out what's in it. And now, over 3 years since its passage, the biggest problem the law faces according to those voted for it is that it has not been sufficiently explained to us. Never mind that Baucus, one of the chief architects of the law and who is facing re-election next year is in full CYA mode, the man has some valid concerns, and how!


He pressed Sebelius to explain how her department will overcome entrenched misunderstandings about what the healthcare law does.

"Small businesses have no idea what to do, what to expect," Baucus said.

Citing anecdotal evidence from small businesses in his home state, Baucus asked Sebelius for specifics about how it is measuring public understanding of the law.

"You need data. Do you have any data? You've never given me data. You only give me concepts, frankly," he said.

Sebelius said in response that the administration is not independently monitoring public awareness of specific provisions but will be embarking on an education campaign beginning this summer.

Of course they're not monitoring public awareness. a) it's the law of the land so all you little people can go pound sand and b) they wouldn't like the feedback so please see a). And about that education campaign... mere months... weeks? before people can start signing up for ObamaCare at the state exchanges (which are nowhere close to being set up, by the by) on October 1st? That ought to be helpful.

Later, the article takes a curious turn down the avenue of why it is that 3+ years later we still don't know jack squat about this law and it has to do with our obvious misconceptions regarding the law. Here is the odd stand-alone paragraph:

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found deep and persistent misconceptions about the healthcare law. Public awareness was highest for the most politically unpopular provisions, and many people wrongly believed the law contains provisions like a "death panel" to make decisions about end-of-life care.

We suppose this represents part of the education campaign: getting The Hill to provide cover for this horrible law.

But if Sebelius and her water carriers in the press want us to give up our misconceptions regarding "death panels", we'd be glad to except for the fact that it's not really a misconception.

Nearly 4 years ago, we read the section of ObamaCare that dealt with the alleged death panels and came to the conclusion that though there were no death panels, per se, the language of the legislation allowed for a steering of patients towards decisions that would be, shall we say, less than optimal for their immediate health.

Here's us from back in 2009 and please follow the link for a fuller explanation of our thoughts on the matter:

Conclusion: First and foremost, this legislation, because of the Byzantine fashion in which it is written should be opposed on principle alone. Well, all legislation is written in that manner. Perhaps, but we all reserve the right to be smarter than we used to be and nothing this important should give someone a headache while trying to read it, let alone interpret it.

So while there does not appear to be a death panel, per se, the vague manner in which the language is crafted leaves plenty of wiggle room for physicians to steer patients towards decisions that would lead to a lessening of treatment(s), malnourishment, dehydration and a cutback on anti-biotics.

And if you believe, as we do, that government-managed healthcare will lead to shortages and thus the eventuality of rationing, one can connect the dots to see where this is all going.

Benefit of the doubt: Denied. We’ve heard too much already with respect to what the President himself has related as to the potential of rationing end-of-life care and the immutable laws of economics when it comes to who’s paying for what to let this slide.

The current healthcare reform bill as written, will indeed impose pressure on physicians and thus their patients into decisions that will not have their personal-health best interests at heart with specific respect to end-of-life decisions.

At the end of the day: Keep your politics off our body.

If you had trouble comprehending what was written above, our apologies as we were taking our best crack at deciphering and then explaining perhaps the un-decipherable. This is what Baucus fashioned and this is what Ms. Sebelius will have to explain, herself, to the rest of us this summer. Best of luck with that, Ms. Sebelius.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Some people just can't quit digging

Last week, we blogged about MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and her updating of the collectivist Hillary Clinton "It takes a village" meme and which can be found here.

We had some fun with it on Twitter wondering if when MH-P dropped off her kid with us on Friday evening, she was prepared to pick up a Dodger, Laker, Charger and Milton Friedman fan on Sunday afternoon. And we believe it was Sarah Palin who asked if MH-P would be cool if the Palin family took her tyke hunting after church in their big pick-up.

Funny stuff but it's something the bubble people of the establishment media don't ask themselves: If you're in the It takes a village set, are you willing to expose your children to opinions and possibly even indoctrination of which you vehemently disagree?

Well, not to be outdone, Melissa Harris-Perry doubled down on her collectivism, this time going wondering if people's freedom can be impinged upon for the greater common good.

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"This isn’t about me wanting to take your kids, and this isn’t even about whether children are property. This is about whether we as a society, expressing our collective will through our public institutions, including our government, have a right to impinge on individual freedoms in order to advance a common good. And that is exactly the fight that we have been having for a couple hundred years.”
Since we know her track record and since she's even asking the question, we don't think we're going out on a limb by saying she has no problem with what it is she is postulating. A few points/questions: We would like MH-P to give us an operational definition of "common good". We've got a pretty good idea that our idea of "common good" doesn't jive with hers. Well, we're just assuming that because given the context of impinging on our freedom, we're not quite sure what "common good" even means, ourselves. It's Orwellian Newspeak. Also, by institutions, we're assuming she doesn't mean the Christian Church. Of course, she doesn't. Again, the establishment-left who live in their echo-chamber and who come up with this non-sense don't think through their half-baked theorizations. They automatically assume their correct thinking will be the coin of the realm as they move us all towards this utopic "common good". So much for diversity and more importantly, diversity of thought. With collectivists like MH-P, there is no such thing. It's their way or the highway as they are obviously superior moral and intellectual betters to the rest of us and the quicker we accept that fact, the quicker they can achieve their collectivist goals. Freedom and liberty are fine for her and her socio-poltical set, but the rest of us are not to be trusted with it, especially as it may run afoul of the "common good." In the words of a World War II general: Nuts! If no one else will say it, we will: Melissa Harris-Perry is a fascist thug and she only confirms this notion each time she opens her yap.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seeing the forest through the trees

Other than the Kermit Gosnell murder trial this past week, the big news was music mogul Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce' visiting the authoritarian island state of Cuba.

It was dubbed a "cultural" visit by the Treasury Department who grants permission for such requests, although, part of the dust-up is whether he received some assistance from the White House of which he is reported to be on very good terms.

No matter. We've never been big fans of trade embargos or trade restrictions as they never appear to work. Closed, insular, police states appear only to become that much more so when denied the liberalizing influences of western democracies.

We're reasonably confident that part of this cultural visit did not entail Jay-Z and his lovely bride visiting any of Cuba's political prisoners languishing in that country's gulag. And since Jay-Z and the President are supposedly boys and since also the Commander-in-Chief has asserted the absurd notion that he has the right to assassinate U.S. citizens overseas without due process, we will call this trip for what it was: a mutual stoke-off photo-op between two like-minded regimes.

Addendum #1: from the comment section of the linked HuffPo piece, we are informed that perhaps the criticism leveled at Jay-Z and Beyonce is due to skin hue. Let the record show and do a word search to prove it that these pages have been exemplars regarding color-blindedness when it comes to calling out toadies, stoolies, apologists and otherwise useful idiots for the likes of the Castro regime, Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and Ahmedinejad's Iran.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Photo image of the day

The reserved media section and which represents perfectly the lack of media attention that has been paid to the murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell and his house of horrors.

As a result, Twitter has been ablaze with #Gosnell and other related hashtags from testimony given during the trial.

Don't really care for the racial angle? Too bad. Just holding the establishment-left to their own standards.

And wherever it was covered, let's just say they treaded lightly:

Our boy, KT, thinks he may know why the reluctance:

We can imagine the unpleasantness when the sordid underbelly of a culture one holds sacred, that being the culture of death that props up the abortion industry, is ripped open and exposed for what it is. Covering the priest abuse scandal or the slaughter of white children is so much more easy and funner than having to confront the statist policy failures that have led to the senseless deaths of so many minorities in liberal havens like Detroit and Chicago at the hands of criminals or rogue abortion doctors.

Once again, social media doing the job old media won't.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do you remember when dissent was patriotic?

We do.

Unfortunately some people have forgotten.

From The Blaze:

TIME Magazine’s Joe Klein appeared on Chris Matthews’ weekend show Sunday, where he asserted that it is “crap” and “anti-American” to think the government might become oppressive.

“…What do they need all those bullets for? I guess they just don’t feel very strong,” he began, laughing as he argued that we have become a “lot more wimpy” as a country because “these gun advocates at the NRA want these semi-automatic weapons.”

When Matthews asked how the “cowboy culture” factors in, Klein responded:

Well, I think that that’s at the root of it, but there’s something else that’s going on now that is really, really dangerous, and it’s this festering sense that we need to have these semi-automatic weapons because the government in Washington is about to oppress us.

And that is paranoia that these groups like the NRA, the Gun Owners of America — they feed this crap, and it really is anti-American.

Question: why does it seem that no one on these talkies even knows anybody that owns a gun? OK. Two questions. Do these people get out much? And by out much, we mean outside the establishment base echo chamber D.C. - New York corridor?

We now have a tax collection agency in the IRS checking up on you and making sure you've signed up for healthcare insurance lest you be forced to pay a fine penalty tax and this same agency claims it has the right to snoop your personal emails. We also now have a President who has asserted his right to and has indeed carried out the assassination of U.S. citizens overseas under a policy that effectively has zero oversight and zero traditionally-recognized due process so... of course, Joe, it certainly is un-American to believe that your government would ever oppress you.

Again, the hypocrisy is stunning. A mere 6 years ago, George McBushChimpHitler was shredding the Constitution for warrantless wiretaps and pouring water on the faces of 3 detainees and the establishment-left was apoplectic with outrageous outrage. Now, not only is there silence from the very same people, the current Commander-in-Chief makes his predecessor look like a piker as he has doubled down on Bush's wire tap program and has effectively eliminated the 4th amendment with the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, his son and Samir Khan. And, by extension, Joe Klein thinks questioning that and questioning the motives of our government or suggesting that the government is way out of its constitutional boundaries for wacking its own is somehow anti-American?

Joe Klein doesn't have the foggiest notion of what is "American" or "anti-American".

We've said it before but we can't wait for an (R) to get back into the Oval Office so that everybody will start caring about this stuff again and it will be cool, once more, to call out your government.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

If only photo-ops could save this thing


So, what exactly are small business owners facing when the Affordable Care Act aka ObmaCare is fully implemented in 2014? Contrary to what you might have heard, businesses aren't locked into the law as far as having to provide health coverage for their employees. Unfortunately, the campaign rhetoric by the President that if you liked your current health care plan, you could keep it, didn't quite fully register with many small business owners.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Small-business owners across the U.S. are bracing for the health-care law that kicks in next year, fearing it will increase the cost of providing insurance to employees.

But Rick Levi, a business owner in Des Moines, Iowa, is among those considering the government's escape hatch: paying a penalty to avoid the law's "employer mandate."

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with 50 or more full-time workers will be required to provide coverage for employees who work an average of 30 or more hours a week in a given month. An alternative to that mandate is for business owners to pay a $2,000 penalty for each full-time worker over a 30-employee threshold.

Mr. Levi currently spends about $140,000 a year on insurance premiums to cover 25 managerial staff at his business, Consolidated Management, which runs cafeterias at schools, offices and jails.

Under the new law, he will have to offer insurance to all of his 102 full-time employees starting in January. Assuming all of them take the coverage, Mr. Levi says the cost of premiums could exceed $500,000.

"I've never made a profit in any year of the company that has surpassed that amount," says Mr. Levi, 62 years old. "I don't make enough money."

He says it makes more sense to drop insurance entirely and pay a penalty of about $144,000.

For those of you in Placentia, California, that's a tidy little bump of at least $360,000 a year in order to provide healthcare for one's employees. Then again, why eat that cost when you can hit the easy button and just drop healthcare coverage for your employees and pay the penalty tax?

Back to the article:

Gary Epstein, owner of Firstaff Nursing Services Inc. in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., has similar plans. He intends to stop offering health insurance benefits at his home health-care company.

Mr. Epstein, 52, employs about 250 workers and currently provides health insurance to his 20 office personnel. If he were to start covering the 100 or so nurses and nursing assistants that work full time, his annual health-insurance costs would jump to roughly $600,000 from the current $100,000, he says.

Even if he takes the penalty option, he estimates he would have to pay about $240,000-a cost he doesn't think his business could absorb. To compensate, he plans to cut the number of hours his nurses and nursing assistants work so they will be considered part-time under the law. He says he will hire more part-timers to ensure patients receive the same level of care.

"We're going to do everything we can in order to stay in business," he says.

We don't know about you but relying increasingly on the temp labor market probably isn't a leading indicator of a robust economic recovery. But what was one to expect from the band of economic illiterates roaming the West Wing and large swaths of Capitol Hill? A 2,200 page law cobbled together by health industry lobbyists and legislators on the take that piled 30 million more people into the system and which mandated more healthcare coverage requirements and has certainly created confusion for both individuals and small business owners because of the byzantine nature in which the law was written... somehow this was supposed to drive down the cost of health care in this country?

Unfortunately, in the statist mindset, the actual effectiveness of an entitlement program such as ObamaCare runs a distant second to the fact that the law was actually passed. Good for the statists who championed and voted for the law and who won't suffer its consequences, bad for the rest of us.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Video clip of the day


MSNBC Host Melissa Harris-Perry updating Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village" meme from the 90s.

"We always had this private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven't had a very collective notion of 'these are our children.' So, part of it is we have to break through this private idea that kids belong to their parents... (rather) recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

So, what's your personal "creep factor" on this one? We give it a solid 8 (out of 10). Points for the earnestness that comes with this strain of lefty down for the struggle packaging.

In the past we've been shamed into parting with our scratch to lavish upon a broken public education system on the simple "it's for the children" sales pitch with the implied accusation that you are a heartless bastard if you don't vote for that particular school bond in November.

We've entered new territory here as the "it's for the children" angle is topped off with a healthy dose of getting onboard and being a team player in the new collective vision of the future as a means to grab more of our money. To believe or act otherwise would be anti-social behaviour at its most unacceptable.

Looks as if transformation of MSNBC from an opinion and news outfit to a megaphone for statist collective group-think is complete. Congrats, gang.

Striking a blow for (economic) freedom


Nearly 2-1/2 years ago we blogged about the legal travails of the monks of St. Joseph Abbey in Louisiana with respect to their efforts to construct simple wood caskets and to be able to sell the same to the public as a means of income for the Abbey.

The monks figured there would be a market for the simple hand-crafted caskets in which they had buried their brothers for centuries. Unfortunately, state licesnsing laws designed to protect larger funeral homes/parlors prevented them from doing so.

From PJ Media:

A state licensing law designed to protect funeral directors from competitive forces barred the monks from selling their caskets. The law required that the intrastate purchase of caskets be made only through state-licensed funeral directors at state-licensed funeral homes. This meant: unless the Abbey built or bought a funeral establishment with a layout parlor, a six-casket display room, an arrangement room, embalming facilities, and hired a full-time funeral director who had completed high school, 30 college credit hours, a one-year apprenticeship, and passed a test … the Abbey could not sell its caskets to customers in Louisiana.

The Fifth Circuit has now declared that law to be unconstitutional.

In St. Joseph Abbey v. Castille, the court ruled that the regulations violated both the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.

The court ruled that the Louisiana licensing law represented economic favortism in its effective barring of competition in that particular marketplace and that the law did not serve the greater interest of the citizens of Louisiana.

We use the term "rent seeking" from time to time and rent seeking occurs when an individual, organization or firm seeks to earn income by capturing economic rent through manipulation or exploitation of the economic or political environment, rather than by earning profits through economic transactions and the production of added wealth.

Not surprisingly, embalmers and funeral directors make up 8 of the 9 members of the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. Of course, it would serve in their best interests to rig the system in their favor. This is a perfect example of rent seeking where by it is the big dogs in the industry that are writing the laws in a burdensome and onerous fashion that tamps down competition and which force the buying public to pay top dollar (that they may or may not have) for funeral arrangements/proceedings.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rightly saw this case for what it was. This is a victory for the free market and thus a victory for small(er) businesses and the consumer public.

We've said it before but we will be glad to say it again: show us big business and we'll show you big government protection. They really do go hand in hand.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What we've been Tweeting

So, the President got himself into a little hot water this past week while he was out here in California when he called California's Attorney General Kamala Harris the "best looking" AG. She is indeed a good-looking woman and we don't feel the President did anything necessarily wrong here. But we all know the drill, don't we?: if we are we are going to be held to politically correct, modern liberal standards with respect how it is we address and refer to women then we sure as hell are going to hold others to it as well.

And this isn't the first, nor even second or third time there has been some borderline sexist-appearing improprieties with this President and his administration.

But who knows? Maybe this objectification of a high-ranking state official may cause a sea change in people's attitudes. It won't be the first time the President has led the way in changing people's opinion on things.

Nope. The politically correct-thinking crowd won the day as the President apologized for a justifiable compliment to a woman.

And here is another heart-warming story involving our country's public education system and specifically to teachers bullying a young conservative student:

We're growing weary of the "isolated incident" defense as a) the high schooler in question, Benji Backer, has been repeatedly harrassed and bullied by multiple faculty members at this school and b) there is very much a culture, it appears, in our schools that is openly and vigorously hostile to anti-statist thinking.

The thin pro-union veneer during the Wisconsin public-employee pension reform debate that was scratched off revealing a virulent and often un-hinged anti-capitalist, class warfare mentality is evidence of this.

And like foreign aid to folks like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, there are othere things that will not be effected by sequester cuts as our buddy JD points out:

Master satirist/humoruist Iowahawk gets in a dig at the food-stamps-are-an-economic-stimulus crowd:

Fisker is about to go belly-up? Of course, Fisker is about to go belly-up:

And the hits just keep coming for the Department of Energy's green loan program.

We used to follow baseball a lot more closely when we were younger and football (see: NFL) had not yet become a 12-month sport over which we could obssess. Having said that, there is a rhythm to things in life and it's good to see baseball back this week and it's also good to see MLB dropped the ridiculous idea of having two West Coast teams open up in Japan for a two game set a full week and a half before the rest of the teams' openers on the first Monday in April as happened last year.

Another RT for Iowahawk.

So true. So true. Yes, education is important but so is examining our national obsession with going to college, particularly, when going to college means "exploring", "finding yourself", "celebrating diversity" and evidently running up $80,000 in student loan debt with a sociology degree that lands you a plumb unpaid internship after 5 years at good ol' State U.

Look at it this way: we can never get ahold of our plumber as dude always seems to be in Hawai'i or Acupulco with his third wife. College isn't for everybody. Deal with it.

Plenty of people were pretty chapped that Google's home page decided to honor Cesar Chavez instead of the Son of God last Sunday. Peeps, be careful what you ask for...

The White House and its water-carriers in the press were furiously spinning Friday's horrible jobs news.

We realize there is politics to be played with this stuff but this is no longer politics rather, what planet are these people from?

OK, gang, that's it for now. We'll catch up with you later. Probably related to some good news related for some monks down in Louisiana.