Voters still hate Obamacare

November 27, 2011

USA Today reports:

A new poll shows that most voters want the Supreme Court to overturn President Obama’s health care law, with opposition and support falling largely along party lines. Overall, voters oppose the law by 48%-40%, according to the Quinnipiac University survey.

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Interesting

November 27, 2011

Jon Corzine (former US Senator and New Jersey governor) personally lobbied against reforms that would have made it hard for firms like his to hide billions of dollars in losses. His firm later collapsed and is under investigation for $1.2 billion (with a B) in missing customer funds.


NLRB plans to circumvent the law

November 27, 2011

The NLRB may soon find itself without the necessary quorum to do business, and under the Obama administration, the NLRB’s business is to impose costly and oppressive labor rules on struggling businesses. Alarmed by the possibility that the NLRB may soon be neutered, the NLRB’s Democrats have hatched a plan whereby they would delegate their power to their general counsel Lafe Solomon.

ASIDE: This is the same Lafe Solomon who announced the NLRB’s appalling order barring Boeing from building a plant in South Carolina, and then made light of killing jobs in South Carolina and damaging the US economy.

Can they get away with this? Can the NLRB’s statutory requirement for a quorum be so easily side-stepped by having someone other than the board take actions on its behalf? I suppose the courts will decide.


De-privatization

November 27, 2011

President Obama’s Labor Department has issued new rules that require any business entering into a service contract with the federal government to hire whatever workers were employed by the last contractor for that service (or for a “similar” service). Worse, if those workers were unionized, the new contractor must recognize the old union as well.

ASIDE: The new contractor only has to hire “qualified” workers, but the rule make it very hard to show that a worker is not qualified.

In effect, this means that the employees on federal contracts are government employees. The contractor might change, but the staff will not. Contractors are left unable to make changes in the area (personnel) that is most important for improving equality and reducing cost. (ASIDE: Nevertheless, Obama actually had the temerity to suggest that “economy and efficiency are served” when contractors cannot bring in their own staff.)

I think what’s going on here is an effort to reverse privatization by executive order. It would take an act of Congress for the government to take such functions over, and such an act will not be forthcoming (nor would Democrats even want to push such legislation publicly), but this order produces most of the effect without legislation.


A stem cell success

November 27, 2011

Researchers have made the biggest success yet in stem cell therapy. And, like all actual progress in stem cell therapies (as opposed to political hype), it uses adult stem cells.

(Via Instapundit.)


Swiss banks committing suicide?

November 27, 2011

As southern Europe looks like an increasingly scary place to keep your money, southern Europeans (particularly Greeks) are looking to get their money into safe havens abroad, such as Switzerland. But if this story is right, the European Commission is negotiating a deal with Switzerland in which Swiss banks would repatriate (that is, confiscate and turn over) funds they hold for Greek citizens.

Obviously this would be a horrible development for Europe (or, more precisely, for Europeans who want to hold assets that won’t be destroyed or stolen by their government), but it’s also astonishingly stupid for the Swiss banks: What is the primary selling point for Swiss banks? Your money is safe there. If your money is no longer safe in a Swiss bank, what purpose do they serve?

They don’t even need to conclude a deal, the mere fact (if it is a fact) that they are negotiating this is enough to destroy confidence in Swiss banks. Who would risk keeping their money there?

On the other hand, it’s great news for the Caymans, et al.


Crony capitalism

November 21, 2011

Over 80% of the Department of Energy’s green energy loans went to President Obama’s backers:

$16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted as of Sept. 15 went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers—individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party.

Note that we’re not talking about minor contributors; these are bundlers, committee members, and other “large donors”. Moving on, it looks as though the process was designed for just such an outcome, by minimizing transparency and maximizing opportunities for personal influence:

The Government Accountability Office has been highly critical of the way guaranteed loans and grants were doled out by the Department of Energy, complaining that the process appears “arbitrary” and lacks transparency. In March 2011, for example, the GAO examined the first 18 loans that were approved and found that none were properly documented. It also noted that officials “did not always record the results of analysis” of these applications. A loan program for electric cars, for example, “lacks performance measures.” No notes were kept during the review process, so it is difficult to determine how loan decisions were made. The GAO further declared that the Department of Energy “had treated applicants inconsistently in the application review process, favoring some applicants and disadvantaging others.” The Department of Energy’s inspector general, Gregory Friedman, … has testified that contracts have been steered to “friends and family.”

Solyndra is not an outlier; it’s a symptom. This is corruption of the first order; the result of putting Chicago in charge of the federal government.

(Via the Foundry.) (Previous post.)


Our infrastructure is not crumbling

November 21, 2011

Liberals like to argue that our infrastructure is crumbling, as it gives them an excuse for spending tax money on infrastructure boondoggles. It’s not true though, at least if you look at bridges, their standard infrastructure example. The number of obsolete or structurally deficient bridges in the national highway system is declining, not rising:

(Via the Corner.)


Obama: America has gotten lazy

November 21, 2011

Whatever the cause of our economic problems, it certainly isn’t President Obama’s policies:

President Obama said that the United States has gotten a “little bit lazy” when it comes to bringing in new businesses in to the states. He made the comments at a CEO summit as part of the APEC conference Saturday, when asked by Boeing CEO James McNerney about looking at the world from a Chinese perspective and what they might consider as impediments to investing. . .

He then went on to say things his administration has done like setting up Select USA that organizes government agencies in an attempt to make it easier for foreign investors to set up a plant in the U.S.

What a classic big-government solution. Rather than remove obstacles to commerce, let’s create a new government agency to help businesses manage those obstacles.

UPDATE: Select USA can’t help everyone, I’m sure. I’d be interested to learn how they decide who to help.


CBO: Stimulus hurt the economy

November 21, 2011

The Congressional Budget Office finds that the Democratic stimulus package hurt the economy.

Now I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the CBO’s models, which are far too optimistic about the effects of fiscal stimulus, but it is interesting if even those models find that the stimulus hurt.

(Via Instapundit.)


The scandal deepens

November 21, 2011

The Department of Energy asked Solyndra to delay its layoffs until after the midterm elections:

The Obama administration, which gave the solar company Solyndra a half-billion-dollar loan to help create jobs, asked the company to delay announcing it would lay off workers until after the hotly contested November 2010 midterm elections that imperiled Democratic control of Congress, newly released e-mails show.

The announcement could have been politically damaging because President Obama and others in the administration had held up Solyndra as a poster child of its clean-energy initiative. . .

A Solyndra investment adviser wrote in an Oct. 30, 2010, e-mail — without explaining the reason — that Energy Department officials were pushing “very hard” to delay making the layoffs public until the day after the elections. The announcement ultimately was made on Nov. 3, 2010 — immediately following the Nov. 2 vote.

Worse, it appears that the administration gave Solyndra $40 million in hush money:

“DOE continues to be cooperative and have indicated that they will fund the November draw on our loan (app. $40 million) but have not committed to December yet,” an unnamed Argonaut official wrote, according to the memo released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Republican staff. “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”

We don’t know what the administration actually said, but it’s clear from the memo that Solyndra connected the $40 million with the delay until after the election.

(Via Hot Air.) (Previous post.)


The Occupy crime wave

November 21, 2011

Democrats were desperately jealous of the Tea Party movement and the energy it brought to the limited-government movement. Several attempts to astroturf a liberal counter-movement (e.g., the “Coffee Party”) failed, but they finally got theirs in Occupy Wall Street. The differences between the two movements are instructive.

The Tea Party rallies were law-abiding, obtained proper permits, and cleaned up after themselves. The Occupy Wall Street movement is the exact opposite. The very name glorifies trespassing, but their crime wave also includes assaults, rapes, theft, vandalism, attempted kidnapping, drug trafficking, and of course littering. John Nolte has compiled a list of hundreds of criminal incidents involving OWS, and those are only the ones that made the news.

OWS’s defenders would doubtless plead that the crimes are committed by a few bad apples. Well, first of all, that’s a hell of a lot of bad apples. All of these crimes came from a movement that is much smaller than the Tea Party movement.

Second, the left and their allies in the legacy media were more than happy to tar the entire Tea Party movement with antics of a few, and they still weren’t able to come up with crimes. The best they could find was some signs, and one racial incident that never happened.

Third, it’s simply not true. A scientific poll of Occupy Wall Street found that 31% support violence to advance their agenda. And the anti-law-enforcement tones is set from the top. The OWS leadership has explicitly held law enforcement at arm’s length, even to the point of discouraging rape victims from reporting rapes to the police, instead preferring to deal with rapes internally.

POSTSCRIPT: Criminality is not the only thing that sets OWS apart from the Tea Party either, there is also hygiene. New York City finally broke up the original Zuccotti Park encampment because of rapidly worsening health conditions.


Obama gets his gun control on

November 21, 2011

The Obama administration has announced its first major anti-gun initiative:

Gun owners who have historically been able to use public lands for target practice would be barred from potentially millions of acres under new rules drafted by the Interior Department, the first major move by the Obama administration to impose limits on firearms.

Officials say the administration is concerned about the potential clash between gun owners and encroaching urban populations who like to use same land for hiking and dog walking.

“It’s not so much a safety issue. It’s a social conflict issue,” said Frank Jenks, a natural resource specialist with Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 245 million acres. He adds that urbanites “freak out” when they hear shooting on public lands.

It’s interesting to see them admit that the move is all about placating hoplophobes and not because of any safety issue.

POSTSCRIPT: Meanwhile the House has passed a much-needed national reciprocity bill. Together with the administration’s new anti-gun initiative, this places Democrats who claim to favor gun rights in the hot seat, most notably Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

UPDATE: President Obama backs off the new policy. It’s hard for me to understand what he’s doing, even from a political point of view. He seems to be energizing his opposition while frustrating his support, unless anti-gun activists are really so pathetic as to be encouraged by incomplete gestures.


Auto bailout costs rise

November 21, 2011

The Detroit News reports:

The Treasury Department dramatically boosted its estimate of losses from its $85 billion auto industry bailout by more than $9 billion in the face of General Motors Co.’s steep stock decline. In its monthly report to Congress, the Treasury Department now says it expects to lose $23.6 billion, up from its previous estimate of $14.33 billion. . .

The big increase is a reflection of the sharp decline in the value of GM’s share price.

POSTSCRIPT: As a matter of terminology, though, it’s not really right to call it a bailout of the auto industry. The auto industry — and even GM itself — would have survived if GM and Chrysler had done into bankruptcy. The bailout wasn’t for the auto industry’s creditors either, most of whom took a bath in the government-imposed settlement. The bailout’s beneficiary was the unions, who survived virtually unscathed.


An Obamacare glitch

November 21, 2011

Oops, it seems that the authors of health care nationalization blundered:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offers “premium assistance”—tax credits and subsidies—to households purchasing coverage through new health-insurance exchanges. This assistance was designed to hide a portion of the law’s cost to individuals by reducing the premium hikes that individuals will face after ObamaCare goes into effect in 2014. (If consumers face the law’s full cost, support for repeal will grow.)

The law encourages states to create health-insurance exchanges, but it permits Washington to create them if states decline. So far, only 17 states have passed legislation to create an exchange.

This is where the glitch comes in: ObamaCare authorizes premium assistance in state-run exchanges (Section 1311) but not federal ones (Section 1321). In other words, states that refuse to create an exchange can block much of ObamaCare’s spending and practically force Congress to reopen the law for revisions.

So what does the Obama administration plan to do? Ignore their own law:

The Obama administration wants to avoid that legislative debacle, so this summer it proposed an IRS rule to offer premium assistance in all exchanges “whether established under section 1311 or 1321.” . . .

Like the rest of the nation, the Obama administration wants a different health-care law than the one we got. But that doesn’t give it the authority to rewrite the law by fiat.


Potemkin protest

November 21, 2011

After London’s Daily Mail found that most of the tents at Occupy London were left empty overnight, I was hoping that people would do the same at other Occupy encampments. Now Ezra Levant has done just that, and found that most of the tents at Occupy Toronto were left empty overnight.

(Via Instpaundit.)


Never trust headlines

November 17, 2011

It’s always dangerous to trust the media, but it’s even more dangerous to trust their headlines. Mickey Kaus notes a Politico story headlined “CBO figures throw cold water on cuts-only approach”. What does the story actually say?

Even if spending were frozen in place, the nation’s debt keeps piling up, absent more structural benefit reforms and tax revenue.

This is perfectly obvious to anyone paying attention. It’s not good enough to keep spending “frozen in place”, we need deep spending cuts. We particularly need deep cuts to entitlement spending, which is exactly what “structural benefit reforms” are. Nothing here throws even a drop of cold war on a “cuts-only approach”.

POSTSCRIPT: Kaus pointed out the inaccurate headline a week ago and Politico still hasn’t fixed it.


Doctors disciplined for fraud

November 17, 2011

Seven Wisconsin doctors who wrote bogus medical-excuse notes for protesters are being disciplined by the Medical Examining Board. The punishment is little more than a slap on the wrist, but that’s not really a surprise.

(Via Althouse.)


Chutzpah

November 17, 2011

The deeply subsidized US solar industry is upset that China is subsidizing their solar industry.


“True but false”

November 17, 2011

If your fact-checking column finds the need to use the nonsensical phrase “true but false”, that’s a hint that you’re not actually doing fact-checking. In this instance we can see the absurd lengths to which the Washington Post will go to avoid acknowledging a Republican claim as true.

The claim in question is John Boehner’s statement that over half the people who would be subject to the Democrats’ proposed new millionaire surtax are actually small-business owners. The claim is true. In fact, it’s overly conservative: according to the Treasury Department, the actual number is 70%.

But the Washington Post doesn’t want to leave it there, so they search for a more nuanced analysis. Unsurprisingly, if you narrow the definition of “small-business owner” to exclude some small business owners, you can make the percentage go down. If you narrow it enough, you can get the percentage below 50%. The narrow definition is better, they argue, and thereby conclude that Boehner’s true statement is actually false.

The general problem here, once again, is opinion-policing masquerading as fact-checking. It is perfectly legitimate to debate the meaning of small-business owner. I might even agree with their general point, if not with exactly where to put the knob. But that is argument, not fact-checking. You can’t call someone a liar just because you have a counter-argument.


White House lied about Solyndra contacts

November 17, 2011

The Washington Post reports:

A major donor to President Barack Obama discussed with White House officials a solar energy company that received a half-billion dollar federal loan and later went bankrupt, newly released emails show.

The emails released by a House committee appear to contradict repeated assurances by the Obama administration that the donor, George Kaiser, never talked about Solyndra Inc. with the White House.

The White House has now changed its story. They admit that they did discuss Solyndra with Kaiser, but now say that all their contacts with Kaiser were after the loan was granted. This may be true, as far as we know now, but it does not let them off the hook, for at least two reasons.

First, the White House did lie about whether they discussed Solyndra with Kaiser. They originally said they didn’t at all; now they say those discussions were after the key decisions were made.

Second, the key decisions were not all made. The administration may have declined Solyndra’s request for a second loan, but it did agree to restructure Solyndra’s first loan (in a manner contrary to law). That renegotiation was done in December 2010, after many contacts between Kaiser and the White House, and got final approval from the Secretary of Energy in February 2011.

(Previous post.)


The Christmas tree tax

November 16, 2011

Bowing to public outrage, the Obama administration reversed its proposed 15-cent tax on Christmas trees before I got a chance to comment on it. There’s still something to note about the controversy though. Even reversed, the administration doesn’t want its fingerprints on the tax:

White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told Fox News on Wednesday afternoon that the administration is putting a stop to the proposal.

“I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama administration is not taxing Christmas trees. What’s being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign, similar to how the dairy producers have created the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign,” he said. “That said, USDA is going to delay implementation and revisit this action.”

To the extent that this is true at all, it is grossly misleading. The Obama Agriculture Department has issued a rule, published in the Federal Register, requiring a 15-cent per tree fee on all major Christmas tree sellers to fund a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. This is not some voluntary contribution by the industry, it is a government program. And it’s an idiotic one — who thinks that Christmas trees need to be promoted, anyway?

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, how does the executive branch have the authority to impose new taxes without the approval of Congress anyway?


Gunwalker update

November 16, 2011

A few updates in the Gunwalker scandal:

  • Dennis Burke, a US Attorney appointed by President Obama who resigned three months ago, admits leaking a document that smeared a whistleblower. (Via Instapundit.)
  • Eric Holder has changed his story regarding when he learned of Fast and Furious. This is not surprising, since we already knew Holder’s timeline was false.
  • Andrew McCarthy explains why the Democrats’ efforts to distract us from Gunwalker using the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver are nonsense. (His explanation is similar to mine.)
  • The Justice Department stonewalled Congressional requests for information on Operation Wide Receiver for over a month so they could save those documents to make a big splash in the media on the eve of Congressional hearings. (Via Hot Air.)

(Previous post.)


Har har har

November 16, 2011

The Washington Examiner reports:

New documents obtained by Judicial Watch show acting National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Lafe Solomon joking that the NLRB’s suit against Boeing would kill jobs in South Carolina. . . Solomon writes:

The article gave me a new idea. You go to geneva and I get a job with airbus. We screwed up the us economy and now we can tackle europe.

Jokes about your own malfeasance are not as funny as some Democrats seem to think.


Occupy Oakland scorns credit unions

November 16, 2011

Occupy Oakland has reversed itself on the value of big commercial banks. They have decided that banks serve a valuable purpose after all, and they have signaled their decision in the most sincere way possible: by depositing their money with Wells Fargo.

(Via Instapundit.)


Another general fired

November 7, 2011

Remember this?

It’s an article of faith among the left — promoted during John Kerry’s failed presidential campaign — that General Eric Shinseki, formerly Army Chief of Staff and now VA Secretary, was fired for testifying to Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq. If only President Bush had listened to General Shinseki, they cluck, Iraq might never have become such a mess.

Of course, the story is false. General Shinseki retired when his term as Chief of Staff ended on schedule. Also, Shinseki was wrong; the Surge stabilized Iraq with 160 thousand troops, far less than any reasonable interpretation of “several hundred thousand.” Nevertheless, Shinseki had a point. . .

President Obama has now done, again, what President Bush was accused of but never did: fire a general for criticizing US strategy. That makes three: David McKiernan (who was fired after making larger troop requests than Obama was prepared to grant, but perhaps not because of it), Stanley McChrystal (who was fired for criticizing the administration in Rolling Stone, and also for giving a bleak assessment of the war effort to NATO), and now Peter Fuller, for his well-deserved criticism of Hamid Karzai’s government.

Remember when “listen to the generals” was briefly the rallying cry of the left? That was just for generals saying things the left wants to hear.


A Halloween parable

November 7, 2011

Watch this. It’s four minutes well spent.


Revolving door alive and well

November 5, 2011

The Washington Examiner has a piece on the White House’s deep entanglement with lobbyists, despite their pretense to the contrary. It’s not excerptable, so I’ll just quote this:

What Axelrod said about the revolving door on CNN yesterday . . . is not just demonstrably false, but it’s hard to imagine an intelligent human being in Obama’s inner circle not grasping how truly false and misleading it is.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Instapundit.)


Something to hide

November 5, 2011

After ACORN’s role in sponsoring the Occupy Wall Street protests was exposed last week, ACORN is scrambling to prevent further exposure:

Officials with the revamped ACORN office in New York — operating as New York Communities for Change — have fired staff, shredded reams of documents and told workers to blame disgruntled ex-employees for leaking information in an effort to explain away a FoxNews.com report last week on the group’s involvement in Occupy Wall Street protests, according to sources. . .

NYCC is also monitoring its staff’s behavior, cracking down on phone use and socialization. Officials have ordered all papers — even scraps — to be shredded every night, the source said.

“And all the supplies—everything around the office that said ‘ACORN’ — is now all in storage until this blows over,” the source said. “People literally have to cover up the cameras on the back of their cellphones in the office.”

“Now there’s no texting in the office, no phone calls in the office. They tell us to take our phone calls out into the waiting room where there’s an intercom, and then they turn on the intercom to hear our conversations. They’re installing new cameras and speakers around the building so they can hear everything.”

The fact that ACORN would go to such lengths to hide their activities strikes me a good evidence that they have something to hide. I also have to confess that, after all the damage that ACORN has done, I enjoy the spectacle of ACORN making its own staff’s lives miserable.

(Via Instapundit.)


Banning prayer

November 5, 2011

Opposition to religion goes beyond preventing coercion. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, at least, wants to ban even voluntary prayer wherever they can see it. Thanks to them, Clay County, Florida, has banned morning prayer sessions at school flagpoles.

Alas, this is hardly atypical, and it got me thinking. If religion is going to be completely banned from the public square (not to say that that is going to happen, but it’s clearly what the militant atheists want), it’s another argument against having a public square. Privatize everything, and then free people can decide what free people will do. Religious people will frequent establishments that allow prayer, and militant atheists can stick to ones that ban it.


Eight days at the airport

November 5, 2011

What a nightmare:

With only $30 to her name, the Sonoma native was virtually broke and looking to start afresh in Idaho. She booked a ticket from San Francisco to the Gem State on the travel website Orbitz but, because she purchased her ticket before a new federal law went into effect requiring ticket brokers to disclose all hidden fees, Wessinger was unaware of the extra $60 U.S. Airways would charge at the airport to check her two bags.

Weissinger offered to pay the fee once she got to her destination or leave one of her bags behind; however, U.S. Airways personnel refused, citing airline policy for denying her former request and airport security regulations for denying the latter. . .

Weissinger ended up spending eight stressful days living in the terminal and sleeping in an out-of-the-way stairwell. She was treated for anxiety at the airport medical clinic. When she attempted to plead with airport authorities for help, she was threatened with arrest on vagrancy charges.

She eventually escaped when a local church gave her the $210 she needed. Afterward, US Airways was not very contrite:

When ABC 7 asked U.S. Airways about Weiddinger’s situation, the airline responded: “We have apologized to Ms. Weissinger for her experience, but unfortunately are unable to offer a refund. When you purchase a non-refundable ticket, you accept the terms and conditions. If a passenger cannot travel with their bags, they need to make other arrangements.”

I also would have liked to hear what the airport authorities had to say for themselves.


Oh, please

November 5, 2011

The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks:

President Obama took four questions at a “news” conference today to talk about his plan for the economy and Europe. His only semi-interesting answer was in response to a question from the AP on how he thinks he’ll fare against a Republican next year if the economy is bad. Obama shrugged off the premise. “The least of my concerns, at the moment, is the politics of a year from now.”

Good grief. Everything he is doing right now is focused on re-election. His entire “jobs bill” is a non-starter for actual passage, and is concocted purely as campaign fodder.


Executive privilege

November 5, 2011

The White House is refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas for documents pertaining to the Solyndra scandal. The excuse they’ve concocted is that the subpoenas are too broad:

White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said in a letter to GOP leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee that the information that they’ve demanded via subpoena appears focused on a “general curiosity about internal White House communications.”

I guess this is a White House lawyer thing, because this doesn’t sound so broad:

The subpoenas seek “all documents referring or relating to any investor in Solyndra” including financial contributions from investors and “the influence of campaign contributions on the decision whether or not to grant or restructure the Solyndra loan guarantee.”

That sounds like exactly what we want to learn: how much influence Solyndra and its investors bought, and what happened as a result.

(Previous post.)


Against charity

November 4, 2011

What does President Obama have against charity?

There can be no doubt now that the Obama White House believes that one important way to improve the economy is for Americans to give less to charity. In the collection of proposals he calls his jobs bill, the president has—for the fourth time in his administration—proposed to limit the value of the charitable tax deduction, cutting it back for those earning more than $250,000 to just 28% of a donation, from 35%. . .

In a study released Wednesday, the University of Indiana’s Center on Philanthropy estimates that in 2013—when both higher tax rates and the decreased charitable deduction would take effect—overall philanthropy would decline by 1.4%, or $2.43 billion. . . The Indiana estimate echoes similar findings on the same subject by the Congressional Research Service in 2010.

It would be bad enough to think the government can spend money more effectively than private charities, but Obama’s plan is worse than that:

Much more worrisome are the assumptions of the latest tax proposal and a White House initiative called the Social Innovation Fund. While the former assumes that the money diverted from charity can be put to better use by government, the latter adds the notion that government funds should themselves be directed to nonprofits, some previously independent of government. The other assumption is that private philanthropy should follow along, matching government dollars. In combination, this amounts to what can be called the Solyndra-ization of philanthropy.

It’s not enough for the Democrats to divert hundreds of billions of dollars to their crony capitalists, they want to divert charitable giving to crony non-profits as well.

(Via Instapundit.)


Freddie Mac back for more

November 3, 2011

Freddie Mac needs another $6 billion to stay afloat for another quarter. That brings the total cost to taxpayers for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to $169 billion. Thanks Barney Frank!


Solyndra update

November 3, 2011

Solyndra’s executives awarded themselves big bonuses shortly before going bankrupt.

(Previous post.)


Note to Occupy Oakland

November 3, 2011

Megan McArdle has it right: When you plot to seize a man who has committed no crime under the law, the word is not “citizens’ arrest”; the word is “lynch mob”.


Time sets new standard in disgusting pandering

November 3, 2011

Time magazine says that Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper that was firebombed after printing a cartoon of Mohammed, pretty much had it coming.

Oh sure, they give lip service to the notion that firebombing is a bad way to express your objection to a publication, but always with the “BUT”.

(Via the Corner.)


Crony capitalism

November 2, 2011

Fox News reports:

A clean-energy firm led by a member of President Obama’s jobs council has a stake in projects that have reaped nearly $2 billion in loan guarantees from Washington, a case that has raised conflict-of-interest concerns as the same jobs council pushes for more “government-backed” investment in renewable energy.

The company, NextEra Energy, secured a loan guarantee in August for a solar project in California. . . But the company also enjoys a connection to the Obama administration — company Chairman and CEO Lewis Hay sits on the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which last month issued a report calling, among other things, for a new federal financing program to attract private investment for clean energy projects via loan guarantees and other tools.


Oh, that’s just swell

November 2, 2011

Libyan rebels, now running the country, have been flying the Al Qaeda flag.

Also, a former member of Al Qaeda has been appointed commander of the Tripoli Military Council. I don’t know exactly what that is, but it doesn’t sound good.

UPDATE: More.

UPDATE: There is a video of a parade (reportedly in Benghazi, although I have no way of verifying that) filled with Al Qaeda flags. I certainly didn’t watch the whole 14-minute video, but I sampled it at random intervals and never failed to find plenty of them.


Public school pay

November 2, 2011

A new study finds that, despite the general impression promoted by teachers’ unions and liberal politicians, public school teachers are compensated better than comparable private-sector workers:

First, formal educational attainment, such as a degree acquired or years of education completed, is not a good proxy for the earnings potential of school teachers. Public-school teachers earn less in wages on average than non-teachers with the same level of education, but teacher skills generally lag behind those of other workers with similar “paper” qualifications. We show that:

  • The wage gap between teachers and non-teachers disappears when both groups are matched on an objective measure of cognitive ability rather than on years of education.
  • Public-school teachers earn higher wages than private-school teachers, even when the comparison is limited to secular schools with standard curriculums.
  • Workers who switch from non-teaching jobs to teaching jobs receive a wage increase of roughly 9 percent. Teachers who change to non-teaching jobs, on the other hand, see their wages decrease by roughly 3 percent. This is the opposite of what one would expect if teachers were underpaid.

Second, several of the most generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers often go unrecognized. . .

We conclude that public-school-teacher salaries are comparable to those paid to similarly skilled private-sector workers, but that more generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers, including greater job security, make total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels.

(Via Instapundit.)


Don’t insult this guy

November 2, 2011

An Australian state government is in the process of passing a law that would make it a crime to insult the state’s Gaming Minister:

The amendment proposed to the Act will make it an offence to “assault, obstruct, hinder, threaten, abuse, insult or intimidate” the minister or authorised persons exercising “due diligence” in monitoring gambling systems such as pokies.

Insulting the Gaming Minister, currently one Michael O’Brien, will be punishable by a $12,000 fine.

That First Amendment is sounding pretty good right now.


Obama seeks to eviscerate Freedom of Information Act

November 2, 2011

No one accuses the Obama administration of excessive transparency, but the administration still wants to spare itself the heavy burden of defending its denials of FOIA requests:

Under the new rules, the government could falsely respond to those who file FOIA requests that a document does not exist if it pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation, concerns a terrorist organization, or a counterintelligence operation involving a foreign nation.

There are two problems with the Obama proposal to allow federal officials to affirmatively assert that a requested document doesn’t exist when it does. First, by not citing a specific exemption allowed under the FOIA as grounds for denying a request, the proposal would cut off a requestor from appealing to the courts. By thus creating an area of federal activity that is completely exempt from judicial review, the proposal undercuts due process and other constitutional protections. . .

Under FOIA’s current national security exemption, bureaucrats can already deny access to documents without acknowledging their existence. . . In instances where there is a legitimate grounds for not confirming a document’s existence, “the agency should simply respond that ‘we interpret all or part of your request as a request for records which, if they exist, would not be subject to the disclosure requirements of FOIA pursuant to section 552(c), and we therefore will not process that portion of your request.’ This response requires no change to the current FOIA regulation.” Such a response would preserve a requestor’s right to appeal to a federal court.

Getting rid of those pesky appeals is the point.

Additionally, the administration wants to be able to stall FOIA requests indefinitely by resetting the clock every time they refer a request between departments; they want to remove the duty of department heads to stand by their FOIA denials; they want to create lots of new flimsy excuses to deny FOIA requests; and they want to make it much harder to qualify for fee waivers.

So let’s please not have any more nonsense about the left’s dedication to transparency.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Having received a lot of well-deserved bad press over this, the administration is giving up for now.


Another green bankruptcy

November 2, 2011

Fox News reports:

An energy company that received a $43 million loan guarantee through the same federal program that backed Solyndra has followed the path of the failed solar firm and filed for bankruptcy. Beacon Power Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sunday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. . .

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, called the revelation of the bankruptcy another example of “the reckless abuse of taxpayers’ dollars in the pursuit of green jobs.”

He also suggested that crony capitalism had a hand in the decision to give Beacon a loan. . . “As with Solyndra, the head of Beacon Power appears to have been a supporter of President Obama’s,” Sessions said in a statement.


National healthcare

November 2, 2011

Glenn Reynolds observes:

See, when you politicize health care, the suspicion is that all health care decisions are political.

Especially when the government suddenly turns 180 degrees and argues against early cancer screening.


The 1%

November 2, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is packed with limousine liberals:

Many “Occupy Wall Street” protesters arrested in New York City reside in more luxurious homes than some of their rhetoric might suggest, a Daily Caller investigation has found.

For each of the 984 Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested in New York City between September 18 and October 15, police collected and filed an information sheet recording the arrestee’s name, age, sex, criminal charge, home address and — in most cases — race. The Daily Caller has obtained all of this information from a source in the New York City government.

Among addresses for which information is available, single-family homes listed on those police intake forms have a median value of $305,000 — a far higher number than the $185,400 median value of owner-occupied housing units in the United States.

Some of the homes where “Occupy” arrestees reside, viewed through Google Maps and the Multiple Listing Service real estate database, are the definition of opulence.

Using county assessors and online resources such as Zillow.com, TheDC estimated property values and rents for 87 percent of the homes and 59 percent of the apartments listed in the arrest records.

Even in the nation’s currently depressed housing market, at least 95 of the protesters’ residences are worth approximately $500,000 or more. (RELATED SLIDESHOW: Opulent homes of the ’99 percent’)The median monthly rent for those living in apartments whose information is readily available is $1,850. . .

While it would not be fair to conclude that the arrested protesters are fully representative of a movement that is not completely understood, this information forms the most complete snapshot yet of the demonstrations’ more militant participants. It also reinforces the persistent critique of protesters as entitled, upper-class agitators with few legitimate grievances.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Occupy Wall Street leaders are staying in luxury hotels. (Via Instapundit.)


Our friends the Saudis

November 2, 2011

AP reports:

A member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family increased to $1 million a reward offered by a Saudi cleric to anyone who captures an Israeli soldier to swap him for Palestinian prisoners.

Prince Khaled bin Talal, brother of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, told the kingdom’s al-Daleel TV station by telephone Saturday that he was raising a previous offer made by Sheik Awadh al-Qarani, a prominent Saudi cleric who promised $100,000 for capturing an Israeli soldier.

Also a reminder of the foolishness of bargaining with hostage takers.


South Africa in trouble

November 2, 2011

Will South Africa be the next Zimbabwe?

Julius Malema, the 30-year old leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) has attracted growing headlines since 2010 for his calls to nationalize South Africa’s mines, and to emulate Zimbabwe’s land redistribution program in order to rectify a wide wealth imbalance between the white minority, which accounted for 9% of the 50 million person nation according to a 2010 census. Malema proclaimed “The only option is to take the land without compensation, if you refuse to give us an alternative.”

Last month, he was convicted of hate speech for singing an inflammatory anti-apartheid song which translates into “Shoot the Boer” (Dubhula iBhunu) at a ANCYL rally. Are these the harmless ravings of an innocuous radical activist, or an ominous harbinger for South Africa’s future? Current President Jacob Zuma has previously referred to Malema as a future president.

Next year, the ANC will hold leadership elections, in which the next president of South Africa will likely emerge. . . Robert Mugabe turned the breadbasket of Africa into a dysfunctional, violent kleptocracy. If ANC moderates fail to stop Malema’s ascent, South Africa may never regain the optimism of 1995 and slip down the dangerous path Zimbabwe forged in 1987.

(Via Instapundit.)


Bad luck

November 2, 2011

Robert Heinlein:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

Barack Obama:

We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again. But over the last six months we’ve had a run of bad luck.

(Via Instapundit.)