Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Crusades Come To Norway

The immediate, and not entirely unjustified rush to judgment on the mass murders in Norway last week concluded that the murderer was probably an Islamic terrorist. That quickly turned out not to be the truth. Once it was determined that the terrorist was not a Muslim, it quickly became the duty of the mainstream media to paint him as a fundamentalist crusading Christian.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) has recently taken to the House podium to derail the current hearings on Islamic radicalization in the West by demanding equal treatment be given to Christians. And now she suddenly finds herself surrounded by leftist secularist media hastening to prove that she is correct by pointing the finger at Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian Christian terrorist.

The problem with their case is that mountains of evidence are emerging that seem to show that Breivik is as much a Christian as Timothy McVeigh, or the Aryan Church, or Madalyn Murray O'Hair, founder of the American Atheist movement. But that does not comport with the mainstream media view of conservatives, Christians, and constitutionalists. They are almost entirely anti-gun, and believe that only government, and lots of it, can save people from Christian terrorists. They forget, of course, that the socialist welfare state of Norway is officially Lutheran. But that's another story.

On a nearly weekly basis, another plot or attempted terror attack directly linked to Muslim extremism is presented to us. Yet the mainstream media can't see that a seemingly endless series of Islamic plots is not the same thing as an isolated attack by a lone wolf murderer with the most tenuous of connections to mainline Christianity. They can always identify the "Christian" terrorist, but haven't yet been able to find a single terrorist whose Muslim beliefs spurred an attack. This murderer did rail against radical multiculturalism, and frankly I think that is a perfectly valid argument. That doesn't mean that my fellow Christians and I are going to start murdering people from cultures different from ours.

Breivik wrote a 1500 page manifesto prior to his rampage. He hates Muslims, all right. But he hates pretty much all humans who make up modern society. A huge portion of his manifesto was lifted almost verbatim from the ramblings of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. If this was a Christian crusader out to do in the poor, innocent Muslims, why were almost none of the victims followers of Islam? In fact, most were Christians or secularists, and the camp he attacked was organized by the Norwegian socialists.

Breivik helped the media out by calling himself a "cultural conservative Christian." Well, if I call myself a Muslim mullah, does that make me one? In fact, the media had to perform an act of willful blindness not to mention that he also identifies himself in the manifesto as an agnostic who is not sure whether there is a God or not. I'm picturing him in his fundamentalist Christian church reciting the Apostle's Creed: "I believe that there might or might not be a God Almighty, maker of some things and not of others, and in Jesus Christ who might or might not be our Lord, if he existed at all." Even the liberal revisionist Christians aren't that wishy-washy.

Norway, unlike the uncivilized United States, does not have the death penalty. It's impossible to know at this stage what sentence he will receive if convicted, but the worst he would suffer is twenty-one years which amounts to three months for each of the seventy-six humans he cold-bloodedly murdered. He will dance out a free man because of the overly-generous officially religious-socialist government's views on punishment.

The mainstream media are not only playing footsy with the "good Muslim" lobby, but they are also exploiting the tragedy for its anti-gun agenda. Clearly, this madman should not have had a gun, but that's hardly proof that anti-gun laws do a damned bit of good. In fact, Norway already has some of the most restrictive gun-control laws in the western world. Horror-stricken youngsters at the camp described Breivik as calmly taking his time while murdering children like "shooting fish in a barrel." It took nearly an hour for the Norwegian police to arrive at the camp while the young people were being murdered en masse and screaming in terror.

What if two or three of the camp counselors or adult supervisors had been armed and trained in the use of guns? How many lives would have been saved? As with almost every similar argument for gun-control in America, the Norwegian logic about gun ownership is exactly backward. An unarmed citizenry is a vulnerable citizenry, both against madmen and oppressive governments.

And as an aside, I have to ask how many of the Islamic terrorists who have murdered or attempted to murder innocent civilians first shouted "Allahu Akbar," then pulled the trigger, pushed the button, or aimed the airplane at a skyscraper? My guess would be pretty close to 100%, including our recent Muslim conscientious objector who planned to outdo the Fort Hood murderer. Yet the mainstream media refuse to see any connection between the religion and the act.

On the other hand, a very close-mouthed Norwegian mass murderer said nothing as he coldly blew up a government building and shot sixty-eight campers, let alone "you are all dying in the name of Christ." But that doesn't stop the same media from forcefully declaring the murderer to be a fundamentalist Christian. The New York Times made it a banner headline. Sheila Jackson Lee must be having a good chuckle in private.

Note: The illustration is Crusader Rabbit, sans his best friend and fellow warrior for good, Rags the Tiger. They are the nearly-unknown predecessors to the wildly-popular Rocky and Bullwinkle. As a Christian crusader, Breivik is about as real as the rabbit.
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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Even A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is not particularly well-known for his solid, feet-on-the-ground ideas. But this time our alien abductee has done something that makes perfect sense. In the middle of the ongoing crisis over the budget and the debt-ceiling, the major credit-rating agencies have been making a bad situation worse with their doom and gloom predictions.

Kucinich has asked the United States Justice Department to investigate those selfsame credit agencies. Kucinich is attacking the agencies from the left, of course, but that doesn't make the need for an investigation any less real. Moody's, Standard & Poors and Fitch, who are now threatening to downgrade the credit rating of the United States, are the same people who gave A+ to AAA ratings to the very financial institutions which brought about the stock market and mortgage crashes. They sounded like the mouthpieces for Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) who was declaring that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in great shape. Frank was in bed (literally) with one of the executives of Fannie Mae. With the credit agencies joining them, that bed must have been very crowded.

Says Kucinich: "We are not a poor country. We're the richest country in the world and to tempt the markets to further manipulate us--these, these ratings agencies--there ought to be a Justice Department investigation of them." Along with the threats of a downgrade if a bill isn't passed soon, Kucinich may be on to something, though he may have its meaning wrong. There are strong but so far unsubstantiated rumors that the credit agencies are willing to back off if the Senate adopts the Reid plan proposed by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) over the Boehner (R-Ohio) plan in the House. Given that we don't even know what either plan really entails from minute to minute, why Reid over Boehner?

Kucinich says "[The agencies] were for sale for anyone who wanted a good rating. You put your money down, you get a good rating. Now they're telling the United States of America that they're going to downgrade our rating. Are you kidding me? It's time for us to downgrade the rating agencies." There's a lot of truth in that statement.

Naturally Kucinich, a kooky leftist, blames the influence of evil capitalists buying off the agencies for the current threats. But he forgets another important group which exerts at least equal influence, and that is powerful Democrats with their own private profit-motives and political needs who are more than willing to threaten the agencies right back while colluding with them at the same time. See Barney Frank and Harry Reid, above.

I agree with Kucinich on the need for an investigation of the agencies, though for somewhat different reasons. It may also be too little, too late. Still, the major flaw in his argument is that it would be Eric Holder's Justice Department which would be doing the investigating. That's a little like O J Simpson investigating his wife's murder. Holder's highly-politicized Justice Department is not going to do anything to upset the Democrats' plan to exploit the crisis.

The agencies might even be right in warning of a looming negative credit rating. But like the thirteenth strike of the clock, all that went before it is called into question. And like the broken clock, Kucinich may be right for the wrong reasons. Meanwhile, the other tick-tock continues. Where is the budget? Where are the adults? Where is the solution that would stave off further economic crisis and put the lie to the agencies' threats? Where are the statesmen who can produce principled compromise?

And those are my final horological metaphors.
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Film Friday: Outland (1981)

Outland is one of my favorite science fiction films. It’s gritty. It’s realistic. It’s got cool characters, memorable dialog, and an as~kicking Sean Connery. What could be better? What’s more, Outland turns a certain commie western on its head.

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SF Circumcision Bill Cut Off By Court

In the topsy-turvy world of San Francisco, almost any silly idea can be put on the ballot. Most recently, the Board of Stupidvisors decided it would be a very good thing to ban circumcision. After the Board received sufficient signatures to place the measure on the November ballot, Superior Court Judge Loretta M. Giorgi has cut it off.

Judge Giorgi shorted everyone by avoiding the religious issue entirely. Her ruling hangs on the California Business and Professions Code, which says that commonly-accepted medical procedures are the sole province of the state, and no municipality may pass an ordinance which conflicts with the state law. She concluded that "the evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure." Therefore, banning the procedure at the municipal level is expressly preempted by the State Code.

Proponents of the ban had argued that circumcision is akin to male genital mutilation, regardless of what millions of Muslims and Jews might think. The fact that a substantial majority of American physicians consider the procedure efficacious and routine also did not deter the zealots. A group of doctors who think the banners should not be allowed to determine the proper ends of others, along with a coalition of Jews that claimed the ban was anti-Semitic filed suit to stop the proposed ordinance from reaching the ballot.

Georgi sliced up the officious intermeddlers' arguments by ruling on the Business and Professions Code grounds, saying: "It serves no legitimate purpose to allow a measure whose invalidity can be determined as a matter of law to remain on the ballot after such a ruling has been made." Those San Franciscans who believe that circumcision is the "most unkindest cut of all" [hat tip to Bill Shakespeare] will either have to seek a reversal of the judge's order at a higher level, or try to convince the entire population of the state to change the law. A similar ballot measure is pending in the City of Santa Monica, and the San Francisco judge's decision has no validity in the Superior Court of that district. So a separate ruling there might conflict with the one in San Francisco.

The responses to the ruling at the online versions of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times fell basically into two camps. First, there were those who supported the judge's ruling, telling the banners to keep their hands off the private business of others. Second, there were the hysterics who apparently didn't understand either the proposed ordinance or the judge's ruling. One commenter said "let's circumcise the judge, and see how she likes it." Aside from the fact that female genital mutilation is a barbaric practice performed only in certain Muslim sects, and has no medical support whatsoever, it is equally important to note that the ordinance only addressed male circumcision. Another simply demanded "equality for circumcision."

Well, that's about it. So I'm going to cut this short.
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

With Friends Like This . . . .

That's jolly old Hugo Chavez addressing the United Nations concerning the world's greatest enemy--the United States. He was merely one in a long string of dictators and America-haters who have addressed the organization that takes up space on American soil and sucks up American dollars like a giant Hoover vacuum.

Now, a Republican has proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill that would cut off funding to UN members who oppose America. Even though I am not Catholic, I will be praying to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, that something like this could actually happen. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-South Carolina) inserted an amendment into the House Foreign Affairs Committee markup session which would prohibit any foreign assistance to UN members who oppose the United States position more than fifty percent of the time.

The fact that the amendment is highly unlikely to pass, and that it would be difficult to implement does not deter me from thinking it would be one helluva great idea. To start with, a requirement to track how the member nations vote is already an official State Department function. The tracking includes how each nation votes in the General Assembly and the Security Council. The amendment would require that foreign assistance be cut off from nations voting against the United States position more than fifty percent of the time as determined by the State Department reports, with a waiver available if the President makes a formal determination that invoking the waiver is "important to the national interests of the United States." OK, I know that's a serious flaw, but Obama won't be President forever.

The amendment was passed on a straight party-line vote of the Republican-controlled subcommittee 22 to 18, and by the full committee by a 23 to 20 vote. It has an excellent chance of passage in the full House. But we can all make a pretty intelligent guess as to what will happen when it reaches the Senate and the cold hands of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Still, this is an excellent opportunity to call attention to profligate spending on the UN in a nation awash in debt. Said Rep. Duncan: "We're $14.3 trillion n debt. Why should we pay countries to hate us when they've shown they're willing to do it for free?" I don't have a good answer to that question.

Already in the crosshairs of the amendment are terrorist-supporters Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Pakistan. In addition, those nations which promote abortions as state policy would be included (it's the "Mexico City policy" abandoned by the Obama administration). I'd include China on that list, except that any funding we give them we borrowed from them in the first place. There is also a non-waivable provision that would cut off funding to any nation that opposes moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Whether the Organization of American States could be included is iffy, since it is an affiliate rather than a formal member of the General Assembly.

On straight "yes" or "no" votes in 2010, only twenty-seven percent of UN members (53 out of 191) voted with the United States more than fifty percent of the time. Given that the Obama administration is in-sync with many UN initiatives, the percentage of nations voting with us is much higher than it was in 2008 when the Bush administration opposed every single initiative coming out the the UN Human Rights Commission. With recent Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment, Obama administration concurrence with gun-grab UN initiatives will likely be good for funding our enemies, but unlikely to reach full treaty status in the Senate.

Of the 53 nations which voted with the United States more than 50% of the time, not a single one is in Central or South America. There is only one in the African region (the Seychelles), and in Asia there are only Japan, South Korea, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau. The few remaining nations are either NATO members or newly-emerged former Soviet governments in Eastern Europe.

It's probably not necessary to mention that of those nations which support the United States, our strongest major supporter is Israel at 91.8%, exceeded only by the minuscule Palau at 96.5% and Micronesia at 94%. Of those nations which receive immense American foreign aid, the number who oppose the United States is an appalling comment on American foolish generosity. Pakistan voted with the United States a mere 21.3% of the time. Pakistan is followed by Egypt at 31.4%, Kenya at 31.7%, Ethiopia at 32.8%, Nigeria at 33.9%, Jordan and South Africa at 33.8%, Afghanistan at 34.3%, and finally the great exporter of humans and guns to the United States, Mexico at 37.5%.

A separate list is also kept on those issues considered to be of primary importance to the United States. Those are the ones for which the President would have to issue waivers. Among these are the Cuban embargo, human rights violations in North Korea and Iran, the death penalty, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Durban racism process, nuclear missile proliferation and disarmament, and the Muslim-proposed initiatives on "religious defamation."

Of the top American aid recipients, only Israel, Mexico and Kenya voted with the United States in 2010 more than fifty percent of the time on those "priority" issues. Of the remaining top recipients, Afghanistan was at 46.2%, Ethiopia at 44.4%, Nigeria and Jordan at 40%, South Africa at 30%, Egypt at 25%, and Taliban-Al Qaeda-hiding Pakistan at 22.2%.

A fool and his money are soon parted. We have been fools for far too long. If the proposed amendment only shakes up a few of the executive fools and calls attention to the monstrous and dangerous waste of American taxpayer dollars in hard times, it will have been worth it. The only remaining question is how much of this debate will the mainstream media even mention?

Addendum: The Youth Initiative of the United Nations Population Fund just voted to make children's sexual rights a priority to be brought before the General Council. The group defines "youth" as people between the ages of 10 and 24. Here's their goal: “In order to fully recognise young people’s sexual and reproductive rights, especially the right to choose [abortion], we must achieve universal access to safe and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care services, including access to evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education, in formal and non-formal settings." It should be interesting to see how that plays out in our scenario, and where the Obama administration will put its vote.
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Time To Talk About A Jobs Agenda

My next article is up at Big Hollywood! Go take a look: (Linky, Linky)! (It's at the film site too.)

With the debt crisis continuing to spiral its way through the theater of the absurd, most people aren’t focused on much else right now. But there is an issue waiting on the horizon and I think the Republicans better start talking about it. . . jobs.

The jobs picture is bleak. Official unemployment sits above 9%. Real unemployment remains around 16%. May and June produced only 43,000 jobs, most of which were offset by 30,000 layoffs announced last week. Millions of Americans are out of work, many of them more than 99 weeks now.

Up to now, the Republicans have been happy to let the jobs picture remain bleak. With Obama and 21 Democratic Senators up for re-election, the current bad economy presents a nightmare scenario for the Democrats. Indeed, the Democrats have struggled mightily in recent weeks to come up with a jobs plan. But their ideology has limited them to (1) more stimulus, (2) job training, and (3) minor tax cuts for hiring. None of that will help.

But I think the Republicans need to establish an agenda. I think they need to show that they care about getting people back to work, rather than just cutting government spending. The need to insulate themselves from the charge of do-nothing-ism, and of indifference. They also need to cut off the inevitable Democratic claim that the spending cuts they get in the debt deal caused the current economic situation.

To that end, I propose the following plan for Congressional Republicans:
1. The biggest problems with our economy right now are (1) lack of certainty created by Obama’s constant threats of new taxes and regulations and (2) the drag caused by the red tape Obama and the Democrats have created. The Republicans should form a team to go through the US code/Federal Register (CFR) and identify specific laws/regulations the Republicans want to repeal.

Start announcing this list one agency every couple weeks. This will give business confidence of the change in the business environment to come and will highlight how much regulation the Democrats have piled onto business. One caveat though, don’t talk about repealing anything that is either popular or can be spun into “they want to kill orphans”. . . do those quietly.

2. Propose the elimination of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for teen workers (under 18) and seniors (older than 65). This makes it cheaper to employee these people. This makes the skills the seniors possess more useful and teaches the teens good habits.

3. Propose tax cuts across the board combined with a “revenue-neutral” elimination of deductions/subsidies. This would provide a powerful incentive for people to work, and could not be attacked as helping the rich or as increasing the deficit. What’s more, the Republicans should be pointing out each week the most egregious deductions they will eliminate. This could be a big step toward a flat tax and will go a long to way to breaking the stereotype that Republicans are the tools of big business.

4. Eliminate the corporate tax and the capital gains on the sale of tangible assets (e.g. machinery). This will bring corporations flocking to the US and get them trading in their old equipment.

5. Tort reform. Eliminate class action suits entirely. Make plaintiffs file individual suits and let them be consolidated as multi-district litigation instead. This wipes out the incentive for lawyers to go plaintiff shopping . . . like the guys on TV. Eliminate punitive damages and cap pain and suffering at one million dollars.

6. Free trade deals. There are a series of free trade deals sitting there unratified. These include South Korea and Columbia. These would cause a farming boom in the US and would offset the loss of ethanol subsidies. I would also propose a free trade deal with England and Japan to tie us closer to our friends.
This would seem to be a pretty good start and should show the American public that Republicans are very serious about making the US a much more business friendly environment and getting people back to work. It also insulates the Republicans against the standard Democratic attacks.

In terms of the timing, I will be a bit cynical and suggest that the Republicans start talking now but delay passing these bills until mid-2012, so that the positive effects don't start kicking in until right about the time Obama is loading up the moving van for Chicago and not sooner.

There are other reforms we could talk about too. For example, doctors should be allowed to practice in any state. The teaching profession should be opened too, by federalizing the licensing requirement and then eliminating the requirement for an education degree. But I would suggest the big push should come on the jobs front.

So what would you add to/subtract from the list? What else do you want to see on a Republican Agenda?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Scripting the Final Frontier: Star Trek Generations

by ScottDS

Star Trek Generations was released on November 18, 1994 to mixed reviews. It was the seventh Star Trek film and the first to feature the TNG cast. This film was seen as an opportunity to “pass the baton” though the results are less than satisfying. I saw the film when I was 11 (my first theatrical Trek experience) and I thought it was the bee’s knees. Not so much today. It’s beautifully shot and the cast gives it their all but it’s often awkward and the script leaves much to be desired. As you’re about to find out, the writers feel the same.

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So Obama Must Be A Racist Then, Right?

Obama must be a racist. How do I know? Well, that’s what the MSM usually tells us about Republican Presidents when they find some indication that minorities didn’t do as well as whites while that President was in office. . . like now. Indeed, financially, blacks are getting killed under Obama. Hence, the MSM will soon declare Obama a racist, right?

Here’s what I’m talking about. According to recent economic analysis, the “wealth gap,” i.e. the difference between the net worth of whites and the net worth of blacks has expanded greatly under Obama. It now stands at a difference of 20 times, meaning that whites are on average worth 20 times more than blacks. Under the evil Ronald Reagan, this was only 12-1, yet he was declared racist because of it.

What’s more, 35% of blacks have zero net worth, compared to 15% of whites. And black poverty has reached 14.3%, the highest number since the 1960s when LBJ began his Great (Destruction Of) Society program.

There are several reasons for this economic disparity, all having to do with the choices blacks make. For example, blacks are much more likely to work for the government. When this recession began, it was mainly white males who were laid off because they work in the kinds of fields that were hurt the quickest by the recession, e.g. trucking. But as the economy recovered, many of those white males found work again. But just as the honkeys were finding jobs, the budget crises experienced by the states caused them to start laying off government workers. These are predominantly women and blacks. Thus, what the MSM snickered at as the “mancession” has turned into something the MSM now considers horrible as women and blacks have (net) lost many more jobs than white males. . . over a million net.

Secondly, while blacks get more degrees per capita than any other race, they do it in fields that don’t lead to employment. They specifically avoid things like science and engineering degrees. Thus, they limit their economic potential.

Third, and most importantly in this case, blacks tend to invest all their savings in buying a home, whereas whites are more likely to invest in 401ks and other stock portfolios in addition to buying a home. Thus, while everyone was hit when the bottom fell out of the housing market, blacks were much more severely affected because that’s where all their assets were. By comparison, whites suffered when the stock market collapsed, but the market has returned to pre-crash levels. Homes continue to fall in value.

That’s really what’s going on here, not racism. But that never stopped the MSM from tarring Republican Presidents with the label.

And admittedly, Obama is not without blame. It’s Obama’s horrid job killing policies that have led to 16.2% unemployment among blacks. Black teenagers face an unemployment rate of 49.4%.

We also should not forget that blacks have stopped gaining on whites in schools under Obama. The achievement gap is about 28 points out of 500, and half of blacks still drop out before finishing high school. Of course, there are many causes for this too. According to some education nonprofit groups who have studied the issue, one of the big causes is that: “African-American students are less likely than their white counterparts to be taught by teachers who know their subject matter.” Still, that can hardly be blamed on Obama and his teachers unions friends, can it?

Nope, none of this is Obama’s fault.

Still, can you image what the papers would look like if Obama had been a Republican and these numbers were released?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Amber Waves Of--Solar Panels?

Government officials in California are not satisfied with destroying the food basket of the Central Valley by cutting off the water to save a fish. Now it's time to destroy agriculture in the north by replacing fertile farmland with solar panels. Yolo and Sacramento counties are not affected by the water shutoff since they are at the headwaters that formerly fed the farms to the south.

Those of us who attended UC Berkeley in the 60s used to refer to our little sister, UC Davis (Yolo County) semi-affectionately as the Cal Aggies. The university was devoted largely to agriculture although it did have full curricula in other fields. The school was instrumental in increasing farm fertility throughout the state, including many of the proposals for water projects that later increased agricultural productivity throughout the state. The City of Davis today is in the forefront of political correctness, largely as a result of the heavy population of UC Davis students who don't even faintly resemble their counterparts from the 60s.

Currently, the City of Davis is considering plans from politically-connected developers to turn hundreds of acres of Yolo County lush farmland into solar farms. Ironically, one of the reasons given for eliminating the farmland is that the solar panels would provide a considerable portion of the power needed to operate--you guessed it--the farms. Is it just me, or does that sound like the old medical gag where the doctor informs the family that they had to kill the patient to save him?

The plan that the Davis city council will soon vote on is proposed by developers Angelo K. Tsakopoulos and Phil Angelides. California political junkies should recognize the name Angelides. Angelides was a longtime far left member of the Democratic Party, starting with his antiwar activism in the mid-60s. After helping to secure the nominations of George Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer he went on to his own career as a politician, being elected State Treasurer in 1998 and again in 2002. In that position he was in charge of the California Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) nd the California State Teachers Retirement System, which are the major contributors to California's looming bankruptcy.

Best of all, Angelides was the leader of the "Green Wave Initiative" which convinced the legislature to invest $950,000,000.00 in environmental businesses and research. Are you seeing a connection here? Angelides has been out of office just long enough to be allowed by law to deal directly with governmental agencies outside of conflict of interest and incompatibility of office rules. California is sounding more like Chicago all the time.

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors and the Regional Planning Commission are not quite so far to the left as the City of Davis, so there's no guarantee that Tsakopoulos and Angelides will succeed. But these are not sane times, in California anyway. The best the Yolo supervisors can come up with so far is to require that the proposed Davis ordinance be modified somewhat. Instead of simply allowing the developers to plump down their solar panels anywhere they can bribe or coerce the farmers into giving up their highly-productive farms, the County wants the applicants to certify that there is no non-prime farmland in the affected area for the installation of the panels. Yeah, that will stop them.

Fortunately for agriculture, the farmers and farm workers in the county outnumber the money-grubbing eco-weenie politicians, developers, and radical UC Davis students. But there are also the state regulations working against the farmers. I've mentioned before that the state requires that private and public energy-providers must derive 33% of their power from renewable sources no later that 2020. That goal is ridiculous, but it gives the much-subsidized "green energy" people a strong argument for acting in haste.

The big push hasn't yet affected adjacent Sacramento County, since there were plenty of non-fertile areas to build on. But that land is disappearing fast, and the county will soon be in the same situation as Yolo County. The Tsakopoulos/Angelides initial project would create an 80 megawatt facility that would eat up 688 acres of present farmland. And that's only the initial project. They have many more up their sleeve. In nearby Placer County, they have proposed a 220 megawatt solar farm that they say would power 75,000 homes. At least there they are running into opposition from competing environmentalists who want to turn farmland into wildlife reserves.

These projects appear to have some Democratic opposition in the state legislature, but it's more apparent than real. State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) says she is concerned, and intends to introduce legislation that would provide incentives for the developers to put their solar panels in non-fertile areas. In other words, make an already heavily-subsidized industry more heavily-subsidized.

Green advocates profess extremely strong "mitigation" standards to protect the environment. How about some extremely strong mitigation standards which protect the farms? California is already bleeding jobs, and this will only worsen the problem by eliminating farms in favor of green suburbs and wildlife reserves. Mitch Sears, Davis's "sustainability programs manager" says he is addressing the issue. He wants the farmers to consider mingling agriculture within the rows of solar panels. Oh, brother--is he kidding? Has he ever tried to plow a field without the impediment of rows of touchy solar panels? Believe me, that's hard enough.

Says Sears: "Solar is in Davis's DNA. It's the culture of the community. We're trying to work toward lower energy use and increased renewables. This is the scale that it is going to take to achieve that." That DNA pool doesn't extend back even forty years, when the only green the locals were concerned with was the lush green of the bumper crops being produced throughout the area. Concurrently, the UC Davis Aggies are producing far more lawyers than farmers. Pity.
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What's the Debt Dealio?

No doubt, some of you will be surprised to hear that Obama spoke to the nation last night. . . at least the part of the nation that still listens to him. No doubt, the MSM is full of articles (all written a couple days ago) that extol the brilliance of Obama’s speech and proclaim that the speech made the public cry tears of joy. . . it was joy, right? Also no doubt, many of you are totally confused about what is going with the debt ceiling negotiations. Here’s where we stand.

1. Why Obama Spoke: Obama went on television because he is losing the public relations war, despite media claims and fake polls to the contrary. Rasmussen reports that the public trusts Republicans over Democrats 45% to 35% on economic issues. Indeed, Republicans win 9 of 10 top issues -- education being the one Democratic “stronghold” (42%-38%). So Obama had no choice but to try to win the public over.

2. Obama’s Speech: Obama’s main line of attack was (1) failure to raise the debt ceiling until after the 2012 election will destroy our economy, (2) the Republicans are trying to cause a default because they are evil, and (3) why can’t we all just get along on my terms? His most effective line was: “If that happens, and we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills -- bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses.”

3. Boehner’s Response: Boehner’s main line of attack was (1) I gave it my all, but Obama wanted a blank check and has never negotiated fairly, and (2) he wants tax hikes that will destroy jobs. His best line was: “The president would not take yes for an answer. Even when we thought we might be close on an agreement, the president’s demands changed.”

4. The Reid/Obama “Plan”: Let’s start with the basics. First, Obama has finally given up on getting tax hikes.

Secondly, this proposal is a crock:
● They are calling it a $2.7 trillion debt “reduction,” but that’s a total lie. First, $1 trillion of that is from “winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” This is essentially an accounting trick, like claiming you will buy a million dollar house next week and then saying you cut your budget by a million dollars by promising not to buy it after all. Even Joe Lieberman has said “I don’t think it’s a real cut. It’s like a bookkeeping cut.”

● The proposal then includes $400 billion in “interest savings,” which appear to be more accounting gimmicks. These are like the magic “everyone will be healthier” savings in ObamaCare.

● Next, it includes $100 billion which have already been negotiated. Those are the only legitimate cuts.

● Finally, the last $1.2 trillion come from a promise that a committee of 12 politicians will agree to find more cuts in the future. That and $18 gets you a Double Sugarmoccacrappe at Starbucks.
So what we have is $100 billion in cuts over ten years (i.e. $10 billion a year.... 0.0003% of the budget), some false accounting and a promise to find more cuts. In exchange for this, Obama gets an immediate $2.4 trillion hike in the debt ceiling.

5. The Latest House Plan: Boehner’s latest plan calls for a two-stage approach. Stage one involves $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years combined with an immediate debt ceiling hike of $900 billion. This would be followed by larger cuts to be agreed upon later. The Democrats object to this plan because it would likely result in the need for an additional debt ceiling hike before the next election.

6. Boehner’s Problem: There are 178 House Republicans who seem to be taking the position that they won’t vote for anything, and apparently oppose the new House plan. This is actually fairly stupid. The point where everyone is desperate to get a deal is the time to lay out your demands and get some good cuts. By simply refusing to vote for any plan, these Republicans make themselves irrelevant and will eventually force Boehner to seek Democratic support.

7. Reid’s Problem: Believe it or not, Reid has lost the left because of potential cuts to entitlements and a failure to tax the rich. Thus, he will need a lot of Republican support. . . support he doesn’t have. His ace in the hole is the 178 House Republicans who will force Boehner and McConnell to deal to find Democratic support. That will give him a chance to buy back his left flank.

8. Something You Should Know: Believe it or not, raising the debt ceiling has nothing to do with new spending. We need to raise the debt ceiling to cover amounts we already spent. Getting the public to see this as “new spending” has been a Republican PR triumph.

9. Who Loves You Baby?: A couple weeks ago, Boehner said that negotiating with Obama “was like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.” According to certain leftist reporters, Democrats privately say “much worse” about Obama off the record (and no, the reporters haven't shared what has been said).

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Atlanta Public Schools: Cheaters Do Prosper

Cheaters aren’t supposed to prosper, but for over a decade they did in Atlanta Public Schools. Indeed, for a decade, school children at 44 of 56 Atlanta elementary and middle schools cheated like mad. But here’s the catch, the teachers were the ones doing the cheating. This story is just unbelievably shameful. Let’s discuss.

When the No Child Left Behind Act was passed, standardized testing became much more important. Schools where students failed these tests were flagged as failing schools. If these schools did not show yearly improvement, students would be allowed to leave them to find better schools and the failing schools would eventually be closed.

In a too-good-to-be-true moment, Atlanta Public Schools suddenly started making dramatic progress after the passage of this law. A decade later, we know why. According to a report by state investigators, extensive cheating took place at 44 of 56 elementary and middle schools. Specifically, teachers helped students cheat or cheated for them to improve their scores. So far, 178 teachers (including 38 principals) have been implicated by name. Far more were involved, but the allegations against them "could not be established sufficiently to identify [them] by name.”

This cheating was discovered by an analysis of the actual tests taken by the children of these schools. The investigators looked at how often these children would erase wrong answers and change those to correct answers. Apparently, this happened at 20-50 times the state norm. Upon further investigation it was discovered that students were given test answers by teachers, some teachers filled in the answers for the students, some teachers let slower kids sit next to smarter kids and encouraged them to cheat, and some teachers even had “test changing parties” over weekends.

At this point, only 7 of the teachers have resigned. The rest were asked to resign by haven’t. The current superintendent says they won’t be allowed to teach again, but it’s unlikely they will be fired. Instead, they will go on administrative leave. The prior superintendent in charge during this whole period, Beverly L. Hall (pictured), has left the job for a position in Texas. She claims she knew nothing about this, though it seems unlikely that such a vast scandal could have taken place without her knowledge.

So let me ask some questions.

First, how in the world can a collection of people supposedly dedicated to the education of children act so callously to these children’s futures? These kids needed help and rather than educate them, these teachers simply covered up the students’ inadequacies. What’s more, by lying to protect the schools (and their jobs), they deprived these kids of a chance to find better schools and real teachers who might actually care about these kids. That’s criminal.

Secondly, why did this take ten years to be discovered? Why didn’t someone blow the whistle? Surely some students must have told their parents, some teachers must have objected to this, and some administrators must have known. Yet no one said anything? Letting this go on for ten years is so utterly shameful that I am literally disgusted at these people.

Third, where are the teachers unions? It is inconceivable to me that no one from the teachers unions learned of this. Did they turn a blind eye for political reasons or have they too set up a culture where individuals are afraid to come forward? At how many other schools is this happening across the country with the unions remaining silent? This needs to be investigated. Further, if the teachers unions want to protect the reputations of legitimate teachers, then they better get in there and expose these faux-teachers.

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Feeling Safe? Not On The Southern Border.

People with any sense at all know that all the reports being given by bigwigs in the Obama administration about securing our border with Mexico are laughable at best, horribly dangerous at worst. At the official level just below the Obama insider crowd, there's a bit more honesty, even if occasionally unintentional. The new head of ATF has blown a few whistles about Project Gunrunner, and now a high-ranking Customs and Border Protection official has made a big admission about illegal immigration.

The border has long been porous and a fertile ground for "coyotes" (Mexican nationals who assist illegal immigrants to cross into the United States). Coyotes are not nice people, nor are they unofficial ambassadors of good will merely trying to help their fellow Mexicans find a better life in the United States. They charge huge fees for their assistance, often rape the women, and with their connections on our side of the border, exploit them further by changing the terms of the agreement, and/or forcing them to work off their debt in coyote-controlled businesses. Those businesses often include prostitution and drug-dealing.

Still, next to the Mexican drug cartels, the coyotes are rank amateurs, almost gentle souls. And those drug cartels did not fail to notice this source of an easy takeover and a new, lucrative business for them to exploit. Illegal immigrants were often used as "mules" for the cartels. Now the cartels have figured out that if they own the mule, they can traffic in guns, drugs and the human beings they use to transport the contraband.

A week ago, Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar admitted rather freely that "drug cartels control several major areas along our border with Mexico." When asked "do you think Mexican drug cartels have taken control of the human trafficking that takes place from Mexico to the United States," Aguilar replied: "There are several areas along our border with Mexico where in fact we believe that the drug cartels not only have taken control, but control the areas by which the illegal crossings occur on both sides of the border (emphasis added)."

Many of the coyotes have been recruited into the cartels, and those who have not are either dead or about to be. Aguilar compared the cartels to the Mafia, which started off small, largely dealing in prostitutes and illegal booze, but grew sufficiently and became sufficiently organized to take over many of the other criminal enterprises run by smaller, more local thugs. The Mexican drug cartels still make the majority of their money off drugs, but human trafficking is now big business as well, and they have determined that business belongs to them.

Deputy Director Kumar Kibble (no, I did not make that name up) of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, the former INS) confirmed Aguilar's view. Speaking of the cartels' expansion, Kibble said: "They, of course, control the plazas, the approaches that facilitate smuggling into this country--the cartels, of course, control the territory and the approach and tax other criminal ventures that may be operating in their area of responsibility. So there is certainly that kind of involvement as well." Another local official added that though it was far less organized, there was cartel control of remote areas on the American side of the border once the illegals have crossed into US territory.

This all contradicts what Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano said back in April. "Given the statistical framework, the border is not overrun or out of control." She then said that those who disagree are just trying to score political points. Apparently that includes two high-level officials within agencies under her DHS umbrella.

Considering that over a quarter-million illegals have been caught in just the six months prior to the ICE and CBP officials' statements, Napolitano is living in a dream world. Aguilar concluded his remarks with a very pointed statement: "Do Not Be Fooled (the name of the Border Patrol initiative to pull the benevolent costume off the cartels' activities) into thinking that individuals being brought into this country, putting their lives into the hands of smugglers who are careless and heartless, are being well treated. The possibility exists that they could be placed into human slavery, sexual exploitation, forced labor, and other types of slavery that unfortunately and tragically we know exists within the borders of our country."


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lessons From Oslo. . .

As is often the case, a tragedy provides us with various lessons to consider. Some good, some bad, some obvious, some not. Sadly, for political reasons, many of these lessons will be ignored and others will be wrongly interpreted. But we aren’t afraid of the truth. So let’s talk about the Norway killings and see what lessons we should draw from this tragedy.

Lesson No. 1: Guns Control Does Not Work

Gun ownership in Norway is heavily regulated, though you will hear the contrary from the MSM. Automatic weapons are completely banned as are most large caliber pistols. To acquire a gun, you must have a clean police record and you must demonstrate a use for it. This can include hunting or sport shooting. However, you may only own one gun in each caliber in which you compete. To own a handgun, you must be 21. To own a shotgun, you must be 18. The police may inspect your guns in your home at any time and the amount of ammunition you may own is limited.

None of this stopped the Oslo killer because laws do not stop people who intend to break them.

Lesson No. 2: Guns Save Lives

It took the police 90 minutes to respond from the moment the shooting began. In that time, the Oslo killer methodically killed 85 people (19 more were wounded). He shot them with an MSM-described "machine gun" (banned in Norway if true) and then walked around shooting the fallen in the head with a shotgun. Clearly, he had to reload many times and knew he was in no danger the entire time.

If anyone at this camp had been armed, they could have stopped him almost immediately -- especially seeing as how he surrendered the moment police arrived. The fact the public was disarmed by its government put them at his mercy and needlessly cost 70+ people their lives.

Lesson No. 3: Guns Do Not Cause Crime

The possession of a gun did not motivate this killer, nor did it cause his crime. His beliefs about the collapse of society motivated this crime. And if he hadn't used a gun, he would have used something else -- like the explosives he used on the government buildings.

There are 250 million guns in the United States. Think about it. If guns “caused” crimes, then there would 250 million murders a year. Even if only one in ten people fell under the evil spell of these guns, we would still be dealing with 25 million murders a year. Even one percent means 2.5 million. But less than 10,000 people are killed annually in the United States by guns. That works out to less than 0.004% of guns being used to kill someone. . . 40 out of every million. Guns do not cause crime.

Lesson No. 4: Leftists Are Biased

It is fascinating that the first instinct of leftists when there is a terrorist attack is to tell everyone not to assume the terrorism was the result of Islamic terror groups. “Stay calm, don’t jump to conclusions,” we are told, even after we learn the perpetrators are Muslims. Yet, this time, once we heard the killer was white, the MSM immediately assumed he was a right-winger.... just as they did with the left-winger who shot up the Holocaust museum and the left-winger who shot Giffords. This time they were apparently right, every other time they’ve been wrong.

Moreover, the difference in treatment is stunning. With the left wingers, the media (1) assumes they are right wingers, and (2) dismisses evidence to the contrary, before (3) reluctantly reporting the “alleged evidence” they are leftists after much soul searching about evil right wingers, (4) immediately before switching to the “crazy loner, not really ideologically driven” talking points. They also keep referring to them as “alleged” long after it's clear they're guilty.

This time, the media jumped on the idea that he is a right winger the moment they heard he wasn't a Muslim. They immediately launched into trying to find every website he's ever visited to toss blame their way (some leftist have even blamed Palin). They've also made no pretense of calling him "alleged", nor have they suggested he's a crazed loner.

What’s more, compare his treatment to Muslim killer Maj. Nidal Hasan? LONG after all the evidence came in that Hasan attacked and killed American soldiers in the name of Islam, the administration and their MSM buddies kept saying “alleged killer” and claimed they had no idea what motivated him. Yet this Oslo killer isn’t even in handcuffs and the same people are declaring his motives solved?

Lesson No. 5: The Wrong Lessons Will Be Draw

Naturally, the wrong lessons will be drawn.

Crazy people are crazy. By definition, they do crazy things. You cannot stop them because they are unpredictable. Restricting the rights and freedoms of hundreds of millions of innocent people in an impossible effort to stop the next nutjob is an obscenity. It also will only encourage the next nutjob to seek their own moment of fame. Any attempt to pass laws "to prevent this from happening again" is sheer, cynical political opportunism.

What’s more, it is a mistake to draw a comparison between Islamic terrorists and this idiot. This guy was crazy. He had one arrow to fire and he's done that. His day is done. But Islamic terrorists like al Qaeda are not crazy. They may be goat-molesting retards, but they are not crazy. They are at war. Their goal is a very rational one: to damage and destabilize the West so that it withdraws from territories they have claimed and that it becomes unwilling to fight back when they try to spread Islam across the world. To dismiss them as akin to this idiot would be like dismissing the first wave of German soldiers in Poland in 1939 as nothing more than rowdy tourists.

Lesson No. 6: Our Media Culture Is Corrupt

Finally, our media culture is corrupt. No sooner were huge photos of this shooter spread across the newspapers of the world and radio and television started spouting his name than crackhead Amy Winehouse died. Suddenly, a woman who was dead for years but just hadn't stopped moving until yesterday became the world's most important story.

Our media is sick.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ronald Reagan Agrees With The Democrats

The Democrats recently released a House Democratic Caucus video filled with out-of-context and incorrect quotes from Ronald Reagan which purport to prove that Reagan would support Barack Obama and the Democrats over the current crop of Republicans on the issue of the debt ceiling. Naturally, the mainstream media are in lockstep with the Democrats.

As The Gipper would say, "Well, there they go again." The commercial networks and the cable news channels (Fox News excepted) are playing the quotes, largely without comment or correction from Republicans. But as usual, MSNBC is in the forefront of perpetuating the distortions, angrily, and then either editorializing or challenging guests to prove that Reagan would have been in agreement with Obama.

Lawrence O'Donnell on The Last Word did it badly. He asked why Republicans don't learn from Ronald Reagan's lessons, then proceeded to prove that Reagan wouldn't have agreed with Obama's position: "Somewhat to my surprise, that lesson that Ronald Reagan was trying to teach about the debt ceiling, what it actually means, what happens if you wouldn't raise it. He said that in the context of having to sign a debt ceiling increase that included pieces that he did not like, that he was absolutely opposed to, but he said I got to sign it because if I don't, look what happens." But that was Reagan facing a Democratic House of Representatives. By O'Donnell's flawed logic, that means Obama should accept the Republican House plan of increasing the debt limit, accompanied by cut, cap and balance. I don't think that's what O'Donnell meant to prove.

What Reagan actually said in his debt-limit speech was: "You don't need more taxes to balance the budget. Congress needs the discipline to stop spending more, and that can be done with the passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget." For some reason, the Democrats don't include that in their selective quotations from Reagan about the debt-limit.

Chris Matthews on Hardball also played some of the cherry-picked quotes. He accused Republicans of engaging in "economic terrorism" by ignoring Reagan's real message. Said Matthews: "There Reagan is saying this brinksmanship, this trickery, around the time of of a deadline is sort of economic terrorism." No, what Reagan was saying is that sometimes you have to take the bitter with the better when the better is more important than the bitter. More importantly, Reagan had a plan to defend and promote. Obama has no plan except to jam unsustainable debt and crippling taxes down the throats of the American people without any intention of helping the Republicans to rein in spending. Unlike Reagan's reluctant compromise, Obama has no intention of cooperating with the Republicans. It's my way or the highway.

Just hours later, Rachel Maddow went off on an incomprehensible rant about how dumb the Republicans are for not following their icon's advice. "Of course Reagan was a noted communist, long-haired hippy. It is important to recognize that this is the state of debate right now in half of Washington. In half of Washington, the Democrats are using Ronald Reagan from the 80s, and everything else they can think of, to try to convince Republicans that defaulting on the national debt would be bad. Think about that for a second." Get it? The Democrats understand Reagan--the Republicans don't.

On the 11 AM ET show, Thomas Roberts asked Bill Clinton economic adviser Robert Reich: "All right, so there we have it. President Reagan tying this up in a nutshell. For current day Republicans that evoke President Reagan's name so much, why don't Republicans listen to that message from the icon that they have in Ronald Reagan and move off of some of the far-right rhetoric that we've been hearing over the last weeks and months?" We all know that Reagan wanted to increase taxes, build a huge federal government, and put us into irretrievable debt. Why aren't the Republicans listening to him?

I saved my favorite MSNBC intellectual for last--the Reverend Al Sharpton. First, he made it clear for the umpteenth time that he really hated Reagan. But even so, he still was unclear on why the Republicans wouldn't follow the advice of their iconic attack dog. "Interviewing" Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), the host and occasional creator of libelous racism charges shouted: "In the name of Ronald Reagan, I think this president in the White House right now sounds a lot more like Ronald Reagan than you guys do." On MSNBC Live, Sharpton spent more time answering his own questions than allowing the guest to do so. And he demanded that Brooks do what Reagan would have done (or at least what Sharpton says he would have done).

These MSNBC hacks remind me of the line of a very old song: "Why would you believe me when I said I love you when you know I've been a liar all my life?" A half-truth or quarter-truth is still a lie.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

Film Friday: The Green Hornet (2011)

The Green Hornet is a great example of what not to do when making a comic book movie. In fact, it’s a great example of what not to do when making any movie. It’s unpleasant. It’s stylistically confused. It suffers from horrid writing and confused direction. And it relies entirely on the comic talents of a man with no talent and less than no charisma.

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Photo Challenges Polar Bear Study

The United States Geological Survey recently published a study in which it determined that polar bears are losing cubs and losing weight because of the longer distances between ice floes occasioned by global warming. The long swim from floe to floe is allegedly causing illness and death amongst our furry white friends.

Commentarama's crack investigative reporters have blown a hole in that theory with our featured photo of how polar bears actually get from one floe to another and then back to the mainland or large, solid ice packs. The USGS study carefully followed a huge sampling of female polar bears with cubs (eleven, to be exact, or twenty, or sixty-eight, depending on which part of the report you're reading) by the use of GPS collars from 2004 to 2009. I know it was a long swim (around thirty miles), but the USGS didn't mention how heavy the GPS collars were. Perhaps that weighed them down and made the swim more difficult.

The study concentrated on polar bear mothers and cubs swimming in the area around the Chukchi and southern Beaufort seas, an area where the distance between floes did increase, at least until 2007. But that is only one part of the true picture. The USGS purposely avoided other areas where the distances have decreased and polar bears smart enough to know where those areas exist are having a good laugh at their dumber sisters.

In fact, our intrepid reporters took a candid photo of some of the smarter bears taking a break between padding their larders doing Coca Cola commercials. Using a sound camera, the reporter caught the bears complaining about the rigorous duties of having to drink gallons of Coke just to get the right shot. The cubs are not shown, since they had rebelled and were off at another location doing their own Coke commercials (the moms weren't sharing the profits).

Of the eleven mothers studied by the USGS, it was found that dependent cubs survived the swims in six cases, but five cubs could not be found after the long-distance swim. In defense of its study, USGS zoologist George Durner said that they could not be sure that the cubs drowned. "But the evidence suggests long-distance swimming may be risky. I wish we had better information to see whether the mortality was actually occurring. That would give us a lot more information, but we don't have that." In other words: If they had the information, they'd have the information. But why do you need information when you can just guess?

Once again, our reporters found the missing cubs, who weren't actually missing at all. They just knew where they should be swimming. We caught one of the cubs during a break, sharing a Coke and a smile with a friendly penguin. When we confronted the USGS spokesmen, they were shocked to discover that we had uncovered the truth. We even had the sound portions in which the cub and the penguin are practicing "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing." Their reply to our accusation was: "But, but, but, but, but . . . "

The USGS study had also pointed blame for the disappearing ice floes and the resulting increased swimming distances at global warming caused by greedy corporations. What they failed to point out is that responsible corporations were aware that in certain limited areas, the ice floe distances were indeed increasing. So they provided swimmy floats for the bears that chose to remain in those areas. Clearly, the USGS has an agenda which includes ignoring the evidence right in front of their faces. Admittedly, Commentarama has a much larger budget than the USGS, and surely we have dozens more employees to investigate these matters (our Boiler Room Elves alone would dwarf the USGS staff). Still, some evidence is just too obvious to ignore.

Well, it's been exhausting debunking the USGS report, and the temperature here in Caliente will approach 105 today. So I'll close now, and head for the refrigerator to get a Coke. (Full disclosure, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an employee, consultant, affiliate or associate of the Coca Cola Corporation)

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

2012 Contender: Ron Paul

As we turn into the home stretch of our 2012 Contender series, we come upon Ron Paul. We owe Ron Paul a huge debt for giving fiscal conservatives a voice within the Republican Party. In many ways, he is the “intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party movement. Unfortunately, while much of what Paul advocates would be very good for the country, some of it would be disastrous, and none of it has a chance of passing.

1. Economics: Paul has no chance of passing his economic policy. Thus, it’s little more than a pipe dream and it gives us nothing to use to judge what kind of President he would make. That said, however, his record of voting against almost everything tells us to expect a record number of vetoes, a death struggle with Congress, and a continuing four-year budget crisis. Here are his views:
● Paul wants to shrink the government by eliminating everything that isn’t a “constitutionally authorized function.” This means he would eliminate the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, as well as FEMA, the Interstate Commerce Commission and the IRS. He would also reduce the CIA to just an information gathering role. This is a nonstarter.

● He wants to eliminate the income tax and repeal the 16th Amendment. This is a nonstarter.

● He advocates elimination of the Federal Reserve. This would give the power to regulate the money supply to either Congress or the Treasury. Can you say “disaster”?

● He advocates allowing individual states to issue gold and silver backed currency to compete with the dollar. This would result in chaos and would give the dollar the same weaknesses the Euro is experiencing because of Greece. It would also bankrupt the country because of our trade imbalance.

● Paul opposes taxation and regulation of the internet, including net neutrality.
2. Foreign Policy: Paul’s foreign policy positions are a particular area of concern.
● He believes in non-intervention and would not intervene militarily, financially or covertly unless there is a direct territorial threat to the United States. He says he would withdraw American troops from Europe, Korea and Japan. This would likely start a war in Korea, a war between China and Vietnam, a war between China and Taiwan, get Japan, Korea and Taiwan to go nuclear, and cede Asia to Chinese influence.

● He does not support Israel: “is it really in the interest of the United States to guarantee the survival of any foreign country?” This would probably cause a series of wars in the Middle East.

● He advocates withdrawing from the UN, NATO, and various treaties, including the International Criminal Courts and the Law of the Sea Treaty. Some of these are good ideas.

● He claims to support free trade, but has opposed all free-trade agreements on the basis they are “really managed trade and serve the interests of big business,” and he wants to withdraw from the World Trade Organization, which has been breaking down trade barriers everywhere.
3. Social Conservatism: Paul mostly holds social conservative views personally, but believes the federal government has no place in dealing with these issues.
Gays: He opposes all efforts by the federal government to define marriage. He does favor DOMA as it allows states to define marriage. He opposes gay adoption. He would reformulate “don’t ask, don’t tell” to only kick out gays if they are being disruptive.

Abortion: Paul opposes abortion but says this is a state law issue and has introduced legislation to prevent federal courts from hearing any issue related to abortion.
4. Environmentalism: Paul does not consider climate change a serious threat. He does consider himself a free-market environmentalist, who believes that polluters should be held legally accountable under property-rights theories. This is actually a truly conservative position and is something the GOP should consider. He has voted against all subsidies for things like nuclear, ethanol, and oil and gas exploration.

5. Guns: Paul believes in a right to bear arms, including fully automatic weapons, and to carry concealed.

6. Civil Liberties: Paul opposes the Patriot Act, the creation of a federal identification card, conscription, and eminent domain by which the government seizes private property. He also opposes affirmative action. He favors drug legalization.

7. Immigration: Paul differs from doctrinaire libertarians on immigration. He thinks the borders should be sealed and voted for the fence. He opposes amnesty as he believes it undermines rule of law. He believes that federal law should no longer mandate that hospitals treat illegals. He wants to amend the 14th Amendment to end birthright citizenship.
Conclusion
Paul is a complex figure. There's no doubt he has a brilliant and principled mind or that his views on the Constitution are very close to original intent. Indeed, much of what he believes should be a model for modern conservatives. . . but not all of it. But the real problem with Paul is that the public just won't accept the leap he wants to make. And in trying to push too hard too fast, he will alienate the public and destroy the Republican Party.

I respect Ron Paul and I like a lot of what he believes, but if he were elected President, I think we would be looking at a disastrous four years of warfare between Paul and Congress -- which is often how power gets consolidated, i.e. through a crisis -- the breaking of the dollar, hyperinflation, and a series of foreign wars that would eventually drag the US in. Not to mention that nuclear weapons would spread like wildfire. You may see it differently, feel free to disagree, but that's my fear.

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Falling-Out Among Thieves

The little guy you see peeping over the adult podium is California Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown. He is trying to "grow in office." He just made a move as part of the attempt to balance California's out-of-control budget deficit. It won't sit well with Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats.

Now don't make the mistake of thinking that he's cutting funds for the high-speed trains to nowhere, or the budget of the watchmen hired to close the water spigots while protecting the Delta smelt. Nor is he trimming back on the drop-dead date for all of us to drive electric cars. Nope. He's requesting a 10% cut in Medicaid spending, which the Obamatrons are using to deflect attention from the massive debt Obamacare will cause. California has long been in the forefront of runaway spending on Medicaid (which is called "Medi-Cal" in California).

This puts the Obamacrats in a very difficult position. Brown is known as a liberal, pro-labor, pro-green, giveaway Democrat. Brown was also known for a very long time as being in the forefront of the health care reform movement. But both California and national Democrats are already singing the blues about Brown's proposed cuts. As you would expect, they are saying that the cuts would be devastating to California's most vulnerable residents (like illegal immigrants and generational welfare recipients).

California Representative Dennis Cardoza (D) is most concerned with reductions in funding for benefits for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Like Democratic legislators, for instance. In fact, Cardoza already wrote a heart-rending letter to the Director of CMS (the federal Medicare/Medicaid Services, which administers Medi-Cal), in which he cried "if the proposed cuts in the Medi-Cal rate go through, I am deeply concerned that providers of services for the disabled will have no option other than to close their facilities."

On June 27, Brown wrote a letter to the President that is just now coming to light. Says Brown: "California has enacted huge and extraordinarily painful spending cuts to clos eout multibllion-dollar budget gap. We did our part to reduce state and federal Medicaid spending by eliminating optional benefits, reducing provider payments and requiring beneficiary cost sharing." However, Brown also made sure to tip Obama to the political danger of tying his requested cuts to the debt-ceiling debates.

Brown cannot unilaterally cut Medi-Cal spending, since it must first be approved by state administrators and the federal government (Medicaid is largely state-funded, but receives joint funds from the feds). So far, the CMS director has been in sync with Brown, but California state and federal Democratic legislators are coming unglued. California has a $27 billion budget deficit which is by far the worst of any of the states. Norman Williams, a spokesman for the California Department of Healthcare Services said that Medi-Cal is the second highest expenditure in the state budget, and that cutting it must be part of the closing of the budget gap.

The proposed plan would include 10% reduction in Medi-Cal payments to hospitals, physicians, nursing facilities and other providers. Brown claims this would cut $623 million from the state budget in 2011-2012 alone. 7,000 residents would be affected, but for those 7,000 residents there are nearly 1,000 facilities to serve them. I'm having a little problem worrying that some of those facilities might have to close. Those fighting to stop the cuts say that as many as 150 facilities are likely to close. 150 out of 1,000. Sounds like there might be a recession and a bankrupt state behind the closures.

Jim Gomez, a lobbyist for the nursing-home-on-the-taxpayer-dime group California Association of Health Facilities says: "Many of the residents have been in the five or six bed homes for years with the same fellow patients and caregivers. Forcing them to move into larger regional centers or skilled nursing facilities, as some have proposed, would be a huge change in their life." I don't want to be a wet blanket, but many conscientious, hard-working taxpayers are now finding themselves out of work and out of their homes. It's tough all over. But at least the Medi-Cal patients have somewhere to go, even if it isn't what they're used to.

And now cometh the threats of litigation. Gomez's group has already filed a lawsuit and begun discovery in a case suing the state of California for its 2009 rate freeze, so if CMS approves the new cuts, Gomez says they might just add that to the pending case.

Despite himself, Brown has made a logical and necessary move. But that puts Obama in a position he despises--having to make an actual hard decision. Does he support a big-state liberal Democratic governor, or does he tell him to take a hike? Opponents of the plan say that giving California a free ticket to make large cuts in its Medi-Cal program would create an open season for other states to follow California's lead. That's a lot of government-dependent voters who might think twice about voting for Obama and the Democrats in the next election if their decades-long free ride is diluted. Brown has three years to recover from the backlash, Obama just a little more than a year. What to do, what to do.

I haven't had this much fun watching Democrats try to outmaneuver each other since Brown took on Bill Clinton for the presidential nomination.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Review: In Bruges (2008)

By Tennessee Jed

Despite being nominated for several golden globes and an academy award, In Bruges flew under viewers╩╝ radar, generating only about $33 million at the box office. I might have missed it myself, if not for a positive review in a magazine skimmed in a dentist’s waiting room. Directed by first-time Irish filmmaker Martin McDonagh In Bruges is a black comedy and a real hidden gem. Think of it as something of a European version of Pulp Fiction.

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Dancing On The (Debt) Ceiling

I MAY owe Mitch McConnell an apology. I’m not sure yet. I’ve been looking into this whole debt ceiling thing and I’m actually starting to see the cleverness in his plan, especially compared to the alternatives. Wanna talk about the debt ceiling? You know you do. Don’t worry, I’ll make this as painless as possible.

Ok, here are some basics.

1. The debt ceiling was first put in place by statute in 1939 by the Public Debt Act, which set the maximum amount the government could borrow. This number has been raised many times and currently stands at $14.294 trillion. . . roughly 4 trillion Big Macs.

2. The government will break through this ceiling on August 2 like a clown bursting out of a cake. . . hmmm, cake.

3. Everyone has a plan for dealing with this.
● the Do Nothing Plan: Do nothing. Kind of self-explanatory. Of course, this means that 80 million people won’t be getting their checks, and our cost of borrowing will go up, and a bunch of investment stuff with explode like a Congressman in a microwave.

● the Dumb~ss Plan: S&P and Moodys want Congress to eliminate the debt ceiling, which would be like parking your armored car at a thieves convention.

● the Double Dumb~ss Plan: Bill Clinton thinks Obama should just declare himself king and say that he has the power to raise the debt ceiling. Clinton also thinks yer kinda sexy.

● The Tom Coburn Plan: Tom Coburn is ready to do some serious cutting. He proposes $9 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. This would include a trillion from the Pentagon budget, modernizing military health care, significant reforms of Social Security and Medicare, and the elimination of “corporate welfare” through the elimination of subsidies (e.g. ethanol and targeted tax credits) and many deductions. Grover Norquist (which I swear is the name of a Muppet) says: “it is now clear Sen. Coburn’s plan all along was a trillion dollar tax hike. . . [I have you now Coburn, there's no escaping the Grovernator]!”

● The Gang of Six: This group of reprobates are proposing a $3.4 trillion plan that isn't a real plan. It goes a little something like this.
(1) Find $500 billion in cuts now, mainly by reducing the cost of living increase for Social Security. Impose spending caps until 2015, freeze congressional pay and sell unused federal property. . . like Hawaii.

(2) Within 6 months come up with a plan to find more cuts.

They also suggest guidelines like simplifying the tax code by making three brackets (8-12%, 14-22%, 23-29%), setting the corporate tax at 23-29%, and eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax (which sucks when it hits you. . . “what do you mean my deductions don’t count?! Alternative what?! Did I step into an alternative reality? If that’s true, then where’s my beard Mr. IRS ‘you owe us’ letter?! Where's my beard?!”).

Beyond that, this is just a plan to work on things... kind of like the Underwear Gnomes on South Park.
● the Tea Party Plan: The House just passed a really cool bill (Cut, Cap and Balance Bill) that does a lot of cutting ($5.8 trillion), would require a balanced budget amendment, and doesn’t raise taxes and it’s really cool and I like it a lot and stuff. . . but it’s D.O.A. at the Senate. Move along, nothing to see here.

● the McConnell Plan: Finally, we come to the McConnell Plan.
When I first heard the McConnell Plan, it sounded downright stooopid. As filtered by the press, McConnell was proposing to give Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling. If Congress wanted to stop him, they would need to pass a law stopping him. Since he could veto it, that meant Congress needed 2/3 support to stop him. . . and that ain't gonna happen.

The purpose of this plan seemed to be to let Obama get his debt ceiling increase, while claiming the Republicans tried to stop him, without actually stopping him. I was not pleased. And seeing Nancy Pelosi clapping her hands over this like one of those monkey toys with the symbols made me even more suspicious. If Pelosi likes it, it can’t be good.

Then I heard more details of exactly what McConnell is proposing. Apparently, to raise the debt ceiling, Obama also would need to recommend $1 of spending cuts for every dollar he wants to raise the debt ceiling. Now that is a horse of a different shade of green. That would mean for Obama to get a $1 trillion extension to the national credit line, he would need to propose $1 trillion in cuts. Wow! Me likely!

Not only would this mean Obama would be the one responsible for raising the debt limit (as he could avoid it by offering cuts instead), but he would also be forced to make cuts. Cuts which his peeps will absolutely hate! What’s more, the Republicans can vote against those cuts (claiming they would have made different cuts) because Obama has more than enough Democrats to let his veto survive!

Now, there are some caveats here. First, I think the Republicans need to send a series of budget cuts to him and have him veto those first -- as a showing to the public that they tried to get cuts. Secondly, they need to be very careful in how they write this. It better not include any chance of him raising taxes or this will go over like a lead balloon with the public (although... it might be a good way to let him do some of the dirty work of tax simplification to keep the Grover Norquists off Republican backs).

At this point, we don’t know exactly what the deal entails, but this may actually be a smart plan. Hence Obama and the monkey with the clap (Pelosi) are now rooting for the gang of six proposal instead (Reid doesn’t like it).

Stay tuned.

There... that wasn’t so bad was it? If you have any complaints, please leave them below.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

There Are Lies, Damned Lies, and CBS

My article is up at Big Hollywood! Go take a look: (Link)! I’ll wait right here for ya. :-)

Did you know the American people back Barack Obama on the current debt negotiations? It’s true. . . if you believe CBS. And why shouldn’t you believe CBS? I’ll tell you why.

According to the CBS poll 43% of the public approves of Obama’s handing of the debt ceiling crisis (48% don’t), but only 21% of the public approves of the Republicans (58% disapprove). Hence, Obama is winning the PR war.

But there's a catch. As is CBS’s history, the sample CBS uses is heavily skewed to the left. Indeed, CBS includes 11 percentage points more Democrats than Republicans in its final results (35% Democrats to 24% Republicans). If we back that out, Obama’s approval falls to 32%. That’s hardly resounding.

But there’s more. The poll doesn’t actually give us enough information to determine how valid their independents are. Specifically, there are no baseline questions that let us determine if these people lean left or right. All we know is they have self-identified as independents. And, frankly, we have no reason to think that CBS's collection methods were any less skewed for independents than they were for Democrats and Republicans. Thus, we have no reason to think the independents aren’t equally skewed 11% to the left because CBS's methods were clearly left-biased. And looking at the responses given by the independents, they mimic the Democratic responses far too closely for any set of genuine independents I’ve seen in a poll in the last three years.

Nevertheless, even if we accept them at face value, only 37% of independents approve of Obama’s handling of the debt ceiling crisis (52% disapprove). Those aren’t numbers that win you re-election. In fact, they are damning.

What's more, CBS is billing this as “just 21 percent backing the Republican resistance to raising taxes.” But that’s not the question that was actually asked in the survey. The survey asks whether people approve or disapprove of the Republicans’ “handling” of the negotiations. It never asks if they support raising taxes or not. Indeed, the “handling” question is meaningless as it will capture both those who want a stronger stance and those who want a weaker stance. That’s why you need to ask more (or different) questions to get useful results. Of course, CBS didn't do that. Can you guess why?

Now in truth, the Republicans don’t fare well with any group in this poll. So that is a concern. But there are two problems with drawing any conclusions from that. First, the poll never asked why people are upset at the Republicans. According to the poll 51% of Republican respondents disapprove of the Republicans, but does anyone really think that’s because average Republicans want tax hikes? Or is it more likely a response to a leadership that keeps undercutting each other and doesn’t seem to have a game plan? We can't say from this poll. But I can tell you that Rasmussen reports that 55% of the public (Democrats, Republicans and Independent combined) oppose tax hikes as part of the debt ceiling deal (only 34% disagree). Republican opposition is in the 80% range. So it’s more likely people are upset about Republican weakness than their opposition to taxes.

Also, none of the other polls out there support CBS's results. The Republicans lead the generic Congressional poll 44% to 38%. Obama’s approval ratings are a horrible 45% approval to 54% disapproval, with only 38% approving of his handling of the economy. Even in a Presidential race, TOTUS loses 48% to 43% to a generic Republican. That's really bad. And none of that is consistent with CBS’s findings.

So why were we supposed to trust CBS again?

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