I took this image a couple of weeks ago at the courtyard of the LA Cathedral. The angels are etched onto the glass barrier that serves in part as a sound wall. The modern building they seem to be touching is a performing arts high school. Click the image for a larger view.
A yearlong sting operation, including aliases, a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and surreptitious purchases from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, culminated in the federal government announcing this week that it has gone to court to stop Rainbow Acres Farm from selling its contraband to willing customers in the Washington area.
The product in question: unpasteurized milk.
It’s a battle that’s been going on behind the scenes for years, with natural foods advocates arguing that raw milk, as it’s also known, is healthier than the pasteurized product, while the Food and Drug Administration says raw milk can carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
In France, the home of Louis Pasteur, it is still legal to buy raw milk.
The scar on the head of the American president Barack Obama that extends from the top of his head to the right ear has generated plenty of rumors. Bloggers from the U.S. put forward their own version – he has been zombied by aliens, or the Masons conducted a secret surgery on his brain, reports The Daily Mail.
Blogger Ben Hart wrote: “Maybe it was a brain surgery? It is possible that this influenced his style of thinking. Is he really an alien from another planet?”
While bloggers continue to build a conspiracy theory, Yoki offers its own investigation of mystical events in the lives of American presidents.
It is hard to say who was the first one to pay attention to the enigma of the untimely death of American presidents elected in years divisible by 20. This phenomenon is now the subject of numerous studies of specialists in magic and numerology. They are still concerned whether this is a coincidence or regularity.
In 1840 William Henry Harrison was elected the U.S. president. He died before the end of his term in office. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln became president, and was later assassinated. Heads of the White House elected in 1880 (James A. Garfield), 1900 (William McKinley) and 1920 (Warren G. Harding), also died for various reasons before the end of their terms.
Publication of this phenomenon in the American press saw light only in 1923 (year of death of Harding). In 1927, the “Presidential series” appeared in one of the books on numerology, but on the eve of the elections in 1940 a long article on the topic was published in a numerological journal. Furthermore, it was noticed that there is a “sequence of the fourth president: from Harrison, every fourth U.S. president, too, died before the end of his term in office. These were: Zachary Taylor, elected in 1848 (4th after Harrison), Lincoln (4th after Taylor), Garfield (4th after Lincoln) and McKinley (4th after Garfield). The length of their terms did not matter. Numerology experts have warned that this sequence may continue.
Where did the mysterious spell come from? An astrologer said that the planet Saturn whose location in the sky every 20 years has an ominous effect on the course of events was to blame. Yet, it is unclear why this sinister influence extends only to U.S. presidents…
It’s true that nobody has asked me how I’d go about getting America’s financial house in order, but that’s not unusual. After all, I’m not an expert. No “Dr.” before my name and no “PhD” after it. That’s why nobody ever invites me on TV and asks me to deal with the really important things. Instead, I get stuck with taking out the trash and feeding the dog.
Well, we’ve seen what a great job the experts have been doing. I say it’s high time that I got a crack at the major problems facing us, and let Tim Geithner take out the trash and Janet Napolitano feed Duke.
First off, I’d make people stop dumping Social Security in with that hodge-podge of government giveaways collectively referred to as entitlements, but which we all know are merely crude attempts at buying votes with other people’s money. It so happens that Social Security actually is an entitlement inasmuch as it is one of the few things that Americans are actually entitled to receive from the feds.
Although it remains the most massive Ponzi scheme ever devised by the mind of man, the people who stand to collect the monthly checks upon retirement are the very people who paid in to the plan.
That is what differentiates it from all those various forms of welfare that take money from one group of people and hand it over to another group, allowing politicians to pass off extortion as benevolence. Calling the process by the high-sounding term, “redistribution of wealth,” does nothing to help it pass the smell test. Socialism is socialism, no matter what the left-wing creeps choose to label it.
It’s true that when FDR and the rest of his gang of New Dealers hatched Social Security, most people were not expected to live long enough to collect. But that’s because nobody in the 1930s envisioned that Americans would start outliving their parents and grandparents by 20 or 30 years. As a result, now, when people suggest that far down the road retirees might have to wait another couple of years before collecting their checks, everyone has a hissy fit. It seems we have become a nation of very nasty, very demanding, brats.
So, even though the times and conditions have radically changed, most people are unwilling to change with them, even though by not changing they risk killing the not-so-golden goose. But, perhaps I’m expecting a miracle. Heck, people are so stubborn that even though the average basketball player is a foot taller than he was a few decades ago, they refuse to raise the basket. Worse yet, people are so cockeyed, they still cheer when a seven-footer with a nine-foot wingspan dunks a basketball through a hoop just 10 feet off the ground.
With Social Security, the big lie was always that the money was safe and secure in a locked box. Right, it was the same sort of locked box the stage magician uses when he makes the pretty lady disappear. The only difference is that she always returns to take a bow.
I was actually hoping that with the election of all those Tea Party Republicans last November, we might actually see a new dynamic in Washington. But judging by all the usual claptrap about compromise and bi-partisanship, which invariably leads wimpy Republicans to forget that there is nothing bi-partisan about an election, we’re going to wind up with a repeat of what we’ve had in the recent past. The dopes seem unable to process the fact that if we wanted liberals running the show, we’d vote for them.
I promised a solution and here it is: Every Republican voter should send two letters, one to his congressman and one to the RNC, letting them know that if they don’t shape up long before the next election rolls around, your money will stay in your pocket and so will your vote.
We thought we were electing a gang of conservative commandoes last November, but it seems we wound up with the usual bunch of nattering nabobs and namby-pambies.
As for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, they haven’t shown themselves fit to lead a party, let alone a nation. The best I can say for those two is that I’d trust them to guard a harem.
Donald Berwick, Medicare’s chief administrator and a physician, thinks Paul Ryan’s competition based approach to Medicare reform is wrong and harmful.
…The right way is to help bring costs down by making care better and improving our health-care system.
Improving quality while reducing costs is a strategy that’s had major success in other fields. Computers, cars, TVs and telephones today do more than they ever have, and the cost of these products has consistently dropped. The companies that make computers and microwaves didn’t get there by cutting what they offer: They achieved success by making their products better and more efficient. We can do the same when it comes to health care.
Key word: products. Healthcare is not a product. Machines get cheaper because they are mass produced and require little labor. Healthcare is by definition, a one-by-one proposition.
Berwick is an educated man. How could he posit such a foolish argument? Indeed, the very reason healthcare is expensive is because it is labor intensive — highly skilled, expensive labor at that.
What’s his solution?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act laid the groundwork for us to take the right approach. We’ve already started our work with a historic partnership that includes businesses, doctors and hospitals who are committed to transforming the way we deliver care and making patients safer.
The Partnership for Patients is investing up to $1 billion to help health-care professionals learn about and implement proven methods for improving patient safety. Reducing medical injuries and complications for patients will save lives and prevent suffering; it’s also a smart way to reduce costs. The Partnership for Patients will prevent millions of unnecessary medical injuries and tens of thousands of deaths, while reducing Medicare costs by $50 billion over the next decade.
Last month, we announced another effort that will reduce costs by improving care: a proposed set of rules for doctors, hospitals and other providers who want to work together as Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs. ACOs will coordinate better care for patients, improving communication and reducing duplicative tests and procedures that hassle patients and do them no good at all. They will be held to a strict set of quality standards to ensure that they aren’t lowering costs by cutting necessary care. Seniors will not have their choice of physician or hospital limited at all.
Sounds like a lot of mush to me. Spending a billion dollars to help healthcare pro’s implement patient safety? That will save money?
What has stopped Berwick from cleaning up the waste and fraud (11% of its budget) all this time? Nothing except the sluggishness of bureaucracies that do not suffer economic consequences for their sloppy work.
Let competition cull the herd.
Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the president’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.”
— Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker, May 2 issue
To be precise, leading from behind is a style, not a doctrine. Doctrines involve ideas, but since there are no discernible ones that make sense of Obama foreign policy — Lizza’s painstaking two-year chronicle shows it to be as ad hoc, erratic and confused as it appears — this will have to do.
And it surely is an accurate description, from President Obama’s shocking passivity during Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution to his dithering on Libya, acting at the very last moment, then handing off to a bickering coalition, yielding the current bloody stalemate. It’s been a foreign policy of hesitation, delay and indecision, marked by plaintive appeals to the (fictional) “international community” to do what only America can.
But underlying that style, assures this Obama adviser, there really are ideas. Indeed, “two unspoken beliefs,” explains Lizza. “That the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world.”
Amazing. This is why Obama is deliberately diminishing American presence, standing and leadership in the world?
Take proposition one: We must “lead from behind” because U.S. relative power is declining. Even if you accept the premise, it’s a complete non sequitur. What does China’s rising GDP have to do with American buck-passing on Libya, misjudging Iran, appeasing Syria?
True, China is rising. But first, it is the only power of any significance rising militarily relative to us. Russia is recovering from levels of military strength so low that it barely registers globally. And European power is in true decline (see Europe’s performance — excepting the British — in Afghanistan and its current misadventures in Libya). (more…)
Those darn disasters just keep failing to materialize.
Global warming alarmists and their allies in the media were ringing the alarm bells last summer after a study in the journal Nature claimed the global phytoplankton population had declined by 40% since 1950. The alarmists and their media allies aggressively focused attention on the study and made the additional assertion that global warming and carbon dioxide emissions must be to blame.
A just-released follow-up study in Nature, however, shows flaws in the original study and documents that the global phytoplankton population has risen, rather than fallen, over the past several decades. Perhaps the alarmists and their media allies could be given a pass, except they should have known the truth even last summer.
The theory advanced by global warming alarmists is that carbon dioxide emissions, the alleged instigator of the modest rise in 20th century temperatures, cause oceans to become harmfully acidic. Even a small increase in ocean acidity, the alarmists claim, can have devastating impact on marine life. This ocean acidification theory is very convenient for global warming alarmists because it allows them to claim a major global warming-related crisis even when global temperatures fail to rapidly rise or rise in a manner that does not produce temperature-related crises.
While last summer’s Nature study was conducted by legitimate scientists and published in a premier science journal, the claim that carbon dioxide emissions and warmer global temperatures are harming marine life ran counter to a number of studies showing phytoplankton and other marine organisms benefit from higher carbon dioxide concentrations and warmer temperatures. As such, there were warning flags from the start…
The Democratic Party is urging Americans to choose Medicare as we’ve always known it rather than a new plan by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) that would enroll seniors in private health insurance beginning in 2022. This choice is a hoax: Medicare as we’ve always known it is already gone. It was eviscerated by President Obama’s health law. Yet if the president and the Democratic Party successfully bamboozle voters, they may win back independents and registered Democrats who voted for Republicans in 2010. The 2012 election could turn on this falsehood.
The truth is that the Obama health law reduces future funding for Medicare by $575 billion over the next 10 years and spends the money on other programs, including a vast expansion of Medicaid. In 2019, Medicare spending under the Obama health law is projected to be $14,731 per senior, instead of $16,162 if the law had not passed, according to Medicare actuaries (Health Affairs, October 2010).
Such cuts might be justifiable if the savings extended the financial life of Medicare. Mr. Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius frequently make that false claim. Indeed, even Medicare’s mailings to seniors repeat the claim that reducing spending on Medicare will make it more financially secure for future years.
The fact is that Mr. Obama’s law raids Medicare. Mr. Ryan’s plan, on the other hand, stops the Medicare heist and puts the funds “saved” in this decade toward health care for another generation of retirees.
Beginning in 2022, the Ryan plan offers each new Medicare enrollee a choice of private health plans and a premium paid to the plan they choose. The key is that the premium will be equivalent to what Medicare is projected to spend under the Obama health law: $15,000 a year on average, more for the oldest enrollees, less for the youngest, all inflation adjusted.
Still, critics are howling that seniors will suffer under Mr. Ryan’s plan. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report claims that the $15,000 premium will quickly become inadequate because the cost of private health plans will outpace Medicare costs.
The CBO conclusion, reverberating nationwide, is that this will force seniors to “bear a much larger share of their health costs,” and that it “would be particularly challenging for elderly people with less savings and lower income.”
After 2022, competing private plans are likely to control costs better than government-run Medicare, so the inflation-adjusted premium paid by government should be adequate. In the Medicare Part D drug benefit, competition between competing private drug plans has kept costs below what was predicted—nearly a first for a government program. A 2008 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research also demonstrated that regions with competing Medicare Advantage Plans have lower health-care costs because of the impact of competition.
Alert readers will recall that the competition among drug providers drove Democrats nuts at the time. They wanted the Feds to dictate drug prices, which would eventually have lead to fewer new drugs.
The competitive aspect did create some confusion at first as seniors had to choose between various plans. This was derided as too complicated, because, y’know, seniors are just too stupid to shop smartly.
The Ryan proposal also includes a $7,800 annual medical savings account to help low-income seniors with out-of-pocket costs. Amazingly, the CBO analysts exclude this $7,800 benefit from their calculations. Their warning about low-income seniors suffering is baseless.
Yes, Jeffery Immelt, it is getting warmer, but it’s not global warming.
Tea Party activists are taking their message all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah for General Electric’s shareholder meeting on Wednesday. FreedomWorks, along with the Free Enterprise Project and local Tea Party groups, is planning a rally before the meeting to demand the firing of GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt.
“Jeff Immelt is the face of government-corporate cronyism in America today,” said Russ Walker, VP of Political and Grassroots Campaigns at FreedomWorks. “As President Obama’s hand-picked chair of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Immelt abandoned the tenets of free enterprise to lobby on behalf of rent-seeking General Electric, and restrict its competitors in the marketplace.”
FreedomWorks and the Free Enterprise Project launched a campaign against GE last fall as part of a larger effort to boycott businesses that lobby for or support the progressive agenda. The campaign is based on polling data that show when consumers are told about businesses lobbying for a progressive agenda, public opinion of the company drops dramatically.
The Free Enterprise Project will also be urging shareholders at the meeting to vote for a proposal that would require GE to disclose the business risk assessment of changes in federal climate change policy. In the past, GE has been an advocate for green technology and policies like cap and trade.
“Investors must be made aware of the significant business risk associated with GE’s gambit to profit from climate change fears,” said the Free Enterprise Project’s Tom Borelli. “To date, GE CEO Jeff Immelt has failed to inform investors that demand for the company’s renewable energy products is subjected to a host of political and scientific risks.”
Phoebe Snow is best known for Poetry Man but I’ve always had a soft spot for her version of Sammy Cahn’s Teach Me Tonight, a wonderfully crafted song from 1953, which benefits from her respect for lyrics and her voice, a precision instrument.
She gave up her career to care for her brain damaged daughter, who remained mentally a child for 31 years, dying in 2007.
House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly last night to strip police officers, teachers, and other municipal employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care, saying the change would save millions of dollars for financially strapped cities and towns.
The 111-to-42 vote followed tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights.
Unions fought hard to stop the bill, launching a radio ad that assailed the plan and warning legislators that if they voted for the measure, they could lose their union backing in the next election. After the vote, labor leaders accused House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and other Democrats of turning their backs on public employees.
“It’s pretty stunning,’’ said Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected. The same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns. The same Democrats who tell us over and over again that they’re with us, that they believe in collective bargaining, that they believe in unions. . . . It’s a done deal for our relationship with the people inside that chamber.’’
Apparently, these particular Democrats didn’t stay bought.
Anyone who wonders why I despise those on the left not only for their politics, but their behavior, simply hasn’t been paying attention lately.
To begin with, we had the union bullies attempting to overturn the results of a democratic election by a show of brute force. And for what? So that public sector unions, which should never have been allowed to exist in the first place, could continue strong-arming gutless politicians into providing them, at taxpayer’s expense, with an endless gravy train.
Next, we had Rep. Peter King, chairman of the committee that was investigating the radicalization of American Muslims, being berated by several members of the Black Congressional Caucus for focusing the hearings on one particular community. That would be like complaining that a congressional committee in the early 40s was off base for investigating the Nazi Bund because its members were all Germans.
These boobs even had the gall to question why the committee wasn’t looking into the KKK. The obvious answer is because these days I have more friends on Twitter than the Klan has members, and those friends probably constitute a more realistic danger to public safety and national security.
I can assure you that these idiots wouldn’t have any problem with a congressional probe into the Tea Party. Now that’s a group they’re quite prepared to recognize as a menace to America.
Worst of all was watching Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of Rep. King’s own committee, shouting abuse at her colleagues and refusing, in spite of King’s attempts to restore order, to shut her pie hole. It was easy to see why she had recently been voted the worst boss on Capitol Hill by congressional aides. Apparently she is notorious for screaming at her staff, driving them regularly to tears with her relentless tirades and her dropping of “F” bombs.
Isn’t it odd how concerned these politicians are about harassment in every other workplace but their own? They all know who is exploiting their staff sexually and emotionally, but they maintain their silence like a bunch of Mafia goons. I swear, if we chose our 100 senators, 435 members of congress, president and vice-president, by picking names out of a hat, we’d improve our chances of getting decent people in office.
One good piece of news is that, for all intents and purposes, Obama has finally resolved to break yet another campaign promise by keeping Gitmo open for business. Rumor has it that he will mollify his base of loony leftists by changing its name to Camp Paradise or West Mecca.
Only a simpleton like Obama would have been dumb enough to have argued that the reason to shut the place down was because the jihadists were using it as a recruiting tool. Inasmuch as the world has had to deal with Islamic lunatics ever since Jimmy Carter invited the Ayatollah Khomeini to set up shop in Iran, and that even the 9/11 massacre preceded Gitmo’s becoming a repository for Islamics, it’s difficult to fathom this childish point of view.
If you think about it, you realize that everything is a recruiting tool for these escapees from the eighth century. Everything from 72 virgins and “Dancing With the Stars” to bathtubs, bacon sandwiches and Hillary Clinton’s pants suits, are recruiting tools for the Koran-toting scum buckets.
Finally, in case you missed it, Barack Obama, who has apparently grown weary of being second-guessed, recently voiced envy of Hu Jintao, pointing out that it’s far easier being the president of China than the United States.
All I can say is if he’s looking to change jobs, I’m ready to help him pack and I’ll even drive him to the airport.
A government attempt to oust a longtime drug-company chief executive over his company’s marketing violations is raising alarms in that industry and beyond about a potential expansion of federal involvement in the business world.
The Department of Health and Human Services this month notified Howard Solomon of Forest Laboratories Inc. that it intends to exclude him from doing business with the federal government. This, in turn, could prevent Forest from selling its drugs to Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration. If the government implements its ban, Forest would have to dump Mr. Solomon, now 83 years old, in order to protect its corporate revenue. No drug company, large or small, can afford to lose out on sales to the federal government, a major customer.
So, if ObamaCare succeeds, drug company, HMO, hospital CEOs etc. will all serve at the will of the federal government.
Nifty power grab.
The campaign against drug-company CEOs is part of a larger Obama administration effort to pursue individual executives blamed for wrongdoing rather than simply punishing companies. The government has tried to prosecute Wall Street executives in connection with the 2008 financial crisis, but with limited success.
The Health and Human Services department startled drug makers last year when the agency said it would start invoking a little-used administrative policy under the Social Security Act against pharmaceutical executives. This policy allows officials to bar corporate leaders from health-industry companies doing business with the government, if a drug company is guilty of criminal misconduct. The agency said a chief executive or other leader can be banned even if he or she had no knowledge of a company’s criminal actions. Retaining a banned executive can trigger a company’s exclusion from government business.
The “action against the CEO of Forest Labs is a game changer,” said Richard Westling, a corporate defense attorney in Nashville who has represented executives in different industries against the government.
According to Mr. Westling, “It would be a mistake to see this as solely a health-care industry issue. The use of sanctions such as exclusion and debarment to punish individuals where the government is unable to prove a direct legal or regulatory violation could have wide-ranging impact.” An exclusion penalty could be more costly than a Justice Department prosecution.
Was the company guilty of criminal misconduct?
The Forest case has its origins in an investigation into the company’s marketing of its big-selling antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro. Last September, Forest made a plea agreement with the government, under which it is paying $313 million in criminal and civil penalties over sales-related misconduct.
A federal court made the deal final in March. Forest Labs representatives said they were shocked when the intent-to-ban notice was received a few weeks later, because Mr. Solomon wasn’t accused by the government of misconduct.
Forest is sticking by its chief. “No one has ever alleged that Mr. Solomon did anything wrong, and excluding him [from the industry] is unjustified,” said general counsel Herschel Weinstein. “It would also set an extremely troubling precedent that would create uncertainty throughout the industry and discourage regulatory settlements.”
The pharmaceutical industry has paid billions of dollars in civil and criminal penalties over the past decade, but the government believes they no longer have much deterrent effect.
The new use of exclusion is meant to “alter the cost-benefit calculus of the corporate executives,” said Lew Morris, chief counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services’s inspector general, in congressional testimony last month.
The move against Forest’s Mr. Solomon—its CEO, president and chairman—brings the campaign to a new level. Lawyers not involved in the Forest case said the attempt to punish an executive who isn’t accused of misconduct could tie up the industry’s day-to-day work in legal knots.
Obama claims he wants to create jobs in America.
It’s surely not all his fault, but if Bush were president, the media fingers would be wagging at him.
The average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline hit $3.86 on April 25, more than $1-a-gallon higher than a year earlier and less than 25 cents away from the record high price of gasoline set in July 2008.
In fact, per gallon prices are more than $2 higher than when Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009. Yet the president has been nearly exempt from criticism on the issue of rising prices, despite a six-month drilling moratorium and more regulatory hurdles for industry.
The Business & Media Institute found that out of the 280 oil price stories the network evening shows have aired since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, only 1 percent (3 stories) mentioned Obama’s drilling ban or other anti-oil actions in connection with gasoline prices.
Instead of asking whether Obama’s anti-oil policies could be increasing the cost of gas, the networks blamed other factors such as Mideast turmoil or the “money game” played by speculators. Certainly, the turmoil in Libya, Egypt and surrounding nations has increased worries about oil production and can influence the price. But the networks also should have looked for explanations much closer to home, like Obama’s many regulatory actions taken against the oil industry.
Is it really any surprise that oil and gas prices are surging toward the record highs we saw in 2008 just prior to the economic collapse? Despite the President’s strange assertions in his press conference last week, his Administration is not a passive observer to the trends that have inflated oil prices to dangerous levels. His war on domestic oil and gas exploration and production has caused us pain at the pump, endangered our already sluggish economic recovery, and threatened our national security.
The evidence of the President’s anti-drilling mentality and his culpability in the high gas prices hurting Americans is there for all to see. The following is not even an exhaustive list:
Exhibit A: His drilling moratorium. Guided by politics and pure emotion following the Gulf spill instead of peer-reviewed science or defensible law, the President used the power of his executive order to impose a deepwater drilling moratorium. The Administration even ignored a court order halting his moratorium. And what is the net result of the President’s (in)actions? A large drilling company was forced to declare bankruptcy, the economy of the region has been hobbled, and at least 7 rigs moved out of the Gulf area to other parts of the world while many others remain idle. Is it any surprise that oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to fall by 240,000 bbl/d in 2011 alone?
But that’s just the Gulf. There’s also the question of a moratorium on the development of Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf. It seems the Obama Administration can’t agree with itself on whether it imposed a moratorium there or not. The White House claims that they didn’t, but their own Department of the Interior let slip that they did. To clear up this mess, Gov. Parnell decided to sue the DOI to get a solid answer because such a federal OCS drilling moratorium would violate federal law…
When Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a new state budget in January, he projected saving $515 million in employees’ take-home pay through collective bargaining. He didn’t come close and is being ripped by critics.
He particularly is being slammed for a contract his representatives negotiated with the politically powerful prison guards union.
“Union puppet.” “Payoff.” That sort of thing.
After all, the guards union — the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. — did spend nearly $2 million helping him get elected last year.
Brown naturally takes offense.
A public safety union that strongly supported Republican Meg Whitman — the California Statewide Law Enforcement Assn. — got basically the same contract deal as the prison guards, the governor’s aides point out.
As if that’s a standard to be followed.
Brown had projected reducing “take-home pay” for the affected employees by 10%. The legislative analyst says he actually saved only 3.6% in “employee compensation costs.” In the end, the Brown administration pegged “payroll savings” at 5% for the next fiscal year.
Whatever language is used, there’s no question that the governor missed his stated target. It’s the target that the Legislature had assumed he’d reach when they whittled the general fund deficit from roughly $26 billion to $15 billion in March, mostly by slashing healthcare and welfare.
If the proposed union contracts are ratified by workers and the Legislature, the deficit will be $200 million deeper.
Brown offered me an explanation for the $200-million budget miscalculation that I never would have imagined. It wasn’t a miscalculation at all, he said. He just didn’t want to place in the budget the real figure he was willing to settle for in collective bargaining. So he made up the projected savings targets.
“Here’s the deal: You can’t put your bottom line in the budget,” the governor said. “It’s a little awkward. Unions then figure out where you’re going. You have no chance of getting that number.”
OK, but what about the credibility of the governor’s budget proposal? What else is phony in there? How about those tax extensions? Are they all really necessary, or just an opening bid in negotiations with Republicans?
Fool us once…
The six union contracts essentially are patterned after 15 negotiated last year by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown said. He couldn’t get tougher with unions than Schwarzenegger did, the governor insisted, because that would have amounted to “discrimination” against some.
So if it’s rape for one, it’s rape for all.
And how does the left interpret this issue? Here’s a comment to Skelton’s comment that more or less summarizes their thinking.
It is time everyone (including you) stop attacking the Public Service workers and the Unions. They are not the problem. The pension bases were fine prior to the meltdown. You want to do some real reporting, then head on over to Wall Street and find who caused the problem(s) and while you are at it, get our money back.
And as you pass through DC, perhaps you can tell Obama to raise taxes on the RICH. That will help everyone
Police states do have their comical side. China’s paranoid rulers issue edicts on what stories not to cover, which makes them more interesting.
The press guidance provided by China’s censors is so voluminous and detailed that leaked copies of the guidance are now available on a regular basis. China Digital Times publishes a weekly list of what China’s censors tell their journalists not to report or hype. It’s a remarkable glimpse into the dark soul of Chinese bureaucracy, a guide to what really scares China’s rulers. But there’s irony there as well. I mean, why read Chinese papers when we can get all the juiciest bits from the censors themselves?
And juicy they are. The censors’ guidance is a kind of Drudge Report for China. Take the story about the music student who was out driving his Cruze one night and hit a mother bicycling home from her job? Fearing that she’d gotten his license plate and would make him pay for her broken leg, he stabbed her to death in the street. Now he too is facing the death penalty. It’s an irresistible tale of wealth, entitlement and tragedy in modern China.
How did I find the story? Thanks to China’s State Council Information Office, which instructed Chinese websites to cover it only by reprinting copy from the Xinhua News Agency. “Do not conduct follow-up reports,” the censors warned, “and do not repost stories related to this case.”
Will Obama and the Democrats get the message? Doubtful.
For the past eight years, Liu Zhijun was one of the most influential people in China. As minister of railways, Liu ran China’s $300 billion high-speed rail project. U.S., European and Japanese contractors jostled for a piece of the business while foreign journalists gushed over China’s latest high-tech marvel.
Today, Liu Zhijun is ruined, and his high-speed rail project is in trouble. On Feb. 25, he was fired for “severe violations of discipline” — code for embezzling tens of millions of dollars. Seems his ministry has run up $271 billion in debt — roughly five times the level that bankrupted General Motors. But ticket sales can’t cover debt service that will total $27.7 billion in 2011 alone. Safety concerns also are cropping up.
Faced with a financial and public relations disaster, China put the brakes on Liu’s program. On April 13, the government cut bullet-train speeds 30 mph to improve safety, energy efficiency and affordability. The Railway Ministry’s tangled finances are being audited. Construction plans, too, are being reviewed.
Liu’s legacy, in short, is a system that could drain China’s economic resources for years. So much for the grand project that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times likened to a “moon shot” and that President Obama held up as a model for the United States.
Rather than demonstrating the advantages of centrally planned long-term investment, as its foreign admirers sometimes suggested, China’s bullet-train experience shows what can go wrong when an unelected elite, influenced by corrupt opportunists, gives orders that all must follow — without the robust public discussion we would have in the states.
To which Obama would say: but we have smarter czars. They’re smart because I picked ‘em.
The fact is that China’s train wreck was eminently foreseeable. High-speed rail is a capital-intensive undertaking that requires huge borrowing upfront to finance tracks, locomotives and cars, followed by years in which ticket revenue covers debt service — if all goes well. “Any . . . shortfall in ridership or yield, can quickly create financial stress,” warns a 2010 World Bank staff report.
Such “shortfalls” are all too common. Japan’s bullet trains needed a bailout in 1987. Taiwan’s line opened in 2007 and needed a government rescue in 2009. In France, only the Paris-Lyon high-speed line is in the black.
This history counseled caution about introducing bullet trains in China, where the typical passenger was still a migrant worker, not a businessman rushing to a meeting. To be sure, there was an economic case to be made for upgrading China’s lumbering rail system: It would free up limited rail capacity for freight trains, thus reducing truck traffic on congested roads. Beijing’s initial feasibility studies envisioned the gradual introduction of trains that would move at a maximum 125 mph, according to Caixin, the Chinese economic magazine…
Long before the age of Hollywood and Mickey’s Magic Kingdom, one of the hottest tourist draws in Southern California involved a herd of scowling ostriches and a towering, solar-powered engine.
The pairing may sound wacky, but at the turn of the 20th century, it kept the curious flocking to the San Gabriel Valley. According to Rick Thomas, author of “South Pasadena’s Ostrich Farm,” the attraction was the world’s first successful commercial use of a solar-powered motor.
First, the story of the ostriches: In 1886, businessman Edwin Cawston traveled to South Africa and acquired 50 ostriches with the goal of breeding them, Thomas said. At the time, ostrich feathers were a popular women’s fashion accessory, and Cawston hoped to cash in on the trend.
Cawston opened an ostrich farm in Norwalk, but after some 10 years, he moved to South Pasadena, which was enjoying boom in tourism and boasted the luxury Royal Raymond hotel. Cawston figured he was guaranteed a steady flow of patrons.
Some of this is quite gruesome. You’ve been warned.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post decries Obama’s inaction as shameful.
FOR THE PAST five weeks, growing numbers of Syrians have been gathering in cities and towns across the country to demand political freedom — and the security forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad have been responding by opening fire on them. According to Syrian human rights groups, more than 220 people had been killed by Friday. And Friday may have been the worst day yet: According to Western news organizations, which mostly have had to gather information from outside the country, at least 75 people were gunned down in places that included the suburbs of Damascus, the city of Homs and a village near the southern town of Daraa, where the protests began.
Massacres on this scale usually prompt a strong response from Western democracies, as they should. Ambassadors are withdrawn; resolutions are introduced at the U.N. Security Council; international investigations are mounted and sanctions applied. In Syria’s case, none of this has happened. The Obama administration has denounced the violence — a presidential statement called Friday’s acts of repression “outrageous” — but otherwise remained passive. Even the ambassador it dispatched to Damascus during a congressional recess last year remains on post. (more…)
In 1990 the Heritage Foundation put out a report titled “How ‘Poor’ Are America’s Poor?” Not very, concluded author Robert Rector:
“Poor” Americans today are better housed, better fed, and own more property than did the average U.S. citizen throughout much of the 20th Century. In 1988, the per capita expenditures of the lowest income fifth of the U.S. population exceeded the per capita expenditures of the median American household in 1955, after adjusting for inflation.”
Among “the persons whom the Census Bureau identifies as ‘poor,’ ” 38% were homeowners. Among “poor” households, 62% owned a car, 14% two or more cars, nearly half had air-conditioning, and 31% had microwave ovens. “Nationwide, some 22,000 ‘poor’ households have heated swimming pools or Jacuzzis.”
One thing only rich people had back in 1990, though, was portable telephones. That’s changed, hasn’t it? If you’re reading this column, you very likely have a cellular phone. You may even be reading this column on your cellular phone.
But cellphones aren’t just ubiquitous. In what the New York Times calls “a strange twist,” they’ve become symbols of poverty. Arkansas and Mississippi, those perennial economic laggards, “find themselves at the top of a new state ranking: They have the highest concentrations of people in the nation who have abandoned landlines in favor of cellular phones.”
“There appear to be many reasons for this,” the Times writes:
Cellular phones have become more affordable. The barrier to owning one is lower with pay-as-you-go plans. Some states allow subsidies for low-income residents to be applied to wireless bills. And increasingly, those who cannot afford both types of phones choose their cellular phone.
The irony here is too obvious to escape even the Times, which notes that “it is, of course, a long way from the days when cellphones belonged exclusively to wealthy business people.”
It’s an even longer way from the days when only rich people had telephones. “When I was a kid,” writes reader David Hallstrom, “my friends thought we were rich because we had a dedicated phone line and they had party lines.”
We’re young enough never to have seen a party line, but old enough to remember when a cellphone was still a luxury good, as it was in 1990. By the turn of the century, it was a common middle-class accoutrement. Now we’re expected to feel sorry for people who are so poor, they can only afford cellphones.
The motto of liberalism should be, “Do as we say, not as we do.” There are a myriad of examples to bear this out. The question that comes to mind is why there isn’t a reward for bringing in their pelts.
For instance, in spite of their insistent demand that taxes be raised — especially on the rich — people like George Soros, the Kerrys, the Kennedys and Senators Jay Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein, all receive the bulk of their wealth through low-taxed family trusts and offshore accounts.
As I have pointed out in the past, there’s no law on the books preventing them or any of their left-wing cronies from donating all they like to Uncle Sam’s coffers. I’m sure he’d appreciate it, and I know the rest of us would enjoy a respite from their self-righteous rants.
Another example of blatant hypocrisy on the left is Arianna Huffington’s refusal to pay the contributors to the Huffington Post. While it’s true that I wouldn’t pay a dime for the knee-jerk propaganda that fills her blog on a daily basis, it’s also true that I didn’t recently sell the site to AOL for $315 million!
Then there’s Michael Moore, whose brain is even sloppier and a bigger mess than his person. He was all over the tube, delivering pep talks to the union thugs in Madison, Wisconsin, giving Governor Scott Walker hell for having the audacity to keep his campaign promises, and voicing his undying devotion to the cause of organized labor everywhere. Or nearly everywhere. It seems he’s chosen to use non-union crews on some of his movies for no other reason than to save himself a few bucks. And this bozo claims to hate capitalism?! Right, he and George Soros hate it like crazy, all the way to the bank.
One of the most repulsive characteristics of those who inhabit the left is their lack of a moral compass. It explains why uberlib Steven Spielberg saw no difference between the Arabs who massacred the Israeli Olympians at Munich and those who pursued and executed the assassins.
It also explains why they look at the Middle East conflict, and manage to equate the unrelenting missile attacks on Israel, not to mention the cold-blooded murders of Jewish women and children, by its enemies with Israel’s eventual retaliation. Which, in turn, is inevitably described as a brutal over-reaction by the leftist members of the world press.
Those on the left equate the acts of individual madmen like Timothy McVeigh and Jared Loughner with Islamic terrorism, and by trying to connect such ogres to Christianity or the Tea Party, they pretend that America and the world have as much to fear from adherents of Jesus Christ and Michele Bachman as they do from jihadists.
We saw a smaller, but equally telling, example of this in the recent video of the fat Australian schoolboy being attacked by the smaller bully. After absorbing three or four punches to his face and body, the larger boy picked up the nasty little creep and body-slammed him to the ground. All over the world, conservatives cheered as they watched the innocent victim turn on his tormentor.
Among those not cheering were the school administrators, who, in their infinite ignorance, decided to suspend both boys. I have no doubt that Australian educators, like our own, tend to be liberals. And, being liberals, I suspect they wouldn’t have been able to choose sides between the Luftwaffe and the RAF.
These are the elitists who see fit to lecture conservatives. In simple terms, I’ve found that when you’re right, you’re right, and when you’re left, you’re wrong.
It was no mistake that when it came to symbols, the elephant, the animal that best exemplifies intelligence and strength without viciousness, would represent Republicans, while Democrats, for all the obvious reasons, would be represented by the braying jackass.
The process was routine. L.A. County Sheriff’s homicide investigator Kevin Lloyd was flipping through snapshots of tattooed gang members.
Then one caught his attention.
Inked on the pudgy chest of a young Pico Rivera gangster who had been picked up and released on a minor offense was the scene of a 2004 liquor store slaying that had stumped Lloyd for more than four years.
Each key detail was right there: the Christmas lights that lined the roof of the liquor store where 23-year-old John Juarez was gunned down, the direction his body fell, the bowed street lamp across the way and the street sign — all under the chilling banner of RIVERA KILLS, a reference to the gang Rivera-13…
Kevin Drum doesn’t think it will be so hard to solve our fiscal problems with tax hikes:
I said that federal taxes had averaged 21% of GDP over the past 30 years, and Ross correctly points out that it’s federal spending that’s averaged 21%. On a macro level this might or might not matter (“to spend is to tax”), but it does matter if we’re trying to figure out how voters will react to an increase in the total tax take. However, I continue to believe that the impact would be much less than Ross thinks. The federal tax take was around 20% of GDP during the Clinton era, so here’s what we’re talking about: letting the Bush tax cuts expire in a couple of years and then raising tax rates by about four or five points of GDP over the next 20 or 30 years. Done reasonably and fairly, I just don’t believe that an increase this gradual would be wildly oppressive.
This is not true, and it’s important to point out why it’s not true. First of all, while it is technically true that the federal tax take was “around 20% of GDP” during the Clinton era, this was only true at the height of the stock market bubble. Tax revenues exceeded 20% of GDP for exactly one year: 2000. The average tax take under Clinton was 19%. And if you exclude 1999 and 2000, the very height of the bubble, it was more like 18.5%.Without arguing about whether our tax system is fair or not, the fact is that the federal income tax is the most variable part of the code, and the federal income tax is now very progressive; it collects most of its revenue from people at the top. (Whether it should collect even more is an argument for another day.) Because it collects most of its income from people at the top, and because the incomes of the wealthy are more variable than the incomes of the poor and middle class (Warren Buffett’s income can drop by $300,000; mine can’t), we’re going to get deep troughs in recessions, and high peaks in boom times. We will get particularly high peaks when the booms are delivering huge chunks of income to a handful of people in a very short timeframe. According to the CBO, capital gains receipts alone, which more than doubled in Clinton’s second term, accounted for more than 30% of the increase in income tax receipts above the rate of GDP growth. Obviously the ancillary ordinary income, like banking fees, also contributed substantially. Between 1996 and 2000, payroll taxes increased a tidy 30%. But income taxes increased by 55%. In 1996, social insurance receipts were about $500 billion, while income tax receipts were $650 billion. By 2000, payroll tax receipts had grown to $656 billion–but the income tax was collecting over a trillion. Today they’re roughly at par again (though that won’t last–social insurance contributions will drop as the worker to population ratio declines.)Saying “all we have to do is go back to the tax rates under Clinton” is effectively saying “all we need is another asset price bubble that funnels a huge amount of money into the pockets of the rich”. This seems neither particularly feasible, nor desirable.
…this would be a headline story about hate crimes.
…Two black females beating the hell out of a white patron, while several black employees stand by and watch. One black male manages to provide the facade of assistance to the white victim in this brutal attack.
The two black females exit, then re-enter the store to continue the beating, until a an older white woman attempts to stop them from dragging the white victim outside into the parking lot. note: the black male employees have disappeared from camera view, even though they are plenty well capable of stopping the attack.
At the end, the white victim is beaten until she has a seizure, at which point the camera operator warns the black female attackers to flee, because the police are on the way. Note: he makes sure to repeatedly tell the criminal attackers to flee, instead of keeping them there for the police to apprehend.
There’s video of the attack if you can stomach it.