So shrink it.
Lois Lerner, the senior executive in charge of the IRS tax exemption department and the federal employee at the center of the exploding scandal over the IRS targeting of conservative, evangelical and pro-Israel non-profits, was given $42,531 in bonuses between 2009 and 2011.
That figure was included in data provided by the IRS in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Washington Examiner. Lerner is director of the IRS exempt organizations division, which processes and approves or denies applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status.
One wonders, what is the basis for a bonus in a government job? Do they give IRS agents extra for extra aggressive audits?
Someone should clue in the Food Police that salt is good for most human beings. The food nannies are not just nosy, they are often wrong.
In a report that undercuts years of public health warnings, a prestigious group convened by the government says there is no good reason based on health outcomes for many Americans to drive their sodium consumption down to the very low levels recommended in national dietary guidelines.
Those levels, 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day, or a little more than half a teaspoon of salt, were supposed to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people at risk, including anyone older than 50, blacks and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease — groups that make up more than half of the American population.
Some influential organizations, including the American Heart Association, have said that everyone, not just those at risk, should aim for that very low sodium level. The heart association reaffirmed that position in an interview with its spokesman on Monday, even in light of the new report.
Because causes matter more than facts to some people.
But the new expert committee, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was no rationale for anyone to aim for sodium levels below 2,300 milligrams a day. The group examined new evidence that had emerged since the last such report was issued, in 2005.
“As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms,” said Dr. Brian L. Strom, chairman of the committee and a professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania. He explained that the possible harms included increased rates of heart attacks and an increased risk of death.
The committee was not asked to specify an optimal amount of sodium and did not make any recommendations about how much people should consume. Dr. Strom said people should not eat too much salt, but he also said that the data on the health effects of sodium were too inconsistent for the committee to say what the upper limit of sodium consumption should be.
Until about 2006, almost all studies on salt and health outcomes relied on the well-known fact that blood pressure can drop slightly when people eat less salt. From that, and from other studies linking blood pressure to risks of heart attacks and strokes, researchers created models showing how many lives could be saved if people ate less salt.
(This is a repost from last March. Perez is set to be confirmed.)
The executive branch has vast regulatory powers. When regulators decide to seize authority not bestowed by Congress, it gets very ugly and undemocratic.
Consider Obama’s choice to run the Labor Department, one Thomas Perez. He’s the son of Dominican parents.
He’s an ardent leftist, and key proponent of “disparate-impact.” That’s the notion that companies can be guilty of racial discrimination simply because different races might, say, get better terms on mortgages.
The lender argues: but we don’t even collect racial information on our customers. How can we discriminate? The DOJ answers: the numbers don’t lie, pay a fine.
Is this even legal? That’s the point of a long WSJ editorial today explaining how Perez orchestrated the dropping of a case that the Supreme Court was set to hear, a case that might have meant the end of disparate-impact.
…To recap: A senior Justice Department official, Mr. Perez, intervened to undermine two civil complaints against the City of St. Paul in order to get St. Paul to drop a Supreme Court case that might have blown apart the legal rationale for his dubious discrimination crusade against law-abiding businesses.
Justice officials claim to be confident that their disparate-impact cases are legal, but if that’s true then why not welcome a chance for the Justices to rule in their favor? Why go to such lengths to kill such a judicial review? Justice didn’t respond to our requests to speak with Messrs. Perez and West or otherwise respond to this chronology.
Meanwhile, Mr. West has been nominated for the number three job at Justice, Associate Attorney General, and now the talented Mr. Perez is being elevated to the Obama cabinet. The question the Senate needs to ask during confirmation hearings is whether a man who is willing to play politics with disparate-impact law and the Supreme Court can be trusted with the vast enforcement power of the Labor Department?
Separately, the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General in October for advice on whether to hear Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, another case that examines the legality of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act. Given the Obama Administration’s behavior, the Justices shouldn’t wait for an answer. They should take the case and give Mr. Perez the legal ruling he fears so much that he was willing to subvert other cases to stop it.
…so they them a copy of the Constitution.
When Marion Bower decided to start her tea party organization in 2010, she didn’t know that it would take nearly two years for the Internal Revenue Service to approve her request for tax-exempt status.
The Ohio woman also did not expect that providing information about the books her group read would be part of the application process.
“I was trying to be very cordial, but they wanted copies of unbelievable things,” Bower told ABC News today. “They wanted to know what materials we had discussed at any of our book studies.”
She ultimately sent one of the books, “The Five Thousand Year Leap,” promoted frequently by Glenn Beck, to the IRS official handling her tax-exempt request in Cincinnati. She also sent a paperback copy of the Constitution.
“They wanted a synopsis of all the books we read,” Bower said. “I thought, I don’t have time to write a book report. You can read them for yourselves.”
Bower, 68, said she did not want to cause trouble or be argumentative with the IRS, so she patiently responded to their questions about her group, American Patriots against Government Excess (PAGE). She said the group in Fremont, Ohio, about 45 miles from Toledo, was formed as an educational group…
Why Stewart still thinks the unanswered questions about Benghazi are the province of conspiracy theorists is beyond me.
But the rest is point on.
Raymond Michael Rodden was bored this week, so he drove to downtown Phoenix and began walking around, snapping photos of the federal courthouse and the state capitol with his iPhone.
The 33-year-old man ended up jailed, unemployed and homeless; his iPhone, iPad and Macintosh laptop confiscated as “evidence.”
All because they found it odd he was taking photos at 3 a.m.
“They told me they’re going to keep my computer because they want to see my search history,” he said Saturday evening in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
“They wanted to know if I belonged to any extremist groups like the national socialist movement or sovereign citizens. They wanted to know what kind of books I checked out of the library.”
However, the only charges pending against him, if you even want to call them charges, are citations that he walked into an alley – a bogus charge that applies only to motorized vehicles – and that he neglected to change the address on his driver license after moving to Phoenix from Tucson last August.
For those too young to get the Barney Fife reference:
…A whole lot of the big union pension plans are in trouble. This is usually cited as an example of The Trouble With Unions, or alternatively, The Scandalous Underregulation of the Private Sector. As I dug into the details though, I found out something that surprised me: this wasn’t just a story about union mismanagement. And it wasn’t a story about deregulation, either. Oh, to be sure, the funds could have managed things better (more about that in a little while). But the reason that they’re in such deep trouble now is neither bad management, nor inadequate regulation. In fact, the opposite is true: managers wanted to do a better job, and the government actively stopped them. Meet the true culprit behind the crisis in union pension plans: the friendly folks at the IRS.
Back in the day, long before the stock market boom began, the IRS decided that pension funds were a problem, taxwise. As I understand it, this problem was mostly in small professional practices like doctors and lawyers offices. The doctors and lawyers would employ one or two other people, most of them transient single women who could be expected to leave to get married long before their pension vested. So you’d set up a “pension plan” in which, realistically, you were going to be the beneficiary. Then you’d stuff it full of money, far more than you needed to pay out your pension. It was a pretty nice tax shelter.
So the IRS got very strict about pension overfunding: they didn’t allow it. Or rather, they allowed it, but they wouldn’t let you deduct any payments into an already overfunded plan. Farewell, tax shelter.
This was fine in the 1970s, when the market just sort of lay there like a dying fish, occasionally flopping around, but mostly just gasping for air. However, by the late 1990s, a whole lot of pension plans were overfunded. Which created something of a problem. In popular legend, all these pension fund managers were total idiots who didn’t understand that the market was in a bubble, dammit. Undoubtedly, in some cases, this legend is even true. But in most cases, it wasn’t. The pension consultants and money managers who were responsible for calculating the required contributions were well aware that the rocket-fuelled 1990s price increases were not likely to continue forever. They even understood that prices were likely to fall, leaving the funds not-so-funded. They wanted to keep pouring contributions into the funds in order to protect against the inevitable decline. But the IRS wouldn’t let them…
In a shocking affront to the United States Constitution, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education have joined together to mandate that virtually every college and university in the United States establish unconstitutional speech codes that violate the First Amendment and decades of legal precedent.
“I am appalled by this attack on free speech on campus from our own government,” said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has been leading the fight against unconstitutional speech codes on America’s college campuses since its founding in 1999. “In 2011, the Department of Education took a hatchet to due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct. Now the Department of Education has enlisted the help of the Department of Justice to mandate campus speech codes so broad that virtually every student will regularly violate them. The DOE and DOJ are ignoring decades of legal decisions, the Constitution, and common sense, and it is time for colleges and the public to push back.”
In a letter sent yesterday to the University of Montana that explicitly states that it is intended as “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” the Departments of Justice and Education have mandated a breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser while ignoring the First Amendment. The mandate applies to every college receiving federal funding—virtually every American institution of higher education nationwide, public or private.
The letter states that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature’” including “verbal conduct” (that is, speech). It then explicitly states that allegedly harassing expression need not even be offensive to an “objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation”—if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason, no matter how irrationally or unreasonably, the speaker may be punished.
Watch out, this could include
Any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person. This leaves a wide range of expressive activity—a campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a presentation on safe sex practices, a debate about sexual morality, a discussion of gay marriage, or a classroom lecture on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—subject to discipline.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.
Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.
In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.
“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.
Uh huh. Read it all.
Jeffrey Tucker could teach Obama a few things.
The gas gauge broke. There was no smartphone app to tell me how much was left, so I ran out. I had to call the local gas station to give me enough to get on my way. The gruff but lovable attendant arrived in his truck and started to pour gas in my car’s tank. And pour. And pour.
“Hmmm, I just hate how slow these gas cans are these days,” he grumbled. “There’s no vent on them.”
That sound of frustration in this guy’s voice was strangely familiar, the grumble that comes when something that used to work but doesn’t work anymore, for some odd reason we can’t identify.
I’m pretty alert to such problems these days. Soap doesn’t work. Toilets don’t flush. Clothes washers don’t clean. Light bulbs don’t illuminate. Refrigerators break too soon. Paint discolors. Lawnmowers have to be hacked. It’s all caused by idiotic government regulations that are wrecking our lives one consumer product at a time, all in ways we hardly notice.
It’s like the barbarian invasions that wrecked Rome, taking away the gains we’ve made in bettering our lives. It’s the bureaucrats’ way of reminding market producers and consumers who is in charge.
Surely, the gas can is protected. It’s just a can, for goodness sake. Yet he was right. This one doesn’t have a vent. Who would make a can without a vent unless it was done under duress? After all, everyone knows to vent anything that pours. Otherwise, it doesn’t pour right and is likely to spill.
It took one quick search. The whole trend began in (wait for it) California. Regulations began in 2000, with the idea of preventing spillage. The notion spread and was picked up by the EPA, which is always looking for new and innovative ways to spread as much human misery as possible.
An ominous regulatory announcement from the EPA came in 2007: “Starting with containers manufactured in 2009… it is expected that the new cans will be built with a simple and inexpensive permeation barrier and new spouts that close automatically.”
The government never said “no vents.” It abolished them de facto with new standards that every state had to adopt by 2009. So for the last three years, you have not been able to buy gas cans that work properly. They are not permitted to have a separate vent. The top has to close automatically. There are other silly things now, too, but the biggest problem is that they do not do well what cans (more…)
Obama was busy slaying straw men during his Ohio State commencement speech:
Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.
Obama’s scant experience outside academia and government blinds him to common sense. He might actually believe conservatives want polluted water and corporations running amok, or that conservatives think government is the source of all evil.
The man needs remedial education, but famously listens to no one.
There’s a practical reason to limit the scope of government: human beings tend toward corruption. Government can referee a private economy to limit corruption. But when the government becomes corrupt, who acts as referee? The news media? Ha.
Let’s forget corrupt. How about incompetent? Incompetent companies eventually pay a price from the marketplace. They either reform or go broke. No such market forces work to police government bloat or incompetence.
Consider these examples, just from California:
- Los Angeles just discovered $43 million sitting in an account. The city is seriously strapped for cash, but cannot even count what it has.
- Los Angeles has a three decade backlog of repairs for sidewalks.
- The state parks department hid a $54 million surplus while threatening to close parks. Meanwhile, communities held bake sales to raise money to prevent park closures.
- The state has 19,700 felons with guns but can’t find the money to disarm them. Instead, they pass more gun control laws.
- The state wasted $371 million on an “upgraded” payroll system that does not work.
- The LA Unified School district spent $578 million to build one high school. For that, they could have built two Disney Halls and had money left over.
- The city leaders egged on Occupy LA, with the mayor handing out free ponchos when it drizzled. Eventually, Occupy cost the city $4.7 million.
- LA ran a public hospital that was so bad it killed patients in excessive numbers. Multiple reform attempts failed. In the most egregious example, a patient was refused treatment and bled to death on the floor of the ER while her husband called 911 to summon an ambulance to take her somewhere for treatment. Eventually, the hospital was closed.
- Public service unions have corrupted the political system, raising huge sums of money to elect union friendly politicians. As a result, average citizens support public employees with larger paychecks, longer vacations, earlier retirements and fatter pensions. We now work for the government.
The more you know about government finances, the harder it is to take the budget theater in Washington seriously. The president boasts that non-defense discretionary spending is at “its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower administration,” but that measure ignores about 81 cents out of every dollar Washington spends.
The tiny reductions in spending growth imposed by the sequester have been for the most part shrugged off by the people, though they have produced a great deal of angst and wailing in Washington — not only from the politicians, but also from such private-sector beneficiaries as defense contractors.
This is an almost entirely meaningless debate. The total fiscal overhang of our federal, state, and local governments — their combined debt and unfunded liabilities — is around $140 trillion, and growing. That is about twice the annual economic output of human civilization, and nearly the value of all the financial assets in the world. It is something close to a mathematical certainty that those debts and obligations will not be made good on at their present value.
The real debate for the next 30 years is not how we go about paying our bills, but how we go about not paying them. What is most likely is a much smaller and more modest government, something closer to what Robert Nozick called the “nightwatchman state.” The reason for that is the fact that we have good substitutes for Social Security and the Department of Education but not for the army or the courts.
This all sounds painful and disruptive, and it surely will be, though exactly how painful and how disruptive will be in part a question of luck and in part a matter of how prudently and intelligently our policymakers proceed while we get from where we are to an economically sane position.
Difficult, yes. But it is also going to be great. There is cause for short-term pessimism, but there also is cause for long-term optimism.
Despite the best efforts of Washington (and Albany, Sacramento, Austin, etc.) the United States is a very, very rich country. Fantastically rich. Absurdly rich. We have a great deal of wealth, extraordinarily productive and creative people and stable institutions.
Our key economic failings are in education, health care and retirements — three sectors dominated by political rather than economic action: the K-12 monopoly model of education, Social Security and other retirement entitlements and a hodge-podge of medical programs which meant that even before the enactment of ObamaCare about half of all health-care spending was government spending, a fact that Republicans foolishly ignored when they protested that we had “the best health-care system in the world.” (Note to Republicans: We have great medicine and medical technology; we have a terrible system of paying for health care, and it was terrible before ObamaCare, too.)
These government-dominated systems are inherently defective. Not because the people who run them aren’t smart and well-intentioned — though they are by no means universally smart and well-intentioned — but because it is the nature of political institutions to be insulated from the information-feedback that characterizes marketplace activity.
Simply put, when Coca-Cola introduces New Coke or McDonald’s introduces (more…)
…Even as the majority of L.A. Unified school board members indicated they would vote to continue the program, about 100 parents turned out at Hooper Elementary in South L.A., waving noisemakers and signs in Spanish and English to save the breakfasts.
One mother, Janet Torrez, said her two sons prefer to eat at school rather than at home but that a previous before-school meal program didn’t work because the children chose to play instead. The classroom breakfast, she said, ensures that her sons start their school day with a nutritious meal.
“I don’t want them to take the breakfast away,” she said. “This program is really important for the kids to eat and open their minds.”
Why doesn’t mom just fix her own kids breakfast? Who care what they prefer?
ABOVE the entrance to America’s Supreme Court four words are carved: “Equal justice under law”. The court is pondering whether affirmative action breaks that promise. The justices recently accepted a case concerning a vote in Michigan that banned it, and will soon rule on whether the University of Texas’s race-conscious admissions policies are lawful. The question in both cases is as simple as it is divisive: should government be colour-blind?
America is one of many countries where the state gives a leg-up to members of certain racial, ethnic, or other groups by holding them to different standards. The details vary. In some countries, the policy applies only to areas under direct state control, such as public-works contracts or admission to public universities. In others, private firms are also obliged to take account of the race of their employees, contractors and even owners. But the effects are strikingly similar around the world (see article).
The burden of history
Many of these policies were put in place with the best of intentions: to atone for past injustices and ameliorate their legacy. No one can deny that, for example, blacks in America or dalits in India (members of the caste once branded “untouchable”) have suffered grievous wrongs, and continue to suffer discrimination. Favouring members of these groups seems like a quick and effective way of making society fairer.
Most of these groups have made great progress. But establishing how much credit affirmative action can take is hard, when growth also brings progress and some of the good—for example the confidence-boosting effect of creating prominent role models for a benighted group—is intangible. And it is impossible to know how a targeted group would have got on without this special treatment. Malays are three times richer in Singapore, where they do not get preferences, than in next-door Malaysia, where they do. At the same time, the downside of affirmative action has become all too apparent.
Awarding university places to black students with lower test scores than whites sounds reasonable, given the legacy of segregation. But a study found that at some American universities, black applicants who scored 450 points (out of 1,600) worse than Asians on entrance tests were equally likely to win a place. That is neither fair on Asians, nor an incentive to blacks to study in high school. In their book “Mismatch”, Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor produce evidence that suggests affirmative action reduces the number of blacks who qualify as lawyers by placing black students in law schools for which they are ill-prepared, causing many to drop out. Had they attended less demanding schools, they might have graduated.
Although the groups covered by affirmative action tend to be poorer than their neighbours, the individuals who benefit are often not…
If dictator sounds like hyperbole, consider that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — created by Dodd-Frank– grants absolute authority over vast swathes of our economy to one man. (Unlike, say, the FCC which is a commission of five.)
Which is why the GOP refused to vote on the nomination of Richard Cordray to hold the post, and why Obama illegally used a recess appointment.
Now, we see the fruits of this. Congressman John Campbell writes in the WSJ
…Currently, if you apply for a car loan through a bank, credit union or one of the car manufacturers like Ford Motor Credit or Toyota Financial, you are judged on matters such as your credit score, income and debt. The financial institution won’t know your race or ethnicity or even necessarily your gender. It will approve or disapprove the application and offer you an interest rate based on the data. That’s just as it should be.
But it is not good enough for the CFPB. In a quest to make sure that all individuals falling within the “protected classes” under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act get the same interest rate as those who are not covered by it, the agency wants financial institutions to guess your race, ethnicity and gender based on your name and the address on your application. Put bluntly, they want lenders to profile you.
It sounds bizarre. But during a conference call on March 21 to congressional offices explaining how auto lenders were supposed to comply with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (as outlined in CFPB’s Bulletin 2013-02), agency staff advised us that they would recommend that financial institutions use “proxies to give probabilities of the race, ethnicity and gender of borrowers” to guess if an applicant falls into a protected class, or not, for the purpose of setting interest rates. In other words, they would like lenders to use stereotypes associated with your name and location in order to monitor compliance with equal-opportunity requirements.
Does that mean a person named Jefferson who lives in the Bronx is to be presumed an African-American, but not a Jefferson in Wichita? Is Taylor Rosenstein living in Miami a woman or a man? He or she must certainly be Jewish, right?
Dodd-Frank was supposed to stabilize our financial system not become another tool for racialist activism.
…Though the FAA says it is strapped for cash, the air traffic control agency managed to find the dollars to update its interactive “command center” tool on its website so passengers can check if their airports are behind schedule due to what it calls sequester-related “staffing” problems. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn noticed this rare case of FAA technological entrepreneurship and fired off a letter Wednesday protesting what he called the agency’s “full blown media rollout” to hype the flight delays.
That had zero impact on FAA bosses, who were on Capitol Hill rationalizing their dereliction. But after Mr. Coburn published his letter on his website, FAA regional employees wrote to blow the whistle on their bosses. As one email put it, “the FAA management has stated in meetings that they need to make the furloughs as hard as possible for the public so that they understand how serious it is.”
Strategies include encouraging union workers to take the same furlough day to increase congestion. “I am disgusted with everything that I see since the sequester took place,” another FAA employee wrote. “Whether in HQ or at the field level it is clear that our management has no intention of managing anything. The only effort that I see is geared towards generating fear and demonstrating failure.”
If you are a federal worker on furlough this week — or an airline passenger delayed by federal furloughs — you might want to save your blood pressure and go read another story. This one is about all the money the U.S. government spends on . . . nothing.
It is one of the oddest spending habits in Washington: This year, the government will spend at least $890,000 on service fees for bank accounts that are empty. At last count, Uncle Sam has 13,712 such accounts with a balance of zero.
They are supposed to be closed. But nobody has done the paperwork yet.
Their too busy figuring out ways to improve our lives.
So even as the sequester budget cuts have begun idling workers and frustrating travelers, the government is required to pay $65 per year, per account to keep them on the books.
In this time of austerity, the accounts are a reminder of something that makes austerity hard: expensive habits, built into the bureaucracy in times of plenty. The Obama administration has spent the past year trying to close these accounts, with only some success.
“If anyone had kept open a bank account with no money, and was getting a charge every month, they would do everything they could to close it,” said Thomas A. Schatz of the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. But, he said, the government hasn’t shown the same kind of urgency with taxpayers’ money.
In a nutshell, that’s the argument for small government.
If we had a responsible rather than spiteful president, he’d reform this bloated and inept agency. Read it all and burn.
The 4% FAA spending cut that somehow delays 40% of flights.
As travellers nationwide are learning, the White House has decided to express its dislike of the sequester—otherwise known as modestly smaller government—by choosing to cut basic air traffic control services. We wrote about this human- rights violation on Tuesday in “Flight Delays as Political Strategy,” but the story gets worse the closer we look.Start with the Federal Aviation Administration, better known as the Postal Service without the modern technology. Flyers directly fund two-thirds of the FAA’s budget through 17 airline taxes and fees—about 20% of the cost of a $300 domestic ticket, up from 7% in the 1970s. Yet now the White House wants to make this agency that can’t deliver what passengers are supposedly paying for even more dysfunctional.
Ponder this logic, if that’s the right word: The sequester cuts about $637 million from the FAA, which is less than 4% of its $15.9 billion 2012 budget, and it limits the agency to what it spent in 2010. The White House decided to translate this 4% cut that it has the legal discretion to avoid into a 10% cut for air traffic controllers. Though controllers will be furloughed for one of every 10 working days, four of every 10 flights won’t arrive on time.
The FAA projects the delays will rob one out of every three travellers of up to four hours of their lives waiting at the major hubs. Congress passed a law in 2009 that makes such delays illegal, at least if they are the responsibility of an airline. Under President Obama’s “passenger bill of rights,” the carriers are fined millions of dollars per plane that sits on the tarmac for more than three hours. But sauce for the goose is apparently an open bar for the FAA gander.
The White House claims the sequester applies to the budget category known as “projects, programs and activities” and thus it lacks flexibility. Not so: This is a political pose to make the sequester more disruptive. Legally speaking, the sequester applies at a more general level known as “accounts.” The air traffic account includes 15,000 controllers out of 31,000 employees. The White House could keep the controllers on duty simply by allocating more furlough days to these other non-essential workers.
Instead, the FAA is even imposing the controller furlough on every airport equally, not prioritizing among the largest and busiest airports. San Francisco’s Napa Valley airport with no commercial service will absorb the same proportion of the cuts as the central New York radar terminal, which covers La Guardia, JFK and Newark International, as well as MacArthur, Teterboro, New Haven, Republic and other regional fields.
Anyone who has flown in or out of those terminals knows that they are hardly (more…)
Twelve States (Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota) today filed a petition to have the Supreme Court review the D.C. Circuit’s decision not to strike down EPA’s climate regulations.
The States argue that the Congress never intended for the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. The Clean Air Act was designed in 1970, in order to fight smog. The law’s tools and mechanisms are totally inappropriate for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, which are much more prevalent than the pollutants that cause smog.
The full petition is here: http://www.globalwarming.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/States-GHG-petition.pdf
CNN host …The response yesterday was so remarkable. They stopped the marathon mid-point and calmly moved some 5,000 people from the racecourse. There were moments of chaos right there, but they were able to clear the scene fairly well. What are your impressions of the response in Boston so far?”
“I’m glad you raised that, because it gives me a chance to make a point I’ve felt strongly about,” said Frank. “In this terrible situation, let’s be very grateful that we had a well-funded, functioning government. It is very fashionable in America, and has been for some time to criticize government, belittle public employees, talk about their pensions, talk about what people think … of [their] health care. Here we saw government in two ways perform very well. … I never was as a member of Congress one of the cheerleaders for less government, lower taxes. No tax cut would have helped us deal with this or will help us recover. This is very expensive.”
Blood still stains Boston streets, and Frank attacks a straw man to score political points.
No reasonable person objects to essential government services such as police, firemen, schools etc. This is not big government.
As co-author of the 2319-page Dodd-Frank Act, he should know the difference.
Government run amok.
A controversial new tax for the amount of rain that falls on homes has been imposed by an environmentally-friendly governor.
The ‘storm management fee’ will be enforced in the US state of Maryland after a decree from democrat leader Martin O’Malley.
It was passed by the state legislature last year to raise revenue to comply with an order from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean-up the Chesapeake Bay estuary, according to the MarylandReporter.com
However, critics say the fees impose a financial burden on Marylanders while the state struggles to recover from recession.
They argue that it is unreasonable to expect cash-strapped citizens to pay these fees when they also have to pay more gas taxes, payroll taxes, and income taxes.
Former republican senator candidate Dan Bongino claimed the tax would be calculated ‘through satellite surveillance’.
He also criticised ‘out of touch political aristocrats in Maryland will do anything to diminish your economic liberty and starve your wallet while padding theirs’.
Fees will be calculated on the surface area of properties as the theory is that roofs, driveways and carparks create more potential for drainage problems and water contamination.
Councils are supposed to determine how much to charge per square foot, but the fee depends on the size of the building and surrounding paved surfaces.
Montgomery County democrat senator Richard Madaleno said the state could not avoid paying the expense because of deadline from the Environmental Protection Agency.
‘When I look at this amendment, I’m reminded of the saying, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later”, he said.
This video from Reason sets up the story of James Enstrom and his fight against UCLA.
David French, writes about the lastest in his legal fight at The Corner:
The first decision denied the core of the defendants’ motion to dismiss a case brought by Professor James Enstrom, a case I’ve written about before. Enstrom not only blew the whistle on junk science behind recent proposed California diesel emissions restrictions, he discovered the state’s lead “scientist” had purchased his degree from a fictitious “Thornhill University” and that many members of the state’s Scientific Review Panel had overstayed term limits by decades. While the fake scientist received only a short suspension after his fraud was discovered, UCLA not only fired Enstrom, it also looted his research account of tens of thousands of dollars and failed to pay him any salary for more than a year.
Enstrom sued, the defendants moved to dismiss the case, and yesterday a district court allowed the case to go forward on all claims and against most of the defendants.
But don’t despair: there are plenty of ways to slow down even an inherently strong economy. History offers plenty of examples. But as more contemporary models, take your pick of successfully ruined economies — the Venezuelan, the Cuban, the North Korean, the Greek, the Italian, the Portuguese, or pretty much any from Mediterranean Africa to the Cape of Good Hope. There are certain commonalities about why and how they fail. Let’s review some of them.
The state can never be too big. Ensure that it is unaccountable and intrusive, in constant need of more money and more targets to regulate. The more government, the more people are shielded from the capital-creating, free-market system. Think the DMV or TSA, not Apple. The point is for an employee to spend each labor hour with less oversight, while regulating or hampering profit-making, rather than competing with like kind to create material wealth. Regulatory bodies are a two-fer: the more federal, union employees, the more regulations to hamper the private sector. The more federal mandates, like new healthcare requirements and financial reporting, the less employers profit and the fewer employees they can hire. Washington should be a growth city, absolutely immune from the downturn elsewhere, a sort of huge and growing octopus head with decaying tentacles. State jobs should be redefined as something partisan — whose expansion is noble and helps the helpless, and whose contraction is evil and the design of a bitter and aging white private-sector class.
On the other end of the equation, ensuring 50 million on food stamps, putting over 80,000 a month on Social Security disability insurance, and extending unemployment insurance to tens of millions all remind the jobless that life is not too bad (thanks to the government), and certainly a lot better than working at a “low-paid” job that equates to giving up federal support. To paraphrase Paul Krugman, the more and the longer the jobless receive, the less likely they are to take chances looking for a job. That too might be again a good thing if you wish to slow down the economy. In general, even Arnold Toynbee, a man of the Left, acknowledged that the greedy drive of the scrambling private sector was not as pernicious to civilizations as the collective ennui produced by vast cadres of lethargic and unaccountable public “servants” doing supposedly noble work.
To ensure capriciousness and unpredictability for both suspect employers and investors, make the law malleable, even unpredictable from day to day, in the style of an Argentina or Venezuela. Redefine the law as what is deemed socially useful. For federally subsidized bankrupt auto companies, creditors should be paid back on the basis not of contractual law, but of nobility — why borrow to give a rich man a return on his superfluous investment, when a retired auto worker might have to pay a higher healthcare premium? Boeing wants to open a non-union plant in South Carolina? Have the NLRB try to stop it (and illegally staff the NLRB with recess appointments). Illegal aliens? They are neither illegal nor aliens, as federal immigration law is itself a capricious construct. Does the Senate really have to present a budget? Do presidents need to meet budget deadlines? Who said there is a Defense of Marriage Act?
What law says that gays cannot serve overtly in the military or women (more…)
A federal judge has struck down a Missouri law exempting moral objectors from mandatory birth control coverage because it conflicts with an insurance requirement under President Barrack Obama’s health care law.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig cites a provision in the U.S. Constitution declaring that federal laws take precedence over contradictory state laws. But Fleissig emphasized that she was taking no position on the merits of the Obama administration policy, which requires insurers to cover contraception at no additional cost to women.
(CNSNews.com) – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $1.5 million to study biological and social factors for why “three-quarters” of lesbians are obese and why gay males are not, calling it an issue of “high public-health significance.”
Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass., has received two grants administered by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to study the relationship between sexual orientation and obesity.
Obesity is one of the most critical public health issues affecting the U.S. today,” the description of the grant reads. “Racial and socioeconomic disparities in the determinants, distribution, and consequences of obesity are receiving increasing attention.”
“[H]owever, one area that is only beginning to be recognized is the striking interplay of gender and sexual orientation in obesity disparities,” it states. “It is now well-established that women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic, with it continues.
Lesbians are now an identified minority group?
I shall leave it to others to argue the legal and constitutional questions surrounding drones, but they are not without practical application. For the past couple of years, Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, has had Predator drones patrolling the U.S. border. No, silly, not the southern border. The northern one. You gotta be able to prioritize, right? At Derby Line, Vt., the international frontier runs through the middle of the town library and its second-floor opera house. If memory serves, the stage and the best seats are in Canada, but the concession stand and the cheap seats are in America. Despite the zealots of Homeland Security’s best efforts at afflicting residents of this cross-border community with ever more obstacles to daily life, I don’t recall seeing any Predator drones hovering over Non-Fiction E-L. But, if there are, I’m sure they’re entirely capable of identifying which delinquent borrower is a Quebecer and which a Vermonter before dispatching a Hellfire missile to vaporize him in front of the Large Print Romance shelves.
I’m a long, long way from Rand Paul’s view of the world (I’m basically a 19th century imperialist a hundred years past sell-by date), but I’m far from sanguine about America’s drone fever. For all its advantages to this administration – no awkward prisoners to be housed at Gitmo, no military casualties for the evening news – the unheard, unseen, unmanned drone raining down death from the skies confirms for those on the receiving end al-Qaida’s critique of its enemies: as they see it, we have the best technology and the worst will; we choose aerial assassination and its attendant collateral damage because we are risk-averse, and so remote, antiseptic, long-distance, computer-programmed warfare is all that we can bear. Our technological strength betrays our psychological weakness.
Tnsofar as it relieves Washington of the need to think strategically about the nature of the enemy, the drone is part of the problem. But its technology is too convenient a gift for government to forswear at home. America takes an ever-more expansive view of police power, and, while the notion of unmanned drones patrolling the heartland may seem absurd, lots of things (more…)
Los Angeles voters defeated a ballot measure that would have raised sales tax in the city to 10%. How the measure was promoted and why it failed sheds light on things to come.
Before getting into the vote, let’s note that the would-be funds raised by the measure were already 3/4 spent — on raises for city workers.
Also note that only 16% bothered to turn out to vote even though this was a mayoral election.
Voters in poor districts, where crime is higher, were told the extra money was needed for police.
Nearly every week, 70-year-old Barb Johnson hears word of a nearby robbery or car break-in in Vermont Knolls, her neighborhood of modest bungalows just west of the Harbor Freeway in South Los Angeles.
So it was alarming, she says, to learn this week that voters had rejected a proposed city sales tax increase that the mayor, the police chief and other civic leaders said was vital to shoring up the Los Angeles Police Department and improving emergency services.
“How are we supposed to keep our streets safe if there’s no money?” the retired office manager asked.
Barb didn’t address why the huge sums already spent were not enough to pay for police, paving streets or repairing sidewalks.
In Vermont Knolls, the measure won 82% to 18%
In Porter Ranch, a safer precinct, it failed 17% to 83%.
Several Valley voters interviewed by The Times said they don’t trust City Hall to manage its money and live within its means. They also didn’t believe that the $200 million in new revenue anticipated from the tax hike would have gone to public safety.
Police Chief Charlie Beck appeared in ubiquitous TV ads for the measure warning that public safety was at risk. He also told reporters the LAPD would lose 500 officers if the city did not get the added sales tax income. But voters like Mel Mitchell, 67, a resident of the northwest Valley hillside community of Porter Ranch, weren’t swayed.
“I like to think the voters are getting smart about that stuff,” he said.
But not everyone. Sales tax is a regressive tax, hurting the poor the most.
“Latinos do support bigger government more than smaller government,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. In a survey conducted last year, his organization found that 81% of immigrant Latinos prefer a bigger government to one with fewer services. That support fell to 72% among second-generation Latinos and 58% in the third generation.
One might conclude that recent immigrants figure they have a lot to get from government. These are the “takers” Mitt Romney spoke about.
The GOP can take some consolation in seeing that as Latinos become more assimilated, the become more conservative — at least in terms of the size of government.
LA’s dimwit mayor said:
…he was not surprised that working-class neighborhoods more heavily favored the proposed tax increase.
“The people that need government are more supportive of a balanced approach to resolving our budget challenges,” he said. “They don’t want to see cuts in services. They want to see the city tighten its belt in the way that we have.
There’s that balanced approach again.