Friday, March 11, 2011

WORD AROUND THE NET


“The U.S. economy has become alarmingly dependent on government stimulus,”

Japan was hit by a double disaster overnight, with a very powerful series of earthquakes rattling the country and a tsunami with 33 foot waves that flooded the east coast of Japan. The quakes off the coast of the largest Japanese island Honshu started at almost 9 on the richter and rumbled again twice more (so far). The death toll is around 30, but the fires and flooding have not ended yet. The initial tremor was one of the largest ever recorded, but was in very deep water 80 miles off the coast, so its effects on land were subdued, although the tsunami waves are still headed away from the epicenter. Hawaii was hit by a six foot tidal surge earlier this morning and other pacific coast areas are braced for impact.

Wisconsin has passed the bill to cut back slightly on teacher's union benefits and reduce their collective bargaining ability. While the reduction was small, it represented a weakening of union (and hence Democratic Party) power in the state, and the left went berserk. The full effect of recent weeks will take a while to understand and see, but in the end, it was the unions that lost. Those politicians in Madison are no bolder or full of integrity than any other, they stuck to their guns because they believed the people of the state supported them and their work. After facing angry, shoving mobs, broken windows, and death threats like this one:
"Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes [sic] will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell..."
The assembly still voted to pass the bill. In the end, representative democracy, not mob frenzy, ruled the day.

March Madness is trademarked. Like "Superbowl" and "NASCAR" the organizations behind these events trademarked the term and want to be paid any time a professional organization or business uses it. That's why you see ads about the "big game" around Superbowl time; they don't care to pay to say a word. Personally I think this is ridiculous and legally questionable, but so far its stood up to any challenges. The March Madness story is a bit more complex though, since Brent Musberger was the first guy to use the term for the NCAA basketball tournament and he got it from a preexisting local one in Illinois.

Brandon Darby is a hero. You may not know his name, but he's the man who worked undercover for the FBI to break up a plot to firebomb the 2008 Republican National Convention. Leftists wanted to stop the convention because maybe, just maybe, a Republican might win the presidency again, and they were willing to kill to stop that. However, when the story broke, the New York Times ran story after story saying that Darby encouraged the bombers and manipulated them into trying the attempt - that they wouldn't have done it without him there to push them into it, despite an utter lack of evidence to support this allegation. Darby is now suing the NYT. If he wins, will they have any money to pay?

Senator Claire McCaskill owns a small passenger air service with her husband and several other investors. She personally used and chartered this air service over and over again through the years, costing the government almost $80,000. She claims this isn't any sort of ethical problem but is writing an $88,000 check to the treasury department to return the funds. I don't know if senate rules prevent subsidizing your own company with public funds, but they ought to.

Remember when banks were pressured by the federal government to take bad mortgages on? Remember how that contributed so heavily to the financial collapse of 2007? Yeah, well its not over yet. Bank of America estimates that half of their mortgages are bad. Maybe if so many of our politicians weren't in the pocket of Goldman-Sachs and other gigantic financial companies something could be done about that.

Studies indicate that people who buy "green" cars which are usually heavily subsidized by governments to encourage purchase, actually drive more than ordinary drivers. Sweden found that out when they noted that their pollution levels went up after they pushed hybrids, diesels, ethanol, and electric cars on their citizens. A similar effect has taken place in the US, where people who buy these cars figure they are polluting less and their fuel economy is sometimes better, so they drive more. Its also possible that people who can afford these cars tend to drive more as well.

In a previous WATN roundup, I noted that the Transportation Safety Administration ended a rule which allowed private security to handle some airports. As part of their justification to congress, the TSA told congressmen that private security costs 17% more, and we need to cut spending, right? However, the Congressional Budget Office went over the data and noted that the TSA was a little bit off, and the actual cost difference appears to be 3%. Three, fourteen, whatever. What's important here is that the government should be in charge of everything.

You've probably read or heard about this elsewhere, but it bears repeating: over a third of the earnings of United States citizens comes from federal welfare programs.
...social welfare benefits make up 35 percent of wages and salaries this year, up from 21 percent in 2000 and 10 percent in 1960, according to TrimTabs Investment Research using Bureau of Economic Analysis data.
At least part of this increase has to be the boomers who are retiring, but a great deal of it also has to be the Democrats adding millions to the dole through expansions of health care benefits and "stimulus" money.
The economist gives the country two stark choices. In order to get welfare back to its pre-recession ratio of 26 percent of pay, “either wages and salaries would have to increase $2.3 trillion, or 35 percent, to $8.8 trillion, or social welfare benefits would have to decline $500 billion, or 23 percent, to $1.7 trillion,” she said.
Gee, which of those is smaller and more attainable? Tough call... for a leftist.

Stop me if you've heard this one before. A burglar walks into a house, and the owner wakes up, patrolling the house with two big dogs. The burglar hides in the bathroom and using his cell phone calls 9/11 whining that the owner might have a gun. This happened in Portland, Oregon, and the man was taken into custody and charged with criminal trespass.

President Obama has been handing out more waivers than President Clinton did pardons, up to more than 1,000 at least count. These waivers make various organizations (about 25% of them unions) from aspects or the totality of the Government Health Insurance Takeover Act. The biggest one? The entire state of Maine. After a while you'd expect even the most enthusiastic socialized medicine advocate to wonder what's so awful about this bill that so many people need to be exempted from it. The reason for Maine's exemption?
The federal government Tuesday granted Maine a waiver of a key provision in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, citing the likelihood that enforcement could destabilize the state's market for individual health insurance.
I guess all that talk about how this will reduce the deficit, make health care cheaper, and let you keep your doctor was all... lies.

Redacted was one of those "Bush is evil, the Iraq rebuilding effort is full of death and corruption" movies that came out in the middle of the last decade. It made about eight dollars worldwide, but it has had its impact: Islamic terrorist Arid Uka who killed two Americans in Germany watched part of it and was motivated to murder. The section he saw was the rape and killing of an Iraqi family which was deliberately filmed to appear like real footage captured by an amateur cameraman. DePalma based the event on an actual rape and murder in Iraq, in which the servicemen responsible were caught, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life without parole in a military prison. In Redacted, the government tries to cover it up and protect the soldiers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses to accept any budget cuts for essential programs, then went on to cite Cowboy Poetry contest held in Nevada as essential. Ace at his HQ asks:
If even a subsidy for a cowboy poetry slam is considered essential and therefore sacrosanct spending, what on earth would constitute a non-essential spending item?
Seems to me that the unreasonable, partisan, and and unwilling to compromise in this debate is the Democrats, who argue against any cut in any program for any reason as mean spirited, cruel, harsh, extreme, and draconian.

Zimbabwe is going to sell yellowcake uranium to Iran. Yellowcake is best used in weapons-grade plutonium production, and was infamous in the political battle over Iraq. Joe Wilson went to Nigera to see if they sold any to Iraq, was told they didn't, and came back condemning the Bush administration as warmongering. When five hundred tons of the stuff was later found in Iraq, the press didn't bother reporting on it much and certainly didn't contradict or retract anything Wilson had said. Some intel indicates that Iran is trying to build an EMP pulse bomb, but not only are those harder to build than you'd think, I am not sure we can trust anything from the intel guys any more.

Democrats lost a lot of seats in the November 2010 elections, and when they leave their offices, they're making sure to get one last spending surge of your tax dollars. This time it was a 31% increase in pay to their staffers, totaling almost $7 million. You'd think after losing their jobs these guys wouldn't be inclined to give their team a raise.

Wind Power is unreliable and weak, but the "green economy" guys love it and keep pushing it. To make up for this unreliability and low energy production, the British uilities have a cunning plan: blackouts. Lawrence Solomon writes at Financial Post:
Electricity consumers in the UK will need to get used to flicking the switch and finding the power unavailable, according to Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, the country’s grid operator. Because of a six-fold increase in wind generation, which won’t be available when the wind doesn’t blow, “The grid is going to be a very different system in 2020, 2030,” he told BBC’s Radio 4. “We keep thinking that we want it to be there and provide power when we need it. It’s going to be much smarter than that.

“We are going to change our own behaviour and consume it when it is available and available cheaply.”
The utility is government-regulated, and this is part of the "smart grid" plan in which the nation takes a step back ten or so decades to when electricity was only slightly available and unreliable.

President Obama is watching the middle eastern revolts carefully between golf games and steadfastly is issuing occasional statements while showing no leadership and making no decisions. They are, however, preparing for Islamic extremists to take over:
"We shouldn't be afraid of Islam in the politics of these countries," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal policy deliberations.

Since taking office, President Obama has argued for a "new beginning" with Islam, suggesting that Islamic belief and democratic politics are not incompatible.
Well if he won't take any action to prevent that from happening, won't take any real stand against the tyrants or Islamic radicals, I guess the only alternative is to get ready for them to take over.

Although Europhiles praised the Eurofighter Typhoon, comparing it favorably and even superior to the US newest jets, it turns out they weren't all that hot. Each jet cost about $600,000,000 and they are producing only 107 in total. They have no stealth technology, they are less maneuverable than the US Raptors, and they won't be ready for missions until 2016. But hey, they were built as a joint effort by various European countries.

One of the biggest boosters of Wisconsin union rallies and protests has been the New York Times editorial staff, with article after opinion piece after political cartoon in support of the unions and attacking Republicans. Yet when it came down to keeping the Boston Globe afloat in 2009, they had a simple solution, cut union expenses (hat tip Power Line):
The New York Times Co has threatened to shut The Boston Globe unless the newspaper's unions agree to $20 million in concessions, The Boston Globe reported, quoting union leaders.
The union did it. Even more... inconsistently... the New York Times recently had an editorial which pointed out that the public employee unions are costing New York State so much money it cannot continue to spend in this manner:
That huge increase is largely because of Albany’s outsized generosity to the state’s powerful employees’ unions in the early years of the last decade, made worse when the recession pushed down pension fund earnings, forcing the state to make up the difference.

Although taxpayers are on the hook for the recession’s costs, most state employees pay only 3 percent of their salaries to their pensions, half the level of most state employees elsewhere. Their health insurance payments are about half those in the private sector.

In all, the salaries and benefits of state employees add up to $18.5 billion, or a fifth of New York’s operating budget. Unless those costs are reined in, New York will find itself unable to provide even essential services.
But Governor Walker and those Republicans! They're evil for wanting exactly the same thing! This is why its impossible to take the left seriously on this union issue. When no one is talking about actually doing anything about the problem, they'll line up and agree with the inescapable fact that public employee unions and pension funds are bankrupting states. But when a Republican takes action, well....

And that's the Word Around the Net for Friday, March 11, 2011.

1 comment:

Philip said...

What's important here is that the government should be in charge of everything.

Um... even with contractors in place, the government is still in charge. The contractors must still follow TSA guidelines and regulations. The contractors' employees must still meet TSA training standards. The difference is that you can once again get your 'Ima Citizen' jollies by verbally abusing the private airport security without fear of consequences, just like in the pre-TSA days.

the New York Times recently had an editorial which pointed out that the public employee unions are costing New York State so much money it cannot continue to spend in this manner.

In addition to your absolutely-correct remark about "Governor Walker and those Republicans", it's also illustrative of that age-old double standard that left-based programs that make one feel good are perfectly fine, as long as Other Peoples' Money is paying for them.