Friday, May 06, 2011


"Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn't know just exactly what was going on."
-Leon Panetta

Seventy years ago to this day, Bob Hope stepped onto the stage of his first USO tour. Hope, whose clean and hilarious comedy work became synonymous with the USO, was already a big star from Vaudeville, Radio, and movie work, and he brought with him hundreds of big stars for five decades to join him to entertain troops wherever they were stationed and whatever they were fighting at the time. Hope headlined a total of sixty USO tours through four wars, and the troops absolutely loved him every time.

Spokane like most cities and states is suffering from a budget crunch due to lower tax revenues and ill-advised spending in the past. The school districts are facing tough choices, and have decided to start layoffs. There's some annoyance at this, not due to the layoffs, but who and why. Chris Cargill writes at Washington Policy Center:
Spokane Public School officials sent out 238 layoff notices to school district employees this week. District officials feel they don’t have enough state funding, despite the fact their budget is higher than it has ever been before, and they are educating 3,000 fewer students than they did just 10 years ago.
None of the layoffs are in administration, where the highest cost for schools is found. Union rules require teachers with least experience be laid off first, rather than the ones who do the poorest or have been the most trouble. This is pretty typical of the way governments and unions handle problems: do something that appears to be action, but in the worst way possible that preserves the people in power and solves little, but sets up a sob story for later budget increases.

Dennis Kucinich wants to change states, to Washington. He's only been in the state twice, but wants to run for congress there, likely because his home constituents are tired of having a lunatic gnome for their representative and Washington's western half is as leftist as the US ever gets. Saddam Hussein-loving leaker Representative Jim McDermott approves of this move, pointing out that he came from Chicago and got elected in Washington State originally. Both are Democrats.

California didn't pass legalized pot this last election, but the state is headed that direction anyway. Shocking no one, Governor Jerry "moonbeam" Brown commissioned a study to find out how feasible it is to tax weed for the state's coffers. Having inexplicably elected Brown to governor again, you have to figure the state is on something and maybe that can be taxed.

Conservative blogs are calling names. Tired of the slander about bigotry, right-leaning sites have started calling anyone who throws the race card without the slightest reason "racers." Like "truthers" and those who think Sarah Palin didn't give birth to Trig, "racers" are leftists who cling to a conspiracy theory - this time that anyone who dares criticize President Obama for any reason, at any time, in any way are motivated by racial bigotry.

President Obama was out golfing when the call came in from the Seals that they'd found and isolated Bin Laden's location. He came in and told them he needed time to think about whether or not to cap the man, and after a sleep and 16 hours made his "decisive" choice. Much has been made about how brave this allegedly was, but what other choice would anyone really make? Other than President Clinton, who let Bin Laden go when he had a chance.

President Obama gave a press conference announcing Bin Laden's death, but they did it with a carefully staged show. Jason Reed at Reuters tells the tale:
As President Obama continued his nine-minute address in front of just one main network camera, the photographers were held outside the room by staff and asked to remain completely silent. Once Obama was off the air, we were escorted in front of that teleprompter and the President then re-enacted the walk-out and first 30 seconds of the statement for us.
Why this stunt? Who knows, they probably promised one network exclusive first rights or something. The whole deal has been carefully stage managed, but despite the care the Obama Administration is acting like it has several warring factions trying to control everything and Obama isn't leader enough to keep them all in line.

Commodity dealing is an area of some mystery, and when it comes to oil speculation, one of great annoyance and suspicion. John Hindracker at PowerLine has a great piece on how much speculation is actually affecting oil prices vs the plunging dollar, noting gold has been immensely more impacted by speculators (and panicked collectors). However, what caught my eye was this chart. Check out wool cotton:

Commodity Increases
What on earth? Apparently there's a global shortage of wool, which is driving prices through the roof. Wool products have dropped significantly in demand over recent years, according to Deutsche Welle, so many wool producers are having their sheep slaughtered rather than sheared. Cotton growing has been heavily impacted by global subsidies to grow ethanol stock as well. Biofuels, the gift that keeps on giving.

Flooding on the Mississippi is as bad as its ever been in recorded history, worse than in decades. Thousands have been forced to evacuate and major highways are being closed. Some of these areas are the very same which had to deal with the horrific tornadoes recently. The last time floods were this bad was in the 30s, and levees are breaking all down the river.

University of Kentucky fired an anesthesia technician, because they found out he had a gun in his car. The gun was in a car parked a mile away from the University Hospital he worked at. This being Kentucky, the residents are a bit confused why this would conceivably be a problem. It seems that state law would call this a 2nd amendment violation, which makes you wonder why they'd even consider it.

In Wisconsin, a Criminal Justice professor has been reprimanded after a student revealed recordings of the man telling students how to cheat to help recall petitions for Republican assemblymen who dared to cut spending and save the state's economy.

You've probably seen this, but that picture of the Obama team watching in the situation room? They had no life feed at the time, so everyone is wondering what they were actually watching then. They probably had a feed from some higher up telling them details, but the original impression was "here they are watching the events unfold!"

North Korea has three kinds of people. There's the government, who lives in palaces and can get away with anything, globally (they even kidnapped a South Korean actress for years and forced her to make films for the previous dicator). Then there's the military, who can live well and get plenty of food, as long as they're loyal to insane dictator Kim Jong Il. Then there are the rest of the people who are starving and actually shrinking in height on average due to horrific conditions.

Firsthand accounts and sattelite imagery has forced human rights groups to admit what was long suspected - that North Korea is a prison state. There are at least 200,000 people in prison camps in a country with an estimated 20 million residents. Mark McDonald at the New York Times writes:
Former inmates at the political labor camp at Yodok, North Korea, said they were frequently tortured and had been forced to watch the executions of fellow prisoners, the report said
Political prisons, they said, also now hold “anyone guilty of political or ideological crimes or even suspected of disloyalty,” adding that the system shows “little pretense of due process.”

Son Hyang-sun, a woman who defected from North Korea 15 years ago because she was starving, said she was caught on her first escape attempt. She was convicted and jailed for four months.

“They tortured me with an electric stick, yes, a cattle prod,” she said in an interview with The International Herald Tribune. “They stuck it everywhere.”
North Korea is an evil, horrible place that the world keeps wanting to ignore. Libya is a bad place with a bad man in charge, but it pales in comparison to North Korea.

Like Oregon and Washington, the Obama administration is examining a new tax plan which would track mileage and charge people for that rather than for (or, more likely, in addition to) gas taxes. The theory is that so many people will soon be driving electric cars that those gas taxes they rely on for revenue will drop off and they have to replace it somehow.

Of course, to get this information, the government would use hardwired GPS chips in the car, tracking your every movement, and since the electric car boom is a total myth, all that would do is track your car and cost you more. New and raising taxes is like the air leftists breathe, though. It doesn't take a real strong libertarian streak to be uncomfortable with the federal government tacking everywhere you drive, though.

Electric cars are the topic of an autoblog article about the Nissan Leaf. They got one and have been driving it around to test it out. Running the numbers on distance traveled and cost of recharging, David Vespremi estimates he's getting the equivalent of 64 miles per gallon, which is pretty good but no where near the advertised 99. He also notes that the "hidden" expenses people like me warn about are very real with the Leaf:
Replacement batteries are rumored to cost $15-18k from Nissan and, while they are covered by a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, gradual degradation of the pack is not warranted and the warranty is null and void if you don't do the annual check-ups. For this reason, and the fact that it is a first new-gen EV, I shudder to think what the long-term residuals will be on it in a few years time.
Anyone who has used any rechargable batteries knows that you get about a third of the battery's life with a good recharge level, then it decays rapidly until it barely holds a charge by the end. So you'll be wanting to replace it sooner than 10 years.

Unexpected! Yes, the word is out there again, this time with unemployment numbers. Somehow, reporters cannot seem to expect what everyone else does - or at least they want to spread the impression that no one could. This time its job numbers, with a sudden increase in new unemployment claims last month. I'm a bit pessimistic, but I expect this quarter will end up showing contraction (after an initial report of lower than 1% growth later adjusted down as usual).

Meanwhile, the federal government continues playing numbers with economic reports. When is inflation not inflation? When the federal government manipulates data to make it seem like things aren't actually getting more expensive. Anyone who goes out shopping knows that we're seeing prices go up, but the official numbers weight that against other commodities which aren't going up, to make it seem like things aren't as bad as they really are. When even hard left rag Newsweek admits we have inflation... its time to give up the sham.

Donald Boudreaux at the Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece up about school choice, hypothesizing that supermarkets worked this way:
Suppose that groceries were supplied in the same way as K-12 education. Residents of each county would pay taxes on their properties. Nearly half of those tax revenues would then be spent by government officials to build and operate supermarkets. Each family would be assigned to a particular supermarket according to its home address. And each family would get its weekly allotment of groceries—"for free"—from its neighborhood public supermarket.

No family would be permitted to get groceries from a public supermarket outside of its district. Fortunately, though, thanks to a Supreme Court decision, families would be free to shop at private supermarkets that charge directly for the groceries they offer. Private-supermarket families, however, would receive no reductions in their property taxes.
Responding to these failures, thoughtful souls would call for "supermarket choice" fueled by vouchers or tax credits. Those calls would be vigorously opposed by public-supermarket administrators and workers.

Opponents of supermarket choice would accuse its proponents of demonizing supermarket workers (who, after all, have no control over their customers' poor eating habits at home).
Its a flawed analogy but it does make the point in terms people should understand well. Sometimes when something is so established and part of culture you have to shock people out of their presuppositions to help them understand a topic.

Tireless in their attempts to prevent any sort of domestic energy production and drive energy prices up - "skyrocket" as President Obama promised - the EPA is working on regulations to stop hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." This would kill much of the Natural Gas extraction in North America, raising prices on that fuel as well.

Not to be outshined, the FDA is trumpeting its triumph over the milk industry. Heroic FDA agents swooped down on wicked Amish farmers who were selling raw - unpasteurized (and tastier) milk under the table. This demand for smuggled raw milk had to be put down, hard, and the FDA was up to the task.

School Lunches might be mandated in some Chicago schools, but in Michigan, the federal government wants them to be more expensive. Matt Van Bunte at Grand Rapids Press reports:
Students in many area school districts pay too little for lunch, according to the federal government.

So prices will increase this fall under a mandate that local rates get closer to the federal subsidy for students from low-income families.

The new law is being met both with confusion and concern from school food service directors.
The deal is this: the Healthy Foods Act of 2010 has a provision that requires all school lunch funding and deals to be roughly equal so some areas aren't getting better deals than others. I have a good idea: stop the federal subsidy of school lunches, period, since they're unconstitutional to begin with.

Blagojevich's legacy isn't over yet. When he took office, Blagojevich fired sixteen state Linktransportation workers (apparently following the Clinton example). Why were they fired? Because they were Republicans, and Blagojevich wanted only party approved Democrats in the office. Well turns out its illegal to fire people for political affiliation in Illinois, so the state now owes these workers over four hundred thousand dollars in compensation. Its not cheap being corrupt.

And that's the Word Around the Net for May 6, 2011.


Unknown said...

I bet that Nissan is going to make most of their profit off of the battery sales. Wow.

Clayton in Mississippi said...

RE: "Commodity" prices, the chart, and the skyrocketing price of "wool" ???

Commodity prices for "wool" are not included on the chart, which is topped by the price of Cotton.

Admittedly, in ancients times cotton was called "baumwolle" ("wool that grows on trees") but today very few of us continue to wear "wool" Jockey shorts.

Christopher Taylor said...

Heh, you're right, its cotton, although wool is also rocketing upward as well (not shown on the chart).