Saturday, June 30, 2012

Another $400 million Obama pet bankrupt

But they only got $68 million so far… Obama gave solar-panel maker Abound $400 million of taxpayer money - a "bold risk" with our money.

Abound, of Loveland, Colorado, announced it is bankrupt this week. It was going to manufacture in Indiana.

NY Times

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fourth Revolution?

The US has had three consequential changes of direction - Jefferson in 1800, the Civil War, and the New Deal of FDR in the 1930s. James Piereson thinks we are arriving at a fourth.

New Criterion

[quote] ... he financial crisis and the long recession, with the strains they have placed upon national income and public budgets, are only the proximate causes of the political crisis now unfolding in the United States. The deeper causes lie in the exhaustion of the post-war system of political economy that took shape in the 1930s and 1940s. One pillar of that system emerged out of the New Deal with its emphasis upon national regulation of the economy, social insurance, expanding personal consumption, and public debt; the second emerged out of World War II with the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency and the U.S. military as the protector of the international trading system. The post-war system created the basis for unprecedented prosperity in the United States and the Western world. That system is now unwinding for several reasons, not least because the American economy can no longer underwrite the debt and public promises that have piled up over the decades. The urgent need to cancel or renegotiate these debts and public promises on short notice will ignite the upheaval referred to here as “the fourth revolution.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The video that got U Virginia president fired

A Stanford University professor is teaching a class online with over 100,000 students in 44 languages at Udacity. What was President Teresa Sullivan doing at UVA? The same old, same old.

MJ Perry at Carpe Diem blog has the story:

The video above features a talk ("Higher Education 2.0") by former Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of the new, low-cost (mostly free) online university Udacity, and originally appeared on CD in January. It was this video that was partly responsible for the downfall of President Theresa Sullivan at U-Va, because it seems that the U-Va. Board of Visitors wanted the university to move more rapidly in the direction of innovative, open-course, online education (with Udactiy cited as one model), and weren't getting enough support from the president.

[Prof. Perry embedded the video with Flash. I haven't conquered that. See it at his blog at the first link above.]

From today's Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):

"In the weeks leading up to the resignation of Teresa A. Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, the leaders of the board that forced her out of office traded a number of e-mails with attached articles about the forces transforming higher education, telling one another that the articles illustrated "why we can't afford to wait."

In many of the e-mails, which were obtained by The Cavalier Daily [through a FOIA request], the rector and vice rector of the Board of Visitors—Helen E. Dragas and Mark J. Kington, respectively—commented on articles about online education and the open-course ventures in which top research universities like Harvard, Stanford, and others, are engaged.

The exchanges included one about Udacity, the free education platform that grew out of a Stanford University professor's course. In an e-mail on June 3, Jeffrey C. Walker, a member of the Board of Trustees for the foundation of the university's McIntire School of Commerce, urged Ms. Dragas and Mr. Kington to check out a video of a talk by Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford computer-science professor who founded Udacity.

Mr. Walker said the Berklee College of Music was going to have its board, of which Mr. Walker is a member, watch the video 'as a signal that the on-line learning world has now reached the top of the line universities and they need to have strategies or will be left behind.'

In the e-mails, Ms. Dragas, Mr. Kington, and others appeared to believe that Ms. Sullivan was not doing enough to embrace change, or to press for it quickly enough at the University of Virginia.

On June 10, Mr. Kington sent Ms. Dragas an e-mail in which he forwarded a statement that Robert F. Bruner, dean of the Darden School of Business, made about Ms. Sullivan's departure. In Mr. Bruner's statement, which he sent to faculty, alumni, and other supporters of Darden, Mr. Bruner said that the "philosophical difference of opinion" between Ms. Sullivan and the board, cited as the reason for the president's resignation, had to do with 'the rate of change and progress in the face of long range challenges to the University.'"

Monday, June 25, 2012

ObamaCare has bad cost problems - Robert Samuelson

Robert Samuelson quietly lays down the facts. ObamaCare is a mess that is making health care costs worse. It increases uncertainty, which raises costs. He so respects authority that he calls it by Nancy Pelosi's name for it, ACA.

Cost control should have been Obama’s priority. He could have combined this with some of the ACA’s more modest and less controversial insurance expansions: providing additional federal coverage for poor children; keeping children on their parents’ policies until age 26; and establishing insurance exchanges in states to lower premiums for small businesses. But this restrained approach would have disappointed many liberals and denied Obama the presumed historical glory of achieving near-universal coverage.

Washington Post (Some points are clipped.)

(1) It increases uncertainty and decreases confidence when recovery from the Great Recession requires more confidence and less uncertainty. ... Given the ACA’s complexities, people can’t know where they’ll get insurance and what it will cost. In 2014, the ACA requires all employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide insurance or pay fines (“the employer mandate”). On the one hand, formal economic studies conclude that most employers now offering insurance will continue to do so; on the other, in direct surveys of firms, 30 percent or more say they might drop insurance and pay fines. Uncovered people must buy insurance (“the individual mandate”) or face penalties, though government will subsidize households with incomes up to four times the poverty level ($92,200 for a family of four in 2012). [another cost]

(2) The ACA discourages job creation by raising the price of hiring. This is basic economics. If you increase the price of labor, companies will buy less of it. Requiring employers to buy health insurance for some workers makes them more expensive, at least in the short run. Particularly vulnerable are low-skilled workers ...

(3) Uncontrolled health spending is the U.S. system’s main problem — and the ACA makes it worse. Spiraling health costs crowd out other government programs and squeeze wage increases by diverting compensation dollars into employer-paid insurance. Because insured people use more health services than the uninsured, the ACA (covering an estimated 30 million more) raises spending. As for the ACA’s cost-control provisions, even the government’s own actuaries don’t believe they will do much. By their latest projection, total health spending — government and private — rises from 17.9 percent of the economy (gross domestic product) in 2010 to 19.6 percent in 2021. In 1980, health care was 9 percent of GDP.

(4) Obama’s program also worsens the federal budget problem. Driven by Medicare and Medicaid, health care already exceeds one-fourth of the budget and is headed toward a third. It’s the crux of the problem. So Obama creates another huge health program. The administration’s retort: the program lowers the budget deficit. This is rhetorical hocus-pocus. Here’s what happens. From 2012 to 2022, the ACA raises federal spending by $1.762 trillion, estimates the Congressional Budget Office. However, all of this and a bit more is offset by tax increases and assumed cuts in Medicare. But these tax increases and cuts could have been used to shrink the huge budget deficits that pre-existed Obamacare. Now they can’t; moreover, the Medicare cuts might be repealed or reduced.

(5) The ACA discriminates against the young in favor of the old. Government policy already does this through payroll taxes that have young workers subsidizing Social Security and Medicare benefits. The ACA compounds the effect by forcing some young Americans to buy insurance at artificially high premiums that would pay for the care of a sicker, older population.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fast and Furious gun program is now Obama's problem

Fast and Furious was Attorney General Eric holder's problem until today. He has repeatedly blockaded Congress from carrying out its Constitutional duty to oversee the executive branch. He has refused to provide documents subpoenaed by Congress. So a House committee today voted him to be in contempt of Congress. That term seems appropriate.

Holder was cornered. So Obama today joined him in the corner. Invoking executive privilege says the White House was involved.

Now the White House wants to get back to talking about creating jobs. Seattle Times

The White House reacted sharply to the committee action. "Instead of creating jobs or strengthening the middle-class, congressional Republicans are spending their time on a politically motivated, taxpayer-funded election-year fishing expedition," Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said.

I agree, Obama, let's talk about jobs - how you promised to keep unemployment below 8 per cent. Would you really join Holder in contempt of Congress to get the discussion off your record on THE big issue?

AP finally gets to the heart of the matter many paragraphs down. The AP reporter says the problem opened up after DOJ made false statements.

However, because Justice initially told the committee falsely the operation did not use a risky investigative technique known as gun-walking, the panel has turned its attention from the details of the operation and is now seeking documents that would show how the department headquarters responded to the committee's investigation.

In Fast and Furious, agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona abandoned the agency's usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased. Instead, the goal of gun-walking was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers, who had long eluded prosecution, and to dismantle their networks.


Our four grandchildren arrived from Virginia late last night. Life is a lot more complicated - and interesting today! Daughter and husband came too, but sill!

"Grandpa, I am going to turn this clock into a frog." Oh. "There, see I changed it back to a clock!" - Bethany, age 3.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Darcy Burner is running - Let's rejoice

Darcy Burner, who was not a manager at Microsoft and did not get a college degree in economics, is running for Congress in the greatly changed First District. She excites the root-nuts and puzzles everyone else.

Washington Demo Big Chief Dwight Pelz tried to talk her out of running. Reasoning with Darcy Burner? Good luck.

Seattle Times describes her recent life as a DC insider:

… In late 2008, a group of progressive leaders, emboldened by President Obama's victory, decided it needed someone, for the first time, to act as a "bridge" between the then-83-member Congressional Progressive Caucus and the broader community of like-minded activists and think tanks.

Burner, fresh from a second loss to Rep. Dave Reichert, knew many of the progressive leaders, including Robert Borosage, who runs one of the think tanks. The board of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation — which Borosage chairs and included the founders of and the website Daily Kos — was impressed by Burner's energy, tech savvy and willingness to fundraise her own salary, Borosage said.

"She basically built it from nothing," said Borosage. "It had all the perils of a startup and entrepreneurial venture."

Burner, who as executive director renamed the group, raised $390,535 and was paid $134,084 in 2010, the most recent year that the group's tax statements are available. Donors aren't on file, but Burner said big funders included George Soros' Open Society Institute; the Stewart R. Mott Foundation; and The Arca Foundation.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation and a board member, said Burner acted as a counterweight to conservatives such as anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

The Progressive Caucus doesn't have its own staff, and tended to be "fragmented," vanden Heuvel said. Burner urged the Congress members to focus on just a few core issues. "Darcy has a good strategic mind about the fights that need to be focused on," vanden Heuvel said.

First up was progressives' demand for a public option in the health-care overhaul. Burner and her organization helped frame the argument for a public option with a memo recommending that supporters avoid phases such as "Canadian-style health care" or "universal health care" in favor of "An American solution," according to memos on the group's website.

In an interview on MSNBC, Burner described Sen. Joe Lieberman's opposition to a public option as "a national disaster." As congressional support for a public option faded, Burner advocated killing the bill entirely.

On the campaign trail now, Burner describes the Affordable Care Act as "imperfect" while claiming to help pass it. "It's a really good partial solution to the problem," she said in a recent interview.

Sharp rhetoric

In the Netroots Nation speech this month, Burner said winning in politics is more about using raw power than crafting the best policy statements. "If we want to win, we need to play the game that is really being played," she said.

That means exercising "moral power," such as having innocents be victims of police force at protests, and legal power, like lawsuits against corporations, she said. "Virtually every Fortune 500 corporation is discriminating economically against women," she said.

She used similarly barbed rhetoric at times at In fighting Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal to make fundamental changes to Medicare, Burner wrote on Twitter, "Real choice is between insurance companies and government. Insurance companies kill people when it's profitable."

Burner often also worked on behind-the-scenes messaging.

As Congress debated whether to end the Bush-era tax cuts in 2010, Burner's group circulated memos that suggested avoiding "tax cuts" and "tax breaks" because "these words immediately win the sympathy of most audiences." Instead, the memos suggested phrases such as "Republican Bonus for Billionaires" and "greed, greedy, excessive wealth."

Burner's campaign speeches pack the same punch. While her Democratic opponents stress the need to help the middle class, Burner agrees, but also denounces policies "rigged for bankers and oil barons," and emphasizes prosecuting Wall Street malfeasance.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father of Gaia endorses use of natural gas and fracking

James Lovelock says it makes sense to use natural gas as much as possible and to use fracking for it. Who? Lovelock is the godfather of the Mother Earth crowd; he came up with the name Gaia. He is a big, big name among the greenies.

He is publicly down on wind farms and renewables. And rise of sea level is not a concern. And he has noticed that environmentalism has become the world religion; he should know.

Guardian UK

… Having already upset many environmentalists – for whom he is something of a guru – with his long-time support for nuclear power and his hatred of wind power (he has a picture of a wind turbine on the wall of his study to remind him how "ugly and useless they are"), he is now coming out in favour of "fracking", the controversial technique for extracting natural gas from the ground. He argues that, while not perfect, it produces far less CO2 than burning coal: "Gas is almost a give-away in the US at the moment. They've gone for fracking in a big way. Let's be pragmatic and sensible and get Britain to switch everything to methane. We should be going mad on it."

Via James Delingpole blog at Telegraph UK

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The costs of unions - Longshoremen in Portland, Oregon

In Portland the longshoremen in International Longshore and Warehouse Union are preventing the movement of shipments in a fight with another union. Trucks are lined up for a mile. And businesses large and small are forced to pay storage for shipments they need to service their customers.

Someone remind me of how good unions are for our economy.

Many people are afraid to say anything about the situation due to fear of the longshoremen. What might they do? OregonLive

Lawyers for the Pacific Maritime Association weren't commenting Thursday. Nor were officers of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, whose members have plugged and unplugged reefers at the port for many years.

Nor was the Portland manager of the Hanjin steamship line, the South Korean cargo carrier whose ship is due via Seattle. Nor was the Portland manager of the National Labor Relations Board.

And nor were certain truckers, factory managers and representatives of other businesses caught in the chaos. They said they feared retribution from longshoremen.

This is over the equivalent of two jobs plugging and unplugging the electrical power for cold storage containers, a job that the Electrical Works union has done for years.

So far only one ship has cancelled its stop in Portland and gone to Oakland to offload its cargo. But there will be more unless the bullies win right now.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Clinton State Dept stops tracking religious freedom

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton removed the United States from the international issue of the fundamental freedom of religion.

CNS News

The new human rights reports--purged of the sections that discuss the status of religious freedom in each of the countries covered--are also the human rights reports that include the period that covered the Arab Spring and its aftermath.

Thus, the reports do not provide in-depth coverage of what has happened to Christians and other religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East that saw the rise of revolutionary movements in 2011 in which Islamist forces played an instrumental role

American Thinker

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ostrom on coop management of commons

Elinor Ostrom received Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 for innovative work on how common resources can be cooperatively managed under the proper conditions.


Ostrom shows

that “common poll resources” can be managed as a stable asset, provided that: they are managed by a local community; those with a right to them are clearly identified and others clearly excluded; there is a system of sanctions in place to punish misappropriation and abuse; there is a collective decision-making process with easily accessible procedures for resolving conflict; and the rights of the community are recognized by higher-level authorities. Ostrom’s far-ranging examples are of great relevance to issues of planning and local government. For they show how, when sufficiently localized, a common resources can be managed from below, by the people who share it, and within a broader regime of private property.

Elected Democrats endorse McKenna for Governor

Rob McKenna announced Monday that Democrats State Senator Tim Sheldon and Auditor Brian Sontagg endorsed him for Governor. They are joined by former elected Democrats Maggie Fimmia of King County Council and former state Sen. Mark Doumit.

He also received the endorsement of Public School Employees of Washington, the state's largest union representing educational support workers. They endorsed Christine Gregoire in 2004 and 2008.

Andrew Garber at Seattle Times

Monday, June 11, 2012

Problems with ecto, not echo

I am again going around with my chosen blogging software, ecto, not capitalized. I like its basic functionality. It is convenient to grab a quote from the news and build an entry from there. Not so good for pictures, because it requires use a one or two photo hosts, but I don't want to add another account and password. It is medium for getting into HTML code, which cannot be avoided.

But now and then it gets strange on account information. I went for several months not being able to post from ecto. When I finally took time to try everything I discovered it had dropped the password for my Blogger account; the error message from Blogger was not helpful. So I entered the password and posted directly for a few days. (When ecto won't upload to Blogger I have to copy my entry in ecto and log onto Blogger, then pasted the entry.)

But after a few days it stopped again. This time I knew where to look. So I go to reenter my password, but ecto will not allow the full length of the password!? As i entered the last, ninth, character the "enter" button would go dim. So I went to Google and shortened my password to 8 characters. Then I was in business.

For a few days. Then the same problem. But this time it won't allow the eighth character! And I am not going to shorten my password again (and again). But a restart fixed it. Strange.
And ecto's support is nonexistent. The charging part works OK, though.

And, added feature: ecto's spell checker continuously changed its spelling to echo without asking.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Arctic sea ice causing delays

Heavy sea ice is causing delays for oil exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas north of Alaska this summer. A two-week delay is expected due to the heaviest sea ice in ten years.

Shell oil refurbished a 160-foot floating oil derrick named Kulluk that had been in storage for ten years. But it will be delayed in starting by about two weeks to the beginning of August, then has only until October 31 to drill in the Beaufort Sea.

Seattle Times

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

D Day 68 years ago

The D Day invasion of France in World War II was today in 1944. The weather was unpredictable. The difficulty in crossing hedge rows was unknown. The effort was huge and the location was a surprise. Great effort was made to make it appear that the invasion would be in the much closer and more logical Calais region. [correction]

Read about the US's subterfuge: Planting false information with German spies; the First US Army Group and its phantom divisions complete with graphic shoulder patches; a planned invasion of Norway; Copperhead; and to top them all the US leaked to the German spies that the Normandy invasion was a diversion for the real invasion later in Calais! Read more at American Spectator.

Many men died in that invasion. But it put the Allies on the road to Germany. We remember those who gave their lives. And those who risked their lives and lived.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Photo ID required by Demos

Democrats are fighting against requiring photo ID for voting. They claim it disenfranchises minorities. But most people find the requirement reasonable - photo ID is required for every-day chores like cashing a check or getting service at Harborview Hospital.

But when they run the vote it's different. At the Massachussets Democrat Convention June 2 photo ID is required for entry as a delegate.

Powerline Blog

Friday, June 01, 2012

Oil seepage in Calif equivalent to 80 Exon Valdez spills

On the California coast geologic formations contain so much crude oil that it seeps out in quantity and washes onto the beach. In huge amounts.

We might as well use that oil - drill wells and collect it and sell it.

Science Daily

ScienceDaily (May 13, 2009) — Twenty years ago, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez was exiting Alaska's Prince William Sound when it struck a reef in the middle of the night. What happened next is considered one of the nation's worst environmental disasters: 10.8 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the pristine Alaskan waters, eventually covering 11,000 square miles of ocean.

Now, imagine 8 to 80 times the amount of oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez accident.

According to new research by scientists from UC Santa Barbara and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), that's how much oil has made its way into sediments offshore from petroleum seeps near Coal Oil Point in the Santa Barbara Channel. Their research, reported in an article being published in the May 15 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, documents how the oil is released by the seeps, carried to the surface along a meandering plume, and then deposited on the ocean floor in sediments that stretch for miles northwest of Coal Oil Point.

But the oil degrades to be much different.

In addition, the research reveals that the oil is so degraded by the time it gets buried in the sea bed that it's a mere shell of the petroleum that initially bubbles up from the seeps. "These were spectacular findings," said Christopher Reddy, a marine chemist at WHOI and one of the co-authors of the new paper.