Thursday, May 30, 2013

Senator Coburn opposed pork and supported aid for Sandy victims

There are cheap shots against Oklahoma politicians about storm aid. You know "Senator Coburn supports a bill for aid to Oklahoma tornado victims, but opposed aid for NY & NJ victims of Sandy."

Wrong. First, there is no bill to aid Oklahoma victims. FEMA has more thean enough funds on hand - over $11 billion - but damage appears to be in the range of $2 billion.

Second. Coburn supported the $25 billion for storm victims. He opposed the $50 billion bill loaded with pork. Get it straight!!

Senator Coburn writes at CNN:

… But my position has been the same for my entire service in Congress, starting when I pushed for offsets to the Oklahoma City bombing supplemental bill in 1995.

My position has never been to oppose all forms of disaster aid. My position has been to oppose politicians who use disasters to spend money that has nothing to do with helping victims of disasters. The hard truth is both parties have abused the emergency spending process in Congress for many years.

For instance, when the Gulf Coast was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, many in Washington were appalled by my suggestion that times of tragedy and disaster are precisely the times for politicians to tighten their belts and make hard choices. One of the sacrifices I proposed was to divert funds from a $223 million bridge in Alaska -- known as the "Bridge to Nowhere" -- to a bridge over Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. My colleagues fumed: How dare I force such choices? My response was -- and is: How dare we not force such choices?

The Superstorm Sandy package, unfortunately, is another recent example. I supported a scaled-down $25 billion version of disaster aid for Sandy, but I strongly opposed a $50 billion package that was an all-you-can-eat buffet for politicians and politically connected contractors.

Much of the larger Sandy package had little to do with helping victims of the disaster. More than $5 billion was directed to the Army Corps of Engineers -- more than the Corps' annual budget. Even NASA was in on the game. NASA said its damage from the storm was minimal, but Congress wanted to give it $15 million anyway. The most revealing aspect was more than 70% of the $50 billion would not be spent for two years, which meant it was an economic stimulus package, not a disaster aid bill.

IRS Commisioner most-frequent White House visitor

Obama knew nothing. The embattled former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House more - far more - than the most-trusted Cabinet members Eric Holder and Kathleen Sibelius.

Obama knew nothing. Daily Caller

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Incredible BASE jump from 7220m on Mt Everest

Russian Valery Rozov, 48, jumped from the north face of Everest at a height of 7220m above sea level. The summit is much higher at 8,848 meters. But this was very high and the higher you go the thinner the air is. So I give him credit for a major accomplishment.

Yahoo NZ shows video of the climb from base camp and the jump.

ITV News has a video of the jump only taken from several angle including the back of his helmet.

Photo from Yahoo NZ. He starts by jumping off a very, very high cliff. Click to enlarge.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Education choice for families

Everyone assumes the state has to have a monopoly on educating our kids. But when parents are given the option to decide where their kids go they are more involved. How about a system that gives them choices and saves money for the state? And businesses are looking for ways to improve education: Idea: Let them provide direct assistance to kids in schools.

Private Funded scholarships for K-12 education

The funding comes from private individuals and organizations donating money for scholarships, plus the state gives a tax credit which goes for the scholarship. All the money goes to an independent scholarship-granting organization, which provides the scholarships. Eligible recipients are families making less than 225% of the poverty-level income; in subsequent years the line is 275% (to avoid being eligible one year, but crossing the line the next = continuity). There will be a cap on donations.

A bill has been introduced in the Legislature to create this program in Washington. House Bill 2063 is sponsored by Reps. Pike, Klippert, Hargrove, Haler, Orcutt, Warnick and Magendanz.

Twelve states have this sort of program in place. The results: In Florida it is called Step Up for Students; the cap on donations is hit every year, even though they keep raising it. In Florida it is saving money: for every $1.00 in reduced revenues, the state save $1.44 in costs. Florida OPPAGA

There are positive results for student learning. Walton Foundation

Start small with small savings. But as the program grows the savings will also grow.

Via Jami Lund at Freedom Foundation

Adobe shows incompetence

Adobe Systems is a $4-billion dollar software company. You would think their software could be on my Mac without screwing it up. Wrong.

Today Adobe Schockwave filled my screen with the same error message at least 50 times. And, of course, froze the Safari browser. Take a look.

And, apparently, whenever I go to change settings for privacy it will happen again. BTW, this Mac is less than two months old, with all new software.

The graphic shows a fraction of the messages. At the lower right they stacked up. Click to enlarge.

Today we remember

Today we remember those who died for our freedoms. Memorial Day. They took the risk. Some made the choice to; others were drafted and had no choice. All the freedoms we enjoy - speech, press, religion, property, etc. - result from those who defended our country.

In Seattle at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery they are placing flags on 5,000 grave markers right now (7:00 AM) and have ceremonies at 1:30 and 2:00 PM.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Venezuela approves import of toilet paper

Life in a tin-pot dictatorship. It takes an act of "Congress" to get toilet paper on the store shelves.

The dictators - late and new - imposed price controls on basic needs; this resulted in no supply and shortages. So it takes an act by the National Assembly so toilet paper can be imported. And toothpaste. And soap. The abject failure of Hugo Chavez's strong-arm socialism. Hugo thought that whatever he commanded would happen. Funny thing - The law of supply and demand. If you lower the price then less will be produced (the supply), and shortages will results - always.

Merco Press

… Under late leader charismatic president Hugo Chavez, chronic shortages have in fact plagued the country since 2003.

It comes thus comes as no surprise then that the toilet paper shortage has ignited partisan tensions in Venezuela. In April, Chavez's chosen successor President Nicolas Maduro, narrowly defeated challenger Henrique Capriles. Scores of people died in the bitter election riots that followed.

The move to approve the shipment of 39 million toilet paper rolls to Venezuela probably won't solve any of the deeper issues that caused the shortage in the first place.

“The resulting scarcity forces up inflation defeating the entire purpose of price controls in the first place” said the organization Consensus Economics. But for now, at least locals can rest easy while they're on the pot.

Tri-Cities tea party harmed by Obama's IRS

Tri-Cities Tea Party was asked detailed question while their application was delayed for two years. Then theyy dropped their application. Was that the IRS's goal?

The first round of questions seemed reasonable - officers and such. But after over a year waiting the questions got intrusive. Seattle Times

Then, about a year ago, the group received a detailed second set of inquiries from the IRS, some of which seemed overly intrusive for a small organization, especially demands for addresses and affiliations of the group’s donors, Howard said.

“These are $10 and $20 donors. That’s when we figured they are trying to figure out a way to deny us the status,” Howard said. “We felt we were targeted.”

The Tri-Cities group responded to some of the additional questions, Howard said. But organizers considered others too invasive and considered joining a national lawsuit being planned by conservative legal advocates.

Howard said that after going back and forth with the IRS with no resolution, members of the group ultimately decided to just drop the nonprofit application, figuring they weren’t raising enough money to bother with it or trigger any federal rules.

Unions are calling for repeal of Obamacare

Three unions have called for repeal or complete rework of Obamacare. Their workers are subject to reduced hours in order so their employers can avoid Obama's requirements and penalties. They are predicting __

[Sound of crickets] Did you hear about this on the news?

The Hill names the unions:

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) — a 1.3 million-member labor group that twice endorsed Obama for president — is very worried about how the reform law will affect its members’ healthcare plans.

Last month, the president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers released a statement calling “for repeal or complete reform of the Affordable Care Act.”

UNITE HERE, a prominent hotel workers’ union, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are also pushing for changes.

One union president says Obama did not fulfill his famous promise:

In a new op-ed published in The Hill, UFCW President Joe Hansen homed in on the president’s speech at the 2009 AFL-CIO convention. Obama at the time said union members could keep their insurance under the law, but Hansen writes “that the president’s statement to labor in 2009 is simply not true for millions of workers.”

These unions all supported ObamaCare. Maybe they didn't know what its over one thousand pages contained. No one else did.

Via Newsbusters

Monday, May 20, 2013

787 back in US skies

Hooray. The only current 787 operator in the US puts them back in the skies today in Chicago. (There are less than 50 in service throughout the world and many of those have not yet returned to service.) But this is just the warm-up; UAL will only use it for domestic flights for now. Its purpose is long, thin international routes. On June 10 they will resume Denver to Tokyo and Houston to London.

Seattle Times

Planned Parenthood hid rapist of 12-year-old girl

In Bellingham, Washington: A 31-year-old man raped a 12-year-old girl. She got pregnant so he told her she needed an abortion. He took her to a Planned Parenthood clinic. They asked who did it. She said her 14-year-old boyfriend, but couldn't give his name or address.

Did Planned Parenthood report this? No, they performed the abortion. Her parents did not get to approve or deny it. Were her parents informed? I don't know. But Planned Parenthood did not inform Washington Child Protective Services. Hospitals report scratches, but no reporting of surgery under suspicious circumstances.

Six weeks later she told law enforcement who did it. He plead guilty and is serving six years, then being deported from the US.

Bellingham Herald

Via Life News

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Global warming - longest snow season in Anchorage

This is an emergency. Put Albert Gore, Jr. in charge.

Anchorage had the longest snow season ever. 232 days, ending with 1/10 inch of snow Saturday, May 18.

Today Anchorage

But the warming ended in 1998 - 15 years ago. Daily Mail - UK Explain that away, Al Gore. His puppets are trying.

Poorest defense of Obama's IRS targeting tea party groups

Seattle Times is running the weakest defense of the IRS on its digital front page today - from the NY Times. There were so many applications that the poor IRS worker bees in Cincinnati had to reorganize their work. And by accident the applications of "tea party" groups sat on someone's desk. And it's a long story. But only blame Cincinnati. The DC people got them to stop. So says the NYT.

Look a little closer with another NYT source. Very few tea-party group applications were approved from March, 2010 to May, 2012 = two years. That wasn't a work load problem. It was a stoppage. When there was scrutiny in May, 2012, a flood of approvals followed. They got caught.  538 blog at NY Times See the graphic.

By coincidence in 2010 top Democrats were urging the IRS to investigate conservative groups. Senator Max Baucus wrote a letter about concern for 501©(4) groups. But he specifically mentioned only conservative and Republican-leaning groups. Sweetness and Light Blame that on low-level employees in Cincinnati?

And it was honchos in Washington who said to get detailed information. Washington Post
… IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show. 
IRS employees in Cincinnati told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.
When President Barak and FL Michelle talk about people getting involved remember what their government did to those who did. Here is the story of one person to focus on. Tom Zawistowski in Portage County, Ohio. News Day

Graphic: 538 Blog at NY Times. Click to enlarge.

Obama denies any role in US government (?)

In his weekly radio address President Obama assured us that he has no involvement in running the US government.

The New York establishment New Yorker - to be taken with a grain of salt:

(The Borowitz Report)—President Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to reassure the American people that he has “played no role whatsoever” in the U.S. government over the past four years.

“Right now, many of you are angry at the government, and no one is angrier than I am,” he said. “Quite frankly, I am glad that I have had no involvement in such an organization.”

The President’s outrage only increased, he said, when he “recently became aware of a part of that government called the Department of Justice.”

“The more I learn about the activities of these individuals, the more certain I am that I would not want to be associated with them,” he said. “They sound like bad news.”

Saturday, May 18, 2013

How airlines board passengers

They all vary. All do some form of pre boarding for first class, frequent flyers and those with children. Many have some sort of premium coach, such as the very first row in coach boards before the rest.

Virgin America has followed Southwest in using groups, rather then seat assignments. The others assign seats and board by zones. Alaska boards the main cabin in just two zones - row 15 and above, then all rows.

I find this interesting because, while employed by Boeing, I was in a team that built a simulation as part of a process to analyze minimizing the turnaround time of passenger aircraft. Passenger boarding is a big part of that process, but we looked at everything - fueling, cabin cleaning, loading food and water - everything. With the data we had from a major airline, we found that boarding by zones slowed the process. It was best after pre boarding to call all rows. Alaska Airlines did that for a few years recently. According to Cook they now break into two zones, instead.

Airline Reporter reporter Colin Cook in Seattle, WA.

Airline Reporter

Friday, May 17, 2013

Illegal fundraising by the controller of ObamaCare

Kathleen Sibelius has control over implementing ObamaCare. Writing all the regulations. Many of the 2,700 pages of the bill say "The Secretary of HHS shall determine…"

With such power she surely must make a huge effort to be fair. NOT. She is asking affected organizations for pay offs. She calls them donations to help communicate how common people can work their way through the rat's nest of regulation.

IT sure looks bad. "Asking for donations" means "Demanding payoffs."

New York Times

… The Robert Wood Johnson foundation is expected to contribute as much as $10 million, while H&R Block is expected to make a smaller donation of about $500,000, the officials said.

The senior Republican on the Senate health committee, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, said the fund-raising “may be illegal.” He likened it to efforts by the Reagan administration to raise money for rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, after Congress had restricted the use of federal money. Aides to Mr. Alexander said Sunday that he would ask the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, to examine the propriety of the Obama administration’s fund-raising efforts.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eric Holder doesn't know anything

Attorney General Eric Holder has huge responsibilities as the nation's top law officer. But he doesn't know anything about what his huge chunk of government is doing - so he claims. He answered "I don't know" time after time (someone counted fifty seven times) yesterday to the House Judiciary Committee.

"I don't know."

It was so bad that one of Obama's chief cheerleaders in the media, Dana Milbank, noticed:

Washington Post

Why didn’t his Justice Department inform the Associated Press, as the law requires, before pawing through reporters’ phone records?

“I do not know,” the attorney general told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon, “why that was or was not done. I simply don’t have a factual basis to answer that question.”

Why didn’t the DOJ seek the AP’s cooperation, as the law also requires, before issuing subpoenas?

“I don’t know what happened there,” Holder replied. “I was recused from the case.”

Why, asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), was the whole matter handled in a manner that appears “contrary to the law and standard procedure”?

“I don’t have a factual basis to answer the questions that you have asked, because I was recused,” the attorney general said.

On and on Holder went: “I don’t know. I don’t know. . . . I would not want to reveal what I know. . . . I don’t know why that didn’t happen. . . . I know nothing, so I’m not in a position really to answer.”

Why such a massive claim of ignorance from one of the most powerful people in Obama's government? Milbank again:

Holder seemed to regard this ignorance as a shield protecting him and the Justice Department from all criticism of the Obama administration’s assault on press freedoms.

Milbank shows clearly that the magic is gone:
But there would be more sympathy, and support, for Holder if he took seriously the lawmakers’ legitimate questions about his department’s abuse of power in the AP case. He may have recused himself from the leak probe that led to the searches of reporters’ phone records (a decision he took so lightly that he didn’t put it in writing), but he isn’t recused from defending the First Amendment.

The Obama IRS scandal affects YOU

The scandal unfolding in President Obama's IRS affects every American - even you.

Obama's IRS has been caught - and admitted - improperly favoring some taxpayers over others. And abusing its trust over confidential information - ProPublica admits that IRS gave it information about some of the Tea Party groups. Breitbart

"But I don't like the Tea Party. I don't care." Will you care when it is you the IRS asks for more information? …. and more… then allows someone to use it against you?

With the grand opening of ObamaCare January 1, 2014 it is the IRS that will dig deeply into both your medical insurance and your income. Byron York explains.

Washington Examiner

And … Here is a round up of the news stories on Eric Holder's IRS scandal for Day 6. Dozens of stories for just one day. TaxProf

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Guys, for bone density enjoy one

This is news for me. I have low bone density.

And from RealAge:

How about a beer? Ah, now you're paying attention! The bone-saving secret in brewskis is silicon, a chemical that stimulates collagen production. What's collagen? A protein that makes your bones denser and your joints more flexible. Brews with the most hops and malted barley are the richest in silicon. (Here's another surprising drink for better bones.) Not big on beer? Bananas and brown rice also are silicon-packed.

And dark chocolate, peanuts, walnuts and other sources of zinc.

And impact exercises like pushups and walking. I do those every day.

New blog on complexity

A consulting company System Logic has a new blog on complexity, named On Complexity. It both highlights their work and people and other incidents/approaches.

In their first week they feature an article in Atlantic and Mother Jones about the rising expectation of safety and rising cost of disasters in developed countries.

On Complexity

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Google Flu and

Watch the map of flu occurrence in the world Google Flu. But…. it is not documented cases of flu. It is when people do a Google search on the word! What good is keeping track of searches? Google says "search terms are good indicators…" And they show a very good (my term) correlation over the recent years in Brazil on this page.

And dengue - Google Dengue. It's more interesting because it is more limited. At the link the map is live: when you mouse over a country you a bit more data and a link to a page.

The graphic: Google's map of searches for dengue. Follow the link above for the larger, active map.

Socialism, not food processor, caused Venezuela shortages

Venezuela's largest food processing company says it is not the cause of food shortages; that it is producing more food products than last year. The new President Maduro is assuming them of deliberately causing shortages by hoarding. But the socialism of Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez screwed up the food chain by fixing prices and other manipulations of the market.

Chavez promised to make Venezuela self sufficient in food. After his long rule it imports 70 per cent of food.

ABC News

Saturday, May 11, 2013

ABC News notices Benghazi talking points

ABC News had noticed that something is wrong with the Benghazi attack and there appears to be a coverup!

And The New Yorker too!!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Obama goes to Texas to learn

Gov. Rick Perry will greet Pres. Obama in Texas today. Obama can learn a lot from Texas.

Texas has decent unemployment BLS. Has been growing and adding jobs up 3.1% in 12 months in all eleven major sectors. Texas Economy And has a budget surplus. Texas Tribune

Obama has a lot to learn about budget balancing and growth. His state Illinois's economy is in the dump. 50th of 51 in unemployment. BLS

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

He couldn't have been talking about Mexico

President Obama went to Mexico last week and had negative things to say about his country's economy and immigration policy and lots of positive things to say about Mexico. But his student audience was wondering what country he was talking about.
Obama praised the open press and the growing middle class. A very sunny situation in Mexico.
But… LA Times
"How nice that he came to give inspiring speeches, but what's happening in Mexico is far from what he talked about today," said Jose Carlos Cruz, a 24-year-old graduate student in international relations who attended the speech. "A really good speech by President Obama, but what Mexico was he talking about?"
The Mexican economy has begun to slow, and the decrease in illegal immigration is more likely a result of demographic changes, the sluggish U.S. economy and the severe dangers of crossing Mexico than of any improvements inside Mexico.
… "Obama is fantastic, but I believe that today he was talking about another country, not ours," said Rosa Castro, 43, a college professor. "My question is: Who wrote Obama's speech? Enrique Peña Nieto's team?"
Middle class growing?

In his speech, Obama praised a growing middle class to which the majority of Mexicans belong. Although it is true that Mexico has a strong manufacturing base that has allowed many Mexicans to prosper, economists say the middle class has been stagnant for years. The World Bank says 49% of the population lives in poverty.
The photo: Plaza de la Constitucion in Mexico City from Wikipedia. Click to enlarge.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Nanny Bloomberg and unsafe Brownsville, Brooklyn

Mail carriers are afraid to enter the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. But Mayor Bloomberg is too busy to notice. He is measuring the size of sweet drinks [Puffington Host] and strutting his stuff with the national problem that gun ownership is legal. NPR

NY Post

Postmen are too scared to deliver letters and packages to one of Brooklyn’s most crime-ravaged neighborhoods, a US Postal Service worker told The Post yesterday.

“The neighborhood is bad,” the worker said outside the Brownsville Station Post Office on Bristol Street. “I wouldn’t want to go into those buildings.”

Snail mail that goes undelivered finds its way back to the post office, where it can stew for several days until a carrier decides to deliver it — or residents are forced to come pick it up.

“Have you seen this neighborhood? It’s on the news every day,” the terrified employee said.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Government health not making people healthier

Megan McArdle is looking at studies that look at whether having Medicaid makes an eligible person healthier then the person who is in similar situation but not eligible. They used more health care services and paid less out of pocket, but there were not healthier!

Daily Beast

Bombshell news out of Oregon today: a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) of what happens to people when they gain Medicaid eligibility shows no impact on objective measures of health. Utilization went up, out-of-pocket expenditure went down, and the freqency of depression diagnoses was lower. But on the three important health measures they checked that we can measure objectively--glycated hemoglobin, a measure of blood sugar levels; blood pressure; and cholesterol levels--there was no significant improvement.

I know: sounds boring. Glycated hemoglobin! I might as well be one of the adults on Charlie Brown going wawawawawawa . . . and you fell asleep, didn't you?

But this is huge news if you care about health care policy--and given the huge national experiment we're about to embark on, you'd better. Bear with me.

Read on...

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Surprises among the ten wettest cities in US

I get a kick out of this. Wunderground's rules are only one city per state to spread things around.

Florida's representative at #7 is West Palm Beach. Surprise! - 62.33 average inches rainfall per year.

The West Coast is next with #4 Astoria, Oregon - 67.26 inches.

#3 Forks, WA - 99 inches. Poor Forks, the measurement is at Quillayute twelve miles away. But the rain is why Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series, based it there and made Forks a tourist destination!

#2 Metlakatla, AK - 101.63 inches.

#1 Hilo, Hawaii - 126.69 inches. It is a lovely place. But it's the proximity of the spectacular active volcano Kilauea about 30 miles away that puts people in hotel rooms, not the beaches. People go to the other side of the island to sunny, dry Kona for lying in the sun.

Quote of the day - Technology vs. Politics

If you want to introduce someone to libertarian thinking, encourage them to try this experiment. Spend a few days reading nothing but technology news. Then spend a few days reading nothing but political news. For the first few days they’ll see an exciting world of innovation and creativity where everything is getting better all the time. In the second period they’ll see a miserable world of cynicism and treachery where everything is falling apart. Then ask them to explain the difference.

- Andrew Zalotocky

From Samizdata

Via Glenn Reynolds Instapundit

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

China pollution limiting economy

Expatriate executives are leaving China because pollution is ruining their health.

Seattle Times

… There is no official data on the numbers leaving because of pollution, but executive recruitment companies say it is becoming harder to attract top talent to China — both expats and Chinese nationals educated abroad. The European Chamber of Commerce in China says foreign managers leave for many different reasons, but pollution is almost always cited as one of the factors and is becoming a larger concern.

If the polluted skies continue, companies may have to fork out more for salaries or settle for less qualified candidates. Failure to attract the best talent to crucial roles could result in missed commercial opportunities and other missteps.

China’s rapid economic development over the past three decades has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty but also ravaged the environment as heavy industry burgeoned, electricity demand soared and car ownership became a badge of status for the newly affluent in big cities.