Archive for the 'Downsize' Category
Normally you’d think a furlough of some government employees would result in open spaces that are owned by citizens being less supervised than usual. Not today. Today’s inverted priorities give new meaning to the term rude bridge. Oddly, park rangers are working harder than ever, with the mission of annoying as many Americans as possible. Indeed, private businesses are being blockaded by rangers in full thug mode. All of which raises a question. Since this is theater, why not get in and enjoy it? Why doesn’t, for example, the governor of South Dakota send in the state police to remove the cones blocking Mount Rushmore? Or get a group of citizens to march in and do it? We understand of course that legally that may not be possible, but that’s entirely beside the point. The point is to create good theater on the nightly news. What is better theater on the evening news than showing an elderly couple being evicted from a home that they have owned for 40 years by federal goons? An amazing and unprecedented opportunity has been given to the GOP if they are clever enough to exploit it.
During the most recent ice age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because — unlike children — they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. But as farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that gave people the ability to produce lactase — and drink milk — throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition that could have sustained communities when harvests failed…
Most people who retain the ability to digest milk can trace their ancestry to Europe, where the trait seems to be linked to a single nucleotide in which the DNA base cytosine changed to thymine in a genomic region not far from the lactase gene. There are other pockets of lactase persistence in West Africa, the Middle East and south Asia that seem to be linked to separate mutations. The single-nucleotide switch in Europe happened relatively recently. Thomas and his colleagues estimated the timing by looking at genetic variations in modern populations and running computer simulations of how the related genetic mutation might have spread through ancient populations. They proposed that the trait of lactase persistence, dubbed the LP allele, emerged about 7,500 years ago in the broad, fertile plains of Hungary…
Looking back through the archaeological literature, Bogucki found other examples of ancient perforated pottery. “They were so unusual — people would almost always include them in publications,” says Bogucki, now at Princeton…The mystery potsherds sat in storage until 2011, when Mélanie Roffet-Salque pulled them out and analysed fatty residues preserved in the clay. Roffet-Salque, a geochemist at the University of Bristol, UK, found signatures of abundant milk fats — evidence that the early farmers had used the pottery as sieves to separate fatty milk solids from liquid whey. That makes the Polish relics the oldest known evidence of cheese-making in the world
Well, that’s an upbeat tale, as opposed to this scary one.
It’s cold in the arctic. Don’t name your deer Giggles. Don’t brown bag your lunch. Pay no attention to Walter Williams because he’s obviously a very bad man. Here’s a discussion that makes more sense than anything coming out of DC. BTW, we could be wrong, but we don’t believe that Ted Cruz really believes the things he is saying that Charles Krauthammer is complaining about; it seems likelier that he’s positioning himself for 2016.
“Beginning this fall, Alabama public schools will be under a new state-created academic accountability system that sets different goals for students in math and reading based on their race, economic status, ability to speak English and disabilities.” Alabama’s Plan 2020 “sets a different standard for students in each of several subgroups — American Indian, Asian/Pacific islander, black, English language learners, Hispanic, multirace, poverty, special education and white.”
This practice is not new. In an effort to escape the No Child Left Behind Act’s stringent standards for schools, a number of states applied for a waiver, which would allow states to keep federal funding if their schools met a limited number of benchmarks. Of the 33 states granted a waiver last year, 27 now have different achievement goals for different groups of students.
So there are now 18 different passing grades for math and English, depending on who you are? The record-keeping alone makes this insane. (Thomas Sowell has some related thoughts.) From this to healthcare to banking to immigration, we see crazy, top-down, centralized, frozen-in-amber micromanagement at the exact moment when that model has been blown away by the radical decentralization of knowledge and swiftly evolving technology of our information age. Maybe Daniel Henninger is correct and big government is imploding. If so, it can’t happen fast enough.
Coal companies are expected to continue shutting higher-cost mines, bringing more economic pain to states like West Virginia and Kentucky. In the first quarter of this year there were 900 active coal mines, down 17% from a year earlier. The top 100 producing mines account for 80% of the U.S. coal supply…Last year, U.S. utilities burned 825 million tons of coal, down from 1.045 billion tons in 2007. Meanwhile, coal companies exported 126 million tons last year, up from 59 million tons in 2007. At the same time, China’s coal consumption soared to 4.33 billion tons last year, up from 2.97 billion tons in 2007. Global demand for coal is currently about eight billion tons a year. Officials in India, which uses coal to produce more than half its electricity, recently said they intend to boost coal imports
So let’s get this straight. US utilities burn 800 million tpy of coal. China was 3 billion and now is 4 billion tpy and soaring. So these new restrictions accomplish nothing except pointless, self-inflicted pain. Forget the flat earth society. Somebody is living in Fantasyland.
Corker-Hoeven may have averted a train wreck, with Senators Schumer, McCain and Graham realizing that the only way to get the regularization they want is to build the fence the voters demand. Anti-regularization forces will automatically say the amendment is not enough and that it is window-dressing. I was prepared to do the same yesterday when early reports suggested it was merely a press release and not a fence guarantee. If the fence isn’t there or is ambiguous in its design or construction schedule, I’ll be back in the “kill the bill” camp. But for now it seems the Senate has successfully completed step one of immigration reform. It may be one step forward and two steps back when we see the actual language, but for the time being, I hope the GOP got one right. If it did, we can thank Marco Rubio. One last thought: If a commission is needed to certify anything, name the commissioners in the bill and spell out their duties. Pick people who bring credibility to the table, and avoid confirmation battles and gamesmanship down the road. Spell. It. Out. If the majority and minority in both houses get two each, fine; let’s have the eight names and their alternates as well. Nothing to chance, no chance for nothing. Trust but verify, as the Gipper used to say.
In case you haven’t noticed, there are no longer three co-equal branches of government. There’s Congress, the judiciary and a souped-up executive-media-academy-regulatory apparatus that does pretty much whatever it pleases. “Trust but verify?” Puh-leeze. Have the conservative pundits and GOP legislators learned nothing over the past five years? A thousand page bill here, 2000 page bills here and there, and enforcement that rewards friends and punishes enemies. What fools these mortals be.
29 times more regulations were issued by agencies than there were laws passed by Congress.
Dodd-Frank is 2300 pages of mostly rubbish, and we wouldn’t be surprised if there are 29 regulations for each page of the law. It’s no accident that it takes 10x more time to build some skyscrapers today than it did a century ago.
The small glass jugs filled with green or gold coloured extra virgin olive oil are familiar and traditional for restaurant goers across Europe but they will be banned from 1 January 2014…The use of classic, refillable glass jugs or glazed terracotta dipping bowls and the choice of a restaurateur to buy olive oil from a small artisan producer or family business will be outlawed…The European Commissions justification for the ban, under special Common Agriculture Policy regulations, is “hygiene” and to protect the “image of olive oil”…”It will seem bonkers that olive oil jugs must go while vinegar bottles or refillable wine jugs can stay.”
At least they’re fiddling with olive oil. It could be a lot worse.
There was a recent survey of the top airports in the country — in the world, and there was not a single U.S. airport that came in the top 25. Not one. Not one U.S. airport was considered by the experts and consumers who use these airports to be in the top 25 in the world. I think Cincinnati Airport came in around 30th. What does that say about our long-term competitiveness and future? And so when folks say, well, there was some money in the FAA to deal with these furloughs — well, yeah, the money is this pool of funds that are supposed to try to upgrade our airports so we don’t rank in the bottom of industrialized countries when it comes to our infrastructure. And that’s what we’re doing — we’re using our seed corn short term.
Actually the head of the FAA sounds like a fool. The sequester resulted in ATC’s having one furlough day every two weeks. He’s apparently claiming that that tiny amount of money is material to “upgrading our airports.” How ridiculous is that? But he inadvertently making a compelling case to privatize everything the government does that the private sector can do better — get all that out of government spending. Oh wait, that wasn’t the head of the FAA.
To stay one night in London, the VP booked approximately 136 hotel rooms for 893 room nights at a hotel. The bill for the hotel alone was $459K (his hotel bill for one night in Paris was almost $600K):
When Winston Churchill came to America in late 1941, he stayed at the White House for three weeks and the bill was $0. What passes for normal today is surreal, bizarre, but no one seems to notice.
Two senators were “heartened” and “impressed” or “moved” by words spoken at a recent dinner. Words! After five years of ridiculous words, they still jump into the tank. We can only hope that these unattributed leaks to Peggy Noonan were cynical flattery (as if that had a prayer of accomplishing anything); otherwise, it’s clear some senators aren’t too bright.
Since at least 1950, all but two of the public shootings in America with more than three deaths have taken place where guns were banned. Take the Aurora shooting last summer. Within 20 minutes of the murderer’s apartment there were seven movie theaters premiering the Batman movie. The shooter didn’t go to the one that was closest to his apartment. And he didn’t choose the one with the largest audience. Instead, he went to the only one where guns were banned.
It doesn’t matter that armed civilians stop these things well before the police can. Everywhere in the USA should be a gun free zone, and we should quintuple the number of all laws and regulations on the books to make the country perfect. Oh wait, we already have!
In the email sent Monday by Charles Brown, an official with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office in Raleigh, N.C., Mr. Brown asked “if there was any latitude” in how to spread the sequester cuts across the region to lessen the impacts on fish inspections. He said he was discouraged by officials in Washington, who gave him this reply: “We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that ‘APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be”…
even amid the cuts, APHIS is still hiring new employees and interns. Since Sunday the agency has posted 24 help-wanted ads including 22 student internships, one ad seeking a clerk in a New York office, and one ad seeking three “insect production workers” to grow bollworms in Phoenix.
Can’t have enough bollworms, even while you’re creating phony pain for the media to feed to the masses. Meanwhile, the House Republicans can’t manage to keep a coherent message on needless spending. They want the USPS to continue Saturday deliveries, despite the wishes of the Postmaster General and polling in favor of saving the $2 billion a year. It’s the cerebrally challenged youth vote of 2012 versus the cerebrally challenged GOP in Washington. Pity everyone can’t lose.
The Energy Department gave $150 million in economic Recovery Act funds to a battery company, LG Chem Michigan, which has yet to manufacture cells used in any vehicles sold to the public and whose workers passed time watching movies, playing board, card and video games, or volunteering for animal shelters and community groups…only three of five planned production lines were complete, that less than half of the expected 440 jobs had been created and that battery production had not yet begun. General Motors, which was expected to buy batteries from the plant in Holland, Mich., is still buying the electric-car batteries from LG Chem in South Korea. LG Chem Michigan has reimbursed the Energy Department for $842,189 in costs the inspector general found to be “unreasonable and unallowable” for time employees spent working for Habitat for Humanity, animal shelters and outdoor nature centers…The 650,000-square-foot plant — which is also eligible for more than $175 million in tax relief from the state and local governments through 2025 — was supposed to produce lithium-ion batteries to support the manufacture of 60,000 electric vehicles by the end of 2013. The July 15, 2010, groundbreaking was attended by President Obama and then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), who said Michigan would become the “North American battery capital”…He said in 2010 that the LG Chem Michigan venture was “leading the way in showing how manufacturing jobs are coming right back here to the United States of America” and that by 2012, batteries for the Chevrolet Volt and the electric Ford Focus could be “stamped ‘Made in America.’ ” He said the plant was a “symbol” of where Holland, Michigan and America were going. Sales of electric vehicles have lagged behind expectations, especially those of Obama, who aimed at having 1 million electric vehicles on the road by the middle of the decade. The Chevy Volt is the best-selling electric vehicle; GM said it sold 30,090 Volts worldwide last year. For those cars, GM has been buying LG Chem lithium-ion batteries made in South Korea. As a result, LG Chem has put its Michigan workers on rotating furloughs.
Gotta give the guy credit: “He said the plant was a ‘symbol’ of where Holland, Michigan and America were going.” Well, at least he was right about that. HT: WRM
We enjoyed watching this entertaining and creepy video of diversity training at the USDA. (The video appears to have been removed, but others are available here.) Sure, it was a little odd when he asked the crowd to chant that the Pilgrims were illegal aliens. But that’s just what the kids learn in college these days. What got to us in the segment above is that this guy was actually hired by the State Department to travel to Venezuela and give a number of lectures in that country on the meaning of the 2008 election. Who approved that boondoggle? Why? Who even dreamt up the concept? Pardon us if it looks like there’s more than a little backscratching going on somewhere.
It’s not a pretty picture:
cats have been introduced globally and have contributed to multiple wildlife extinctions on islands. The magnitude of mortality they cause in mainland areas remains speculative, with large-scale estimates based on non-systematic analyses and little consideration of scientific data. Here we conduct a systematic review and quantitatively estimate mortality caused by cats in the United States. We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually.
Looks like we need cat control far more than gun control. HT: GP
Today the US is legally bound to spend $250 billion more simply on entitlements and interest on the national debt than it takes in in revenue, and the situation is likely to get much worse. Via Zero Hedge:
In Fiscal Year 2011, the federal government collected $2.303 trillion in tax revenue. Interest on the debt that year totaled $454.4 billion, and mandatory spending totaled $2,025 billion. In sum, mandatory spending plus debt interest totaled $2.479 trillion…exceeding total revenue by $176.4 billion. For Fiscal Year 2012 which just ended 37 days ago, that shortfall increased 43% to $251.8 billion. In other words, they could cut the entirety of the Federal Government’s discretionary budget – no more military, SEC, FBI, EPA, TSA, DHS, IRS, etc. – and they would still be in the hole by a quarter of a trillion dollars…
Raising taxes won’t help. Since the end of World War II, tax receipts in the US have averaged 17.7% of GDP in a very tight range. The low has been 14.4% of GDP, and the high has been 20.6% of GDP. During that period, however, tax rates have been all over the board. Individual rates have ranged from 10% to 91%. Corporate rates from 15% to 53%. Gift taxes, estate taxes, etc. have all varied. And yet, total tax revenue has stayed nearly constant at 17.7% of GDP. It doesn’t matter how much they increase tax rates – they won’t collect any more money…
Bottom line, the US government is legally bound to spend more money on mandatory entitlements and interest than it can raise in tax revenue. It won’t make a difference how high they raise taxes, or even if they cut everything else that remains in government as we know it. This is not a political problem, it’s a mathematical one. Facts are facts, no matter how uncomfortable they may be. Today’s election is merely a choice of who is going to captain the sinking Titanic.
The only mitigating factor would be brisk economic growth, and that appears to be off the table now. HT: Andrew McCarthy, who is also pretty pessimistic.
From 18 pages of new guidelines from your government:
this notice…Expands the safe harbor method described in a previous notice to provide employers the option to use a look-back measurement period of up to 12 months to determine whether new variable hour employees or seasonal employees are full-time employees, without being subject to a payment under § 4980H for this period with respect to those employees. An employee is a variable hour employee if, based on the facts and circumstances at the date the employee begins providing services to the employer (the start date), it cannot be determined that the employee is reasonably expected to work on average at least 30 hours per week. (The 30 hours per week average reflects the statutory definition of full-time employee in § 4980H(c)(4) and is the definition of “full-time employee” as used in this notice.) Seasonal employee is defined in section III.D.5, below…
Simultaneously with the issuance of this notice, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (the Departments) are jointly providing administrative guidance under § 2708 of the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act). PHS Act § 2708 applies to group health plans and group health insurance issuers and provides that any waiting period under a group health plan must not exceed 90 days. To clarify how the PHS Act § 2708 90-day waiting period limitation coordinates with § 4980H, this notice applies portions of the Departments’ separate and simultaneous PHS Act § 2708 guidance. DOL and HHS concur in the application of PHS Act § 2708 in this notice.
This notice consists of a background section briefly summarizing the § 4980H and PHS Act § 2708 statutory framework and the administrative guidance issued to date (section II); a description of the safe harbors available for employers for determining full-time employee status in the case of ongoing employees and newly hired variable hour and seasonal employees (including the transition from newly-hired to ongoing employees and a series of examples illustrating how the safe harbors apply) (section III); a description of the reliance provided to employers through at least 2014 (section IV); and a request for comments (section V)…
No inference should be drawn from any provision of this notice concerning any other provision of § 4980H or any other provision of the Affordable Care Act.
Robert Samuelson explains that a quater of those employed in the US are part-time, and 10 million or so — and the businesses that employ them — may be negatively impacted by these mind-numbing regulations. But “Affordable” and “Care” sound so nice!