Have a Happy New Year: privatize @USPS

December 31, 2013
Poor, trusting fool

Poor, trusting fool

This is a bit of a personal rant to end the year on, but a recent experience with the US Post Office and trying to get a package delivered has lead to the conclusion that one of the best “little things” a new Republican Congress could do in 2015 is privatize the danged thing. First, my recent travails:

On Christmas Day I received some Amazon (1) gift cards. Being a good little consumer, that afternoon I ordered some goodies, including a highly-rated electric skillet (This one, in fact. It’s a great price.) that Amazon promised to deliver for free by the 28th. Great!

So, on the 28th I stayed home to wait for the delivery. By that afternoon, I was curious, so I checked Amazon; “delivery attempted.”

“Really?” I thought. So I checked the USPS site: “Delivery attempted at 9:37 AM. Notice left.”

By now a bit concerned, I went down to the front of our apartment complex to check the mailboxes: no package, no notice, no nothing. Like I said, I had been home all day. My cell phone was on, the ringer set to “loudest.” At 9:37 AM, I was letting in my writing partner for a day’s work. In other words…

I WAS HOME!

Apparently the schmuck carrier couldn’t be bothered to actually try to contact me. I understand he couldn’t come to my door (it’s a large, winding complex), but… he could have called. I’d have come right down. But, I guess he didn’t want to make the effort. Maybe he was tired.

Checking the USPS site again, I saw a redelivery option (2) held out the promise of delivery Monday (yesterday). So, I filled out the form and printed the receipt. Problem solved — yay!!

You can guess what’s coming.

I waited at home all Monday, not daring to leave my apartment lest I miss the carrier and my new toy. By 5PM, I went downstairs to check and found the regular mailman. I asked her about the package — she’d never heard of it. “What about redelivery,” I asked.

Jay Carney gives more informative answers.

Finally, she helpfully suggested the other carrier might have left it with the building managers. Nope. Not on on their list.

So, this morning, I walked to the post office, waited for the lone clerk at the counter to finally call me forward only to tell me to go to “the door on the left.” After a half-hour or so, I was beginning to fear my package was really “out for delivery” this time, probably to the wrong address. But, no, I was rewarded at the end, the package was mine. Happy New Year, indeed. I then trudged the 1.5 miles home, this time carrying a bulky box and swearing eternal vengeance on the Post Office.

Okay, so, as far as horrible experiences with the USPS goes, and as maddening as it was, that was fairly minor. I’m sure any of you reading this could come up with far worse. But the whole experience had me wondering…

Why do we put up with this garbage?

Private companies have a much harder time getting away with poor service. Not only are there irate customers who can go elsewhere, but angry shareholders to wonder why they’re not making money. And, at the end, a poorly run, money-losing company goes out of business.

The USPS, which lost over $20 billion from 2007-2010 –and $5 billion in FY 2013, goes chugging on. This report from the Cato Institute well-documents their problems. For example:

A key driver of mail delivery costs is the congressionally mandated obligation to serve virtually every mailing address, regardless of volume, six days a week. Fulfilling this “universal service” obligation results in the USPS having large fixed costs, including the costs of more than 36,000 postal outlets, 215,000 vehicles, and 600 processing facilities.

However, even given the universal service obligation, the Government Accountability Office and USPS officials believe that more than half of these processing facilities aren’t needed. Why aren’t they closed down to save money? The GAO notes that the USPS faces “formidable resistance” from members of Congress and postal unions when attempting to close or consolidate facilities.

The USPS is required to provide services to all communities, including areas where post offices have low traffic and are not cost effective. Before closing a post office, the USPS must provide customers with at least 60 days of notice before the proposed closure date, and any person served by the post office may appeal its closure to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The USPS cannot close a post office “solely for operating at a deficit.”

Members of Congress whose districts would be affected by a post office closure often raise a big fuss. Last year, for example, the USPS proposed consolidating 3,200 postal outlets, but following a congressional outcry, the number under consideration was reduced to a paltry 162. That is no way to run a business.

No, it’s not. Labor costs are also a problem:

While the USPS has been able to eliminate a substantial number of employees through attrition, the USPS’s predominantly unionized workforce continues to account for 80 percent of the agency’s costs despite increased automation. The USPS estimates that, in the absence of changes, its total workforce costs will soar from $53 billion in 2009 to $77 billion in 2020.

And at the root of these costs are restrictive union contracts:

Another factor that reduces postal service efficiency is that union contracts inhibit the flexibility of USPS leaders in managing their workforce. For example, most postal workers are protected by “no-layoff” provisions, and the USPS must let go lower-cost part-time and temporary employees before it can lay off a full-time worker not covered by such provisions.

There’s a lot more in this report, which makes a great case that the postal service should be privatized and its monopoly on first-class mail ended. The benefits would redound to the benefit of taxpayers and customers, providing the service the Founders had in mind when they gave Congress the power to “…establish Post Offices and post Roads.” In this day and age, that does not require a government-run, inefficient, and monopolistic postal service.

It’s time to privatize the USPS.

I might then get my packages on time.

Footnote:
(1) By the way, if any Amazon employees are reading this, tell your boss, Jeff, to stop using USPS for deliveries. It’s your two-day guarantee to Prime customers they’re breaking and your reputation they’re harming. Fire them.
(2) The page for which apparently works as well has the healthcare.gov payment system — not at all. I sense a trend in government-built web sites.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Don’t we hold our officials accountable, anymore? Updated.

December 30, 2013
"Even the monkey is embarrassed"

“Even the monkey is embarrassed”

The answer in too many cases, sadly, is “no.” Via The Campaign Spot, here’s a summary of the fiasco that is Oregon’s Obamacare exchange, probably the worst in the nation (1):

In Oregon, the state exchange still couldn’t enroll anyone online at the end of December. The state is relying entirely on paper applications and had to hire an additional 400 workers to process them. Some patients scheduled to go on dialysis next month are still waiting for answers from the exchange about what plans are available. The advertising campaign, directing people to the dysfunctional web site, was pulled down after spending $21 million. The exchange’s board extended a deadline by a week, announcing the decision one hour before the deadline. The $178,992-per-year chief information officer, who helped design the $160 million site, resigned for “personal reasons” earlier this month . . . citing the death of her mother-in-law. This CIO lived in Sacramento, California. Rocky King, the state exchange’s director, resigned for “health reasons.” (Hopefully he won’t have to rely on the exchange to get insurance in whatever new job he starts.)

The state’s already spent over $40 million on the site, itself, on top of the $21 million for advertising. So, one would think, Governor Kitzhaber, who’s been a big supporter of Obamacare, would be in trouble for reelection next year, right? Right?

Yeah, right.

According to an article quoted later in the piece, Kitzhaber is almost a shoe-in for reelection. After all this, voters won’t turn to even another Democrat?

Not that I’m laughing and pointing at Oregonians. Far from it. In California, we continually reelect or elect to other offices pols who do terrible jobs, yet time and again they escape accountability for their performance. It’s indicative of a more fundamental problem: too few people pay attention to the jobs their elected officials are doing, or perhaps even care at all. Elections and politics, though we trust the winning candidates with vast sums of money and essential public services, are just a bother to too many people, who just tick a box on the ballot rather than take seriously the responsibilities of a citizen. Increasingly literally, they just “mail it in” and, for the public, the public’s business is an afterthought.

I know we all have a lot that demands our time and that state, local, and national issues can be mind-numbingly complex, but the pols are not the only ones with “job responsibilities.” We have them, too, as citizens: the duty to pay attention, so that we can audit and judge our officials performance when an election rolls around.

Otherwise, we get the Kitzhaber we deserve.

Footnote:
(1) Though Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont are finalists for that honor, too.

UPDATE: And here’s a similar example at the federal level. One of the bureaucrats charged with overseeing the Obamacare rollout is retiring, with pension intact. Naturally, we should celebrate her career.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Shocker: Syria to miss deadline on Obama WMD deal

December 30, 2013
Not again?

Wishes he’d never heard of Syria

Hey, didn’t the Assad regime get the message that Obama really meant it when he said he was really, really serious about getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons? Keep this up, and he’ll go tell Putin on them:

Syria’s failure to move part of its chemical weapons arsenal to a Mediterranean port has prompted warnings that the disarmament deal struck with the country is falling seriously behind schedule.

A Norwegian navy frigate sent to escort a convoy carrying Syria’s mustard gas and sarin stockpile has said it has been advised to expect a substantial delay.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body in charge of the UN-backed plan to destroy 1,300 tonnes of Syria’s chemical weapons, said it had put in place all the necessary “logistical and security” arrangements.

However, it added that tomorrow’s deadline for the shipment of the weapons-grade munitions cannot be met and could only proceed if President Bashar al-Assad’s government “intensified efforts” to move the material.

I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

Of course, everyone knew this would happen: Obama leapt at the deal brokered by Russia because he had stupidly opened his mouth and laid down an ultimatum he wasn’t prepared to back up. In the meantime, Assad has gained more time to defeat the rebels, his Iranian paymasters keep Syria as a client state and bridge to their proxies in Lebanon, and American influence in the region sinks lower as Obama can’t even enforce the minimum terms of a fig-leaf agreement he and Secretary Kerry touted as a major breakthrough.

That “smart power” sure has paid off, no?

via Jim Geraghty

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Antarctic ‘research’ fiasco – ‘would you, could you, in a boat’?

December 30, 2013

The climate change movement is falling apart and ending in farce, as this “scientific expedition” shows. BTW, click through for photos of ships sunk in the Antarctic in recent years. Maybe we should worry about the ecological damage incompetent visitors are doing.

Watts Up With That?

This will be a top “sticky” post for awhile since interest is high – new stories will appear below this one – Anthony

UPDATE:Josh channels the boat people

UPDATE2: Another irony is discovered, this one doubly deep.  See update 2 below.

UPDATE3: see WUWT and Weatherbell help KUSI-TV with a weather forecasting request from ice-trapped ship in Antarctica Akademik Shokalskiy

UPDATE4:AMSA: Helicopter rescue of Akademik Shokalskiy likely to commence shortly

(It’s off again, then now its on again, with report the helicopter has landed)

UPDATE5: All the passengers (tourists and scientists) are off the ship

UPDATE6:Tough questions need to be asked

UPDATE7: Trouble on the rescue ship – reaching open water not so easy

As we reported previously on WUWT here and here, the saga of the “climate scientists/tourists trapped in ice” continues to fascinate many. Now a second ship has given up on rescue, after the Chinese…

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Heh: Obamacare advocate Richard Blumenthal says UPS should refund customers for late deliveries

December 28, 2013

Dickie Blumenthal also lied about his “service” in Vietnam. Glad to know that such an honorable man of unquestioned probity is willing to go after a private company for errors in service. And speaking of “service,” Senator…


Americans held in Libya, head-meets-desk quote. Update: released?

December 27, 2013

There’s breaking news tonight that four Americans, likely military, are in the custody of the Libyan government, having been taken during a visit to the Roman ruins at Sabratha. As of this writing, no information has been released as to any charges, and the State Department has issued no statement. (Probably wise, until we learn more.)

Reading the NYT article, I did a double-take when I read the following:

Since the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens on Sept. 11, 2012, employees of the American Embassy have operated with extraordinary caution. Rigorous security rules preclude any movements outside the heavily fortified embassy compound without advance planning and an armed guard. The compound is locked at night, and no one is permitted to enter or exit. Counterterrorism has become a central focus of the work there, and the compound brims with well-armed security officers.

Just brilliant. It takes the needless deaths of four US personnel, including an ambassador, at the hands of our sworn enemies for us to finally start providing anything resembling adequate security. Hillary Clinton’s legacy is secure, and I’m sure the souls of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods are ever so relieved.

Meanwhile, I would suggest to the Libyan government that it remember who put them in power in the first place and that, if any of these men are hurt in any way, we have long memories, and Barack Obama won’t always be president.

UPDATE: Per CNN via KCCI, the four have been released. No confirmation yet, nor any word on their condition or why they were held in the first place.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama’s top-ten constitutional violations of 2013

December 27, 2013
"Ignored"

“Violated”

From a list compiled by Forbes. Like they wrote, it’s tough limiting yourself to just ten, and a lot of those chosen come under the rubric of “general lawlessness.” Here’s one example:

10. Mini-DREAM Act. Congress has shamelessly failed to pass any sort of immigration reform, including for the most sympathetic victims of the current non-system, young people who were brought into the country illegally as children. Nonetheless, President Obama, contradicting his own previous statements claiming to lack authority, directed the Department of Homeland Security to issue work and residence permits to the so-called Dreamers. The executive branch undoubtedly has discretion regarding enforcement priorities, but granting de facto green cards goes beyond a decision to defer deportation in certain cases.

This is typical of the Obama administration: unable to get want they want through Congress, Obama abuses prosecutorial discretion and the regulatory powers granted by Congress to rewrite or even abrogate the law itself. And this has happened time and again, especially in the last year with regard to Obamacare. These are not the actions of a president under a constitutional republic, but those of a Peronist-style presidente, who only needs the legislature to rubber-stamp his decisions and carry out his directives. Not that I’m saying Obama is another Hugo Chavez or even Juan Peron (though I’ve snarkily referred to him that way, before), but his attitudes and predilections are both lazy and authoritarian. Why should he not do whatever he wants, if he thinks something needs doing? Why should he go to the effort of dealing with Congress, when he already knows what’s right?

Other presidents have tested the limits, of course, and some have gone beyond them. But the prior gentleman had some sense of limits, of boundaries they couldn’t cross, because “that’s not the way we do things.”

I don’t think Obama knows any such limits.

via Allahpundit

EDIT: Deleted a section that, on further review, didn’t fit.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A Manifesto for Free Markets in Health Care

December 27, 2013

A radical proposal, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

International Liberty

Not counting humor-oriented pieces such as this and this, it’s been nearly a month since I’ve written about Obamacare.

To make up for this oversight, today we’re going to look at a way out of the Obamacare mess.

But the goal isn’t simply to repeal the President’s bad policy. That merely gets us back to where we were in 2009. We need to figure out how to restore market forces to healthcare, and that means undoing decades of misguided government intervention.

Fortunately, we have a roadmap thanks to John Cochrane, a Cato adjunct scholar and Professor at the University of Chicago. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he explains how radical deregulation is the right approach.

He starts with an essential point that “settled law” doesn’t mean unchangeable law.

…proponents call it “settled law,” but as Prohibition taught us, not even a constitutional amendment is settled…

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Great Moments in Journalism: “No, really?” division

December 27, 2013
No way!!

The deuce you say!!

horrific crime occurs in Chicago:

An 18-year-old man was charged with first-degree murder Thursday after police found a decapitated man early Christmas morning in the Hermosa neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

Officers responding to a homicide call found the decapitated 41-year-old man about 2 a.m. Wednesday inside a basement apartment in the 2500 block of North Kildare Avenue, police said.

And the local CBS station makes sure to nail down the crucial details:

The man was dead at the scene, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. He was identified as 41-year-old Silvestre Diaz-Hernandez and lived at the apartment.

Good thing they pointed that out; otherwise, I’d have never drawn that conclusion from the word “decapitated.” I can only imagine the look on the ME’s face when asked “And what is the victim’s condition?”

via ST on Facebook


(Video) The 12 Banned Items of Christmas

December 26, 2013
I said, no fun allowed!

No guacamole on the flight!

So, okay, it’s now the day after Christmas, but there’s still a lot of traveling going on, so ReasonTV has created this video guide to those things the TSA will and will not let you take along on a flight.

(Slightly R-rated)

There, that clears things up, doesn’t it? And it’s so nice to know the TSA has thought this list through so carefully.

Happy flying!


Merry Christmas, one and all

December 25, 2013

Santa and I wish you a very happy day.

(Normal service resumes tomorrow.)


A Christmas lump of coal for the gun-grabbers

December 24, 2013
"Crime stopper"

“Crime stopper”

It seems concealed-carry cuts down on gun crime:

The purpose of the present study is to determine the effects of state-level assault weapons bans and concealed weapons laws on state-level murder rates. Using data for the period 1980 to 2009 and controlling for state and year fixed effects, the results of the present study suggest that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level. These results suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause an increase in gun-related murders at the state level. The results of this study are consistent with some prior research in this area, most notably Lott and Mustard (1997).

It’s logical: not only would potential victims be able to defend themselves, but the uncertainty of whether said potential victim (or anyone in the area) is carrying a weapon would tend to make a criminal less likely to strike. This woman might have been able to save herself. There’s a reason why the Founders protected the right to self-defense in the Bill of Rights.

Of course, logic, reasonableness, and constitutionalism will continue to be ignored by the Feinsteins, Bloombergs, Schumers, Morgans, and other gun-grabbers in the world.

via RBpundit

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


I’ve heard of drunk dialing, but drunk executing? Updated.

December 24, 2013
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“I did what last night?”

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, aka “Tiny Psycho Dictator III,” is not what one would call a happy drunk:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was drunk when he ordered the execution of two aides close to his uncle Jang Song-thaek, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Saturday.

The Yomiuri cited a source that claimed Ri Ryong-ha, the first deputy director of the administrative department of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, and Jang Su-gil, a deputy director of the department, were executed because they did not immediately follow an order by Kim to hand over their control of a profitable business to the military. 

The newspaper said when Kim made the order, Ri and Jang responded that they first had to report to director Jang – the man in charge of the administrative department – which made the young leader “upset.”

When Kim ordered the execution of the two aides, he was “very drunk,” the source told the Yomiuri. 

It seems Jang may have been skimming from the money Kim gave him to buy presents bribes with which to buy the loyalty of others in the North Korean hierarchy. If he had known about that before the incident with the two aides, we can imagine why he was in a bad mood and why it was a bad time to tell him “no.”

By the way, under the “justice system” in the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, collective punishment is the order of the day: Kim also ordered a purge of the director’s aides and, according to reports, had his family and relatives arrested. No word on if they have been executed.

via Bridget Johnson

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Crosspatch in the comments, this article from The Independent seems to confirm that “administrator Jang” is the same “Uncle Jang” who was executed by his nephew. Apparently people close to the aides who were shot called friends and family overseas and forgot the lines were tapped:

The paper said that it was intelligence from the first two deaths that made the South Korean government aware Jang’s own execution was “inevitable”. “Those who were close [to the two aides] were surprised by their execution, and made phone calls to their friends living abroad, and the South Korean government [spy agency] wiretapped their phone conversations,2 the newspaper said.

In all, at least eight people from Jang’s circle were executed in the purge – alongside the director himself.

Kim had better be careful: he keeps whacking random people when drunk, some general might decide it’s safer to launch a coup, and Kim won’t wake up from his last drunken stupor. Then again, given that we’re talking about North Korea, perhaps the best thing for the world and their own people would be for this nightmare regime to turn on itself.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


It’s #Obamacare enrollment deadline day. Updated

December 23, 2013
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

This is it, folks! (Well, maybe. Kinda. See below.) This is the day by which all of you who have no insurance, whether you couldn’t afford it, chose as a free human being not to buy it, or had it ripped away from you by Nanny State (in the form of the Democratic Party (1) and their Affordable Care Act (2)), had to enroll and pay for a government-approved plan — with higher premiums, larger deductibles, bigger co-pays, services you didn’t want or need, and smaller provider networks that may not include your doctor.

And what does America think on this most momentous of days?

They ain’t happy.

A new poll finds support for Obamacare slumping to an all-time low as the administration hits its deadline to register consumers for coverage on Jan. 1.

According to a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday, 35 percent say they support President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, a drop of 5 points in under a month. Nearly two-thirds, at 62 percent, say they oppose the health law, a rise of 4 points since November.

(…)

The push to boost low enrollment figures has targeted young people and women, but the new CNN poll finds that more women now oppose the health care law. Sixty percent of women have a negative view of Obamacare, up from 54 percent in November.

(…)

The survey finds that 63 percent believe the law will cost them more for their health care, with just 7 percent saying the amount they pay for medical care will drop. Nearly 3 in 10 say it will not change.

Overall, 42 percent say they will be personally worse off and 16 percent say they will be better off under Obamacare. Forty percent say the law will have no effect.

For some reason, a majority think they’ll be able to keep their physicians and provider network. Expect that to change as people start trying to see their physicians in the new year.

The number for women is almost staggering, since that tends to be the demographic that most closely watches healthcare issues and has been generally supportive of doing something to spread the safety net, if not particularly an ACA-style solution. But, if numbers among women are cratering like that… Well, I hope Obama ordered a double mai-tai in Hawaii.

On a more personal note, I can finally say I know someone harmed by this abomination of a law. While I won’t mention his name or specific circumstances, out of respect for his privacy, I learned last night that an acquaintance suffering from a serious chronic condition only found out yesterday that his insurance, which he was satisfied with, is being canceled as of January 1st. He now has to deal with Covered California’s site, choose a plan, enroll, and pay (How?) by the end of the day today. And hope against hope he can find a plan he can afford that gives him anywhere near the coverage he has today. Assuming his application doesn’t get screwed up somewhere along the line. (3)

Great work, Democrats! What a wonderful present for the people for this Christmas season! I’m sure many millions will remember what you’ve done for to them, come November, 2014.

BREAKING: Obama rides to the rescue!

While writing this, I saw that the administration of President Peron Obama has extended –without congressional authority– the deadline for enrolling in Obamacare insurance.

By a whole 24 hours:

At midnight Monday, the official deadline arrives for Americans to sign up through the new federal health insurance exchange for health plans that begin Jan. 1. But, without any public announcement, Obama administration officials have changed the rules so that people will have an extra day to enroll, according to two individuals with knowledge of the switch.

Over the weekend, government officials and outside IT contractors working on the online marketplace’s computer system made a software change that automatically gives people a Jan. 1 start date for their coverage as long as they enroll by 11:59 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Note that the changes were made secretly, because they were afraid their “repaired” site might crash under the load of last-minute enrollments. But they didn’t want to tell anyone that, lest people delay further. And, oh yeah, it’s another in the long, lengthening string of unilateral changes, exceptions, and waivers the administration has made to deal with the never-ending problems Obamacare is creating.

via Eliana Johnson

RELATED: Jim Geraghty surveys the latest bad news for Obamacare apologists. Yuval Levin says the administration is pounding on the panic button. An editorial from last summer, but still spot-on: Obamacare is a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.

UPDATE: Trying to out-Scrooge Scrooge, California has refused to abide by the administration’s extension of the deadline:

California’s health insurance exchange is holding firm to its enrollment deadline today for customers who want coverage beginning at the start of the year, officials said Monday.

Earlier in the day, the White House announced the federal deadline was being delayed 24 hours — from 11:59 p.m. Monday to 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Officials said they made the move for Healthcare.gov customers as part of a good-faith effort to ensure those who needed coverage by Jan. 1 would be able to log-in and sign up.

California, which operates its own health insurance exchange, said customers must act Monday.

They’ll cut you a little slack if you start late today and take into the wee hours tomorrow to finish, so no whining! On the payment question, you have until January 6th for coverage beginning January 1st. If you can figure out how to pay, that is…

Footnotes:
(1) Remember, not a single Republican voted for this mess, and we’ve voted repeatedly to repeal it and bury its staked corpse at a crossroads at midnight.
(2) George Orwell! Paging Mr. George Orwell!
(3) Fingers crossed tightly. He’s a very nice guy, and I can only imagine what he’s going through today.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


North Korea faxes South Korea threat of attack

December 23, 2013

I wouldn’t make too much of this. North Korea threatens flaming death almost weekly; it’s almost a hobby with them.


So *that’s* how they plan to pay for Obamacare

December 21, 2013

Obamacare drug bust

Via my blog buddy, ST. At least someone in the administration is determined to keep the president’s promise to hold down the net cost of Obamacare, dagnabbit!

This probably isn’t the Obamacare PR push the White House had in mind.

Earlier Friday, Massachusetts State troopers found 1,250 bags of heroin labeled with “Obamacare” during a traffic stop in Hatfield, Mass., according to a post published on the Facebook page of the Massachusetts State Police.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts State Police confirmed the incident, and explained that most times when sealed bags of heroin are found, they are stamped with a branding so that the strain can be identified.

“I think it’s whatever the person decides to put on it. So if the junkies who are buying them go, ‘Wow, that Obamacare stuff was really good,’” said Lt. Daniel Richard, adding that each of the bags weighed 0.3 grams.

“They label them with everything, so it’s not bizarre,” Richard said.

Look, hiring real computer techs to fix the bloody web site takes money, and… 😉

(Photo via the MA State Police Facebook page.)


Instead of a Government-Guaranteed Income, How About a Practical Plan to End the Washington Welfare State?

December 20, 2013

Hmmm… Block-granting the entire welfare state to the states to allocate as they need, then gradually eliminating it — a federalist approach. I like it.

International Liberty

The welfare state is a nightmare.

Programs such as Medicaid are fiscal catastrophes. The food stamp program is riddled with waste. The EITC is easily defrauded, even sending checks to prisoners. And housing subsidies are a recipe for the worst forms of social engineering.

The entire system should be tossed in the trash.

But what’s the alternative? Some libertarians argue that we should eliminate the dozens of Washington programs and replace them with a government-guaranteed minimum income. I address this issue in an essay for Libertarianism.org.

Some libertarians argue that the state should provide a minimum basic income, mainly because this approach would be preferable to the costly and bureaucratic amalgamation of redistribution programs that currently exist. It’s hard to disagree with the notion that the current system is a failure. The Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner has produced a searing indictment of the modern welfare…

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Though outraged, @AETV is happy to take “flyover folks'” money

December 20, 2013

My blog-buddy ST has already eloquently written about the intolerant, anti-Christian, anti-Southern bigotry behind A&E’s craven capitulation to liberal fascist pressure groups over “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson’s comments about sin and sinners, including homosexuality (1). Apparently, paraphrasing St. Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians is now enough to get one banned from television (2).

While ST has covered that angle admirably, I noticed something else. Last night I was watching a couple of episodes (coincidentally, I only started watching the day before this brouhaha exploded) of Duck Dynasty and stayed tuned in to catch another show called “Rodeo Girls.” As you can tell from the title, this show is not about a group of post-modern urban hipster liberals sitting around in their jammies, drinking hot chocolate and talking about healthcare. No, it’s about young, attractive women who compete in the rodeo circuit. (3) And the cultural similarities to Duck Dynasty got me wondering about the rest of A&E’s shows. (I don’t usually watch the network.) Let’s take a look at their line-up, shall we?

First, Duck Dynasty. Note that, as of today, Phil is still featured:

A&E Duck Dynasty

Next, American Hoggers. Just screams “Manhattan metrosexual,” doesn’t it?

A&E American Hoggers

Then we have “Crazy Hearts, Nashville.” A little country, a little sex:

A&E Crazy Hearts

But wait! There’s more! “Rodeo Girls!” Bikini-clad cowgirls riding stallions. (4) Yeah, I’m sure they’ll be lunching with Anna Wintour real soon.

A&E Rodeo Girls

Finally, we have “Storage Wars, Texas.” I wonder what they think of gun control and the individual mandate?

A&E Storage Wars

Notice a pattern? All these show involve people from what is disparagingly called “flyover country,” those lands beyond the pale the denizens of which the urban progressive elites like to patronize and treat like sub-normal children. And yet these are more than half the shows A&E has featured on their site. It seems pretty obvious that A&E is happy to promote shows featuring unsophisticated mouth-breathing hicks and earn money from the unsophisticated mouth-breathing hick audiences that watch, just so long as none of them express their unsophisticated mouth-breathing views.

Or maybe A&E’s honchos misread their audience:

Living in the echo chamber of the MSM’s ivory tower may well wind up costing A&E and their owners quite a bit.

Footnotes:
(1) To clarify, while I disagree with my esteemed co-blogger, Phil Robertson, and St. Paul about homosexuality being a sin, I respect their beliefs and wouldn’t want to ban them from the public square. Unlike A&E.
(2) No, I don’t think this is all that comparable to what happened to Martin Bashir. He spewed scatological, unhinged, hate-filled words at Sarah Palin. Phil just expressed his opinion in answer to a question, cited Scripture, and said it was up to God to judge. Huge difference.
(3) Watch out, Jessica! That Anthony is no good for you! (BTW, last night’s episode was set in Red Bluff, California. Not all of us are “L.A.” or “San Francisco” elitists.)
(4) Sigmund Freud, call your office.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


New malware hijacks your computer, encrypts files

December 20, 2013
"Just a glitch"

“Shouldn’t have opened that email”

This one’s insidious and perfectly timed for the holidays: a malware bomb disguised as an innocent-looking package tracking email:

It’s called cryptolocker ransomware.

Kevin Swindon is with the FBI in Boston.

“I would think about this particular type of malware as what would happen if your computer was destroyed,” Swindon said.

In the past 90 days, thousands of people worldwide have opened a seemingly innocuous link to track a holiday package. Suddenly, all the files on their computer are encrypted.

Joan Goodchild is the editor of “CSO,” Chief Security Officer magazine based in Framingham.

“This is a criminal operation. They are holding your folders and files ransom. We call this ransomware because that is exactly what it is. You need to pay in order to have access to them once again.”

And that’s what the Swansea police department did, paying $750 to unlock their computers. One wonders what happened to the poor schlimazl who first opened that email.

This is also a timely reminder to be careful about what emails you open. I’m sure almost anyone reading this has received “phishing” messages, fakes that look like they’re from real companies, but really want you to log into their fake web site so they can steal your ID and password. Some of them are so badly done, they’re funny, others are pretty slick pieces of work. This is more vicious, hijacking your system and extorting ransom to get it back.

Take my advice: if you receive email from a company where you have an account (such as Amazon, eBay, PayPal, &c…) that looks at all suspicious, don’t open it; instead, forward it to their security address. They’ll let you know if it’s real or not, and they’re very interested in tracking down fraudsters.

To borrow a line from Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Breaking: Sebelius now says you *can* buy catastrophic insurance

December 19, 2013
Obama foreign policy advisers

Obamacare planning experts

Remember, one of the excuses offered for the massive private insurance cancellations under Obamacare was that the existing policies –the ones you chose of your own free will– just weren’t good enough. So the government had to cancel them in order to encourage force you to buy better ones.

Which is why they are now going to let us buy insurance worse than the policies that they killed. Genius:

The Obama administration said Thursday it would allow millions of Americans whose insurance policies had been canceled to purchase bare-bones plans next year, in another eleventh-hour tweak to the law likely to cause consternation among insurance carriers.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a group of six senators in a letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal that people whose policies had been canceled because of new requirements under the health law would be allowed to purchase ‘catastrophic’ plans. Those plans had previously been restricted to people under the age of 30 or individuals who qualified for a set of specific hardship exemptions.

Call me a reactionary, right-wing, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing bitter-clinger, but wouldn’t it have been simpler and better to let people keep the blasted plans they already had and liked? I must be missing something that’s obvious to Our Betters in Washington.

I’d call this a clown-car operation, but then I’d have to find a clown to apologize to.

via Allahpundit

UPDATE: Good point from National Journal’s Clara Ritger: this is an exemption to the individual mandate, the core of Obamacare.

The Obama administration will not require the millions of Americans who received health-insurance plan cancellation notices to purchase a new policy next year.

They’re granting those consumers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a Department of Heath and Human Services spokeswoman confirmed. The mandate requires everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, the greater of $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014.

(…)

This change could have a more long-term impact. Catastrophic-coverage plans were priced with a 30-and-under consumer base in mind. And with thousands who were barred from the market due to preexisting conditions expected to purchase the new coverage, allowing people who already had coverage to go without it could upset the balance of the risk pool. The Affordable Care Act exchanges need enough healthy people to balance out the costs of care for the sick or premiums could rise in 2015, creating a “death spiral” and jeopardizing the law’s success altogether.

So… What, pray tell, happens to the mandate, now? Isn’t this one huge crack in the dam?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)