County government crushes little girl’s cupcake business

January 31, 2014
I said, no fun allowed!

I said, no fun allowed!

And you thought the Nanny State’s “war on child entrepreneurs” was over, after the Great Lemonade Stand War of 2010-11. I’m sorry to say, my friends, that the enemy, enterprising children who want to earn a little money, has opened a new front, threatening us all with the horror of unregulated micro-businesses.

Thank God, however, that the Madison County, Illinois, Health Department is there to protect us from the danger of unlicensed cupcakes:

After-school jobs are tougher to keep, apparently, than they used to be.

On Sunday, a Belleville News-Democrat story featured 11-year-old Chloe Stirling of Troy, Ill., a sixth-grader at Triad Middle School who makes about $200 a month selling cupcakes.

According to a report I watched on Megyn Kelly’s show last night, her parents, seeing Chloe was both serious at her new hobby and good at it, made her an offer: if she saves the money she earns through selling cupcakes, they will match it when she’s 16 and help her buy a car. Great idea, right? Chloe learns some skills and responsibility, how to set and meet goals, and, who knows, maybe she goes on to open her own bakery and creates jobs for other people. “Women’s empowerment,” know what I’m saying?

Winning situation all-around, right?

Well, Nanny State is right there to put an end to this nonsense!

“[The county] called and said they were shutting us down,” Heather Stirling, Chloe’s mother, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Officials told Stirling Chloe could continue selling cupcakes on the condition that the family “buy a bakery or build her a kitchen separate from the one we have.”

“Obviously, we can’t do that,” Heather Stirling told reporters. “We’ve already given her a little refrigerator to keep her things in, and her grandparents bought her a stand mixer.”

The elder Stirling said that she was willing to get her daughter any necessary licenses or permits to operate a business, but could not meet the health department’s other demands.

“But a separate kitchen? Who can do that?” asked an astonished Stirling.

When asked why they were curb-stomping an 11-year old’s business, martinets for Madison county started channeling Judge Dredd:

Health department spokeswoman Amy Yeager said they had no choice but to ask Chloe to close Hey Cupcake.

The rules are the rules. It’s for the protection of the public health. The guidelines apply to everyone,’ she said.

Sharon Valentine, environmental health manager at St Clair County (1) Health Department, added: ‘If we let one person do it, how can we tell the person with 30 cats in their home that they can’t do it? A line has to be drawn.’

The local health department had been tipped off to Chloe’s baking business after she appeared on the front page of Belleville News Democrat at the weekend.

Somehow –and you can call me “naive”– but I think the “crazy cat lady” scenario is a bit different than a grade-schooler in her parents’ kitchen.

Now, lest I sound like a foaming at the mouth anarcho-capitalist, I’m not averse to regulating food businesses for public health. Restaurants, commercial bakeries, butcher shops and so forth, sure. There is a legit public health interest.

Still, let’s be reasonable here. This is the equivalent of making little Julie Murphy cry in the name of enforcing regulations really meant for adults and real businesses. Asking the parents to buy an inexpensive license, which they were willing to do, and maybe submit the kitchen to a health inspection should be enough.

But “buy a bakery or build a separate kitchen??” That smacks of a petty bureaucrat being bored and needing some enforcement actions to show for the annual review.

And maybe a little bit of cartelism, too. Reason has written several good articles about how occupational licenses are used to limit competition.

Such as from little girls who are saving for their first car.

License required.

License required

Footnote:
(1) Not sure why the Mail reporter called St. Clair county, which is next door to Madison county. I guess from a UK point of view, all those American counties look alike.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Ding-dong, Waxman’s gone!

January 30, 2014
Henry Waxman, D-Statist

Henry Waxman, D-Statist

Oh, this is a moment I’ve long looked forward to. Henry Waxman (D-CA), one of the most obnoxious progressives in the House and co-author of the economy-killing, state-growing Waxman-Markey climate bill, has decided to retire:

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, whose legislative record has made him one of the country’s most influential liberal lawmakers for four decades, announced Thursday that he will retire from his Westside seat, the latest in a wave of departures that is remaking the state’s long-stable congressional delegation.

Waxman-Markey failed, thank God, but the LAT article reminds us of another of Henry’s gifts to America:

Among his legislative victories was the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which he helped write and push through the House. Passage of the law fulfilled “one of my lifelong dreams” by guaranteeing access to healthcare coverage for Americans, he said.

Translated: “I’ve done all the damage I can do, so, since there is no chance Democrats will retake the House and we’ll likely lose the Senate, I might as well retire to enjoy my pension and become a lobbyist.”

Henry Waxman was Leviathan personified, a statist who tried his hardest to insert the federal government into every aspect of our lives. He is also a vile partisan who, I’m sure, regrets he couldn’t institute one-party rule.

His district here in Los Angeles is solidly Democratic, so there is no hope of a Republican pick up, but almost anyone the Democrats run will at least be no worse.

Goodbye and good riddance, Henry Waxman.

UPDATE: Charles Cooke reminds us that Waxman co-authored the Clean Air Act, which set the stage for the EPA’s aggressive rule-making, and signed off as often as he could on surrendering legislative authority to executive agencies. Bah.

UPDATE 2: Hmm. Per Allahpundit, maybe Henry’s seat isn’t so safe after all.


California: Jerry Brown’s high-speed payoff? #HSR

January 30, 2014
Boondoggle

Uncle Jerry’s High-Speed Boondoggle

Oh, no. This doesn’t look bad at all. First the Tutor-Perini (1) construction company, whom we’ve met before, wins a huge contract to build California’s high-speed rail, even though their record is… not the best. Then, after two defeats in state courts that put the whole project in jeopardy, Brown demands the state supreme court take the cases and overturn them — NOW!!! (2)

And what came between the lower courts’ decisions and Brown’s running to the supreme court? Why, a maximum contribution to Brown’s reelection campaign.

From Tutor-Perini:

The timing of the campaign contribution doesn’t sit well with the state Legislature’s leading critic of the $68 billion high-speed rail project.

“Let’s connect the dots,” said Senator Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, who has introduced a package of legislation “aimed at driving a stake through the heart” of the state’s bullet train. “The HSR Authority’s apparent bid-rigging lands this company a $1 billion contract, then this company gives Brown a max campaign contribution, and then Brown sues to bail the company out?”

“In farm country, this is called ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,’” Vidak said.

If Michelle Malkin ever writes a second edition of “Culture of Corruption,” I have a suggested new chapter for her, titled “California’s High-Speed Rip-Off.”

PS: Yeah, I tweeted this article a few minutes ago, but it has me so ticked off, I had to write about it. Garbage like this is one of the poisoned fruits of decades of one-party rule.

Footnote:
(1) The principal owner of which is Senator Diane Feinstein’s husband, let us not forget. Apparently not true any longer, Blume having divested himself of Tutor-Perini stock around October, 2005. (h/t Brock Winstead)
(2) Where he was rebuffed, I’m happy to say. Even the governor doesn’t get to jump the line.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Obamacare: California family finds “affordable care” to be neither

January 29, 2014
"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

It’s becoming an all too common story: people who thought Obamacare would solve their healthcare-coverage problems find instead that, thanks to bigger premiums, higher deductibles, and shrinking provider networks, they’re arguably worse off than before.

In this case, the victims (1) are the family of German Campos and Andrea Redamonti, themselves and their children, who live in Chico, CA. Redamonti and one of her children have been denied insurance in the past, so, to them, Obamacare seemed like the answer to their prayers.

But, now that the PPACA has kicked in, Redamonti is learning her dream was just a delusion:

“I was so excited,” Redamonti said about Obamacare. “My son and I had both been denied coverage previously, and with the new Obamacare, they couldn’t refuse us.”

But since signing up for Covered California in October, she’s been going in circles with the health exchange.

Simply securing the coverage has been a major headache. Redamonti has spent hours navigating the frequently failing website and on the phone with her provider, only to be asked for income verification for her sons — ages 10 and 8, and repeated requests for payment, even though her check was sent in weeks earlier.

In addition, their new insurance — the minimum available — costs $800 per month instead of the $650 they were paying before and carries a $15,000 deductible.

“When it finally happened and we figured out what we’d be paying and what our benefits would be, our hearts sank,” Redamonti said.

Technically, she’s been covered since Jan. 1, but still waiting on her medical ID card, it’s been difficult to make doctor’s appointments or fill prescriptions.

“I feel like I have paid for coverage and I don’t have it,” Redamonti said.

This is a story being repeated over and over across California, which, God help us, has one of the better-functioning Obamacare sites, and the nation in general: people think they’ll at last have coverage, only to discover they’ve been sold a worthless bill of goods.

By the Democratic Party, let me remind you.

Normally, this is where I’d express minimal or no sympathy with people like Ms. Redamonti and her family, but I’m actually quite sympathetic to her predicament. Worried for her child who has a congenital heart condition, herself at high risk for breast cancer, both denied coverage… Well, one can understand why she and her husband would see Obamacare as the relief they needed and why they’d be eager to buy into the fairy tale that was sold to them.

By the Democratic Party, I’ll point out, again.

What was it Reagan once said? Oh, yeah:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

I hope, genuinely, that Ms. Redamonti and Mr. Campos learn from this a lesson about government control of the economy –it doesn’t work and it makes things worse– and vote accordingly in the next election.

Where I find my sympathy lacking, though, is for people who just don’t get it, such as one of the doctors interviewed for the article. Co-owner of the pediatrics clinic where Redamonti’s children were treated, Dr. Eliza Brown had to turn them away because the insurance company refused to reveal their reimbursement rates, which were likely to be lower than under the old system. They’re a business after all and they have to recover costs. But then she had this to say:

Brown loves the idea of providing basic affordable coverage for everyone, but said the reality proves to be “nebulous and fuzzy,” and be more of a hindrance to health care than a help.

“If I can’t prescribe medicine because it will be denied or can’t give a vaccine to prevent illness because it will be denied, how do you provide care?” Brown said. “Medical decision-making is being put into insurance companies’ hands. They say what they will and will not provide and what can be prescribed.”

Effective health care reform is not possible without health insurance reform, Sullivan said.

With today’s higher premiums and lower reimbursement rates, the extra profit must go “straight into the pockets of the insurance companies and their shareholders,” she said. Care providers and patients suffer as a result.

I have little but contempt for the big insurers, who saw Obamacare as a way to get guaranteed rents thanks to the individual mandate, but Dr. Brown is missing the root of the problem here: it’s not the insurance companies determining allowed care and reimbursement rates, but the government via the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB), Sarah Palin’s “death panel.” (2) The insurance companies are now little more than divisions of HHS. She needs to learn that government cannot provide “affordable coverage for everyone” without somehow rationing care: by curtailing reimbursements or limiting access, or, in the case of Ms. Redamonti and her children, both.

Of course, situations such as these are opportunities for advocates of free markets and limited government; it’s up to us to explain gently to people suffering the same travails why statist health care cannot work and that there is a better way., which starts by not voting for the Democratic Party.

Because we’re from the People, and we’re here to help.

RELATED: From Moe Lane, more on shrinking Medicare provider networks. The Democrats are so going to enjoy November.

Footnote:
(1) And I use that word deliberately; the whole nation is a victim of this bill.
(2) Oh, that dumb chill-billy. Right again.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A “Human Right” to Other People’s Money

January 29, 2014

Your money. It’s my right.

International Liberty

One of the many differences between advocates of freedom and supporters of statism is how they view “rights.”

Libertarians, along with many conservatives, believe in the right to be left alone and to not be molested by government. This is sometimes referred to in the literature as “negative liberty,” which is just another way of saying “the absence of coercive constraint on the individual.”

Statists, by contrast, believe in “positive liberty.” This means that you have a “right” to things that the government will give you (as explained here by America’s second-worst President). Which means, of course, that the government has an obligation to take things from somebody else. How else, after all, will the government satisfy your supposed right to a job, education, healthcare, housing, etc.

Sometimes, the statists become very creative in their definition of rights.

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#Benghazi: Lady Macbeth regrets

January 28, 2014
American Blood, US Consulate, Benghazi

“Madame sends her regrets.”

The Democratic Party’s presidential nominee-in-waiting (1) spoke before the annual convention of the National Automobile Dealers’ Association in New Orleans last weekend and took full responsibility for the security lapses at Benghazi that led to the deaths of four Americans, including the Ambassador, saying, “I was in charge, but I put politics ahead of good sense. I failed, and now four good men are dead because of my failure.”

Wait. No, she didn’t.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton remained vague Monday about whether she will run for president in 2016 and said the attacks on the U.S. outposts in Benghazi, Libya, were the biggest regret of her four years as the United States’ top diplomat.

Before a large crowd of politically active car dealers, Clinton, the overwhelming favorite among possible Democratic presidential contenders, discussed her signal accomplishments — notably a recommendation that U.S. commandos go into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden (2) — and her regrets.

“My biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi,” she said during a question-and-answer session after her keynote speech at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in a packed 4,000-seat room.

Four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed when militants attacked the lightly protected U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi and a better-fortified CIA base nearby on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

“Regrets.” Pardon me while I spit. Regrets are what you send when you can’t attend a dinner party. Regret is what you feel for not asking that neat girl or guy in high school to the prom, or when you turn down a great job offer and later realize how stupid you were.

Those are things you regret.

What happened in Benghazi was an atrocity, a murderous attack on US government personnel made possible by multiple layers of serial incompetence at the State Department, including the Secretary of State, herself, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Regrets?” Try “criminal negligence.”

Instead of speaking to car dealers, Clinton should be facing a jury.

via Sister Toldjah in email

PS: Might as well get this out of the way — “What difference, at this point, does it make?” A lot, Hill. A lot.

Footnotes:
(1) In her own mind, at least.
(2) Please. I’ll give Obama credit for ordering a direct assault on bin Laden, but, let’s be real: any American president, including James Buchanan and Jimmy Carter, would have done the same. And, Hillary? You were just one adviser among many.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Ukraine’s Hidden Hand

January 27, 2014

What was Sidney Greenstreet’s line from “Casablanca?” “It’s the Russian’s hand, no doubt!”

The XX Committee

As I write this, Ukraine’s crisis continues to worsen, with the threat of serious violence rising, and today the justice minister hinted that martial law may be imminent. If the Yanukovych regime attempts such a decree, it will divide the police and the army and may quickly cause a bona fide civil war. My hope for a peaceful resolution of this crisis is dwindling. Europe is facing its most serious crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union.

One of the big issues among Ukraine’s opposition has been the nefarious role played by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin in this sad affair. It’s universally assumed by oppositionists that Moscow’s encouragement, at the least, led to the latest round of repression in Kyiv, which has stoked the fires of resistance to their current burning point.

Evidence is generally lacking, since such matters are conducted in secret, but enough has already appeared in the…

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He’s the Smartest President Ever, so give him easy words

January 27, 2014
Liar.

No big words, please

From Florida’s Shark Tank via Jim Geraghty’s Morning jolt, it seems we have an explanation for the “Polish death camps” kerfuffle that roiled relations between our two countries a while back.

His speechwriter was trying to protect him:

In an exclusive audio file furnished by Shark Tank reporter, Special K, the President’s $75K a year speechwriter, Kyle O’Connor, who wrote the speech in question, discussed how this gaffe really came about during a talk he had with a group of college kids in Washington, D.C.

O’Connor stated that he was concerned about the pronunciation of the name of the death camp, so he opted to remove the name from the speech, and replace it with “Polish death camp.”

According to O’Connor, all of Obama’s “Wizards of Smart” didn’t  catch the gaffe, and signed off on it, but after the political excrement hit the fan, O’Connor was told that it was not a big deal, that, “ no one could have caught it.”

Per Power Line (h/t Geraghty), the camp’s name was “Belzec.” Yep. Real toughie, there.

As for “not a big deal,” if you’ll recall, the Poles were none too happy that Nazi death camps were attributed to them, thanks to sloppy speech writing. “No one would have caught it?” Pardon me? Just how ignorant are these people? The Holocaust is one of the most horrific events in human history, and the Nazis placed many of the camps in occupied Poland. No one ran this speech by the guy on the East European desk at State? Surely, after he was done spit-taking, he would have gently informed (1) the White House they were about to gravely insult an ally. Again.

Once again, no one in this administration was held responsible for their performance. Instead, the whole thing became a standing joke involving camps where genocide took place. Read the rest for the punch line.

If the words “juvenile” and “callow” come to mind when you think of this administration, you’re not far off.

Footnote:
(1) As in screaming his lungs out.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


North Korea: Kim Jong Un executes uncle’s entire family, including children

January 27, 2014
"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“Wait. We missed a few?”

Sounds like Kim III got drunk again. Having executed his uncle, perhaps by feeding him alive to the dogs, it now appears he’s had almost the entire family wiped out:

North Korea ruler Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered that all blood relatives of his executed uncle be put to death, continuing an apparent purge of all he sees as threats to his reign.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, citing multiple sources, reported Sunday that “extensive executions” of relatives of Jang Song-thaek had been carried out.

“All relatives of Jang have been put to death, including even children,” one source told Yonhap. Among those reported dead were Jang’s sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and Pyongyang’s ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin, and the North Korean ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol, a nephew of Jang, as well as his two sons.

In addition, Yonhap reported that the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of Jang’s two brothers were executed as well.

Some were shot in the street if they tried to resist arrest. But, merciful little sociopath that he is, Kim let relatives by marriage go into internal exile in North Korean villages. Given this is the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, I’m not sure that’s much of a mercy.

I stand by my prediction that Kim’s actions are pretty soon going to convince (1) some senior army officer that Kim should have a fatal “accident” (2), before he turns a drunken eye to said soldier.

Meanwhile, don’t you feel all warm and fuzzy that Kim has nuclear weapons at his disposal?

Please, whoever you are, hurry up with that coup.

Footnotes:
(1) If it hasn’t already. In a totalitarian police state, these things have to be done slowly and carefully.
(2) Such as “Sudden Cranial Lead Poisoning” syndrome.


Everything You Ever Needed to Know about the Left’s View of Income Inequality, Captured in a Single Image

January 26, 2014

Good illustration. Everyone understands pizza.

International Liberty

If you want to know why the left is wrong about income inequality, you need to watch this Margaret Thatcher video. In just a few minutes, the “Iron Lady” explains how some – perhaps most – statists would be willing to reduce income for the poor if they could impose even greater damage on the rich.

This picture is another way of getting across the same point. It was sent to me by Richard Rahn (famous for the Rahn Curve), and it uses two pizzas to show how leftist policies would “solve” inequality.

Leftist Fairness

I like this analogy, and not just because I also used the pizza analogy to make the same argument in this TV interview.

The growing or shrinking pizza is useful because it helps to focus people on the importance of growth.

Nations that follow the right policy recipe can enjoy the kind of strong…

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UN climate chief sees her job as “sacred.”

January 26, 2014
"Our mission is sacred; let none deny it."

“Our mission is sacred; let none deny it.”

Courtesy of the dread William Teach of Pirate’s Cove, the United Nation’s “Executive Secretary for Climate,” Cristina Figueres, sounds like she’d be more at home in a temple to Gaea than in a position supposedly dealing with empirical science. Her job, you see, is sacred:

The top climate official at the United Nations has described her role in pushing nations to contain the Earth’s climate as a “sacred” job.

“We are truly defining the quality of life for our children,” Christina Figueres, the U.N.’s executive secretary for climate, told USA TODAY on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“We have to do everything we can because there is no plan B because there is no planet B,” she said.

“I fully intend my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be able to live on this planet. This job is a sacred responsibility,” Figueres said.

She also notes that the world has spent a trillion dollars so far to fight climate change and that we need to spends trillions and trillions more. Every year. And all controlled by the UN, I’m sure.

Okay, we’ve all heard people at times sacralize their job, usually to show their dedication to a task that involves significant risk or hardship. Military and police come to mind. And, sure, politicians often prattle on about the sacred trust they’ve been given by their constituents, but most of us recognize that as a rhetorical device. Perhaps that’s the case for Ms. Figueres, too.

But I don’t think so.

Instead, it has the ring of sanctimony that brooks no debate or challenge. Indeed, if you question man-caused global warming or what, if anything, needs to be done to fight it, you’re putting her descendants at risk. It moves from being a matter of empirical, testable science, on which there can be reasonable disagreement, to a tenet of faith and morality, something holy. Disagree with her “sacred mission,” and you become a “denier,” one who has denied the faith. It’s a short step from there to being designated a “traitor to planet” and perforce evil.

It would be funny, if only these people weren’t in positions of influence and power, with the ability to implement their programs to our great harm, if we don’t keep a close eye on them.

That’s our “sacred responsibility.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


When Did Global Warming Begin?

January 25, 2014

Hint: It’s a trick question. This is a very good essay on the question of warming and warming peaks over a geologic time scale. Two items to take away from it: first, of the various warming periods since the end of the last glaciation, the one with the highest “peaks” was the first, roughly 7,500 years ago. Where was all that human-generated CO2 then? Second, from that first warming peak, all the subsequent warming periods (Roman Warming, &c.) have had successively lower peaks. In other words, they’re warming, but less and less an less… Well worth reading.

Hint: It’s a trick question. This is a very good essay on the question of warming and warming peaks over a geologic time scale. Two items to take away from it: first, of the various warming periods since the end of the last glaciation, the one with the highest “peaks” was the first, roughly 7,500 […]

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Schumer calls for Obama to use IRS as weapon against Tea Party. UPDATE: Et tu, Booker?

January 24, 2014
"And an upgrade to the Lido Deck. Because it's your right, baby!"

A shark has a more sincere smile

Wait, didn’t we just have a national stink over the IRS harassing conservative and libertarian groups for their political beliefs? Yet now, not at all hiding his lack of understanding of or even his disdain for the principles that underlie our political system, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in a speech at the progressive Center for American Progress, has called on President Obama to use the IRS to limit the activities of these same groups.

Arguing that Tea Party groups have a financial advantage after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, Schumer said the Obama administration should bypass Congress and institute new campaign finance rules through the IRS.

“It is clear that we will not pass anything legislatively as long as the House of Representatives is in Republican control, but there are many things that can be done administratively by the IRS and other government agencies—we must redouble those efforts immediately,” Schumer said.

“One of the great advantages the Tea Party has is the huge holes in our campaign finance laws created [by] the ill advised decision [Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission],” Schumer said. “Obviously the Tea Party elites gained extraordinary influence by being able to funnel millions of dollars into campaigns with ads that distort the truth and attack government.”

What really upsets Chuck is free speech and that these groups are effective at getting their message out and that people respond to it. Citizens United merely respected the First Amendment and, in the process, somewhat leveled the playing field against liberal donor groups and the liberal MSM that gives the Democrats arguably illegal in-kind aid. Can’t have that.

Note also his acknowledgement that no further restrictions on political speech would pass the House. Smart man, that Chuck. What escapes him, or really what he refuses to admit, is that the massacre his party suffered in the 2010 midterms in the House was due to popular reaction against his party and its policies. Quite literally, the Republican Party, the majority party in the House –the People’s House–  represents the will of most of the American people.

His solution? Rule by decree via administrative rule-making, in defiance of that will. Use the power of big government to silence the proponents of limited government.

Admit it, Chuck: What you really want is an Enabling Act, not a Constitution.

It seems Chuckie also hates competition. Would-be tyrants usually do.

Schumer also proposed electoral reform in his speech. “Our very electoral structure has been rigged to favor Tea Party candidates in Republican primaries,” he said.

He argued that this is due to the political makeup of primary voters and gerrymandering by Republicans who “draw districts where a Democrat could never be elected.”

Schumer recommended a primary system “where all voters, members of every party, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a run-off.”

Whining against gerrymandering is rich, since Democrats have long benefited from the creation of safe seats. I don’t like it; I’d like to get rid of it. But those are the rules we have now, so, tough, Senator.Try enacting policies that don’t lead to a wipe out in state-level elections, and maybe on day your allies will control the process. And I’ll bet you’ll suddenly be a fan of the system, too.

The leaders of the Democratic Party sure have a problem with democracy, don’t they?

PS: Anyone else get a weird vibe from Schumer, like he’s sworn an oath to Don Corleone? The guy just oozes “made man.”

RELATED: Ted Cruz sends a letter to Eric Holder, demanding an independent prosecutor to look into the IRS scandal. Worth reading.

UPDATE: Just an hour ago on Twitter, Senator Cory “Imaginary Friend” Booker (D-NJ) had this to say about Senator Schumer’s call for restrictions on free speech:

via Katnandu

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Fast and Furious: DoJ Inspector General looking into missing third gun

January 23, 2014
Brian Terry

Brian Terry

When Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by Mexican drug smugglers near Arizona’s border with Mexico in late 2010, two firearms were recovered that, while traceable to weapons bought through the felony-stupid Operation Fast and Furious, were unable to be identified as the murder weapon. (Neither were they wholly ruled out.) Months after that, strong suspicions arose regarding a possible third weapon, which vanished mysteriously. Audio recordings and emails from that time attest to its existence. Since then, though, the question of “the third gun” has lain fallow.

Until now, that is. CBS’ Sharyl Attkisson breaks the news of a preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General:

In a new development in the Fast and Furious gunwalking case, the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) is making inquiries into the possible existence of a missing third weapon in the 2010 murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, CBS News has learned. According to sources close to the investigation, the IG is questioning the Border Patrol’s evidence collection team this week in Tucson, Ariz.

(…)

But references to a missing third weapon, a Soviet-made SKS rifle of the same caliber as the WASR’s, have persisted since the crime. CBS News previously obtained and reported on secretly recorded conversations referencing such a gun. The tapes were recorded approximately mid-March 2011 by the primary gun dealer cooperating with ATF in Fast and Furious: Andre Howard, owner of Lone Wolf Trading Company in Glendale, Ariz.

In the audiotapes, ATF’s lead agent on Fast and Furious, Hope MacAllister, tells Howard that a third weapon recovered at the Terry murder scene is an SKS rifle. It’s unclear why a weapon would be absent from the evidence disclosed at the crime scene under FBI jurisdiction. If it’s proven to exist, sources familiar with the investigation say it would imply possible evidence-tampering for unknown reasons.

Based on investigations since then, for example the report of the House Oversight Committee and Katie Pavlich’s book, Fast and Furious, and assuming the firearm exists (1), one can speculate on several possible reasons why someone would make this weapon disappear, most of them centering around the Arizona ATF and US Attorney’s offices covering up a massive screw up that now had the potential for serious criminal liabilities. (2)

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what the Inspector General’s investigation turns up, and I’m sure the House Oversight and Judiciary committees will be watching closely, too.

Footnote:
(1) I think the winning bet is that it does.
(2) From what I’ve read so far, I don’t think it likely that the DoJ in D.C. was involved in hiding the weapon, if it exists. That smells more like a local CYA effort. Main Justice’s interests in Fast and Furious looks more like piggybacking on an already-running ATF operation, seeing in it the opportunity to gain public support for further restrictions on long guns. Hence the strong support they gave it. Whatever the whole truth is, though, I don’t think we’re going to know it for a long time.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Social Democratic Sweden headed for private health insurance?

January 22, 2014
Wave of the future?

Wave of the future?

The poster-child for European social democracy seems to be learning that government-controlled healthcare just doesn’t work. Via Reason:

According to Sweden’s insurance trade industry organization, Svensk Försäkring:

“The number of private health care insurance policies has increased in recent years. In 2011 about 440,000 people had private health care insurance. Most of these people have their policy paid by their employer.”

The trend continues, with the English-language The Local reporting last week that “One in ten Swedes now has private health insurance.” The site also says, “More than half a million Swedes now have private health insurance,” though that seems to refer to the growth in the number of policies, with many more of the country’s 9.5 million people actually covered by private insurance.

Why the growth? From The Local:

“‘It’s quicker to get a colleague back to work if you have an operation in two weeks’ time rather than having to wait for a year,” privately insured Anna Norlander told Sveriges Radio on Friday. “It’s terrible that I, as a young person, don’t feel I can trust the health care system to take care of me.'”

In a separate article about Sweden’s shrinking welfare state, The Local also noted that “visitors are sometimes surprised to learn about year-long waiting times for cancer patients.”

There’s more about Sweden’s move away from Socialism and toward free-market solutions. I’ve written about this trend myself, with regard to education and prosperity in general.

Like many people living on either coast, I have friends who are downright Europhiliac — anything Europe does is better, wiser, and more fair than what’s done in the United States, and we should move toward their model.

I can’t wait to tell my progressive friends how Sweden proves they’re right.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obamacare chronicles: Target part-timers to lose their health plans

January 22, 2014
"Targeted"

“Targeted”

Why, because the company found it more economical to cancel the plans, give the employees a cash payout, and tell them to go find their insurance on the exchanges.

Just as the progressives planned:

Target Corp. (TGT) will end health insurance for part-time employees in April, joining Trader Joe’s Co., Home Depot Inc. and other U.S. retailers that have scaled back benefits in response to changes from Obamacare.

About 10 percent of part-time employees, defined as those working fewer than 30 hours a week, use Target’s health plans now, according to a posting yesterday on the Minneapolis-based company’s website. Target is the second-largest U.S. discount retailer by sales and had about 361,000 total employees last fiscal year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the largest regulatory overhaul of health care since the 1960s, creating a system of penalties and rewards to encourage people to obtain medical insurance. The law known as Obamacare doesn’t require most companies to cover part-time workers, and offering them health plans may disqualify those people from subsidies in new government-run insurance exchanges that opened in October.

“You see a lot of retailers making adjustments in contemplation of the full effect of the employer mandate penalties in 2015,” Neil Trautwein, a lobbyist with the National Retail Federation, a trade group in Washington, said in a phone interview. “Even though it is not effective yet, it is already having an effect on the job market and putting companies where they would probably not otherwise want to be.”

The move should also reduce the cost of Target’s health benefits, Trautwein said.

That last makes plain what we already knew: that Obamacare creates perverse incentives for employers to cut hours and, in the case of Target and others, drop coverage, because it saves them money, regardless of the cost to the employee. But, hey, the employees may well qualify for a subsidy… increasing the burden on an already-suffering middle class and making both dependent on government. But that’s the point: the non-reforming reforms that create such friction in the system that the people will eventually accept a single-payer solution.

Just ask Harry Reid.

Meanwhile, to those Target part-timers who voted Democratic in the last two elections and thought they were getting “free” healthcare or that their plans would be left alone… Congratulations. This is what you really voted for.

Elections have consequences, folks.

"Obamacare has arrived"

“Obamacare has arrived”

Yep.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Inventor of the Global-Warming ‘Hockeystick’ Doubles Down

January 21, 2014

An update on the wretched Michael Mann, the fantasist …er… “scientist” who created the infamous hockey stick. It’s amazing to me that the AGW movement has survived its discrediting.

An update on the wretched Michael Mann, the fantasist …er… “scientist” who created the infamous hockey stick. It’s amazing to me that the AGW movement has survived its discrediting.

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On birthday parties, income inequality, and big government

January 20, 2014
"By invitation, only."

“By invitation, only.”

So, in all the excitement of the NFL’s “championship weekend” the featured the 49ers thrilling come-from-ahead loss in Seattle (1), I forgot it was Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday. You can bet she didn’t forget, though, enjoying a lavish party attended by 500 celebrities and political stars. An intimate soirée, in other words.

Like Byron York, I’ve no need to know the details, assuming the party was paid for with private money, but the intense secrecy surrounding it is intriguing:

It’s not easy to enforce discipline on successful, wealthy, and famous people used to having their own way. But the White House apparently did not want to see photos of the first lady’s glittery gala circulating around the Internet. So it imposed a strict rule: No cellphones. “Guests were told not to bring cellphones with them, and there was a cellphone check-in area for those who did,” reported the Chicago Tribune. “Signs at the party told guests: No cellphones, no social media.” People magazine added: “Guests had been greeted by a ‘cell phone check’ table where they deposited their camera phones on arrival and it was understood that this was not an occasion for Tweeting party photos or Facebooking details.” The publications cited sources who insisted on anonymity for fear of White House reprisal.

“So great was the secrecy surrounding the party,” the Tribune reported, “that guests were handed an invitation — on their way out, the sources said.”

Kind of amusing for the Most Transparent Administration in History, no?

York speculates on the reasons for the secrecy, including the aforementioned privacy. But, he also touches on another, one that I think is at least equally valid – political messaging:

Or maybe, since the president has announced he is devoting the rest of his time in office to an “inequality agenda,” the White House felt photos of a champagne-soaked, star-studded party would be somewhat off-message.

I’m willing to bet this is it. The Left is singing like a chorus about income inequality and the widening gap, hoping to distract us all from the rolling disaster of Obamacare, and Michelle’s big blow-out would sound a loud discordant note, if it had gotten out on the Internet.

The truth the Ancien Régime misses while enjoying their luxurious parties at Versailles-on-the-Potomac, however, is that their parties are not the problem. No one really cares whether Michelle invites five, fifty, or five-thousand guests. No one cares (other than as an object of mockery) how many snobby dinner parties Anna Wintour throws for her glitterati friends.

The real problem, according to David Malpass in the Wall St. Journal, is that the Left’s preferred big-government, class warfare policies make the dread inequality worse more often than not:

Big government expansions in recent years have harmed individuals with modest incomes while exempting or benefiting people with higher incomes. These include the federal takeover of the mortgage industry, and the Federal Reserve’s decisions to keep interest rates near zero and buy some $3 trillion in bonds. Both of these expansions channel credit to the government and the well-connected at the expense of savers and new businesses.

Middle-income earners used to be the primary beneficiary of the rise in the value of their houses. Housing gains now lift Washington, allowing the government to pay itself huge “dividends” from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Reserve, which owns nearly $1.5 trillion in the government’s housing-related bonds. The government promptly spends the windfalls, fueling a further accumulation of wealth and income for those with Washington access.

The financial industry is making billions in profits fueled by the government’s provision of zero-rate loans for those with connections and collateral. Wall Street’s upper crust is the epicenter for financing the contractors, lobbyists and lawyers that help the government spend money. Meanwhile, government grabs a huge share of the profits generated by small businesses. It piles on opaque regulations, complex tax rules and countless independent agencies, producing a system that works against small businesses and the middle class. The Affordable Care Act takes pains to exempt Congress, government, corporations and unions, but leaves the rest severely exposed, adding to inequality.

This week’s congressional budget deal saw a narrow group of Washington’s elite legislators and lobbyists working over the weekend to divvy up nearly $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending for 2014. Much of the spending and all of the lobbying and debt underwriting costs will benefit those with high incomes while the extra debt falls heavily on the middle class.

Thus while Our Betters in D.C. and Manhattan and Hollywood graciously deign to run our lives for us (when they’re not attending a fancy-dress ball or jetting off to another exclusive resort), the burdens they impose on our lives really just enrich their friends at our expense and leave us holding the bag.

There’s a genuine opening or moment for a populist revolt coming. Not the Left-wing, class warfare kind the progressives like to sucker us with (and for which far too many fall), but a Jacksonian, democratizing electoral uprising against governing elites represented largely, but not exclusively, by today’s Democratic Party. A rising that would restore opportunity for us all, not trap us like Europe in social democratic amber.

We saw the first wave of this with the Tea Party rising of 2010, and Obamacare creates the conditions for another. The question is, will the Republican Party have the sense and the skill to take advantage of it?

We’ll see.

Footnote:
(1) Okay, I’m done pouting. Really. Just wait’ll next year…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


California’s drought situation in pictures – what a difference one year makes

January 18, 2014

We’re in the worst drought since 1898, at least, but it has to do with the Pacific Ocean, not the demon Global Warming. Read the whole thing. There are some impressive pictures there, too. And once again we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, failing to build enough water storage, thanks to environmental groups adamantly opposed to even the most sensible development. What was that fable about the ant and the grasshopper again?

We’re in the worst drought since 1898, at least, but it has to do with the Pacific Ocean, not the demon Global Warming. Read the whole thing. There are some impressive pictures there, too. And once again we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, failing to build enough water storage, thanks to environmental groups adamantly opposed […]

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Scientific journal shut down for questioning man-caused global warming. Updated

January 18, 2014
"Burn, heretics!"

“In the name of Gaea, burn, heretics!”

This isn’t science; this is the return of Lysenkoism, where all research must conform to the Party line.

Background: The journal Pattern Recognition in Physics was founded ten months ago to research patterns discovered throughout the physical sciences. In a special issue published in 2013, the editors, many of them noted climate change skeptics, opined that the data published in the issue cast doubt on the claims of accelerated anthropogenic global warming put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the “Vatican” of the climate alarmist movement.

And for this heresy, the journal was shut down:

Copernicus Publications started publishing the journal Pattern Recognition in Physics (PRP) in March 2013. The journal idea was brought to Copernicus’ attention and was taken rather critically in the beginning, since the designated Editors-in-Chief were mentioned in the context of the debates of climate skeptics. However, the initiators asserted that the aim of the journal was to publish articles about patterns recognized in the full spectrum of physical disciplines rather than to focus on climate-research-related topics.

Recently, a special issue was compiled entitled “Pattern in solar variability, their planetary origin and terrestrial impacts”. Besides papers dealing with the observed patterns in the heliosphere, the special issue editors ultimately submitted their conclusions in which they “doubt the continued, even accelerated, warming as claimed by the IPCC project” (Pattern Recogn. Phys., 1, 205–206, 2013).

Copernicus Publications published the work and other special issue papers to provide the spectrum of the related papers to the scientists for their individual judgment. Following best practice in scholarly publishing, published articles cannot be removed afterwards.

In addition, the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing and not in accordance with our  publication ethics we expect to be followed by the editors.

Therefore, we at Copernicus Publications wish to distance ourselves from the apparent misuse of the originally agreed aims & scope of the journal as well as the malpractice regarding the review process, and decided on 17 January 2014 to cease the publication of PRP. Of course, scientific dispute is controversial and should allow contradictory opinions which can then be discussed within the scientific community. However, the recent developments including the expressed implications (see above) have led us to this drastic decision.

Interested scientists can reach the online library at: www.pattern-recogn-phys.net

Martin Rasmussen
January 2014

The bolded portion shows the editors’ real crime, whatever else Mr. Rasmussen claims (1): they had the temerity to question the dogma of the IPCC.

I don’t hold a PhD, or any advanced degree in the sciences, but I know enough to know this is not the scientific method, which does not just encourage skepticism and probing questions, but positively demands it. To say now that the IPCC’s hypothesis cannot be tested, that the “science is settled” and that if you dare question the Holy Writ, you will be silenced, is an absolute disgrace. The only question in my mind is whether the publisher, the ironically named “Copernicus Publications” was guilty of “noble cause corruption,” or was simply afraid of the wrath of the Warmists.

Regardless, this inability to accept disagreement as legitimate is a common feature of the progressive mind (2). Having discerned The Truth, all questioning must be stopped. If you doubt the The Truth, you are stupid at best or evil at worst, but you cannot be intellectually honest and have honorable motives. Think about it: do you criticize abortion on demand? Then you must want to enslave women and be some sort of religious fascist. Do you express doubt about the welfare state? You must hate poor people. Do you worry about the integrity of our elections and think requiring identification to vote would be a good idea? RACIST!!!

Express even the mildest doubts about the IPCC’s claims, and you will be silenced.

Whatever this is, it ain’t science.

But MiniTrue would approve.

via Jo Nova

Footnotes:
(1) In her post, Jo notes that the paragraph on “nepotistic bias” seems to have been added after the notice’s initial publication. It’s a darkly funny accusation, given the widespread corruption of the peer-review process, particularly within climate science.
(2) Happens too often on the Right, too, but, in that case, it’s a bug. For progressives, I contend, it’s a feature.

UPDATE 1/20/14: At Watt’s Up With That, perhaps the best known of the AGW-skeptic sites, Anthony Watt’s looks at PRiP‘s shutdown and finds blame on both sides and some validity to the “nepotistic bias” or “pal-review” accusation.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)