Category: Etcetera

I am CRomnibus, Hear Me Roar!

While we weren’t watching, Congress quietly passed a continuing resolution/omnibus bill to avoid a government shutdown and fund the government through FY 2015. The bill basically keeps spending flat and funds everything except the Department of Homeland Security, which will be the stage for a fight over Obama’s immigration orders.

I don’t have a problem with the budget, per se. Flat spending is OK, especially with revenues growing. Addressing the long-term problem is going to require entitlement reform, which is unlikely to happen while Obama is in the White House. But, as I said a month ago, I’d prefer the Republicans put together a reform package to balance the budget long term and force Obama to veto it.

What’s really gotten attention, however, are the riders on the bill, which are laws unrelated to the budget itself. I’ll go through them quickly.

  • The most controversial is the effort to block marijuana legalization in DC. It forbids the DC government from funding marijuana regulation. I think you can probably guess that I hate this provision. The DC voters decided to legalize pot. It’s ridiculous for Congress to override them like this and a worrisome sign that Republicans are going to fall on the wrong side of history. Again.
  • The bill increases the limits on what people can donate to political parties. I don’t really have a problem with this since organizations can give tens of millions if they want.
  • They have given some schools flexibility in how they meet the new nutrition requirements for school lunches. Considering that I think these new requirements are based on junk science and are going to leave active kids starving, I’ll take this baby step on the way to repealing the regulations completely.
  • They blocked the EPA from adding the sage grouse to the endangered species list. I don’t know much about this issue, but my impression is that the grouse is declining but not in danger of extinction.
  • They forbad the government from spending money painting portraits of government officials and committee chairs. Good. Let them pay for their own damn portraits. We pay them enough.
  • They extended the time that incandescent bulbs can be manufactured. Considering that I’m typing this by the dim light of a worthless CFC bulb, I’m fine with this.
  • They required the WIC program to include more fresh veggies. Sure.
  • They forestalled requiring truckers to get more sleep. I’m supportive of this law because I know someone who was nearly killed by a sleepy long-haul truck driver. This is one of those rare times I think the incentives are lined up badly and we need a regulation. Not that I expect truckers to obey it anyway; a trucker friend once showed me how to fake the logs to make it look like you’re getting the required sleep.
  • Some clean water rules are delayed in farming areas. Sure.
  • Gitmo prisoners can’t come to the United States. I’ve indicated that I would prefer these guys be tried, but that idea isn’t going anywhere.
  • They rolled back a provision of Dodd-Frank that forbids banks from using FDIC-backed money to trade in derivatives. This was one of the few Dodd-Frank provisions I liked. If banks want to play financial games, that’s fine. But I don’t want to have to bail them out when it inevitably blows up in their faces.
  • The bill blocks the IRS from targeting certain groups. This is fine, but I don’t see any reason why the IRS would obey a second law forbidding them from doing what they’re already doing.
  • The bill mandates sexual harassment training for Hill staffers. Sure. Everyone else in the country has to get sexual harassment training. Why should Congress be exempt?
  • So, a mixed bag overall. But what’s hilarious is that the liberals are screaming bloody murder over this, as if attaching unrelated riders to a budget bill is something that was invented this week. Our government has constantly done this. There’s even a phrase for it: land-mine legislation. Huge encroachments on our liberty are passed this way all the time.

    And to complain about the DC marijuana initiative being shut down this way is blazing hypocrisy. Yes, I think it was a bad thing to do. But when Barack Obama used the “stimulus” bill to shut down the DC Voucher program, we didn’t hear a peep out out of the liberals. So should the government of DC only have sovereignty when they’re doing something you like?

    I think we know the answer to that.

    Abolish the IRS – PUH-LEASE!

    There is no more feared an organization in this country, nay the world, than the IRS. I have had to deal with them and was all but told that you were guilty until you could prove beyond the shadow of a doubt otherwise. I won, but I paid an arm and a leg to get there, and never got the money back. Stories of people browbeaten by IRS tyrants abound. No mistake or omission is permitted when you are in their gun sights. So you can understand how it galls me to find out that an organization with this kind of tyrannical overreach now claims that they are bereft by problems that prevent them from proving their innocence.

    The IRS must go already. It’s a political weapon of the left and the political class, and nothing else. Americans are getting fucked over by these crooks and criminals. Abolish it and make the people working for the IRS live off government assistance. I doubt they can hold a real job anywhere outside government, anyway. And don’t forget to throw the Obama administration in jail. If I am guilty till I prove to the IRS that they are fucking idiots, then the same should apply to Black Jesus and his disciples. Implement a flat tax. No more loopholes. It will fix a lot of the political graft machine as well. And that’s why it won’t happen. The crooks are firmly in charge of things.

    Born on the Fifth of July


    So, yesterday, we celebrated Independence Day, recognizing the birth of out great nation and the courage of the men who took on the world’s greatest empire to be free of oppression. Despite my general curmudgeonliness about many things, I do love the Fourth. I read the Declaration of Independence each Fourth of July and spent the hour before the fireworks talking to Sal 11000 Beta about our history and what it all really means (the iPad was out of juice).

    Today is the Fifth of July. And on the fifth of July, we clear away the beer cans and fireworks and return to a nation that is doing far more to us than George III ever imagined.

    For example, we live in a nation in which 80,000 SWAT raids are launched every year, only 7% of which involve an active shooter or similar situation. One- to two-thirds of these raids turn up no contraband of any kind. If you’re thinking that statistic sounds a bit murky, you’re right: hundreds of police agencies told the ACLU they were no under obligation to even reveal the number of SWAT raids they launch every year. Some of them have put these raids under the command of a private agency and declared information about them to be “trade secrets”. These raids can result in things like blowing holes in two-year old children.

    We live in a nation where the Administration, when pressed to explain how they can claim the authority to drone strike Americans in foreign countries who might be terrorists, release a heavily redacted memo to justify their actions. That justification essentially amounts to “because terrorism”.

    We live in a country where the NSA has now admitted that it shares an unknown amount of information with the FBI. The nature of this data is not clear but it is unlikely that it all involves counter-terrorism. And we know that the DEA has used similar information to bring drug charges and then lied about where they got the information from.

    These are just a few examples of what is going on in the Land of the Free. I have chosen them because they are so far outside the pale — military raids on civilians, military attacks on Americans and universal surveillance. But would anyone doubt that our federal government has also “refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good”? That it has “erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance”? That our government, when its agents do wrong, goes about “protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States”?

    The thing is, we don’t have to fight a long and brutal war to change this. We still have the power of the vote and, more importantly, we still have the power of our voice. We have shown, in recent years, that we can be powerful when we try. Over the last few years, we curbed runaway spending, stopped SOPA and have turned the tide in the War on Drug (although the dark forces behind all three are relentless, and they will keep pushing until they get more spending, less internet freedom and more drug raids).

    We can stop this leviathan of a state without a shot being fired. But we need to focus on fighting it instead of each other. When politicians see the Tea Party and Occupy attacking each other instead of their common foe, they laugh. We have to stop caring whether the person agitating about a bad government policy is a Republican, a Democrat, a libertarian, a communist or a crypto-monarchist. If “our side” supports a bad policy, we still have to oppose it. And if “the other side” opposes a bad policy, we should make alliance with them, at least on that issue. We can wash our hands after the threat to freedom is squashed.

    Let July 4 remain a celebration. But let July 5 be a day we push harder to regain our essential freedoms. Let the rest of the year be a commitment to re-establishing our independence.

    Valar Morghulis

    Rich kicked off a discussion of Games of Thrones when last year’s season ended. Given the huge ratings, I suspect we have even more people watching it now. This season wrapped up last night with an absolute barn-burner of an episode for a barn-burner of a season.

    [Spoilers ahead]

    I must say this was my favorite season so far and not just because it was the first I was keeping up with in real time. We are finally seeing the pieces of GRRM’s chess game moving into position, with plot threads being resolved or dramatically changed. We saw the erasure of not one but two Lannisters, a possible resolution of the Wildlings plot and some real movement on Bran’s plot thread. Moreover, I think things are set up for some huge plot developments in the future. I don’t know where we are headed, but it should be a fun ride in seasons 5 and 6.

    Some scattered thoughts:

  • One of themes emerging from the series, referenced explicitly in episode three, is what it takes to be a king. It’s not enough to be a good and honorable man, as we saw with the Starks. There is a certain ruthlessness and pragmatism that comes with it. Tyrion showed this in his tenure as Hand. Daenarys is learning this now, after her disastrous start in Season One.
  • Another theme is that there is no black and white in Game of Thrones, only shades of gray. Characters are complex and can do good things one day and bad things the next. Jaime has become the embodiment of this. A lot of people were disappointed with the rape scene, thinking it undid all his character development. But Jaime has always been a mix. He’s both the man who saved King’s Landing and the man who shoved a small boy out of a tower window for discovering he was screwing his sister. Jaime’s character is often highly dependent on who he’s with. Tyrion and Brienne bring out the best in him. Cersei brings out the worst.
  • I think we can inscribe Peter Dinklage’s name on every acting award this year. He had numerous scenes this year that just took my breath away — the trial, the conversation with Oberyn, his final scene with Tywin. Dinklage has taken what I understand to be one of the favorite characters of the books and made him even better.
  • Speaking of Oberyn. I really liked him and Pedro Pascal’s performance was great. Episode eight was like a punch in the gut. But … he accomplished two out of his three objectives. In Game of Thrones, that’s not bad.
  • Now that Cersei is effectively ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, I expect things to go downhill very fast.
  • I hope Jorah finds a way to work himself back into Daenarys’ good graces.
  • Fans of the books who are upset that their favorite scenes weren’t in or things have been changed need to get a grip. GRRM is heavily involved in the series and has no doubt played a role in the changes. Reading interviews, I think one of the reason the books are taking so long is that he wrote himself into a corner (the “Meereenese knot”). Tolkien did this too but Tolkien had the luxury of going back and revising the earlier books before they were published to avoid the corners. I think some of the plot changes to the TV series are designed to avoid the mistakes he made in the earlier books and accelerate the story. We may therefore get an ending in 7 or 8 seasons instead of 14.
  • Anyway, post your thoughts.

    Know What You’re Doing, Or Take The Bus

    A reoccurring theme in many of my posts, a personal pet peeve (but you guys already knew that) is bad driving. Being proficient in the operation of the automobile is lost art. Any bozo can turn on the ignition, operate the gas peddle and brake, and steer, but for the true professional, mastering the intricacies of the perfect balance (performance and safety) it’s not just getting from point to A to B, the style in which the journey is taken speaks to the man himself.

    A few years back when I taught my son to drive (calculating stopping distances at different speeds, visual horizon, space cushion, real wheel cheat, front end swing, afterwards he commented that he could now drive the space shuttle) a selling point for his pursuit of excellence in this area was that any girl with him could see the mastery at which he handled his wheels and would naturally assume that the same care and technique would be delivered between the sheets.

    Many factors have gone into the diminution of driving ability over the years, but mostly folks never really learned how to drive in the first place. And now with the advent of cell phones, it is worse than ever. When ever I see a boneheaded move on the highway, the majority of the time the driver has a cell phone in his hand, giving that total attention to the detriment of his driving. I know it’s against the law, where are the cops when you need them?

    Clever PSA’s can be used to address the problem, here is one that just ran out of Hong Kong;

    Car companies (all of them) should spring for regular PSA’s, it’s just good business and will minimize liability claims when accidents do occur.

    The gold standard for clever PSA’s was this one that ran a few years ago;

    Anybody that does not wear his seat-belt is dumber than dirt, and beyond selfish if he has a family. This one was out of the UK, maybe because they drive on the wrong side of the road (wankers) they have more than their fair share of accidents so safety is big. Here is another one out of the UK;

    Ugh, drunk drivers, don’t get me started.

    Google is testing a car that drives itself, for many this is just what they need. For my oneself, I will be one of the last hold outs, refusing to relinquish an appreciation for the handling of a fine tuned automobile.

    Broken system acting broken? No way!

    Who would have thunk it? Demanding that the laws of economics & reality bend to the will of unicorn fart smellers and their do-good ideas has not worked as intended!

    It wasn’t supposed to work this way, but since the Affordable Care Act took effect in January, Norton Hospital has seen its packed emergency room become even more crowded, with about 100 more patients a month.

    That 12 percent spike in the number of patients — many of whom aren’t actually facing true emergencies — is spurring the hospital to convert a waiting room into more exam rooms.

    “We’re seeing patients who probably should be seen at our (immediate-care centers),” said Lewis Perkins, the hospital’s vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer. “And we’re seeing this across the system.”

    That’s just the opposite of what many people expected under Obamacare, particularly because one of the goals of health reform was to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by expanding Medicaid and giving poor people better access to primary care.

    Instead, many hospitals in Kentucky and across the nation are seeing a surge of those newly insured Medicaid patients walking into emergency rooms.

    Nationally, nearly half of ER doctors responding to a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians said they’ve seen more visits since Jan. 1, and nearly nine in 10 expect those visits to rise in the next three years. Mike Rust, president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, said members statewide describe the same trend.

    Experts cite many reasons: A longstanding shortage of primary-care doctors leaves too few to handle all the newly insured patients. Some doctors won’t accept Medicaid. And poor people often can’t take time from work when most primary care offices are open, while ERs operate round-the-clock and by law must at least stabilize patients.

    Yeah, I am sure many these people are “forced” to attend the ER instead of doing otherwise, because of doctor shortages and the decline in Medicaid accepting doctors, but the real fact IMO is that these people can’t be bothered. We can pretend it is because they can’t go to a doctor during regular hours, but I am willing to bet they are hitting the emergency rooms during those regular hours. I doubt most of these newcomers are employed to begin with. When you get shit you feel is free you aren’t inclined to worry much about how much it costs the people paying for it or how badly it is inconveniencing a system you now feel owes you shit.

    Setting up a primary physician, making an appointment, then keeping said appointment is likely way too much work for people that feel all that crap is just an obstacle to their whims. These “I want free healthcare” types just want a system where they show up and are taken care of. Like they want government to pay for everything and anything, no questions asked, because they were born.

    Seriously, this was not the way to get healthcare out to the masses. For people that love to tell us how to do things, the leftists sure dropped the ball on this issue. Then again, regulating ER access would not serve their plan to overload the system and bring it crashing down. After all, the end goal remains that single payer system they want.

    Time-Less Junk

    In between encomiums Of Hillary, Time Magazine (soon to follow Newsweek) tries to cast a wider net and write stuff with a more general appeal. This week they came up with a little “ideology” quiz, a test where answering non political personality questions can reveal political leanings. Take the test first before you read further.

    All done? Good, now we can all laugh at their gross generalities and biases.

    My score was 80% conservative. I’m betting it was low because I generally do not answer any questions with a “Strongly” anything, either agree or disagree. My only “strongly” was on border enforcement. Even the question about being proud of my country only garnered a “moderately agree” because I think we have made some mistakes, but they pale in relation to the US being a force for good in the world.

    The rest of the questions were just stupid. Libs are not hip, cutting edge, impetuous, or open minded, so any conclusions based on those answers means nothing. I use Chrome, would rather go to the Met,and have no problem with my partner watching porn, although being an old married guy I would prefer she not so I can avoid her pestering me that night. My desk is neat, big deal. The authority question was interesting. Nowadays, although I still have respect, it is more measured, and goes hand in hand with a leeriness and a distrust, a sign of the times we live in.

    So what was your score? Any of these questions have any relevance to anything?

    Vanilla Weather Report

    You East Coasters, you have my sympathies, although, who told you guys to live where the weather is shitty?

    No cracks about white guys can’t dance.

    We, on the west coast, another sunny day, although a little bit colder from our usual 70’s {yawn}.

    Um, maybe Sunblock UV 50 today.