They don’t get it, but you better do…

The cynic in me sees this IRS story as nothing more than an extension of the criminal activity that this administration has been involved with.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Filing a federal tax return is about to get more complicated for millions of families because of President Barack Obama’s health law. But they shouldn’t expect much help from the Internal Revenue Service.

Got a question for the IRS? Good luck reaching someone by phone. The tax agency says only half of the 100 million people expected to call this year will be able to reach a person.

Callers who do get through may have to wait on hold for 30 minutes or more to talk to someone who will answer only the simplest questions.

“Taxpayers who need help are not getting it, and tax compliance is likely to suffer over the longer term if these problems are not quickly and decisively addressed,” said a report Wednesday by agency watchdog Nina E. Olson.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says budget cuts are forcing the agency to reduce taxpayer services and other functions. The number of audits will decline, technology upgrades will be delayed and the agency might be forced to shut down and furlough workers for two days later this year, Koskinen said.

The most frightening organization on the planet basically is holding us all hostage, and I doubt this isn’t on purpose. On the one hand they are pretending they need even more people and power to do the job, which will then just translate to even more of them using the power of the IRS to target political enemies of the left like they are doing here, and on the other they are setting everyone up so they can sick the evil apparatus on those political enemies. Killing 2 birds with one stone as it were.

If there ever was another reason to show us why in the name of real fairness we should go to a flat tax, this is it. A flat tax however would destroy the most powerful weapon the left believes it has – the ability to pray on the envious nature of the masses and to then use that to make the connected lefty political class and their friends rich and powerful, all while doing nothing for the idiots that suck that class warfare bullshit up like it was a gourmet cock – and that’s why we will never get it. I won’t even engage in that stupid argument that they mean well but execute poorly, because it is obvious to me that’s plain bullshit.

The IRS needs to fucking go, as does the collectivist movement. Unfortunately, to quote Einstein or some other famous dude, the two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity, and that’s why collectivism and failed and evil institutions like the IRS keep hanging around.

I am sure I will be audiited again this year, but it is all a coincidence. Fuck you all.

Take That. And That. And That

I’ve been sitting on this story for a few days because, frankly, I couldn’t believe it. I was sure someone was putting me on. We’ve heard of really awful responses to the extremely rare school shootings that happen in this country, including simulated attacks that terrify children and serve no purpose whatsoever. But this has to be among the stupidest responses I’ve read:

School officials have gotten some criticism for sending a letter to parents asking students to bring canned goods to attack would-be intruders.

“We realize at first this may seem odd; however, it is a practice that would catch an intruder off-guard,” the letter reads, according to CNN affiliate WRBL. “The canned food item could stun the intruder or even knock him out until the police arrive. The canned food item will give the students a sense of empowerment to protect themselves and will make them feel secure in case an intruder enters the classroom.”

Chambers County School Superintendent Kelli Moore Hodge acknowledges that the middle school didn’t educate people properly before sending the letter home, but she says the cans are a very small part of the training.

“The major point of the training (which is called ALICE – Alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate) is to be able to get kids evacuated and not be sitting ducks hiding under desks,” Hodge wrote in an email.

Once the door has been locked and barricaded and students have moved to an area out of sight, students should have a plan if the attacker breaks into the room.

That’s when canned goods and other classroom items come into play.

“Start gathering several items you can use to protect yourself. Every room has something you can use to distract and defend from the aggressors’ attack,” says the Auburn video’s narrator. “Communicate with others around you and tell them your plan. Don’t wait until the aggressor gets into your safe area to have a plan of action.”

Students can throw books, book bags, computers and, yes, those canned goods to distract any aggressor.

Apparently, they thought Eddie Izzard was serious when he joked about how the British defended themselves from the Nazis at the beginning of World War II.

This is insane. As I have argued before, just about any preparation for a mass shooting is borderline insane. The odds of this happening at any school in America in any particular year are literally one in a million. I won’t say this is worse than people being paid huge salaries to play cops and robbers in a school during “drills”. But Good Lord, this is stupid.

Congratulations, W.F. Burns Middle School and ALICE. You are an early frontrunner for Turkey of the Year. And it’s only January.

Can’t beat economic laws…

Fox News has an article titled “Dems change tune after mocking GOP for ‘drill, baby, drill’” and the fact that the democrats were wrong again.

Back when gas topped $4 a gallon, Republicans chanted “drill, baby, drill” at rallies across the country — arguing more domestic drilling would increase supplies, reduce dependence on foreign oil and boost the U.S. economy.

Democrats, almost universally, mocked the GOP plan. In 2012, President Obama called it “a slogan, a gimmick, and a bumper sticker … not a strategy.”

“They were waving their three-point plans for $2-a-gallon gas,” Obama told a laughing audience during an energy speech in Washington. “You remember that? Drill, baby, drill. We were going through all that. And none of it was really going to do anything to solve the problem.”

“‘Drill, baby, drill’ won’t lower gas prices today or tomorrow,” Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., echoed on the floor of Congress in 2012. “But it will fuel our addiction to fossil fuel.”

Today, Democrats are singing a different tune, as increased domestic drilling has led to a record supply of domestic crude, put some $100 billion into the pockets of U.S. consumers and sent world oil prices tumbling.

The price of a gallon of regular gasoline on Monday was $2.13 nationwide, and below $2 in 18 states.

The donkeys fought the law of supply and demand, and the law won….

Don’t Be Fooled

Over the weekend, there was a massive march in Paris in response to the Charlie Hebdo killings and subsequent hostage events. World leaders — with one notable Nobel-prize-winning exception — marched with the protesters to show their commitment to freedom and unity.

At least, that’s what the narrative is. But, as usual, the narrative is bull:

Following the terrorist attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the EU has issued a joint st​atement to condemn the act and work to prevent extremism and safeguard freedom of expression. The leaders’ suggestion? More surveillance and internet censorship.

The statement, adopted by EU representatives including UK Home Secretary Theresa May, focuses on addressing radicalisation “in an early stage.” It condemns the January 7 attacks, in which two Islamist gunmen killed 12 people, and specifically mentions the internet as a factor in the “fight against radicalisation.”

“We are concerned at the increasingly frequent use of the internet to fuel hatred and violence and signal our determination to ensure that the internet is not abused to this end, while safeguarding that it remains, in scrupulous observance of fundamental freedoms, a forum for free expression, in full respect of the law,” the statement reads.

“With this in mind, the partnership of the major internet providers is essential to create the conditions of a swift reporting of material that aims to incite hatred and terror and the condition of its removing, where appropriate/possible,” it continues.

Ignore the caveats, concentrate on the message: they want to control internet content. And as we’ve learned, controlling internet content doesn’t just mean silencing terrorists. It means silencing anyone who says anything deemed racist or bigoted or insensitive. The EU wants to stop terrorists from silencing critics of Islam all right. They will do this by silencing Islam’s critics on their own.

David Cameron has specifically responded to these events by saying he wants to mandate a back door into all internet communication:

British Prime Minister David Cameron reacted to last week’s terrorist attack in Paris by participating in a march declaring solidarity with freedom of expression. Then he went home and attacked freedom of expression with a promise: If his party, the Conservatives, win an upcoming election, they’ll pass legislation that would empower security services to read anything sent over the Internet.

He favors a Britain where everything that anyone communicates can be spied upon if authorities determine that certain conditions are met. In short order, this would enable security services to spy on all innocent communications even as terrorists and non-criminals begin to communicate in code or through still-dark channels. And that is just the beginning of the problems with this privacy-killing proposal.

As has been noted many times, when the government demands a backdoor into your cellphone or computer, that makes it possible for the backdoor to be abused by hackers, terrorists and other criminals.

Oh, and that march? The world leaders weren’t even there:

Now, a different perspective on the leader’s portion of the march has emerged in the form of a wide shot displayed on French TV news reports.

It shows that the front line of leaders was followed by just over a dozen rows other dignitaries and officials – after which there was a large security presence maintaining a significant gap with the throngs of other marchers.

The measure was presumably taken for security reasons – but political commentators have suggested that it raises doubts as to whether the leaders were really part of the march at all.

And their commitment to free expression? You should check out Daniel Wickham’s tweets, which run down their level of “commitment”. Example:

So this March for Solidarity or Unity or whatever was not really a march against censorship or for free speech. Not as far as world leaders were concerned, at least. The only reason they oppose terrorists attacking freedom of expression is because they see that as their job. Fresh off of silencing critics, imprisoning journalists and attacking civil liberties, they are going to use this attack on free expression to ratchet up the attack on our liberties through more censorship, more control of media and more “sensitivity”. Don’t think for a second this is about stopping future Charlie Hebdo attacks. This is about control.

Politicians hate free speech. They hate the free press. They will enact as many controls on expression as they can get away with. The only people who care about our civil liberties are us. The Hebdo attack is seen by the majority of politicians as a way to ramp up their control of us. They will mask it with concern about terrorism, as they always do. But in the end, we will all be under their thumb.

If they were really committed to freedom of expression, they would be challenging the blasphemy laws that infest dozens of countries around the world. If they were really committed to freedom of expression, they’d be trying to free imprisoned journalists. If they were really committed to freedom of expression, they would be challenging the speech codes that have flowered on college campuses. Until they attack those things, I will not believe them when they talk about their commitment to freedom of expression. They’re just placating us.

A lot of people misunderstood the “I Am Charlie Hebdo” thing. It’s not that liking their content. The point is that we are all under the real or implied threat of censorious thugs and we must zealously defend our freedom from those thugs. That mean terrorists, yes. But it also means the thugs who wear suits and ties and march near crowds to show their unity.

Trying To Give Away the Store

Higher education has problems. It has become enormously expensive and many students find themselves tied to student loans that are predatory and can not be discharged in bankruptcy. The ranks and salaries of administrators continue to rise while faculty hires are flat and many faculty are hired as adjuncts — paid minimally and with almost no benefits. Clearly, something needs to change. And that thing is ..

… uh …

Spending more money?

Obama is proposing two years of free community college for students who attend at least half-time and maintain a grade point average of at least 2.5. That wouldn’t cover the entire cost for most students — students who finish community college in two years are rare — but the White House estimates it would save 9 million students around $3,800 per year in tuition if every state chose to participate.

The White House said details will be in the president’s 2016 budget request but declined to offer specifics on how much the program would cost. It’s not clear how the program would work, how the grants to states would be structured, or how the federal money would interact with the Pell Grant, federal aid for low-income students that about 38 percent of all community college students receive.

Obama is pitching this as helping poor people. But as even Vox has to admit, poor students are already covered by Pell Grants. What this really is is a middle class subsidy and not a particularly great one. The first two years of college will be free but two years of college is not going to do you any good. You need to graduate. What this really is about is hooking more students into college who don’t really need it so that they’ll feel obligated for the remaining two years. It’s not clear that there will be any real benefit here.

The other huge problem is that the large majority of job categories expected to grow the most in the coming years do not require postsecondary training. Of the 30 occupations that the U.S. Department of Labor projects to see the greatest total growth by 2022, only 10 typically need some sort of postsecondary education, and several of those require less than an associate’s degree. Most of the new jobs will require a high school diploma or less.

Of course, one of the biggest problems in higher ed is that for so much of it, someone other than the student is paying the bill, tamping down students’ incentives to seriously consider whether they should go to college and what they should study if they do. This proposal would only exacerbate that problem, essentially encouraging people to spend two years in community college fully on the taxpayer dime while they dabble in things they may or may not want to do—and as they maintain a pretty low 2.5 GPA—then maybe focusing a little more when the two years is up and they have to pay something themselves.

Moreover, it does nothing about the big problem, which is exploding tuition rates at private and public universities. The main reason those tuitions are exploding is because of government subsidies and guaranteed loans. There is little downside to raising tuition for universities because the government has promised to pay or guarantee whatever they charge. As Scott Shackford points out, the Obama plan would encourage community colleges — one of the few affordable areas of higher education — to follow suit with administrative bloat. California’s community college system — which have a wait list nearly half a million names long — is relatively cheap at $1500 per year. But why on Earth would they maintain such cheap tuition if the federal government has guaranteed that it will pay whatever they charge?

Actually, I’m giving Obama too much credit. There is an idea behind this but it has nothing to do with education, opportunity or community college. He’s pandering to young voters. He’s promising them a benefit that will never materialize in a transparent effort to troll for votes. Why else would he put this forward when there is precisely zero chance that Congress will do it?

Look, I like community colleges. I taught at one when I was in grad school. I earned some valuable teaching experience and a little bit of money. Teaching there made be a better instructor because people paying for their own education are going to make damned sure they get something out of it. The operation was reasonably efficient — I had exactly one boss and she was teaching classes of her own. Some of the students blew off the class, but many were motivated, interested and attentive. Some were getting two cheap years of college before going on to a major university (Clark Howard often recommends this as a way to save money on college). Others were going into trades. It was a good deal all around.

The last thing community colleges need is a river of free federal money. They have their job and they do it reasonably well. They don’t need to be turned into big bloated universities. Not everyone needs to go to college. And they certainly don’t need to go to a poor man’s Yale.

Update: Tyler Cowen:

Overall my take is that the significant gains are to be had at the family level and at the primary education level, and that the price of community college is not a major bottleneck under the status quo.

Ding! But solving problems at the primary education level is hard and involves unions. Easier to throw money at community colleges.

France Under Siege

Reports this morning are that the two Charlie Hebdo terrorists are holding a hostage. Another man is supposed to be holding hostages in a kosher deli, demanding their release. As I type these words, there are shots being fired in the first hostage situation. As I noted two days ago, I didn’t expect the French to fuck around. It looks like they aren’t.

Vive la France.

Update: Preliminary reports are that the Hebdo killers are dead.

Update: Right now, we’re hearing that three of the gunmen are dead and one female accomplice is at large. I’m not sure about the hostages.

California Digs Pit, Throws in Money

It has begun:

California broke ground Tuesday on its $68 billion high-speed rail system, promising to combat global warming while whisking travelers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours.

The bullet train project, the first in the nation to get underway, faces challenges from Republican cost-cutters in Congress and Central Valley farmers suing to keep the rails off their fields. Others doubt the state can deliver the sleek system as designed, and worry it will become an expensive failure.

But Gov. Jerry Brown said high-speed rail is essential to meeting his latest goal: Encouraging the nation’s most populous state to get half its power from renewable energy by 2030.

California only has a tiny fraction of the $68 billion dollars needed for the program. That’s $68 billion now. God knows what it will cost by 2030 when Jerry Brown will be 92 years old, if he’s still alive.

Althouse:

Ultimately, the plan is for a 520-mile line that is supposed to get people from downtown L.A. to downtown San Francisco. We’re told there’s “hope” of getting that done by 2029 and also that “The authority needs to speed up the eminent domain process, since only 100 of the 500 land parcels needed for the rails and stations have been purchased.” Which ones? Have they got all that downtown L.A. and San Francisco land yet?

My prediction is that these endpoints — without which no one would want this project — will never be reached by the line that’s getting started now in Fresno. The only question is when people will freak out sufficiently to abandon the desperate throwing of good money after bad.

Brown and his allies are touting this as jobs program. That’s odd, because the President has just issued a veto threat over the Keystone XL program and the same liberals touting the construction jobs for the California Calamity poo-poo the construction jobs for Keystone XL as temporary (in today’s economy, all jobs are temporary).

I’m also dubious that this project will be beneficial either economically or environmentally. Rail projects have a long history of being fantastic boondoggles. At a cost of $68 billion (and probably a lot more), this rail system would have to create a hell of a lot of economic activity to “pay for itself”. And the governor has already admitted that ridership will likely have to be subsidized for the train to function.

As for the environmental aspect, trains don’t run on good thoughts. They run on electricity, which is still mostly generated from fossil fuels. An empty train running between two cities would be a lot worse for global warming than no train.

You should check out Reason, which has been making the case against this boondoggle for years. Right now, I have 2019 as the year in which California will realize what a colossal mistake they’ve made. The only question is whether they’ll run a tiny little train to show they got something out of it or have another great project to fill in the giant hole they’ve just dug.

Attack in Paris

Three gunmen have shot up the offices of a satirical French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, killing 12. As of this writing, they are on the loose and their motive is unknown, but video apparently shows them shouting “God is Great!” and “We have avenged the Prophet!”. Hebdo was known for publishing cartoons of Mohammed. France is regarding this as an act of terrorism, which it almost certainly is.

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I’ll post updates as events warrant. One thing I will note: I do not expect the French to fuck around. Despite their reputation, they take terrorism seriously.

Update: I won’t link, but there is video of these animals executing a wounded police officer at point blank range. Just awful.

The Insurance, er, The Tax Man Cometh

One of the consequences of having the Obamacare penalty tax penalty tax: the IRS is going to be asking some questions:

As many as 3.4 million people who received Obamacare subsidies may owe refunds to the federal government, according to an estimate by a tax preparation firm.

H&R Block is estimating that as many as half of the 6.8 million people who received insurance premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act benefited from subsidies that were too large, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

“The ACA is going to result in more confusion for existing clients, and many taxpayers may well be very disappointed by getting less money and possibly even owing money,” the president of a tax preparation and education school told the Journal.

Obamacare subsidies are paid out based on your income. But it is difficult to predict income in advance, especially for those in the low-income brackets where jobs and income tend to be a bit more variable. As a result, several million people are going to find themselves with an unexpected tax bill because they made more money than they predicted. This was entirely foreseeable, of course, which meant the Administration did nothing to account for it.

In other tax-related news, the “Cadillac Tax” of Obamacare is kicking in. This means that many businesses are looking to cut insurance costs to avoid paying the tax. The best way to do this is to increase deductibles and co-pays so that your employees use less healthcare and your rates come down.

Guess who’s not happy about that:

“Deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.” That’s what Harvard Classics professor Richard F. Thomas calls the changes in Harvard’s health plan, which have a large number of the faculty up in arms.

Are Harvard professors being forced onto Medicaid? Has their employer denied coverage for cancer treatment? Do they need to sign a corporate loyalty oath in order to access health insurance? Not exactly. But copayments are being raised and deductibles altered, making their plan … well, actually, their plan is still extraordinarily generous by any standard:

The Harvard profs are having kittens because they will have to make $20 copays, meet a $250/$750 deductible and pay 10% of costs up to a maximum of $1500/$4500. I hate to tell them but that’s still a very generous plan.

The irony, of course, is that Obamacare was cooked up by Harvard, pushed by Harvard experts and implemented by a Harvard Law grad. Harvard faculty have overwhelming supported the President and Obamacare. So what this amounts to is our educational elites having a temper tantrum because they’re going to have to eat at the commoner’s table, if you can imagine such a thing. But instead of dealing with the reality, they’re insisting that we should be able to cut costs without cutting care.

McArdle again:

Instead, they persist in our mass delusion: that there is some magic pot of money in the health-care system, which can be painlessly tapped to provide universal coverage without dislocating any of the generous arrangements that insured people currently enjoy. Just as there are no leprechauns, there is no free money at the end of the rainbow; there are patients demanding services, and health-care workers making comfortable livings, who have built their financial lives around the expectation that those incomes will continue. Until we shed this delusion, you can expect a lot of ranting and raving about the hard truths of the real world.

Especially when those hard truths get applied to the ruling class.

I Would Do Anything for the Planet, But I Won’t Do That

Reason writer Ronald Bailey hung out with some of the recent climate protesters at the People’s Climate March. I’ve written about their convenient embrace of science when it suits their biases before, but Bailey really gets into the awful thinking that underpins much of the modern environmental movement:

Among the chief capitalist villains: Monsanto. The assembled marchers fervently damned the crop biotechnology company despite the fact that modern high yield biotech crops cut CO2 emissions by 13 million tons in 2012-the equivalent of taking 11.8 million cars off the road for one year. By making it possible to grow more calories on less land, biotech crops helped conserve 123 million hectares from 1996 to 2012. Many of the protesters oddly believe that eating locally grown organic crops-which require more labor and land to produce less food- will somehow help stop global warming. Vegans are right that eating less meat would mean that more land could be returned to forests that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. On the other hand, researchers estimate that lab-grown meat could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 96 percent relative to farmed meat.

Fracking aggravated a lot of the demonstrators. Artful placards alluded to another f-word as a way of indicating displeasure. Many asserted that fracking taints drinking water. Yet just the week before the parade, new studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by research teams led by the Ohio State University’s Thomas Darrah and the U.S. Department of Energy found that the controversial technique to produce natural gas does not contaminate groundwater. And never mind that burning natural gas produces about half of the carbon dioxide that burning coal does.

Another low-carbon energy source was also a cause of stress for the demonstrators: nuclear power. Some demanded that the Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River be closed down. This particular petition is just perverse, since nuclear power is a big part of why New Yorkers emit a relatively low average of 8 tons of carbon dioxide per person each year, compared with the U.S. average of 16.4 tons per capita.

There is no such thing as perfect energy technology. Even solar and wind involve massive land use, enormous rare earth metal consumption and, at present, fossil fuel backup. Moreover, wind and solar are limited in the absence of a revolution in battery technology. You can’t run airplanes or big cargo ships on alternative energy. You can barely run cars on them.

Until a revolutionary technology is developed, the best way to fight global warming is to delay it as long as possible. GMO crops delay it by decreasing land and fertilizer use. Fracking delays it by cutting carbon emissions in half compared to coal. Nuclear delays it by replacing fossil fuels completely. All of these things have contributed to the US and Europe cutting their carbon emissions without sacrificing economic progress and have bought years, possibly decades, for us to come with a breakthrough technology that can replace fossil fuels.

The problem is that these technologies exist in the real world and the environmentalists want to live in fantasyland, where you can solve complex scientific, technical, social, political and engineering issues with wishcasting and marches; where there are no tradeoffs; where completely revamping our society is something you can do through legislative fiat.

Thankfully, enough people live in the real world that we’re making real progress … without putting capitalism on the funeral pyre.