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Showing posts from December, 2013

The News Journal editorial page: insulating Governor Markell by making him into an adjective

At some point I recall seeing--either at kilroy's or delawareliberal--a comment that it was telling when the Veasey report about campaign finance was finally published in the WNJ front page there was no mention of it on the editorial page. Today it made the editorial page (picture Jack Markell picking up the phone and saying, "Guys?  What gives?  I need some cover here.") It is embarrassing.  It would have been better to keep silent.

Gee, apparently Obamacare not working out for the middle class nationwide--who knew?

I can remember a lot of my liberal friends telling me that the conservatives were wrong in trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and that they should instead allow Obamacare to go into effect and--if it was as bad as they said it was going to be--collapse of its own weight.  The smug self-assurance behind that suggestion was that once Obamacare became a going concern (as they were so sure it would, right from the gate), it would become the new third rail of American politics. More people would have insurance.  Insurance costs would go down.  Quality of treatment would go up.  If you liked your policy, you could keep it.  And everyone would get a unicorn. Only if you consider a unicorn's horn to be ... the shaft: More than half the counties in 34 states using the federal health insurance exchange lack even a bronze plan that’s affordable – by the government’s own definition – for 40-year-old couples who make just a little too much for financial assistance, a USA Today an

The amazing, technicolor, wondrous teflon Delaware Democratic Party and Governor

Apparently the rule in Delaware is that if you are a Democratic governor it is fair game for a special prosecutor to point out that your campaign violated the law in accepting "pay to play" donations , or for the Attorney General to point out that your administration violated the law in convening a secret charter school working group, or for the Sierra Club, Common Cause, and other members of the public to point out that you are running several agencies (DNREC and DPH come to mind) with "secret" AG opinions, or for the Associate Secretary Education to admit that after four years of Race to the Top the government is not quite sure how much Federal money it has spent (but that it still wants a fifth year to spend the rest). Yep, you can point out all of this in Delaware, but there is one thing you can't do ... You can't hold anybody in the Democratic Party (most especially the Governor) accountable  for any of this. Special Prosecutor Veasey declines to

The balkanization of Delaware and WNJ accuracy

This really should be two separate posts, but what the hell it's December 26. First, the idea of creating "right to work zones" in Delaware makes about as much sense as the proposed legislation to allow each community to set its own firearms laws. Delaware is far too small to be balkanized, and the ridiculous implications that would follow from either proposal are too numerous to mention, so I will content myself with one each: 1) If we enact "right to work zones," what happens to an already unionized company performing a contracted construction job in that zone, or an already unionized company that has multiple sites within the state, but only one of which falls into the zone?  You don't have to be either a fan or opponent of unions to realize that the variety of unworkable situations that could come out of such legislation are legion. 2) If we enact community-based gun laws, guess what?  You could inadvertently be engaging in illegal activity by s

At this point, this is news?

Somebody (a local attorney) is accused by someone (her son) of sexual abuse. But the case is sealed and the WNJ will not print either name. Boy, I'm glad we have such fearless journalism to keep us informed about what might be occurring between parties who cannot be named. Shorter:  why (exactly) print such a non-story at all?

So the issue is much larger than David Grimaldi, or Dennis Williams, or Pete Schwartzkopf, but then again, it isn't

Nancy Willing is, perhaps justifiably, unhappy with me over the post below this one-- When Delaware passes HB 88, Who is going to take away David Grimaldi's guns .  David is a friend of Nancy's, and she feels that he has a side to these stories that isn't being credited, and--moreover--she tells me that David doesn't actually own any firearms.  On that last I wouldn't know. And for accuracy's sake, here are links to some of Nancy's own posts telling Grimaldi's side of the story:   here , here , and here . But I think that in her anger with me, Nancy misses the point of the post. Gun control legislation in Delaware is supported by a lot of people with what I am sure are great intentions, but the devil is always in the details, and in two details in specific. The first is that HB 88--while possibly defensible line-by-line as written--is part of a concerted attempt on the part of a sizable political minority in Delaware and elsewhere to categorize s

UPDATED: When Delaware passes HB 88, who's going to take away David Grimaldi's guns?

An important note:  Nancy Willing argues vehemently that this post smears Mr. Grimaldi, and that he certainly has his own side to these lurid stories, as she argues  here ,  here , and  here , among other places.  Moreover, Nancy tells me (I wouldn't know) that Mr. Grimaldi doesn't even own a gun.  That said, I think she misses the overall point of the post in her anger that I chose her friend to use to make that point.  And, I've made the point more clearly above.  But if you get the linkage to Minority Report and the reference to a Pre-Crimes Unit, then you'll get the point.  If not, read the post above for a more explicit explanation. The whole point of the resurrected HB 88 is to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally unstable and potentially violent, right? So I'm just wondering if, in the brave new world where the Delaware State Police, New Castle County Police, and Wilmington Police each establish their Pre-Crimes Unit ala  the world of Minority

The continuing Markell shell game on public education and Delaware's budget

You have to wonder if today's article in the WNJ about the fact that the Markell administration despairs of finding more money to pay teachers is not intended as a subtle reminder to DSEA President and DOE employee Frederika Jenner not to stray too far off the education reform reservation. After all, it was only yesterday that Jenner published an op-ed in the News Journal criticizing teacher performance appraisal systems, one of the lynch-pins of Governor Markell's education reform, and today we're told that ... ... budget projections released this week confirm what many expected – it’s unlikely the state can afford any major boosts to teacher pay. In other words:  mess with me, Jenner, and your teacher raises sleep with the fishes. (Not that Jenner and senior DSEA leadership ever mess with the Markell administration, even rhetorically, very often.  For the most part the state teacher's union not only takes education "reform" lying down by signing off

When will we admit that the problem with Obamacare is not the "roll-out"?

The difficulties with the healthcare exchanges makes an easy target, but the reality is that the main problem with Obamacare is structural, not technical. Even the New York Times gets it: An analysis by The New York Times shows the cost of premiums for people who just miss qualifying for subsidies varies widely across the country and rises rapidly for people in their 50s and 60s. In some places, prices can quickly approach 20 percent of a person’s income.   Experts consider health insurance unaffordable once it exceeds 10 percent of annual income. By that measure, a 50-year-old making $50,000 a year, or just above the qualifying limit for assistance, would find the cheapest available plan to be unaffordable in more than 170 counties around the country, ranging from Anchorage to Jackson, Miss.   A 60-year-old living in Polk County, in northwestern Wisconsin, and earning $50,000 a year, for example, would have to spend more than 19 percent of his income, or $9,801 annually, to b

Guns and cheerleaders: how science gets manipulated for political agendas

Apparently, science tells us, men become incapable of rational thought and prone to aggression and violence whenever a firearm or a woman is in their immediate vicinity. Or does science actually tell us anything of the sort? This week Salon published a post on the inherent dangers of US citizens engaging in legal "open carry" of firearms.  This is all based, we are told, on solid science that concludes that people carrying weapons will be more likely to react impulsively and violently to situations they encounter:  

The Darwin Awards never cease to entertain

This is the third-place winner for 2013, and my personal favorite: After stepping around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door, a man walked into H&J Leather & Firearms intent on robbing the store. The shop was full of customers and a uniformed officer was standing at the counter. Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up and fired a few wild shots from a target pistol.   The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, and several customers also drew their guns and fired. The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by Paramedics. Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gunshot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from 7 different weapons. No one else was hurt. Read the top ten here .  But not if you're drinking anything or standing under the ass of a constipated elephant (hint:  that elephant tip comes from this year's winner).

Surprise! The people who want to spy on us don't think much of us, either.

Michael B. Mukasey, Steven G. Bradbury and David B. Rivkin Jr.--all Dubya-era stalwarts--have a new op-ed out about how the government should be allowed to collect data on us, pretty much without regard to constitutional limits, in order to "protect" us. While they make a variety of technical/legal arguments, the real truth of their argument is that the American people are dolts and sheep. The article is peppered with phrases like the following: " the caterwaul of those seeking to dismantle vital U.S. counterterrorism capabilities."   " the metadata program intrudes on consumers’ infatuation with their smartphones ..."   " Most Americans willingly accept less privacy in exchange for the conveniences the Internet makes possible." In other words, anybody who disagrees with them is simply a feeble-minded person willing to put America at risk over information that the government has an absolute right to have: Americans know

Carper and Coons make dead-of-night vote on NDAA

It's funny.  We can have long, protracted partisan arguments on the debt ceiling, and posturing by everyone, but when it comes to one of the largest and most suspect budget items Congress supervises--the NDAA and our $604 billion military budget--it gets done (literally) in the dark of night without debate or news coverage. And, of course, Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons voted yet again for an NDAA that continues the policy of allowing indefinite detention of US citizens. There was a time when civil rights and civil liberties mattered in this country. I can even remember it; I just can't make my kids believe it happened.

Doing some gratis copy-editing for the WNJ

In a story today about Delaware Rodel Secretary of Education Mark Murphy joining the Jeb Bush (R-Daddy was President) education reform group, a suitably anonymous WNJ article says the following: Murphy is the only sitting school chief in the organization appointed by a Democratic governor, according to the list. Obviously this was a mere slip of the keyboard, so--as cassandra over at Delawareliberal would say--I fixed it for them: Murphy is the only sitting school chief in the organization appointed by a Republican governor who favors marriage equality, according to the list.  

Our Federal government: reducing the civil rights of citizens one amendment at a time

Yesterday I showed you how the Supreme Court has virtually eliminated your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. This is just the latest in a series of steps to completely erode the due process protections of citizens from the State. For example, in April 2011 , the US DOE mandated that all public schools and institutions of higher education lower their standards of proof to find someone guilty of sexual misconduct: OCR also uses a preponderance of the evidence standard when it resolves complaints against recipients. For instance, OCR’s Case Processing Manual requires that a noncompliance determination be supported by the preponderance of the evidence when resolving allegations of discrimination under all the statutes enforced by OCR, including Title IX. 27 OCR also uses a preponderance of the evidence standard in its fund termination administrative hearings. 28 Thus, in order for a school’s grievance procedures to be consistent with Title IX standards, the school mu

Paul Ryan defends screwing over military veterans

Here's Paul Ryan commenting on the largest military budget on the planet, and how it needs to be secured on the backs of those who served in the military by recouping $6 billion from their retirement pay COLAs: "We give them a slightly smaller adjustment for inflation because they're still in their working years and in most cases earning another paycheck,” Ryan said. "Our goal here is to make sure that no other country comes close to matching the U.S. military, and the stress on the budget in the future brings that whole entire notion into question. We still have a Pentagon budget that is not where it needs to be."  Now let's get this straight, Paul.  The United States traditionally does almost 50% of all the military spending done on the entire planet.  As you can see by the chart below, the only element that even approaches our scale of military spending is our NATO allies--and if we are concerned with protecting ourselves from Great Britain, France, Sp

Democratic hypocrisy on the minimum wage increases

Now Representative Helen Keeley has joined Byron Short in a public call to increase the minimum wage by a dollar.   It is particularly instructive to look at this Democrat's argument: Our constituents have long supported an increase in the minimum wage. They have seen the prices of groceries, gas and utilities climb while their wages stay the same. They work hard to provide for themselves and their   families . Any increase in their wages is going to be spent locally on food, clothes and other necessities. The only problem, here, Helen, is that exactly the same could be said about State employees (including teachers), for whom Delaware Democrats have been remarkably unresponsive about provide wage increases for many years. Apparently, for Helen, one of the perks of state employment is that they get to shop in special grocery stories, purchase gas at special pumps, and buy their electricity from special co-ops where the prices never go up?  She doesn't, apparently, notice t

Not surprisingly, WNJ minimizes Fisker losses

So here's the lead from today's story : It’s been apparent for a while now that the state of Delaware will recover little of the roughly $20 million in economic incentives it awarded Fisker Automotive. That's bad, right?  $20 million down the tubes ... Of course, the entire story fails to note that the damage is much worse than that:  another $7.4 million in uncollected State taxes, $700K+ in Red Clay property taxes, and $330K in New Castle County taxes, for a conservative total of $28.5 million gone down the tubes ... And, as usual, the house organ for the Delaware Democratic Party closes with this: Despite the tough spot for the state, government officials say they’re not giving up.   “Our paramount interest is in working with whoever ends up owning the facility to try to put Delawareans back to work there,” said Mike Barlow, chief of staff for Markell. Not giving up on what, exactly?  Throwing away millions in state tax money? I love the "tough spot&q

Resisting the American police state: where we should find common ground

Libertarians. Greens. Campaign for Liberty. Progressives. Independents. Anarchists. If you are not part of the mainstream of the two-party system (or, in Delaware, part of the Republicanized Democratic Party), then you need to start thinking about common ground with your brothers and sisters, and it should begin here. Mother Jones, reprising Radley Balko, considers the rise of the American police state. Time to stop this before America fails the Ben Franklin test:  "A republic, sir, if you can keep it."

David Brooks: what the hell, let's just make the President into a dictator

Some wonderful snippets from a less-on* argument: It’s a good idea to be tolerant of executive branch power grabs and to give agencies flexibility.   --- This is a good moment to advocate greater executive branch power because we’ve just seen a monumental example of executive branch incompetence: the botched Obamacare rollout.  --- E xecutive branch officials are more sheltered from the interest groups than Congressional officials. --- E xecutive branch officials, if they were liberated from rigid Congressional strictures, would have more discretion to respond to their screw-ups, like the Obamacare implementation.   Yeah, with more power after 9/11, imagine what Dubya could have done with the Patriot Act, or how many wedding-party-goers the Obama administration could murder without fear of negative reaction. *Less-on:  the state of idiocy in which you'd have to be twice as smart to be a moron.

Delaware elites posturing in public while I get fries with that

This is actually the problem with corporatist government and centralized planning by elites who will never miss a meal in their entire lives. The News Journal (which at least acknowledged its conflict of interest in both sponsoring and writing a puff piece on the same event) " reports " on Wednesdy's "job forum" at UD. Here's the real takeaway from the event, the list of panelists: Governor Jack Markell His record:  thousands of jobs lost on his watch; millions wasted in bad loans/lost tax revenues to Fisker, Bloom, Bluewater; tens of millions spent on corporate welfare; no raises ever proposed for State employees; government via illegal task forces and secret AG opinions; gutting of Coastal Zone Act for fun and profit; don't even get me started on his education "reform" State Board of Education Chair Teri Gray Her record as a Markell appointee:  well, basically, there isn't one, because the current State Board of Education has n

Hello, veterans. Thanks for your service. Now lie down for your lobotomy.

You just can't make this up: “The U.S. government lobotomized roughly 2,000 mentally ill veterans—and likely hundreds more—during and after World War II, according to a cache of forgotten memos, letters and government reports unearthed by  The Wall Street Journal . Besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, the Veterans Administration performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics and schizophrenics, and occasionally on people identified as homosexuals.”   “The VA’s practice, described in depth here for the first time, sometimes brought veterans relief from their inner demons. Often, however, the surgery left them little more than overgrown children, unable to care for themselves. Many suffered seizures, amnesia and loss of motor skills. Some died from the operation itself.” This, of course, fits right in with what I reminded Ezra Klein of in 2009 whe

Be still my beating heart: Obamacare bites the hands of New York intelligensia

This would be funny, except that it should have been predictable: Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it. Weep for me with this attorney: “I couldn’t sleep because of it,” said Barbara Meinwald, a solo practitioner lawyer in Manhattan.   Ms. Meinwald, 61, has been paying $10,000 a year for her insurance through the New York City Bar.  A broker told her that a new temporary plan with fewer doctors would cost $5,000 more, after factoring in the cost of her medications. Of course dear Barbara couldn't be expected to go through the insurance exchanges like the common folk: Ms. Meinwald also looked on the state’s health insurance exchange. But she

Delaware's Democratic Senators have their own health insurance subsidized

You gotta love it. US Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons make a base salary of $174,000/year before all the perks of office are considered.  Perks include the ability to wrack up another $26,100 in speaking fees per year and a Personal Allowance Component to the Members Representative Allowance that provides for them to use $944,000 (at our expense) to pay for up the nine staffers, who may themselves individually make up to $168,000/year.  Hillary Clinton often says it takes a village to raise a child; when you elected Carper and Coons you also paid for a village to cater to their every need. But you knew that, right? What you didn't know is that Tom Carper and Chris Coons now purchase their insurance through the DC ACA marketplace (which, apparently, is functional only because it would not do to have the marketplace serving the US Congress not work), and that you are subsidizing 75% of their premiums. That's right--among the people who need and receive a government s

Corporatist Democrats are upset they don't have their own tea party, so they're inventing one

Apparently not learning zip from the experience of the GOP dealing (or not dealing) with its own spawn, corporatist Democrats (specifically including Delaware Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons) seem intent on creating a Moderate/Progressive(Populist) division in their own ranks so they can go back to losing elections again: A think tank with ties to Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware is under fire from some Democrats for a recent op-ed that describes entitlement policies pushed by “left-wing populists” as “disastrous” for the party.   The Dec. 3  Wall Street  Journal op-ed by the Democratic centrist group Third Way assails economic populism and targets a plan by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to expand Social Security benefits for all seniors as “exhibit A of this populist political and economic fantasy.” But let's recall, however, that the elite leadership cadre of the Delaware's Democratic Party suffers no progressives or populists among

More proof that either the universe or the Delaware Democratic Party is a simulation

Take a gander at the beginning of the email Congressman John Carney (D-Bank of America) sent out today regarding the health insurance marketplace: I’m writing to share a few thoughts about the Affordable Care Act, and to let you know about some resources you may find helpful.    It goes without saying that the enrollment period for the healthcare marketplace has been frustrating and challenging. I’m glad that President Obama is taking these problems seriously -- there’s no excuse for them. My focus has been on working with state officials to help Delawareans sign up for affordable healthcare coverage.    With that goal in mind, I wanted to make sure you knew about several upcoming opportunities to get help signing up for healthcare coverage and accessing financial assistance to better afford it.  I guess all the simulated "thoughts" are in the second paragraph.  There appear to be four: 1.  The marketplace has thus far been "frustrating and challenging."  T

Good news! If the universe is a computer simulation ...

... as some physicists suspect, and are now attempting to prove ... Then Governor Markell's administration, Congressman Carney's votes, Treasurer Flowers' pancakes, Commissioner Stewart's love of insurance company profits, Secretary Murphy's repeated condemnations of teachers, and all the rest of the elements of "good government" we've gotten thanks to the one-party rule of Delaware Democrats can all be written off as bad code.

What you get with today's Delaware Democratic Party: John Carney on the budget

Despite the temptation, I did not cut any of Congressman Carney's in-depth analysis of the current budget deal that, in the best spirit of the Delaware Democratic Party, cuts COLAs for military retirees, make everybody's airplane rides more expensive, and ends unemployment benefits for millions.  Hell, it almost reads like the Democratic Platform, huh? Here it is  [admittedly I couldn't resist highlighting a few segments]: “The best that can be said about the Murray-Ryan budget agreement is that it’s better than nothing. And for the first time in a long time, Congress is doing its job. Each chamber voted on a budget. We held a conference committee. We worked out our disagreements. And we took a vote on a compromise bill.   “This agreement brings us back to a rational way of dealing with government spending. But it reduces the deficit only slightly , and gets rid of a small part of the harmful sequestration cuts. The danger will come if we let this agreement make

Byron Short and the politics of the minimum wage

The recent epiphany of Rep. Byron Short (D-Highland Woods) that the minimum wage increase he kept bottled up in committee last year should now be passed has very little to do with economics or even social justice issues, and everything to do with the fact that 2014 is an election year. The politics of this are so transparent that it is not amazing that even the News Journal ferreted them out. OK, let's try this again. The politics of this are so transparent that even the Democratic Party house organ News Journal had trouble concealing them. First, Rep. Short admits that raising the minimum wage has two major consequences:  (a) it can help stall out an economic recovery and (b) that it will put "pressure" on businesses to raise not just the minimum wage, but the wages of the next several upward tiers of workers. Then Rep. Short argues that Delaware's recovery has now become robust enough to stand the strain of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an