March 31, 2009
— Open Blog We have officially entered The Twilight Zone. Article is from the International Herald Tribune (of which the NYT is a partner)
TROLLHATTAN, Sweden - Saab Automobile may be just another crisis-ridden car company in an industry full of them. But just as the fortunes of Flint, Mich., are permanently entangled with General Motors, so it is impossible to find anyone in this city in southwest Sweden who is not somehow connected to Saab.
Trollhattan? That pretty much describes every night around here lately. Sorry to interrupt.
Which makes it all the more wrenching that the Swedish government has responded to Saabs desperate financial situation by saying, essentially, tough luck. Or, as the enterprise minister, Maud Olofsson, put it recently, The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.
Such a view might seem jarring, coming as it does from a country with a reputation for a paternalistic view of workers and companies. The Swedish model for dealing with a banking crisis nationalizing the banks, recapitalizing them and selling them has been much debated lately in the United States, with free-market defenders warning of a slippery slope of Nordic socialism.
Its a lengthy article, but worth slogging through.
Notice: Posted by permission of AceCorp LLC. Please e-mail overnight open thread tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise send tips to Ace.
— Gabriel Malor This is probably getting overhyped, but you might want to take a second and make sure your computers aren't infected with proto-Skynet. Tomorrow may just very well be Judgment Day, since all the infected computers are set to "phone home for new instructions" sometime on April 1. If that new instruction is "kill the humans", you're gonna feel pretty silly for not checking.
FNC has details here and instructions for protecting your computer or ridding it of the little beast. From what I've heard, if you've got the thing it will prevent you from connecting to the major antivirus sites, like Symantec, so you might just click to make sure.
As FNC says, "It's mostly for businesses because it's designed to target networks, not individuals." However, I suspect university networks, including the on-campus housing, are vulnerable. Back when I lived on campus we had a heckuva time with viruses causing problems. So, to all our younger readers, put a condom on it. Whoops, wrong PSA.
Now back to our regular programing. Which is probably nothing. And you'll like it.
— DrewM With 100% in:
Down 59 fucking votes. This in a district with a 70,000 Republican registration edge. AWESOME!
Tedisco just came out and basically said he's going to win but it won't be official tonight. My guess is Murphy will give pretty much the same statement shortly. He just thanked Eric Cantor but never mentioned that Cantor is a well known Jew. Interesting.
Murphy just gave his speech and said he'll keep the lead he has.
And so that's about that for tonight. Nothing new until next week and no idea when the final result will be in.
5,907 absentee ballots out there and still some time for more to come in. Regular absentees have to have been postmarked by yesterday and received by Friday. Military ballots have until next Monday.
Ballots have been impounded. No counting until Monday the 6th.
Original post and updates below the fold.... more...
— Jack M. You know, this blogging gig really doesn't pay all the bills around here. Trust me, I wish it did, but when the end of the month comes and you are facing down angry bookies, burly bartenders, numerous thai-trannies and assorted baby mamas, cash can get tight.
Which is why I feel the need to publicize the AoSHQ house band a little. We've been doing some gigs on the lowdown for a while, but I think we've gotten to the point where we can take our act out of the basement and onto the road.
Don't laugh...the Cavern Club was a basement too and look what it did for the Beatles.
Our fab four (featuring me on rhythm guitar, Dave in Texas on stand up base, Drew M. on percussion, and Ace on lead vocal/accordion) performs under the name "Zippy Ewok and the Full Fisted Polka Excursion"." Our first video is included in the extended entry to give you a sample of our talent.
We are, of course, available for birthday's, wedding's and bar mitzvah's. Just leave Laura W a note in the comments and she'll handle the bookings.
Cause chicks don't rock. They schedule.
— DrewM "Only" $7,000 or so in "unintentional errors", therefore no harm, no foul. Or something.
Health and Human Services nominee Kathleen Sebelius has corrected three years of tax returns and paid more than $7,000 in back taxes after finding "unintentional errors" _ the latest tax troubles for an Obama administration nominee. The Kansas governor explained the changes to senators in a letter dated Tuesday that was obtained by The Associated Press. She said they involved charitable contributions, the sale of a home and business expenses.
...She and her husband paid a total of $7,040 in back taxes and $878 in interest to amend returns from 2005-2007.
The accountant discovered these errors:
_Charitable contributions over $250 are supposed to include an acknowledgment letter from the charity in order for a deduction to be taken. Out of 49 charitable contributions made, three letters couldn't be found.
_Sebelius and her husband sold their home in 2006 and then took a mistaken deduction for mortgage interest.
_Insufficient documentation was found for some business expense deductions.
In fairness, these items do seem relatively minor but there's there's the whole 'culture of tax avoidance' thing going on with the people who keep demanding more and more sacrifices. Seems like this is the kind of issue Republicans might want to beat to death, what with April 15th coming up and all.
No word on whether or not Joe Biden is going to question her patriotism.
UPDATE: The Standard has Sebelius' letter to the Senate Finance Committee which explained the mortgage interest issue this way.
...According to Sebelius, an accountant who was hired to review tax returns for 2005, 2006, and 2007 discovered a number of errors. "In July of 2006, my husband and I sold our home for an amount less than the outstanding balance on our mortgage," Sebelius writes. "We continued paying off the loan, including interest we mistakenly believed continued to be deductible mortgage interest."
— DrewM Perhaps a fatal one.
The three judge panel has issued its decision and they are only going to look at 400 disputed ballots. Given that Coleman is behind by 225 votes, it doesn't look good to say the least.
There's still a chance to appeal to the state Supreme Court but it's looking more and more like Sen. Franken.
— Ace Long story short: The left is going bananas that the Evil Bush-Cheney Regime ordered a pension manager to switch to a more stock-heavy portfolio just as the market was crashing.
What they seem to have missed is that the "decision" was made to do so -- but the action itself wasn't undertaken. Even the decision itself concerned a gradual upping of stocks held as assets.
So, actually, nothing has really happened yet, unless Obama's officials have been executing this scheme.
Reading -- it's for homos.
Thanks to Arthur.
— Open Blog more...
— Ace Worth listening to; skip the interstitial Romney-bashing stuff to get to the actual phone calls.
If Ann Coulter is insufficiently conservative, then, um... okay.
Skip to 6:00 if you don't want to listen to the whole thing. The claim that Romney himself instituted gay marriage is, as Coulter says, crazy. I have heard this claim before; it's bunk. People who aren't lawyers simply don't understand how opinions are written or what they mean. The SJC claimed that it was unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to gay couples; the clerks who issue them therefore had to comply, or could be held in contempt (or directed to issue the license with a quickly issued writ of mandamus, an order to "do your duty"). And if they balked at that, then would come contempt, and possible jailing, or judicial elevation of another clerk to the job of issuing licenses, etc.
The idea that Romney himself wasn't directed to issue the licenses is irrelevant. Since when has the governor himself ever issued marriage license? The duty was imposed on the petty state officials who actually do such things.
This is exactly the same as claiming that when the US Supreme Court ordered the military to treat illegal combatants as protected under the Geneva Conventions, it was actually done at Bush's initiative.
It should also be noted that when the courts rewrite the law, they usually do not direct the legislature to rewrite the law as they want it to be rewritten. They just announce, "This is the new law," the legislation on the books notwithstanding. (Indeed, there are many laws remaining on the books which are no longer actually binding law due to court fiat.) True, once in a while they do in fact to direct the legislature to promulgate a new law in accordance with their sudden discovery of what the law is; but usually they just say "Here's the law."
Same thing here. The SJC did not direct the legislature to recognize gay marriage. Nor did they direct the governor to order his inferior officers to issue licenses. They don't have to. They rarely do that. They instead order the inferior officers themselves to take the action they claim is now constitutionally required.*
The difference on this issue seems to be that Ann Coulter is a lawyer and the guy making this claim is an "activist."
The only argument even makable here is that Romney could have defied the court and provoked a constitutional crisis by ordering his petty clerks not to issue such licenses, and firing the ones who did. But that is always an option left open to the executive -- and Bush didn't defy the courts, either. Who does? Like, no one since Andrew Jackson. Because the courts will ultimately prevail, most likely, and even if the executive should prevail, a constitutional crisis like this is a scary thing.
I'm not saying it shouldn't be done sometimes. One could argue here it should have been done, so lawless were the courts. But the courts are frequently lawless-- why does Mitt Romney, and Mitt Romney alone, have this special obligation to go Andrew Jackson on the courts when we make no such demands of any other governor or President?
* They probably don't do this because the legislature and executive are co-equal branches, or at least the courts sometimes pretend they are. They balk from ordering governors and legislatures -- co-equals, not inferiors -- to do this or that. But they get around this by just rewriting the law at will -- no ordering the legislature to do it; just doing it themselves -- or by ordering about lesser executive officials to do this or that.
In effect, of course, there's no difference. When they order a petty executive official to take an action, that is in fact taking the true constitutional authority from the governor to act as that man's superior and giving it to themselves. But for the sake of formalities, of pretending they're not elevating themselves above the legislature and executive, they refrain from directly ordering their coequals to do anything.
Most demands imposed will be on, say, the warden of a prison, or the Secretary of Defense, or the director of the EPA, etc. Rarely do they demand the president or governor himself undertake an action, that he himself order his subordinates to take the action.
Sometimes, yeah. But rarely.
Incidentally, in case you're wondering why I've given up on arguing about this: I've been overruled by the majority of the conservative caucus, and there doesn't seem to be any percentage in arguing about it. I always did get what he was saying; I just thought it was impolitic. But, having been clearly voted down on the matter, I accept the consensus. The science is settled, as Al Gore would say.
— Ace I don't know if it's meant as a goof on the enviros, or simply a comedy bit juxtaposing goo-goo motives and happy-talk with violence and, um, rape.
I'll take it as the former though. We don't get many sketches that even arguably spoof the envirogoofs.
It's so-so funny. But then, it's free and is only three minutes long, so it's not like it's a major investment.
Content Warning. more...
— Ace Some, however, applaud spending our entire yearly economic output on bailouts:
The combined commitment has increased by 73 percent since November, when Bloomberg first estimated the funding, loans and guarantees at $7.4 trillion.
The comparison to GDP serves the useful purpose of underscoring how extraordinary the efforts have been to stabilize the credit markets, said Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas.
Everything the Fed, the FDIC and the Treasury do doesnt always work out right but back in October we came within an eyelash of having a truly horrible collapse of our financial system, said Johnson, a former Fed senior economist. They used their creativity to help the worst-case scenario from unfolding and Im awfully glad they did it.
That has yet to be determined.
And read "Government Motors" from Cato:
...Wagoner was perceived as an obstacle to whatever plans the administration has for GM. And thats the real source of concern. If getting these companies back on their feet is the objective, a bankruptcy judge can make a determination pretty quickly about the viability of the firms and the steps necessary to get there. But if the objective is something more grandiose, such as transforming the industry into a model of green production, government oversight and close scrutiny of operations will be necessary. CEOs must be compliant and pliant. It is worth noting that a return to profitability and the metamorphosis of the industry according to a government script work at cross purposes.
Ding ding ding ding.
— DrewM Gabe emailed earlier asking for my prediction in the Tedisco-Murphy race to replace Kirsten Gillibrand and since it's an otherwise slow day, here it is....
Tedisco in a close race.
Turn out in special elections is usually pretty low and this is a district set up for a Republican to win, well a Republican who isn't photographed partying with college kids or reported to have slapped his wife around. Alas, that proved to be a bridge too far for John Sweeney whom Gillibrand defeated to win the seat in '06. The nature of the district should pull Tedisco through in turnout contest.
Also helping Tedisco is that the state legislature is dealing with the state's budget today. It's an all Democrat show in Albany now and people are not pleased with the money being spent and the taxes that are going up. Well, the non-ACORN types anyway and there aren't very many ACORN types in the 20th CD. I think that will help Tedisco at least on the margins, if not more.
Would it shock me if Murphy won? Not greatly but I don't think he will be able to pull it off.
Don't forget it was us here at Ace of Spades HQ (well let's be honest, it was me, modesty has never been my strong suit) who predicted Gillibrand was going to get the Senate nod when the bitches at the vaunted NY Times didn't even have her on their radar screen.
Below the fold, the best of what seemed like thousands of TV ads. more...
— Ace "You call it Orgasmic Meditation. I call it paying some pervert to watch you finger your girlfriend."
"This is a technique the Zen Masters call 'Third Base.'"
Look at that bastard's beaming grin.
Apparently the recession hasn't hit everyone yet. People still have enough money for mixed-doubles diddling lessons.
A rather odd bit of erotica for the New York Post:
With that, he guides my digit directly onto the sweet spot of a beautiful young woman who asked to be called Layla in this story.
And once you learn that, you're ready for your black belt in Advanced Nipple Tweaking.
I actually meant this for the sidebar but accidentally put it here. Ah well. So it will stay.
— DrewM What could go wrong with having Barney Frank decide how much people should be earning?
But now, in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the "Pay for Performance Act of 2009," would impose government controls on the pay of all employees -- not just top executives -- of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.
The purpose of the legislation is to "prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards," according to the bill's language. That includes regular pay, bonuses -- everything -- paid to employees of companies in whom the government has a capital stake, including those that have received funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds.
Timmy Giethner can't even figure out how to pay his own taxes and now he's supposed to be in charge of setting the pay scale of the kid working in the mail room of some bank?
I get, and am sympathetic to, the idea that if you take the government's money, you dance to the government's tune but this is ridiculous. The goal should be to disengage the government as quickly as possible from these companies, not to further intertwine them with the only organization more decrepit than they are, the federal government.
This kind of involvement will only make it more difficult for these firms to get back to self-sufficiency. Of course, some may see that as a feature not a bug.
— Slublog The spin on this one starts right in the lead:
WASHINGTON - The number of Americans who believe that the nation is headed in the right direction has roughly tripled since Barack Obama's election...Okay. Let's stop there and go further down the story, to paragraph four.
The percentage of Americans in the new poll who said the country is on the right track still stands at just 42 percent...Wait...42 percent? In the era of hope and change? That's pretty solidly below a majority. Maybe it's a plurality out of right track/wrong track/don't know. Let's see:
but that is the highest percentage saying so in five years and marks a sharp turnabout from last fall, when as many as nine in 10 said the country was heading in the wrong direction. Fifty-seven percent now consider the nation as moving on the wrong track.Once you get past the 'yeah, but...yeah, but...' explanations helpfully provided by the reporters, the headline should really be, "Majority still believes country on wrong track, despite Obama election." The reporters spin valiantly, pointing out that the 'right track' number is higher than it's ever been but that doesn't change the fact that the candidate of hope, change and optimism has yet to convince a majority of Americans that the country is on the right track.
The story mentions that independents are "less solidly" behind Obama than they once were, but here's what that really means:
Obama's overall approval rating among independents has dipped six points, to 61 percent, and fewer than half, 45 percent, said he is doing a good job of handling the deficit...This could provide an opportunity for the GOP, if they're smart enough to take it. The poll does show that GOP attempts to paint Obama as just another tax and spend liberal are being crushed under the steamroller of the president's rhetoric. People want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.
...after two months of vigorous debate about his stimulus package and ambitious budget blueprint, confidence has decreased by 13 points among independents...
...the percentage of independents siding with Obama has dropped 12 points, to 50 percent. Many of those independents in the new poll said neither has the upper hand in the economic debate. About a quarter of independents align with the Republicans on this question.
Still, the overall numbers look pretty good for Obama, right?
Well, yes. Until you consider the partisan split of the poll, found in the data.
Even with an 11-point advantage among Democrats, Obama cannot convince a majority that the country is on the right track or that his approach to spending and the deficit is correct. Even with that huge advantage, only 27% say the economy is getting better, while 36% say it's getting worse. There is improvement in those numbers, but nothing like what should be expected given the lopsided partisan split. The relative softness of these numbers show that Obama is having trouble convincing people of his own party that his policies are correct.
Keep that partisan split in mind the next time you hear a journalist proclaim that Obama still has strong approval ratings in the country. Ask yourself how many of those statements are based upon Potemkin village polls like this one. Obama is doubtless still more popular than the Republicans, but the press is doing him no favors by trying to paint rainbows over dark clouds.
— Gabriel Malor
March 30, 2009
— Open Blog Yes! A million times yes! From AP via MSNBC comes news that DOE has finally completed a 12 year long project building a laser that may be able to to do lots of seriously cool shit. (The cool shit involves both weapons and the promise of nuclear fusion energy sources)
WASHINGTON - After more than a decade of work and $3.5 billion, engineers have completed the world's most powerful laser, capable of simulating the energy force of a hydrogen bomb and the sun itself. The federal Energy Department will announce Tuesday that it has officially certified the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, clearing the way for a series of experiments over the next year that eventually is hoped will mimic the heat and pressure found at the center of the sun. The facility, the size of a football field, comprises 192 separate laser beams, each traveling 1,000 feet in one-thousandth of a second to converge simultaneously on a target the size of a pencil eraser.
DOE, in conjunction with the Defense Department, has released a sketch of a proposed field test should the system prove to be viable in a lab setting:
I think I just wet myself. But theres more! (below the fold, with a pic of the test chamber)
— Open Blog Its old (from last Friday) but CNN posted a CNET story about the annual Game Design Challenge. Read on for details.
SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNET) -- In an industry dominated by men, leave it to women to come up with the winning idea in a contest to create a concept for a video game about losing one's virginity. On Wednesday, at the Game Developers Conference here, the two-woman team of Heather Kelley and Erin Robinson won the Game Design Challenge with just 36 hours of preparation, while their competitors had weeks to come up with concepts for a game about "your first time." This was the sixth straight year of the design challenge, hosted annually by New York-based game developer Eric Zimmerman. The contestants are generally top-tier game designers like two-time winner and Spore and The Sims creator Will Wright, Deus Ex lead designer Harvey Smith, or 2008 winner and Leather Goddesses of Phobos creator Steve Meretzsky. The contestants are generally given several weeks to come up with a concept for a game based on some sort of unusual challenge posed by Zimmerman. Past themes have included a game about love, a game based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and a game that could win the Nobel Peace Prize.
At least this years challenge was more interesting. Well, to a few of us that is. Most here arent familiar with the concept of getting laid, but its a real circumstance that occurs in the outside world, beyond the safe and warm confines of AoSHQ. I know, I know its a frightening thought, but just think of this place as the online equivalent of living in your parents basement. And most of you dont even have to imagine that scenario.
Kelley began by explaining that her game would commence with the player having to pick an outfit for a date that was intended to conclude with their deflowering. It would have to be the least complicated outfit possible, she said, nothing with zippers that get stuck, or too many buttons or ties.
So its good to see that these young innovators have come up with a new game that could possibly lead to carnal knowledge. Im sure itll proudly take its place in the pantheon of such games as Spin-The-Bottle, Strip Poker and Twister (well, naked Twister that is). And if you dont fly in that direction? You can always fall back on the penultimate game specifically designed to ensure that you never get any:
Notice: Posted by permission of AceCorp LLC. Please e-mail overnight open thread tips to email@example.com. Otherwise send tips to Ace.
— Purple Avenger Meet HR 875. Its a "small" bill, not nearly as voluminous as the Spendulus, and it can easily be read in one sitting if you just want to get the gist of the nightmare it will create.
Basically, HR 875 sets up a MASSIVE new government bureaucracy called the Food Safety Administration, and compels anything known as a "food establishment" to register with the federal government (paying registration fees of course) and to submit to inspections that are at different intervals depending on the type of "food establishment" you are.
The (formerly) ubiquitous summer roadside vegetable stand appears to be both Category 3 and 5 "food establishments" since they sells "fresh produce in ready-to-eat raw form" and "stores, holds, or transports food products prior to delivery for retail sale".
The explicit exclusions in Section 3 (13)(B) do not exclude roadside vegetable stands.
Section 3 (14) explicitly declares "any farm" (no matter what the size) to be a "FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY".
Section 406 is a real doozy which places the burden of proof on the small farmer or roadside stand operator to demonstrate that none of their goods were participants in interstate commerce (the basis for this whole thing appears to be the Commerce Clause)
SEC. 406. PRESUMPTION. 1 In any action to enforce the requirements of the food safety law, the connection with interstate commerce required for jurisdiction shall be presumed to existAs a practical matter, a stand operator or small farmer can't guarantee where the stuff they're selling will be used once the customer drives away...so that basket of cherries that winds up in aunt Millie's pie two states away can throw you in hot water. I suppose the vendor could require each customer to sign a release guaranteeing the goods won't ever cross state lines, and simply refuse to sell to anyone with out of state plates and that might get them off the hook of this odious legislation.
But then again, who operating a micro-business like this would risk the potential $1,000,000 fine? (Sec 405(a)(1)(A)
There's all sorts of other turd brained stuff in this bill relating to farm animals and imported stuff as well. Much of it completely impractical and probably unenforcable beyond our own shores.
The small "organic" type farms are all up in arms over this shit sandwich, so all you fucking hippies and O-bots that voted for the retards pushing this disaster - good luck with those "buy local" efforts of yours. Enjoy it while it lasts, which ain't going to be for long if this passes.
From the Protein Wisdom link:
...The bills sponsor is Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), with 39 co-sponsor, all Democrats...
Shelly's vid added below the fold. more...
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