Supercommittee gives up

The day of reckoning looms: The Congressional supercommittee has given up. The perspective of one member of the committee can be read here. Key quote:

The Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare trustees, and the Government Accountability Office have each repeatedly said that our health-care entitlements are unsustainable. Committee Democrats offered modest adjustments to these programs, but they were far from sufficient to meet the challenge. And even their modest changes were made contingent upon a minimum of $1 trillion in higher taxes—a move sure to stifle job creation during the worst economy in recent memory.

Even if Republicans agreed to every tax increase desired by the president, our national debt would continue to grow uncontrollably. Controlling spending is therefore a crucial challenge. The other is economic growth and job creation, which would produce the necessary revenue to fund our priorities. [emphasis mine]

This needs repeating: regardless of whether you think we should raise taxes in this situation, no tax increase can eliminate the deficit. The problem is out-of-control spending that needs to be seriously curbed.

Some historical context in discussing the federal debt

Some historical context in discussing the federal debt.

When Bill Clinton was president, the national debt rose by an annual average of $193 billion; when the profligate George W. Bush was in the White House, the yearly debt increases averaged $612 billion. On Obama’s watch, by contrast, the federal debt has been skyrocketing by more than $1.5 trillion per year. It took 40 presidents and nearly two centuries, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan , for the US government to accumulate $1.5 trillion in indebtedness. The 44th president – aided and abetted by Congress – enlarges the federal debt by that amount every 12 months.

Occupy Portland protesters prepare to confront police

Peace and love: It appears the Occupy Portland protesters are preparing to confront the police with homemade weapons and reinforcements.

People in the camp are expecting 100-300 re-enforcements from various locations. There may even be as many as 150 anarchists who will arrive soon. There is information that people may be in the in trees during a police action and that there are people who are attempting to obtain a large number of gas masks. There is a hole being dug in one of the parks and wood is being used to reinforce the area around it. There are reports that nails have been hammered into wood for weapons and that generally there are people in the camps preparing for a confrontation with police. . . People were seen carrying pallets into the camp shortly after 1:00 a.m. this morning. The destination of the pallets is a structure with graffiti in the northwest part of Chapman Park, also known as “The 420 Hotel”. The people there are very suspicious of any passers by, we are not sure at this point what exactly they are doing. We have been told it looks like they were making shields.

Violence and hatred in the Occupy “Whatever” movement

These four stories, all in today’s news, all suggest that the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement is strongly intolerant, filled with angry hatred, and prone to violence. Sadly, they appear to a small subset of a much larger sampling of similar stories.

In Oakland Occupy protesters have withdrawn a resolution to remain peaceful.

A small number of the protesters have openly called for the use of violence as a tactic to get their message out.

In Berkley, dozens of Occupy protesters were arrested yesterday. The cause:

The university reported earlier that an administrator had told the protesters they could stay around the clock for a week, but only if they didn’t pitch tents or use stoves or other items that would suggest people were sleeping there. The protesters voted not to comply with the demand and to go ahead with setting up a tent site they dubbed “Occupy Cal” to protest financial policies they blame for causing deep cuts in higher education spending.

In New York, a man was arrested for assaulting a paramedic and breaking his leg Wednesday night.

And finally, there is this eight minute video, where a Occupy Portland protester curses and threatens a news crew repeatedly until the police finally arrive to escort him away.

Escape from Berlin

An evening pause: In honor of the fall of the Berlin Wall on this day in 1989, I post below Part 2 of a documentary on the history of the Wall’s construction and the many escape attempts by East Germans. Though the documentary does a poor job of explaining why East Germans desperately made attempt after attempt to flee to the west (a wish to escape from oppression and go somewhere where they could freely live their lives), it does include some incredible film footage showing the various escape attempts. Part 1 outlines the Wall’s initial construction, during which many people could easily break through.

Part 2, embedded below, describes the first deaths, when the communist East German government gave its guards orders to “shoot to kill.” Part 3 is even more fascinating, showing the effort by West Germans to dig tunnels under the 150 foot death strip in order to get friends and relatives out. Parts 4 and 5 show later attempts, when the Wall had become more impregnable, including one escape using an arrow (!) and another using two ultralight airplanes. Part 6 shows the Wall’s fall in 1989.

For twenty-eight years a government decided it had the right to imprison its citizens because they longed for freedom. In the end, all that government really achieved was to prove that freedom is better, and that good intentions — based on intellectual ideology and imposed on people by force — lead nowhere but hell.

A breathtaking view of the Apollo 15 landing site

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team has released a wide angle side view image of the Apollo 15 landing site, showing the lunar module and the areas around Hadley Rille and the Apennine Mountain range that the astronauts explored using their lunar jeep. Below is a cropped close-up, showing the landing site near the top of the image with Hadley Rille near the bottom. Below the fold is a second image showing a wider view that includes the Apennine mountain slope that the astronauts drove their rover up.

Close up of Hadley Rille and Apollo 15 landing site

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NASA steals moon rock given to widow of NASA engineer

In a sting operation, NASA steals a moon rock from the widow of an retired NASA engineer.

Five months after NASA investigators and local agents swooped into the restaurant and hailed their operation as a cautionary tale for anyone trying to sell national treasure, no charges have been filed, NASA isn’t talking and the case appears stalled. The target, Joann Davis, a grandmother who says she was trying to raise money for her sick son, asserts the lunar material was rightfully hers, having been given to her space-engineer husband by Neil Armstrong in the 1970s.

Elon Musk and the forgotten word

Elon Musk at National Press Club

When Elon Musk gave his speech at the National Press Club on September 29, he was asked one question to which he really did not know the answer. He faked it, but his response illustrated how completely forgotten is one fundamental fact about American society — even though this fact is the very reason the United States became the world’s most wealthy and powerful nation less than two centuries after its founding.

To explain this fundamental fact I think I need to take a step back and talk about the ongoing war taking place right now over how the United States should get its astronauts into space. On one side we have NASA and Congress, who want NASA to build a new heavy-lift rocket to carry its Orion capsule beyond Earth orbit. On the other side we have a host of independent new space companies, all vying for the chance to launch humans and cargo into space for fun and profit.

Which is right? What system should the United State choose?
» Read more

Scientists push for monitoring network to collect environmental and socioeconomic data from around the world

What could go wrong? Scientists push for a monitoring network to collect environmental and socioeconomic data from around the world.

Sandy Andelman, an ecologist with Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia, discussed her work setting up a pilot project that began two years ago in southern Tanzania. In addition to basic environmental data about soils, nutrients and land cover, the project tracks agricultural practices. It also incorporates data about income, health and education that is maintained by the government. Andelman says that all the data she collects can be broken down to the level of individual households, and that initial results from the project have already prompted the Tanzanian government to adjust the way it zones agricultural land in the area. [emphasis mine]

Lord help the farmers whose lives will be tracked by this network.

Veterans Administration Settles with Veteran’s Groups at Houston National Cemetery

A victory for freedom: The Veterans Administration has settled the lawsuit filed against it by veteran’s groups at Houston National Cemetery over the VA’s attempt to stifle prayer at funerals. The key terms of the settlement:

  • The VA will not interfere with prayers during burial services.
  • The VA will not edit or control the speeches of speakers at ceremonies or events at the cemetery containing religious messages or viewpoints and cannot ban religious words in verbal communications between the volunteers and veteran’s families.
  • The VA will not ban religious speech or words like “God” or “Jesus” in condolence cards or gifts.
  • Payment by the VA of the veterans groups’ $215,000 in legal fees.

That it took a court suit to make the First Amendment clear to the VA is beyond sad.

House unexpectedly defeats spending bill

The House unexpectedly defeated a spending bill today.

The bill would have funded the government at an annual rate of $1.043 trillion, in line with a bipartisan agreement reached in August. Many conservatives want to stick with the lower figure of $1.019 trillion that the House approved in April. The measure failed by a vote of 195 to 230, with 48 of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. The vote demonstrated the continued reluctance of Tea Party conservatives to compromise on spending issues, even as the public grows weary of repeated confrontation on Capitol Hill. [emphasis mine]

I have highlighted the last line of the quote above to illustrate an example of Reuters inserting its own political agenda into a story, based not on facts but on fantasy and leftwing wishful thinking. Not only is there no indication that the public is “weary of repeated confrontation,” polls and recent special elections suggest that the public is instead quite weary of politicians unwilling to cut the federal budget. It is for this reason these conservative Republicans feel so emboldened. They know the political winds are at their backs.

With the Kyoto treaty expiring in 2012, Australia and Norway propose extending it until 2015

With the Kyoto climate treaty expiring in 2012 and with almost no chance of a new treaty being agreed to this December at the next climate meeting in Durban, South Africa, Australia and Norway have proposed extending Kyoto until 2015.

The Australia-Norway submission calls for a new timetable to finalize an international treaty that would extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2015. Kyoto, which requires nearly 40 developed nations to cut greenhouse emissions by at least 5.2 percent less than 1990 levels by 2020 during the years 2008-12, is scheduled to expire in 2012. . . . The 2015 timetable is intended to “scale-up” international efforts on climate change to attain a global goal of limiting temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius, the Australia-Norway proposal said.

What this tells me is that the chances of a new treaty are getting slimmer and slimmer. And I think that is good news, as we really have no idea what the climate is really doing, therefore making it very premature to write any treaty that limits human freedom. For all we know, the sun might be going quiet, which in turn could lead to global cooling.

But then, we don’t really know yet, do we? And without knowing a new climate treaty might do more harm than good.

Police give ticket to citizen for directing traffic

Police ticket citizen for directing traffic at intersection where traffic light failed.

Gerrish said Ehrlich cleared up the mess in 10 minutes. After 15 minutes, South Pasadena police say they finally received a call about their newest traffic officer, KCBS reported. Police responded to the scene and told Ehrlich to stop and issued him a ticket, but never stepped in to direct traffic themselves.

If this doesn’t illustrate the present madness of modern government, I don’t know what does. The proper answer by the police when they arrived should have been “Thank you, sir. We will take over now.” Instead, they do the exact opposite, punishing him while refusing to solve the problem.

Muslim students on trial for shouting during Israeli diplomat’s speech

Muslim students on trial for shouting during Israeli diplomat’s speech. You can watch what they did here.

As much as I found the actions of these Muslims despicable, it seems a mistake to put them on trial, as this only garners them undeserved sympathy. It also goes against American culture to put anyone on trail for what they say, no matter how impolitely they say it. Furthermore, the punishment meted out by the university seems more than sufficient.

New California law will require workers’ compensation benefits, rest and meal breaks and paid vacation time for…babysitters

Why no one should want to live in California: A new proposed law there would require workers’ compensation benefits, rest and meal breaks and paid vacation time for babysitters.

Under AB 889, household “employers” (aka “parents”) who hire a babysitter on a Friday night will be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless it is a family member), provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers’ compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.

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