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Saturday, July 13, 2013

NOT GUILTY!!! (Zimmerman)

Legal Insurrection has details.

Massive Public Transportation Patronage Fraud In Illinois

Read the whole thing:

When Metra CEO Alex Clifford asked about his chances for keeping his job, he received a bruising reply from the rail agency's board chairman, according to a memo that offers a snapshot of political clout as allegedly practiced in Illinois.

Clifford had displeased Metra board Chairman Brad O'Halloran by denying requests for jobs, raises or contracts for friends of House Speaker Michael Madigan and other influential politicians, the April 3 memo alleged.

According to Clifford's written account, O'Halloran believed that saying no to Madigan was serious enough to threaten funding for the commuter agency

Everything You Want to Know about Obamacare in One Place

Walter Russell Mead (Via Meadia) links to a resource provided by the WSJ:

Readers interested in the Affordable Care Act should take note of an excellent new resource from the Wall Street Journal. The paper has collected all of its running coverage of the ACA implementation as well as a lot of extra features and put them on a single “Health Law Rollout” page:
This guide explains the law and its impact on industry, consumers and states, and includes maps showing state positions on Medicaid and the insurance exchanges, a subsidy calculator and a timeline of key dates in the rollout. You can also take an interactive tour of “Obamacare,” learning through your own eyes what’s covered and how the law affects you, your employer and the uninsured.
One of the biggest problems with covering Obamacare is the sheer difficulty of finding information underneath all the loose predictions and hypotheticals. Nobody—including the administration— seems to have a comprehensive understanding of the facts involved in the rollout. So if you’re in the market for one stop shop for learning as much as you can about the law, this WSJ page seems like a good place to start.

Cronyism in your school lunch

The Hill: On Monday, the Department of Agriculture announced it was looking to buy the yogurt for schools participating in a federally assisted program that subsidizes school lunches.

Schumer added that the USDA announcement was "a boon for New York yogurt and dairy industries, and it's beneficial for the health of our kids."

So far this year, Chobani, a New York-based company that produces the best-selling brand of Greek yogurt in the country, paid $80,000 to Cornerstone Government Affairs to lobby Congress on its behalf, according to federal records. The company first hired the lobbying firm last July, shortly after Schumer petitioned the USDA.

via Overlawyered.

Twinkies will return on Monday (although Walmart has them now)



Hostess Brands Inc. was struggling for years before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in early 2012. Workers blamed the troubles on years of mismanagement, as well as a failure of executives to invest in brands to keep up with changing tastes. The company said it was weighed down by higher pension and medical costs than its competitors, whose employees weren't unionized.

The trimmed-down Hostess Brands LLC has a far less costly operating structure than the predecessor company. Some of the previous workers were hired back, but they're no longer unionized.

Man sues Apple for failing to save him from smut

"The Plaintiff became totally out of synch in his romantic relationship with his wife, which was a consequence of his use of his Apple product."

via BoingBoing.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Another Boeing Dreamliner fire - while parked at Heathrow, closing airport.

So much for redesigned batteries?

The BBC reports that London's Heathrow Airport is closed after a fire broke out aboard a parked Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. No injuries were reported, and apparently no one was aboard the plane when the fire started while parked away from the airport's gates. "The aircraft was parked on a remote parking stand," a Heathrow spokesperson told the BBC.

The fire comes just under three months after the Federal Aviation Administration approved fixes implemented by Boeing to the lithium-ion batteries used aboard the 787 and lifted the grounding order on the aircraft.

Congratulations, America: Cost of Government Day Finally Arrives for 2013!

Every year, the Cost of Government Center, in partnership with Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, calculates the Cost of Government Day. This is the day on which the average American has earned enough income to pay off his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government at the federal, state and local levels.

In 2013, Cost of Government Day (COGD) falls on Saturday, July 13. Working people must toil 194 days out of the year just to meet all the costs imposed by government. This year marks the fifth consecutive year COGD has fallen in July. Prior to the Obama Administration, the latest Cost of Government Day recorded was June 27.

10 Movies to Watch if You Loved Sharknado

Mental Floss has a list of 10 other awesomely terrible SyFy movies, although there are far more than the 10 they chose.

Here's a highlight reel for Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus:

Jonah Goldberg on Making Government 'Smarter': Trying to do dumb things the smart way.

“We can’t take comfort in just being cynical,” the president admonished. “We all have a stake in government success — because the government is us.”

This is among the president’s favorite formulations, and it gets to the heart of the problem. The government is not “us.” The government is — or is supposed to be — a collection of agencies that do things taxpayers and voters want done. In short, it is a tool.

Sometimes the smartest way to use a tool is not to use it at all. A garden rake is a useful tool. But it’s not useful for every task. No matter how smart the surgeon, there’s no smart way for him to use a rake to remove a kidney.

Friday links

LEGO Real Life Construction Ideas.

1954 film: How a Clean, Tidy Home Can Help You Survive the Atomic Bomb.  Related, The Soviets Built A Giant Gun That Could Shoot Nukes.

Excellent Sand Sculptures.

Magnificent Animal Armor.

The Most Dangerous Ways To Open Wine.

Dog picture(s) du jour: Poodle trimmed and dyed to look like the Simpsons

minus Maggie, but still...


And here's the groomer's homage to Sesame Street:

More here, via Splitsider.

1954 film: How a Clean, Tidy Home Can Help You Survive the Atomic Bomb



Atomic tests at the Nevada Proving Grounds (later the Nevada Test Site) show effects on well-kept homes, homes filled with trash and combustibles, and homes painted with reflective white paint. Asserts that cleanliness is an essential part of civil defense preparedness and that it increased survivability.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Re: Zimmerman, "The most disjointed, fact-free, histrionic, and ineffective closing argument...

...that I’ve heard delivered by a State prosecutor in a murder case in more than two decades of practicing law."

If you're not following Andrew Branca's daily synopsis/analysis of the Zimmerman trial over at Legal Insurrection, you're really missing out.

Why are testicles kept in a vulnerable dangling sac?

Read the whole thing at Slate.  Excerpt:

Why, on the path from the primordial soup to us curious hairless apes, did evolution house the essential male reproductive organs in an exposed sac? It's like a bank deciding against a vault and keeping its money in a tent on the sidewalk.

Some of you may be thinking that there is a simple answer: temperature. This arrangement evolved to keep them cool. I thought so, too, and assumed that a quick glimpse at the scientific literature would reveal the biological reasons and I’d move on. But what I found was that the small band of scientists who have dedicated their professional time to pondering the scrotum’s existence are starkly divided over this so-called cooling hypothesis.

Reams of data show that scrotal sperm factories, including our own, work best a few degrees below core body temperature. The problem is, this doesn’t prove cooling was the reason that testicles originally descended. It’s a straight-up chicken-and-egg situation—did testicles leave the kitchen because they couldn't stand the heat, or do they work best in the cold because they had to leave the body?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Obama Justice Department Organized and Funded Protests Against George Zimmerman

Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOJ on April 24, 2012. According to the documents JW received, a little-known DOJ unit called the Community Relations Service deployed to Sanford, FL, to organize and manage rallies against Zimmerman.
March 25 – 27, 2012, CRS spent $674.14 upon being “deployed to Sanford, FL to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.”
March 25 – 28, 2012, CRS spent $1,142.84 “in Sanford, FL to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.”
March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent $892.55 in Sanford, FL “to provide support for protest deployment in Florida.”
March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent an additional $751.60 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31.”
April 3 – 12, 2012, CRS spent $1,307.40 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance, conciliation, and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford.”
April 11-12, 2012, CRS spent $552.35 in Sanford, FL “to provide technical assistance for the preparation of possible marches and rallies related to the fatal shooting of a 17 year old African American male.” – expenses for employees to travel, eat, sleep?
“These documents detail the extraordinary intervention by the Justice Department in the pressure campaign leading to the prosecution of George Zimmerman,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “My guess is that most Americans would rightly object to taxpayers paying government employees to help organize racially-charged demonstrations.”

Grapes of wrath - scofflaw farmer's refusal to give half his crop to the national raisin reserve

Read the whole story at WaPo.  Excerpts:

The national raisin reserve might sound like a fever dream of the Pillsbury Doughboy. But it is a real thing — a 64-year-old program that gives the U.S. government a heavy-handed power to interfere with the supply and demand for dried grapes.

It works like this: In a given year, the government may decide that farmers are growing more raisins than Americans will want to eat. That would cause supply to outstrip demand. Raisin prices would drop. And raisin farmers might go out of business.

To prevent that, the government does something drastic. It takes away a percentage of every farmer’s raisins. Often, without paying for them.

These seized raisins are put into a government-controlled “reserve” and kept off U.S. markets. In theory, that lowers the available supply of raisins and thereby increases the price for farmers’ raisin crops. Or, at least, the part of their crops that the government didn’t just take.

For years, Horne handed over his raisins to the reserve. Then, in 2002, he refused.

Horne’s case reached the Supreme Court this spring... last month, the high court issued its ruling and gave Horne a partial victory. A lower court had rejected Horne’s challenge of the law. Now, the justices told that court to reconsider it.

The reserve is run by the Raisin Administrative Committee, a Fresno-based organization made up of industry representatives, but overseen by the Agriculture Department. The committee is allowed to sell off some of those reserve raisins that it took for free. It can use those proceeds to pay its own expenses and to promote raisins overseas.

And if there’s any money left over, it goes back to the farmers whose raisins were taken.

The committee is not very good at having money left over.

“We generated $65,483,211. And we pretty well spent it all,” said Gary Schulz, the committee’s president and general manager, reviewing the books for one recent year. That year, the committee spent those millions on storage fees. Overseas promotions. Administrative overhead.

So what, precisely, was left for the farmers?

“Zero,” said Schulz.

Creepy vintage beauty treatments that look Spanish Inquisition-esque



Zombified, An Interactive Behind the Scenes Look at How Zombies Are Created on ‘The Walking Dead’

The creative team at CableTV.com has produced “Zombified,” an interactive behind the scenes look at how zombies (walkers) are made on AMC’s The Walking Dead. The animated tour covers everything from casting and costume design to a secret recipe used for zombie blood. You can take the undead tour at CableTV.com.

Heh: Hooligan gang fight narrated by David Attenborough



via Have You Seen This?

Video: The Most Dangerous Ways To Open Wine

Nice Outfit.



via Dave Barry.

Wednesday links

The physics of waterslides.

Is it easier to fart while standing up or lying down?

The History of Circumcision.

Game of Throne Characters Drawn in the Style of The Simpsons.  Related, The Iron Throne as George R.R. Martin really imagined it would look is terrifying.

Are Wolves Really Howling at the Moon?

The Iron Throne as George R.R. Martin really imagined it would look is terrifying

Martin
The HBO throne (see below) has become iconic. And well it might. It’s a terrific design, and it has served the show very well…Everyone knows it. I love it. I have all those replicas right here, sitting on my shelves. And yet…it’s still not right. It’s not the Iron Throne I see when I’m working on The Winds of Winter. It’s not the Iron Throne I want my readers to see. The way the throne is described in the books.. HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court…my throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and asymmetric…
The HBO throne is none of those things. It’s big, yes, but not nearly as big as the one described in the novels. And for good reason. We have a huge throne room set in Belfast, but not nearly huge enough to hold the Iron Throne as I painted it. For that we’d need something much bigger, more like the interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, and no set has that much room. The Book Version of the Iron Throne would not even fit through the doors of the Paint Hall.

The HBO version: 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

CIA Interrogator Apologizes Profusely After Asking Question About Touchy Subject

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA—Following an intrusive line of questioning during an interrogation Sunday, CIA agent Martin Crenshaw reportedly apologized profusely to suspected enemy combatant Faisal Ishaq for bringing up the admittedly touchy matter of his connection to al-Qaeda cells in Yemen. “Oh, jeez, I’m so sorry—that was way out of line,” a mortified Crenshaw said to Ishaq moments after posing an uncomfortable question regarding the detainee’s known ties to terrorist leaders, stating that he was fully aware of what a sensitive topic that was and acknowledging that it was “not really any of [his] business.” “Gosh, I wasn’t thinking at all when I said that, and I feel just terrible about putting you on the spot there. Please accept my apologies and let’s just forget I ever said that. What do you say we just start this over, okay?” In a further show of contrition, Crenshaw offered to lower the electrical current passing through Ishaq’s testicles

Average Cost of Department of Energy Contract Employees In Washington? $247,000 Each

The Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General today released a follow-up audit on facility contractor personnel assigned temporarily to Washington, D.C., to provide technical expertise. The report noted that there have been improvement since the original report in 2005, but still identified ways to cut costs and make more effective use of these "term assignments."

One stat: The average annual cost of these assignments is $247,000 per employee, which includes the employee salaries and other expenses.

The IG reviewed 96 contractor employees from five DOE labs who were assigned to the Washington, D.C. area, for fiscal 2011. Those DOE facilities were Sandia, Argonne, Idaho, Pacific Northwest and Los Alamos National Labs.

via Knox News.

US agency baffled by modern technology, destroys mice to get rid of viruses

Read the whole thing at Ars.

The total cost to the taxpayer of this incident was $2.7 million: $823,000 went to the security contractor for its investigation and advice, $1,061,000 for the acquisition of temporary infrastructure (requisitioned from the Census Bureau), $4,300 to destroy $170,500 in IT equipment, and $688,000 paid to contractors to assist in development a long-term response. Full recovery took close to a year.

“The pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal.”

Powerline has a good post on the Obama administration delaying the enforcement of the Obamacare employer mandate for one year, discussing and referencing a WSJ article by former Tenth Circuit Judge Michael McConnell in which he addresses the question. McConnell observes: “Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution states that the president ‘shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’ This is a duty, not a discretionary power. While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.”
This matter—the limits of executive power—has deep historical roots. During the period of royal absolutism, English monarchs asserted a right to dispense with parliamentary statutes they disliked. King James II’s use of the prerogative was a key grievance that lead to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The very first provision of the English Bill of Rights of 1689—the most important precursor to the U.S. Constitution—declared that “the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal.”
To make sure that American presidents could not resurrect a similar prerogative, the Framers of the Constitution made the faithful enforcement of the law a constitutional duty.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the president on legal and constitutional issues, has repeatedly opined that the president may decline to enforce laws he believes are unconstitutional. But these opinions have always insisted that the president has no authority, as one such memo put it in 1990, to “refuse to enforce a statute he opposes for policy reasons.”

Monday, July 8, 2013

Game of Thrones Characters Drawn in the Style of ‘The Simpsons’

More pictures, plus info and links, at Laughing Squid.

IRS Accidentally Publishes ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Social Security Numbers Online

Another day, another slipup by the Internal Revenue Service. 

The incident involves the unwitting exposure of "tens of thousands" of Social Security numbers, according to a recent audit by the independent transparency and public-domain group Public.Resource.org. The identifying numbers were on the Internet for less than 24 hours after being discovered, but the damage was done.

Jonah Goldberg: Civil libertarians up in arms re the NSA, but what about ObamaCare and health records?

Orwell vs Huxley?

Worrying about NSA abuse is cast as high-minded while worrying about ObamaCare or the IRS is seen as paranoid. Why?

It's just fashionable.

Part of the answer surely stems from the fact the progressive dream of government-guaranteed health care is fashionable, while opposition to it is perceived by liberal elites as backward or villainous.

But it goes deeper than that. There are basically two visions of oppressive government, the Orwellian and the Huxleyan. In George Orwell's 1984, the dystopia is a totalitarian police state, where everyone is snooped on and bullied. In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, most people are happy because the government takes care of them.

Culturally, Americans of all stripes recoil at anything that seems like a step on the slippery slope toward the Orwellian state. But we lack the same reflexive response against things that smack of the Huxleyan.

Is it easier to fart while standing up or lying down?

Science takes on the important questions:

How did they control for the amount of gas their subjects had, you ask? Why, by blowing their intestines up with gas and measuring how much they farted, of course!

Influence of body posture on intestinal transit of gas.

“BACKGROUND: Patients describe that body posture may affect their abdominal bloating, distension, and flatulence, but whether changes in position have objectively demonstrable effects, either beneficial or deleterious, has not been investigated. Aim: To determine the effect of body posture, upright versus supine, on intestinal transit of gas loads.

SUBJECTS: Eight healthy subjects without gastrointestinal symptoms.

METHODS: In each subject a gas mixture was continuously infused into the jejunum (12 ml/min) for three hours, and gas evacuation, clearance of a non- absorbable gaseous marker, perception, and abdominal girth were measured. Paired studies were randomly performed in each subject on separate days in the upright and supine positions.

RESULTS: In the upright position, intestinal gas retention was much smaller than when supine (13 (52) ml v 146 (75) ml retention at 60 minutes, respectively; p

CONCLUSION: Body posture has a significant influence on intestinal gas propulsion: transit is faster in the upright position than when supine.”

Bonus quote from the materials and methods from the full text:

“Rectal gas collection:
To prevent potential effects of the anal sphincters on gas evacuation, gas was collected via an intrarectal catheter (Foley 20 F; Bard, Barcelona, Spain) with the balloon inflated with 5 ml of water. The rectal catheter was connected via a leak proof low resistance collection line to a barostat, and the volume of gas evacuated was continuously recorded on a paper polygraph (model 6006; Letica, Barcelona, Spain), as previously described. A sample of gas evacuated (flatus) during each 30 minute period was stored in metallised bags (Gas collection 750 ml; QuinTron, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA) for later analysis of SF6 concentration by infrared absorbance after determination of standard curves.”

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Teresa Heinz Kerry in critical condition

WSJ:

Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and heir to a ketchup company fortune, was hospitalized in critical condition Sunday while on Massachusetts’ Nantucket Island.

Heinz Kerry was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Sunday night after doctors at Nantucket Cottage Hospital stabilized her, a spokesman for Kerry said. The secretary of state was with his 74-year-old wife as an ambulance first transported her to the island hospital, and also during her transfer to the Boston facility.

Is Barack Obama Actually Joffrey Baratheon?


Barack Baratheon

This all seems so familiar… Questionable parentage, disreputable mother, neglected by his assumed-father who then died while he was young, has a half-brother who lives in utter poverty…

He behaves like a tyrant, ignoring laws at will, free to abuse whomever he chooses, and to loot the Treasury while lavishing gifts upon his friends... 

He’s surrounded himself with untoward characters demonstrably loyal only to him and not to our country. He is advised by a small council of aberrants and deviants who adhere to radical and repugnant philosophies, and counts terrorists among his friends and protectors.

8 years ago today, the terrorist bombings of London

We remember.

Yuval Levin has a good post on Obamacare’s Invitation to Fraud

Writing at NRO: When the Obama administration announced last Tuesday that they would be delaying Obamacare’s employer mandate and its associated reporting requirements by a year, many observers (myself included) noted that this could create problems for verifying eligibility for subsidies in the Obamacare exchanges.

Many if not all of the state exchanges, and presumably also the federally-run exchanges, were planning to use the required employer reports to facilitate the eligibility reconciliation that you have to do at tax filing time when people receive advanceable tax credits like those set to be offered in the exchanges. If employers weren’t required to provide reports for 2014, the process of confirming eligibility (that is, confirming that people receiving subsidies had in fact not been offered affordable insurance coverage at work) would become more difficult to pull off

Other states clearly shared this worry about how they were supposed to confirm eligibility for subsidies. But on Friday, the Obama administration answered their question with what is becoming the familiar refrain of Obamacare implementation: “never mind.” Buried in a massive 600-page rule released without fanfare the day after July 4, the administration announced that it would effectively delay the requirement to verify eligibility in the state exchanges.