Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Coming Soon to Maryland...

from BizSmart
BOSTON — Many Massachusetts households are going to see their electric bills shoot up 37 percent this winter, a rate increase that some advocates fear will put additional strain on low-income families.

State regulators approved the increase for National Grid household customers that would mean an average of $33 per month more for the typical residential customer and would push a typical monthly bill higher than $150.

Large-business customers will see even higher increases.

National Grid has almost 1.3 million residential and business electric customers in Massachusetts. The new rates take effect in November.

"This is pretty bad, and it's going to really have a bearing on a lot of Massachusetts households' abilities to just make ends meet this winter," John Howat, senior energy analyst at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, told The Boston Globe.

The utility blame the rate hikes on the cost of buying electricity from power plants, which has soared because of an increased demand for natural gas used to generate electricity.

"This is something that's not within National Grid's control," spokesman Jake Navarro said. "This is a market-based problem."

The rate hikes will also hurt businesses.

"It's a very difficult thing, particularly for small businesses at a time when they're already struggling with the highest health care costs in the country and soon to be highest minimum wage," Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told the Boston Herald. "All these things are required costs of doing business, and it's very difficult to be profitable."

NStar, with more than 1.1 million customers in the state, and Western Massachusetts Electric Co., with about 213,000 customers, also expect to seek rate increases, a spokesman said.

Those companies, both owned by Northeast Utilities, won't file their winter rate requests until later this fall.
Some energy facts from Save our Sound
Myth: Cape Wind would reduce consumer costs.
Fact: There is no savings to the ratepayer and, in fact, the power will be far more costly.

Significant adverse economic impacts
Cape Wind would result in a high net cost to the public due to duplicative subsidies and tax credits, increased electric costs, and negative impacts to tourism, jobs, and property values. The project would impose billions of dollars in additional electricity costs for businesses, households, and municipalities throughout Massachusetts. Scores of commercial fishermen, who earn the majority of their income in the area of the proposed site, believe this project would displace commercial fishing and permanently threaten their livelihoods. (Exhibit 1) A decline in tourism would lead to the loss of up to 2,500 jobs according to the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University. Property values would also decline by $1.35 billion.

The Cost
National Grid's contract with Cape Wind calls for a starting energy price of 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour, with a 3.5% yearly increase for 15 years. This contract is approximately 230% over the current market price of electricity, which is about 8.1 cents per kilowatt hour. Cape Wind's cost is more than double that of land-based wind power from Maine and elsewhere. The total costs associated with this contract amount to a $4 billion dollar energy tax above market price. This will be harmful to businesses and cities and towns across the state, who will have to cut jobs in order to pay for the extra costs in their energy bills. A typical suburban hospital will pay $30,000 extra for Cape Wind if they are a National Grid customer. Fuel prices are not expected to rise to the level of Cape Wind in the near future. By the end of the life of the contract, Cape Wind's power costs will be around 33 cents per kilowatt hour.

THE COST TO MASSACHUSETTS: The Cape Wind project represents a $4 Billion Rate Hike to MA households, businesses, and municipalities.

THE MONTHLY BILL: The cost of Cape Wind electricity for ratepayers starts at a price of 22 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh) - almost 3 times current residential rates of 8 cents per kwh. Each year the price increases 3.5% leading to a final price of over 35 cents per kwh in year 15.

The Commies DID Get One Thing Right...

"The ascendancy of capitalist production relations extends its area more and more with the steady improvement of technology, which, by enhancing the economic importance of the large enterprises, tends to eliminate the small independent producers, converting some of them into proletarians and narrowing the role of others in the social and economic sphere, and in some places making them more or less completely, more or less obviously, more or less painfully dependent on capital".
- VI Lenin, "Collected Works"

Obama Separates Jihadi's while Netenyahu Conflates Them? So What is the Truth?

from Israel National News
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday, in a bid to refute the smear campaign launched by Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas claiming Israel is guilty of "genocide."

"Distinguished delegates, I come here from Jerusalem to speak on behalf of my people, the people of Israel," Netanyahu began. "I have come here to speak about the dangers we face [. . ] against the brazen lies about my country and about the people who defend it."

The Prime Minister emphasized that Israel's fight against Hamas is a microcosm of the fight against global jihad.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel pray for peace, but those hopes are in danger - because militant Islam is on the rise," he stated. "No one is spared - Christians, Jews, and Muslims."

"Their ultimate goal is to dominate the world."

"That threat may seem exaggerated to some, because it starts out small - like a cancer," he continued. "But cancer grows, covering a wider and wider area. To protect the security of the world, we must remove the scab, before it's too late."

Hamas = ISIS

Netanyahu then noted the hypocrisy of public opinion.

"Last week, many people in the world applauded US President Barack Obama for joining the fight against ISIS," he stated. "The same countries complained against Israel for fighting Hamas."

"They don't understand that ISIS and Hamas are the branches of the same poisonous tree," he continued. "Hamas shares the same militant ambitions of global Islamists."

Netanyahu compared ISIS and Hamas's charters, and noted that Hamas cheered when thousands died in the US during the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"Hamas is ISIS, and ISIS is Hamas," he declared. "And what they share is what all Islamism shares: [. . .] they all have the same ideology, they all seek to establish a global militant Islam - where there is no freedom."

"To them, anyone can be considered an infidel, including fellow Muslims."

Netanyahu then compared Hamas, ISIS, and Nazis.

"The Nazis believed in a master race; Islamists believe in a master faith," Netanyahu said. "The question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize their unbridled ambition."

Hamas, ISIS, and Iran: same same, new name

Netanyahu then addressed the Iran issue, noting that the Islamic Revolution was based on the decree that the whole world will cry, 'There is no God but Allah in the entire world.'

Today, the Revolutionary Guards aim to establish an "Islamic World Government," he notes.

As for the opinion that Iran's views on this are only fueled by "extremists," Netanyahu dismissed it as "changing both the ideology and the content" of Iranian governance. He quoted lines from a book by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whereby Rouhani says he has "problems with the West."

"Don't be fooled by Iran's manipulative 'charm offensive,'" Netanyahu urged. "It's for one reason only: to remove sanctions, and to lift obstacles to the path of power."

"This would essentially cement Iran's place as a threshold nuclear power," he continued, saying it would "pose the gravest threat to us all."

"It's one thing to confront militant Islamists on the back of a pickup truck armed with rifles," he said. "It's another to confront militant Islamists with weapons of mass destruction."

Netanyahu then compared the situation with ISIS to the situation with Syrian chemical weapons, whereby he noted that Syria was disarmed - but ISIS and Iran are not.

"Would you let ISIS build a water reactor? Would you let ISIS have access to nuclear weapons?" he asked. "Of course you wouldn't, and you should not let the Islamic State of Iran either."

If so, he says, "the Ayatollah will show their true face and unleash their fanaticism to the entire world."

"Iran's military capabilities must be fully dismantled," he declared, to general applause.

"Make no mistake: ISIS must be defeated. But to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power would be to win the battle and lose the war."

"Ladies and gentleman, the fight against militant Islam is indivisible," he continued. "That's why Israel's fight against Hamas is not our fight: it's your fight. Our fight against Hamas today could be your fight tomorrow."

'Would you let terrorists fire rockets at your cities?'

Netanyahu then addressed Operation Protective Edge.

"You wouldn't let terrorists fire rockets at your cities with impunity," he said. "Nor would you let them dig terror tunnels or kidnap your citizens."

"Yet Israel faced another challenge: a propaganda war."

"Hamas cynically used schools - UN schools! - and hospitals, and mosques to house civilians, as Israel surgically struck to eliminate terrorists."

"We were not [targeting civilians]," Netanyahu fired. "We regret every civilian casualty."

Netanyahu noted that the IDF took many measures to warn Palestinian civilians ahead of every strike.

"No other army in history has gone to greater lengths to prevent civilian casualties in the population of their enemies," he noted, to applause. "They upheld the highest moral values of any army in the world."

"Israel's army deserves the admiration of decent people everywhere," he added, to applause.

Redefining 'war crime' and 'human rights council'

Netanyahu also noted Hamas's executions of Fatah members and dissidents, as well as the terror group's deliberate use of children as human shields, using a France 24 photo as proof.

"This is a war crime," he said. "I say to Abbas: there are the war crimes committed by Hamas, under your leadership, under the unity government you head, and these are the war crimes you should have called to investigate last week."

"The profound moral difference between Israel and Hamas couldn't have been clearer," he said. "Israel was using missiles to protect its children, Hamas was using children to protect its missiles."

"The UNHRC has betrayed its noble principles to protect its enemies," he continued, noting it is "turning the concept of war upside down."

"The UNHRC is sending a clear message to terrorists everywhere: use civilians as a human shield. Use them again, and again, and again. You know why? Because sadly, it works."

"Thus, the UNHRC has become a Terrorists' Human Rights Council," Netanyahu declared, noting that it "may have already had consequences."

Netanyahu slammed the UNHRC for dedicating over half of its resolutions against Israel, "where issues are openly debated in our boisterous parliament."

"The UNHRC is an oxymoron, but I'll use it just the same," he said. "Its policies are an extension of the oldest prejudice in the world. It's a function of diseased minds: it's called anti-Semitism, which is spreading in polite society, which is being legitimized as a form of criticism against Israel."

"Genocide? In what moral universe does a country attempt over and over again to get its enemies out of harm's way? To build field hospitals? To ship tons and tons of aid?"

"The same moral universe where the man who wrote a dissertation denying the Holocaust can stand on the podium and claim Israel commits genocide."

Israel: standing tall

"Today, Israel will defend itself against her enemies," Netanyahu continued. "Israel will try its enemies on the courts of public opinion. Israel will stand proud and unbowed." Applause followed.

"Together, Israel and the world face many of the same dangers," he noted, including "militant Islam and a nuclear Iran."

"Our job is to form a partnership over these issues," he said.

"I believe the partnership between us can also facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he added, noting that the "active involvement of Arab countries - those who are willing to provide political, material, and other support - could bring a compromise."

"The people of Israel are not the occupiers in the land of Israel," Netanyahu said, citing "history, archaeology, and common sense."

"I want peace because I believe it will bring a better future for my people," he said, calling for one which brings "rock-solid security arrangements on the ground."

"As the Prime Minister of Israel, I am entrusted with the awesome of responsibility of protecting the Jewish people and the Jewish state," he said. "I will never waver on that responsibility."

Partnership for peace in the Middle East

"In Israel, we have a record of making the impossible, possible," Netanyahu said. "We have made the desert flourish. We have led the world in technological innovation."

But in order for Israel to "reach its full potential," he said, "the template for peace must change."

"There is a new Middle East. It has many dangers, but also many opportunities. We are working to work together with our global partners to face those dangers and seize those new opportunities."

"All of this may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but it is the truth," he said. "And the truth most be spoken - especially here, at the United Nations."

War of words

Speaking just before takeoff on his way to New York, Netanyahu reiterated his pledge to "refute the lies" against Israel at the UN General Assembly, particularly in the speech by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who accused Israel of “genocide” and “war crimes”.

"In my speech to the General Assembly, I will refute the lies that are being told about us and I will tell the truth about our state and the heroic soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world," Netanyahu said on the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv before boarding the plane.

Netanyahu's response will reportedly be "razor sharp," according to close confidantes of the Prime Minister, who added that it will be "worth the wait."

On Friday, Abbas made a pathos-laden speech to the UNGA, vowing to prosecute Israel for "war crimes" in International Criminal Court (ICC).

"There is an occupation that must end now," he claimed. "There is a people that must be freed immediately. The hour of independence of the state of Palestine has arrived."

He did not set a deadline for fast-tracking to what he claimed would be "Palestinian statehood," after aides suggested they were eyeing 2017 as a possible date.

Describing Israel's defensive operation in Gaza as a "genocidal crime," Abbas pledged: "We will not forget and we will not forgive, and we will not allow war criminals to escape punishment."

Abbas’s speech garnered strong reactions from the U.S. - which called the tirade "offensive" - and from Israeli MKs across the political spectrum.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Will 2014 Free Boehner to Move to the Left and Dump the Tea Party?

It is now generally accepted that Republicans will keep the House in November and "win" the midterm by adding a handful of seats to their majority. If this counts as "winning," Nancy Pelosi must already be stocking up on the champagne.

The battle for the Senate has so dominated this midterm cycle that the House has become an afterthought. Republicans keep telling themselves that all that matters is getting Mitch McConnell back into the majority leader's seat, so a united GOP Congress can move to roll back the Obama agenda.

Senate control is the priority, but the House deserves far more attention than it's getting. John Boehner has his majority, but it is not often a governing (or governable) one. The speaker endlessly struggles to get to that magic number 218, often to his embarrassment and the detriment of good policy. (A favorite: the House's stubborn refusal to accept his 2012 tax-cliff deal, which set up President Obama for an even greater tax-hike victory). Every additional member Mr. Boehner adds to his majority means additional flexibility in the coming Obama fights. It's also a cushion against future losses.

And this is the year to do it. The party in the spring announced it was driving for 245 seats, up from 233, and described this as "ambitious." Really? Republicans were obviously never going to replicate anywhere near their 63-seat pickup of 2010.
from the WSJ

The Trouble with Kansas...

... is no trouble at all!

On Thursday, the three-term Kansas senator turned to tea party darling Sarah Palin to rally voters behind his flagging campaign. The former Alaska governor praised Roberts for standing with Sen. Ted Cruz a year ago during his marathon floor speech against President Obama's healthcare law, which preceded a strategy that resulted in a government shutdown.

"He [Roberts/was] one of the few senators fulfilling campaign promises, doing what the American people asked him to do, standing there on the floor with Sen. Ted Cruz to do what they could to get rid of Obamacare," Palin said.

The location was its own message of sorts – the small town of Independence. Palin and Roberts argued that Greg Orman, a wealthy financier who now leads in some public polls, is hardly the independent voice he casts himself as.

"I know independence," Palin said. "Supporting Barack Obama, supporting Obamacare, supporting amnesty, supporting Harry Reid? That’s not independent. That’s someone who's trying to schnooker ya, Kansas."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dear Prudence...

3.1.10 - For one (if they be properly treated) I despair neither of the publick fortune nor of the publick mind. There is much to be done undoubtedly, and much to be retrieved. We must walk in new ways, or we can never encounter our enemy in his devious march. We are not at an end of our struggle, nor near it. Let us not deceive ourselves: we are at the beginning of great troubles. I readily acknowledge that the state of publick affairs is infinitely more unpromising than at the period I have just now alluded to; and the position of all the Powers of Europe, in relation to us, and in relation to each other, is more intricate and critical beyond all comparison. Difficult indeed is our situation. In all situations of difficulty men will be influenced in the part they take, not only by the reason of the case, but by the peculiar turn of their own character. The same ways to safety do not present themselves to all men, nor to the same men in different tempers. There is a courageous wisdom: there is also a false reptile prudence, the result not of caution but of fear. Under misfortunes it often happens that the nerves of the understanding are so relaxed, the pressing peril of the hour so completely confounds all the faculties, that no future danger can be properly provided for, can be justly estimated, can be so much as fully seen. The eye of the mind is dazzled and vanquished. An abject distrust of ourselves, an extravagant admiration of the enemy, present us with no hope but in a compromise with his pride, by a submission to his will. This short plan of policy is the only counsel which will obtain a hearing. We plunge into a dark gulph with all the rash precipitation of fear. The nature of courage is, without a question, to be conversant with danger; but in the palpable night of their terrors, men under consternation suppose, not that it is the danger, which, by a sure instinct, calls out the courage to resist it, but that it is the courage which produces the danger. They therefore seek for a refuge from their fears in the fears themselves, and consider a temporizing meanness as the only source of safety.

3.1.11 - The rules and definitions of prudence can rarely be exact; never universal. I do not deny that in small truckling states a timely compromise with power has often been the means, and the only means, of drawling out their puny existence. But a great state is too much envied, too much dreaded, to find safety in humiliation. To be secure, it must be respected. Power, and eminence, and consideration, are things not to be begged. They must be commanded: and they who supplicate for mercy from others can never hope for justice thro' themselves. What justice they are to obtain, as the alms of an enemy, depends upon his character; and that they ought well to know before they implicitly confide.
- Edmund Burke, “Letters on a Regicide Peace”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Who do you Suppose is the Biggest Funder of Islamic Terrorism in the World?

....best look in the mirror, America!

from the Jerusalem Post
The US State Department announced late Monday that it plans to provide over $71 million in humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip, a large portion of which is earmarked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

"More than 58,000 people are still sheltering in United Nations facilities and basic necessities like food, clean water, and fuel remain in short supply throughout the territory," the State Department said in a statement.

UNRWA has been a subject of controversy in Israel over its perceived sympathy toward Hamas and its actions during Operation Protective Edge.

UNRWA admitted to finding Hamas rockets in their facilities on a number of occasions during the Gaza operation. It said it handed them over to local authorities “answerable to the national unity government.”

The State Department rebuked Israel after the army struck UNRWA facilities it claimed was used by Hamas as cover to launch rockets and mortars.

Earlier this month, The Jerusalem Post reported Hamas used violence and threats against UN personnel in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

During the operation, Hamas was hiding weapons in facilities run by UNRWA, and firing rockets from close proximity to its schools, it was discovered. UNRWA workers were subject to Hamas threats at gun-point during the operation.

In a number of incidents, Hamas terrorists threatened to kill UNRWA personnel if they revealed that the Islamist group was using the UN facilities for purposes of war, to ensure that they would not speak out about Hamas’s activities.

Details have also emerged of the fate of medical supplies and food that were intended to be distributed by UNRWA to residents of Gaza in need of humanitarian aid. On a number of occasions, armed Hamas operatives forcefully confiscated the supplies, taking them for their own use.

In a few cases, both during and after the Gaza war, trucks carrying supplies to UNRWA facilities were intercepted and taken over by Hamas terrorists.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New Tax Breaks for Owners of Subsidized Housing Bought with County Bond Guarantees

from the Baltimore Sun
Owners of two Harford County rental housing communities for primarily low-income residents could be allowed to make payments to the county that would substitute for conventional property taxes, according to proposals under consideration by the county council.

The so-called payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, is a standard agreement developers of such projects make with local government as a means of being able to charge more affordable rents, officials involved in the approval process say.

At this point, however, nobody who is reviewing the proposals is able to provide a comparison of the amount of property taxes either development might generate, as opposed to what the county will receive from the PILOT.

County spokeswoman Sherrie Johnson says the pending agreements for Riverwoods, a new apartment project in Abingdon, and the existing Windsor Valley Apartments in Edgewood, should boost revenue for Harford and potentially help reduce crime around Windsor Valley.

The county's chief auditor says she is unable to make such comparisons at this point, however.

Johnson said no tax revenue would be lost through the PILOT agreements, which would require an annual payment of $250 per unit from Windsor Valley's owner and at least $400 per unit from Riverwoods' owner.

Those amounts would also increase by 3 percent per unit annually starting in the second year of payment. Riverwoods' agreement would run for 10 years, while Windsor Valley's is set to end after 40 years.

"The tax benefit to the county will be significant – in the millions of dollars over the life of the two PILOTs," Johnson said. "Even after approved PILOTs are taken into consideration, revenue is increased compared to what would be collected without the enhancements."

Both projects will have some market-rate units, but will mostly be aimed at households earning 60 percent or less of the area median income, she said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income for Harford County for the latest available period, 2008-12, is $80,441.

Riverwoods, in the Constant Friendship Boulevard area near Walmart, Target, BJ's and Regal Cinemas, is planned as an 84-unit apartment complex for low- and moderate-income residents in the 400 block of Arundel Court.

Based on the PILOT, which was submitted to the Harford County Council as a resolution on Sept. 2, the first annual payment to the county would be $33,600. The council will hold a public hearing on the resolution Oct.7.

Windsor Valley's owner's PILOT request is part of an attempt to revitalize 291 apartments on Edgewood's Meadowood Drive, according to a resolution introduced to the council on Sept. 9. A public hearing will be held Oct. 14.

"We are recommending this PILOT be approved for the new contract purchaser because, once the PILOT is approved and the purchase of the property is finalized, the purchaser will undertake extensive renovation and rehabilitation of a property that severely needs it," Johnson said.

"The result will be a community that is much nicer and safer, which will benefit not only the residents of the surrounding area, but the county at-large through increased revenue," she added.
The development's prior owner did not have a PILOT agreement with the county, Johnson said.

The county auditor's office could not predict how much Windsor Valley's owner might pay in future taxes if there were no PILOT, as redevelopment is likely to change the project's value, according to a fiscal impact note from the county auditor's office.

"Accordingly, we cannot estimate the taxes that Windsor's payment would be in lieu of," County Auditor Chrystal Brooks wrote in her analysis. Brooks said she has not completed the fiscal analysis on the Riverwoods PILOT.

Windsor Valley's four parcels of land were last assessed for property taxes at $4,145,900 and the owner is paying $43,200 annually in taxes, according to the fiscal impact note.

If the PILOT is approved, the owner, Windsor Housing Associates LLC, would pay $72,750 to the county in the first year of the agreement and $230,401 by the 40th year.

The Maine-based Wishrock Housing Partners & Investment Group plans to spend $15.9 million, or $54,527 per unit, on renovations to Windsor Valley I and II, according to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Wishrock took over the complex, formerly known as Meadowood, this spring and got a $1.5 million bridge loan from the state to buy and repair 283 units of Windsor Valley III, DHCD spokeswoman Erlene Wilson said.

The company, which is based in Maine, plans to buy the 291 additional units, using $16.5 million in short-term, tax-exempt state bonds, Wilson said.

The state loans are not contingent on the county's approval of the PILOT, Wilson said.

Neither representatives of the partnership developing Riverwoods, which has an office in Bel Air, nor those of Wishrock replied to requests for comment for this story.

Johnson said Harford County Executive David Craig's administration supports the PILOT requests for both projects and is not concerned about possible negative reaction.

"If we did not believe these projects were good for all of the citizens of Harford County, we would not be supporting them," she said.

Windsor Valley, which is more than 40 years old, is in the Hanson Road corridor between Routes 24 and 152, long considered a high crime area by the Sheriff's Office, which had a meeting in the neighborhood earlier this summer following several non-fatal shooting and a fatal shooting over three days.

"We believe the crime will be significantly reduced, if the proposed developments are completed," Johnson said. "The rehabilitation of Windsor Valley involves a number of safety and security enhancements, including additional lighting and security cameras in coordination with the Sheriff's Office."
It must be nice not having to invest any of your own money in real estate projects that let the tax payers take all of financial risks. It's also interesting that no one in the county seems willing to compare how much money this project would cost the citizens of Harford County over NOT granting the tax subsidies. If the numbers were actually to the typical county citizens advantage, they would be trumpeting them to high heaven.

I sure wish that I could pay $250 in annual real estate tax instead of the over 10x tax figure that I am required to pay.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Let's all Cry for Karl Rove and the Republican Establishment...

from Breitbart
After declaring war on the Tea Party and often showing nothing but contempt for grassroots conservatives that powered Republicans to record gains in the 2010 midterm elections, Karl Rove whined that the GOP may not take back the Senate this year because of the lack of enthusiasm for his establishment-approved candidates.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Rove notes that even though Obama's "job approval numbers are lousy, no Democrat in a competitive Senate race polls regularly above 50%, GOP enthusiasm is high, and independents are trending Republican... each passing day provides evidence as to why a GOP Senate majority is still in doubt."

After declaring war on conservatives and the Tea Party last year, Rove now realizes that the very voters the establishment trashed are not donating to more moderate and establishment Senate candidates in states like North Carolina and Colorado. Rove says that "Republican candidates and groups must step up" to reduce the fundraising gap with Democrats. He said "Republicans must reach a certain sufficiency of advertising in the next six weeks" to "tip the needle in the GOP's direction."

Rove said "that will only happen if Republicans open their wallets to candidates whom they may have never met, and, if they live in a battleground state, they clear their calendars to volunteer to identify and get out the vote."

Last year, Rove formed the "Conservative Victory Project," a group whose purported goal, according to the New York Times, is to “recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s effort to win control of the Senate.”

Breitbart News noted that after Rove formed a PAC to attack conservatives, donations dried up--"Rove’s organization has been so tarnished among the conservative base that candidates fear donors will not contribute to any group associated with him." As a result, his network has "reloaded with groups that share donors but are technically not affiliated on paper with them" to try to deceive donors and voters even more.

Rove essentially runs "Crossroads GPS, American Crossroads, and the Conservative Victory Project Super PAC," the PAC formed to combat conservative candidates. Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads reportedly "raised $325 million in 2012" with nothing to show for it.

For instance, though the GOP establishment blames conservatives for not controlling the Senate, the establishment-backed Senate candidates in the 2012 election cycle lost in battleground states like Virginia, Wisconsin and even Montana, a race that should have been in the GOP column.

On his talk radio show this year, Mark Levin pointed this out: "noting that while candidates backed by Tea Party members like Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio won in 2010, candidates heavily supported by Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell in Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, and Wisconsin all got clobbered in 2012."

"All backed by Rove. All backed by McConnell. And all losers," Levin said. "We must not allow the Republican establishment and their friendly media to work with the liberal media to spin."
As Breitbart News reported, Levin said that even though "the Republican establishment holds the blame for the GOP's minority status in the Senate," its "leadership wants to twist history to absolve themselves of that blame."

"But for the Tea Party, you'd be nothing, as you were before," Levin told the GOP establishment. "But for the Tea Party, Pelosi would be Speaker."
Careful what you wish for Karl. The RNC is filled with deadwood.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Maryland's New Health Care Website Already Plans to Fail...

from the Baltimore Sun
The state announced Tuesday that it will stagger enrollment into insurance plans through its health exchange over several days in November as it tries to prevent a repeat of last year's debacle when the problem-plagued website crashed on the first day.

As a result, individuals won't be able to enroll themselves directly through the website until four days after the launch.

The gradual rollout will start with a preview Nov. 9, a week before open enrollment officially begins, when people will be able to browse health plans — something users couldn't do last year without creating an account.

A week later, on Nov. 15, the first sign-up event will be held at which people can enroll at a designated location that has not yet been identified. The next day the call center will begin operations so people can enroll via phone.

Authorized insurance brokers and navigators will have access to enroll residents on Nov. 17, and the following day caseworkers, health departments and social service agencies will begin enrolling people. Finally, individuals will be able to enroll directly on Nov. 19.

At a health exchange board meeting Tuesday, Isabel FitzGerald, Maryland's secretary of information technology, said the "staged rollout" was based on general best practices in information technology. It doesn't appear that any other state exchanges had such soft openings last year or have announced plans for them this year.

Officials insisted that they do not lack faith in the system's ability to perform, and testing of new technology adopted from Connecticut's exchange is going well.

"We can test, but we can't mimic unpredictable human behavior," said Fitzgerald, adding that testing involved many different and complex enrollment scenarios such as large families or households in more than one address. "We'll be able to see problems. The goal here is to get in front of them."

Exchange officials said they are trying to make the enrollment experience better for consumers. The state spent millions of dollars — much of it federal funds — to build the exchange, which had one of the worst launches in the country last year, the first year of federal health reform known as Obamacare. It was so bad that the state replaced the exchange's technology for its second year.

"We did hit all our milestones on target and on schedule," said Fitzgerald, who also addressed a legislative oversight panel earlier in the day. "I believe we have enough time to do the testing. I believe we'll be prepared for the launch."

The exchange has tested, for example, the site's ability to function with 2,000 concurrent users, and will soon test 5,000 or more users at once. Most pages are responding within a second, while more complex functions can take 2-4 seconds.

But Maryland faces a daunting challenge in getting the website running in time for its full-scale debut. Not only does the state face the task of enrolling an unknown number of new applicants, but it must also get out the word to another 60,000 to 70,000 people who enrolled through the exchange last year that they must go through the process again this year to keep their subsidized coverage.

Those people include many who experienced the agonizing system crashes, computer screen freeze-ups and repeated sign-on attempts last year before getting coverage.

Carolyn Quattrocki, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, said the exchange will use all avenues to reach consumers, including social media. She hopes those customers give the new web site a chance.

"We really do expect it will be a much easier experience," Quattrocki said.

Under current plans, individuals who must re-enroll to keep subsidies will have until Dec. 18 to do so. If they don't, they could be re-enrolled automatically in their current plans or similar plans and be responsible for their entire premium payments in January.

Despite last year's fiasco, state Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein said the overall implementation of the federal health care act was having its desired effect. He said that more than 400,000 people had received coverage since Jan. 1 and that the number of charity cases treated at Maryland hospitals had dropped more than 50 percent because more Marylanders have insurance.

Chet Burrell, CEO of CareFirst Inc., praised the state's "extraordinary effort" to rework its website. "The lessons from the first experience have been taken to heart," he said.

The head of Maryland's dominant health insurer coupled his praise with a dire warning, however. Burrell said a disparity between the relatively low rates for individuals under the Affordable Care Act and higher rates for people in small group plans threaten to force many small businesses to increase salaries and tell their employees to go to the exchange to get their own insurance.

CareFirst has been unhappy with the rate increases approved by the Maryland Insurance Administration for its plans next year. The insurer proposed a 22.8 percent increase in individual premiums, but Commissioner Therese Goldsmith allowed only 9.8 percent. Other carriers requested much smaller increases or decreases in rates.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hysterical Flashbacks, Past and Present

NEW YORK (CNN) -- I don't know about you, but I can't take seriously anyone who takes either the Republican Party or Democratic Party seriously -- in part because neither party takes you and me seriously; in part because both are bought and paid for by corporate America and special interests. And neither party gives a damn about the middle class.

Our country's middle class is not just collateral damage in what has become all-out class warfare. Political, business and academic elites are waging an outright war on working men and women and their families, and there is no chance the American middle class will survive this assault if the dominant forces unleashed over the past five years continue unchecked.

They've accomplished this through large campaign contributions, armies of lobbyists that have swamped Washington, and control of political and economic think tanks and media. Lobbyists, in fact, are the arms dealers in the war on the middle class, brokering money, influence and information between their clients our elected officials.

Yet in my entire career, I've literally never heard anyone in Congress argue that lobbyists are bad for America. In 1968 there were only 63 lobbyists in Washington. Today, there are more than 34,000, and lobbyists now outnumber our elected representatives and their staffs by a 2-to-1 margin.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, from 1998 through 2004, lobbyists spent nearly $12 billion to not only influence legislation, but in many cases to write the language of the laws and regulations.

Individual firms, corporations and national organizations spent a record $2.14 billion on lobbying members of Congress and 220 other federal agencies in 2004, according to PoliticalMoneyLine. That's nearly $6 million a day spent to influence our leaders. We really do have the best government money can buy.

But as I discuss in my new book, "War on the Middle Class," what if we all resolved that we would not permit either the Republicans or Democrats to waste their time and ours with wedge issues? Both parties love to excite their bases by focusing on wedge issues like gay marriage, the pledge of allegiance, school prayer, judicial appointments, gun control, stem cell research and welfare reform.

Each of these wedge issues is important in varying degrees to large numbers of us, but none of them rises to the level of urgency or the requirement of immediate change in public policy.

These issues are raised by both political parties to distract and divert public attention from the profound issues -- like educating our youth, economic inequality and the war against radical Islamic terrorists -- that affect our daily lives and the American way of life. Imagine the consternation in Washington if both parties had to contend with a national electorate whose political affiliation had dramatically changed within a matter of weeks or months.

In both Republican and Democratic administrations, Congress has passed and sustained billions of dollars in royalty payments and subsidies to big oil companies; pushed through a corporate-written, consumer-crippling bankruptcy law; embraced the death of the estate tax; approved every free trade deal brought to a vote; and supported illegal immigration for the sake of cheap labor.

The party strategists and savants are telling us that fewer Americans will turn out to the polls than ever before, disgusted by a disgraced former congressman. But we don't have to wait for the midterm elections to begin to engage in our new political life.

There's something all of us could do that would have an immediate impact and send a powerful message to both corporation-dominated political parties and to our elected officials in Washington. Our so-called representatives in both parties have been working against the interests of the middle class for so long that they take our votes for granted, or they take advantage of the fact that a sizable number of us don't vote at all.

So what if a majority of us decided once and for all to walk into our town and city halls all over the country and change our party affiliation from Republican or Democrat to independent? What if that sizable number of us who don't vote at all decided to register as independents? For the first time in decades, working middle-class Americans might just get the attention of our elected officials in Washington.

Our middle class has suffered in silence for far too long, and it cannot afford to suffer or be silent much longer. Hardworking Americans have not spoken out about their increasingly marginalized role in this society, and as a consequence they've all but lost their voice.

Without that strong, clear and vibrant voice, all the major decisions about America and our future will be made by the elites of government, big business and the dominant special interests. Those elites treasure your silence, as it enables them to claim America's future for their own.

I sincerely hope that we will find the resolve to face these challenges to our way of life, and we do so soon. George Bernard Shaw said, "It is dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid."

I'm stupid enough to be absolutely sincere in the hope that middle-class America will awake soon and take action.
- Lou Dobbs, October 2006

I'm not as optimistic as Mr. Dobbs. But then, I'm no Democrat with an undying faith in inevitable triumph of democracy. All it takes for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing. And nothing is what they are all currently doing. And ps, don't look for me at the ballot box come November. Deliverance for the Middle Class won't be coming from little slips of paper and/or re-arranged electrons. Interpassive behaviours no longer interest me. I'm over America's democracy fetish. As the Chinese experience has recently recently proven, it's vastly over-rated.

meden agan!

Hogan's Gubernatorial Campaign Begins...

Who Knew He Was Running so he could to Pander to Brain-dead Greenies by Collecting more Money to Throw at their Favorite Causes?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

ISIS is a Disgrace!

It has become a commonplace in recent months to observe that the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is the latest chapter in the long story of the anticolonial awakening — the arbitrary borders drawn after World War I by the great powers being redrawn — and simultaneously a chapter in the struggle against the way global capital undermines the power of nation states. But what causes such fear and consternation is another feature of the ISIS regime: The public statements of the ISIS authorities make it clear that the principal task of state power is not the regulation of the welfare of the state’s population (health, the fight against hunger) — what really matters is religious life and the concern that all public life obey religious laws. This is why ISIS remains more or less indifferent toward humanitarian catastrophes within its domain — its motto is roughly “take care of religion and welfare will take care of itself.” Therein resides the gap that separates the notion of power practiced by ISIS from the modern Western notion of what Michel Foucault called “biopower,” which regulates life in order to guarantee general welfare: the ISIS caliphate totally rejects the notion of biopower.

While the official ISIS ideology rails against Western permissiveness, the daily practice of the ISIS gangs includes full-scale grotesque orgies. Does this make ISIS premodern? Instead of seeing in ISIS a case of extreme resistance to modernization, one should rather conceive of it as a case of perverted modernization and locate it into the series of conservative modernizations which began with the Meiji restoration in 19th-century Japan (rapid industrial modernization assumed the ideological form of “restoration,” or the return to the full authority of the emperor).

The well-known photo of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, with an exquisite Swiss watch on his arm, is here emblematic: ISIS is well organized in web propaganda as well as financial dealings, although these ultra-modern practices are used to propagate and enforce an ideologico-political vision that is not so much conservative as a desperate move to fix clear hierarchic delimitations. However, we should not forget that even this image of a strictly disciplined and regulated fundamentalist organization is not without its ambiguities: is religious oppression not (more than) supplemented by the way local ISIS military units seem to function? While the official ISIS ideology rails against Western permissiveness, the daily practice of the ISIS gangs includes full-scale grotesque orgies, including robberies, gang rapes, torture and murder of infidels.

Upon a closer look, the apparent heroic readiness of ISIS to risk everything also appears more ambiguous. Long ago Friedrich Nietzsche perceived how Western civilization was moving in the direction of the Last Man, an apathetic creature with no great passion or commitment. Unable to dream, tired of life, he takes no risks, seeking only comfort and security: “A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end, for a pleasant death. They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health. ‘We have discovered happiness,’ say the Last Men, and they blink.”

It may appear that the split between the permissive First World and the fundamentalist reaction to it runs more and more along the lines of the opposition between leading a long satisfying life full of material and cultural wealth and dedicating one’s life to some transcendent cause. Is this antagonism not the one between what Nietzsche called “passive” and “active” nihilism? We in the West are the Nietzschean Last Men, immersed in stupid daily pleasures, while the Muslim radicals are ready to risk everything, engaged in the struggle up to their self-destruction. William Butler Yeats’ “Second Coming” seems perfectly to render our present predicament: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This is an excellent description of the current split between anemic liberals and impassioned fundamentalists. “The best” are no longer able fully to engage, while “the worst” engage in racist, religious, sexist fanaticism.

But are the terrorist fundamentalists really fundamentalists in the authentic sense of the term? Do they really believe? What they lack is a feature that is easy to discern in all authentic fundamentalists, from Tibetan Buddhists to the Amish in the United States — the absence of resentment and envy, the deep indifference towards the nonbelievers’ way of life. If today’s so-called fundamentalists really believe they have found their way to Truth, why should they feel threatened by nonbelievers? Why should they envy them? When a Buddhist encounters a Western hedonist, he hardly condemns. He just benevolently notes that the hedonist’s search for happiness is self-defeating. In contrast to true fundamentalists, the terrorist pseudo-fundamentalists are deeply bothered, intrigued and fascinated by the sinful life of the nonbelievers. One can feel that, in fighting the sinful other, they are fighting their own temptation. This is why the so-called fundamentalists of ISIS are a disgrace to true fundamentalism.

It is here that Yeats’ diagnosis falls short of the present predicament: The passionate intensity of a mob bears witness to a lack of true conviction. Deep in themselves, terrorist fundamentalists also lack true conviction — their violent outbursts are a proof of it. How fragile the belief of a Muslim must be if he feels threatened by a stupid caricature in a low-circulation Danish newspaper. The fundamentalist Islamic terror is not grounded in the terrorists’ conviction of their superiority and in their desire to safeguard their cultural-religious identity from the onslaught of global consumerist civilization.

The problem with terrorist fundamentalists is not that we consider them inferior to us, but, rather, that they themselves secretly consider themselves inferior. This is why our condescending, politically correct assurances that we feel no superiority toward them only makes them more furious and feeds their resentment. The problem is not cultural difference (their effort to preserve their identity), but the opposite fact that they already like us, that, secretly, they have already internalized our standards and measure themselves by them. Paradoxically, what the fundamentalists of ISIS and those like them really lack is precisely a dose of that true conviction of one’s own superiority.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Isis is a Disgrace to True Fundamentalism"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Just Another Lying Fairweather RINO?

from NJ.com
TRENTON — Wall Street analysts at Fitch Ratings today downgraded New Jersey's bond rating for the second time this year, citing the state's poor economic performance, Gov. Chris Christie's rosy revenue forecasts — which failed to materialize — and his decision to plug the resulting budget gap by cutting $2.4 billion in funding for the state's strained pension system.

Fitch said Christie's decision to cut the pension payments this year marked a "repudiation" of a bipartisan plan he signed to fix the beleaguered retirement system for public workers, which is underfunded by nearly $40 billion, according to state estimates.

Instead of pumping bigger cash infusions every year into workers' retirement accounts to save them from collapse — as Christie and lawmakers agreed to do in his first term — New Jersey is now stepping away from its plan, Fitch said.

"Following significant revenue underperformance, the state relied upon the repudiation of its statutory contribution requirements to the pension systems to return to budgetary balance, exacerbating a key credit weakness," the Fitch analysts wrote in a note to investors, lowering their rating on the state's debt from A+ to A.

Fitch previously downgraded New Jersey by one step in May, while Christie was negotiating the new $32.5 billion budget with the Democrats who control the Legislature, which took effect July 1. Today's downgrade means the Wall Street analysts did not like the finished product, calling it a return to one-shot budget Band-Aids and "extremely narrow financial reserves."

"New Jersey's economic performance continues to lag that of the nation and a multitude of long-term spending demands are expected to prolong the achievement of sound financial operations," the analysts wrote. Fitch is keeping a "negative outlook" for New Jersey, meaning an upgrade of the state's credit rating is unlikely.

Throughout the year, downgrades have bedeviled Christie, a Republican who says he is thinking of running for president in 2016 and is visiting Mexico this week on a trade mission. Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's also issued ratings cuts during the budget season.

Every time the rating goes lower, the state's borrowing costs for major projects such as schools and road upgrades are likely to increase. Today's downgrade marked the seventh time the state's rating was cut under Christie's watch, the most under any New Jersey governor.

A spokesman for the state Treasury Department said Christie "acted responsibly" by shrinking two pension payments that had been scheduled for the current and previous fiscal years.

"Without raising taxes on an already overburdened populace, Governor Christie has already contributed more to the pension system than any previous governor," said the Treasury spokesman, Chris Santarelli, in an emailed statement.

"As rating agencies and ratings expectations have been recalibrated following the financial crisis of the late 2000s, the state Treasury and Office of Public Finance have worked tirelessly to ensure that New Jersey is rated fairly and equally by the Wall Street rating agencies; and will continue to do so."

After state tax collections fell far behind Christie's estimates in April, the governor said he decided to short the pension payments instead of making last-minute budget cuts to hospitals, schools and other parts of the social safety net. The two-year budget gap was north of $2 billion.

Christie's funding cuts for the pension system sparked a flurry of lawsuits that are ongoing in state Superior Court. This week, lawyers for the governor said he cannot be forced to keep making bigger payments, despite signing laws in 2010 and 2011 that pledged those contributions.

Santarelli added that there have been signs of improvement in the state's economic picture over the summer, such as "steady revenues and growing employment numbers."

"New Jersey needs additional, long-term, fiscally sustainable solutions to address the state’s considerable debt obligations and significant unfunded retirement liabilities," he added. The governor has convened a special task force of pension experts to study ways to dig New Jersey out of its deepening hole. "We invite the Legislature to join the governor in taking responsible action to meet this paramount challenge to our long-term fiscal health."

Fitch analysts took a less optimistic view. "New Jersey benefits from a wealthy populace and a broad and diverse economy," they wrote. "However, the state's economic performance has lagged the nation in recovery from the recent recession, with improvement in 2013 trailing off at the close of the year, and very slow year over year ... employment growth continuing through 2014."

The state is also carrying a high debt load at a time when "demands for school construction, environmental protection and transportation remain large," they added. "Net tax-supported debt as of June 30, 2014 equaled 7.4 percent of 2013 personal income as compared to a median of 2.6 percent for the states," Fitch said.
And a lesson for Maryland's gambling revenue state budget balancers.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Big Brother is Watching You, Harford County!

from the Washington Post
Military surveillance aircraft slated to be set aloft over suburban Baltimore this year were built to have the ability to distinguish between humans and wheeled vehicles from a distance of at least five kilometers, according to documents the Army has newly released to a privacy group.

But the documents contain such heavy redactions that it is unclear how precise the resolution is for the video systems on the blimp-like aircraft, nor is it clear whether the cameras can be equipped with facial recognition systems capable of identifying individual people, said Julia Horwitz of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, based in Washington.

“There is a lot of potential for privacy abuse if a surveillance device can identify a human at five kilometers away,” said Horwitz, the consumer protection counsel for the group, which is fighting a legal battle for information about the surveillance aircraft. Five kilometers is about 3.1 miles.

The Army last year announced that it was bringing its JLENS system, short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, to be tethered on land owned by the Aberdeen Proving Ground, for a three-year test of its capabilities. The test is scheduled to start in October.

Calls to the public information officer at Aberdeen Proving Ground were not returned Wednesday afternoon. Army officials have previously said that the surveillance system is intended to spot missiles and other threats to national security, not monitor the activities of people living or traveling below along the busy I-95 corridor.

The JLENS system – which includes a pair of white, 243-foot-long balloons tethered to the ground -- can stay in the air continuously for up to 30 days and is designed to spot missiles from a distance of 340 miles. Its radar systems also can detect what security experts call “swarming boats,” the kind of small, agile watercraft that, when loaded with explosives, can threaten ships.