Friday, 08 October 2010

CLIMATEGATE: THE CALIFORNIA EDITION

Ken Berwitz

Did you think the climategate scandal was over?  Think again

Excerpted from Wyatt Buchanan's article at, of all places, the San Francisco Chronicle:

California grossly miscalculated pollution levels in a scientific analysis used to toughen the state's clean-air standards, and scientists have spent the past several months revising data and planning a significant weakening of the landmark regulation, The Chronicle has found.

 

The pollution estimate in question was too high - by 340 percent, according to the California Air Resources Board, the state agency charged with researching and adopting air quality standards. The estimate was a key part in the creation of a regulation adopted by the Air Resources Board in 2007, a rule that forces businesses to cut diesel emissions by replacing or making costly upgrades to heavy-duty, diesel-fueled off-road vehicles used in construction and other industries.

What liars.  What frauds.

I wonder how big a laugh they had, as they made suckers out of well-meaning Californians who care about the environment.

And I just bet Attorney General/Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown is chafing at the bit to prosecute.  I figure it will happen...roughly three weeks after hell freezes over.

Hey, I have a great idea.  Maybe Mr. Brown can appoint Meg Whitman's former housekeeper to clean up this mess. 

She certainly knows something about gross misrepresentation....


TPM: WE HAVE A LOUSY JOB REPORT. AREN'T WE LUCKY?

Ken Berwitz

Every morning I am sent a "TPM Daybreaker" from the leftward www.talkingpointsmemo.com web site.  Today's edition features a short article by Brian Beutler about today's just-released job numbers.

I enjoyed reading it so much that I thought you might be interested too.  So here is the key excerpt:

New employment statistics released by the federal government this morning continue to show anemic job growth, with 64,000 new private sector jobs unable to offset the loss of 159,000 state government and Census jobs.

The figures show the unemployment rate remained at 9.6 percent and 14.8 million Americans remain unemployed.

The numbers track closely with the estimates of independent experts, who predicted this week that the economy would continue to limp along.

These are the last monthly figures the Department of Labor will release before the November midterms. Republicans will surely seize on them to argue that the Democrats' economic agenda has failed -- though most economists, and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office agree that unemployment would be about two percent higher than it is without the stimulus.

I'm trying to make sense out of this, and struggling with it. 

 

It seems to be saying that we have lousy unemployment numbers, they are staying lousy, our economy contines to "limp along".....and this is great news for the Obama administration and its Democratic congress, because, according to "most economists" and the CBO, without the "stimulus package" things would be a lot worse. 

I have a few questions:

-Wasn't unemployment at 8.1% when the "stimulus package" was enacted? 

-Didn't it put us almost a trillion dollars further into debt on the premise that it would stop unemployment right there, and then lower it with millions of new jobs? 

-Didn't President Obama say that, without the "stimulus package" unemployment would rise to 8.5% - 9.0%?

-But didn't unemployment rose far above 8.5% - 9.0% with the "stimulus package and its trillion dollar increase? 

-Finally, how in the world can anyone present that as good economic news and keep a straight face?

Let's see if voters agree about how good the news is on November 2nd. 

Wanna take bets?


CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER EVALUATES THE "COLBERT DEMOCRATS"

Ken Berwitz

This is an easy post. 

All I am doing is putting up an excerpt of Charles Krauthammer's brilliant column, published today in the Washington Post, which discusses (reams is more like it) the performance of our current congress. 

For the first time since modern budgeting was introduced with the Budget Act of 1974, the House failed to even write a budget. This in a year of extraordinary deficits, rising uncertainty and jittery financial markets. Gold is going through the roof. Confidence in the dollar and the American economy is falling -- largely because of massive overhanging debt. Yet no budget emerged from Congress to give guidance, let alone reassurance, about future U.S. revenues and spending.

That's not all. Congress has not passed a single appropriations bill. To keep the government going, Congress passed a so-called continuing resolution (CR) before adjourning to campaign. The problem with continuing to spend at the current level is that the last two years have seen a huge 28 percent jump in non-defense discretionary spending. The CR continues this profligacy, aggravating an already serious debt problem

As if this were not enough, Congress adjourned without even a vote -- nay, without even a Democratic bill -- on the expiring Bush tax cuts. This is the ultimate in incompetence. After 20 months of control of the White House and Congress -- during which they passed an elaborate, 1,000-page micromanagement of every detail of American health care -- the Democrats adjourned without being able to tell the country what its tax rates will be on Jan. 1.

 

It's not just income taxes. It's capital gains and dividends, too. And the estate tax, which will careen insanely from 0 to 55 percent when the ball drops on Times Square on New Year's Eve.

 

Nor is this harmless incompetence. To do this at a time when $2 trillion of capital is sitting on the sidelines because of rising uncertainty -- and there is no greater uncertainty than next year's tax rates -- is staggeringly irresponsible.

 

As if this display of unseriousness -- no budget, no appropriations bills, no tax bill -- were not enough, some genius on a House Judiciary subcommittee invites parodist Stephen Colbert to testify as an expert witness on immigration. He then pulls off a nervy mockery of the whole proceedings -- my favorite was his request to have his colonoscopy inserted in the Congressional Record -- while the chairwoman sits there clueless.

You can read the entire column by clicking here.  Don't deny yourself even one word of it.


MENTOR, OHIO. TEEN SUICIDE CAPITAL OF THE USA

Ken Berwitz

There is something deadly wrong in Mentor, Ohio.  And, so far at least, nothing is being done about it.

Four teenagers committed suicide there between 2005 and 2008.  All were intensely bullied at Mentor High School in the vilest ways.  And the authorities - both school and legal - apparently did little or nothing to stop it.

After four suicides (and who knows how many yet to come), they finally started taking some action.  But who knows whether they are serious - given that the history of this school very much suggests they might not be.

Why do I say this?  Here is a description of  what one of the four, Sladjana Vidovic, went through, and how Mentor High School "addressed" it, via an excerpt from the chilling article written by Meghan Barr for the Associated Press:

Sladjana Vidovic, whose family had moved to northeast Ohio from Bosnia when she was a little girl, was pretty, vivacious and charming. She loved to dance. She would turn on the stereo and drag her father out of his chair, dance him in circles around the living room.

"Nonstop smile. Nonstop music," says her father, Dragan, who speaks only a little English.

[Related: School-yard bullying: A survivors tale]

At school, life was very different. She was ridiculed for her thick accent. Classmates tossed insults like "Slutty Jana" or "Slut-Jana-Vagina." A boy pushed her down the stairs. A girl smacked her in the face with a water bottle.

Phone callers in the dead of night would tell her to go back to Croatia, that she'd be dead in the morning, that they'd find her after school, says Suzana Vidovic.

"Sladjana did stand up for herself, but toward the end she just kind of stopped," says her best friend, Jelena Jandric. "Because she couldn't handle it. She didn't have enough strength."

Vidovic's parents say they begged the school to intervene many times. They say the school promised to take care of her.

She had already withdrawn from Mentor and enrolled in an online school about a week before she killed herself.

When the family tried to retrieve records about their reports of bullying, school officials told them the records were destroyed during a switch to computers. The family sued in August.

We won't tell you what we did about it, and by the way the records are all destroyed.  That is the answer from Mentor High School.

Here are some things the school SHOULD have done.  I wonder if they did:

-Did Mentor High School remove the principal and whichever other administrator(s) and teacher(s) had responsibility to do something about this.  They have no business being in charge of children, and should have been fired or resigned in disgrace already.  Are they still there?

-Were police assigned to the school on a daily, ongoing basis - with instructions to intercede, and arrest, students who engaged in any act that would be considered illegal outside of school grounds, including physical attacks and verbal harrasment. 

And, finally, when do the parents of the subhuman scum who caused these suicides start thinking of what kind of animals they raised?  And what kind of homes did these animals live in, that allowed them to cultivate the "values" they displayed when Sladjana Vidovic, Eric Mohat, Meredith Rezak and Jennifer Eyring were pushed to commit suicide?

I leave you with one other quote from the Associaed Press article:

Sladjana Vidovic's body lay in an open casket, dressed in the sparkly pink dress she had planned to wear to the prom. Days earlier, she had tied one end of a rope around her neck and the other around a bed post before jumping out her bedroom window.

The 16-year-old's last words, scribbled in English and her native Croatian, told of her daily torment at Mentor High School, where students mocked her accent, taunted her with insults like "Slutty Jana" and threw food at her.

Suzana Vidovic found her sister's body hanging over the front lawn. The family watched, she said, as the girls who had tormented Sladjana for months walked up to the casket -- and laughed.

"They were laughing at the way she looked," Suzana says, crying. "Even though she died."

If that really happened, it is just about the sickest thing I have ever seen. 

And Mentor, Ohio - especially its high school - is just about the sickest place I have ever heard of.

========================================================================

NOTE:  When I originally wrote this blog I was led to believe the suicides had occurred more recently than they actually did.  I have revised my comments to accurately reflect the time line.  I'm sorry for my mistake.


DEMOCRATS' POLLING DATA: A CLOSER LOOK

Ken Berwitz

I just saw the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's latest email - this one signed by Donna Brazile.  In it - apart from asking for donations, of course - the email indicates that three major senate races are suddenly, and pretty significantly, breaking in favor of Democrats - which I find fascinating, given that just about all the data I've seen from other sources shows no such thing.

Specifically, the email indicates that:

-In Wisconsin, Republican challenger Ron Johnson is leading incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold by just 1% (49% - 48%),

-In Illinois, Democrat Alex Giannoulias is leading Republican Mark Kirk by 1% (43%-42%),  and

-In Pennsylvania, Republican Pat Toomey is leading Democrat Joe Sestak by just 3% (45%-42%).

Since, as noted above, I have not seen such numbers elsewhere, I did some checking. 

-In Wisconsin, the Marist poll, conducted October 4, shows Johnson ahead by 7% (52%-45%).  Rasmussen's week-old poll shows Johnson leading by 12% (54%-42%)  The poll Ms. Brazile is talking about was commissioned by the DSCC and conducted by a company I have never heard of until today:  Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & associates.  The partners'  biographies make it pretty plain that they are Democrat-connected social activists. 

-In Illinois, the latest poll I can find, Rasmussen, shows Kirk up by 4% (45%-41%).  I cannot find the poll Ms. Brazile is talking about.

-In Pennsylvania, the latest poll I can find, by Morning Call (which I've never heard of), shows Toomey ahead of Sestak by 7% (45%-38%).  The two previous polls (Rasmussen and McClatchy) both have Toomey ahead by 9%.  I cannot find the poll Ms. Brazile is talking about.

Bottom line:  This email is just a tad lacking in credibililty.  Like about 100%

I wonder how many donations it will sucker out of the faithful.


INSENSITIVITY VERSUS CLUELESSNESS

Ken Berwitz

First there was Newt Gingrich.  His idea was (and, so far as I know, still is) to call Republicans the party of paychecks and Democrats the party of food stamps. 

Yes, there is a point to be made that Republicans are more towards incentivising business activity and Democrats are more towards disincentivizing businesses by taxing and regulating them, while giving benefits to people who those disincentivized businesses then do not hire - along with the permanently unemployed class which will not work even if jobs are available. 

But the tone of how Gingrich frames his idea comes across as insensitive, bluntly accusatory and (though not said in so many words) vaguely racist, since minorities get a disproportionate percent of food stamps relative to their incidence in the population.

Enter Nancy Pelosi.

Her answer to Mr. Gingrich's proposed strategy, as of two nights ago?  (so help me, this is verbatim):

"It is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance  the biggest bang for the buck,"

Can Nancy Pelosi possibly be more clueless?  Can Ms. Pelosi - an immensely rich woman, let's not forget - possibly think that food stamps, (which are being handed out at record levels), and unemployment insurance (which by definition means people out of work), constitute "the biggest bang for the buck"?  Well, she said it twice, didn't she?  She must think it.

Did Ms. Pelosi and her husband amass tens of millions of dollars by stopping wine production at their vineyards, closing down their restaurants, shuttering their real estate holdings, and conducting massive food stamp and unemployment insurance drives?  Call me a pessimist, but I think not.

So there you have it.  Insensitivity versus cluelessness.

How do I compare the two?  My personal opinion is based on the old saying that "beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is right to the bone". 

Because Mr. Gingrich's statement has an element of truth, it can be wordsmithed into something more palatable.   But, try though I might, I cannot come up with any way that food stamps and unemployment insurance payouts boom up the economy.  I have always associated both with a problem economy.

Come to think of it, isn't this the same Nancy Pelosi who thinks the so-called "stimulus package" is working - the one that put us a trillion more dollars into debt, and resulted in higher rather than lower unemployment and a continued anemic economy?

I guess she's just a lot more perceptive than I am.

Zeke ..... .... Of course the Stimulation Act worked ! ! .... This is the " Summer of Recovery " ..... ...... (10/09/10)

free` If pelosi, biden, obama and other dems think the stimulus is working or has worked, it makes you wonder what its purpose was/is. Because it sure didn't do what they said it was going to do. (10/08/10)


DOES WHOREGATE TRUMP HOUSEKEEPERGATE?

Ken Berwitz

For a week we have been treated (if that's the right word) to the wholly dishonest claim that Meg Whitman knowingly hired an illegal as her housekeeper and then mistreated the housekeeper by firing her when she admitted her illegal status.

(Why the housekeeper's illegal status would cause a firing if Whitman had known about it for 9 years is a bit problematic.  But, then again, when you're lying you can make anything into anything.  Reality is optional.)

Well, now the worm seems to have turned - at least for one day.  Now it is Brown's camp on the defensive.  The only difference is that what it is being accused of actually did happen.

Excerpted from a story at Fox News:

In a private conversation captured on audiotape, California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown or one of his aides can be heard referring to Republican rival Meg Whitman as a "whore," the Los Angeles Times reported late Thursday.

 

The exchange, recorded by a voicemail, discussed Whitman cutting a deal to protect law enforcement pensions as the candidates competed for endorsements from police, the L.A. Times said.

 

In an audio recording available on the L.A. Times blog PolitiCal, Brown can be heard leaving a voice message for Scott Rate, a union official for the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

 

After asking Rate for the leagues endorsement, Brown says thanks and hangs up the phone, but the call doesnt end.

 

Instead, the message continues to record and Brown can be heard talking about the situation with his aides.

After Brown discusses his frustration with Whitman potentially cutting a deal for several seconds, another voice appears to interject saying, What about saying that shes a whore?

 

Well Im going to use that, Brown replies. It proves youve cut a secret deal to protect the pensions.

Whoops. 

Brown, it should be noted, claims his "well I'm going to use that" response relates to the charge that Ms. Whitman cut a deal to protect law enforcement pensions, not to calling her a "whore".  And, looking at the context, I would say his claim is entirely credible.

My problem, however, is what Mr. Brown didn't say.  Assuming that Brown himself didn't use the word (it is not clear one way or the other), did he admonish his aide in any way?  Did he tell him not to call Meg Whitman such a name?  Did he have even the slightest objection?   No, no and no.

The equanimity displayed by Brown, who just went on with the conversation as if nothing was wrong, suggests that this is typical of the way he and his people talk about Meg Whitman; that they say things like this about her all the time.

Should Jerry Brown lose the race for Governor because one of his aides opened a big, stupid mouth?  Nope.

But, then again, should Meg Whitman lose the race for Governor because Jerry Brown just spent a week lying about how she handled her housekeeper situation?  Nope.

I'd say Mr. Brown is getting a healthy dose of his own medicine.  I hope he enjoys it.


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