Friday, December 27, 2013

Weekend Music Chill

We are on vacation in Arizona and still celebrating Christmas, so I am posting some more Christmas music for the weekend.

Here is Mannheim Steamroller with Angels We Have Heard on High

Road Dawg turned me on to Trans Siberian Orchestra.

Happy New Year.  Hope your Christmas was great.  Mrs. Daddy loves Christmas lights, so the videos are for her as well.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

42 Grandchildren for 100 Grandparents

Mark Steyn nails the demographic problem behind recent financial crises.  He points out that in Greece there are only 42 grandchildren for every 100 grandparents.  In such a society, who will pay for the pensions of the not so elderly? (Many Greeks retire at 50.)  Some key quotes:
Look at it another way: Banks are a mechanism by which old people with capital lend to young people with energy and ideas. The Western world has now inverted the concept. If 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars' worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off?
. . .
If the problem with socialism is, as Mrs. Thatcher says, that eventually you run out of other people's money, much of the West has advanced to the next stage: it's run out of other people, period.
. . .
The notion of life as a self-growth experience is more radical than it sounds. For most of human history, functioning societies have honored the long run: It's why millions of people have children, build houses, plant trees, start businesses, make wills, put up beautiful churches in ordinary villages, fight and, if necessary, die for your country.
My friend KT would look at the problem as having its roots in our culture, much like Steyn does.  I am not so sure, because this demographic trend seems a feature of post-industrial economies.  Russia, Japan, China and Germany all have this problem.  India does not, but it has not pulled most of its people out of poverty yet.  America's demographic problem has been mitigated by immigration from poor countries.

The subject of how subsidies and immigration policy affect birth rate are subject for another day.  Suffice to say that cradle to grave "safety nets" create disincentives to having children to take care of us in our old age.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

We celebrate the birth of Jesus today by giving each other gifts and well wishes, because God has richly blessed us through the gift of the Savior's birth.  This is a great and blessed country, in part because we have followed the teachings of Jesus.  I sincerely hope you are feeling God's blessing today.

Please enjoy some great Christmas music.

Monday, December 23, 2013

If You Really Cared About Income Inequality - Tea Party Prescription

I have been stewing about the President's latest "pivot," this time to income inequality, for a while.  First, it isn't necessarily a problem. Second, Obama has no real solutions.  Income inequality is a problem per se, it depends on the source of the inequality.  If it is caused by a privileged class entrenching its grip on a not-so-free economy, like crony capitalist third-world economies, then this is fundamentally unfair.  But if caused by the inevitable winners and losers in a free-market economy, then we shouldn't care so much, in fact, we should rejoice that our system rewards endeavor.

By the way, actual income inequality is NOT increasing.  The welfare state and progressive taxation have vastly reduced the gap between the poor and everyone else.
According to Messrs. Ohanian and Hagopian, once the effect of taxes and transfer payments is taken into account, "inequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009, when the Gini coefficient dropped from .395 to .388."
Unfortunately, government policies are increasing pre-tax/pre-entitlement inequality (as defined as "earned income" inequality for this discussion).  There is some real evil going on that could be addressed to improve actual fairness and improve economic growth.  Here are some liberty movement suggestions.

End the Fed and Return to a Gold Standard.  The Federal Reserve lends Wall Street bands money at below market rates that they use to fund loans.  This is supposed to help the economy, but it just concentrates wealth in Wall Street which then gets bailed out when it makes bad bets.  If you want to really stop the shenanigans that funnel wealth to people who don't produce anything, return to the gold standard and disband the federal reserve system.

The biggest source of income inequality.

Stop Raising the Minimum Wage.  Raising the minimum wage reduces the opportunity for lower skilled and teens to enter the workforce and start making their way up the economic ladder.  Moving people into the workforce begins lifelong upward mobility. By raising the minimum wage, we keep youth out of the labor market.

Introduce Competition into Education. Students are graduating from college and high school without discernible skills that allow them to enter the work force.  This was not alway so.  There was a time when a high school diploma indicated familiarity with basic math, reading and writing skills and at least a rudimentary knowledge of science.  No more.  Employers can no longer count on even college graduates being able to perform basic tasks needed in business.  This is the result of a century of monopoly in education.  Government schools have failed us.  Competition would restore the incentives for parents to be involved in education choices for their kids, and the result would cause employers to start to trust diplomas again.

Fix Immigration Policy to Favor Skilled Immigrants.  Amnesty for unskilled farm laborers is the opposite of this idea.  The United States is still the land of opportunity when compared to the rest of the world, even if our absolute level of opportunity has declined under Obama's leftist policies.  Bringing skilled immigrants to our country allows various tech teams to stay together and provides all sorts of additional jobs for native Americans as well.  However, if we limit immigration to unskilled farm workers, then we are bending the income curve to increase inequality.  If the President really care about income inequality he would have included a vast expansion of H-1B and other avenues to bring the skilled and wealthy, because he is such a smart policy dude.  Unfortunately, he did not.

Repeal the ACA.  There are plenty of incentives for people at the lower end of the income ladder to reduce their income in order to qualify for subsidies, including married couples getting divorced to reduce their household income.  The ACA is contributing to a rise in inequality by reducing the incentives for those in lower to middle income brackets to increase their income.

Of course, the President isn't really serious.  He is just making another speech about something he chose to ignore for five years, much like immigration.  But if we would like a larger middle class and economic growth, then my tea party policies should be considered.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Public Employee Pension Roundup - Illinois, Detroit Update

Here is a summary of key areas in the fight to prevent state and local public employee pensions from bankrupting governments.

Detroit. Judge Stephen Rhodes will rule today at 10:00 a.m. (EST) on whether the city is eligible to enter bankruptcy.  From the LATimes. Most legal experts expect Rhodes to declare that Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy protection.  A ruling to enter bankruptcy would give emergency city manager Kevyn Orr leverage to bargain with unions over pension reductions or to make unilateral changes.  Whether such changes would be constitutional would be decided later.
UPDATE:  The NYTimes is reporting that Detroit is insolvent and eligible for bankruptcy:
Judge Steven W. Rhodes of the United States Bankruptcy Court, found that Detroit was insolvent and that the pension checks of retirees could be cut during a bankruptcy proceeding, a crucial part of his decision
I had not expected that a ruling on pensions to be part of the judge's ruling.  USAToday has some amazing facts about Detroit's situation including the fact that it has three times as many retirees as workers.

Illinois. As I discussed earlier, the state is poised to vote on huge pension reform and the outcome is in doubt.  A vote is expected in both the state House and Senate, also today.  The outcome is clouded because Republicans who normally would vote for such a measure will be helping the state's Democratic governor.  My answer, be known as the party of principle, it works better for you in the long run.  Meanwhile, some Democrats will have to vote against the unions for this to pass.    More detail on the plan:
About $90 billion to $100 billion of that savings is expected to come out of the wallets of state workers, teachers outside Chicago and public university employees. The other $60 billion to $70 billion in savings is expected to come from the state owing less as it seeks to pay down the pension debt sooner — a move akin to a homeowner saving money by paying down the principal on a mortgage more quickly.
UPDATE:  The WSJ is reporting that pension reform has passed the Illinois state legislature.  The Chicago Tribune reported that the House voted 62-53 in favor and the state Senate passed with a 30-24 vote.  In reviewing the details in the Tribune article, I am inclined to agree with Brian Brady, frequent SD Rostra commenter and blogger, that the reform doesn't go far enough.

San Diego. Proposition B remains held up in administrative limbo by the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), no relation to Bob Filner.  Craig Gustafson reports in the U-T that the key cost saving measure of Proposition B has been implemented.
. . . the city and its unions reached a deal earlier this year on a five-year freeze on the pensionable pay of current city workers, a provision in the ballot measure that is projected to save the city nearly $1 billion over the next three decades. By agreeing to terms, the city has locked in those savings even if Proposition B is later found to be illegal.
Unfortunately, the city may have to wait until April 2015 to get a ruling.  Implementing remaining pieces of the proposition may become an issue in the mayoral campaign. Meanwhile, the city of San Diego chose to settle a lawsuit where the city tried to get the city employees to be responsible for half of any shortfall in the pension funds investment rate.  I am concerned, as is the U-T editorial board, that this signals a lack of willingness on the city council to tackle tough pension issue.

California. The mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed, is attempting to put pension reform on the state ballot in 2014.  Reed is a Democrat, like Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois.  The Pension Reform Act of 2014 would give cities more flexibility in changing pension retiree health care rules for future retirees.  The public employee unions are actively opposing the plan of course.
“What they’re trying to do is overturn decades of case law, Supreme Court decisions and change the California constitution to allow public employers to either change, cut or eliminate public employees’ pensions in the middle of their career,” said Dave Low, executive director of the California School Employees Association and chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of public employees and retirees.
Exactly.  Of course we need to change decades of case law because these retirement benefits are unsustainable if we are to have government perform any function at all.

Rhode Island. In the mostly Democratic state of Rhode Island, the legislature passed pension reform in 2011 that included a temporary halt in cost of living increases and moving part of the retirement to a 401(k) style plan.  From the state's web site:
The Rhode Island Retirement Security Act of 2011 as Amended includes language that: 
  • Suspends  new  cost‐of‐living  adjustments  (COLAs)  to  retirees’  benefits  until  the system is better funded but provides for an intermittent COLA every five years until 80% funded.
  • Moves all but public safety employees to hybrid pension plans.  
  • Increases minimum retirement age for most employees not already eligible to retire.
  • Preserves accrued benefits earned through June 30, 2012. 
  • Begins to address independent local plan solvency issues.
Recent complaints about the investment strategy pursued by the state's treasurer do nothing to change the basic impetus for pension reform.  There are allegations by a long time financial industry critic, "Ted" Siedel on inappropriate investing in hedge funds that result in hefty Wall Street fees. (Hedge funds received over half of the fees paid out by the pension fund last year.) However, 401(k) style pensions could reduce the opportunity for abuse, if employees are given the opportunity to choose their own fund in which to invest.  More important to note for supporters of pension reform, the legal struggle over pension reform in Rhode Island continue two years later, with no end in sight.

Lesson learned: You have to be in this fight for the long haul.

What You Should Be Reading

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Weekend Music Chill

We have been doing some road-tripping lately and it reminded me of all the times I hit the road when I was in the Navy.  In the day, The Boss was on my favorite cassettes.  Here are two of my favorites to drive to:

Sherry Darling.

Cadillac Ranch.

Friday, November 29, 2013

When Pension Reform Goes Bipartisan

Eventually the mathematical results of under-funding ever more generous pension benefits for state and local employees becomes a problem for Democrats too.  Illinois legislators are expected to vote this week on pension reform that would pare back pension benefits in three important ways.
  • Reducing cost of living increases.
  • Increases retirement age.
  • Capping the salary amount available for pension calculations.
There are few other means short of bankruptcy that can be used to reduce pension obligations.  However, Illinois has rejected attempts at pension reform before, so the path to success in the legislature is not certain.  Of course, the state employee unions are waiting to sue if a pension reform measure passes.  This is one of the most important long term issues for state and local government.  Without pension reform here in California and San Diego, the state and city governments will eventually have no money for basic services.  Rahm Emmanuel, not known for his tea party rhetoric, made the same point.
The [state] agreement also is expected to provide a template for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to follow for his city, which for years has paid far less into its retirement system than needed to keep it solvent. City payments to local pension funds are set to more than double to nearly $1.1 billion starting in 2015. Mr. Emanuel has warned that if changes aren't made, the city will face a combination of property-tax increases and cuts in services, equating the scheduled increase to the cost of having 4,300 police officers on the street.
It is important to note how a deal was reached among Illinois legislative leaders.
Labor officials excluded from the talks found out about the eventual Wednesday breakthrough from reporters. 
. . .   
“I think it’s going to be difficult,” said Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, a member of the pension conference committee and supporter of labor’s arguments in pension talks. “I’m uncomfortable they didn’t have a seat at the table when they’re the people who’ll be impacted by this.”
If Democratic politicians feel the need to exclude labor from pension reform talks, then the situation must certainly be dire.  Illinois is paying a 2% premium on its bonds while pension reform remains unresolved. (California and Michigan are paying about a half-percent premium, source: WSJ.)  

This is one of the key issues of our day, because the proper functioning of government is being put at risk by the expense of public employee pensions.  I support Kevin Faulconer for mayor of San Diego, primarily because I am convinced he can be trusted to continue the fight to reform pensions that was approved by voters under Proposition B.  Alvarez' response on this issue does not "inspire confidence" as a U-T editorial put it.  I would prefer to deal with our pension problems before they become a crisis like Illinois' and Chicago's.

What You Should Be Reading

  • Victor Davis Hanson provides the most complete compendium of Obama-fail I have seen assembled in one column.  
  • In the same vain, Charles Krauthammer outlines the utter lawlessness of this administration and its Democratic allies in the Congress.  The destruction of the rule of law under Obama is frightening, it troubles me greatly that this doesn't get more attention, we are on the path to dictatorship; our long history has made us believe we are immune, we are not.
  • Local blogger KTCat reminds us of the real spirit of Thanksgiving in light of the President's request that we "talk about healthcare" at Thanksgiving dinner.  After the ACA fully crashes and burns, what will you do? Great question. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Dean has been saying for some years that Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year, gathering with family, having a great meal and watching football.  I hope you find much for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving.  This is a great country country (beautiful too, as my recent vacation reminded me) and we should thank God for all we have.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What You Should Be Reading

I took a real vacation and paid only a little attention to the political world and made no attempt to blog.  It was worthwhile to re-unite with my oldest son and enjoy some of God's creation and some good man-made stuff too.  Mrs. Daddy and I loved the colder and wetter weather we encountered, not typical of Arizona.

We visited historic Jerome, AZ, where everything is reputed to be haunted, even the hamburger joint.

And we hit the trails to enjoy the local beauty of Sedona, AZ.  

And didn't neglect man-made pleasures either. Famous Pizza had great pizza and craft beer on tap including quite a few San Diego offerings.

In the meantime other San Diegans kept up the good work on keeping tabs on our state and local government.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

California - Arizona and Tourism

Light blogging for the next few days, because we are heading to Arizona.  To launch this road trip here Swell performing a song that only recently became a favorite, "California, Arizona."

I am told that open carry is fairly common in Arizona, as well as some other cultural differences from my home town of San Diego.  That should provide fodder for a future post as well.

We are heading for the tourist resort town of Sedona.  Here in San Diego, the tourism dollars are apparently not flowing in as fast as our city fathers the hoteliers would like.

The city council has bought into this line of reasoning and approved the release of the Tourism Marketing District dollars even though a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the tax is pending.  The council vote was 8-1 in favor of releasing the money.  David Alvarez continued supporting Bob Filner's position that the money should not be released.  I also oppose the tax, but not for the reasons that Filner did, I just think the tax itself is illegal.

I would hope that the hospitality industry leaders would come to their senses over the current structure of the tax and propose a different process that doesn't leave them open to legal challenge, and indeed disengages them from city council politics.  If they don't, then the likes of Filner and Alvarez will continue to demand concessions demanded by labor unions in order for funds to be released to promote tourism.

I would like to see Kevin Faulconer propose an alternate way ahead, as well.

What You Should Be Reading

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Now the Hard Part - San Diego Mayor's Race Part II

Although Kevin Faulconer achieved a 43% total in the first round of San Diego's mayoral special election, there is little guarantee that he will be elected mayor in the runoff next February.  There are some reasons to believe that an energetic and motivated effort will be required for Faulconer to win.

  • Turnout for Tuesday's election was only 35%, not the 44% predicted by the registrar.  Low turnout favors Republicans as their voter are more consistent in getting to the polls.
  • Voter registration in San Diego. Democrats 40% to Republicans 27%.
  • Labor put together a good ground game for Alvarez and will do so in the runoff.
  • Latinos, who traditionally have below average turnout will be motivated to elect San Diego's first Latino mayor in David Alvarez.
This is not to say that Faulconer can't or won't win.  Brian Brady at sdrostra has some great analysis on what Faulconer can do.  I am adding my own thoughts as well.
  • Remind voters that the Democrats are responsible for this mess in the first place by putting up a known pervert in Filner.  
  • Though not a local issue, per se, attack the Democrats on the ACA issue to further weaken their brand name.
  • Identify Alvarez as Filner's closest ideological ally on the city council.  
  • Tout Faulconer as the man to save the taxpayer's dollars.  He will fight for managed competition and pension reform.  Alvarez doesn't care about the taxpayer's interests on these issues and will seek to gut managed competition like his pal Filner.
  • Tout Faulconer as the steady guy to bring competence to the council.  Emphasize Alvarez' relative inexperience.  Quickly seize on any unforced error to reinforce the image of inexperience. 
I am deathly afraid of revisiting financial ruin on our city if the unions call the shots at city hall.  Electing Faulconer is an act of self-preservation.

What You Should Be Reading
  • Speaking of the toxicity of the ACA for Democrats, Dean explains why the fiasco may actually get even worse.
  • Holman Jenkins advises the GOP on how to fix the ACA. Jenkins is often brilliant and his column today is one example.  The core of his plan would be to offer low-cost high-deductible  plans and call it an expansion of ACA options to give Democrats political cover to vote for it.  Read how it actually destroys the ACA, but in a good way.
  • San Diego Rostra, if you want insider peaks at San Diego politics from a Republican perspective.
  • This interactive map of the election results by precinct from

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Update: Faulconer in Early Lead, Fletcher and Alvarez Neck and Neck

Honestly, I could have written that headline two days ago, but the early returns almost exactly match the late polling:

Faulconer 45% (Last poll 40%)
Fletcher    25% (Last poll 24%)
Alvarez    23% (Last poll 22%)

UPDATE with overnight results.

Faulconer: 43.6%
Fletcher:     24.3%
Alvarez:      25.6%

Looks like Alvarez takes second, but there are still 35,000 ballots to count. Headline is that Alvarez is the second place finisher.

End of Update.

I don't think this bodes well for Alvarez as he needs a very strong showing among Latinos to beat Fletcher.  However, given the close start it will be a long night.  I don't intend to stay up for it, because Faulconer is going to face a run off and that's what I needed to know.

Faulconer tweeted about his early lead:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Get Out the Vote - San Diego Mayoral Election

If you haven't already voted on a replacement for Bob Filner, tomorrow is the day.  San Diegans who want to reign in the power of the public employee unions should vote for Kevin Faulconer, even if it is a long shot to put him over the 50% mark needed to avoid a run off.  The other two leading candidates, Alvarez and Fletcher are going to do nothing to reign pension costs, a key issue facing the city.  Low turnout is projected for tomorrow's vote, increasing the slim odds that Faulconer could win on the first ballot.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow and your polling location is printed on the back of your sample ballot. If you don't know your polling place, you can look it up on the registrar of voters web site. This web application appears to work.  More information is available at the Registrar of Voters web page.

To learn more about Kevin Faulconer, click here.

What You Should Be Reading

  • If you wanted proof of the pernicious effects of minimum wage laws, look at this study of Western European countries on Professor Perry's blog.  Bottom line: Minimum wage laws increase unemployment. 
  • The Iranian economy is hurting; the latest casualty is the national gas company.  The tougher question is whether popular unrest can topple a regime bent on achieving nuclear weapons capability.
  • Your taxpayer dollars at work.  The law requires the USDA to make more loans to sugar companies that have recently defaulted on prior loans.  Is there any part of the economy that government touches that doesn't become a quagmire?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Will Alvarez' Rise Be Enough?

The conventional wisdom, based on extensive polling, is that the San Diego mayor's race is a race for second place between David Alvarez and Nathan Fletcher.  Kevin Faulconer is expected to easily take first place but not to get over the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run off.   Craig Gustafson writes in the U-T that Fletcher still leads Alvarez, 24% - 22%, but Fletcher's numbers have been falling.  However, the polling assumes a 20% Latino turnout.  That might be too high an estimate. 

I have noticed in debates and in the mailers sent out by the Faulconer campaign that Faulconer is much less critical of Alvarez than Fletcher.  Gustafson claims as fact that Faulconer's campaign prefers Alvarez as his opponent and I agree.  However, in spite of Fletcher's recent free fall, I think he will still come in second place.  Alvarez is too dependent on voters that have poor track records with turn out, youth and Latinos.  Only the mayor's race is on the ballot this Tuesday, so turn out is the key for all groups.  Turnout is not expected to be high:
County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu has adjusted downward his original voter turnout projection of 50 percent to 44 percent. Although comparable to the percentage in the city’s last special mayoral election in 2005, political observers doubted turnout Tuesday will be that high.
Republicans are also outperforming on returning mailed in ballots, with 46% of returned ballots coming from Republican registered voters.  It is too much to hope that Faulconer, whom I endorsed, would break 50% and avoid a run off.  I think turn out would have to be very low, except among Republicans for that to happen.

What You Should Be Reading
  • Mark Steyn, because you should always read Mark Steyn, but also because he skewers the pretensions of the President's pronouncements.  My favorite quote: Obama always gives the vague impression that routine features of humdrum human existence are entirely alien to him
  • Dean compares the ravages of Big Corn with the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.  
  • Left Coast Rebel posts a disturbing video showing New Mexico police shooting at a minivan with children in it.  Exit question: Why does the war on drugs justify this behavior?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Weekend Music Chill

Been listening to more old school music lately.  Loved the Allman Brothers in the day.  Two of my favorites posted for your listening enjoyment.

One Way Out.

Midnight Rider. And no, that stupid insurance commercial hasn't ruined it for me.

I replaced the video for this song as I noticed a confederate flag in the previously posted video.

Todd Gloria Performs a Real Service

Democrat Todd Gloria is the acting mayor of San Diego and chair of the City Council budget committee.  He has performed a public service by providing a breakdown of the city budget deficit for 2015.  Bottom line, the budget has a deficit, but that deficit will be made worse by spending promises made by the city council over the past few years.  I like the Voice of San Diego headline: Gloria Reveals the Cost of Saying Yes.  The U-T reports that just maintaining the current level of services results in a projected deficit of $19 million next year.  Adding in promises made by the City Council would increase the deficit to $62 million and infrastructure repairs add another $16 million.  Gloria has done a service by clearly laying out the impact to the deficit of all the promises made by the city council in the past.

What should the city council do?  What do the mayoral candidates say? Here are some unfair and unbalanced synopses.

Fletcher:  Make hard choices, put public safety spending first. [Irony unintentional.]
Faulconer: Find money by increasing managed competition.
Alvarez: It's not that bad.
Aguirre: Are you kidding? That deficit is probably $200 million based on our needs.

I believe that we should look at savings in existing services.  Failing to review services that are no longer needed or are not needed as much is a known path to finding investment dollars in big businesses.  I also like managed competition, because even when the government employees win the bid, money is saved.  Although the focus of the newspaper articles is on the deficit, consider that the overall general fund budget is $1.2 billion.  That means that the projected deficit at existing levels is only between 1% and 2%.  It seems obvious that there is much more money available from cutting an existing program than from tinkering with the programs proposed.  There should be a rule that any new program has to be funded by cuts somewhere else in the budget.

The three top new big ticket items promised include more police, $14.3 million; infrastructure repairs, $11. 3 million, and more funding for the "arts," $5.5 million. My call, fund only the infrastructure repairs, because the streets are crappy and spending more on them now saves money later.

What services should be cut?  It turns out that Police and Fire make up just over half of the general fund expenditures.  Before we reflexively say that public safety is most important, we should ask if the level of police and fire protection is good enough. How do our crime and fire rates compare to similar cities?  Also, looking through the 2014 budget also reveals that $1.3 million in savings from managed competition for Fleet Services were removed from the budget, by Mayor Filner, I presume.  If managed competition is to save money, we have to stick to the "as bid" savings.

I would cut the library services, as I believe that libraries are an anachronism.  In the 2013 budget, the new central library added $2.4 million to city expenses over the $39 million already budgeted.  You could get a lot of street repairs done for that kind of money.  Nathan Fletcher says that budgeting is about making hard choices.  I'll believe him when he advocates a cut to library services.

Here is the proposed fiscal year 2014 General Fund employee breakdown. It is not the same as the budget breakdown, but serves as a good proxy.  Source

What You Should Be Reading

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CA-52 Getting Interesting - #ACA Toxicity

To see the impact of the health care law's implosion on political campaigns, look no further than my own 52nd Congressional district here in San Diego.  Scott Peters, the incumbent,is expected to face a tough re-election campaign against the well-known Carl DeMaio.  (I supported DeMaio for Mayor last year.)  While DeMaio has a Republican primary to get past, his high name recognition and backing of the GOP central committee makes him the likely nominee.  DeMaio has been hammering Peters on the health care issue, even though the election is a year away.  Peters has said he would support a House Republican bill to allow individuals to keep their health care.  That Peters would be support a GOP bill on this issue is evidence of how toxic the issue has become.  Leading Democrats are attacking Fred Upton (R-MI) over his legislation, doubling down on the President's argument that the public doesn't understand how bad their policies really are and that this is just another GOP plot to undermine the law.  Scott Peters has been supporting the law until recently.

Carl DeMaio

Scott Peters

What You Should Be Reading

  • The always brilliant Victor Davis Hanson plots the endgame for the ill-named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Bottom line, Obama will usurp authority to gut the law, declare victory and move on. 
  • Holman Jenkins asks "Why have the stock prices of the insurance industry have enjoyed a huge run-up if the ACA is supposed to reign in special interests?"
  • Dean reports on the end game for socialism in Venezuela and it's not pretty. Money quote: In this context, “free-market economists” can also mean “anybody that can rub two brain cells together”.
  • Left Coast Rebel dissects the supply and demand of Lithium and its potential impact on future electric car production.  Left wing dreams of an electric utopia may have to be put on hold.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Key Issues in the Mayor's Race

With a week to go before the November 19th special election to replace Bob Filner, a number of distracting issues, such as attendance, have made for idiotic campaign commercials.  In reality, the city is facing a number of issues that require resolution.

Continuing Pension Reform

The new mayor will need to vigorously defend Proposition B, which was a step towards reforming pensions and limiting the future liability of San Diego's taxpayers.  As we have seen on the state and federal level, the failure of the government to defend its position in the courts can nullify the will of the vote of the people or legislature.  Mike Aguirre and Kevin Faulconer are committed to reforming San Diego's pensions, Aguirre certainly more so.  Unfortunately, the former city attorney doesn't stand much of a chance.  David Alvarez has opposed a 401(k) style pension reform for city workers, proposing a cap on benefits instead.  Nathan Fletcher's position is to howl that Faulconer wants to deprive widows of public safety officers of their pensions.

Continuing Managed Competition

City workers have won a number of managed competitions with private industry, so why bother with the process?  Because the competition forces the government to look at its costs and produce savings.  Despite some flaws each round of managed competition resulted in the city government coming up with ways to reduce costs.  Further oversight and revisions of the process to ensure that the savings materialize are needed, but only Kevin Faulconer whole-heartedly supports the process.  Fletcher and Alvarez both oppose the process.  We need a mayor who will do the hard work to ensure this process saves the taxpayers' dollars and only Faulconer is committed to the process' success.

City Streets

For better or worse, the city government is responsible for the condition of most public roadways in the city.  Our streets are in horrible shape.  Faulconer correctly ties the ability to fund street repairs to the budget woes caused by pension underfunding.  He proposes some reasonable steps to make streets better, including using capital funding for maintenance; but the money still has to come from somewhere.  Fletcher and Alvarez both pledge street repair, but have little specific to say on their respective web sites.  Alvarez also supports more capital funding for street maintenance, but his over 20 page blueprint has surprisingly little to say on a topic I consider of high importance.

Barrio Logan Zoning and the Shipbuilding and Repair Industry

I covered this issue earlier.  Yesterday, I signed a petition to put the re-zoning up for a vote.  I think this industry is extremely important for good jobs in San Diego.  Removing the support services to shipbuilding in the buffer zone is a first step towards killing off this industry.  I don't trust the motives of the Democrats involved in this plan.  I find Faulconer arguing to save jobs in this industry.  Fletcher's attacks on Alvarez on this subject are disingenuous as Fletcher has no real plan.

There are certainly other subjects, like medical marijuana, but I don't think the candidates differ significantly or the subjects are as important.

What You Should Be Reading
  • The U-T has a nice feature that allows you to match your views with those of the four top candidates and get a score.  My scores were Faulconer 62%, Aguirre 50%, Fletcher 29%, Alvarez 27%.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day from a Cold War Veteran

I am a veteran of the U.S. submarine force from the Cold War era.  I never saw combat, thank God.  All Americans should be thankful for that as well, because the kind of combat for which we were prepared was to launch nuclear missiles at our adversary in retaliation for a strike against the United States.  That we never saw combat is a testimony to the effectiveness of our national strategy of deterrence and the credibility that our nuclear forces had the ability to carry out the strategy.  The results of all out nuclear conflict would have been devastating, of course; but it is little understood that even though millions would die in a strike, most people would survive, only to die slowly from starvation and radiation as the national economic infrastructure collapsed.

However, my personal hero, Ronald Reagan, embarked on a mission to convince the Soviets Russians that they would never surpass us militarily and that our technology would ultimately prove superior.  His leadership restored the professionalism of our armed forces and I am utterly convinced that we had the superior technology, training and discipline to prevail.  That we prevailed in the Cold War is the ultimate form of victory.  Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, would agree:
For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
So enjoy the freedom and prosperity that our victory in the Cold War achieved on this Veterans Day and thank God that He has provided leaders at critical times in our history like Ronald Reagan.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

San Diego Linkage Fees Do Nothing for Affordable Housing

The need for a Republican mayor to veto leftist nonsense was on display Monday, when the San Diego city council passed whopping increases in the "linkage fees" on new development that ranges from 377% to 744%.  The fees are supposed to help provide affordable housing when new development results in low paying jobs.  Don't ask me how creating jobs makes people less able to afford housing.  Example, Joe didn't have a job.  A developer creates a new business.  Joe gets a job.  Joe may still not be able to afford a swanky La Jolla condo, but he is certainly in better shape than when he didn't have a job.

At a time when our local economy is still not in great shape the Democrats on the city council don't seem to care.  Consider this quote from a Democrat mayoral candidate:
“If you don’t want to pay the fee ... don’t create low-paying jobs,” lectured Councilman David Alvarez.
Don't create jobs?  Is that really Alvarez' message?  With the minimum wage set to rise again, I would think that Democrats would be in favor of any new jobs.  But since the minimum wage also puts some people out of work, I guess the Democrats prefer folks on welfare.  Actions like increasing minimum wage and discouraging development are a great way to keep people on the bottom rung of the economy from getting jobs.  It was good to see Kevin Faulconer opposing this bill. 

. . . both sides agreed that the fee increase does little to fill a large affordable housing void in San Diego. The city has a waiting list of about 45,000 people for affordable housing, but has lost $34 million per year due to the elimination of redevelopment agencies and federal and state budget cuts. The current linkage fee generates about $2.2 million per year.
What makes housing unaffordable are a combination of bad federal and local policies.  Various federal policies caused a bubble in the housing market and the there are still efforts to prop up prices.  If we want the poor to be able to have housing, why make it more expensive?  At the local level, limits on density and new housing development limits the supply of housing, driving up prices by depressing the stock of available housing.  City government will never have enough money to supply affordable housing, only the private sector can do so, and only with a profit motive.

What You Should Be Reading

  • Dean unmasks the Corporatism that has come to define modern leftism.  That the Occupy crowd doesn't see that the Democrats are the main enablers of corporate thievery is a tribute to the failure of their critical thinking classes in college.  
  • Speaking of health insurance, Suck it up millennials, health insurers are using you to pay old folk's medical bills while you live in your Mom's basement, but still managed to vote for Obama who arrange the whole deal.
  • KT posts a not-so-pretty picture and a link to the debt bomb that Millenials in Chicago will inherit from decades of Democrat rule.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Science as Sorcery

The left increasingly claims that the policies they desire are supported by "science," as if making such a claim settles any argument in their favor.  It does not; science is fallible, and getting more so, and the thinking behind the claim is an example of magical thinking.  The appeal to science becomes a form of sorcery as it seeks to call upon the supernatural to control others or objects; but those who invoke science do not understand science itself or its limits.  Lest one think that I am some uneducated Luddite, I have a bachelor's degree in physics and a MS in systems management that require coursework in radio-frequency engineering.  I believe that technical progress based on sound science is important to society's health, but I see so much wrong with the appeals to science that I am compelled to complain.

First, too much science is shoddy and unable to be duplicated, especially in the social sciences.  For an excellent critique of the state of current research, see "Trouble at the Lab," from last week's The Economist.  Some troubling quotes:
  • In 2005 John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist from Stanford University, caused a stir with a paper showing why, as a matter of statistical logic, the idea that only one such paper in 20 gives a false-positive result was hugely optimistic. Instead, he argued, “most published research findings are probably false.”   
  • Victoria Stodden, a statistician at Columbia, speaks for many in her trade when she says that scientists’ grasp of statistics has not kept pace with the development of complex mathematical techniques for crunching data. [Important because almost all inferences in modern science are drawn from statistical data.]
  • Another experiment at the BMJ showed that reviewers did no better when more clearly instructed on the problems they might encounter. They also seem to get worse with experience. [So much for the vaunted "peer-review."]

Second, the market for scientific research is skewing the types of results we are seeing.  With government funding so much research, conclusions that show the need for further research and more government action are rewarded.  With the innate human desire to show some accomplishment, is it any wonder that research skews to topics that seem tailor made to support government programs.  

Finally, science cannot define our values for us.  Even if science shows that some fact is true, there are value judgements and also economic factors to take into account regarding the outcome.  For instance, I do not accept the arguments made regarding global warming, see the quote about statistics above.  But even if I did, it is still not clear what government policy should be.  For example, in order to preserve the benefits of a free society, we might choose to do nothing because we value freedom more than the economic change that may or may not accrue.  Further, we might argue that a society dedicated to the principles of liberty would cope with the changes best.  This argument goes to how I value freedom, which cannot be answered by science.

Another example would be abstinence only sex-education.  I have read that such education is "not effective."  I presume that it means that the rate of unwed pregnancy is as high or higher when compared to other forms of sex-education.  But I question the relevance of the finding in the larger context of societal values.  How is it a surprise that abstinence only education in a society saturated with sex in all forms of entertainment and laissez-faire attitudes towards extra- and pre-marital sex is not effective?  In the context of our beliefs, sex education delivered without moral context erodes values.  So the objection is to the wider sexual permissiveness of the culture, but the left makes the argument about the "science" when that isn't relevant to the underlying malaise.

Given the track record of scientific social movements, our freedom and prosperity will be preserved by conservative adherence to the principles on which the nation was founded.  Those principles hue to values for which science is not a substitute.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Unions, Democrats, Shipbuilding and the Mayor's Race

An interesting development in the San Diego mayoral race is the way labor unions are splitting their endorsements between the two main Democrats in the race, Alvarez and Fletcher.  Fletcher features endorsements largely from government affiliated employees unions such as these (not all inclusive, from his website):

  • San Diego City Firefighters/IAFF Local 145
  • San Diego Police Officers Association
  • San Diego Lifeguards Association/Teamsters, Local 911
  • San Diego County Probation Officers Association
  • San Diego Deputy City Attorneys
  • Peace Officers Research Association
  • San Diego Municipal Employees Association

Governor Jerry Brown has also endorsed Fletcher, which doesn't surprise me because he seems beholden to the public sector unions.

Meanwhile Alvarez is more heavily favored by the private sector unions.  The San Diego-Imperial County Counties Labor Council has endorsed Alvarez.  Our home has received multiple phone calls from UCFW 135 asking for support for Alvarez.  The county Democrats also endorsed Alvarez, perhaps not trusting Fletcher, the former Republican?

In terms of substantive issues, the dispute over land use in Barrio Logan that pits some residents against shipbuilding interests.  The City Council adopted a community plan on September 17 opposed by shipbuilding interests who say it will eventually kill jobs in San Diego.  Alvarez has supported and Faulconer opposed the plan.  Why do shipbuilding interests oppose the plan? According to Andrew Keatts at VOSD:
Really, what’s in dispute within the plan is its attempt to separate industrial and residential areas by creating a commercial buffer in a small area northeast of the shipyard. Homes are explicitly banned from being built in that area – meaning no waterfront condos.
That area’s currently occupied by an array of industrial companies, many of which service the shipyard in one way or another. One of those companies, for instance, is Cal Marine Cleaning, which does mechanical cleaning for the three major shipbuilding companies, BAE Systems, Continental Maritime of San Diego and General Dynamics NASSCO.
Keatts goes on to say that there is a "slippery slope" argument, that eventually the buffer zone will be turned into housing, which will in turn lead to a demand to remove all industrial activity from Barrio Logan.  What is also obvious is that killing off support industries is a way to strangle the shipbuilding and repair industry.  It seems obvious that the plan is a threat to the industrial ecosystem of the area, which of course hurts jobs creation.  From the U-T:
Shipyard leaders have expressed concern that the new plan could drive up suppliers’ costs, make San Diego less competitive and possibly prompt the Navy to contract ship building elsewhere.
Although Alvarez and Faulconer, as city council members, have garnered the most attention on this issue, Fletcher has endorsed a more restrictive plan than even Alvarez endorsed.  Democrats could once be counted upon to at least favor economic plans that helped unionized industries, like shipbuilding.  What has changed?  The Democratic coalition has become more and more a coalition of environmentalists, government employees and beneficiaries.  Of necessity, that makes the Democratic party the enemy of free enterprise.  (Fletcher pictured at right a "Protect Our Jobs" rally, courtesy KPBS.)

Looking for shipbuilder and fellow blogger Dean to weigh in.

What You Should Be Reading

  • The train wreck of the ACA websites' debacle, but the news has seemingly been everywhere, so I don't believe you missed it.  Of course, Dean has his own snarky take on the whole fiasco. Of course, we are also seeing massive spinning about the savings some folks are seeing, but W.C. Varones shows how the media lies about that too. DooDooEcon publishes a nice little map showing winners and mostly losers by state.
  • Don't believe that the government's tech woes will be solved by whiz kids from Silicon Valley.  Veteran program managers of global systems will tell you that forcing the system to operate correctly only when data is available from all sources is a poor practice.  But the political decision to prevent revelations on the amount of subsidies people are getting drove technology in the wrong direction.  See Reuters for an accessible explanation.  This is not about technology, but politics overwhelming good program management.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Chapter Where Republicans Remind Me Why I Voted Libertarian for 30 Years

Despite personal inconvenience and minor hardship, I supported shutting down the government to achieve the goal of lifting the individual mandate of the ACA for one year, to grant a level playing field to the ordinary citizens of this country.  They should be granted the same compassion that the President has shown for his big business cronies.  Of course, the Republican party caved early on that fight and then decided to drag out the fight over the debt limit and federal funding over other issues in an incoherent strategy that resulted in their public humiliation.  Here are some goals worthy shutting down the government over:
  • The aforementioned relief for ordinary citizens' mandate under the ACA.
  • Changing the rules for calculation cost of living increases for Social Security and Medicare to slow their long term growth and make it more fair to young taxpayers.
  • Further cuts to federal spending beyond the current "sequester."
A feckless, undisciplined strategery-challenged GOP would have had to pick one, and only one, goal and defended it to the brink and over the cliff if necessary.  Further, it would have had to thought out the strategy months in advance so that it could pass appropriations bills for stuff it wanted to fund early in the cycle and use HHS funding or some other appropriation vehicle to extract the necessary compromise.  

In fact, Republicans were only dragged into the fight reluctantly and only because they felt pressured by the tea party caucus.  The leadership's heart was never in the fight, they fought only to save face, and lost even that.  It was like playing prevent defense when you are already behind in the score, trying to stop the other team from running up the score when you had already lost the game.  It was pathetic and the outcome predictable despite some moments of optimism.  

The other reason that we lost is that the tea party wing does not represent a majority of the voters in the country (the linked Gallup poll quizzes conservative, liberal, moderate, but is a decent proxy).  The response of all liberty movement groups should be to continue to educate and persuade and point to the inevitable consequences of current policy.

The article that explains my GOP reluctance is here, also known as The Chapter Where I Was a Teenage Libertarian.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Adventurers Benefit From Government Slowdown

In the category of "What are they thinking?" the latest addition to my blogroll has some thoughts on the government shutdown slowdown.
When I saw this sign [regarding paying to hike the Red Rock trail] it started to dampen my mood.  I understand that the fees go to maintain the trails but I have always resented paying to experience nature.  My thoughts are, “really? I have to pay $5 to hike up the side of a mountain that will take me 20 minutes”.  The whole paying to be in nature just really gets under my skin, it seems wrong to me.  So decide to pay like the upstanding citizen I am (hehehe), when I notice this:

Thank you Government shutdown, you have officially saved me $5.  So it’s not all bad right? 
Why is the Department of Agriculture operating the toll for Red Rock trails?  Who can know the ways of the Fed?

Our adventurer is clearly having a good time.

Read the whole blog of a San Diego lad adventuring in Arizona.  He also reports that open carry is fairly common in his neck of the woods.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Federal Slowdown Affects Some Stuff You Might Care About

Well, we found one, besides my own personal work situation, where the federal slowdown (80% of federal spending continues) has an actual impact:
Mike Brenner is trying to open a craft brewery in Milwaukee by December. His application to include a tasting room is now on hold, as are his plans to file paperwork for four labels over the next few weeks. He expects to lose about $8,000 for every month his opening is delayed.
Why would you obey the law when there is no one to enforce it?  Well, this the federal government and apparently there is money to pay people to enforce the shutdown.  
For many hours her tour group, which included senior citizen visitors from Japan, Australia, Canada, and the United States, were locked in a Yellowstone National Park hotel under armed guard.
Really?  Elderly tourist driving through the wide open spaces in Yellowstone, as in "Where the Buffalo Roam," are met by armed resistance from our supposedly "broke" federal government?

Don't eat that grass or you'll be arrested. Yellowstone's shut down don't you know?

Onion headline? Buffalo Die in Yellowstone Due to Federal ShutDown.  Told they couldn't graze due to federal shutdown slowdown.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What You Should Be Reading

Dean breaks down the lying on the left regarding the government shutdown and what the Republicans are trying to accomplish. A small excerpt:
You are suggesting the House Continuing Resolution that passed late last Saturday night somehow defunded or struck down the ACA. This is false. The House funded all government operations and merely delayed the implementation of the individual mandate by one year. If “delayed by one year” sounds familiar, it should because that’s what the President has done for a select few.
. . .
What the House did through the legislative process, the President did illegally through executive fiat.
KTCat has been following the slow motion train wreck that is Japan.  He predicts that government spending and taxing and money printing won't save Japan.  He also advises us to follow the (smart) money.

Poll numbers show the San Diego mayor's race tightening as Faulconer and Alvarez increase their name recognition.  The UCFW Local 135 called the house asking my son to pledge support for Alvarez.

The Head of Iran's cyber warfare program was found dead in the woods with two bullets in his heart.  Is this assymetric retaliation or an Israeli op or both?  An earlier post discussed the Obama's administration complicity in giving Iran cover for its successful attacks on U.S. Navy networks.  We are at war with Iran whether we like it or not, but it is convenient for this administration to deny it from the public.  I look more and more to the foreign press to get accurate reporting on cyber issues, as I don't believe that the U.S. press is willing to give up their comfy spot on Obama's lap.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Personal Impacts of Government Shutdown

Some of you may know that I have spent almost my entire adult life working for the federal government.  I was active duty military for over twenty years and now I work for the feds in a research facility.  I am not complaining about the shutdown, but wanted to make clear to some people that I am not a disinterested party.  I took some heat on Twitter by retweeting that people should be embarassed about being worried about the shut down.  While that was certainly a bit of hyperbole, calling the tweet disgusting falls into the same category.

I am in an exempt category of employee so I am not out of work and am thankful for that.  But certainly, there are others on whom I depend for decisions and approvals who are gone and we can't make forward progress on joint projects.  On the personal front, both my wife and I can't get primary care medical appointments right now.  If the furlough goes on long enough, I suppose that a small veteran's benefit payment I receive might be interrupted.  At some point, I would also be furloughed, but that won't be for a while.  This is not overwhelming, but the impacts are real.  I tell you this to show that I am not a disinterested party.

But regardless, I support the idea that ordinary Americans deserve the same breaks from the Affordable Care Act that the administration has given their Big Business and Big Labor cronies.  This administration is exhibit A for the train wreck produced by crony capitalism.  The ACA is unmanageable and failing, and only by granting huge exemptions will health care insurance not be totally wrecked.  Boehner's current approach is sound and is in fact what I have advocated all along with spending bills.  Thin slice spending to make small cuts and only pass the programs you want.  Tie changes you desire to the spending the President and his party desires.  This is the historical prerogative of the House.  Each time the House offers a bill to fund a popular program, the Reid and Obama game plan is undermined.  I hope Boehner stays the course on this and dials up the heat.  I don't read the poll numbers on this; but my sense is that the Democrats have overplayed their hand. Spending money to shut down monuments and take down web sites is not playing with the public.  Eventually Democrat senators will feel the heat.

Photo courtesy of The Weekly Standard

Weekend Music Chill

Going for a covers edition this weekend.  Dean once mentioned that The Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville" would sound great covered in a country-western style.  I found this cover by Flatt & Scruggs:

A more well know version is this bluegrass rendition by the Grascals, complete with fiddles.

I can't help but post the original by The Monkees.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Impact of Government Shutdown - As Little as 16% Affected

The actual impact of a government shutdown is much less than anyone might think.  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid checks continue to get cut and the active duty military continues to perform their duties.  Furthermore, a significant portion of the defense civilian establishment in the form of the working capital funded activities continue operations.  Here is a breakdown of the budget.

Sorry for the extra large size, but its necessary to make my point.  Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid continue under a shutdown, totaling 41% of the budget.  The House has funded Defense separately, so we are up to 60% of the federal budget.  Interest on the debt has no direct, immediate impact, and accounts for 6%.  Finally, USA Today reports that:
Federal agencies have prepared plans to continue programs they deem critical to maintaining public safety and protecting property despite the shutdown. Employees who perform those critical functions will continue to work and get paid.
I believe that accounts for the 18% other mandatory programs, but have not been able to confirm.  However, essential functions account for a full 59% of non-defense workers.  Too bad that the NSA gang probably keeps coming to work.  All in all, I see about 78% of the federal budget having no impact during a shut down, and maybe even 84% if you don't care about interest on the debt.

In short, almost nothing that the American public actually cares about will be impacted by a #governmentshutdown.  The White House will make a big show of shutting White House down tours, but will be hard pressed to make the case.  The Democrats will of course be aided by a complicit media in puffing up a story about the impacts, but Republicans need to just hold the line and wait for no one to notice.

Boehner has done a reasonable job by sending over a clean continuing resolution that funds defense and bundling the rest of the budget with an ACA delay.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Predicting the News That Will Be Reported - Not That Hard

I sometimes wonder at what passes for news.  News is thought to be the reporting of events that are not expected, you know, man bites dog stuff.  Here are some utterly predictable news stories. I am not bothering to link because the stories are ubiquitous.

  • News organizations do little to report that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does little to explain the recent lack of temperature rise (over the last 15 years or so).  There is an unsubstantiated claim that either deep sea warming or volcanoes have caused the relative lack of temperature rise.  The focus of news has been on the dire predictions of the report.  Those dire predictions keep getting pushed further into the future.
  • Health care exchanges' online systems are having technical problems and won't be ready on October 1. Sorry, this was too easy to know in advance.  Complex rules make for complex software.  If the Secretary of HHS can't seem to be clear about who is exempted or not, as one small example, how is a programmer supposed to write code?  
  • Younger, healthier workers to pay more under ACA.  This is a feature, not a bug of the system.  The problem for the administration is that most people have figured this out and are going to judge the penalties insufficient to cause them to sign up.  
  • New revelations of other ways that the NSA was spying on you keep popping up.  Let's face it, the NSA considered every way imaginable to spy on U.S. citizens.
While we are on the ease of predicting the news, I predict the Republicans will cause a government shutdown lasting a day or so, and then cave, as the media whips up a false "The Sky is Falling and It's Republican's Fault" headlines.  If the Republicans would adopt a sensible strategy they wouldn't need to go through this pain.  They should pass bills that fund the rest of government in piecemeal fashion, then fight over the ACA funding in the HHS appropriation.  Medicare and Social Security payments continue, for example, so there is not any real pain to voters from a shutdown.  Why the House Republicans get backed into a corner is beyond my comprehension. Nothing prevents them from breaking up the appropriations bill to suit their agenda; they control the House for crying out loud.  The Republicans real leverage lies in the fact that "discretionary" operations of the HHS can be tied to defunding the ACA, but popular programs aren't put at risk.

Finally, there isn't any reason the Republicans couldn't start dismantling the law a bit at a time, by repealing the tax on medical devices for example, rather than going for the whole enchilada of defunding.  They could really be popular by delaying the individual mandate by one year.  Best of all, they could cause the system to collapse by repealing all exceptions granted by the Secretary of HHS.  Imagine the delicious irony of Obama vetoing a bill that Republicans pass that required tight adherence to a law he sponsored.  The Republicans lack of imagination on the subject is appalling.  But that's not news either.

What You Should Be Reading
  • Iran backed hackers are already attacking Navy computers.  After America threatens to bomb Syria, Syrian hackers threaten retaliation.  Later, Iranian infiltration of U.S. Navy computers is revealed.  Iran is a major sponsor of the Syrian regime.  Love fest with Iranians ensues and we are now counting on Syria to cooperate in turning over chemical weapons.  As I predicted here and here, the Iranians tie the accusations to the U.S. semi-admission of introducing the Stuxnet virus into their nuclear program.  The incompetence of this administration's foreign policy apparatus is staggering.