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Christie ‘Tired of Hearing About’ Raising the Minimum Wage

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Someone had to say it.

“I have to tell you the truth,” said Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate. “I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight saying ‘you know honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my god – all our dreams would be realized.”

Christie continued, “Is that what parents aspire to for our children?

The Democrats have seized on the minimum wage issue during this election cycle because it is one of those heartstrings-tuggers that make for an easy sell to the low-info crowd and because they are loathe to bring up Obamacare.

Christie gets close to the real heart of the matter here: Democrats don’t want people to aspire to bigger things. Now that the party is firmly in the grip of its progressive lunatic fringe, it behooves them to encourage Americans to remain in circumstances that will forever keep them dependent upon the government for survival, which a slightly increased minimum wage most certainly does. They demonize anyone who correctly describes what the minimum wage is supposed to be: an entry-level, part-time wage for younger people.

The fact that so many adults are working for minimum wage, rather than the wage itself, is the real problem.

OK, the fact that Democrats want to make people more comfortable in jobs they should be trying to get out of is the real problem.

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Forbes: Small Business Owners Should Be Single-Issue Voters

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Interesting take.

Say what you will about the Tea Party, it has not only given voice to those who hold dear conservative values, but to paraphrase Mr. Newton, it has engendered an equal and opposite reaction from those who inhabit the left side of the political spectrum. Ironically, this vociferous differentiation has placed greater import on the new electoral power brokers, independent voters.

Nothing bad happens when Americans get fired up about the political process, regardless of whether they spin to the left or the right, or mark time in the middle. Feeling pressure to take a political position typically manifests in becoming a more knowledgeable voter. If America is to ever solve its many challenges, those solutions will be demanded by an informed electorate who hire representatives to serve them, rather than anoint a self-serving political class.

Something good would happen if small business stakeholders were as politically organized and influential as other single-issue groups, like unions. If small business were a country, Wikipedia would describe Small Business USA like this: Population: 125 million (owners, employees and dependents). Economy: Largest on the planet. Contribution to society: Significant. Organized political influence for its own interests: Negligible.

What’s wrong with this picture?

With so much to contribute, Small Business America has many reasons to catch the tide of electoral fervor and become more involved in the political process.

Most of my immediate family are and were small business owners (different kinds, there is no “family business), and I know from that experience that they tend to be more conservative. The small business owners they do business with tend to be the same.

The point here about the SBA having political influence that is inversely proportional to its economic clout is important and one that isn’t talked about much. If ever a time existed to address it, it’s now. So many of the progressive left boondoggles that have been passed and are being fought for place and undue burden on small businesses. Boeing can absorb the ever-escalating costs of the PPACA without blinking an eye because it will have an easier time of spreading around how it passes those costs on. Joe’s Construction, however, will not.

The $15 an hour minimum wage is something that is championed by people who, by and large, have never run a business in their lives and think most money can be “POOFED” into existence by governmental mandate. This is another progressive favorite that disproportionately affects small biz owners.

Large industries (health care, insurance, etc.) and Big Labor all have powerful political lobbies. The Small Business Association has a seat at the table but it’s WAY at the end where almost no one can hear it and the good stuff is gone by the time the serving dishes are passed down there.

It would be good for the country if:

a) The SBA upped its political clout and,

b) One of the two major parties (hint, hint) gave them something to vote for again.

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Have the Markets Turned Against President Obama?

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Dan Perkins

Wall Street has loved President Obama for most of the last 6 years, just look at this chart to prove the point.

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The market has produced a fortune for Wall Street and their investors. Free money from the Federal Reserve Quantitative Easing gave Wall Street an aggressive buyer of US Government bonds and mortgages. The Fed balance sheet is now in excess of four trillion dollars and for now the Fed has indicated they have finished their buys.

The real beneficiary of all this wealth creation was President Obama. Some Americans saw their net worth increase and by association have given the credit for all the new wealth to President Obama. In fact the rally in the markets has been dubbed the “Obama Rally.” The logic has been if people’s wealth is growing, they will overlook all the rest of the bad things going on in the country. I believe the markets are telling us with the most recent declines that the good times may be over, the “Obama Rally” has come to an end.

The chart below shows what has happened in the last 4 weeks.

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Not only has the stock market declined, we have seen a significant decline in the price of oil and other commodities including the price of gold. Interest rates are near their all time lows and yet the IMF now predicts that American GDP for this year will be about 1.5%. The IMF just reported that China has replaced America as the largest economy in the world. Why did this happen? Simple, look at the same number the IMF looks at — GDP. America over the last 6 years according to the World Bank grew 5.7%, or less than 1% per year. China for the same period grew 44.3%, or 7.38% annually. This means that in about three quarters of one year China grew more than America did in the last 6 years.

This past summer with the beheading of American journalists the American people became disenchanted with the president and his poll number proves this dissatisfaction. Wall Street is now looking at America in a different way and in turn they are looking at Obama differently. Many Wall Street pundits have various reasons why the sell-off is taking place, I believe they are beginning to believe that Americas best days are behind us and that President Obama has reached his goal of leading from behind, China is now the leader in the world.

Only time will tell if what is happening in the markets is just a minor correction or the start of a major sell-off. One indicator to watch is the 200-day moving average of the Dow Jones. We are currently at that average support level, if we break through this support level then we could go to 16,330. If we break this then we will have to test the 15,500 level. If these support levels are penetrated then look for Wall Street to become more critical of Obama.

When people start losing money they will look to someone else to blame, and President Obama will get that blame just like he got all the glory. The loss of trillion’s of dollars makes people think differently.

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President Obama May Not Want to Shift Conversation to the Economy After All

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Last week we mentioned that President Obama wanted to shift the conversation to the economy, “the issue U.S. voters care most about” leading up to the election. He may want to rethink that after finding out about this CNBC poll. He also may want a drink.

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Book Review: Crapitalism — Liberals Who Make Millions Swiping Your Tax Dollars

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Investigative journalist, New York Times bestselling author and troublemaker Jason Mattera is back.

His third book, Crapitalism: Liberals Who Make Millions Swiping Your Tax Dollars, takes a searing look at dozens of liberals whose love of big government is, shall we say, less than altruistic.

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They love big government because they love big money. Big government makes them big fat cats. If we shrink government, they might have to go out and earn an honest living on their own. So big-name lefty Democrats like Al Gore and Tom Steyer will hate this book. The rest of us should love it. And be enraged by it. The fact is, these one-percent leftists are costing the rest of us millions and billions. And they never show any sign of having a scintilla of a conscience about it.

Mattera is probably best known for taking down Micheal Bloomberg, Harrison Ford, Robert Redford, Hillary Clinton and others in his trademark ambush viral videos. You’ll find the same sass and wit throughout Crapitalism, but he backs up every claim with copious footnotes. In fact, he has included 26-pages of footnotes. This is one well-researched book written by a patient and accomplished investigator. Crapitalism took about a year to write, and it shows in the details that Mattera digs up and backs up on every page.

It probably seems a little weird to praise a book for the way it is laid out, but here Mattera has done readers a great service. Each crapitalist — a crony big-goverment lover who feeds at the public trough while the rest of us get to pay for it through higher taxes — gets their own chapter. Readers will not have to go hunting around for evidence that former drug dealer Jay-Z is a crapitalist. That story starts right on page 83. Jay-Z gets his own chapter, as do all the other crapitalists.

Why is Obama friend Jay-Z, who is as well known for Big Pimpin’ as big spendin,’ a “crapitalist?” Because of his involvement with the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center. Z (can I call him “Z?” I hope he doesn’t mind) joined a group that used public financing — tax dollars — to move the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn as its unofficial mascot (and part owner). The group secured $761 million in taxpayer subsidies to move the team and build them a new arena to play in. At the same time, Jay-Z’s other non-government funded investments, his club in Chicago and his other club in Atlantic City, have shuttered. He also lost a cool $50 million in a hotel deal. But he has the Nets, the government subsidies backing them, and he has his and Beyonce’s music careers to fall back on, so don’t worry about him. He’ll get by.

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Jay-Z, Beyonce and Big Presidentin’

Mattera goes line by line and penny by penny, showing how some very familiar names and some less familiar, but very influential, people are gaming the system, getting rich, become crapitalist tycoons — all funded by American taxpayers when we’re supposedly in an era of “austerity.” Not all of them are Democrats. Some of them are former capitalists who have jumped in the sack with big government to line and re-line and re-line their pockets. That’s what crapitalism is — corrupting real, vibrant capitalism by using government and its ability to demand tax dollars at the point of a gun from some to hand out to connected crony others, to make them filthy, stinking rich.

And the way that Mattera has organized the book, giving each crapitalist their own chapter, makes this sharp, entertaining, infuriating and aggravating read a true reference book that should be in every taxpayer’s collection (but not with taxpayer funding, of course). Virginia’s new governor, Terry McAuliffe, gets his own chapter starting on page 31. Hollywood big-shot Steven Spielberg comes in for truth-telling on page 109. Jeffrey Katzenberg follows him on page 117. Algore, Warren Buffet, GE’s Jeffrey Immelt (a registered Republican), space ace Elon Musk, George Soros, Carlos Slim — they’re all here, along with others like John Podesta, Harry Reid, Zygi Wilf and Rep. Maxine Waters. Hear of a new fat cat who’s suddenly bankrolling a candidate in your state? Flip open Crapitalism. They’re probably in there. Or maybe they’ll be in the next edition. There’s no shortage of crapitalists out there.

Crapitalism will make you laugh, it will make you mad, and it will make you question just about every big-name leftist and government-hugging grifter out there. This is Jason Mattera’s best and most useful book to date.

Crapitalism: Liberals Who Make Millions Swiping Your Tax Dollars comes out in book and Kindle form October 7. See Mattera’s ambush of IRS villain Lois Lerner here.

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Should We Fear Jobs Being Lost to Machines?

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Every time I stoop down to take a sip from a water fountain, I marvel at how far the human race has come. Something as simple as getting a quick drink of water, which we in the first world take wholly for granted, would have occupied a significant portion of a person’s day just a handful of decades ago.

Think of it. Imagine what life would be like without indoor plumbing and modern methods of water distribution. What if you had to go out and find a natural source of water to sustain yourself and your family? How different would your life look? It’s humbling to consider.

With that in mind, imagine if someone had argued at the dawn of indoor plumbing that one out of every three jobs would be lost to the scary new technological development. How would you respond? Knowing what we all do now, we would regard the claim as ludicrous. After all, what kind of jobs would we be talking about? Digging wells? Schlepping buckets back from the nearest river? Who would want to do that when you could simply turn a facet in your home and let the life-giving bounty flow? Think of all the time saved by not having to seek water, the other things we’re able to do, the quality of life we’re able to enjoy.

We should keep that in mind when regarding claims like those coming out of Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo this week. Computer World reports:

Smart machines are an emerging “super class” of technologies that perform a wide variety of work, both the physical and the intellectual kind, said [Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's research director]. Machines, for instance, have been grading multiple choice for years, but now they are grading essays and unstructured text.

This cognitive capability in software will extend to other areas, including financial analysis, medical diagnostics and data analytic jobs of all sorts, says Gartner.

“Knowledge work will be automated,” said Sondergaard, as will physical jobs with the arrival of smart robots.

“Gartner predicts one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025,” said Sondergaard. “New digital businesses require less labor; machines will be make sense of data faster than humans can.”

Even if Gartner’s prediction pans out, and one out of three current jobs is soon lost to the rise of intelligent machines, that does not mean life will soon get worse for humankind. On the contrary, to the extent work can continue to be automated by computers and robots, the cost of production will drop, and the ability of humans to pursue more meaningful work will increase.

New jobs will emerge which we lack the context to imagine. Someone working in the 1890’s could hardly envision a functioning world without blacksmiths, to say nothing of comprehending information technology. Yet here we are, enjoying a quality of life far in excess of theirs.

The whole notion of children growing up to be whoever they want to be, and to do whatever they want to do, is recent to civilization. It wasn’t that long ago that your occupation, indeed your entire life’s path, was dictated by the fundamental requirements  survival. Advancements in automation will only broaden the horizons of future generations.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 15:12 minutes long; 14.66 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

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Things Are So Bad, Obama Wants to Talk About the Economy

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

“Infrastructure”-DRINK!

President Barack Obama tried on Thursday to turn the spotlight on the economy, the issue U.S. voters care about most ahead of November midterm elections, making the case that his policies have steered the country away from the brink of collapse and laid a foundation for growth.

It’s the second take for a strategy that the White House rolled out in June, only to have its optimistic message drowned out by crises in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and western Africa.

While he said his speech was not political, Obama sought to contrast Democratic policies with those of Republicans, arguing he needs the Senate to stay in Democrats’ hands in November elections to accomplish economic goals like raising the minimum wage, retraining workers for better jobs and spending more on infrastructure projects.

By all means, in the midst of the Ebola and terrorism concerns, let’s focus on miring workers in low-paying jobs by making them slightly less low paying.

Does this guy have any adults working for him?

Manipulated jobs numbers are all he’s got at the moment. He can’t, however, do any crafty accounting to make ISIS or Ebola go away, so it makes sense he wants to shift the narrative away from the pressing problems.

It is also rather pathetic that he thinks he can.

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Ryan Says He’s Learned Lessons About ‘Slighting People Who are Depending Upon Government’

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is out with a new book on his 2012 vice presidential run and beyond, says he’s “learned a lot” from the experiences of the past few years.

“I made some mistakes. And I think you need to own up. That’s the other thing. People in public life, for some reason they don’t think it is right to own up to mistakes,” Ryan told PBS. “In private lives we are supposed to, I mean as adults. So I made some mistakes and I own up to those mistakes. I can learn from that.”

That includes using the phrase “makers and takers” to describe those using public assistance programs.

“What I meant when I said it was that we have a system where too many people are becoming dependent upon the government, and there won’t be enough people paying for the government to keep that kind of a system going,” Ryan said. “And what I meant to say is we need to focus on getting people off of welfare into work. We need to focus on getting people to where they want to get in life so that they can be upwardly mobile, so they can be self-sufficient. So they can reach their dreams. Because the whole American idea as I describe here is that the condition of your birth in this country doesn’t determine the outcome of your life.”

“And the role and goal of government is to protect our natural rights and promote equality of opportunity so we can make the most of our lives. And I was trying to articulate the fact that our system, our federal government has gotten too big, has gotten to top down, too coercive and a lot of people aren’t seeing this. A lot of people aren’t getting this opportunity.”

What it sounded like, the congressman said, ”is I was slighting people who are depending upon government who earned benefits.”

“And so that was not what I meant to say but it is — it took a liberal Democrat at the Rock County Fair in Janesville, Wisconsin, to come up to me and tell me really what it sounded like. And I realized after this guy kind of laid into me, you know, he is right,” Ryan continued.

“I think it does come across that way so I need to change the way I talked, and the thinking behind it, so that I can communicate more effectively, which is we want a system where everybody can make the most of their lives. Those of us who are conservatives, that doesn’t mean we are for no government. We want government to be effective and limited so that it can do what it is supposed to do well to help get people where they need to be.”

Ryan admitted that his running mate on the GOP ticket, 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had the same problem with his 47 percent comments.

“What I am trying to say is in this hyperpolarized time we are in, I would like to think that there is a majority in this country that if given a very clear mandate, a very clear choice, built upon a clear governing philosophy that we can recapture that spirit in this country and get these reforms passed,” he said. ”…What I think is prevailing is a government-centered view of American life that is based on collaboration, that is more top- down, that is not respecting people in communities, that is not respecting local control.”

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Famed Chef Emeril Lagasse Says Obama May Drive Him Broke

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Famed chef Emeril Lagasse says that it’s becoming all but impossible to be a successful restaurateur in America today. The government just gets in the way too much. Lagasse specifically singled out the current president’s policies.

“It’s becoming a very challenging industry to become a very successful average restaurateur,” continued Lagasse. “I can’t charge $300 a person in my restaurant or I would not be in business. Am I using any different ingredients? Not really. Am I using any caliber of service staff? I don’t think so. I think our service is as good or better than most places.”

“And then you add all the Obama nonsense to what it’s become in the last several years. I don’t have anything against Mr. Obama. I’m just saying the way that, you know… the government should stay out of things. [...] Pretty soon, they’re going to wipe a lot of the middle restaurateurs and restaurant cooks. [...] If it continues, then watch: you’re going to have high-end, and you’re going to have fast food, and you’re going to have chain restaurants.”

Lagasse shared his thoughts on TNT’s On the Menu. He predicts that if the government doesn’t start getting out of the way, the American restaurant industry will split and leave entrepreneurs and start-ups behind. American restaurants will consist only of high-end establishments like the ones Lagasse owns, fast food and chain restaurants, because no one else will be able to succeed.

Also read: 

Alicia Keys Gets Naked to Support Gun Control and Other Leftwing Causes

 

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Chinese Response to Obama Climate Speech: Go Climb a Tree

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Speaking at the UN Climate Summit, President Obama made it clear he expected China to help the US lead the way on fighting global warming:

Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do. (Applause.)

And today, I call on all countries to join us -– not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone.

Today, China gave their response to the president. It came in the form of a paper submitted to the Geneva-based U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance of a planned meeting next month.

Basically, the Chinese took 9 pages to tell the president to stuff it.

Fox News:

Carbon emission cutbacks by China and other developing countries, the document says, will be “dependent on the adequate finance and technology support provided by developed country parties” to any new climate accord.

In other words, only if Western nations pay for it.

More specifically, only if Western taxpayers ante up. Among other things, the Chinese communist regime insists that the incentive payments it demands must come from “new, additional, adequate, predictable and sustained public funds” — rather than mostly private financing, as the U.S. hopes.

In addition, the Chinese state:

– A promised $100 billion in annual climate financing that Western nations have already pledged to developing countries for carbon emission control and other actions by 2020 is only the “starting point” for additional Western financial commitments that must be laid out in a “clear road map,” which includes “specific targets, timelines and identified sources;”

–In the longer run, developed countries should be committing “at least 1 percent” of their Gross Domestic Product — much more than they spend on easing global poverty” into a U.N.-administered Green Carbon Fund to pay for the developing country changes;

–In the meantime, the $100 billion pledge to the same fund should be reached by $10 billion increments, starting from a $40 billion floor this year;

–Western countries also need to remove “obstacles such as IPRs [intellectual property rights]” to “promote, facilitate and finance the transfer” of “technologies and know-how” to developing countries in advance of any future climate deal;

China will fight climate change to the very last American taxpayer dollar.

Chinese recalcitrance to participate in a global climate convention is matched by India, whose new Prime Minister Narendra Modi just announced a major new campaign to bring massive numbers of factories to his country. Both countries rely on coal for a large percentage of their power generation and neither country is willing to stifle its economic growth when most countries in the west failed to reach the emission goals spelled out in the Kyoto accord.

Kyoto’s strictures expire in 2020, but there is already a move to replace it with even more draconian protocols. How about a climate mitigation fund — opening amount to be $100 billion — to be made available to some of the biggest kleptocrats in the third world? I’m sure bankers in Switzerland and the Caymans are salivating at the ill gotten gains that will be flowing into their coffers from various presidents-for-life in Africa and Asia.

Meanwhile, China’s communist dictatorship continues to build coal fired electric plants, whose particulate emissions are suffocating millions of people.

Photographs of a smog-wreathed Tiananmen Square and the iconic headquarters of China Central Television dominated reports of Chinese pollution last year, but analysis shows nine other Chinese cities suffered more days of severe smog than the capital in 2013.

The worst was Xingtai, a city of more than 7 million people south-west of Beijing, which was hit by 129 days of “unhealthy air” or worse – the threshold at which pollution is considered at emergency levels – and more than twice as many days as the capital experienced.

Beijing suffered 60 days of pollution above emergency levels, sparking reports of an “airpocalypse”, a boom in sales of air purifiers and masks and measures to tackle the problem including the destruction of open-air barbecues and a crackdown on fireworks for Chinese new year.

Last week, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, “declared war” on pollution, saying it was “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

Do the Chinese really need a “red-light warning” from nature?

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China is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Coal is the culprit and the Chinese burn almost 3 times as much as the US.

A few more stats on Chinese coal use:

Coal, the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, accounts for 70 percent of energy used in China today and is responsible for about three quarters of electricity generation.

  • In just 5 years, from 2005 through 2009, China added the equivalent of the entire U.S. fleet of coal-fired power plants, or 510 new 600-megawatt coal plants.
  • From 2010 through 2013, it added half the coal generation of the entire U.S. again.
  • At the peak, from 2005 through 2011, China added roughly two 600-megawatt coal plants a week, for 7 straight years.
  • And according to U.S. government projections, China will add yet another U.S. worth of coal plants over the next 10 years, or the equivalent of a new 600-megawatt plant every 10 days for 10 years.

China also leads the world in the production of renewable energy. But despite fantastic growth in that energy sector, the Chinese use of coal will continue to skyrocket. Filling the boilers of 3 new coal fired electric plants a month will increase China’s coal use by up to 15% by 2020.

All of this means that any reduction in emissions by western industrialized nations will be futile. It won’t reduce worldwide CO2 emissions by one, single, molecule.

All of the speechifying by Obama and the other delegates to the climate summit amounted to a lot of unnecessary CO2 being emitted by blowhards who care less about saving the world than they do enhancing their power over the citizens of the world.

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(VIDEO) Bill Clinton On Corporate Inversions: We Need To Reform Tax System

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

As noted in this PJ Tatler post last night and previously here, the problem is the corporate tax rate and the double taxation on income earned abroad. Bubba agrees. Thus far he seems to be the only prominent Democrat who does.

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Forbes: New Corporate Inversion Regs Don’t Address the Real Problems

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Our accountants are better than your regulators.

The Treasury Department today came out with a series of arcane new tax regulations in the hopes of stemming corporate inversions. Inversions happen when U.S. companies merge with a foreign company while usually retaining U.S. operations. Their purpose is to avoid punitive U.S. double taxation on income earned overseas. The Treasury regulations (far too boring to get into any detail) seek to curb the most common ways in which income is shifted to avoid IRS taxation on income which has already faced taxation in other countries.

I’ve got bad news for the Treasury Department: every large company in America has a team of super smart accountants who have already come up with ways around these new regulations. Regulations will never be able to catch up with the ingenuity of super smart accountants in suspenders who think depreciation jokes are funny. Not gonna happen.

Look, inversions happen for two basic reasons. Until such time as we actually fix these two causes of inversions, they will continue to happen.

The post identifies the high corporate tax rate and the double taxation of income earned abroad as the problems that need to be addressed. As we have mentioned here before, those options are never considered by Democrats. The continued demonizing of corporations and the money they earn (seen most recently during the Climate Commies’ “Flood Wall St.” march) is the new cornerstone of leftist politics. If they can convince the great unwashed that corporations and their profits are inherently evil, the case can always be made for more confiscatory tax laws and regulations. Lower taxes simply aren’t an option.

They never will be as long as the progressive fringe controls the Democrats.

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U.S. Jury Holds Arab Bank Liable for Serving Hamas

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The Jerusalem Post reports:

In a historic verdict, an 11 member jury on Monday found Arab Bank liable for knowingly providing financial services to Hamas – the first time a financial institution has ever been held civilly liable for supporting terrorism.

The Arab Bank trial took place in a federal court in Brooklyn for the last five weeks and revisited some of Hamas’ worst terror attacks, including the August 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem killing or wounding 130 and a range of 24 horrid terror attacks during the Second Intifada.

The verdict was 10 years in the making, and still may be subject to Supreme Court review.

The central question was whether the 11 member jury would find that Arab Bank knew or should have known that its account holders were using it to transfer “blood money” to Hamas for terror operations – or whether it checked for suspicious transactions as best it could, and simply imperfectly missed them.

On Thursday, during closing arguments, Plaintiffs’ attorney C. Tab Turner told the jury they were in a very special situation: “a situation that no jury in the history of this country has ever been in.”

He continued, “Never has anyone sat on a case of finance terrorism, with issues like you have to decide in this case.”

“You have more power today to change the way that this world operates, the world of banking operates, than anyone else on the face of the earth,” said Turner.

Gary M. Osen, another plaintiffs’ attorney responded, saying, “The jury has found Arab Bank responsible for knowingly supporting terrorism. It found Arab Bank complicit in the deaths and grievous injuries inflicted on dozens of Americans.”

Most disturbingly:

According to an unclassified U.S. State Department memorandum released after the jury began deliberations, “In 2003, the United States provided evidence to Saudi authorities that the Saudi al Quds Intifadah Committee (“Committee”) founded in October 2000, was forwarding millions of dollars in funds to the families of Palestinians engaged in terrorist activities, including those of suicide bombers.”

“The timing of the State Department’s disclosure raises deeply troubling questions,” said Plaintiffs’ trial counsel Michael Elsner, who requested the records. “Obviously, the jury reached the same conclusion about the Saudi payments in finding Arab Bank guilty for its support of Hamas, but this last minute disclosure of this evidence six years after we requested it and hours after the jury began its deliberations is telling.”

“We don’t expect the State Department to take sides in a civil case, but by withholding critical evidence until the jury began its deliberations, the State Department continues its unfortunate pattern of siding with foreign interests against American victims of terrorism,” said Elsner.

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The Godfather of Medicare and Obamacare Is Not Really Dead

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Rashi Fein, a husband, father and beloved friend, died last Monday at the age of 88. While this is sad news for those who will personally miss him, I’m torn.

Because Mr. Fein, an economist, devoted much of his life — with some success — to the pursuit of universal, government-run, taxpayer-funded health care, I rejoice that his work on this mortal coil has drawn to a close.

And yet, this man is not dead…not really.

There are some Darwinian evolutionists who believe that individual members of a species exist merely as the vessels of DNA — the famous “selfish gene.” So long as the genetic material survives and replicates, the physical manifestation of any individual DNA-vessel matters little.

In that sense, the life force that impelled Rashi Fein will not go gently into that good night. It continues to rage and reproduce.

The New York Times credits Fein with helping to lay “the intellectual groundwork” for Medicare in the 1960s.

Dr. Fein, a proud liberal, regretted that Medicare did not apply to everyone, just as he was disappointed that Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act did not consolidate insurance payments under the federal government. A federal single-payer system, he maintained, would be more cost effective and inclusive.

You see, Rashi Fein, with all of his “ethical and humanitarian perspectives,” was, at best, a dupe of the tyrants (whether idiotic or despotic) who want to limit both your access to health care and the length of your life. At worst, he was one of them.

His obituary in the Times, however, is positively magical.

When Dr. Fein began working on health issues as a young aide in the administration of Harry S. Truman, health care accounted for about 3 percent of the American economy. By the time he weighed in as a respected elder in the field during the debate over President Obama’s health care proposals, the expenditures had risen to 18 percent, an amount roughly equal to the economy of France.

The implication, of course, is that health care costs sextupled as a percentage of the “economy,” and that this fact should trouble the ethical humanitarian in each of us. Sacré bleu, France!?

Might I suggest that those who wring their hands over this disturbing datum visit my new clinic — the Truman Health Emporium — where we’ll offer inexpensive diagnoses and therapies, the costs of which are kept reasonable through the modest expedient of avoiding the use of any medical advances which took place after about 1953 (coincidentally, the year Watson and Crick described the structure of DNA).

So, do I have any takers for the clinic? After all, it’s cheap.

[Tick. Tick. Tick.]

Perhaps you need a bit of persuasion to bring you in.

At our clinic, we’re intentionally ignorant about artificial heart parts, kidney transplants, vaccines for nearly anything, and about what causes AIDS or mitigates its effects. After all, those are all post-1953 phenoms.

We CAN do knee and hip replacements, but a brief description of our methods, materials and outcomes may make you content with your existing natural joint pain. Our cardiac surgeons practice what might today be called “maximally invasive heart surgery.” They’re delighted, and often surprised, when the patient survives. Our most progressive doctors have actually read of experiments in one-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but of course we don’t have an MRI machine. Nobody did.

You say you’d like a CT scan? How do you spell that?

No, we don’t have any Lipitor or Nexium? ¿Habla inglés?

You want me to use a laser beam to reshape your cornea and give you 20/20 vision? That’s not even a thing.

You see, the advocates of the deceptively named “universal health care” always portray the expense side of the ledger, but rarely invoke the near-miraculous nature of medical advances made possible by the (partially) free market, and by the profit motive. Of course, doctors and patients weren’t the only ones to benefit.

As the money Americans spent on medical care increased, so did the role of economists specializing in health issues. Dr. Fein moved between government and academia, offering research and views on issues like meeting the demand for physicians.

Ironically, Rashi Fein’s obituarist credits the healthy growth of medical spending for Fein’s blossoming career opportunities. It seems someone always wants to issue a grant to an economist to study the runaway cost of healthcare.

I’ve come to view the term “economist” as a synonym for “elitist,” or “socialist,” or “Utopian.” If we’re to believe the New York Times, Rashi Fein was all three.

“A new language is infecting the culture of American medicine,” [Fein] wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1982. “It is the language of the marketplace, of the tradesman, and of the cost accountant. It is a language that depersonalizes both patients and physicians and describes medical care as just another commodity. It is a language that is dangerous.”

I’m sure in the halls and cubicles of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, at the foot of Capitol Hill, the staffers in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services never bandy about such crass, impersonal concepts as price or supply.

No, our benevolent government health officials surely speak in near-poetic terms of intimacy and empathy, always balancing the science of medical technology with the art of human compassion — always striving to deepen the relationship between a physician and her patient.

After all, medical care is not “just another commodity,” it’s a government function, with all of the warmth that that term can conjure.

So, I bid farewell to Rashi Fein. Would that I could to the rest of his kind.

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Mourning in America: Gearing Up for the Post-Radio Shack World

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

We all paraded from the AMC Matador Ambassador station wagon into the Acme. Pop cashed his check from the Budd Company at the customer service window, bought a carton of Salems he’d share with Nan, and handed her a wad of cash to pay for the groceries. She steered the cart off among the aisles, for what must have been an island of sweet respite after a week trapped at home with four noisy, dirty, scuffling boys.

Then, most Wednesdays, if we didn’t need a haircut at the barbershop — a Princeton: tight on the sides, longer on top, looped over with a generous handful of Vitalis — it was off to one of three destinations in the Doylestown Shopping Center:

1) W.T. Grant: a five-and-dime, if we needed school clothes or supplies, or to look at the tropical fish, chameleons and pet rodents.

2) Sears: where my brothers and I played Pong, or fished through the discount 45′s bin while Pop shopped for tools.

3) Radio Shack: AKA Heaven for Boys

While the first two had their charms, it was Radio Shack that cast a spell on us, drawing us in at a dead run.

Gadgets and kits, lights and switches, buzzing and whirring and crackling — things that were cool before “cool” became “bad” or “sick” or “ridiculous” or whatever “cool” is now.

There was nothing like Radio Shack.

Today, I read that Radio Shack is sick — actually sick, perhaps dying — almost certainly headed for bankruptcy.

Troubled electronics retailer RadioShack Corp’s shares have lost nearly a third of their value since brokerage Wedbush Securities said on Tuesday the company could file for bankruptcy soon, making the stock worthless by the end of this year.

The stock fell as much as 20 percent to 76 cents on Wednesday, adding to a 23 percent plunge on Tuesday.

“Our price target reflects our expectation that creditors will force a reorganization and wipe out RadioShack’s equity,” Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a note.

Oddly enough, I was just in a Shack in McKinney, Texas, on Sunday. Of course, it’s not really Radio Shack anymore…at least not the front half of the store. It’s a Frankensteinian amalgam of hipster brand names, competing for attention against a backdrop of their competitors’ products. It’s the Wal-Mart electronics department, in a third of the space with higher prices.

Cowling my eyes with my hands, I mumble to myself “not seeing anything, not seeing anything” until I reach the back of the store.

Here vestigial Radio Shack yet survives, like a pin-pithed dessicated frog with a faint heartbeat, but no will. My 18-year-old son asks what I’m looking for. It’s a logical question that not one of my brothers would have asked back in the day.

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Sanders Introduces Proposal for New Wealth Tax

Monday, September 8th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for a new tax at this weekend’s Vermont AFL-CIO annual convention: the wealth tax.

According to Sanders’ office, the proposal for a progressive estate tax works like so: The tax rate on estates valued from $3.5 million to $10 million would be 40 percent, those worth $10 million to $50 million would get a 50 percent levy, and estates worth more than $50 million would pay 55 percent.

If you’re worth more than $1 billion, you get slapped with an additional 10 percent tax.

Sanders argued this would pay down the national debt, reduce wealth inequality, and “pay for investments in infrastructure, education and other neglected national priorities.”

“A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little,” Sanders told the convention. “We need a tax system which asks the billionaire class to pay its fair share of taxes and which reduces the obscene degree of wealth inequality in America.”

The senator got a supporter in former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at University of California at Berkeley.

The country “is creating an aristocracy of wealth populated by heirs who don’t have to work for a living yet have great influence over how the nation’s productive assets are deployed,” Reich said, and Sanders’ bill would be “a welcome step toward reversing this trend.”

As the Senate returns from recess today, Sanders is getting a debate he’s long sought in the upper chamber as an amendment to reverse the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision on campaign finance comes to the floor.

“Billionaires buying elections is not what our Constitution stands for,” Sanders said in a statement Sunday. “The major issue of our time is whether the United States of America retains its democratic foundation or whether we devolve into an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires are able to control our political process by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who represent their interests.”

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Taco Bell Drive-Thru Work of Art Shows Capitalism Is All About Heart

Friday, August 29th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Because this experience is so rare, not only did I visit TellTheBell.com to answer their customer-service survey — something I never do — but I just came in from the mailbox (yes, the snail-mail box) where I placed this letter, and put up the red flag for the postman. I share it with you now, as I would a visit to a fine museum, an inspiring concert, or a thrilling spectator sport.

Taco Bell 022872, 11829 Abrams Rd., Dallas, TX 75243

To the Manager,

I had such an experience at your restaurant drive-through yesterday, I had to take a moment to let you know. Over the years, I have worked in customer service, in restaurants, in sales and in customer-service training. My family frequently visits Taco Bell and other fast-food places.

But yesterday was far and away the finest drive-through experience I have had…even better than Chik-fil-A, which was the previous standard-bearer.

Laquiata H. (as her name appears on my receipt), greeted me through the speaker with a clear and cheerful voice. She immediately let me know that she was ready to serve when I was ready to order, no hurry. This little touch I found immediately endearing and comforting. Drive-throughs always feel rushed, menus are complicated and, if you don’t have perfect vision, difficult to read. (BTW, the small type on yours meant that we had to read the choices aloud to my wife in the passenger seat, inevitably fouling your speed stats.)

Laquiata was an island of peace and happiness in a hectic day. When we got to the window, she greeted us with a smile. When she handed us our food, she repeated the order clearly to eliminate errors. That little gesture made me feel like she really cared about us, and wanted us to have a terrific experience.

I don’t know if you realize how extraordinary this is in your industry. I have come to loathe drive-throughs, with their squawk boxes, fast-talking, inarticulate automatons, and frequent errors. Most folks in this line of work seem more concerned with getting rid of you, than with serving you.

Please convey my gratitude to Laquiata, and the support team that made it possible for her to be the voice and face of joyful welcome.

She singled-handedly turned a commodity into a work of art.

Thank You,

Scott Ott

One of the things that makes America great is folks like Laquiata, who bring this attitude to work each day.

Capitalism, after all, isn’t about prices, and markets, and margins, and finance.

It’s about people, and beauty, and emotion, and excellence, and human need, and joy, and love and liberty.

All of that other stuff is just mechanism.

This is heart.

This is real.

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California Finally Tries To Do Something About Wooing Back Lost Film And TV Production

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Dare I say…hope?

It’s payback time for the Golden State, after Gov. Jerry Brown signed off Wednesday on blockbuster legislation that super-sizes California’s TV and film tax credit bill.

“This will send a message to the entertainment industry and all of the other states and countries that California is open for business, and in a big way,” one of the bill’s authors, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, told TheWrap. “We hope they’ll realize the folly of trying to create artificial competition to try to steal our jobs, and that this will return the industry for good.”

The measure calls for $330 million in incentives to be allocated to TV and movie producers — more than tripling the current $100 million that’s available — and means that the state can strike back at the numerous states and countries that have gutted one of California’s signature industries by luring projects with juicy tax breaks over the past decade. Funding would begin in fiscal year 2015-2016 and run through fiscal year 2018-2019.

Yes, there is a larger conversation to be had about the business climate that forced the state’s signature industry to flee (much of it to Canada) in the first place but…baby steps. Some may see this as a band-aid but it is more like pressure on a hemorrhaging artery. Let’s get this done first and take the necessary steps after.

New York City was in a similar predicament in the early 1990s, for pretty much the same reason. Film and television production had almost completely stopped. City officials and labor unions worked together to bring business back and had great success.

California has been doing things poorly for so long, it will be a relief to one day get it back to doing the thing it’s best at.

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Hope in the Midst of American Decline

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

More and more I’m convinced that America right now isn’t a country dealing with a mere dip in its mood and might. It’s a country surrendering to a new identity and era, in which optimism is quaint and the frontier anything but endless. 

— Frank Bruni, NY Times, Lost in America, 8/27/2014

Drawing on a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Times columnist Frank Bruni paints a picture of a nation on the down slope, with no end in sight. He notes that 60 percent of those polled feel America is “in decline.” 

But if you dig into the data you find that, while the depressing number has indeed climbed to 60 from 54 percent in January 2011, in five of the last eight times the pollsters asked this question (going back to October ’91) the readout was higher than 60, peaking at 69 percent in June 2008. 

So, you might say, cheer up, Frank Bruni, it could be worse. 

However, the next question in the survey brings a chilling context to that 60-percent figure. The question: “Do you feel confident that life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us?”

Only 21 percent said they do. Back in the dog days of decline in summer 2008, that number was 31. During a declension nearly as severe, in 1991-92, around 41 percent still felt confident their kids would have a better life. 

We Are Dissatisfied

Americans have always been a dissatisfied lot — we wouldn’t have come here if we were not. But we’ve always coupled that dissatisfaction with a belief in a better tomorrow. We’ve backed that belief with a determination to make it so, and a bone-deep conviction that we lived in a land where anything is possible.  We’re all about “the pursuit of happiness.”

This is what seems to have slipped…or rather, to have been tripped.

You see, it’s not that a Jimmy Carter-esque malaise has fallen across the fruited plain, but rather that malaise has been spread like mayonnaise across the amber waves of grain by people who seem determined to share the gloom of their own existential angst with the rest of us.

I, for one, will have none of it.

America still offers the greatest franchise opportunity on earth, available with no money down, to anyone willing to invest his sweat equity. In fact, that opportunity now exceeds the wildest dreams of our Fathers, as the internet has dried up the ocean and we can cross it barefoot in a moment. Global markets lay beneath our feet like Russell H. Conwell’s proverbial “Acres of Diamonds.” 

That doesn’t mean careful plans can’t collapse in the face of unforeseen obstacles. They quite likely will, and perhaps should, since passionate dreamers tend to lose touch with marketplace reality and must run headlong into an obsidian wall from time to time, to jar us into exploring other options. 

This opportunity also doesn’t excuse us from competition, both legitimate and nefarious. Some of your opponents will see your presence as healthy inspiration for their own innovations. Others will work tirelessly and deceitfully to ensure that you’re bankrupted and living under a bridge in a cardboard box. But the alternative to the exhilarating roller coaster of competition is the mundane merry-go-round of corporate wage-slavery, or government-subsidized bondage. The merry-go-round thrills only those who have never ventured beyond the painted pony.

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Keep Talking Like This, Councilman Scott Sherman, and You’ll Be My Pick for the 2016 GOP Nominee

Monday, August 25th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

On August 18, 2014, San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman showed in just five minutes that he communicates basic principles more effectively than any Republican presidential candidate in recent memory.

His brief, unscripted remarks came in support of the mayor’s veto of a Democrat effort to force city businesses to increase their minimum wage to $11.50 per hour.

Sherman, perhaps the only member of council who has “signed the front of a paycheck,” found himself in a two-person minority on the veto-override vote, against six Democrats.

Watch the video below, and then help me to understand why this eminently reasonable position fails to persuade Democrats who say they care about jobs.

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Naive Mitt Romney Still Doesn’t Get It: Obama Does Not Make Policy ‘Mistakes’

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Mitt Romney, once again, proves himself unfit to be a candidate for president of the United States. That’s not to say he wouldn’t be a good president. We’ll never know.

Never.

Barack Obama, on the other hand (the left hand), has shown himself to be an excellent candidate, but a disastrous president.

With apologies to DC Comics, Romney is BizarrObama. Perhaps it’s more faithful to the Bizarro World storyline to say that Obama is BizarrOmney.

On the surface, Romney’s poll numbers climb with each step of Obama’s descending popularity. Where Romney demonstrates towering competence, Obama’s executive effectiveness inhabits the abyss–he’s abysmal. Romney sees the Russian threat clearly, and stands against it. Obama sends Putin a shiny red “Reset” button which, when pressed, reboots Soviet territorial ambitions.

But it goes deeper than that. Romney inhabits a spherical planet on the opposite side of the sun from Obama’s cube, leading him to say things like this

I was not a big fan of the president’s policies, as you know, either domestically or internationally, but the results of his mistakes and errors, in my opinion, have been more severe than even I would have predicted.

The headline quote making the rounds is that Romney, at a West Virginia rally for GOP congressional candidates, said Obama is “a good deal worse than I ever expected.”

This can be explained only by positing the existence of Bizarro World, where everything is a flipped version of life on Earth. Otherwise, we’re left with the inexplicable scenario of a Romney who understands the darkness in the heart of Vlad the Impaler, but finds Barack Obama’s motives inscrutable.

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Sanders: Don’t Ignore Problem of Black Unemployment in Ferguson Response

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the high unemployment rate among African-Americans should not be overlooked in the outrage over Ferguson.

The overall unemployment rate for July was fairly steady at 6.2 percent, but the rate for blacks edged up to 11.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate for teenagers was 20.2 percent.

Sanders told MSNBC that “if there’s any silver lining in the tragedy of Ferguson is that I hope we learn some very important lessons.”

“When I was a mayor of Burlington, Vermont and all over this country, what mayors are trying to do is develop community-based policing, where police officers are seen as part of the neighborhood, they know people in the neighborhood, they are trusted by people in the neighborhood,” he said.

“When you see the kind of force that’s been used in Ferguson, it really does make an appeal that the police department there is an occupying army in a hostile territory and that is absolutely not what we want to see in the United States. So, I think we’ve got to rethink a lot of this heavy equipment that police departments around the country are utilizing.”

The senator said he hopes “that what Ferguson teaches us is that not only the violence being perpetrated against young black men but also the economic crises facing black youth in this country.”

“Youth unemployment in America is tragically high, it is 20 percent. African-American youth unemployment is 35 percent. In the St. Louis area, it is significantly higher than that. And if we are going to address the issue of crime in low-income areas and in African-American areas, it might be a good idea that instead of putting heavy equipment into police departments on those areas, we start creating jobs for the kids there who desperately need them,” Sanders said.

He added that “we want to make sure that our police department has the effective tools and equipment to combat those threats.”

“But on the other hand, I do not think you need tanks and heavy military looking equipment in low income communities in America. I think that it essentially makes a difficult situation, a dangerous situation much more provocative and much more difficult,” he said. “…I think this is an issue along with the economic issue of having to create jobs for our young people that Congress should be addressing when we return.”

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said last week that Congress would review how the Pentagon transfers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.

The promise from Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) came after criticism, including from Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), that the SWAT reaction to the protests and rioting in Ferguson, Mo., resembled a police state more than a suburb.

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L.A. Can’t Even Hang on to the Porn Industry

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

The only plastic bags they didn’t ban

This is the world capital of adult video production. And the porn industry hasn’t given up on L.A. just yet.

But it has certainly abandoned attempting to film scenes legitimately in the county. Under a law approved by voters and enacted at the end of 2012, film permits for adult video productions require filmmakers to commit to having male performers use condoms.

It’s widely believed that, as a result of the mandatory condom rule in L.A., porn producers have simply stopped pulling permits and moved their shoots to places that don’t have prophylactic police. New data from the regional permit organization known as FilmLA seems to back that theory:

A spokesman for FilmLA says there were an estimated 480 adult permits issued in 2012. Last year there were 40, he said. And so far this year there have been about 20.

Steven Hirsch, founder of what is perhaps the world’s largest porn studio, Vivid Entertainment, says the reason for the reduction is clear: Mandatory condoms.

Television and film production long ago fled Los Angeles, mostly for Canada. That’s right, taxation and regulation became so onerous in L.A. that the industry it was built on fled for a socialist country.

Now they’re driving away the only real backup plan actors and actresses have when they get here.

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The Man Behind StopARocket: Fundraising for the Iron Dome

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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After watching his fellow pro-Israel ralliers get attacked by a pro-Palestinian mob, one average Canadian citizen wanted to send a message, not just to the thugs who sent 6 people to the hospital, but to the entire world. If you doubt that average people can do big things, you haven’t met Ron from Calgary, the founder of StopARocket.com.

Amused by the idea of a crowdsourcing campaign for the Iron Dome, I reached out to the folks at StopARocket.com to see if I could get a handle on the folks behind the fundraiser. It turns out that the “folks” is one guy named Ron who was willing to do an email interview. Obviously the guy has a day job. Most of his responses were sent in the wee hours of the morning, illustrating how dedicated he is to what he refers to as a simple, but profound way for Israel lovers across the globe to show their support for the civilian defense of the free world. Ron’s humble, straightforward responses illustrate how much we can accomplish when we’re willing to embrace Ben Carson’s axiom “Think Big”.

Please start by telling me a little about yourself and the group ForCanada. What is the group’s purpose? What are the goals?

I’m a private professional in Calgary. I attended a pro-Hamas rally a few weeks ago that degenerated into a violent mob that sent six people to the hospital. I’m worried not just about Israel’s safety in the Middle East, but the safety of Jews and non-Jewish Zionists in the west, including in North America.

For Canada is the committee that organized the pro-Israel rally last Thursday in Calgary. They agreed to let StopARocket.com use their mailing address and bank account to collect cheques from people who don’t want to use PayPal.

What drove you to fundraise specifically for the Iron Dome, as opposed to some kind of humanitarian aid for Israel (i.e. supplies for soldiers, etc.)? Shouldn’t military aid be managed by government officials?

Supporting Iron Dome is merely symbolic. I read a CNN article that said each Iron Dome anti-missile costs $62,000 so that seemed like an achievable fundraising goal. As we say on our website, we will ask the Israeli government to put the money towards the cost of one anti-missile, or any other civilian defence expenses to protect Israelis. It’s only for defensive efforts to protect civilians. But Iron Dome has captured the world’s imagination as a symbol of Israel’s ingenuity and value placed on life.

Are you working with any officials in Israel to coordinate this effort?

Before we launched the website, we confirmed with the Israeli embassy in Canada that they would support this project and would help us direct the funds to the appropriate agency in Israel.

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Cafe Adds ‘Minimum Wage Fee’ to Customers’ Checks

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

As prices incrementally go up for products and services, it may not always be clear why. Indeed, some increases may go wholly unnoticed until presented in a comparison over several years.

One establishment in the picturesque Minnesota town of Stillwater decided to make a recent increase in their prices wholly transparent. As reported by City Pages, the Oasis Cafe has added a “minimum wage fee” to its customers’ checks to reflect and offset the increased cost of a newly implemented minimum wage law. Explaining the move on Facebook, the business writes:

WIth regards to why we’re charging a $.35 fee to cover the recent $.75 increase in in minimum wage…we estimate the increase in labor cost will will cost our company more than $10,000 per year…which has to be offset by an increase in revenue in order to operate profitably. Rather than increase the prices of our menu items, we chose to charge a flat fee. If the state of Minnesota would pass tip credit, like 43 other states have done, none of this would be necessary. For what it’s worth, we pay our people very well. Our dishwashers start at $10/hour, our cooks start at $12/hour and our servers average more than $20 when you consider what they earn in tips…

The explanation was offered in response to a critic on Facebook who claimed the move placed the business’s employees in a bad light. “Don’t you wonder how that makes your employees feel, making them look like the bad guys to their customers. Shame on you,” the critic wrote. How a customer would come to the conclusion that the minimum wage fee reflected in any way upon employees was not made clear.

Criticizing a business for effectively publicizing the effects of government (read: force) upon their operation is blaming the victim. Sympathy morally belongs with the business owner, whose capacity to act upon their own judgment and trade value for value honestly has been handicapped by government edict. If more businesses and organizations engaged in this kind of transactional activism, it might stimulate much needed debate on the morality of capitalism and the immorality of price controls.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 13:18 minutes long; 12.83 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

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Pro-Hamas Activists Blockade Israeli Arms Factory in Britain

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The International Business Times reports:

Pro-Palestine activists have shut down a factory in Staffordshire owned by an Israeli military company in protest at the current Gaza conflict.

Members of the London Palestine Action group scaled the roof and chained the doors of the UAV Engines Limited factory in Shenstone.

UAV states that it produces “engines for various size tactical UAVs, target drones and single mission platforms”. It is owned by Israel’s largest weapons company, Elbit Systems.

London Palestine Action are demanding a closure of the factory, as well as an “end to all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel”.

The group unfurled banners on the roof of the factory with the slogans “Elbit Arms Israel Kills” and “UK: Stop Arming Israel” as part of the ongoing protest.

The link between UAV and Israel has long been a subject of British speculation. A 2009 article in the Guardian reported:

UAV Engines, of Lichfield, Staffordshire, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of engines for drones - unmanned aerial vehicles that are becoming critical frontline systems for military and civilian use around the world.

The company, known as UEL, is owned by the Israel drone specialists Silver Arrow, a subsidiary of the Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems.

One of its rotary Wankel engines is used in Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone. A version of the 450 makes up a squadron of the Israeli air force and has been seen over Gaza in the current conflict, being used for surveillance and targeting for Israel’s F-16 strike fighters.

Commentators on reputable defence and aviation journals and Elbit’s own website suggest that the Lichfield factory produces engines for the Hermes.

But Elbit’s head of corporate communications, Dalia Rosen, has denied this. She said: “UEL engines are provided to the British UAV programmes and to other international customers, not to Hermes 450 in the service of the IDF [Israel Defence Forces].”

When provided with references she replied: “If you want me to confirm a false speculation you can do it, but I strongly recommend that you trust my comment.” She did not respond to a request asking which other engine could be used.

The Middle East Monitor, a pro-Palestinian media agency dedicated to “creating new perspectives,” issued a report on the factory protest in Staffordshire. Referring to the protesters as “occupiers” who are pursuing a new front in the battle against UAV and Elbit, the report detailed:

The occupation comes the day after the UK government pledged to investigate whether any of £8bn of arms exported to Israel in the last 5 years are being used in Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinians in Gaza.

Currently, British police have cordoned off the area around the factory and are working to “ensure the protest remains peaceful and safe.” An estimated 10 protesters are on the rooftop, many of whom are live tweeting photos and messages “…saying they have enough supplies to ‘last a week’.”

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Will the Power of the People Fund the Iron Dome?

Monday, August 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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A gentleman identifying himself as “Ron from Calgary, Canada” has taken it upon himself to start an Indiegogo campaign titled “Stop a Rocket” to crowdsource funding for Israel’s Iron Dome.

“Let’s stop a rocket and help Israel buy more Iron Dome anti-missles!” the campaign’s headline reads. The fundraising plea details:

So many people around the world are concerned about the terrorist attacks on Israel, especially through rockets fired by Hamas terrorists based in Gaza.

We are shocked at Hamas’s Nazi-like hatred for Jews; we feel sorrow for the victims of this violence, including innocent civilians in Gaza that Hamas uses as human shields. But most of all, we feel helpless — what can we personally do about this?

Is there something positive that people of goodwill around the world can do, both as a symbolic gesture, and that might actually save a life? We think there is.

…It wouldn’t be for an offensive weapon. You can’t use the Iron Dome to attack anyone. It’s 100% defensive — like a bulletproof vest. It only saves lives. And it doesn’t discriminate — it protects Jewish, Muslim and Christian Israelis all the same.

Let’s do it — let’s crowd fund this project, to save lives!

The campaign, which started on July 31, has already reached 27% of its goal. It is scheduled to continue fundraising until August 14.

Pamela Gellar, the blogging activist behind Atlas Shrugs endorsed the Stop A Rocket campaign, tweeting:

“Crowdfunding an Iron Dome!: FANTASTIC! I just contributed, so should you. Free people defending free people…”.

Canadian media personality and conservative political activist Ezra Levant promoted the campaign, tweeting:

“My friend Ron is crowdsourcing $62,000 to pay for one Iron Dome anti-missile. I think he’ll save a life: http://www.StopARocket.com  #Israel”.

Very little has been reported on the Stop A Rocket campaign. ForCanada, the organization to which donors can send checks, is a grassroots fundraising organization that has supported a Calgary for Israel Rally, and a Stop the Riots legal fund for victims of pro-Palestinian aggression. The organization is also tied to a campaign to “fight anti-Christian bigotry in Canada”.

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How Will We Avoid Disaster if Politicians Won’t Listen to Experts? Cries Galaxy Guardian Krugman

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

The science is settled in yet another field — economics — but no one’s listening. Citizens of the galaxy, be afraid.

New York Times pundit and economist Paul Krugman says the “overwhelming” consensus among his colleagues proclaims the Obama stimulus reduced unemployment and was “worth it.” But most Americans have no idea that these academics speak with virtually one voice on Obamanomics.

More important, over the past several years policy makers across the Western world have pretty much ignored the professional consensus on government spending and everything else, placing their faith instead in doctrines most economists firmly reject.

One rejected doctrine, “government austerity measures,” is pure foolishness during down cycles according to Krugman’s cabalmates. After all, nearly every economist knows that the only sure way to keep recession from plunging into depression is massive new government spending of money borrowed from our grandchildren.

Krugman wrings his soft science hands over the consequences of ignoring the voice from the ivory tower.

All of which raises a troubling question: Are we as societies even capable of taking good policy advice?

The op-ed column is headlined: “Knowledge Isn’t Power.” Like most progressives, Krugman believes that all it takes to do the right thing is to know the right thing, and so he’s crestfallen at the realization that the treasury of economics knowledge remains untapped by policy makers.

This must be tremendously frustrating, because Krugman started his career with the ambition to be a kind of guardian of the galaxy.

 “I went into economics,” he wrote in an e-mail message, “because I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, in which social scientists save galactic civilization, and that’s what I wanted to be.”

For those stories, Asimov invented a fictional science called psychohistory – a mix of social science, history and math, whose practitioners, in Krugman’s words, “understand the true dynamics” and thus “save the galaxy.”

In fairness to Krugman, he has, at least, entered a parallel field of fictional science. Among the most common news headlines related to the economy are those proclaiming how far astray economist predictions were from actual performance.

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EPA Regs Still Busy Killing Coal Jobs

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Stephen Kruiser

Rogue agency is rogue.

West Virginia coal company, Alpha Natural Resources, told 1,1000 workers to prepare for layoffs because 11 mines across the state are “subject to being idled.”

The reason: weak market conditions and Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the company said.

The company notified the 1,100 employees late Thursday that “sustained weak market conditions and government regulations have challenged the entire Central Appalachian mining industry.”

The layoffs would not take place till mid-October, Alpha said.

When The Idiot King said he would have a “laser-like” focus on jobs oh so long ago he really didn’t specify whether he would be focused on creating or destroying them. At least we’ve cleared that up.

These greendoggle regulations aren’t just wreaking havoc on an industry, they’re intentionally assaulting one of poorest regions of the United States.

Remember though, it’s the Republicans who hate the poor.

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Obama’s EPA Costs Him the Support of a Key Union

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

The United Mine Workers of America union leans very Democrat and represents thousands of coal miners in the United States. The political trajectory of that union during the Obama years goes like this.

In 2008, the union enthusiastically endorsed then Senator Barack Obama for the presidency. That endorsement, coming from a big union in coal country, helped shore up Obama’s standing as he geared up to finish off Hillary Clinton’s Democratic primary challenge.

After four years of President Obama using the Environmental Protection Agency to wage war on coal, though, the United Mine Workers decided to sit out the 2012 election. It was the first time in decades that the union did not endorse a presidential candidate. It was clear in 2012 that Obama’s policies led directly to the union declining to endorse him a second time. Some coal miners appeared with Mitt Romney during the campaign, to slam the “war on coal.”

David Kameras, a UMWA spokesman based at the union’s headquarters in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C., said UMWA has not officially completed its endorsement selection decisions for the 2012 election and expects to do so by about mid-September. In 2008, UMWA endorsed Obama in May of that year.

“Our members count on coal-fired power plants and burning of coal to keep jobs,” Caputo said. “We’re a very Democratic union and we try to listen to the rank and file. They’ve sent a clear message that they’re not supportive of the environmental rules that are being put in place.”

Fast forward to 2014. The United Mine Workers are now in a street protest battle with Obama’s environmentalists.

In Pittsburgh, PA Thursday, coal miners from the union gathered to protest even more EPA regulations. They ended up in a shouting match with environmentalist protesters.

On Liberty Avenue just after noon, shouts of “Move to China!” from union marchers in green camo shirts met responses of “No planet, no jobs!” from sign-waving environmentalists.


“There are many good people who have bought into these regulations,” said Edwin D. Hill, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “Many of them have the best intentions. But if somebody is going to take our jobs and health care and pensions and harm our families, it doesn’t matter to me what their intentions are; we’re going to fight back.”

Fourteen UMWA organizers were arrested at the Pittsburgh confrontation, while protesting to protect their families and jobs from Obama’s policies.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers also endorsed Obama, both in 2008 and 2012. Now they’re protesting him, too.

Obama thanks them for their support by using the EPA to take their jobs away.

By the way, coal state West Virginia voted Democrat for decades. Now that it’s shifting to the GOP, though, the Obama EPA didn’t even bother to hold any hearings on the new regulations there. That’s of a piece with Obama neglecting the border when he visited Texas this summer. States that did not vote for him are not part of his union. When Obama isn’t neglecting red states, he either uses them as an ATM for the Democrats, or he uses federal policy to punish them.

But back to the miners union. Are we seeing Big Labor (the UMWA is affiliated with the AFL-CIO) re-think its ironclad bond with the Democratic Party? Or, at least, a fracturing of Big Labor’s support for Democrats? For all the talk of a “Republican civil war,” is the Democrat base coming to war with itself — a war between the environmentalists Luddites who oppose the Keystone Pipeline and who want to do away with coal entirely on the one hand in the name of the global warming myth, and jobs and energy security on the other hand?

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14-Year-Old Kid Imitates LeBron James, by Becoming CEO of His Own Pizza Delivery Business

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Scott Ott

This story contains most of what’s great about this land of opportunity — creativity, hard work, volunteerism, risk-taking and learning from other leaders.

Fourteen-year-old Ajayi Jackson couldn’t could get a job because of bloody age discrimination [my phrase, not his], so he started his own company, Pop’s Pizza, with $100 of capital be borrowed from — you guessed it — his Dad.

He invented the made-from-scratch pizza recipe after learning to cook from his Mom. Already turning a profit, he’s made his sister jealous because she works longer hours for someone else and makes less money.

The best part of the story: Ajayi, like a lot of kids, admires NBA star LeBron James. But the budding entrepreneur is more interested in King James’ off-court business than in his moves in the lane.

He wants to meet the hoops hero because LeBron owns a chain of pizza places, and could share tips for success in business.

God bless Ajayi Jackson, and God bless America.

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McDonald’s Ruling Could Bring Big Labor Back from the Brink

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

Obama’s National Labor Relations Board made a significant ruling against McDonald’s on Tuesday. That ruling may make it much easier for labor unions to sweep up part-time workers are franchise corporations, and upsets 30 years of corporate-franchise law, according to the New York Times.

The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.

Business groups called the decision outrageous. Some legal experts described it as a far-reaching move that could signal the labor board’s willingness to hold many other companies to the same standard of “joint employer,” making businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies at least partly liable in cases of overtime, wage or union-organizing violations.

Big Labor instigated the case and is crowing that it is getting what it wants.

Wilma Liebman, a former chairwoman of the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama and now an occasional consultant to unions, said the decision could give fast-food workers and labor unions leverage to get the company to negotiate about steps that would make it easier to organize McDonald’s restaurants. Similarly, she said, the ruling could give the workers and unions more clout in pressing McDonald’s to have its franchisees raise wages.

The percentage of American workers who belong to unions has been in deep decline over the past few decades. States are trending away from forced union membership and toward right-to-work.

Big Labor has only maintained its viability in an unholy union with unionized government workers, whose dues pay off Democrats to keep government jobs lucrative and have contributed to making government worker pensions unsustainable. The union between Big Labor and Big Government costs taxpayers billions.

But if Big Labor can capture workers at franchise restaurants, many of which are small family-owned businesses that buy into larger corporate branding and products, it could find a new lease on life. It could also price products at those businesses out of range for lower-income Americans, and will surely cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their jobs, by forcing wage hikes that those businesses cannot sustain.

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Social Security Trustee: Unfunded Obligations At $24 Trillion

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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At Tuesday’s Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing, Dr. Charles Blahous of the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees testified that Americans owe $24 trillion in unfunded liabilities to those already in the Social Security system.

Congressman Jim Renacci (R-OH), a CPA, asked Blahous what the impact would be on the Social Security trust fund if all unfunded liabilities needed to paid out. Blahous said that they usually highlight the 75-year “open group obligation” which is currently $10.6 trillion, but said the “actual amount of unfunded obligations within the Social Security system is actually substantially higher than that. ” According to Blahous, the reason is that the shortfall does not play out gradually over time. “It’s actually something that is on the books now. There is an excess of benefit obligations over contributions for people who are already in the system. And that’s actually about $24 trillion. And that’s about 4.4% of future wages going forward,” Blahous said.

Actually, it’s even worse to that, according to the Social Security Trustees’ 2014 Annual Report to Congress. Tucked way in the back in Table VI.F1 in the appendix we find, “The excess of the present value of cost for past and current participants over the present value of dedicated tax income for past and current participants produces an unfunded obligation for past and current participants of $26.1 trillion.” (But what’s a of couple trillion here or there?)

Asked by Renacci if Social Security taxes this year will be adequate to fund current benefit obligations, Blahous explained that there will be a shortfall of around $80 billion this year alone.

Renacci wanted to know where the money will come from to make up the difference.

“Well, when the payroll taxes fall short of benefit obligations, the difference has to be made with payments from the general fund. Right now they’d be in the form of interest payments from the general fund to the trust fund and a large share of those interest payments would go out the door immediately to pay beneficiaries,” said Blahous. He added that $80 billion would be added to the federal deficit this year as a result of the shortfall.

Renacci thought the unfunded liabilities should have received more attention in the Trustees’ report. “So we have $17 trillion in debt, we have potentially $10-20 trillion in unfunded liabilities, we could have over $50 trillion total liabilities — just in those two areas — and we have $80 billion each year, at least this year, that is going to exceed what comes in,” Renacci said.  ”I would somewhat believe we have a current problem that we need to fix and it’s something that we can’t kick down the road, as I continue to hear.”

Congressman Renacci’s office released highlights of the Trustees’ report:

  • The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2019. Beginning with 2020, the cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
  • The projected point at which the combined trust fund reserves will become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, comes in 2033 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.88 percent of taxable payroll — 0.16 percentage point larger than in last year’s report.

“As a CPA and former businessman, I came to Washington to bring a business perspective to an institution that sorely lacks it. We know that we spend more than we should, but the American people do not fully know the extent of our country’s dire financial situation. This is partly due to the fact that the Treasury leaves some of the largest liabilities, including Social Security, off of its balance sheet,” said Renacci, adding that he recently introduced the bipartisan Federal Financial Statement Transparency Act.

The bill would establish a Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board to develop Federal financial accounting concepts and standards. Renacci said the bill would lead to “a more honest depiction of our nation’s finances to ultimately allow Congress to better address our growing $17 trillion debt.” He said a clean balance sheet will serve as a benchmark for beginning to preserve Social Security programs for current seniors and for future generations.

 

 

 

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Free-Market Case Study: Who’s Entitled to a Tax Subsidy for Big Developers, and Who Benefits?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Scott Ott
Neighborhood Improvement Zone Board in Allentown, Pa.

Civic leaders on this Allentown, Pennsylvania, tax-subsidy board decide which developers qualify, and which don’t, when it comes to hundreds of millions of dollars for downtown development.

Well, we’re living here in Allentown.
And they’re tearing all the old buildings down
But a guy who wants to save a hotel
Can’t get the cash from
the taxpayer well.
(with apologies to Billy Joel, and the people of Allentown, Pa.)

When funded by taxpayer money, is a developer entitled to a subsidy if he merely meets the basic requirements of the state program, or are civic leaders on the local subsidy Board compelled to apply extra scrutiny exactly because it’s public money.

That’s the fight in Allentown, Pennsylvania, right now, where a so-called “Neighborhood Improvement Zone” (NIZ) redirects tax dollars into developer projects — a hockey arena, hotels, office, retail and residential space — in the hopes that the investments in downtown will eventually pay off in bigger tax receipts for government, and in a revitalized city. This “local story” has broad implications for your community, state, nation and world. I’ll offer four reasons (below) why such arrangements, and the politicians who push them, deserve extraordinary scrutiny from taxpayers and voters.

It’s a special developer-entitlement zone for Allentown-only set up by the state legislature, thanks to the vigorous efforts of Allentown’s state senator, who counts the major developers among his top campaign donors, and whose wife got a job with a lobbying firm that has clients who benefit from the special tax-subsidy district. (Conflict of interest allegations have been denied all around.) The lead developers have just set up a political action committee to support candidates who support the NIZ, without regard to political party affiliation.*

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Stupid and Lame: Wealthy Actress Kristen Bell Begs for Minimum Wage Increase (Update: Reason Rebuttal FTW)

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

According to CelebrityNetWorth, actress Kristen Bell is worth $16 million. It’s fair to say that she make far more than a “living wage” for pretending to be other people in movies and on TV.

The actress is lending her looks and voice to the Democrats’ campaign to increase the federal minimum wage, on Funny or Die. Bell stars as a Mary Poppins knock-off. Take a look.

Funny or Die has gone all in for the minimum wage campaign, mocking House Speaker John Boehner over the issue in this ad video starring Harry Hamlin. Is the Obama administration or the Democratic National Committee paying Funny or Die for these clearly political ads videos that border on in-kind donations?

Liberals find Bell’s video persuasive, or at least politically useful. Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette is flogging it on Facebook.

In the video, Bell slams her boss for not paying her a “living wage,” despite the fact that as a live-in nanny, Poppins got full room and board in addition to pay for caring for the boss’ kids. Bell quits, mocks her boss, and curses in front of the children she is supposed to be raising, but never seems to figure out that if she is still making minimum wage, the problem may not be with her boss, but with her and her own job performance and her ability to stand up for herself.

Bell/Poppins never mentions the CBO study that found that raising the minimum wage will cost about half a million jobs.

In short, the unfunny video that barely scrapes the surface of the minimum wage issue and works in a slam on the Tea Party deserves to die.

Update: Reason rebuts with a win.

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