Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: April 2012


Widespread stimulus fraud? Say it ain’t so!

I know this will likely come as a huge surprise, but it appears that the almost trillion dollar stimulus bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, has seen widespread fraud. 

Much of the stimulus was earmarked for transportation projects:

But federal investigators have uncovered widespread financial management problems with many of the projects. As of early March, federal authorities were investigating 66 cases of alleged false statements, bid rigging, fraud and embezzlement, according to a report by Calvin L. Scovel III, the Department of Transportation’s inspector general. Justice Department lawyers are scouring 47 of those cases for potential prosecution, according to Scovel.

Twenty-five of those cases involve alleged fraud by minority-owned or operated enterprises that received preferential treatment in the awarding of the contracts, while 22 involve allegations of false claims. Investigators are also looking into nine cases of alleged violations of the prevailing wage law, three involving corruption and one case involving embezzlement, according to a report Scovel presented to the House transportation appropriations subcommittee on March 29. A spokesman for Scovel’s office declined to provide further details of the ongoing investigation, but stressed, “We take very seriously any allegations of waste, fraud, abuse or violations of the law.”

Then, of course, there were the usual nonsensical projects (most of which, I would guess, can probably be traced back to people with political connections):

Those included  $4.7 million towards development of private supersonic jet travel years after the Concorde last flew, $2 million to help build a replica railroad as a tourist attraction in Nevada and nearly $1 million to help beef up security on a private entertainment cruise ship.

But back to the transportation projects.  As usual, purposeful discrimination (i.e. not awarding projects to the lowest bidder but instead to the applicant that best fits the favored demographic) has led to the expected outcome – expected by anyone with at least a passing understanding of human nature:

The inspector general’s office voiced particular concern about the potential for fraud within the so-called  Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which is aimed at increasing the number of government contracts awarded to minority-owned businesses. “There is a preference given to minority and female-owned firms and it’s to level the playing field, so to speak,” said the Inspector General’s spokesman.

A “typical scheme” involves a prime contractor  persuading a minority firm to front for it in obtaining a major federal contract and then receiving a kickback of a set percentage of the overall contract, according to the spokesman.

Of course this isn’t a new scheme or the first time it has happened, but apparently it is a scheme that government, in their hurry to hand out money, was unable to thwart.  And, of course, if government had simply made safeguarding the tax payers money the priority instead of trying to “level the playing field” it would have chosen the best qualified and lowest bidder to do these projects instead of basing their decision on skin color and gender.

But we’ve been over this a million times, haven’t we?

As usual, the government provides incentives to engage in fraud and then seem shocked when it occurs.  Yet it occurs every time they provide those incentives, doesn’t it?  It reminds you of a goose that wakes up in a new world every day.  Unfortunately the incompetence of the goose is bankrupting the nation.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama’s attack on SCOTUS not a political “winner” per poll

Obama’s attack on the Supreme Court concerning his signature legislation, ObamaCare, and the possibility of it being over turned can’t help but make one wonder how such an attack would be received by the public at large.

Well, if this Rasmussen poll is to be believed, not very well:

While President Obama cautioned the U.S. Supreme Court this past week about overturning his national health care law, just 15% of Likely U.S. Voters think the high court puts too many limitations on what the federal government can do.

In fact, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that twice as many–30%– believe the Supreme Court does not limit the government enough. Forty percent (40%) say the balance is about right, while 15% more are undecided.

So in the great scheme of things, given this poll is accurate, more Americans than not (in fact about twice as many) are concerned the Supreme Court doesn’t limit the government enough.  Hmmm …. no leverage there for the administration. 

In fact, 70% of Americans find that SCOTUS is about right or needs to limit government even more.

Interesting.

It points to an argument the administration can start, but is unlikely to win.  In fact, it would appear that most Americans, according to this survey, see the SCOTUS as a vital governor on the engine of run-away government.  And they surely don’t agree that the court has acted out of the main for the most part.  

That, of course, doesn’t bode well for a campaign to smear the court, does it?

Let’s see if this administration realizes that and backs off or, as it has many times in the past, blindly and arrogantly charges on.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Energy: Administration invests in BS

Seriously.  This administration will invest your dollars in every sort of “alternative energy” scheme but that which runs the county (i.e. fossil fuel) is not one of them.  From pond scum to BS.

It’s latest investment:

Western Plains Energy, LLC, a Kansas company, will use the money to "utilize waste energy resources from a local cattle feedlot to replace almost 90 percent of the fossil fuels currently used" at the plant.

"Projects such as this are a key part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above approach to American energy that is supporting the development and usage of renewable energy, revitalizing rural economies and creating an America built to last," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement touting this project as an example of the policies that cut dependence on foreign oil.

"Animal waste from a local feedlot will be the primary feedstock that Western Plains will use for the digester," USDA added. "Support for renewable energy projects such as these is an example of the many ways USDA is helping revitalize rural economies."

USDA expects the project to create 15 permanent jobs and 100 temporary construction jobs.

As Zero Hedge says:

Just when we thought we had seen the epic failure of every single possible "alternative energy" project by this administration, along comes the announcement that the USDA is investing $5 million in a "biogas anaerobic digester" that will use "cow manure to heat an ethanol plant and create 15 permanent jobs." Which for anyone confused, is roughly exactly what it sounds like. Perhaps if "Hope and Change" is a little passé now, a far more appropriate slogan for the 2012 Campaign will be "From Bullsh*t to Jobs, and Back Again."

Got to love it … it’s heating an ethanol plant (another subsidized “alternative fuel”). And how much will each BS shoveling job cost the tax payer?

So how many sh*t shovelers does it take to run a "biogas anaerobic digester"? Apparently 15. At $333,333 a poop, pardon pop.

Oil?  Well, it’s just not something this administration wants to invest your tax dollars in because it’s ideology says it’s bad stuff and while admin hacks will flap their gums about “all of the above” energy strategies, it is, in fact, invested in BS (and here’s hoping the feed lot never goes away or those sh*t shovelers will be out of work won’t they?).

As an aside, one has to wonder if these are jobs “Americans won’t do”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The US could become the world’s largest exporter of Liquid Natural Gas … “if”

Could.  That’s the operative word. “If” is the keyword.  We certainly have the assets and infrastructure.

By 2017 the U.S. could be the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, surpassing leading LNG exporters Qatar and Australia. There is one big “if,” however. America can produce more gas, export a surplus, improve the trade deficit, create jobs, generate taxable profits and reduce its dependence on foreign energy if the marketplace is allowed to work and politics doesn’t get in the way.

However, there are few things like this in which politics doesn’t get in the way.  And don’t forget the crony capitalists:

But exporters must overcome growing opposition to LNG exports by environmentalists and industrial users of natural gas. Exporters must also get multiple permits from environmentally conscious federal officials. And Rep. Ed Markey (D.-Mass.) has proposed legislation to bar federal approval of any LNG export terminals until 2025. Those who most fear global warming don’t want anyone anywhere to use more fossil fuel, even “cleaner” natural gas.

Of course the most beneficial thing to do would be to let the market for LNG work.  But there are vested interests which will lobby against that:

Exporting energy, however, rubs a lot of people the wrong way. [T. Boone] Pickens wants cheap natural gas for his 18-wheelers and opposes LNG exports. Industrial gas users argue that a vibrant LNG industry would propel domestic gas prices higher. A study by Deloitte said that exporting six 6 BCF [billion cubic feet] per day of LNG would raise wellhead gas prices by 12 cents per million BTU (about 1% on a retail basis). Advocates of “energy independence” argue that exporting LNG would tie U.S. natural gas prices to global markets.

The Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy is considering whether exporting LNG is in the public interest. In the meantime — shades of Keystone XL — the department has effectively put a moratorium on new LNG export licenses.

Energy’s decision-making process balances the extent to which exporting LNG drives up prices with the economic benefits of increased production and energy exports. The price assessment comes at a time when U.S. gas fetches the same price in constant dollars as it did in 1975. Producers are now shutting down production and lowering exploration budgets. The shale-gas “job machine” is now in reverse.

So what would be the ideal?

Ideally, the Energy Department should move quickly and recognize free-market principles. And the administration could send a clear policy signal that natural gas is integral to the country’s energy future and that exporting LNG is good economics and consistent with its 2010 State of the Union address to double U.S. exports over five years and create two million new jobs. But Energy is moving slowly, and administration signals on natural gas are mostly lip service. The economic-benefits study should have been done by the end of March. But last week, Energy delayed its release until late summer, and said there is no timeline to review results and develop policy recommendations. Translation: after the election.

We’ve seen this scenario before (*cough* Keystone *cough*).

Here we are in the middle of a recession and we’re seeing the same sort of nonsense being played out as we have with other energy projects.  The delays are literally playing with people’s lives and livelihoods:

Estimates of the job benefits from U.S. LNG projects depend on a variety of assumptions. Roughly 25,000 direct construction jobs would be created if all the projects are built. Increasing the U.S. natural-gas production base by another 13 billion cubic feet might translate to 450,000 direct and indirect jobs and $16 billion in annual tax revenue for federal and state coffers.

It’s easier to forecast improved trade balances. Exporting 13 BCF per day of LNG could generate about $45 billion annually. Reaching Pickens’ goals could offset another $70 billion annually of oil imports.

But, instead, the Energy Department is delaying.

And people wonder why coming out of this recession we aren’t adding jobs to the economy as we have in past recessions?

Politics and policy, my friends, politics and policy.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Has the Trayvon Martin incident become more about the media than the shooting?

If you’ve been following this incident at all, you know that much of what was initially reported was wrong and some of what has been reported since was false, manufactured and/or misleading.

American Thinker has a good round up of the story to this point.  In the article, Jeff Lipke outlines the “myth” as it was perpetrated by the media.

The two worst offenders in my opinion have been NBC and ABC.  NBC aired an edited 911 tape which was clearly meant to depict George Zimmerman as a racist.  They continue to try to defend it as a “mistake”.  No one with any common sense is buying that nonsense.

ABC used footage of Zimmerman’s arrival at the Sanford police station to claim that it didn’t support his claim he’d been attacked as there was no evidence of blood or contusions. Never mentioned was the fact that Zimmerman had been treated by EMTs who are not in the habit of leaving visible blood on a patient they treat.  Subsequent enhancement showed that initial claim by ABC to have been incorrect.  Additionally, ABC claimed that Zimmerman had used a racial slur when talking to the 911 operator.  Again, enhancing the audio makes it clear he didn’t and instead seems to be remarking about how cold it was that night.  In fact, for central Florida, it was a cold night.  But ABC jumped to the conclusion because it supported the desired evolving story line – it was a racial killing.

The unraveling of the myth seems to have the whole story losing steam.  That may be why Al Sharpton decided to be a no-show at this weekend’s rally.   And there have also been incidents that have done little to gain sympathy for Trayvon Martin.  HIs parents attempt to copyright his name obviously hoping to capitalize on his death. Then there was the rally for Martin by members of the school he attended which turned into a flash-mob looting of a local drug store.

But for the media, this has been anything but its finest hour.  One of the reoccurring criticism of blogs by the media is they’ll publish anything and have no editors to check them.  Yet it is the media, especially the two networks named above, who’ve seemed to fall into that category, editors notwithstanding.

Take the latest story circulating.   Supposedly “Neo-Nazis” are patrolling Sanford, FL.  The NY Daily News reports this as a fact.  But Legal Insurrection’s Professor Jacobson has actually tried to confirm it (wait, isn’t that what editors and research assistants are supposed to do in the media?).  And, according to his inquiry to the Sanford Police Department, there’s no evidence of any neo-Nazi group patrolling the city:

My initial e-mail (which included an embedded link to the Memeorandum thread):

“There are a number of reports in the media that Neo-Nazis are conducting armed patrols in Sanford.  Can you confirm or deny whether this is true, and provide any information you have on the subject? If someone is able to get back to me as soon as possible (and before Monday) that would be appreciated, since such rumors are spreading.”

Response from Sanford Joint Information Center:

“At this time the City of Sanford has not confirmed the presence of Neo-Nazis groups.”

My follow up:

“You say “not confirmed.” Is there any indication of such patrols that the Department is aware of?”

Further Response from Sanford Joint Information Center:

“We have no indication of any such patrols at this point in Sanford. The only large gathering was the children and their parents at the Easter egg hunt.”

How poorly are we being served by a media which now seems to be engaged in precisely what it criticized blogs for?  And how ironic is it that a blog is doing the work the media should be doing?  That’s not to say blogs are in the clear.  Every left wing blog of any size has been parroting the rumor as well.

But the fact remains this case, no matter how you feel about it, has shown the media in a very unflattering light.  Sensationalism, poor journalism, lousy and false editing, conclusion jumping,  and rumor mongering have all been evident in their coverage.

And the industry wonders why so many Americans don’t trust them any more?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Saturday link-o-rama

Good for thee, but not for me – this administration is, well, just something.  Apparently, lowering taxes to spur economic growth only works in China.  If you suggest it here, well, you’re an extremist:

While making positive comments about the most recent five-year-plan developed by the Communist government of the People’s Republic of China, Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats specifically applauded China’s decision to lower taxes because it would spur economic growth.

Instead you’re going to hear the left double down on income inequality as a prelude to their tax the rich panacea.  When they do, keep this in mind:

“Any analysis of taxes paid in high tax-and-spend countries shows that the U.S. has the most progressive income tax system in the world.”

Speaking of taxes, the inevitable is about to happen in Germany.  Inevitable what?  The inevitable “solution” to an out of control welfare state.  Germany has been much more successful than some of the other European states in putting this off, but apparently the time has come.

GERMANY is proposing to levy extra taxes on the young to pay for the costs of the country’s growing numbers of old people, under government plans for a ”demographic reserve” levy.

The usual political over promise that’s been woefully underfunded.  Of course the same problem exists here as well.

I always say there are only a few polls to watch between elections.  One is the “right track/wrong track” polls that measure whether people think the country is on one or the other tracks .  Real Clear Politics presently has that at 60% wrong track and 33.7% wrong track.

Can anyone ever again consider NBC a news organization?

John Derbyshire hits bottom with this piece of garbage.

The Hill publishes a piece that just takes your breath away.  It is so poorly written and argued you have to wonder if they have been hacked by a 12 year old and just don’t know it yet.

Anti-Semite MJ Rosenberg, of Media Matters For America, resigns and hits the trail – sort of.

When you chum for sharks, what would you expect to show up?

Best first pitch ever.

Egypt (Arab Spring you know) continues to pursue pro-democracy American NGO workers.  The country has requested Interpol arrest them.  This while Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is welcomed in the White House.

Economic “recovery” is slow and weak due to Obama Administration policies.

The annual silliness surrounding membership at Augusta National is upon us.  In a free country you get to run your business the way you want too … and suffer the economic consequences of your decisions.  Forcing Augusta to allow women won’t empower them a bit.  Women starting their own “women’s only” golf club will.  And it certainly isn’t the business of politicians.

Global warming alarmists have almost become pathetic in their desperation.  James Hansen puts the cherry on top of that desperation.

Obama declares “women are not an interest group” although he and the Democrats clearly believe they are and have spun up this phony “war on women” with that in mind.

Finally – the real unemployment rate, as we’ve pointed out for quite some time, isn’t what is officially touted (8.2%).  Instead it is more like 10.9%.

Enjoy your weekend.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Quote of the Day: Do as I say, not as I do edition

The Democrats are a gift that just keeps on giving.  Hypocrisy R Us.  They make a career out of it.  You have a president who can’t get a single vote on the two budgets he’s submitted telling us why one which actually received a majority in one house of Congress is “out of touch”.

Then there’s the holier than thou, “we don’t take from special interests” ban on lobbyists and corporate contributions.  Or not.

LA Times headlines provide your quote of the day:

Democrats give special interests a role at convention

Organizers have found ways to skirt their own rules and give corporations and lobbyists a presence at the national event in September. The situation reflects President Obama’s difficulties in delivering on a vow to limit the influence of money in politics.

This is just wonderful stuff:

Despite the ban on corporate money, for example, convention officials have encouraged corporate executives to write personal checks, according to sources familiar with the fundraising. And they have suggested that corporations can participate by donating goods and services to the convention, and by giving up to $100,000 through a corporate foundation.

They have also quietly explained to lobbyists that while they can’t make contributions, they can help raise money from their clients — by soliciting personal checks from executives or in-kind contributions from corporations. Lobbyists who bundle high sums will get perks like premium credentials and hotel rooms.

Oh, how wonderfully clever.  You have to feel all the confidence in the world in an organization that imposes rules on itself and then finds way to skirt them, don’t you?  Of course, no surprise – remember how ObamaCare was passed.

Finally, another unsurprising twist:

Labor unions, meanwhile, are not specifically prohibited from giving.

Of course they’re not, because while any reasonable person would easily classify them as a “special interest”, the Democrats have simply decided not to.  Why?  Well corporations and lobbyists give to the GOP, so making them pariahs is politically expedient (even if they obviously don’t plan on spurning the pariahs they’ve created), but labor unions won’t give to the GOP so they’re left out of the “special interest” equation.

Ethics – don’t look to the Democrats if you’re wanting positive examples.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 6 Apr 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The Monster Employment Index, a measure of online job recruitment activity, was unchanged for the month at 143.

The BLS reports that non-farm payrolls increased by a disappointing 120,000 jobs. The unemployment rate magically dipped to 8.2%, however. Average hourly earnings rose by 0.2%, while the average workweek remained un changed at 34.5 hours. Those are the headline results. Nor to delve a little deeper. The labor force participation rate remained steady at 63.4%, but the employment-population ratio fell one tick to 58.5%, as 164,000 people left the labor force, which is the main reason for the downtick in the unemployment rate as well.

~
Dale Franks
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Why the Obama Administration’s refusal to allow more drilling effects your food prices

Food inflation continues apace.

Question: Is there a correlation between high oil prices and higher food prices?

You bet there is:

High crude oil prices have fuelled the upward pressure on inflation since the start of this year. Consumer prices in the 17 nations sharing the euro were up 2.6 percent in March from a year ago, despite stumbling economy.

"The food price index has an extremely high correlation to oil prices and with oil prices up it’s going to be difficult for food prices not to follow suit," said Nick Higgins, commodity analyst at Rabobank International.

Energy prices affect the production of fertilizers as well as costs related to food distribution and farm machinery use.

That’s reality (What!? No solar powered tractors?).  And, as the Obama administration continues its war on cheap fossil fuels even while demand for them rises globally, you can expect costs for food to continue to rise as well.

Finally, given all that is true, who gets hurt worst by rising food and fuel prices?

That’s right – the poor and middle class.  The supposed people Obama claims to be looking out for.

So, as prices go up and you’re able to afford less and less food (and gasoline) for your family, you know who to thank.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


UK: Doctors ask patient to go elsewhere because of patient “carbon footprint”

Welcome to the stupid zone.  Of course this is the result of unthinking acceptance of what is now considered by many to be junk science:

An elderly woman was ordered to find a new GP because the “carbon footprint” of her two-mile round trips to the surgery where she had been treated for 30 years was too large.

Avril Mulcahy, 83, was told to address the “green travelling issues” over her journeys from her home in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, to the West Road Surgery.

The letter said: “Our greatest concern is for your health and convenience but also taking into consideration green travelling issues. Re: Carbon footprints and winter weather conditions, we feel it would be advisable for patients to register at surgeries nearer to where they live. We would be very grateful if you could make the necessary arrangements to re-register at another practice.”

Two miles.

She’s been going to the same practice for 30 years.  And note the lie about “greatest concern”.  It is obviously not their greatest concern, is it.  The supposed “carbon footprint” appears to fill that role.

“Green traveling issues” with two mile round trips.

Amazing.

I assume the doctors and nurses live at the surgery, no?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO