Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Who said the Soviet Union is dead

And I’m not talking about Putin’s attempt to resurrect it – I’m instead talking about this horrific overreaction by state of Maryland to … a book set in the future:

A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Md. middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report—”taken in for an emergency medical evaluation” for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. The novelist, Patrick McLaw, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace’s Lane Middle School, was placed on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, and is being investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, according to news reports from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The novel, by the way, is set 900 years in the future. . . .

Imagine that—a novelist who didn’t store bombs and guns at the school at which he taught. How improbable! Especially considering that he uses an “alias,” which is apparently the law-enforcement term for “nom de plume.” (Here is the Amazon page for The Insurrectionist, by the way. Please note that the book was published in 2011, before McLaw was hired.)

According to an equally credulous and breathless report in the Star-Democrat, which is published in Easton, Md., the combined efforts of multiple law-enforcement agencies have made area children safe from fiction. Sheriff Phillips told the newspaper that, in addition to a K-9 sweep of the school (!), investigators also raided McLaw’s home. “The residence of the teacher in Wicomico County was searched by personnel,” Phillips said, with no weapons found. “A further check of Maryland State Police databases also proved to be negative as to any weapons registered to him. McLaw was suspended by the Dorchester County Board of Education pending an investigation and is no longer in the area. He is currently at a location known to law enforcement and does not currently have the ability to travel anywhere.”

As I find and read more stories like this on a much more frequent basis, I have to wonder what happened to America.  Where did it go?  And when?

The fact that anyone would find this supportable is phenomenal in and of itself, yet here we have the report … McLaw was obviously taken as a credible threat because he wrote … fiction to sell books.

Jeffery Goldberg goes on:

 It is somewhat amazing that local news reports on this case don’t make clear whether McLaw is under arrest, and if so, on what charge. It is equally astonishing that the reporters on this story don’t seem to have used the words “First Amendment” in their questioning of law-enforcement officials, and also astonishing they don’t question the Soviet-sounding practice of ordering an apparently sane person who has been deemed unacceptable by state authorities to undergo a psychological evaluation.

It would be useful to know if McLaw is under investigation for behavior other than writing two novels—and perhaps he will be shown to be a miscreant of some sort—but so far, there is no indication that he is guilty of anything other than having an imagination, although on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, as news reports make clear, his imagination is considered an active threat.

Dorchester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henry Wagner told WBO that police will be present at the middle school “for as long as we deem it necessary,” and the sheriff said that law-enforcement officials across the Delmarva peninsula have been given McLaw’s photo in case he shows up in their jurisdictions—though again, it is not clear if he is, in fact, in police custody at the moment.

This is what happens when people quit thinking and only do “their duty”.  When rules like “zero tolerance” replace common sense.

What happened to McLaw is an outrage.  It is unacceptable.  It should be condemned in the very strongest of terms.

Yet, at least by the media there, it seems all perfectly sane and normal.  And, apparently, the police force as well.  School.  Etc.

Maryland (and Cambridge in particular) should be utterly ashamed.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 29 Aug 14

Personal Income rose 0.2% in July, while consumer spending fell -0.1%. The PCE price index rose 0.1% at both the headline and core levels. On a year-over-year basis, personal income is up 4.3%, while personal spending is up 3.6%. The PCE Price index is up 1.6% at the headline level, and 1.5% at the core.

The Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index jumped from 52.6 to 64.3 in July.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for August rose 3.3 points to 82.5.


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FYI: Reality may be about to slap the Democrats and Obama in the face

The problem, of course, is because of their refusal to secure the southern border and enforce immigration law, it will be innocent Americans who will pay the price if such an attack unfolds.   From Judicial Watch via NRO’s “The Corner”:

Islamic terrorist groups are operating in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle born improvised explosive devices (VBIED). High-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources have confirmed to Judicial Watch that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border has been issued.  Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense agencies have all been placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning this imminent terrorist threat.

Specifically, Judicial Watch sources reveal that the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is confirmed to now be operating in Juarez, a famously crime-infested narcotics hotbed situated across from El Paso, Texas. Violent crimes are so rampant in Juarez that the U.S. State Department has issued a number of travel warnings for anyone planning to go there. The last one was issued just a few days ago.

Intelligence officials have picked up radio talk and chatter indicating that the terrorist groups are going to “carry out an attack on the border,” according to one JW source.  “It’s coming very soon,” according to this high-level source, who clearly identified the groups planning the plots as “ISIS and Al Qaeda.” An attack is so imminent that the commanding general at Ft. Bliss, the U.S. Army post in El Paso, is being briefed, another source confirms. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not respond to multiple inquiries from Judicial Watch, both telephonic and in writing, about this information.

The disturbing inside intelligence comes on the heels of news reports revealing that U.S. intelligence has picked up increased chatter among Islamist terror networks approaching the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. While these terrorists reportedly plan their attack just outside the U.S., President Obama admits that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to combat ISIS. “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” the commander-in-chief said this week during a White House press briefing. “I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggest that folks are getting a little further ahead of what we’re at than what we currently are.”

Mr. Obama, you can’t put the cart before the horse, because you have neither.  Neither.  You’ve completely failed to secure our borders and you’ve invited this sort of thing to happen for years.  You have no strategy for national security, one of your primary jobs.

Any blood from an attack now is completely on your hands.  And should an attack come, given all the warnings about the consequences of not securing that border, I think the term “high crimes and misdemeanors” would certainly apply.

~McQ

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Hypocrisy endemic in leftist enviro position on solar and wind power

How many times have we been treated to hissy fits by the environmental left when it comes to species other than humans and their endangerment?  What group has constantly pushed for laws that protect animals from humans?  And where have the enviros been mostly silent as a particular group of animals is wantonly slaughtered daily in the name of green, renewable energy?

California’s massive Ivanpah solar power plant can produce enough electricity for 140,000 households — but the environmental cost is nothing less than an avian slaughter.

The plant’s 350,000 mirrors bounce sizzling sunlight to the tops of three 40-story boiler towers, heating steam for turbine electricity generators. Temperatures near the towers can reach up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, heat certainly sufficient to fry a fowl.

“Workers at the state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — ‘streamers,’ for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair,” the Associated Press reports this week.

That’s a common occurrence, the AP continues; federal investigators saw a bird burn roughly every two minutes. Ivanpah owner BrightSource estimates that “about a thousand” die each year, and one environmental group says the plant kills up to 28,000 birds each year.

Of course, if you do the math (and account for 12 hours of darkness each day) it comes out to about 130,000 a year – assuming the observation that one bird “burns” every two minutes.  And the outcry?  Yeah, not so much.

And some of the birds it is killing are, among others, endangered:

As the plant prepared to begin operations, workers found the winged corpses of “a peregrine falcon, a grebe, two hawks, four nighthawks, and a variety of warblers and sparrows,” the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year.

You want a “silent spring”?  Keep building these sorts of installations.

What about wind turbines?  Well, Ivanpah comes up a piker in comparison:

Ivanpah isn’t the only green darling with a lot of bird blood on its hands, either. The American Bird Conservancy estimates wind turbines slay 440,000 birds each year, and the an analyst writing in the Wildlife Society Bulletin says it’s closer to 573,000 — in addition to 888,000 bats.

And, as usual, our federal government makes exceptions to the law for favored industries:

Federal wildlife officials on Friday for the first time agreed not to prosecute a developer if an endangered California condor is struck and killed by turbine blades at its proposed wind farm in the Tehachapi Mountains, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

You accidentally do it and watch how much of an exception they make for you.

In the meantime, with all this data showing massive bird kills among solar and wind turbine installations?

Crickets – unless they find some other sort of “green energy” source that happens to wipe them out too.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 28 Aug 14

The Commerce Department’s second estimate of First Quarter 2014 GDP came in at 4.2%, annualized. This is stronger than expected and stronger than the initial 4.0% estimate. The GDP Price Index rose at a 2.1% annualized rate.

Corporate profits in the Second Quarter of 2014 came in at $1.840 trillion, following $1.735 trillion for the First Quarter.

The pending home sales index for existing home sales rose a strong 3.3% in July to 105.9, up from 102.7 in June.

The Kansas City Fed manufacturing index slipped from 9 in July to 3 August.

Weekly initial jobless claims fell 1,000 to 298,000. The 4-week average fell 1,250 to 299,750. Continuing claims rose 25,000 to 2.53 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.7 points to 37.3 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $0.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.414 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $2.5 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $32.0 billion in the latest week.


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Climate change treaty: “Constitution? Obama don’t need no stinkin’ Constitution!”

Well, if reports are true it appears our self-crowned king has decided he’s found a way to obligate us to a treaty without following the Constitution’s proviso for doing so.

In seeking to go around Congress to push his international climate change agenda, Mr. Obama is echoing his domestic climate strategy. In June, he bypassed Congress and used his executive authority to order a far-reaching regulation forcing American coal-fired power plants to curb their carbon emissions….

American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.

Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.

“There’s some legal and political magic to this,” said Jake Schmidt, an expert in global climate negotiations with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. “They’re trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the 67-vote threshold” in the Senate.

“Political magic”?  Is that the state of our nation now – we resort to “political magic” when we can’t get our way as the Constitution requires?  Well, yes.

Here’s how:

President Obama seems to be following a script laid out in May, 2014 by former Undersecretary for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth, who was the Clinton Administration’s lead negotiator for the Kyoto Protocol, and former South Dakota Senator Thomas Daschle who astutely asserted that “the international community should stop chasing the chimera of a binding treaty to limit CO2 emissions.” They further noted that more than two decades of U.N. climate negotiations have failed because “nations could not agree on who is to blame, on how to allocate emissions, or on projections for the future.”

Wirth and Daschle are advocating that the climate negotiators adopt a system of “pledge and review” at the 2015 Paris conference of the parties to the UNFCCC. In such a scheme nations would make specific pledges to cut their carbon emissions, to adopt clean energy technologies, and to wring more GDP out of each ton of carbon emitted. The parties would review their progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions every three years and make further pledges as necessary to achieve the goal of keeping the increase in average global temperature under 2°C. Since there would be no legally binding targets, there would be no treaty that would require politically difficult ratification. If insufficient progress is being made by 2020 they argue that countries should consider adopting globally coordinated price on carbon.

Now this isn’t to say that this is going to work or even have an effect, but it is a blatant attempt to have one’s way (via “political magic”) while avoiding the unpleasantness of a failure to get a ratification by tw0-thirds of the Senate (its all about getting the leverage to pass a carbon tax).

And, as usual, Mr. Obama doesn’t care one whit about much more than getting his way – just ask Senate Democrats:

President Obama’s election-year plan to win a new international climate change accord is making vulnerable Democrats nervous.

The administration is in talks at the United Nations about a deal that would seek to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by “naming and shaming” governments that fail to take significant action.

The State Department on Wednesday denied a report in The New York Times that the plan is to come up with a treaty that would not require Senate confirmation, but that appeared to provide cold comfort to Democrats worried the issue will revive GOP cries about an imperial Obama presidency.

One Democratic strategist said the proposal would put swing-state candidates who are critical to the party keeping its Senate majority “in front of the firing squad.”

“You’re … making it more difficult for them to win and certainty putting them in a position to lose,” the strategist said.

Silver linings … always look for the silver lining to those storm clouds.

And then there’s immigration …

~McQ

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