Monday, August 18, 2014

Judge Demands Answers from IRS After Contradictory Testimony

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (AP)
"U.S. District court Judge Emmet Sullivan Thursday ordered the Internal Revenue Service to come up with new answers after IRS employees contradicted sworn testimony about damage to Lois Lerner's hard drive," reports the Daily Caller.
Sullivan ruled that “the IRS is hereby ORDERED to file a sworn Declaration, by an official with the authority to speak under oath for the Agency, by no later than August 22, 2014″ on four issues: the IRS’ attempted recovery of Lerner’s lost emails after her computer allegedly crashed, bar codes that could have been on the hard drive, IRS policies on hard drive destruction, and information about an outside vendor who worked on IRS hard drives.

Recent documents from nonprofit group Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS, which Sullivan is presiding over, showed that IRS technology officials contradicted sworn testimony about damage to Lerner’s hard drive.

Aaron Signor, an IRS technician that looked at Lerner’s hard drive in June 2011, said in IRS court filings that he saw no damage to the drive before sending it off to another IRS technician, leading some in the media to suggest that the lost emails scandal is basically over. But Signor’s statement, issued in response to the Judicial Watch lawsuit, does not jibe with sworn congressional testimony.

Sullivan's order seems to have been motivated by the obvious contradiction. 
See also Judge Orders IRS to Turn Over More Info on Lois Lerner Emails.

Government's Role in Soaring College Costs

"Americans have watched in anguish as the cost of college has soared out of reach," write Investor's Business Daily editors. "What they don't know is that a big reason for rising costs is the surge in federal spending over the past 35 years."
A new report from the Center for College Affordability & Productivity tells a story many Americans probably haven't heard — that college costs are rising fast not only because of a flood of new students, but also because federal spending is pushing up costs across the board.

The sprawling college aid program, say authors Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart and Joseph Hartge, "contributes to skyrocketing costs, finances a wasteful academic arms race, weakens academic standards, lowers educational opportunity and worsens the underemployment/overinvestment problem."

The report notes that tuition after inflation was increasing at a modest 1% a year before 1978. Since then, fees have ratcheted up 3% to 4% annually.

A big reason for this is the 1972 Pell Grant Program, which was greatly expanded in 1978 by President Carter to include middle-class families for the first time.
The "long trek back to affordability" for America's college students, the authors' argue, will begin by reining in costs and curbing the size and scope of federal spending on education.

Threat of EMP Attack on US and What to Do About It

"In a recent letter to investors, billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer warned that an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is 'the most significant threat' to the US and our allies in the world," write R. James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry in the Wall Street Journal.
He's right. Our food and water supplies, communications, banking, hospitals, law enforcement, etc., all depend on the electric grid. Yet until recently little attention has been paid to the ease of generating EMPs by detonating a nuclear weapon in orbit above the U.S., and thus bringing our civilization to a cold, dark halt. ...

The much neglected 2004 and 2008 reports by the congressional EMP Commission—only now garnering increased public attention—warn that "terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or a military base, they may gain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them—or threatening their use—in an EMP attack." ...

What would a successful EMP attack look like? The EMP Commission, in 2008, estimated that within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown ....

What to do?

Surge arrestors, faraday cages and other devices that prevent EMP from damaging electronics, as well micro-grids that are inherently less susceptible to EMP, have been used by the Defense Department for more than 50 years to protect crucial military installations and strategic forces. These can be adapted to protect civilian infrastructure as well. The cost of protecting the national electric grid, according to a 2008 EMP Commission estimate, would be about $2 billion...

What is lacking in Washington is a sense of urgency. Lawmakers and the administration need to move rapidly to build resilience into our electric grid and defend against an EMP attack that could deliver a devastating blow to the U.S. economy and the American people. Congress should pass and the president should sign into law the Shield Act and CIPA as soon as possible. Literally millions of American lives could depend on it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

'Help me stay rich, Colorado'

"A grass roots group is running some terrific pro-fracking ads in Colorado," writes John Hinderaker. "They feature a Middle Eastern sheik and a Russian oligarch pleading with Coloradans to help them stay rich by suppressing the production of American energy. They are funny and true, and therefore highly effective."

Below the Sheik and the Oligarch:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

He DID Build that Road!

Remember President Obama's you didn't build that attack on entrepreneurs, or Elizabeth Warren's assertion that businesses moved their goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for? A grandfather in Somerset, England has news for both of them.
A grandfather sick of roadworks near his home defied his council and built his own toll road allowing people to circumvent the disrupted section.

Opened on Friday, it’s the first private toll road built since cars became a familiar sight on British roads 100 years ago. Motorists pay £2 to travel each way and bypass the 14 miles diversion.

Mike Watts, 62, hired a crew of workmen and ploughed £150,000 of his own cash
[about $253,000 US] into building a 365m long bypass road [less than one-quarter of a mile] in a field next to the closed A431. He reckons it will cost another £150,000 in upkeep costs and to pay for two 24 hour a day toll booth operators.

The A431 between Bristol and Bath was closed in February after a landslip caused huge cracks to appear in the road.

Quickly businesses in the area began to suffer - including the cafe and party supplies shop Mike runs with wife Wendy Rice, 52, in Bath.

"It used to just be a very quick drive for us to Bath, but we were having to do a 14 mile detour which was taking up to an hour down tiny lanes just not designed to take the traffic," Mike said.

Father of four Mike asked his friend John Dinham if he would mind renting him the field until Christmas and hired three workmen to help build the road in just 10 days.

'Young Outsiders' Reject Welfare State

"A newly coined voting block called Young Outsiders has two major attributes — they are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Really fiscally conservative," writes Kara Mason @
An overwhelming majority of these Millennial-aged voters actually think government aid does more harm than good, that the government is at its max when it comes to helping the poor, and – get this – that people on the government dole have it way too easy.

These “Young Outsiders” – named by the Pew Research Center in its recently released political typology report, make up about 13 percent of the voting population and could very well swing future elections in Republicans’ favor, research finds.

A whopping 86 percent of Young Outsiders believe “government aid to the poor does more harm than good.” What’s more, more than three-fourths of them, 76 percent, said the government can’t afford to help the poor any more than it already is.

And an overwhelming 81 percent agreed that “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”

Are Government Tax Breaks for Businesses Bad?

Not long ago, a student participating in one of our campus focus groups raised the question as to whether government tax breaks and incentives for businesses are always a bad idea. C. Edmund Wright puts the question into perspective in The Three Faces of Cronyism.

Wright argues that crony capitalism (or crony government, crony socialism, or corporatism) has three forms, and while none is good, each is different in the degree of the harm it does.
  • The first — the least harmful form — is when governments offer tax breaks and incentives for big industrial plants. Although it is cronyism, there can be a "potentially redeeming cost/benefit outcome for taxpayers."
  • The second — which Wright calls the "GE Jeff Immelt Model" — is when a "company cozies up to government in order to get regulations and laws passed that punish their competitors." This and the next form of cronyism "have no redemptive value whatsoever, and are purely diabolical corruptions of power and influence.  ... Government is picking winners and losers within their jurisdiction."
  • The third — which Wright calls the "Solyndra Model" — is when government officials line the pockets of their friends and supporters using the government treasury for no benefit to anyone except their pals. "Again, almost everybody loses except the handful of donors, candidates and phony entrepreneurs involved directly."
Observes Wright, "Conservatives should certainly keep the pressure up on exposing and stamping out cronyism wherever they can. But let's not get distracted. Our Founders charged us with establishing and maintaining a more perfect union, not a utopia. Stamping out the worst of the crony deals would be a lot more perfect situation than we have now."