Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, April 13, 2015 9:52 pm

Odds and ends for April 13

Gunter Grass, the Pulitzer Nobel Prize-winning author (and, ironically, former Waffen SS soldier) whose work forced German culture to confront the horror of Naziism, is dead at 87.

Apparently Marco Rubio is running for president. Here are seven reasons that’d be a bad idea.

Sigh. One more example of out-of-control cops. At least no one died this time.

Duke Energy’s contributions to the Republican Governors’ Association increased by an order of magnitude after the Dan River spill. Duke says that’s just coincidence. Yeah. Sure. Right.

The former executive director of the State Employees Association of N.C., Dana Cope, appears to have spent close to half a million bucks that wasn’t his.

Why make North Carolina workers safer when you can just rig the numbers?

How bad has this legislative session been for North Carolinians? Let us count the ways.

It’s a uterus, not a clown car: A 65-year-old German woman who has 13 kids and seven grandkids is pregnant with quadruplets.

The Lost Colony? Maybe not so lost after all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 8:57 pm

Odds and ends for April 7

First, congratulations to Duke!

Sure, a ban on medical schools teaching abortion wouldn’t survive constitutional scrutiny. But suppose it did: Legislators would be sentencing a nontrivial number of women to death. How about we ban your fucking heart valves, you goddamned sociopaths? I’m sorry, but in what universe am I supposed to treat this as just another policy proposal to be dispassionately debated?

The DEA secretly recorded billions of Americans’ international calls years before 9/11. And not one damn person will go to jail behind it.

My online friend Chris Dashiell went on a bit of a rant Monday on Twitter about what the backlash against the Rolling Stone UVa/rape story says about our toxic media environment. I’ve Storified it so that you can enjoy it, too.

Here are five Texas firefighters who I think will really enjoy prison.

In Chicago, Mayor (and all-around jackass) Rahm Emanuel could be out on his ass. As Al Capone is reputed to have said after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, I’ll send flowers.

Rand Paul formally declared for the presidency today. If his batshit insanity, leavened with enough isolated sane positions to attract some low-info voters, isn’t enough to turn you off, consider this: His campaign website is selling an “NSA spy-cam blocker.” Grifters gonna grift.

While I have argued that voter fraud — real voter fraud — is vanishingly rare, I’ve never argued that it doesn’t exist. Now, some N.C. cases have led to criminal charges. The cases involve two felons who hadn’t had their rights restored, a guy who voted in both North Carolina and Florida, and one person who wasn’t a citizen of the United States. It is unclear at best whether the state’s voter-ID law would have prevented the latter case, and clear that it wouldn’t have prevented the other three. (h/t: Fred)

And U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is running for re-election, presumably because we kids still haven’t gotten off his lawn.

Aluminum batteries could replace our lithium ones, extending battery life. But probably not anytime soon.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott initially said he couldn’t “in good conscience” reject Medicaid expansion. So much for conscience.

The New York Times takes a look at the redistricting dispute in Greensboro and other cases in North Carolina. Oddly, the article doesn’t present any larger context or perspective on the fact that this is a national, ALEC-driven effort.

Speaking of the Times, perhaps I should ask it for a million bucks just to see what would happen.

A day or two ago I mentioned a Long Island high-school student who had been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. Well, turns out, North Carolina has one of them, too.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 9:21 pm

Odds and ends for March 4

As my cat might say: OHAI. I haz had a gone. Now I haz a back.

Hey, we finally got a clean bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security open! Now was that so hard, John Boehner? (Or maybe it was, but, anyway, it’s always good to see Republicans eating their own.)

Just a thought, courtesy of Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.: Saudi Arabia has the fourth-largest military in the world, so explain to me why U.S. troops are obligated to fight ISIS?

Ben Carson, a doctor whom some carbon-based life forms want to be president, believes that prison turns straight people gay because they choose to be. Or something equally insane; I’m not sure. The derp got too thick to read through.

The Supremes heard arguments today in King v. Burwell, the case that supposedly is going to explode Obamacare. Justice Anthony Kennedy didn’t quite tear plaintiffs a new one, but he sure seemed sympathetic to the government’s case — and hospital stock prices rose accordingly.

The idiots on the Alabama Supreme Court have decided that the federal judiciary is not the boss of them regarding same-sex marriage. We had this discussion about which court is the boss of which already. In 1860. Spoiler: It ended poorly for Alabama.

Perhaps no major American pundit has been more loudly and frequently wrong than David Brooks, so Flying Spaghetti Monster bless the blogger Driftglass, whose chronicles of Brooks’s unpunished and deadly wrongness will be essential reading in journalism courses a century from now. This is just one tasty example.

There is a club. You and I are not in it.

There’s gonna be a NASCAR race this year called the SpongeBob SquarePants 400. I am absolutely not making this up. As Ed Thomas says on Facebook, it’ll be interesting to see how they dry the track when it rains.

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 7:39 pm

Odds and ends for Feb. 11

Memo to the airlines: You whiny bitches can just pay your taxes like everybody else does.

Oh, good. Another war. Because we were running out of them, or something. People, ISIS is NOT an existential threat to this country. If you think otherwise, imagine ISIS trying to capture Detroit or Dallas, mmkay? Relatedly, if Chris Matthews wants a war so damned badly, let him go fight it himself.

Meanwhile, a committee of the Arizona Senate wishes to reprosecute the Civil War. Didn’t work out too great for their side last time, but what the hell, you know?

Our “allies” in Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t allowed to drive, apparently believe women drive in the U.S. and elsewhere because they don’t care whether they get raped. Evil AND stupid is no way to go through life, son.

FBI director James Comey is urging Americans to panic about possible ISIS militants under their beds. It’s a real shame the Snowden revelations and that lib’rul Obama cut back so badly on our nation’s intelligence-gathering capabilities; otherwise, we wouldn’t need to wet our pants like this. Oh. Wait.

#AdviceToYoungJournalists is trending on Twitter. Here’s mine: Run. Save yourself. While you still can.

Our new idiot senator, Thom Tillis, has hired a new idiot legislative director who thinks birth control causes cancer.

Cops in N.C. are spying on citizens. One would think the GOP-controlled legislature might want to do something about Big Gummint, but one would think that only if one believed Republicans are serious about stemming the overreach of Big Gummint.

NBC’s Brian Williams gets suspended for six months for misremembering what happened in Iraq. Good. But Alberto Gonzalez took the Fifth 67 times before Congress, and we’re still paying his ass. Just saying.

Our “divisive,” “obstructionist” president has, when his length of service is taken into account, vetoed fewer bills than any president since James Monroe.

Even in Colombia, there’s no uprising so nasty that the addition of Miss Universe might not ameliorate it.

I’m starting to think technology and Republicans just don’t mix. This week, the N.C. legislature’s main website went down after — no kidding — someone forgot to renew the domain.

What happens if the anti-ACA case King v. Burwell, now before the Supremes, results in the ACA (or at least the part about exchanges) being overturned? Insurance exec Richard Mayhew says it won’t be pretty, with most subsidized exchange policies being yanked this summer. But wait! There’s more!

After [those policies are yanked], the remaining individual insurance market now looks like the pre-PPACA New York State insurance market, where there is guarantee issue and no medical underwriting but no subsidies and no mandates to get healthy people into the risk pool.  We get a death spiral where average premiums for a 30 year old would almost double in two years, and most reasonably healthy people who otherwise would have qualified for subsidies now sit out of the market because they can’t afford the coverage.

 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 10:13 pm

Odds and ends for Jan. 27

RIP President Obama’s plan to kill the tax exemption for 529 (college-education) accounts, age 7 days. You people who think the deduction for mortgage interest can be repealed are so cute.

In the 2016 Republican Presidential Candidates in Legal Jeopardy race, Rick Perry takes the early lead!

You people tweeting #Blizzardof2015 like it’s gonna be the only one? Also cute.

Speaking of Twitter, it wants me to follow Franklin Graham. Yet more reason to believe it’ll be a loooong time before Skynet becomes self-aware.

No Stephen Curry? No problem: My Davidson Wildcats just keep winning.

Greensboro is getting its first (legal) distillery since Prohibition. That’s the good news. The bad news: It’ll be making rye and bourbon. Meh.

Relatedly, the World of Beer restaurant chain is coming to Greensboro. But as for me and my house, we shall worship the Wall of Beer.

Everybody in Greensboro but me has been talking about the controversy at UNCG over its firing and attempted prosecution of three employees. I’m still not talking about it — nothing I could add — but perhaps this means we can soon move on to talking about other, happier things.

Google Fiber is coming to Charlotte and Raleigh. But not Greensboro. *sigh* All the more reason for Greensboro folks to get behind CityFi.

Don’t drink and drone.

Duke plays undefeated Virginia Saturday evening. I’ll be eating dinner with my bride and Tony and his bride. We win.

Monday, February 3, 2014 8:20 pm

Leroy Jethro Gibbs’s Rule No. 39: There is no such thing as coincidence.

One retired and two current bank executives, all of whose employers are under investigation, supposedly committed suicide within a few days of each other last month*, one of them by supposedly jumping off the roof of one of London’s most secure buildings, a place where the roof shouldn’t be accessible.

And a Wall Street Journal reporter covering the oil market, which is under investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, disappeared Jan. 11 without a trace.

Coincidence? Could be. But based on Gibbs’s Rule 39 and what little we know now, my gut says no. My gut also picked Seattle to narrowly win the Super Bowl, so make of that what you will.

*UPDATE: Link fixed. h/t Anna.

Monday, November 11, 2013 10:56 pm

For no good reason …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 10:56 pm
Tags: ,

… Here’s the Red Army Chorus singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

Monday, August 26, 2013 6:41 pm

Things fall apart, or, Does anybody really know what time it is?

Filed under: Fun,Weird — Lex @ 6:41 pm
Tags: , , , ,

At one point this morning, my cell-phone clock was five minutes behind my office computer clock, which in turn was six minutes behind my office phone clock. Each of these devices is part of an Internet-connected network, so they should, at least in theory, be running on more or less the same time. Certainly there shouldn’t be an 11-minute spread. That’s enough of a spread for mischief to happen. And I am not in the mood today for mischief (at least, not of my own making). So attention, all electronic devices: Get your lies straight. There is no room in my calendar this week for addressing a rift in the space-time continuum, even if I use that rift to try to do so.

Monday, July 29, 2013 6:08 pm

Interesting development

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 6:08 pm
Tags:

Mujeeb Shah-Khan, the Greensboro city attorney, is now following me on Twitter. I’m not sure why that would be, unless it has something to do with this. But, whatever, Mujeeb. You’ll probably find my Twitter stream the same thing others do: a bewildering boullibaisse of failed humor, tweets about my kids, interesting examples of data visualization, commentary on national and state politics, bizarre odds and ends, and retweets of most of the foregoing types of tweets by other people, most of whom I don’t know in real life. If that floats your boat, then anchors aweigh.

Thursday, January 17, 2013 8:42 pm

Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one — VERY strange dude

Filed under: Religion,Weird — Lex @ 8:42 pm
Tags: , , ,

Yeah, OK,  I’m mixing my faith references here. Sue me. But I got tickled when my friend, ex-colleague and former boss Teresa Prout, then and now the city editor of the News & Record, posted on Facebook the other day about  getting an email from a man who claims his father is one of four prophets who have been designated by God to carry out His will before the end of the world, which is coming March 11. (Naturally, one of my midterm projects is due March 7. But, noooooo, the world couldn’t end a week earlier.) The prophet in question is in prison for killing his wife and a judge, by the way.

Nobody spends much time in the newspaper bidness without encountering religious zealots, and it can be hard sometimes to distinguish the merely overzealous from the outright insane. But her anecdote reminded me of an incident when I was the N&R’s religion writer (and Teresa was my editor at the time) that led me to write a column that, as it happens, was published 15 years ago last week. Unlike a lot of my older stuff, it actually has held up pretty well:

One busy afternoon just before Christmas, one of our receptionists called to say that a man had come in who wanted to talk to someone immediately about an important religion story.

I walked downstairs to the lobby, where I met a man about my height but heavier, with long, slicked-back, salt-and-pepper hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. He was dressed in black from his jacket and shirt down to the pointed toes of his boots. In fact, he cut such a Mephistophelian figure that I shouldn’t have been surprised when we had sat down in the lobby’s only two chairs and he announced that he was Jesus Christ.

A number of questions began running through my mind, the first one being the question of why there was no guard at our lobby security desk. The second one was: How can I get this man out the front door? The third one was: OK, even if this guy isn’t Jesus, he’s still a human being toward whom, according to Christ’s second great commandment and the dictates of good customer relations, I have some obligations, so how can I meet those obligations gracefully and compassionately?

And — hey, I am a reporter — the fourth one was: What if he’s telling the truth?

“I see,” I said. “Have you always known that you were Jesus?”

“Found out about 10 years ago,” he said.

“And where were you when you found out?”

“I was in prison,” he said.

“No kidding. Where was that?”

“Butner,” he said. Butner, just northeast of Durham on Interstate 85, is the home of a well-known state mental hospital and a lesser-known federal prison and mental facility.

“Why were you there?”

“I beat a man up in Eden pretty bad” — Eden being the Rockingham County town, not the garden, I ascertained.

“But you didn’t yet know you were Jesus when you did that?”

“That’s right,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that now, of course.”

“Well, if you are Jesus, that’s obviously a big story,” I told him. “But see, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got to convince my editors. We can’t just write a story saying that you’re Jesus. We need proof. Now, the Bible says there will be signs and wonders to accompany the return of Christ. Got any of that?”

No, he said. He couldn’t really prove he was Jesus.

“OK, as Jesus Christ, what is it you’re here to do? Anything in particular?”

“Judge the world,” he said, shifting a bit in his chair. As he did, I realized there was some kind of bulge under his jacket near the left armpit, and what had been a mild situation suddenly felt threatening.

Was it a gun? I couldn’t tell. But now, in addition to my obligations to this man, I had other obligations, namely protecting my co-workers — two receptionists were behind the desk nearby, and other people were walking casually through the lobby — and myself.

I gauged the distance between my left hand and the flowerpot on the table between us. I gauged the angle. And I resolved that if his right hand so much as twitched toward his jacket, I was going to smash that flowerpot against his temple as hard as I could.

“Judge the world,” I repeated. “And how are you going to do that?” He looked confused, so I added, “I mean, are you going to judge the world collectively or individually? Everybody at once or one person at a time?”

“Oh, one person at a time,” he said. “That seems fairest.”

“Well, won’t that take a long time?”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I’ve got a long time.”

Whom would he start with? He wasn’t sure. When would he start? He wasn’t sure about that either.

We talked about 10 minutes more, and I kept steering the conversation back to the point that unless we had some kind of objective proof that he was Jesus, the News & Record wouldn’t be doing a story about him. He wasn’t terribly unhappy about that, but he wasn’t taking the hint, either, and there still was no security guard.

Finally, I mentioned that I might entertain the notion of his writing a guest column for the Religion page. That prospect brightened him a bit, and he agreed to consider it. We stood up and shook hands, and he walked out the front door.

No reporter stays long in this business without hearing — usually by mail — from someone claiming to be Jesus. And after almost every one of these contacts, I have speculated upon the exact manner in which Jesus might choose to make himself known if he were to return today. (In my more disgruntled moments, I even draw up an agenda for him.)

The Book of Revelation foretells the manner of Christ’s return, and its account bears little resemblance to the manner of my black-clad visitor. It certainly doesn’t suggest that he might come back as a rough-hewn man of the street with a simple, powerful and disturbing message.

But then, that’s pretty much how he came the first time.

Sunday, October 28, 2012 9:46 pm

Respect mah authoritay, Technorati edition

Filed under: Fun,Weird — Lex @ 9:46 pm

Don’t ask me how, but this blog is, at least at the moment, the 27th most authoritative on matters related to science out of 12,200 or so blogs registered on Technorati that actually deal with matters related to science.

Well played, Mayans. Well played.

 

 

 

Friday, October 26, 2012 6:02 pm

Sandy’s a piker

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 6:02 pm
Tags: ,

It might seem strange to you that there’s a nontrivial chance that a combined hurricane/nor’easter/snowstorm could hit the New York area the day before Halloween. And indeed, even in the era of climatic instability caused by global warming, it is strange … though not unheard-of.

However, things got a lot stranger than that barely seven years ago. It’s a comic strip, but all “dialogue” really happened.

Friday, January 27, 2012 7:56 pm

Newt’s dilemma

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is taking increasing fire … from members of his own party. And MoJo’s Kevin Drum has a plausible explanation for why:

What’s most ironically amusing about all this, though, is that underlying a lot of the attacks on Newt is the complaint that he’s not conservative enough. Weirdly enough, there’s some truth to this by modern GOP standards. Newt’s tone and temperament are perfectly suited to the no-compromise-no-surrender spirit of the tea party-ized GOP, which is why he’s so appealing to the base during debates. But the truth is that for all his bluster, Newt was perfectly willing to do deals during his time as Speaker. He likes to think of himself as a world-historical figure, and that means getting world-historical things done. Simple obstruction is not really his MO. That makes him doubly unreliable, since obstruction is the sine qua non of movement conservatism these days.

The GOP Establishment can read polls as well as anyone. And they’re in damage-control mode: They know they’ve got a good thing going from a financial standpoint (free money for Bank of America, et al., from the Fed just for starters), and they know they’ll have to at least appear to give a little to keep the gravy train running. So you have Bob Dole — a SOB in his day but fondly remembered by Democrats now compared with today’s GOP — coming out and trashing Newt.

But Newt, although he almost certainly wants the same thing, is willing to tell the GOP primary voting base otherwise. In South Carolina, they wanted to hear that badly enough to believe him. It’ll be interesting to see whether Florida GOP primary voters respond likewise.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 8:48 pm

In which I get fan mail*

Filed under: Fun,Weird — Lex @ 8:48 pm
Tags:

Got this today:

Dear MoveOn member**,
You should run for office.
No, really. You, Lex Alexander, should run for elective office: maybe city council or school board in Greensboro, or the state legislature in Raleigh.
Oh, dear.
I mean, really.
*Yes, I am aware this was spam.
**Just for the record, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of MoveOn.

Monday, August 15, 2011 8:29 pm

Today in medical research news …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:29 pm
Tags:

… because what could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, June 9, 2011 8:39 pm

When weasels martens are outlawed, only outlaws will carry weasels martens

Filed under: Fun,Weird — Lex @ 8:39 pm

Another tragic marten-related incident:

HOQUIAM, Wash. – Police say a man was carrying a dead weasel when he burst into an apartment and assaulted a man in Washington state.

The victim asked, “Why are you carrying a weasel?” Police said the attacker answered, “It’s not a weasel, it’s a marten,” then punched him in the nose and fled.

If people would just carry ferrets, we wouldn’t have this problem.

(h/t: pourmecoffee)

Thursday, January 13, 2011 8:09 pm

If you want to know who the real radicals are …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:09 pm
Tags: ,

… just consider this: Kay Bailey Hutchison is now too liberal for Texas.

Monday, December 13, 2010 8:37 pm

When your sexual practices gross out even a member of Motley Crüe …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:37 pm
Tags: , ,

… maybe you need to rethink. Particularly when your partner is a killer. Just sayin’.

Sunday, October 10, 2010 12:57 pm

It’s how they roll; or, Through the economic looking-glass

Filed under: I want my money back.,We're so screwed,Weird — Lex @ 12:57 pm

Steve Benen on GOP economics:

Putting aside everything we know about the status quo, consider exactly what Republicans think we should be doing right now: keep Bush-era tax rates; slash public-sector employment; stop infrastructure investments; let the private sector grow without any additional economic stimulus.

Then consider the status quo: we have Bush-era tax rates in place (in addition to middle-class and small-business tax cuts Dems passed over GOP opposition); the public sector is shedding jobs by tens of thousands of people per month; infrastructure investments are being blocked (see here and here); and the private sector is trying to grow without any additional economic stimulus.

In other words, the GOP is getting its way and it’s complaining about the results.

I have my own serious problems with Washington Democrats, not the least of which is that the top one is trying to assassinate American citizens unconstitutionally and wiretap every last one of us, either of which is an impeachable offense in its own right.

But where the economy is concerned, here’s where we are: Many, many things are wrong. Pretty much every one of them is probably going to get dramatically worse if Republicans take control of Congress. And Americans, unable or unwilling to ascertain who is to blame, may well let them do it anyway.

Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:17 pm

Tom Daschle, Barack Obama, health-care reform and the public option

Filed under: We're so screwed,Weird — Lex @ 8:17 pm
Tags: ,

So according to a new book by former Sen. Tom Daschle, President Obama gave up on the so-called “public option” as part of any health-care reform package no later than July 8, 2009:

In his book, Daschle reveals that after the Senate Finance Committee and the White Houseconvinced hospitals to to accept $155 billion in payment reductions over ten years on July 8, the hospitals and Democrats operated under two “working assumptions.” “One was that the Senate would aim for health coverage of at least 94 percent of Americans,” Daschle writes. “The other was that it would contain no public health plan,” which would have reimbursed hospitals at a lower rate than private insurers.

I asked Daschle if the White House had taken the option off the table in July 2009 and if all future efforts to resuscitate the provision were destined to fail:

DASCHLE: I don’t think it was taken off the table completely. It was taken off the table as a result of the understanding that people had with the hospital association, with the insurance (AHIP), and others. I mean I think that part of the whole effort was based on a premise. That premise was, you had to have the stakeholders in the room and at the table. Lessons learned in past efforts is that without the stakeholders’ active support rather than active opposition, it’s almost impossible to get this job done. They wanted to keep those stakeholders in the room and this was the price some thought they had to pay. Now, it’s debatable about whether all of these assertions and promises are accurate, but that was the calculation.

Daschle later “clarified” his comments by saying, “I did not mean to suggest in any way that the President was not committed to it. The President fought for the public option just as he did for affordable health care for all Americans. The public option was dropped only when it was no longer viable in Congress, not as a result of any deal cut by the White House.” That’s some clarification: It means that Daschle either was lying when he wrote his book or he’s lying now. For the purposes of this discussion and because I see no reason to do otherwise, I’m going to presume that the book is accurate and the “clarification” was issued only because he’s getting some blowback from the White House.

OK.

I get that whether or not it actually was necessary to trade the public option to get some kind of reform passed, the Obama team might have thought it was necessary … and acted accordingly.

But if that were the case, why didn’t they just say so at the time? Why did they keep so many other people in the dark, both in and out of Congress? Because as late as December 2009, some prominent House Democrats were publicly stating that they wouldn’t sign off on any House-Senate health-care reconciliation that did not include a public option.

Did Obama’s people honestly think no one would ever find out? Or did they just not care that people (including prominent congresscritters of their own party), once they found out, would be furious about having gone to a lot of trouble to fight for something that was never going to happen and thus having been made to look like fools?

Seriously, I absolutely do not get this. What is the upside in this approach? What policy or political gain could possibly be derived from it — for Obama, for congressional Dems, for consumers?

Meanwhile, the White House, which badly needs its base voters in this midterm election, has been telling them publicly to shut up and be grateful for what they got, when what they got was a little bit of progress mixed with a lot of continuation (and, in some cases, worsening) of Bush policy and constant dismissal. No damn wonder the Dems have an “enthusiasm gap.” If I were a base Dem voter and had been treated this way, I’d be telling the president right now to Foxtrot Oscar Alpha Delta.

Am I missing something here? Because the only scenario in which this makes any sense is if Barack Obama is on Karl Rove’s payroll.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 8:56 pm

Political messaging analysis, no extra charge

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:56 pm
Tags: ,

In an era in which a major-party nominee for a U.S. Senate seat is taking heat for her public opposition to masturbation (as opposed to her opposition to public masturbation, which, frankly, even I am not wild about), naming a website BeatBoehner.com is either major dhummitude or true genius.

Monday, September 6, 2010 7:23 pm

Illegal immigrants and Social Security: Good news/bad news

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 7:23 pm
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Bruce Krasting, writing at Zero Hedge, takes note of a Washington Post article on the contributions of illegal aliens to Social Security.

The short version: A lot of illegal immigrants are paying money into the Social Security Trust Fund that they will never see. That’s bad news for them and good news for Social Security.

BUT, they’re paying so much in that it’s making the Social Security Trust Fund look like it’s in better shape than it actually is. That’s bad news for Social Security, particularly if that money were returned to the immigrants and their employers.

But wait, there’s more. Krasting thinks this article isn’t appearing by accident — that the Obama administration sees a way to leverage this situation to come up with a way to “bribe” opponents of immigration reform into going along. Really. He writes:

We know that the actuaries at the Fund have been aware of the magnitude of this issue for a very long time. The question I have is, “What did they do about it?” We need to understand what this means in terms of anticipated future benefit payments. There are two possibilities:

(1) The Fund knew the money was from illegal workers but chose to close their eyes. For the purposes of calculating future liabilities they assumed that everyone, including the illegal workers, would someday get benefits. But they won’t. This would imply that the future liabilities of the Fund are much smaller than has been projected. This “good” news would have to be offset with the reality that the “true” assets of the fund are significantly overstated.

(2) The Fund knew all along that the benefits that are associated with these illegal receipts are never going to be paid and therefore it has reduced the liabilities associated with this to some degree. This would essentially make a fraud of all of the SS accounting. I doubt (hope) that this is not the case. To restate both assets and liabilities would create a very big credibility gap for SS.

I have said repeated that nothing happens in D.C. by chance. That every nuance must be looked at closely. They all have meaning. In my opinion the WaPo article shines a very bright light on SS. They have been knowingly overstating assets and financial conditions for years. What possible motive could be behind this Labor Day weekend bombshell? My guess:

The Administration will use the Goss revelation to prove to the American people that illegal workers have made a major contribution to the US economy via the taxes they paid to SS. This will be done to blunt the growing tide of ire among those who actually live here. There could be another chapter to this story. It could be the ticket whereby some illegals get legal. The cost for a Green Card would be that the applicant would have to (among other things) agree to give up their rights to any future SS benefits based on prior contributions made to SS. They would be entitled to benefits based solely on what they were taxed in future years. Any previous contributions (both employer and worker) would be given up as a penalty. This thinking would set up the possibility for two extraordinary outcomes.

(I) If SS eliminated the future liabilities associated with the estimated $320b of excess contributions and they were allowed to keep those tainted contributions SS would be transformed overnight to an overfunded position of significant proportions. It would be so significant that the Fund could reduce the current 12.4% PR tax by 20-30% for the next three to four years. That would have a meaningful impact on the economy.

(II) America would get paid $350b (P+I) [principal + interest] for allowing a significant number of workers to become legal. Many would still gripe. But the tradeoff of a partial tax holiday for 150mm workers and their employers would shut down much of the opposition.

The Administration needs a win-win on the economy and immigration. Steve Goss at the Trust Fund may have given them the opportunity to do that. Stay tuned. It does not get much weirder than this.

Given the volatility of both Social Security and immigration as election-year issues, this may or may not get weirder but definitely is going to get more interesting.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 9:22 pm

How you can tell when the Apocalypse is at hand

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 9:22 pm
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When Alan Keyes starts making sense:

The 14th Amendment is not something that one should play with lightly. I noticed, finally, that Lindsey Graham, used the term — as people have carelessly done over the years — referring to the 14th Amendment as something that has to do with birthright citizenship, and that we should get rid of birthright citizenship. Now let me see, if birthright citizenship is not a birthright, then it must be a grant of the government. And if it is a grant of the government, then it could be curtailed in all the ways that fascists and totalitarians always want to.

I think we ought to be real careful before we adopt a view we want to say that citizenship is not a reflection of our unalienable rights. It is not a grant of government, but arises from a set of actual conditions, starting with the rule of God, that constrain government to respect the rights of the people, and therefore the rights that involve the claim of citizenship. Those are really deep, serious issues, and when the amendment was written, and when it was first referred to in the Slaughterhouse cases, the Supreme Court declared that they knew they were touching on something that was absolutely fundamental. And I think before we play games with it in any way, we need to remember that ourselves.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 8:52 pm

Transaction security and verification

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:52 pm
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A friend mentioned on Facebook today that she’d been the victim of credit-card fraud (that is, someone else using her credit-card number) for the second time in two years.

That happened to me earlier this year: Somebody used my VISA number to buy stuff at an organic grocery store in Miami. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that; I always sort of figured the credit-card system had an alert system that would flash something up on the screen like, “DUDE: If he’s not buying bacon and Cheese Dorts, he’s not the real Lex Alexander.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010 10:10 pm

Parts of telephone conversations you sort of wish you hadn’t overheard, cont.

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 10:10 pm
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“The problem is, we don’t have any frogs. Not a one. And we’re not going to get any frogs until September.”

A new enemy in the Battle of the Bulge

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 1:19 am
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The bacteria made me fat!

Friday, July 2, 2010 6:41 am

Why the Democrats deserve to lose Congress this fall

This.

There was no damn reason for Nancy Pelosi to do this. It will directly plunge more than a million older Americans into poverty and hurt many others financially, just so that billionaire Pete Peterson can have more money.

Heck of a job, Nancy.

Friday, June 25, 2010 8:36 pm

They’re contaminating the purity of our essence; or, Memo to the Democrats: Sometimes, nothing can save you from your Stoopid.

It is an indication of what a monumental screwup Harry Reid has been as Senate Majority Leader that his opponent, Sharron Angle, could be this batsh*t insane and still have a decent chance of unseating him:

The 16-page flier, available at TPMM, accuses gay people (aka “sodomites”, “perverts”) of everything from child molestation, to serial murder, to debasing rodeos, to contaminating the water supply by exuding HIV. Blood libel, or urine libel, as the case may be.

TPMM contacted Angle for comment, but received no reply from her campaign.

Angle personally denounced fluoridated water as a Communist conspiracy in 1999.

Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:29 pm

For once, I have nothing to add …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 11:29 pm
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… but, boy, do I have some questions:

A German student created a major traffic jam in Bavaria when he ‘mooned’ a group of Hell’s Angels, hurled a puppy at them and then escaped on a bulldozer.

Monday, June 14, 2010 11:27 pm

Well, crud, I guess we have to keep drilling for oil …

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 11:27 pm
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… because apparently they can make antibodies out of plastic now and keep you from dying of bee stings.

I probably will feel better about this once Deepwater Horizon stops erupting.

Plus which, I don’t know what else we have in the pharmacopoeia that will save people who have tried to become clairvoyant for gambling purposes by smoking dried endangered vultures’ brains.

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