Archive for the ‘US government’ Category

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"Don’t be evil" my aching back

November 11, 2014

I’m taking this report at face value. Assuming it’s correct, this is an amazing show of chutzpah. What do you think that solar plant is, Google, a sports stadium maybe? (My emphasis below.)

World’s largest solar plant applying for federal grant to pay off federal loan

Struggling solar thermal plant seeks huge taxpayer bailout

After already receiving a controversial $1.6 billion construction loan from U.S. taxpayers, the wealthy investors of a California solar power plant now want a $539 million federal grant to pay off their federal loan.

“This is an attempt by very large cash generating companies that have billions on their balance sheet to get a federal bailout, i.e. a bailout from us – the taxpayer for their pet project,” said Reason Foundation VP of Research Julian Morris. “It’s actually rather obscene.”

The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google and renewable energy giant NRG, which are responsible for paying off their federal loan. If approved by the U.S. Treasury, the two corporations will not use their own money, but taxpayer cash to pay off 30 percent of the cost of their plant, but taxpayers will receive none of the millions in revenues the plant will generate over the next 30 years.

Can we get the government out of the habit of picking "winners" and let the market decide what projects get financed? It’s time for some of that Separation of Market and State that I go on about.

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He’s all about political advantage

November 10, 2014

On the one hand, I have to admire Mr. Gruber’s candor. And I agree with his analysis of the games that were played to pass PPACA.

If Mr. Gruber chooses to attribute the PPACA’s passage to the ‘the stupidity of the American voter’ rather than attributing it to intentional obfuscation by Congress — as he should — well, that’s his choice I suppose.

A lot of sharp folks were calling BS on the proposed law but its sponsors refused to speak straight to its faults: they were all working the politically expedient angles. Thanks, Pelosi.


On the other hand, this is exactly the kind of "enlightened despotism" that we need to guard against. When a government gets to the point that some parts of it start to bend its own rules to fool other parts — gaming the CBO score in this particular case — then it’s too messed up to trust.

What particularly galls me about this clip is Gruber’s saying that PPACA was designed so that it could not be regarded as a tax. But when the Supreme Court ruled on it, the Chief Justice based his argument supporting PPACA on calling it a tax and on Congress’ authority to levy taxes.

So we’re damned if they do call it a tax – and we’re damned if they don’t. What a deal.

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A lighter look at civil forfeiture

October 11, 2014

John Oliver takes a cheeky look at civil (asset) forfeiture. You may be surprised by some of the things he mentions.

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When humans lose control

September 23, 2014

This is a pretty interesting article about government bureaucracies – and their incentives – at The Atlantic by Philip Howard. RTWT.

When Humans Lose Control of Government

The Veterans Affairs scandal of falsified waiting lists is the latest of a never-ending stream of government ineptitude. Every season brings a new headline of failures: the botched roll-out of Obamacare involved 55 uncoordinated IT vendors; a White House report in February found that barely 3 percent of the $800 billion stimulus plan went to rebuild transportation infrastructure; and a March Washington Post report describes how federal pensions are processed by hand in a deep cave in Pennsylvania.

The reflexive reaction is to demand detailed laws and rules to make sure things don’t go wrong again. But shackling public choices with ironclad rules, ironically, is a main cause of the problems. Dictating correctness in advance supplants the one factor that is indispensable to all successful endeavors—human responsibility. “Nothing that’s good works by itself,” as Thomas Edison put it. “You’ve got to make the damn thing work.”

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Good for him

September 23, 2014

The TSA wanted to screen Kahler Nygard after his flight from Minneapolis to Denver. (I don’t know if the flight continued past Denver.)

So he called their bluff about getting the local police involved and he walked – bless his heart. This stuff won’t stop until we put a stop to it.

If you don’t defend your rights, you don’t have any.

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Present-day highwaymen is what I’d call them

September 10, 2014

The Institute for Justice has been running a campaign to end civil forfeiture — a topic I mentioned recently with the video about the ‘forfeiture machine’ in Philadelphia.

The IJ contributed to a three-part series in The Washington Post titled Stop and seize. The first installment is a long article but the thing that jumped out at me was this bit (fairly early on).

A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing “trophy shots” of money and drugs. Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities.

“All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,” Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book under a pseudonym. Hain is a marketing specialist for Desert Snow, a leading interdiction training firm based in Guthrie, Okla., whose founders also created Black Asphalt.

Hain’s book calls for “turning our police forces into present-day Robin Hoods.”

Evidently we’re all fair game now, according to Deputy Hain.

Here are Part 2 and Part 3.

As I often say, RTWT.

And when you have time, pay a visit to the IJ’s EndForfeiture site.


Update (9/22/14):

Here’s an editorial by John Yoder and Brad Cates (both former directors of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office) that appeared in The Washington Post on September 18th. My emphasis below.

Government self-interest corrupted a crime-fighting tool into an evil

Last week, The Post published a series of in-depth articles about the abuses spawned by the law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture. As two people who were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department in the 1980s, we find it particularly painful to watch as the heavy hand of government goes amok. The program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.

Asset forfeiture was conceived as a way to cut into the profit motive that fueled rampant drug trafficking by cartels and other criminal enterprises, in order to fight the social evils of drug dealing and abuse. Over time, however, the tactic has turned into an evil itself, with the corruption it engendered among government and law enforcement coming to clearly outweigh any benefits.

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What he said (4)

August 24, 2014

Jeff sends a link to this post by Kevin Williamson at NR’s The Corner. (It’s the whole post, since it’s not easily excerpted.)

In the Wrong Business, Part 247

The school board of Centinela Valley Union High School District in Los Angeles County is firing its superintendent, Jose Fernandez.

He was paid $750,000 a year. 

That’s three-quarters of a million dollars a year — not to manage some sprawling big-city school system (which would be questionable enough) but to oversee five schools and an independent-study program in the suburbs. 

But not to worry: He was previously paid only about a half-million a year. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “Fernandez’s unusually high compensation was in part the result of a one-time payout of $230,000 he used to increase his pension credits, which would give him a higher annual pension upon his retirement.”

So they were paying him an outrageous sum of money today in order to pay him an even more outrageous sum in the future.

These thieves are why we’re broke.

Amen, brother.

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