Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kurmudkin's 5 Predictions for 2014

It's been a fast paced end to 2013 in Washington with a long term budget deal and the beginning of the end of Quantitative Easing. Let's make some predictions on what will become of the items that we touch on regularly. Who knows, I may come to be the next clairvoyant!

1. American Care Act/ObamaCare - The Administration Predicted about 3 million people would sign up through the exchanges by the December 15th, December 23rd, December 24th Deadline. And they appear to be well on track of a million short of that goal, and the grand total by the end of the open enrollment period was expected to be 9 million enrolled by the end of open enrollment in March. Regardless of the 5 million plus people who lost their insurance as a result of the ACA. Prediction: Total enrollment including State exchanges will be around 7 million, leaving a very modest 2 million people more covered in 2014 then in 2013, dropping the uninsured percentage in America from 15% to 14.3%. Making it glaringly obvious that this was all worth it.

2. Midterm Elections - Despite more grandstanding over the ACA and Debt Ceiling, some level of spin will permeate the population and help avoid any significant losses for the Democrats. The old tried and true method of creating a national narrative painting Republicans as obstructionists and beating the drum of wage inequality will result in only a few seats gained in the Senate, the caucus will be split 50-50, giving Biden the tipping power to leave the senate in a Democrat Majority. The House will net very little change and still be held with a large Republican Majority.

3. The Economy - One of the very few good things about the budget agreement coming out of congress this past month is a degree of certainty, and since the fed has agreed to continue to spend like a drunken sailor for a least a little while longer, I think this frustratingly slow economy will resume the coarse it;s on. 3.5% GDP growth on the year, Unemployment will get down to a 6.1%, the Dow will break 17000, maybe even kiss 18000 at some point for a short while. Google stock will get to about 1800 a share but Apple will begin a slight slide this year.

4. Oscar Buzz - I don;t understand the first thing about the criteria that makes one movie win an academy award over the other, so my only bold prediction here is that whatever movie wins the best picture award will earn less then $100 million at the box office.

5. Sporting World - Broncos will win the Super Bowl, Dodgers will win the World Series, The Thunder will win the NBA finals, and nobody cares about Hockey.

See you all in 365 days to see how I did, see you then (and hopefully several times in between!)

Bonus Prediction: This Blog will clear the 21,000 page view mark.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Kurmudkin's Top 10 of 2013

What better and more practical way is there to reflect on the past year and the year to come then with a cadre of top 10 lists. All this week I'm going to strain the old brain to come up with some off the cuff lists that you won;t find anywere else. And what better way to kick off a list of unique lists then one that focuses soley on me! Here to kick of the year in review is a top 10 list of Blog posts based on number of hits and likes from my very own blog.

10. Meanwhile, Back at the White House - 4/15/13 - While showing solidarity in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings, Congress and the White House passed, at neck breaking speeds, legislation that removed a near unanimously passed law for themselves to disclose personal financial data that was relevant to the laws that they passed. The irony that this was signed into law on tax day was not lost on me.

9. The NSA makes me as Mad as... - 8/16/13 - Where I try to liken the contempt I hold for the NSA and their domestic 'Information Gathering' enterprise with comparisons to nudity in films and Rodeo Clowns.

8. From My Cold Dead Hands - 1/18/13 - Reflecting on the Sandy Hook Tragedy and one of the early attempts in 2013 for the President to simply create law with little regard for the whole process of debating and passing a law first.

7. Feel Good News Stories - 4/22/13 - It's not all pessimism and angry grandstanding on this blog. Once in a while we look at the better side of human nature, usually to the personal benefit of my blood pressure.

6. Paying Bills the Government Way - 8/15/13 - After years of records breaking debt and defecits, the federal debt magically stopped growing for several months. Hmmm...... 

5. Practice What You Preach - 6/19/13 - A rare hat tip to certain members of congress for requiring themselves to enter the Obamacare program just like the rest of the country. Only to discover that they will still receive a 70+% discount and have plans offered in the D.C. Healthcare exchanges exclusive to capitol hill.

4. White House Scandals Explained. - 5/14-13 - Spoiler alert, it's zombies!

3. What Was She Thinking? - 11/1/13 - A review of one of the many infamous misstatements of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sabelius. In this hearing before congress, Ms. Sabelius states she would be breaking the law if she entered Obamacare. 

2. Poll: Who is to Blame for the Government Shutdown? - 9/27/13 - Trying to get a feel for where readers of this blog find that fault of why barricades were being placed in front of national monuments. The results favored heavily towards the White House and Congressional Democrats. Despite my personal bias that the American People need to make better decisions come election season.

1. A Race to the Bottom - 10/3/13 - I don;t know if there is a better, all encompassing, tagline for what happened in pop culture and politics in 2013. The article is a response to a gut wrenching answer Senator Harry Reid gave to a question from the media not only is a display of utter contempt held by many in Washington, but is a fantastic display of utter hypocrisy. The other line in his response that didn't get enough attention at the time was "What this is all about it Obamacare, they are obsessed, I don't know what other word I can use... It's working now, and it will continue to work and people will love it even more then they do now by far." Note that this was said the day after Healthcare.gov launched and was unraveling before their eyes.

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog and making it worth my time to spew the occasional thought or political slander.

Friday, December 20, 2013

T'was a Leftist Christmas

T’was the night before the 25th, and no celebration would occur,
No lights or nativities, less we offend our neighbor.
Into the chimney went our Duck Dynasty gear,
In hopes that Phil Robertson would soon be off the air.

The children were shivering huddled together like a flock,
While a heating oil subsidy lay stuck in congressional deadlock.
And me in my Snuggie, and my wife in her blouse,
We counted our blessings, that a Democrat was in the White House.

When out in the communal square, there arose such a clatter.
We immediately called the authorities, I entrusted them to see what was the matter.
Away from the window, I hid ‘til it was done.
For I had no form of protection, last week I handed over my gun.

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Away! Before the IRS audit’s us all!"

PETA would through a tantrum, as I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
I drew in a breath, If he were to fall how would he fare?
But down the chimney came St Nic, he must have Cadillac healthcare.

He was chubby from drinking Coke, Mayor Bloomberg would throw a fit.
And I laughed when I saw him, perhaps I’m prejudice a bit.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
I knew this wasn’t another Benghazi, I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but I watch Fox News,
It was what he didn’t say, those were dog whistles he’d use,
Then he lay his finger on the lips of his face,
The universal signal that the NSA had bugged the place!

He sprang to his sleigh, and left me with the thought,
Perhaps it’s not from Santa, I should fear being caught,
Then I heard him exclaim, much to the left’s ire,
"Merry Christmas to all, and the President’s a liar!”


Friday, December 13, 2013

Board of Shadowy Figures

The secret board of shadowy figures is in session. And it appears that our current President is pushing for a Sith like power grab that, among other things, would form a super-international law the supersedes our own.

Earlier this week, leaked memos with the contents of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) highlighted issues still being disputed among trade representatives from the 12 countries including the United States. There was a hope that these negotiations would come to fruition before the end of the year, but lucky for us they are moving at the speed of a bunch of politicians trying to work together and presently don't appear to be ready to meet their U.S. imposed end of year deadline.

Even failing to meet this penciled in deadline is not stopping these negotiations. One can only hope that the added time will allow more media attention and scrutiny towards what is happening. Everyone from Ed Shultz to Alex Jones is speaking out against these talks. Rep. Alan Grayson is one of a few members of congress that was granted access to review at least some notes from these negotiations and he summarized the whole thing by saying "What this amounts to is giving away our sovereignty as Americans in exchange for nothing."

We have only seen a small portion of the areas that these talks encompass, the proverbial tip of the iceberg if you will, but among these issues include giving extra authority to corporations and non-governmental organizations, similar to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. delegation’s continued push of this Titanic of a law to allow greater powers under new international laws has been a source of conflict among many of the other countries. One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language (also apparently insisted upon by the U.S. government), which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run 'third party' international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. In layman's terms, we would allow an internationally appointed power to potentially change and alter U.S. trade law, and you thought the bureaucracy of the federal courts was bad. Using this approach to resolve copyright and patient infringing would be like giving a local mob boss a tank to collect the $100 the guy down the street owes you. There's no real guarantee that the $100 will make it's way back to you, and now another guy in the neighborhood has a tank.

Other points of conflict that remain certain include environmental protections, labor standards, financial regulation, and intellectual property rights that many groups say would undermine some of our basic freedoms. These regulations also include criminalizing unintentional infringements on copyright, increasing patents on medicine from 17 to 20 years, which could lead to higher prescription drug costs and provisions that could undermine climate control regulations in the U.S.. Largely, what these new rules are difficult to gleam because we don’t know due to the almost all-encompassing secrecy that prevails over the negotiation process. From what I can see, the only up side is for corporations interested in either moving operations to lower income countries to lower their costs, or companies interested in suing everyone over intellectual property infringements.

The part I have trouble putting my finger on is the motivation of this administration. While secrecy remains about the majority of the TPP, President Obama continues to push for Fast Track Authority. Fast Track would grant him significant powers and allow him to railroad TPP through Congress without a committee hearing, amendments, and limited debate time. Because if there is any way to ensure that congress passes a well thought out piece of legislation, it's by having them pass it before they even have time to read the thing.

It makes one wonder the motivation for something that seems against our countries interest in so many ways, to be held in secrecy by a President who has vowed to be the most transparent administration, that would lay the groundwork for jobs to be shipped overseas easier than ever, that seems to be getting the largest amount of resistance from his own party, what could be his motivation? As someone whose life was shaken up pretty hard in my youth when NAFTA became law, I take offense to the idea that free trade has any true benefit. Our trade deficit has grown between Canada and Mexico from almost a perfect even to over $150 Billion in not our favor.

Let's put on our tinfoil hats as we wait and see what kind of international law results from these secretive meetings. Let's watch as our leaders tell us we're crazy for thinking or believing that there is a secret board of shadowy figures at the same time they are meeting in closed sessions. Let us marvel as the richest country keeps doing everything thing we can to throw our money on a trade ship heading towards other countries. Let us hope that whatever motivations are moving the President to pursue this path in this aggressive manner is not taking root with the majority of congress when the brief window for them to do something about it arrives.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Government Can't Show Regulatory Restraint (Again)

"Have fun at the party, be home by 10!"
"But mom, you said I could stay out until Midnight!"
"I changed my mind, deal with it!"
-Conversation between me and my mom, circa 1998.

Federal agencies wield tremendous power. That is why it is considered important that Federal rule-making procedures are important t o allow the federal government to hold these agencies accountable to the public. The way they decide to interpret and enforce federal law through rules and regulations has significant ramifications for the affected parties, whether individuals, business owners or state and local governments. These federal rules have the effect of law, but those who develop them are not elected. The only way average citizens can impact the process is through the federal law, called the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), mandating that agencies solicit public comments before instituting a new rule.

In 2008, there where well documented letters from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that areas called 'mixing zones' (area where unacceptable levels of pollutants where diluted to acceptable levels before being put back into a water system) were allowed with the proper over sight from either the state permitting party of the EPA itself as long as, ultimately, what was going back into rivers and streams followed regulations and were used with appropriate oversight. However, in 2011, the EPA took it upon itself to change course and ban this practice all together. Bypassing the process set our in the APA. The restrictions are expensive for city and county governments and, consequently, for local taxpayers.

Recently, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit called foul and invalidated the EPA’s action on procedural grounds. The appeals court decided the agency changed its policy without public notice and without seeking public comment, as required by law. Now, the EPA says it will accept the slap on the wrist decision only in the 8th Circuit. It will not enforce the new rules in the states in the 8th Circuit. The agency will continue to enforce its guidance on waste-water treatment as if it were a formal rule, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, in the rest of the country.

This is a classic, almost cliche example of what people mean when they talk about a runaway bureaucracy in government. One has to hold on to their tin hats pretty hard to keep up with the amount of arm flapping I'm conveying here. They changed the rules without either an act of congress or even following their own set rules and procedures. They got caught, and now they are only correcting this error only in the place where they got caught, but proceed to do whatever they want everywhere else. These mixing zones are nasty places that the public and wildlife need to stay clear of, no one is disputing that, but sometimes that is the best way to prevent the by products of civilization from causing harm to a larger swath of area and made good economic sense at the time of their construction. If you need to change the rules, just like in any other part of government, you need to debate the issue and allow for public feedback, and allow time for the changes to take place.

These decisions have consequences, a waste water treatment facility upgrade could be a multi-million dollar investment for some areas when a mixing pool has done the intended job satisfactorily for years. Not to mention the whole 'unelected officials running our lives' argument. Don't let people tell you your coo-coo for complaining about runaway regulatory power. It's happened here, it's happened before, and it will continue to happen.

These rules are in place for good reason. These agencies are charged with regulating very far reaching and encompassing items like the environment, trade, and these rules are meant to keep the public involved and informed of major decision-making and hold agencies accountability for their actions. As Americans, we pride ourselves on setting and following the rule of law. An agency that flouts the law undermines public trust in government and erodes our strength as a country.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Every Time You Point Your Finger

Since it is a well known fact that Obama is infallible and not capable of making mistakes, the only possible explanation for the error-riden Healthcare.gov website debacle is that someone else is trying to do harm to the great and noble experiment called Obama-Care. Get your blacklists ready, 'cause we're taking names of all the people that obviously need to shoulder the responsibility for this law, that was passed with the noblest of intentions after weeks of painstaking debate and compromise. This list is filled with all the groups of people that have had the finger of accusation pointed at them. Each accusation is clearly cited though some of these may still make you go 'really?' or even laugh out loud, but all groups are being put on notice.

Insurance Companies - It's those dirty crooks, they could have been taking your money the whole time, but decided since it wouldn't "fulfill their policy holder's legal requirement" to be covered for that they would greedily just stop offering their coverage that would have incurred a fine anyway.

Republicans - Those bastards knew, they knew and they did nothing but try and stop this train wreck from occurring in the first place 30+ pathetic times.

The Tea Party - Even worse then the GOP. We know they knew 'cause they kept telling us what was in the law because these are the only bastards that read it. They had to of known that we don't believe anything that comes out of their mouths and that's why they kept telling us.

Fox News -From Sean Hannity to Sarah Palin, how where we supposed to get this thing implemented while the free press keeps asking all these nagging questions like 'Why does this cost so much?' and 'why isn't it lowering anyone premiums?'

Software Coding - With all it's elaborate functions and variables and hypertext. How is anyone supposed to be able to understand what....

if (window.opener != null && !window.opener.closed) { var txtName = window.opener.document.getElementById("txtName"); txtName.value = document.getElementById("ddlNames").value


Christians - You fear the wrath of some invisible man but you can't find enough forbearance in you to shut up and take it from a real life flesh and blood politician?

The Media - Obviously separate from Faux News. But seemingly still in cahoots with this group of people that expect questions to have answers and people who are elected to be held accountable.

Hackers - Not sure when and where they struck, but someone said that the site was highly susceptible. So we are just rolling with the idea that the sites already been hit.

The Private Sector - With their fancy 'look at me' websites like Amazon and Kayak. Just like the wealthy, it's so easy to have nice things when you already have nice things. Someone should really just give us nice things so it's all fair.

Koch Brothers - Bring up any Ed Shultz clip and I can prove to you how evil these makers of Bounty and other day to day household items are. Seriously, any Ed Shultz Clip.

The House Oversight Committee - You spend a few hundred million dollars on a chunk of software that can't even play a game tic-tac-toe to a draw, and suddenly everyone starts freaking out that maybe the government isn't spending it's time and resources wisely.

Young People - To paraphrase our preceding President, "They are either with us or they are right wing racist nut jobs that have been indoctrinated by the misinformation and hate speech of the vast right wing conspiracy."

And of course, when all other scapegoats fail, there is always zombies to blame it on. Or perhaps the Secret Society of Republican Ninjas has struck again! Regardless, one thing is perfectly clear, it is not the fault of this President. Of course in order to accept this you have to dismiss who conceived, campaigned for, and managed the entire thing for the last 5 years. Luckily, these are not important aspects of legislation.