Monday, December 31, 2012

Occupy Baby Daddy and Baby Mama had weapons and explosives in their Greenwich Village apartment

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12/31/12, "Greenwich Village couple busted with cache of weapons, bombmaking explosives: sources," NY Post, Schram, Antenucci, McNulty

"The privileged daughter of a prominent city doctor, and her boyfriend — a Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street activist have been busted for allegedly having a cache of weapons and a bombmaking explosive in their Greenwich Village apartment.

Morgan Gliedman — who is nine-months pregnant — and her baby daddy, Aaron Greene, 31, also had instructions on making bombs, including a stack of papers with a cover sheet titled, “The Terrorist Encyclopedia,’’ sources told The Post yesterday.

People who know Greene say his political views are “extreme,” the sources said.

Cops found the stash in the couple’s West Ninth Street home Saturday when they went there to look for Gliedman, 27, who was wanted for alleged credit-card theft.

A detective discovered a plastic container with seven grams of a white chemical powder called HMTD, which is so powerful, cops evacuated several nearby buildings.

Police also found a flare launcher, which is a commercial replica of a grenade launcher; a modified 12 gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun; ammo; and nine high-capacity rifle magazines, the sources said."...via Free Republic


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National Journal hosted dinner for 'renewable energy industry leaders' and Beltway insiders, National Journal owner says revenues from crony dinners necessary because 'economic foundation of journalism' has fallen away

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On November 14, 2012 UK Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg wrote that Obama was going to "take personal charge of climate change" which she termed an "existential crisis." She then spoke of a recent dinner hosted by National Journal for "leaders in the renewable industry." Apparently media outlets like National Journal routinely get insiders together and charge corporations to have dinner and discuss mutual interests off the record. Conversation is moderated by a Beltway journalist. In this case the interested parties were after more US taxpayer billions for "existential" non-existent CO2 terror. Following an excerpt about the dinner from Ms. Goldenberg below is a 2009 Politico article about how National Journal owner sees revenues from these dinners replacing journalism's failed business model. It's fine if you think reinforcing Beltway cronyism is the way to go. National Journal is part of Atlantic Media owned by David Bradley:


11/14/12, UK Guardian: "At a dinner last week for leaders in the renewable energy industry, 

hosted by the National Journal,

the retired general Wesley Clark argued that a climate change agenda could not advance without Obama's personal intervention.

Obama, he told the dinner, needed a strategy. "There is no substitute for White House leadership. The president can't simply throw this to Congress," he said....

Clark went on: "He's got not only to have a megaphone at the top, but he's got to have local amplifiers out there."...

"Barack Obama claimed climate change as a personal mission of his second term on Wednesday, offering for the first time to take charge of the effort to find a bipartisan solution 

to the existential crisis."...

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7/6/2009, "David Bradley defends Atlantic Media's exclusive 'salons'," Politico, Michael Calderone

"Atlantic Media publisher David Bradley on Monday issued a full-throated defense of the kind of off-the record, corporate-sponsored "salons" that last week ensnared The Washington Post in controversy, arguing that they are both a source of revenue "and advance a legitimate purpose for a media organization —  

promoting debate and discussion."

In a highly personal 1,500-word letter published on the Hotline, Bradley wrote that Atlantic Media has been hosting sponsored 
salon dinners for more than six years, and he doesn't "believe that any one of these events had any of the ill intention or effect that some have attributed to The Washington Post concept."

"But," Bradley continued, "we live on a street too close to the brush fire to pretend no interest."

That brush fire was ignited Thursday, following POLITICO’s reporting on a flier sent out by the Post's business side which sought underwriters for off-the-record dinners at the home of publisher Katharine Weymouth. 

A July 21 dinner, according to the flier aimed at lobbyists, would allow the sponsor to sit down alongside the Post's publisher, executive editor Marcus Brauchli, Post health care reporters, Obama administration officials and members of Congress.

That same day, reacting to what the paper's ombudsman described as a public relations "disaster," Weymouth cancelled the planned series. On Sunday, she apologized in a letter to Post readers, and earlier today announced that the paper's general counsel would "review recent events to make sure that our business processes are consistent with, and will not in any way compromise, our journalism." 

But Bradley said he had no intention of distancing himself from the dinners. "From some of our earliest events, I have been part of the thinking behind this work. I've approved many sponsored dinners personally, set out my own invitations, hosted some dinners at my house, welcomed the sponsors in my remarks, and written thank you notes to those involved. I am part of this work. Openly." 

By Bradley's account, the dinners have been attended by 2,000 guests, who have included "journalists from virtually all major networks, national magazines and newspapers." 

If anything, the Post was a late entrant to what a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist, in addition to Atlantic Media, have found to be a lucrative source of income. Bradley described that 

revenue as a 

legitimate justification for the salons at a time when 

"the economic foundation beneath journalism is falling away."

"The imperative," he said, "is to rebuild journalism on different financial pillars. One of them, and not inconsequential to us, is events — of all types." 

Atlantic has been particularly aggressive in staging events, the most famous of which, the Aspen Ideas Festival, was under way last week when the controversy over the Post's proposed dinners first began. 

Some of the dinners he has hosted are, Bradley said, "for my own interest and my own account," a reference to a series of off-the-record evenings with newsmakers he has held for a select group of prominent Washington reporters. Those are different, he said, from the dinners that have corporate sponsors, which usually have about 30 participants, including members of Congress and administration officials, and follow a prescribed format.

The sponsored dinners, he said, "usually run about two and a half hours. If I am there, I give welcoming remarks and thank the sponsor. Most of the time, the sponsor responds with his or her own welcoming remarks. Then, and for the remainder, our moderator — typically an Atlantic Media editor or writer, though sometimes a journalist from another enterprise — 
directs the whole table in conversation. There is no constraint placed on either the moderator or our guests as to the questions raised or the opinions expressed."

In their effort to distance themselves from the flier promoting the salon at Weymouth's home, Post executives said they would never have agreed to making the dinners off-the-record, meaning that nothing said could be used in a news story. But Bradley has no such qualms about his dinners.

They are always off-record, he said, because "there is a great deal of constructive conversation that can take place only with the 
promise that no headline is being written." He also emphasized that while corporate sponsors will have input into the dinner, Atlantic Media has the final say in the topics and guest list.
 
Still, corporate clients clearly help set the agenda.

Atlantic spokesperson Zachary Hooper told Talking Points Memo on Monday that "the corporate sponsor comes to us and says, 'We're interested in having a discussion on a certain topic.'" And some corporate sponsors, TPM reported, have included AstraZeneca ("Healthcare Access and Education”); Microsoft (“Global Trade”), G.E. ("Energy Sustainability and the Future of Nuclear Power"); Allstate ("The Future of the American City"); and Citi ("The Challenge of Global Markets"). 

When asked by TPM, Hooper declined to comment on how much a corporation pays to sponsor an event, so it is unclear if the Atlantic asks anywhere in the $25,000 to $250,000 range described in the Post's flier that advertised for underwriting opportunities. Both Weymouth and Brauchli have said the flier wasn't vetted by the newsroom.

The Post, like most newspaper companies, is struggling to create a revenue stream to help fill the gap left by print advertising drying up and circulation dropping. And Weymouth back in December told staffers that the paper was considering hosting "specialized conferences for business decision makers with a stake in Washington policymaking." 

Despite the Post's cancelling its series, Weymouth said she plans to go forward with private events, explaining in a staff memo:

"We do believe that there is a viable way to expand our expertise into live conferences and events that simply enhances what we do — cover Washington for Washingtonians and those interested in Washington. And we will begin to do live events in ways that enhance our reputation and in no way call into question our integrity.""

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5/5/2010, "High Tide at 'The Atlantic,'" The Observer, Felix Gillette

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11/14/12, "Obama vows to take personal charge of climate change in second term," UK Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg

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6/4/12, “Climate change stunner: USA leads world in CO2 cuts since 2006,” Vancouver Observer, Saxifrage
 



 

 “Not only that, but as my top chart shows, US CO2 emissions are falling even faster than what President Obama pledged in the global Copenhagen Accord.”…


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"Virtually everyone believes the shift (CO2 drop) could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.”…
 
8/16/12, “AP IMPACT: CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low,” AP, Kevin Begos
 


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Following from National Journal CO2 terror cheerleader and climate science denier Coral Davenport:

12/30/12, "Arnold Schwarzenegger: Terminator, Body-Builder, and Global Leader on Climate-Change," National Journal, Coral Davenport

"If the United States ever enacts a major climate-change law, it will owe a debt to Arnold Schwarzenegger.   


Strange as it sounds, the Austrian-born bodybuilder, former California governor, and movie star has flexed more legislative muscle on climate change than President Obama--who ran for office on the promise of curbing sea level rise and creating millions of green jobs--and Al Gore, the former vice president who won a Nobel Prize for his advocacy on climate change." 

 

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4 federal court cases challenging ObamaCare received favorable rulings in Dec. 2012. The media didn't tell you about them, they only told you about Hobby Lobby

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12/31/12, "MSM Gives Us the Mushroom Treatment on HHS Mandate," American Spectator, David Catron 

"The media are keeping us in the dark on Obamacare’s legal woes and feeding us Hobby Lobby."

"In December, there were five federal court decisions relating to Obamacare. Chances are, however, that you will have heard about only one of them....

The irony here is that Justice Sotomayor’s Hobby Lobby opinion was utterly predictable and, in the long run, probably far less significant than any of the other four decisions. The Wheaton College ruling was not merely a rebuke for the lower court, which naively dismissed the lawsuit last August based on a non-binding government promise “to revise the mandate to accommodate some religious institutions before it goes into effect,” it demolished an argument that the Justice Department has been making in all the anti-mandate lawsuits.

The Obama administration has been arguing, in the many lawsuits it is fighting over the HHS mandate, that the plaintiffs have no standing to sue because they have not yet been injured by the contraception rule, and that HHS apparatchiks are revising it to make it fairer. But federal judges are increasingly reluctant to accept that line of reasoning. As U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan phrased it in his decision involving the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, “There is no ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”

The most recent victory against HHS and its egregious anti-conscience mandate came last Friday, when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction preventing the government from enforcing the mandate against an Illinois company called Korte & Luitjohan Contractors. And it delivers a potentially deadly blow to the administration’s most pernicious argument — that secular, for‐profit employers are not entitled to the same First Amendment protections enjoyed by strictly religious institutions like churches.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, also represents a company called American Pulverizer. Upon securing a similar injunction for that company’s owners on December 20, ACLJ issued a statement that neatly sums up the effect of the HHS edict: 

“By January 1, 2013, at the latest, Paul and Henry Griesedieck face a stark and unavoidable choice: abandon their beliefs in order to stay in business, or abandon their businesses in order to stay true to their beliefs.”

The ACLJ isn’t the only public interest law firm fighting the HHS mandate. Another leader is the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Wheaton College in its recent victory. The Becket Fund, a law firm “dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians,” also represents Hobby Lobby. But, despite media insinuations to the contrary, this is no group of fundamentalist lightweights. The Becket Fund was behind the landmark 9-0 Supreme Court victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC.

And, unlike most of the media, Becket’s general counsel puts the Sotomayor opinion in perspective: “The Supreme Court merely decided not to get involved in the case at this time. It left open the possibility of review after their appeal is completed in the Tenth Circuit.” So, why have the “news” media made such a big deal of the Hobby Lobby ruling while virtually ignoring the other December decisions? The answer is obvious. That the Obama Justice Department batted one-for-five in December is not to be advertized.

In their ongoing effort to emulate Pravda, the media are doing their best to prop up Obama administration propaganda. Just as they exaggerated anything resembling good news about the economy during the run-up to the recent election, they are now echoing the administration’s talking points on Obamacare and the HHS mandate. The party line on the “Affordable Care Act” is that it has survived all significant legal challenges and full implementation is inevitable. Stories that don’t fit that line don’t get past the editor.

Thus, we get thousands of stories about the Sotomayor opinion with headlines that suggest it constitutes the demise of all serious challenges to the HHS mandate. Meanwhile, we see and hear almost nothing about 80 percent of the rulings handed down by federal courts during the same month on the same issue. But the lawsuits continue to plod forward. Moreover, the HHS mandate is by no means the only provision of Obamacare still being litigated. 

And the utterly corrupt MSM does not get the final word on any of these lawsuits. Thank God." via Lucianne


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Listening to Mark Levin show Dec. 20, 2012, a night to remember with guests Jim Jordan, Louis Gohmert, and Tim Scott

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12/28/12, "Mark Levin Audience Helped Defeat Boehner Plan B," Jeffrey Lord, American Spectator

"The Boehner Tax increase he called it. After weeks of taking on Republican House Speaker John Boehner over Boehner’s insistence on trying to make a deal over taxes with President Obama, by the night of December 20 — as House Republicans were being pounded by the GOP leadership to vote that very night for Boehener’s “Plan B” — the backlash dam finally broke on Mark Levin’s radio show.

As we wait for the “fiscal cliff” negotiations to resume at the White House, it’s worth going back to the evening of December 20 to note something that was overlooked as the Christmas holiday overtook the news on the defeat — by House Republicans — of Boehner’s Plan B.

As Levin’s show went live at 6pm Eastern, he opened with a sharp, passionate look at Republicans on the verge of rejecting longtime conservative principle — not to mention basic economics — by raising taxes.

His first guest was Ohio's Rep. Jim Jordan the outgoing head of the Republican Study Committee and one of the few Republicans who was fearless in his open opposition to fellow Ohioan Boehner. Jordan made plain his opposition to the Boehner tax increase proposal, saying Republicans should never “cross the line” in opposing economic growth, and called opposing tax increases a defining principle for Republicans as to “who we are.”

“Now it’s all about the Speaker,” remarked Levin after Jordan departed to return to the floor, citing with disdain multiple reports of Boehner loyalists insisting “we can’t embarrass the Speaker.”

Then, watching the Fox coverage from his broadcasting bunker, Levin braced his audience for learning of House Republicans who were on the verge of abandoning principle, 

saying what was unfolding “turns my stomach.”
        
“If they want to talk like liberals — and they do — then get the hell off the stage.”
The answer to all this Levin said, in response to his first caller, 

is not in Washington.

Then the drama ratcheted upwards. Levin, through his own contacts on Capitol Hill, broke the news that House Republicans were being threatened with losing their committee seats if they didn’t support Boehner’s Plan B. And he also broke the news that Boehner had scheduled an emergency Conference meeting.

Levin launched again -– and said this:

“Call your member of your Congress now.”

He called for “an official Levin surge” — and read out the number (202-224-2131) for the House switchboard, asking his audience to call the switchboard and ask to be put through to their GOP House members and make their disagreement with Plan B known loud and clear.

He recounted the tale of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor insisting the GOP Leadership had the votes —  and said it was now plain that Cantor was lying.

More information streamed into Levin from his own sources, which he immediately broadcast to his audience of millions, saying there were now threats to subcommittee chairmanships if House GOP members didn’t support the Speaker.

“Are you proud of Boehner, ladies and gentlemen?” Levin asked his audience of the threats against GOP members. Adding: “We don’t have to accept this.” He read out the phone number again, saying “we ought to kick up a little dust.”

All this interspersed with the usual of talk radio — callers and commercials. But as soon as they halted for a minute, Levin kept up the pace. Then word arrives: callers from Levin’s show had shut down the House switchboard.

So…he came up with e-mail addresses.

Insisting all the while that he had no illusions as to whether this would work — he made the point again and again that it had to be tried anyway.

Then still more drama.

You can stop calling, he tells his audience. Levin breaks the news that Boehner had suddenly pulled Plan B from the floor — and read Boehner’s concession statement on the air.

It was stunning, both as talk radio and as news. Boehner, Levin accurately noted, had bullied rather than try to lead his fellow GOP members.

The House leadership wasn’t “clever enough” to pull this off, Levin said. He went on to note that there were millions of conservatives who hadn’t voted for Romney in November — for precisely reasons like those Boehner had made to pass his Plan B.

Fresh from all of this, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert — a leader in fighting this nonsense — called in. His tone was measured, decidedly not triumphant. This was about the Constitution, said Gohmert, calling for using the constitutional process of having the House pass a bill, the Senate taking the bill and making their own changes, then sending it to a House-Senate conference open to the public. This was what should be done, said Gohmert, 

instead of having Boehner and Obama negotiating behind closed doors.

In other words, this entire episode — caused by too much spending — should be resolved by following the Constitution.

Gohmert was followed by South Carolina Congressman Tim Scott — in the headlines for being appointed to succeed the retiring Senator Jim DeMint.

After Scott departed, Levin told his audience he had now obtained from a source an inside list of the thirteen House GOP members who publicly bucked Boehner mere moments earlier to vote against the rule allowing Plan B to come to the floor — 

reading the names aloud one by one.

Boehner failed, Levin concluded, “because of people like you.” Which is to say, his audience. Regular rank and file Americans had jumped into the middle of this thing themselves — and they had succeeded.

The show ended with Levin saying if the House GOP leadership didn’t step down they should at a minimum get their act together. 

We intend to stand here and be heard,” he vowed of his audience at the close, with a thanks to “the Levin Surge.”
Exactly.

The entire show, found here, was a stunning display of grassroots Americans standing up to Washington insiders in real time — and winning.

One suspects Obama’s second term will not be the picnic his supporters envision. Clearly, Boehner’s speakership — if it continues — won’t be a picnic either.

Not if Mark Levin and his audience have anything to say about it." via Instapundit

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Ed. note: I was lucky enough to be listening to Mr. Levin's show that night. Jeffrey Lord the author of the above piece may be in a position to know more about what went on behind the scenes. Many things amazed me about Mr. Levin's show that night. It was all low key, no fanfare. When his guests came on it flowed as naturally as if we were all sitting in a coffee shop talking. Tim Scott said we're not talking about the right thing, we should be talking about spending. Mr. Levin had immediate information, again without fanfare.

Most of the time we're ignored (by both Republicans and Democrats). If we're acknowledged at all we're ridiculed. That's why this night was so special for those of in the Silent Majority. Even if nothing more comes of it, for one night we were heard. Obama's second term will still be a picnic. He has nothing to worry about.


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Wind turbines found to last half as long as previously thought, UK study of 3000 turbines found avg. life 12 yrs.

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12/30/12, "Wind turbines 'last for half as long as previously thought' as study shows they show signs of wearing out after just 12 years," UK Daily Mail, Tamara Cohen

"Wind farms have just half the useful lifespan which has been claimed, according to new research which found they start to wear out after just 12 years.

A study of almost 3,000 turbines in Britain – the largest of its kind – sheds doubt on manufacturers claims that they generate clean energy for up to 25 years, 

which is used by the Government to calculate subsidies.

Professor Gordon Hughes, an economist at Edinburgh University and former energy advisor to the World Bank, predicts in the coming decade far more investment will be needed to replace older and ineffective turbines – which is likely to be passed on in higher household electricity bills.

He said the performance of the UK’s wind turbines over the past 11 years had ‘deteriorated markedly’ and that ‘the subsidy regime is extremely generous if investment in new wind farms is profitable despite the decline in performance due to age and over time.’...

For offshore windexamined only in Denmark where it has been used for longer - it declined even more dramatically from over 40 per cent at the start, to just 15 per cent after ten years.
 
He believes they become uneconomic after around 12 years. The decline in output was put down to wear and tear of the blades, and more frequent breakdowns for older turbines.

His report for the anti-wind farm charity the Renewable Energy Foundation (KEEP), noted: ‘Onshore wind turbines represent a relatively mature technology, which ought to have achieved a satisfactory level of reliability in operation as plants age. Unfortunately detailed analysis of the relationship between age and performance gives a rather different picture…’

Prof Hughes told the Sunday Telegraph the trend for larger wind turbines in Britain, which reach up to 400feet tall in some areas increased wear and tear.

He added: ‘I strongly believe the bigger turbines are proving more difficult to manage and more likely to interfere with one another.’ He said the data was verified by a statistician at University College London."...

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Storm disintegrates Denmark wind turbine. uploaded Feb. 2008



------------------------------------------------

"Uploaded Dec 9, 2011, A wind turbine near Dalry and Ardrossan in North Ayrshire caught fire during Scotland's extreme weather on Dec 8th 2011. Filmed by producer and cameraman James Alcock." (:18)



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IRS issues proposed ObamaCare regulations for 'shared responsibility' of employers, such as full-time-part-time combo formulas, fines, etc.

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12/30/12, "IRS Proposes Employer Mandate Rules for Health Coverage," AccountingToday.com, Michael Cohn

"The Internal Revenue Service has issued proposed regulations on the shared responsibility for large employers to provide health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The IRS noted that employers may rely on the proposed regulations for guidance until final regulations are issued. In addition, the IRS posted a questions and answers document on its Web site Friday to explain the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions under the Affordable Care Act and the new proposed regulations.

Under the provisions, if employers do not offer affordable health coverage that provides a minimum level of health insurance coverage to their full-time employees, they may be subject to an Employer Shared Responsibility payment if at least one of their full-time employees receives a premium tax credit for purchasing individual coverage on one of the new Affordable Insurance Exchanges.

Businesses that do not provide health insurance coverage may be subject to a penalty of $2,000 per employee per year if over 30 employees are subsidized by the tax credits. Employers need to provide "affordable" coverage that does not cost a single employee over 9.5 percent of their income, although the amount may be more for family coverage.

In order to be subject to the provisions, an employer must have at least 50 full-time employees, or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that is equivalent to at least 50 full-time employees (for example, 100 half-time employees equals 50 full-time employees). 

A full-time employee is considered to be an individual employed on average at least 30 hours per week. Half-time would be 15 hours per week.

The Employer Shared Responsibility provisions generally go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, but employers will need to use information about workers they employ during 2013 to determine whether they have enough employees to be subject to the new provisions in 2014. 

In 2014, if an employer meets the 50 full-time employee threshold, the employer generally will be liable for an Employer Shared Responsibility payment only if: (a) The employer does not offer health coverage or offers coverage to less than 95 percent of its full-time employees, and at least one of the full-time employees receives a premium tax credit to help pay for coverage on an insurance exchange; or (b) the employer offers health coverage to at least 95 percent of its full-time employees, but at least one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit to help pay for coverage on an insurance exchange, which may occur because the employer did not offer coverage to that employee or because the coverage the employer offered that employee was either unaffordable to the employee or did not provide minimum value.

After 2014, the rule in part (a) applies to employers that do not offer health coverage or that offer coverage to less than 95 percent of their full time employees and the dependents of those employees.

A public hearing will be held on the proposed regulations on April 23 and is accepting written or electronic comments until March 18." via Free Republic

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 among comments
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"Obamacare is not intended to function in any way, shape or form.

Its only purpose is to create chaos and contribute to "overwhelming the system."

The more screwed-up it is, the quicker, the quicker it accomplishes its goal.

3 posted on Sunday, December 30, 2012 7:25:50 PM by E. Pluribus Unum"
 


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How Chicago and Obama globalized voter fraud

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12/30/12, "How Chicago and Obama Globalized Voter Fraud," American Thinker, Michael Bargo, Jr.

"Since 1985 Chicago has pioneered new ways to promote illegal immigration. After 1990 the illegal immigrant population in Chicago and the nation skyrocketed. As illegal immigrants flocked to Chicago, a method was needed to get them on the registered voter list. Although 80,000 illegal aliens voted in 1982, the old-fashioned way, through vote fraud; by 2005 both Cook County and the state of Illinois had moved to allow photo I.D. to be given to illegal immigrants by passing matricula consular laws.

By allowing the matricula consular to function as an official photo I.D., Illinois and Chicago can say they are conforming to any Voter ID requirement. But the Cook County law (most Illinois illegal immigrants live in Cook County) also allows the consulates of Mexico and "any other Latin American country" to issue the consular I.D.s at their discretion. In effect, Illinois has enabled foreign countries to decide who votes in U.S. elections.

In 1983 an alien born in Belize stated to the Chicago Tribune that he and his two sisters were never required to show any identification when they registered to vote. The matricula consular enables people to reside in Illinois, and once they reside there, they need no ID to register to vote. This "globalization" of voting rights is clearly a violation of the U.S. Constitution, yet has never been challenged in any court during its ten year history

This supports the idea that Chicago's goal is to attract large numbers of undocumented residents from all countries."...via Free Republic


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Pentagon can still carry out basic functions without full civilian staff of 800,000. Commenter wonders why it keeps 800,000 civilians on payroll

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12/30/12, "Unthinkable Cuts Almost a Reality," Wall St. Journal, by Paletta, Weaver, Nissenbaum


The cuts, which members of both parties have referred to as a "meat ax," are the product of a hastily designed 2011 law that required $110 billion in annual spending reductions over nine years to reduce the deficit. Their severity, representing close to 10% of annually appropriated spending, was intended to force Democrats and Republicans to come together on a broader package of deficit-reduction measures, which would replace the cuts. That effort failed, raising the prospect of the cuts' taking place....

With a federal budget close to $3.6 trillion, $110 billion in annual cuts seems like a rounding error. But some of the largest parts of the federal budget are exempt from the cuts, including benefits under Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and interest payments on federal debt....

The law also requires a 2% cut in Medicare payments to hospitals, other health-care providers and some insurance plans, a roughly $11 billion reduction for fiscal 2013, according to an analysis by Avalere Health.

Half of the cuts would be focused on military programs, a prospect that Aerospace Industries Association President Marion Blakey said would be a "grave dereliction of duty" if it came to pass. The Pentagon has begun planning for the cuts as it would need to reduce spending on many programs by almost 10%....

The Pentagon also is considering reductions in flying hours for pilots, cutbacks in training-exercise days for the Navy, and reduced maintenance and repair for planes, ships, tanks and other military hardware, according to administration officials.

While Congress could reverse the sequester if it is triggered, federal agencies must plan as if they are going to happen, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president at the Professional Services Council, a trade group that represents government contractors. "Every week you wait, the deeper the cuts you will have to eventually make," he said." via Free Republic

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among comments:

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"When a ‘company’ can take an 800,000 cut in the workforce and still carry out basic functions, that tells me there are 800,000 too many people working for it.
Radical idea, I know...."

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"Every federal worker is begging for this to happen as they will eventually get reimbursed and therefore these will all be paid days off.
Its just like the supposed pay freeze. Sure, they freeze the pay...but then make it up by giving bigger and bigger “bonuses”. Now, after getting huge bonuses this year, Obama is giving a pay raise. Does anyone really think they will have to give the bonus back?"
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Sunday, December 30, 2012

US interest rates should be sky high to match debt, current US fiscal problem mainly due to functions of Bernanke and Geithner

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12/30/12, "Tim & Ben are the enablers," NY Post, J. Krugman

"While most are chastising Congress for not coming to an agreement on the fiscal cliff as shirking its constitutional responsibilities, the real culprits in this macabre tableau go unmentioned. Let’s take a look at the “Great Enablers,” Fed chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

You see when countries have piles of debt — and we have piles of it: $16.7 trillion and counting — interest rates should go sky-high.

The rise in rates is to compensate for the increased risk that one may not get paid back.

Think of the situation like your credit score, which goes down when you borrow more and thus raise your interest rate on all your loans.

But as Treasury wrote checks all year that it couldn’t cash, the US 10-year bond yield actually went down.

Bernanke’s Federal Reserve interfered with the markets by buying trillions in Treasury bonds. As a result, rates have been manipulated down 

so as to not accurately reflect our real economic woes. 

And thereby the pressure was removed from Washington to address its problems. 

Furthering his enabling action, Geithner chose not to focus on a plan for paying down the cheap debt. There were no weekly meetings to right this wrong.

A letter was released Wednesday night that said America has maxed out its credit once again and will hit its credit limit tomorrow — as if the problem were having a spending limit, not the size of the debt bomb....

It’s clear now — the writing is on the wall — there will be a small last-minute deal, perhaps tonight, to avert going over the cliff.

But whether this happens or not, our debt will be much larger next year than this. Perhaps Washington is waiting until the last minute only to once again kick the can down the road."


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Foreign trained doctors in UK have most suspensions and disciplines per FOIA by UK Telegraph, UK still short of doctors

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12/30/12, "Foreign doctors' training stepped up, says GMC," BBC

"Foreign doctors in the UK will face a more rigorous assessment, after figures showed a high proportion of doctors who are disciplined are from overseas.

In the last five years, 63% of doctors either struck off or suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC) were trained outside the UK.

Yet they make up only 36% of doctors on the medical register.

The GMC said new reforms included an induction programme, better checks and a review of the present testing system....

A new induction programme for all arriving doctors is due to launch as a pilot scheme in early 2013. It will combine online training in British medical practices with a one-day course covering some of the key issues facing new arrivals.
 
There will also be a review of the Performance and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test for overseas doctors.
 
This is the system whereby doctors have to demonstrate their clinical skills and competence before they can join the medical register in the UK. The GMC said there is also a new system of checks - known as revalidation - that began this month.
This requires all doctors in the UK to show they are keeping up to date and are fit to practise, based on an annual appraisal and feedback from patients, doctors, nurses and other colleagues.... 

The figures for disciplinary action were initially obtained in a Freedom of Information request to the GMC by the Sunday Telegraph.

They show that in the last five years, there have been 669 doctors either struck off or suspended, and 420 of them were trained abroad.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, British Medical Association director of professional activities, said: "It is clear that doctors who have qualified overseas are more likely to be subject to disciplinary action.

"However, more research is needed to understand why this is the case. The UK is still short of doctors and so we must ensure that those who come from overseas are given adequate support to be able to practise medicine in the UK....

Dr Umesh Prabhu, national vice-chairman of the British International Doctors Association, told the paper there were cultural differences and communication problems, rather than differences in clinical training....

Doctors from outside the EU must take rigorous language tests but there are moves to extend this so that all doctors have to prove they are fluent in English.

This follows the death of a 70-year-old who was given a fatal painkiller overdose by a German locum doctor with poor English who was working his first and only shift in the UK in 2008."



 

Wind turbine people confident $12 billion US taxpayer dollars will be confiscated and transfered to them in 2013, intense green lobby likely keeps wind away from 'cliff'

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12/28/12, "Wind power deadline sees US firms rush to build turbines," BBC

"The American Wind Energy Association are hoping the tax credit will be passed as part of a compromise package of legislation to help the US avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. The say the most likely outcome is a short term extension of the subsidy."...

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12/21/12, "$12 billion wind-energy subsidy floating over 'Fiscal Cliff'," Examiner.com, Kenric Ward

"A “temporary” multibillion-dollar federal wind-energy subsidy is sailing toward another extension, even as Washington lurches closer to the "fiscal cliff."
 
The 20-year-old Production Tax Credit, due to expire at the end of this month, is a case study in the power of green politics over free-market economics.
 
If continued in their current form, the wind subsidies will cost taxpayers an estimated $12 billion next year to keep turbines whirling....

Loris predicts a mixture of corporate rent-seeking and political grandstanding would probably keep the federal wind subsidies blowing into the new year.
 
There’s a lot of political interest invested in an extension. Republican governors in Iowa and Kansas stand to benefit, and there’s heavy lobbying going on.”
 
Last week, Democratic Govs. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and John Kitzhaber of Oregon joined a bipartisan pilgrimage to Congress, urging lawmakers to extend the credits.
 
“I wouldn’t be surprised if (the PTC) is included in a bigger budget bargain,” Loris said. “If it’s not, that’s a good sign. But I’m skeptical.”" (end of article)


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If it's anti-free market someone from the Bush crowd will sign:

5/25/10, "President Bush Speaks To The American Wind Energy Association," Treehugger

"Remember President George W. Bush? You know, the guy who wished he had a magic wand to reduce gas prices and the guy who started that oil war over there? Well, he recently addressed the American Wind Energy Association conference in Dallas and discussed wind power and our "addiction to oil." Bush seemed pleased with himself for admitting our addiction to the black gold and pronounced himself a technological determinist. The New York Times Green blog reports that Bush was feeling jocular and happy."...

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RNC is silent about vote fraud because they agreed in a 1982 court case to refrain from ballot security measures

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RNC consent decree:  http://fellowshipofminds.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/rnc-v-dnc.pdf

12/29/12, "@McConnellPress and @SpeakerBoehner — STOP," Legal Insurrection, William A. Jacobson

"What’s the rush to reach a horrible deal by December 31?
The media will be mad?  Obama will be angry?  Is a tongue lashing so worrisome that we will make a horrible deal?
Oh, but we’ll lose in 2014, you say.  No, if we raise taxes without fixing spending and entitlements, we lose right now.  What worse could happen in 2014, that Democrats will regain control of the House and vote to raise taxes without fixing spending and entitlements?"...

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Commenter following says it doesn't matter anyway because the RNC has ceded the voting booth. Links below to RNC court decision in which RNC agrees to abstain from voter fraud or ballot security efforts:

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"Subotai Bahadur | December 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm

"There is nothing to indicate that it is ever going to get better.

And given the amount of election fraud that is unremarked upon and accepted by the Institutional Republicans

http://fellowshipofminds.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/rnc-v-dnc.pdf in a consent decreee;

it is Pollyanna-ish to think that there will be any final election results that could improve the situation. 2014 is a distraction."

============================

From 3rd Circuit Appeals Court ruling link provided by commenter above:

In 1982 the RNC agreed not to engage in efforts to prevent voter fraud. Matters arising between 1982 and 2010 indicate this agreement remains firmly in place:

From Appeals Court ruling 12/13/2010, RNC v DNC


In 1982 "The RNC and RSC agreed that they would:"

page 6: "(e) refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities in polling places or election districts where the racial or ethnic composition of such districts is a factor in the decision to conduct, or the actual conduct of, such activities there and where a purpose or significant effect of such activities is to deter qualified voters from voting; and the conduct of such activities disproportionately in or directed toward districts that have a substantial proportion of racial or ethnic populations shall be considered relevant evidence of the existence of such a factor and purpose;"

page 15: "3. “Ballot security” is defined to include “any program aimed at combating voter fraud by preventing potential voters from registering to vote or casting a ballot.” Democratic Nat’l Comm., 671 F. Supp. 2d at 622. The modification also includes a non-exhaustive list of ballot security programs."

page 26: "In 1987, the RNC once again entered into a settlement stipulation, with the assistance of counsel, agreeing to modify the 1982 Decree. The Decree, as modified, clarified that “ballot security” efforts meant “ballot integrity, ballot security or other efforts to prevent or remedy voter fraud. Democratic Nat’l Comm., 671 F. Supp. 2d at 581. The modifications allow the RNC to engage in normal poll watch functions on Election Day so long as the people it deploys do not use or implement the results of any ballot security effort without a determination by the District Court that the ballot security effort complies with the provisions of the Decree and applicable law. In order to secure such a determination, the RNC must submit a description of the program to the District Court following twenty days’ notice to the DNC. Only with the District Court’s approval secured in this fashion can the RNC engage, assist, or participate in any ballot security program."

----------------------------------------

The RNC is a joke:

page 30, "The RNC also presented testimony at the evidentiary hearing before the District Court that the appointment of African-Americans as the RNC Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer decreased the likelihood that the RNC would engage in ballot security programs resulting in minority vote suppression."

page 31, footnotes: 

"13 Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the RNC from January 2009 until January 2011.
 

14 Even if the racial background of the nation’s or RNC’s leaders makes voter intimidation and suppression less likely, it is illogical to vacate the Decree due to the racial makeup of the administration of the United States or the RNC."

==========================

The judges have been so sickened by the RNC that it's unlikely they'll ever get a favorable ruling anyway:

page 59: "That the RNC has not engaged in a normal poll-watch function and has not presented a request for preclearance of a voter fraud security program that does not disproportionately target minority voters leaves open the possibility that the RNC, absent enforcement of the Decree, would not comply with the Decree terms in the future."


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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bloomberg used his massive private fortune to co-opt and silence opposition, bought whomever he needed to including public sector unions, the city's biggest voting block, no separation between his private and public machine, undermined democracy-Commentary

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March 2011, "The Bloomberg Bubble Bursts" Commentary, Siegel and Stern

"In the narrative crafted by Michael Bloomberg’s public-relations team throughout the first nine years of his mayoralty, he was the fabulously successful businessman who saved New York’s economy after the 9/11 attacks and then went on to master urban governance without breaking a sweat. Along the way, we have been told relentlessly, Bloomberg became the nation’s leading education reformer, responsible for reducing by half the black-white achievement gap, while also launching lifesaving public-health and environmental initiatives.

And through it all, so the narrative went, he remained above the ugly partisan fray. A lifelong Democrat who turned Republican to run for mayor on the cusp of his 60s, he quickly transcended both parties and established himself as a true independent. And so, his consultants hinted, the nation’s emblematic “no labels” politician might be available for the highest office in the land so that he could help repair the politically fractured nation as he has repaired New York City.

But all that was before the Christmas 2010 snowstorm, when this protean genius of 21st-century politics somehow forgot the first rule of New York City governance: the mayor must make sure the streets are cleared before he sets upon saving the world. As a powerful blizzard bore down on the city, Bloomberg, as was his weekend custom, was relaxing at his sunny Bermuda hideaway. Steven Goldsmith, a new recruit as deputy mayor for operations owing to his efforts at “reinventing government” during his own innovative mayoralty in Indianapolis in the early 1990s, was in D.C. for the weekend and declined to return. Howard Wolfson, another deputy mayor, was vacationing in London. Bloomberg’s principal deputy, Patricia Harris, was also out of town at an undisclosed location....

It is tempting to depict Michael Bloomberg’s reversal of fortune in his third term in office—a term he secured by muscling through a change in the city’s term-limits law before spending $150 million to win only 50.7 percent of the vote—with hubris metaphors drawn from classical tragedy. But this assumes there was glory before the fall. In reality, there never was greatness. There have been no lasting fiscal or education reforms.

The story of Bloomberg’s mayoralty is this: there is no there there.

It is now abundantly clear that the myth of Bloomberg’s accomplishments was the result of two forces: his own immense wealth and the city tax dollars generated by the stock-market surge of the 2000s. Both sources of revenue, private and public, were used to co-opt and silence his opposition and thereby allow the glamorized portrait of an indispensable manager and the guardian of the public purse to be drawn without countervailing criticism.

An objective accounting of Bloomberg’s tenure reveals the many ways that Bloomberg’s standing as New York’s richest citizen actually undermined New York’s democracy, even as the city’s fiscal health and essential infrastructure deteriorated.

How it began to go wrong

While running for office in 2001 and after being sworn in as mayor in 2002, Bloomberg pledged to be the quintessential managerial mayor. He promised to resolve the city’s budget difficulties without raising taxes and insisted there would be no city support for any new stadiums until the economy—suffering through a recession owing to the post-9/11 aftershock—had recovered. He also said he would negotiate new union work rules for a more efficient New York. And he insisted that he would lead the way in rebuilding Ground Zero.

Bloomberg reversed himself on each of those commitments. He ceded responsibility for the Ground Zero rebuilding to then-Governor George Pataki and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and then stayed out of it while they spectacularly mishandled every aspect of the reconstruction. Later he announced his support for a new stadium for the New York Jets on the Far West Side of Manhattan.

Because of the city’s damaged financial position in the wake of 9/11, Bloomberg reneged on his promise and instead proposed a 25 percent property-tax hike while signing public-sector union contracts that boosted wages well above inflation without receiving work-rule changes in return. This was fitting, he believed, for a metropolis that, he said in 2003, “isn’t Wal-Mart. It isn’t trying to be the lowest-priced product in the market. It’s a high-end product, maybe even a luxury product.” You want to live in and around a luxury product? You have to pay more.

Bloomberg maintained the policing achievements that had changed the city so dramatically for the better during the tenure of his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani. And he had some modest successes of his own in the early years. He imported from Chicago a 311 system for quicker access to city services and handled a brief blackout in 2003 well. New York recovered from 9/11 more quickly than expected. By the second quarter of 2003, Wall Street profits were beginning to rebound, and the city was emerging from the worst of its economic woes.

But rather than holding the line on spending and allowing the city’s coffers to recover properly, Bloomberg simply reversed course and kept spending while keeping tax rates high. Even so, he chose to borrow $1.5 billion to help cover the city’s operating expenses. Not since the catastrophic near-bankruptcy of the 1970s had the city borrowed to cover day-to-day costs.

The aftermath of 9/11 was an extraordinary lost opportunity for the city. It could have been a moment when, in the name of shared responsibility for bringing the city back to life, spiraling labor costs could have been addressed. Public-sector employees working for the city labored but 35 hours a week and contributed nothing to their own health-insurance premiums. Rather than take up the matter, Bloomberg simply retained the status quo when it came to negotiating with the city’s most important voting bloc.  

A routine was established: Bloomberg would start out by talking tough about how new contracts could be paid for only with increased productivity, and in response unions would reply in a patented and choreographed “anger” mode. This false confrontation would be followed by a renewal of the old contracts and their counterproductive work rules with a few cosmetic improvements. Thus the need for new borrowing.

Bloomberg was, at times, rescued from his own destructive policies by events beyond his control. In 2004, he became obsessed with plans for a new football stadium, or a “multi-use” facility in Manhattan, as part of a quixotic bid for the 2012 Olympics. It was unclear, given the checkered financial fallout from cities that had previously hosted the Games, just what New York stood to benefit from securing such a questionable honor. New York was already the most visited tourist destination in the United States and fourth or fifth (depending on whom you ask) worldwide. Nonetheless, as the centerpiece of the Olympic bid, Bloomberg proposed to bequeath the Jets’ ownership a billion-dollar parcel for a fifth of that price. The unpopular push for a West Side stadium left Bloomberg, whose  poll numbers had fallen to as low as 31 percent, with a hard road to re-election.

The stadium albatross was lifted from Bloomberg’s political neck when, despite his best efforts, it was blocked by the Democrats in the state assembly. Meanwhile, thanks in part to the Bush tax cuts, Wall Street had come roaring back, not only softening the blow of Bloomberg’s foolish fiscal policies but also refilling the city coffers.

To cap off this sudden positive turn in Bloomberg’s political fortunes just as he was about to run for a second term, Bloomberg was handed a dream opponent for the 2005 general election, Bronx Borough President Freddie Ferrer. Together with his ally, the rabble-rouser and riot-inciter Al Sharpton, Ferrer had effectively delivered the 2001 election to the political neophyte Bloomberg by undermining Bloomberg’s Democratic rival, Mark Green, to whom Ferrer had lost a primary runoff.  In the general election, Ferrer worked with Sharpton to undermine Bloomberg’s opponent by suggesting that Green, a veteran New York City left-winger, was a covert racist. The contrived brouhaha suppressed Green’s minority vote and, almost by accident, Bloomberg became the mayor.

In 2005, Sharpton played a much different role. He undercut Ferrer, who had counted on a black-Latino alliance to carry the day, even as Ferrer repelled moderate white voters with his talk of returning to the glory days of pre-Giuliani New York. And despite a liberal campaign-spending law intended to level the playing field, Ferrer was buried beneath an avalanche of Bloomberg’s money. The mayor’s spending on political consultants alone was greater than the cost of Ferrer’s entire hapless campaign. It ended up being a no-contest election for which Bloomberg effectively paid more than $100 per vote. But his 20-point margin of victory pumped air into the mayor’s trial balloons about running for national office, which have been repeatedly floated ever since.

Bloomberg’s second term was strewn with grotesque management failures. His administration’s one major responsibility, after handing off most of the 9/11 rebuilding, was safely dismantling the remains of the Deutsche Bank building, a toxic ruin on the edge of Ground Zero. His staff handed over the cleanup and demolition to a Mob-connected company previously blocked from doing business with the city. Two firemen died horrible deaths as a result of the failure of the fire department to inspect the mismanaged site. The mayor talked incessantly about the “accountability” he was bringing to city government, but he never held his fire commissioner to account for the avoidable disaster at the Deutsche Bank site.

But nothing illuminates the vacancy of Bloomberg’s mayoralty more than the false narrative that depicted him as America’s “education mayor.” At the time he took office, a complex set of rules gave the mayor relatively little control over public education in the five boroughs and disseminated authority to such an extent that no one could be held responsible for the parlous condition of the schools. For years, Rudy Giuliani had pressed for mayoral control but was denied it. As a candidate for mayor in 2001, though, Bloomberg offered hardly a hint that he regarded education as a critical issue or even that he believed New York’s mayor could do much about the condition of the city’s schools.

Once settled in at City Hall, Bloomberg looked across the river to downtown Brooklyn and saw a big, fat inviting target. It was 110 Livingston Street, the Board of Education’s central headquarters, notorious for its bureaucratic paralysis and recurring corruption scandals. Bloomberg stepped into the breach and made the city the same offer Giuliani had: Give me full authority over the school system and then judge me by the results. Lacking Giuliani’s baggage on the matter, Bloomberg had a leg up. He waged an effective political and public-relations campaign to convince the state legislature to eliminate the Board of Education and write a new school-governance law for the city. 

Education became a mayoral agency.

At the signing ceremony for the mayoral-control bill in June 2002, Bloomberg heralded a new era of accountability. He promised the taxpayers that he would now deliver a bigger education bang for their bucks. He cleared thousands of bureaucrats out of 110 Livingston Street, sold off the musty old building, and installed a few hundred essential central-office officials at the refurbished Tweed Court House less than a hundred yards from City Hall.

He then hired Joel Klein, the former head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division in the Clinton administration, as the new schools chancellor. After a six-month review of what was working in the schools and what wasn’t, the mayor announced his reform program (called Children First) at his Martin Luther King Day speech in Harlem on February 20, 2003. Bloomberg hit all the right notes, combining a commitment to fiscal restraint with what seemed like an empirically grounded approach to curriculum and classroom instruction.

Bloomberg said that the $12 billion the city was then spending on the schools should be enough to provide a decent education for all children because he and Klein were now going to “make sure we get the most value for the school system’s dollar.” Bloomberg also seemed to be rejecting the progressive-education approach to curricular issues and classroom pedagogy and casting his lot with education traditionalists. Thus he announced that there would now be a standardized curriculum for all schools dictated from City Hall, including “a daily focus on phonics” in the early grades.

But soon it became clear that, in this area as in others, it was necessary to pay attention to what this mayor did rather than what he said. Almost immediately, on the issue of classroom instruction, Bloomberg and Klein chose to defer to the progressive old guard within the school system. Lucy Calkins of Columbia Teachers College, one of the country’s leading progressive educators and a fierce opponent of the phonics approach to reading, was given a leading role in designing reading and writing instruction for most schools (to a tune of more than $10 million in consultant contracts).

Bloomberg also began dipping deeper into the city treasury for more and more tax dollars for the schools. From fiscal 2003 to 2011, the education budget grew from $12.7 billion to $23 billion annually—almost a 70 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. Most of the money was paid out in 43 percent across-the-board teacher-salary increases in just the first six years of Bloomberg’s tenure. He also added more than 4,000 teachers to the payroll, reaching 80,000—one teacher for every 13 students in the system. But the mayor who prided himself on his business acumen in managing the city’s workforce obtained almost nothing in return from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) for this unprecedented bonanza.

Indeed, the purpose of the extra spending could not have been to improve student performance, since he said very plainly that he didn’t believe there was any connection between the two. Rather it was to shore up his political prospects and help make his reputation as the nation’s “education mayor.” Instead of insisting on changes in teacher-compensation packages that might have reduced the city’s long-term pension and health-care costs, Bloomberg cashed in his chips in the coin of either direct political support from the United Federation of Teachers or its calculated neutrality.

For the last half of the decade, Bloomberg and Klein dominated the national education-reform debate. They toured the country touting their signature reforms, including assigning letter grades to schools and bonuses to teachers and principals as powerful incentives for improving student-learning outcomes. The indisputable evidence, they claimed, was in the spectacular gains by city students on the state’s annual reading and math tests in grades 3 through 8. For example, in just two years the percentage of students passing the math tests went from 54 percent to over 82 percent (an unheard-of gain in the annals of education).

From 2005 to 2009, Bloomberg called press conferences to celebrate the ever-more-spectacular test-score increases. At those events, the union president, Randi Weingarten, stood next to the mayor nodding in approval, even though she would confide to associates that the scores were likely inflated. Bloomberg and Weingarten each had their own reasons to hype the test scores: Bloomberg to boost his national profile and Weingarten to lay down a marker for yet another series of teacher pay increases.

The extraordinary teacher-salary increases bought Bloomberg the union’s blessing for extending the mayoral-control law in the state legislature in the summer of 2009. The union also gave Bloomberg a pass when he brazenly succeeded in overturning a term-limits law that had been written into the city’s charter so he could run for a third term (the move also overturned term limits for the city council that voted in favor of repeal). Later that year, the UFT remained neutral as Bloomberg faced off for re-election against Democrat William Thompson.

Bloomberg won with a bare majority; a shift of 50,000 votes would have tipped the race to Thompson. The 43 percent salary increases did little for student achievement, but it turned out to be a shrewd political investment for the mayor.

In 2009, during that third bid for office, the Bloomberg education department gave more than 90 percent of the schools A’s or B’s on their progress reports. The test-score increases, Bloomberg argued, proved that his administration had found the silver bullet of reform that could lift achievement for all American students. And in testimony before a congressional committee, Bloomberg claimed that the black-white academic-achievement gap—a conundrum that had stumped education reformers for decades—had been halved in New York City in just five years.

And then, in early 2010, the Bloomberg education bubble burst. State Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch and education commissioner David Steiner acknowledged that over the past several years, the test scores had been grossly inflated. Under previous education commissioner Richard Mills, the two officials said, the questions on the tests had become more and more predictable, so that teachers were able to help their students “game” the tests. For good measure, the previous Albany education administration had also set the “cut scores” for determining the different levels of student proficiency too low.  When the results of the readjusted 2010 tests were announced, practically all the gains students had made since 2007 were erased. In 2009, 82 percent of students in grades 3 to 8 had supposedly performed at grade level on the math tests; but on the 2010 tests, that number fell to 54 percent. In reading, the one-year drop was from 69 percent at grade level to 42 percent.

Like the snowstorm that damaged Bloomberg politically at the end of the year, the new test numbers produced a dramatic reversal of fortune for the mayor. They raised the question of how much of a bang the city had gained for the billions of dollars in extra education spending by the administration. Certainly there were modest improvements in student learning during the Bloomberg years, but there was also modest improvement in the last few years of the old Board of Education (though this is rarely discussed). It seems that Bloomberg had had it right in his first education speech when he noted that there was no correlation between the amount of money spent on schools and higher student achievement.

Bloomberg’s administration tried to put the best face on the news. It was true, Joel Klein conceded, that the extent of student gains in recent years had been much exaggerated, but it was still true that New York had done better than the state’s other big-city districts. After boosting the city’s annual education budget by $11 billion, the Bloomberg administration was effectively saying, “We’re better than Buffalo.” That isn’t much of a legacy for a once-upon-a-time would-be presidential candidate who had put his education accomplishments at the top of his political resume.

The money problem

When Bloomberg fought and won control of the schools, he said repeatedly that if people didn’t like his education policies, they could vote to fire him in the 2005 election and pick a new education CEO. When asked how New Yorkers who didn’t like what he was doing in the schools might express their concerns after Election Day, Bloomberg quipped, “They can boo me at parades.”

Not a bad quip. But it exposes what, aside from the policy failures, is the most discomfiting aspect of the Bloomberg mayoralty: the mayor’s use of his own personal resources to buy himself not only political power but also political peace. In a manner unparalleled in American history, Bloomberg in total spent in excess of $300 million to secure office three times from an electorate that numbers fewer than 4 million people (and of which only a third actually participate).

That is one issue. The other has to do with the way Bloomberg spent tens of millions of dollars annually between elections to make sure that not too many influential New Yorkers would risk criticizing him. Mayor Bloomberg’s predecessors, from Ed Koch to Rudy Giuliani, had also been tempted, and had at times given into the temptation, to use the power of incumbency and control of taxpayer funds to reward allies and punish enemies. The difference is that Bloomberg was able to channel his private philanthropic giving each year to hundreds of the city’s arts and social-service groups

with the reasonable expectation that the gratitude these groups felt to their patron would extend to their patron’s political causes.

At the very least, it would make the groups and their influential boards of trustees think twice before criticizing the mayor’s policies.

The vehicle for Bloomberg’s gifts was the Carnegie Corporation. During the 2005 election year alone, Bloomberg donated $20 million to Carnegie, which in turn distributed the mayor’s largesse to 400 arts and social-service groups in gifts of $10,000 to $100,000. Officially, the donor to Carnegie was listed as “anonymous,” but as New York Times reporter Sam Roberts pointed out, all the groups were aware that the generous benefactor also had a day job at City Hall. “That Mr. Bloomberg is the source of the Carnegie contributions has long been an open secret and cannot help but benefit the mayor politically,” Roberts wrote.

There has never been a wall of separation between Bloomberg’s private patronage and his political machine. Bloomberg’s first deputy mayor, Patricia Harris, now also serves as head of his private foundation and monitors the hub, or network, for this intersection of business, politics, and arts groups. The city’s 

Conflicts of Interests Board, nevertheless, didn’t regard this dual role by the deputy mayor as troubling.

The breadth of the mayor’s philanthropy proved to be a brilliant political strategy. When there was some slight pushback in April 2007 to one of Bloomberg’s new education-accountability policies, 100 “prominent community leaders” suddenly mobilized on the steps of the education headquarters to support the mayor’s initiative. Most of those leaders represented arts or social-service groups that were also getting private charitable contributions from the mayor.

Other groups that benefited from Bloomberg’s private largesse sent dozens of their employees to testify in favor of killing term limits at City Council hearings. On the other hand, when a widely respected organization like the Center for Arts Education publicly objected to how arts funds were distributed to the schools, the group found out that its annual Carnegie Corporation grants were cut by 75 percent.

One of the most dramatic examples of how Bloomberg’s wealth changed the city’s political life was in the transformation of the Reverend Al Sharpton from racial arsonist during the previous 15 years to statesman in the Bloomberg era. It would be nice to think that Sharpton’s new civility and cooperation with several Bloomberg projects took place because Sharpton finally came to appreciate the genius of American democracy. But as Sharpton joined the mayor’s network of friends, a trail of money suddenly appeared going either directly to Sharpton from Bloomberg’s charity, or from other sources close to Bloomberg. In 2007, Sharpton’s political arm, the National Action Network, received a grant of $110,000 from another Bloomberg-funded group, the Education Equality Project. And the Daily News’s Juan Gonzalez revealed that Sharpton’s group received another $500,000 gift just as he faced a $1 million lien for unpaid back taxes.

Bloomberg’s ability to buy off potential critics partially explains why the illusion of his managerial competence and reputation as the “education mayor” lasted for so long. All the mayor’s billions, however, couldn’t protect him from the consequences of last year’s crash of the city’s test scores or his malfeasance during the Christmas weekend snowstorm.  Thus the question of the mayor’s legacy is now finally open for serious debate.

Thanks to his concentration of wealth and power, Bloomberg was able, with the aid of a sometimes supine press, to present his personal policy obsessions as having been endowed with the force of historical necessity. Thus, when he set his sights on a West Side football stadium that would have produced massive traffic tie-ups in the center of Manhattan, the congestion that would have resulted wasn’t considered an issue. When he moved onto the national stage, a hastily conceived plan to tax cars for entering Manhattan was patched together to rebrand his mayoralty as green. But this newfound environmental consciousness had no binding claim on him; indeed, when he wanted to misdirect public monies to subvent the construction of a basketball arena on Brooklyn’s main and often impassible thoroughfare, Flatbush Avenue, the administration again dismissed problems of congestion with a wave of the hand.

Due to the structure of the city charter, the mayor has almost complete control of the streets. And Bloomberg has proved himself determined to create a new streetscape—closing down half of Times Square to vehicle traffic with plans to do the same for the shopping corridor along 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan. And then there are the bicycle lanes, the pet crusade of his second transportation commissioner, a former business consultant named Janette Sadik-Khan.

In Manhattan and Brooklyn, Bloomberg decreed the installation of bicycle lanes on many of the city’s heavily traveled commercial avenues. Little-used and aesthetically unsightly, the Manhattan bike lanes are so important to the mayor’s vision for the city that they were shoveled clean even as the streets of the outer boroughs were buried in the Christmas storm. Throughout the city, the lanes have made it more difficult to park, made the streets more congested, and made life miserable for truck drivers and delivery services that had to double park 20 feet from the curb to complete their rounds.

These undeniable realities do not seem to matter to a mayor who seems to enjoy imposing change on the city whether it is warranted or not. He has banned the use of trans fats in food sold in the city, expanded smoking bans as far as he possibly could, and crusaded against the use of salt. And he has broken new ground in expanding the already long list of activities for which Gothamites could be fined. Cars trapped in snowstorms were ticketed; greengrocers have been fined for “excessive lettering,” meaning that they posted their telephone numbers on their awnings. Subway riders were hit for taking up two seats even when no one wanted the seat next to them, and nature lovers were targeted for feeding pigeons in the park. If people didn’t want to be fined, said Bloomberg, they should obey the law. It was only public outrage that prevented him from placing tolls on the East River bridges, which have been free to motorists for a century or more.

The connecting tissue of Bloomberg’s policies is Bloomberg’s own whims and ambitions. After the snow-removal failure, Bloomberg insisted that John Doherty was “the best sanitation commissioner the city has ever had.” The New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin wrote: “In his bubble, that’s self-evident. If the sanitation man wasn’t the best, the self-declared best mayor would not have appointed him.”

When Michael Bloomberg leaves office in 2014—assuming he leaves office in 2014—the city will be saddled long into the future with the massive borrowing and school spending he required to maintain his political reputation. Citizen Bloomberg will have a significant role in how Mayor Bloomberg is judged. Already the master of an expanding media empire, he is now setting up his personal charitable foundation, which may rival the Gates Foundation in financial assets. That foundation will no doubt have the resources

to place the Bloomberg legacy of debt, boondoggles, and bicycle lanes in the best possible light."

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