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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oh, Darn

It was just a little over a week ago that the boys at the Roanoke Times were poo-pooing Governor Bob McDonnell's proposal to privatize the liquor business here in Virginia (see "The money question dogs privatization") and using the Washington Post as a reference, no less.  I wonder if they'll be doing that again any time soon considering that same Washington Post has this prominently featured today:

Privatizing Virginia liquor stores makes sense
By Steven Pearlstein, Business Columnist

When I first heard Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell boast that by privatizing the state's liquor system he could generate the same amount of revenue and raise $500 million from auctioning off liquor licenses while holding liquor prices where they are now, I assumed this was just a free-market conservative peddling another cockamamie scheme for spinning straw into gold.

But having spent some time this week playing with the numbers, I've come around to the idea that privatization offers Virginians the rare opportunity of a free lunch. The logic goes like this:

Last year, Virginia's 332 state stores sold $675 million of liquor to consumers and restaurants, for which it paid $330 million to distillers. It spent around $130 million running the stores, earned a little extra selling lottery tickets and sundries and at the end of the year delivered about $230 million to the state treasury -- $110 million in excise taxes and $120 million in profits. Because of those monopoly-size profits, along with a higher-than-average excise tax and the lack of retail competition, Virginia liquor prices are somewhat higher than those in the District and Maryland, where there are private markets, but about the same as in neighboring North Carolina, where liquor is also state-controlled.

So how can it be that moving to a private system will make everyone better off -- taxpayers, consumers, and a new crop of retailers and wholesalers that will need to earn a reasonable profit? How is it possible that an anticipated network of multiple distributors and 800 retail outlets operate at a lower overall cost than a monopoly system with one distributor and 332 outlets?

To begin with, it turns out that the larger network of private outlets will be able to operate more cheaply, because most of the liquor will be sold through grocery stores, convenience stores, and private wine and beer stores that are already in operation. They already have most of the infrastructure needed to sell liquor, from stores to cash registers to back-office operations, and can handle the new liquor sales with a relatively modest increase in operating costs. Overall, however, there are potential efficiency savings of $60 million a year over the current system, according to industry executives. Rather than allow those savings to flow to consumers, in the form of lower prices, or to retailers and distributors, in the form of higher profits, the state could capture them by increasing the current excise tax.

There's also no question that Virginia could recapture some of the liquor sales it is now losing to Maryland and the District [jf: as well as to West Virginia] by offering more stores in Northern Virginia [jf: and Southwest Virginia] where you can buy beer, wine and liquor under the same roof.

Add it all up -- the operating efficiencies, the increased sales, the additional tax revenue -- and it's not hard to construct a scenario in which sales increase to $740 million, the state gets its $230 million, and the retailers and distributors earn $75 million to $100 million in after-tax profits. And for the right to earn that recession-proof stream of profits, or sell the license to someone else, a well-run auction should be able to generate bids of somewhere between $400 million and $500 million -- money that the governor plans to earmark for badly needed transportation projects, particularly in Northern Virginia. [link]
Well, that should give the editorialists at the Times heartburn.  Not that it'll make any difference.  Expect them to continue to claim that they support privatization while, at the same time, crapping on any plan that McDonnell comes up with to do just that.  They are, after all, Democrats first and journalists second. And businessmen a distant ninth.

Everyone else is on board now.  And now it's time.  To end the last vestige of Prohibition, for God's sake.

Crack that Black Jack.  Let's party.

Did Perriello Even Read The Bill?

It's one thing to have voted in favor of ObamaCare.  That was bad enough.

But having voted in favor without having read it?  Is that what 5th District Congressman Tom Perriello was sent to Washington to do?

And if that's not unacceptable, for him to then come home and try to defend his actions by making it up as he goes along, that's beyond the pale by anyone's standard.

From a town hall meeting in Danville yesterday, as reported by the Danville Register & Bee ("Perriello feels the heat in Danville stop") we get a glimpse of the lack of understanding Representative Perriello engenders:
Perriello’s detractors hit him hard on health care reform, taxes, his voting record, federal spending, Medicare, Social Security and his congressional mail pieces. He appeared to get somewhat agitated with a few questions, but for the most part remained calm and respectful of criticism.

Some asked him whether he read the health care bill (he has) and why he supported “government-run” health care.

“There is no government plan,” Perriello said. “There’s no public option … this is all an expansion of private insurance. For those who are concerned …
What?  Has this kid not been paying attention?  Has he not read where ObamaCare is going to have such a profound effect on private employers that many of them are going to drop their employee insurance coverage and throw their personnel on government subsidies?  Perriello's own Congressional Budget Office has estimated the number to be 3,000,000.  And a new study puts the number as high as 35 million.

But what about there being "no government plan"?

Has this guy never heard of Medicaid?  And has he not read the stories about how ObamaCare is going to explode the Medicaid rolls?

If not, maybe he should pick up a New York Times and find out what it is he voted for:
With Expanded Coverage for the Poor, Fears of a Big Headache
By Roni Caryn Rabin, April 26, 2010

Of all the changes wrought by the new health care law, none is more sweeping than the transformation of Medicaid — from the government’s health insurance plan for poor families into a much wider program for millions of the poorest Americans who cannot afford insurance on their own.

Able-bodied adults under 65 — now mostly ineligible unless they have dependent children — will qualify for coverage in 2014 as long as they earn no more than $14,404 (in current dollars) for a single adult and $29,326 for a family of four, or 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Of the 32 million uninsured Americans expected to gain health coverage under the new law, as many as 20 million will be insured by Medicaid, experts estimate. Asset tests will be largely eliminated, so workers who lose their jobs can get health coverage even if they own their homes or have money saved for retirement. (Illegal immigrants will not be eligible.) [link] [emphasis mine]
Let's not forget, while we're on the subject, Perriello has repeatedly claimed that ObamaCare is going to save everyone money.  How's it to do that and pay for the millions of new Medicaid patients who will be getting a free ride?  Does he think we're idiots?

It's obvious this fool has no idea what he's talking about.

It's as obvious that he needs to be sent packing come November.

It's going to take years to undo the damage Tom Perriello has wreaked upon us. 

On Those Teacher Job Losses

Now that Obama and the Democrats have passed their EduJobs bill, formulated to prevent massive layoffs of teachers around the country, bureaucrats around that same country are wondering where those jeopardized jobs were in the first place.

Ah, government:
Despite no layoffs, Alaska to get layoff prevention money
By Pat Forgey, Juneau Empire

Federal money to help prevent teacher layoffs could be on its way to Alaska, if Gov. Sean Parnell chooses to accept it.

What's not yet clear is how that money would be used and who might get it, or even why any money is coming to Alaska at all.

The money is part of what the Obama Administration calls the "Education Jobs Fund," and is being promoted as a way to save teacher jobs at risk nationwide as state and local tax revenues that go to schools decline.

Alaska is eligible to receive $23.5 million dollars of the $10 billion total, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Alaska's allocation comes despite a healthy revenue surplus this year that has allowed the state to actually increase school funding.

A press release from Sen. Mark Begich, D-Anchorage, said the Ed Jobs bill will "address gaps in education funding by providing $23.5 million to Alaska School Districts preventing imminent layoffs of educators."

A Begich spokeswoman, Julie Hasquet, said she couldn't identify where in Alaska those layoffs might be happening.

"The National Education Association told us that teachers in Alaska would be affected," she said. [link
Is this country upside down or what?  A lobbying group in far-away Washington D.C. is informing folks in Alaska that job losses there are imminent.  This despite the fact that no one on the ground can find evidence of it. 

No matter.  Uncle Barack is sending in millions to Alaska anyway.

I think we need to concern ourselves with layoffs in Washington, not Alaska.  And a whole lot of them.  Starting with Obama.

Those Awful Fires In Russia?

They're our fault.

Because the U.S. is allowing global warming to continue.

Lord have mercy:
Could Climate Change Get Us Killed?
By Susan Kraemer, CleanTechnica.com

As Russia reels under broiling temperatures completely outside the range of its experience, a widely quoted Russian political scientist is voicing the suspicion that the regional climate change is the deliberate work of the US, according to Radio Free Europe.

His idea is that the US is secretly trying to kill Russians and wipe out their crops with “climate-change weapons.”

He’s not just some kook: alone and unheard. The article by Andrei Areshev was carried by news publications throughout Russia, by “International Affairs,” a journal published by the Foreign Ministry and by the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti. Areshev proposed a theory that “At the moment, climate weapons may be reaching their target capacity and may be used to provoke droughts, erase crops, and induce various anomalous phenomena in certain countries.”

His concern focused on HAARP the the High-Frequency Active Aural Research Program which is (it gets hotter!) funded by the US Defense Department.

Now, silly as all this sounds, in a way, indirectly: he does have a point, but not the one he thinks.

By refusing to act on legislating the solutions to climate change like other nations have done, the US IS in fact deliberately choosing to destabilize other nations with avoidable climate change.

But it is not the deliberate plan. It just is what’s going to happen, due to the failure of our Senate. How will nations in the next few decades look at us? [link]
Let's go through that again:

a) Climate change is "avoidable."

b) Despite the fact that the legislation proposed in the Senate would have, by any expert's analysis, absolutely no effect on weather, climate, or atmospheric temperatures in the short or long term, the Senate is at fault for not passing the legislation anyway.

c) Thus we - as willing accomplices - are indirectly responsible for the fires in Russia.

This isn't idiocy.  It's delusion.  And nothing anyone says to this gal is going to get through to her.

So I'll simply ask that she get off the internet and go away.  Forever.

That Makes No Sense

I'm often amused at how the mainstream press can go out of its way to confuse its readers (and viewers).  The latest example is about as clear - in revealing how unclear it can make its message - as one will ever find.

The headline in Politico this morning:

One immediately wonders: What losses might those be?

We never find out.

Instead we read this:
The Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against Tom DeLay after a six-year probe is the latest sign that DOJ’s investigation into disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff is drawing to a close, without bagging the man prosecutors once thought might be the biggest prize of all — DeLay himself.

The Abramoff investigation has hardly come to naught. In all, 18 people have been convicted or pled guilty, with two more awaiting trials. Prosecutors may have hoped that some of those defendants — who included two of DeLay’s closest aides — would provide evidence sufficient to launch a prosecution of DeLay but appear to have come up short.
Do you read any "losses" that were to be cut in that?  Sounds to me like the Justice Department was on a roll and should be commended for its victories.

So what might really have happened in the DeLay case?  A hint:

Prosecutors are always reluctant to close active cases — in hopes of securing that last crucial piece of evidence needed to prosecute. Some outside experts speculated that Justice had effectively given up on being able to make a case against DeLay after all these years and decided to cut its losses

“Most of the time, in my experience, when they get strung out that long it’s because the department is reluctant to admit that it doesn’t have any evidence that in sum total equals a prosecutable case. They keep thinking: if we just go a little further and a little further [everything will fall into place]. …That is just tremendously unfair to the subjects of those investigations,” said George Terwilliger, former deputy attorney general, who defended former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. [emphasis mine]
Summed up in a few words: The DoJ didn't have a case.

It didn't cut its losses.  Because it never lost (even in the Ted Stevens chapter of the saga DoJ backed down before it had a chance to lose).  It dropped the DeLay case that was, after careful deliberation, determined to most assuredly be a loss if it ever went to court.

The Department of Justice won big in the Abramoff prosecutions.  Because it didn't convict the man that the mainstream press (which unfortunately includes Politico) wanted desperately to be thrown in the slammer, it's considered to have lost in the end.

"Justice."  Media style.