Recovering America’s Exceptionalism

From U-T San Diego:

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French historian, came to America to study our nation. Europeans and others were fascinated by the success of the fledgling nation, then barely 50 years old and already competing on the world stage.

Such a thing had never before occurred, and Tocqueville was determined to discover the secret. He was duly impressed by our governmental structure, including the separation of powers, but he was in awe of the public education system, which rendered its recipients completely literate by the completion of second grade. This depth of education was generally only found among the aristocracy in Europe.

Early settlers not only mastered reading, writing and arithmetic, but shared practical skills, all of which enabled them to traverse and tame a rugged and frequently hostile terrain from sea to shining sea.

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Photo courtesy Fabi Fliervoet, flickr

Photo courtesy Fabi Fliervoet, flickr

W.H. to Use Executive Orders to Aid the Solar Industry

From The Daily Caller:

The White House announced on Thursday it was launching a $15 million dollar “Solar Market Pathways” program to help state, local and tribal governments expand their solar energy production.

“To advance our nation’s energy and climate goals, the United States must be a leader in innovating and deploying clean energy,” the White House said. “Solar is a vital component of the Administration’s all-of the above strategy. Supported by historic investments in research, development, and deployment, the price of solar technologies has decreased and the U.S. solar market has experienced rapid growth since President Obama took office.”

(Read Full Article)

green energy investment

The Obama Administration Trolls

From Townhall:

Slate’s John Dickerson points out that the Obama administration routinely “trolls” the GOP – that is, deliberately misstates information about matters of public concern in order to keep what they consider favorable topics foremost in the public mind. Dickerson uses the topic of the “wage gap” as one example; I would use the topic of voting rights as another. In other words, the president and his administration are giving the press and the people purportedly factual information that they actually know is untrue as part of a deliberate strategy.

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Barack Obama

 

 

 

CA Legislators Admit Failures in Seeking Rainy Day Fund

From The Sacramento Bee:

When you get past the political fuzz and buzz, the Capitol’s quest for a new rainy-day fund to store excess state revenue is an admission that politicians have failed in the past and can’t be trusted in the future.

Gov. Jerry Brown, in calling a special legislative session to place a rainy-day fund measure on the November ballot, indirectly alluded to fiscal sins of the past.

“We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade, and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid rainy-day fund,” Brown said.

Photo courtesy of jglazer75, flickr

Photo courtesy of jglazer75, flickr

 

Republicans in Danger of being Bushed

From The Daily Caller:

popular online dictionary offers four definitions for the word “bushed.”

The first is “overgrown with bushes.” The second is “exhausted, tired out.” The third is a Canadian colloquialism meaning “mentally unbalanced as a result of prolonged residence in a sparsely inhabited region.”

Each of these definitions seems to describe the Republican Party’s feeling about the Bush family. If that’s not true and the GOP nominates Jeb Bush for president — the third Bush since 1988 — then perhaps the fourth definition applies: “unable to find one’s direction; lost; confused.”

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Public Safety Pensions – Reduce Now or Slash Later

“Once people get the facts, they do not support slashing people’s pensions.”
- Dave Low, chairman, Californians for Retirement Security (Washington Post, February 25, 2014)

Really?

Making sure “people get the facts” is difficult when most “facts” the public sees are promulgated to the media by pension fund PR departments eager to preserve the torrent of taxpayers money flowing into their favored investment firms, along with PR firms representing taxpayer-funded public sector unions whose primary reason to exist is to increase the wages and benefits of their members.

According to the most recent data available from the California State Controller – over $600 billion of taxpayer’s money is privately invested by public employee pension funds (Public Retirement Systems Annual Report, FYE 6-30-2011, released 5-22-2013, page xv, Figure 2), and every year, taxpayers pour another (woefully inadequate) $27 billion into these financially troubled funds (same report, page xxii, Figure 12).

As for the California’s public sector unions? It’s hard to get facts on these massive institutions whose operations – despite being 100% funded by taxpayers – are largely defined by their opacity. But just in California, their collective revenues per year from dues and agency fees can be reliably estimated at over $1.0 billion per year.

Those are two pretty big elephants in this room we call California, Mr. Low.

Chairman Low’s comment was quoted in an article entitled “In San Jose, generous pensions for city workers come at expense of nearly all else.” The focus of the article was the exodus of public safety personnel from San Jose, since their pensions have been “slashed” as the result of a reform initiative passed by nearly 70% of voters.

So what are the facts about public safety pensions in San Jose?

Getting these facts are also difficult, but earlier this week, the California Public Policy Center released a study entitled “Evaluating Public Safety Pensions in California,” with San Jose’s independent pension system one of those selected for analysis. The other two were the independent pension system serving public safety retirees from Los Angeles, and public safety retirees who participate in CalPERS.

As documented in this study, the average retired public safety employee in San Jose collects a pension considerably better than the average public safety retiree from Los Angeles, or the average public safety retiree who is part of the massive CalPERS system. Factoring in the length of service, and the year of retirement, take a look at these pensions:

City of San Jose Public Safety Retirees
Average Base Pension by 
Years of Service and Year of Retirement

20140404_Ring-Fellner_SJ-by-Svc-and-Ret

It is very important to note that these averages are just for “base pension.” In general, based on the data received from other pension systems who supplied the additional data, public safety retirees collect at least $10,000 per year in health benefits that are not considered part of their base pension, and San Jose is no exception (ref. SJ safety retiree health benefits). This means the average public safety retiree in San Jose, if they retired in the last ten years and worked 25 years or more, collects a pension and benefit package that averages over $110,000 per year.

These are the “facts,” Mr. Low. This is what voters decided to “slash,” although if you read Measure B, “slash” is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind. “Sanity” may be more appropriate.

The reader looking for additional “facts” may wish to click on this link, which points directly at individual pension amounts for the most recent fiscal year for which data is available: “San Jose Police and Fire Retirement Plan (2012).” For that matter, perhaps the factually minded reader may wish to click on this link, which points to how much individual public servants currently working for the City of San Jose made according to the most recent data: “All salaries for San Jose (2012).”

The observant viewer of these links to San Jose’s city employee pay and pension data will note, factually, that the vast majority of highly compensated individuals work in public safety. But what about the averages? What is the average total pay and employer-paid benefits for San Jose’s public servants? For that, refer to the next chart, taken from another California Policy Center study entitled “San Jose, California – City Employee Total Compensation Analysis,” using 2011 payroll data provided by the city itself:

20140415_RingUW_SJ-city-pay-2011

Lest anyone suspect that “averages” for pay – and the pensions whose value is calculated based on final rates of pay – are misleading because of a handful of overpaid executives, please note that median pay for San Jose’s public safety employees exceeds their average pay.

No reasonable person questions the need to pay public safety personnel a premium for the work they do. But to preserve defined benefits, not to mention the financial survival of our cities and counties, we must make tough decisions now, to avoid having to “slash” later.

(Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center. Originally published on Union Watch.)

Gore: Global Warming Doubters ‘Immoral, Unethical”

Whenever you read about Al Gore, keep in mind that he frolics in a compound in Montecito valued in 2010 at $8.875 million. Now it’s probably worth at least $12 million. Reported the Huffington Post at the time:

“Records show that the approximately 6,500 sq. foot home boasts 6 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, a large pool house, 6 fireplaces, wood framed french doors, and carved stone detailing throughout.”

And that was his fourth luxury home.

Gore’s “carbon footprint,” how much energy he uses and how much CO2 he spews into the atmosphere, must be larger than entire provinces of Bangladesh.

Yet after he recently jetted to Hawaii, the Honolulu Civil Beat reported:

“The ‘barriers’ to doing something about climate change are business and political interests that profit off of fossil fuels — ‘dirty energy that causes dirty weather.’ He compared fake science from polluters stating that humans are not to blame for the climate to tobacco companies that used to hire actors to play doctors who denied cigarettes were dangerous.

” ‘That’s immoral, unethical and despicable,’ he said of both.”

That’s funny. Because in his political campaigns, Gore used to profit from both tobacco and being anti-tobacco. As Joan Beck reported in 1996, after Gore told a heart-wrenching story at the Democratic National Conventiion of his sister dying of lung cancer:

“He and his family made money by raising tobacco on their Tennessee farm for years — profiting from a product that killed lots of other people’s sisters and husbands and parents and brothers and friends in a particularly vicious and cruel way.

“They didn’t stop when the surgeon general issued his sharp warning linking tobacco with illness and death in 1964, not until Nancy’s tragic battle with lung cancer.

As late as 1988, Al Gore was bragging in a speech to tobacco farmers in North Carolina, ”Throughout most of my life, I raised tobacco. I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I’ve hoed it. I’ve dug in it. I’ve sprayed it, I’ve chopped it, I’ve shredded it, spiked it, put it in the barn and stripped it and sold it.” And made money growing a carcinogen that killed other people’s loved ones. Gore made this speech, remember, four years after his sister’s death. And 24 years after the surgeon general’s report.

Now, of course, Gore has become vastly wealthier trading in on the global warming/climate change political fad, even as he enjoys the lifestyles of the rich and famous and high carbon-footprinted and hypocritical.

(John Seiler is the managing editor of CalWatchdog. Originally published on CalWatchdog.)

Just Words

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Obamacare Still Failing to Attract Young Enrollees

From The Daily Caller:

Despite the recent victory lap, Obamacare’s exchanges are still behind in enrolling the crucial, young demographic.

President Obama took the time on Thursday to announce the latest Obamacare sign-up numbers himself, touting 8 million Americans that have selected plans and boasting that 35 percent of enrollees are under the age of 35. Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the same misleading statement, tweeting “GREAT NEWS! #8Million have signed up for private health coverage — 35% of those under age 35.”

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obamacare gitmo

 

Judge Rules Against Privacy for All Students Group

From The Sacramento Bee:

A judge in Sacramento has ruled that elections officials in 30 California counties do not have to turn over records that would help supporters of a failed ballot referendum challenge the invalidation of thousands of voter signatures.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley on Friday granted the state’s request to quash subpoenas issued on behalf of Privacy for All Students, which sought to repeal a new law that spells out the rights of transgender students in public schools.

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