Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Watchdog Is At The Door

Budget

Got ‘no’ milk: Feds spending $3 million to study Southern cows - Remember the “Got Milk?” ad campaign? For dairy farmers in seven states in the Southeast, the answer is unequivocal: No. In 1995, Tennessee had 1,544 dairy farms; it has 375 now, says University of Tennessee at Knoxville professor of animal science Stephen Oliver. Grainger County veterinarian Mike Tarrier, who specializes in treating cows, told Tennessee Watchdog 25 percent of the state’s existing dairy farms will have gone out of business by 2017. Why?....... Seven Southeastern colleges, including UT-Knoxville, divvied up the grant money......But the researchers, part of the five-year long Southeast Quality Milk Initiative, have to start asking the right questions……. Not one time did they ask ‘In your opinion, why do you think dairies are going out in the Southeast?’”

Court allows Christie to hide $1 million in Amex charges - Based on secret evidence, a New Jersey court is allowing Gov. Chris Christie to hide American Express bills that show how his state police security team charged more than $1 million to pay for out-of-state travel.  Judge Mary C. Jacobson dismissed a public records suit by New Jersey Watchdog on Friday, ruling that details of past expenses for food, lodging and transportation could create a potential security risk for the governor in the future.  “The court finds the general interest of the public to have a breakdown pales in comparison,” said Jacobson during a hearing in Mercer County Superior Court. As a result, state taxpayers may never learn how the money was spent.

Bureaucracy: The Fourth branch of government.

VoIP pioneer: Supreme Court decide FCC fate - No matter the outcome of the latest lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality regulations, the issue has a high likelihood of heading to the Supreme Court, says one Internet pioneer. In a recent interview with Watchdog.org, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) pioneer Daniel Berninger explained that he believed that if the DC appellate court were to agree with any one of the six arguments being leveled by ISPs and entrepreneurs in the net neutrality lawsuit, the net neutrality order would fail and the FCC’s legitimacy would be thrown into question.

EPA

EPA withholds mine spill documents from Congress - A congressional committee blasted the Environmental Protection Agency today for blocking release of documents related to the Gold King mine disaster, which poured deadly chemicals into the largest source of drinking water in the West.   “It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee’s reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). “These documents are essential to the Committee’s ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on Sept. 9. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA.”
RELATED: Mine owner says EPA has record of toxic dumping that goes back to 2005
Wyoming man challenges outrageous EPA fines - A rancher is taking the Environmental Protection Agency to federal court, asking a judge to stop the agency from fining him more than $16 million because he built a small pond on his property. Andy Johnson of Fort Bridger, Wyoming says he made sure to get the proper permits from his state government before building the pond. After all, this is America in the 21st century, and nothing done on your own property — certainly when it involves the use of water — is beyond government concern Johnson is facing millions in fines from the federal government after the EPA determined his small pond — technically a “stock pond” to provide better access to water for animals on his ranch….

Going Green

Eagles win, wind farms and feds lose in court - Eagles — and the people who love them — picked up a big win in court this month. How the victory may affect the Obama administration’s desire to dramatically ramp up wind energy production to meet its climate change goals is still unclear. “We believe it’s very good news for eagles,” Michael Hutchins, director of the American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Program, of the Aug. 11 decision by a federal court rescinding a controversial rule proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that granted a 30-year exemption to wind energy and other companies for killing bald and golden eagles.“We can’t have people do end-arounds”……Koh cited comments from Fish and Wildlife’s own staff that the rule-making process leading to the 30-year exemptions was a “trainwreck” and that it was a “no-brainer” the agency needed to follow the National Environmental Policy Act.

The industry’s chief booster, the American Wind Energy Association, recently came out with a chart using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing wind as the most cost-effective way for the country to meet compliance with the Clean Power Plan…..In May, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz released a report calling on the nation to “unlock the vast potential for wind energy deployment in all 50 states,” highlighting technical advancements to greatly expand the areas of the country where wind turbines can be used. The agency called for taller turbines with larger rotors.  Little more than two weeks ago, the Deparment of Energy released a report calling wind power “a key component of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and Clean Power Plan.”….

Robert Bryce, an energy journalist and author who has been a outspoken critic of the effectiveness of wind energy, said the ruling is a setback for the Obama administration.  “The rationale being used by renewable-energy promoters and the Obama administration is that future climate change trumps today’s wildlife concerns,” Bryce wrote in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. “Therefore, we have to kill lots of birds and bats with turbines to save them from the possibility of climate change.

Never mind that whatever carbon-dioxide cuts we achieve will be swamped by soaring emissions growth in places like Brazil, India and Indonesia.”  “We’re very happy to have wind farms, along with other forms of alternative energy like solar to address anthropogenic climate change,” Hutchins said. “But we want it done right … That means putting (wind farms) in the right places, not putting them in major migratory routes or sensitive habitats.”…(My Take – This guy is talking out of both sides of his mouth.  None of what he’s suggesting is possible.  First, there is no need for wind or solar energy because anthropogenic climate change is a fraud, and CO2 isn’t a pollutant. Secondly,  there’s no way either wind or solar can supply the energy any industrialized nation needs without turning the continent into a gigantic wind and solar farm and that would destroy wildlife in immense numbers and obliterate wilderness areas.  RK)….“Adding the effects of alternative energy on top of all that when it isn’t done properly, we have a problem with that,” Hutchins said. “We would like to see better regulation, better science applied to this. If we’re going to do alternative energy we shouldn’t do it in a way where we’re killing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of birds and bats each year.”

Green-energy CEO: Vermonters must abandon the car, embrace renewable energy future - Now that Vermont has a mandate to get 75 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2032, residents will have to ditch automobiles and embrace a whole new way of life, the state’s top renewable energy CEO says. “We’re probably going to have to abandon the car,” David Blittersdorf, president of All Earth Renewables, told Addison County Democrats in a recent presentation titled “Vermont’s Renewable Energy Future.”

Company that got millions from U.S. taxpayers now profits Chinese owners - The good news is electric car battery maker A123 Systems is finally on track to turn a profit.  The bad news is taxpayers don’t figure to see any of the $133 million the federal government spent and the estimated $141 million in tax credits and subsidies secured from Michigan to help the company take off in 2009, only to see A123 Systems crash, declare bankruptcy in 2012 and then get purchased by a privately held Chinese conglomerate.

Tesla gets $295M in cap & trade credits for technology not offered to customers - The credits came through a government program that was supposed to encourage Tesla to promote its new battery-swap technology, but the program didn't require evidence that the company actually provided the service.

After 32 years,76-year-old energy exec still waiting on the feds - Sidney Longwell, a 76-year-old energy executive, has been waiting 32 years for the feds to approve his application for a permit to drill on federal land in northwest Montana.

Health Care

More paying Obamacare fines as subsidies go to people who don't existLast year the IRS fined more than 7.5 million Americans who didn’t have health insurance, while Obamacare subsidies flowed to people who didn’t even exist.

Unions

Home-care workers find getting out harder than getting in union - Renee Katz has one question for the Service Employees International Union: What part of “no” don’t you understand? “I can’t get out of it. They want me to now do some letter and certify mail it. They didn’t certify mail anything to me. And then every time I call or email, they try to talk me into staying,” said Katz. The Oakdale mother works part-time as a personal care assistant for her special needs daughter and other care recipients through subsidized programs designed to avoid institutionalized care. She was outraged to learn 3 percent of their gross wages would be taken for dues for a union she didn’t realized she joined.

Houston’s debt now surpasses Detroit’s - Houston’s debts are now bigger than Detroit’s.  According to one key measure of fiscal health, Houston’s situation is nearly as bad as that of Chicago, which is starting to collapse under its debt burdens. The city’s financial reputation took a hit earlier this month when Moody’s Investors Service revised its outlook on Houston to “negative.” …..Even that review doesn’t capture the depth of some of the holes the city’s financial planners have dug. James Quintero, director of the Center For Local Governance at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, says the problem is structural, that defined benefit pension plans simply aren’t sustainable.

Texas has $81 billion in hidden debt - Texas has $81 billion in hidden debt that doesn’t show up on balance sheets, according to a new study by Truth in Accounting. This means Texas is $62.6 billion short of the money it needs to pay its long-term bills, which the group calculates as equal to $8,300 per taxpayer. These figures do not include the $333 billion in bond debt run up by local government agencies, particularly school districts. When it comes to calculating unfunded liabilities, a few changes in assumptions can produce wildly different figures, so we took a closer look at Truth in Accounting’s numbers. The surprise here is that, if anything, Truth in Accounting is understating the magnitude of the problem.  The group pulls its figures from the state’s annual financial reports, which for this year only are calculated using different rules than the state’s pension funds. The pension funds have started using new accounting rules that showed the old accounting understated pension debts by half.

New Jersey pensions sue Christie for $4 billion in missed payments - New Jersey’s three largest public pension plans are taking Gov. Chris Christie to court in a renewed effort to force the state to pay more than $4 billion in missed payments to retirement funds. The papers were filed in Mercer County Superior Court Friday by the Public Employees Retirement System, Teachers’ Pension Annuity Fund and Police and Firemen’s Retirement System. Combined, the three state plans represent roughly 290,000 retirees and 475,000 active members. “We’re looking to get a judgment out of this,” said Tom Bruno, chair of the PERS board of trustees, told New Jersey Watchdog. Public employees unions lost a similar suit last month in State Supreme Court, but Bruno said this case is different because the state pension boards have statutory authority as fiduciaries for the funds.

Labor union bosses stand up for Planned Parenthood - Americans are divided on taxpayer funding of abortion, but union bosses remain staunch supporters. With a Planned Parenthood scandal in the news, two of the nation’s most powerful labor union leaders have stuck their necks out to defend the network of abortion clinics. This is no surprise where Service Employees International Union is concerned — SEIU executive vice president Kirk Adams is married to Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. Adams’s boss, SEIU president Mary Kay Henry, expressed her support for Planned Parenthood and bashed Planned Parenthood’s “extremist” critics Tuesday.

San Antonio digs deeper into debt with $13 wage plan The city of San Antonio is mired in $17 billion of debt, but that isn't stopping officials from pushing to raise the minimum wage for municipal employees to $13 an hour.

City employees feasting on tax dollars - Taxpayers in March 2014 spent $15,041 to cater the Denver employee recognition awards and another $1,744 for table coverings and center pieces for the annual ceremony at the Denver Center for the Performing Art.  About 300 employees attended the 5281 Employee Recognition Awards, records obtained by Watchdog.org show.  Five months later, taxpayers paid at least another $15,000 for barbecue at the annual City Spirit employee recognition lunch, records show.  Along with citywide employee luncheons, some departments hold their own events, costing taxpayers thousands more. In May, Public Works paid more than $10,000 for an employee recognition barbecue, and in September 2013 Parks spent $3,000 for its employee recognition event, receipts obtained under state open records show.

We Have Lost Our Minds!

Florida county sends environmental specialist to investigate BBQ - Hardly anything screams “summer in America” more than the smell of meat roasting on an open grill. NO BBQ FOR YOU: The smell of barbecue has landed one Florida man in trouble with his local authorities, who reportedly sent an “environmental specialist” to inspect his grill and then ordered him to contain the smell to his own property. But the smell of barbecue has landed one Florida man in trouble with local authorities, who reportedly sent an “environmental specialist” to inspect his grill. The specialist then ordered him to contain the smell to his own property.  How he’s supposed to do that? Good question.  As The Week magazine suggests, if you want to barbecue in Pinellas County, Florida, you better be endowed with the powers of Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds.

 

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