Thursday, February 21, 2013

Muir Beach


Rumor has it that Janis is here - although some reports put her just to the north at Stinson Beach. Still, this was the town of The Dead and Ken Kesey's famous Acid Tests in the 60s. You can see why the hippies dig Marin - it's beautiful and not very crowded. (Building is difficult due to lack of water supply - always an issue in the mountains).

Which brings us to today's really bad acid trip...

WaPo: The Sequester: Absolutely everything you could possibly need to know, in one FAQ
At the end of the month, the dread sequester is set to take effect. Hands up if you know what exactly that means — and be honest. Don’t worry, we’re here to set you straight. Follow along for answers to some of the most-asked questions about the impending cuts.

NYT: Hard times are here to stay: Budget Cuts Seen as Risk to Growth of U.S. Economy
Many economists are particularly critical of the arbitrary nature of the cuts, arguing that Congress could reduce annual deficits by the same amount with far less economic damage by spreading the cuts across a broader range of programs, directing them at lesser priorities or giving government agencies more discretion in how they make them... The cumulative effect of the sequester and the tax deal struck in January might slash economic growth by as much as 1.25 percentage points — from a growth rate that otherwise might have been more than 3 percent — in 2013, economists estimate.

Benen Rules: Americans aren't buying what GOP is selling
Bloomberg and USA Today report that the public likes Obama and will blame the Republicans if the sequester tanks the economy. "This poll suggests the GOP isn't just wrong, its understanding of public attitudes is the exact opposite of reality. The public is prepared to hold Republicans responsible for this self-inflicted wound that will undermine the economy, the military, and public needs. The one thing the GOP is counting on -- avoiding blame at all costs -- is already failing miserably."

But why would Republicans enable economic recovery? They want a repeat of 2010. Dionne Jr: Republicans run out the clock
"If Washington can be kept in a state of partisan paralysis, Republicans stand to gain more. The voters hoped that by settling certain questions in 2012, they could push the politicians toward problem-solving. Some Republicans, in their heart of hearts, even want this to happen. But if gridlock retains its icy grip on government, the president will ultimately suffer because it is members of his constituency who will be most demoralized by the failure of their votes to change anything."

New Republic: Cohn says pay the bills: The GOP's Budget Denialism
“Discretionary spending,” the money that government spends on everything besides entitlements, is already at historic lows. Further reductions would push it lower. It’s hard to see how government could function in a way most Americans would find acceptable. Conservatives insist that higher taxes will strangle the economy, a claim that the evidence (from Europe, among other places) doesn't support. But if we don’t find the money to pay for infrastructure and training tomorrow’s workforce, then we really might be undermining the future.

NYT: Mental health is mandatory
The Obama administration issued a final rule on Wednesday defining “essential health benefits” that must be offered by most health insurance plans next year, and it said that 32 million people would gain access to coverage of mental health care as a result. The federal rule requires insurers to cover treatment of mental illnesses, behavioral disorders, drug addiction and alcohol abuse, and other conditions.

League of Conservation Voters: 112th? Worst. Congress. Ever.
The League of Conservation Voters called last Congress’ Republican-controlled House of Representatives the worst in history for the environment Wednesday while unveiling its 2012 National Environmental Scorecard. “The best that can be said about the 112th House is that it’s over,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, the group’s senior vice president of government affairs.

Ford taking it slow and steady on the electric Focus. Cute car. And sells in California.
Ford anticipates that electric vehicle sales — at this point just the Focus EV — will comprise no more than 5 percent of its hybrid and electric vehicle sales moving forward. Last year, when Ford sold 685 Focus EVs, sales comprised about 2 percent of Ford's hybrid and electric vehicle sales... "Overall, it's meeting our expectations in the marketplace," said C.J. O'Donnell, Ford's group marketing manager of electrification, in a telephone interview. "I think as we expand the footprint, by definition, we will get more customers."

Breathe in the air: China to introduce carbon tax
China will proactively introduce a set of new taxation policies designed to preserve the environment, including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, according to a senior official with the Ministry of Finance (MOF)...The government is also looking into the possibility of taxing energy-intensive products such as batteries, as well as luxury goods such as aircraft that are not used for public transportation, according to Jia. To conserve natural resources, the government will push forward resource tax reforms by taxing coal based on prices instead of sales volume, as well as raising coal taxes. A resource tax will also be levied on water.

Is it the weekend yet?