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April 20th, 2015 - 3:01 pm

Apple-Watch

Carl Howe has an excellent track record as an analyst of Apple products and practices, and here are his preliminary numbers on Apple Watch pre-launch sales:

The Apple Watch went on sale for pre-orders on April 10, 2015, and the Apple Store tells us that delivery dates for all orders now stretch into summer and beyond. We know that the initial production run of Apple Watch has sold out; what we don’t know is how many Apple Watches that represents. I’ve built a simple model that predicts that the initial run of watches was more than 3 million units and will yield Apple Watch revenues of over $2 billion for the first two weeks of sales. While this figure is smaller than first weekend sales of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it dwarfs all other smartwatch sales to date and represents a milestone in wearable sales. The model suggests that while Sport Watch will lead sales in volume, selling 1.8 million units through May 8, Apple Watch will actually lead in revenue during that period, garnering about $900 million versus Sport’s $675 million. I also believe that Apple’s decision to introduce the Edition will be validated by $500 million in sales on only 40,000 units.

Back in September when Tim Cook first demoed the Watch, I wrote, “At long last we know what a wearable computer is supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to do, and how it’s supposed to work.”

Consumers — so far — would seem to agree, and in numbers never before seen for any new electronics device. Ever.

Those who predicted Apple Watch would flop from the start have some ‘splainin to do.

(Hat tip, John Gruber.)

The Return of Dow 7,000?

April 20th, 2015 - 2:17 pm

Michael Pento says “it is clear stock prices are still extremely overvalued by virtually every metric.” Here’s more:

These lofty valuations sit atop negative earnings growth and a faltering economy. The Atlanta Fed’s GDP model currently shows first-quarter 2015 economic growth will come in at a paltry 0.2 percent annualized rate. And S&P Capital IQ predicts first-quarter earnings will fall 2.9 percent, while also projecting second-quarter earnings growth will contract 1.8 percent.

So how can stock prices remain at record high valuations; given the fact such levels seem egregiously ridiculous within the context of no growth? The answer is simply that central banks have given investors no other alternatives. Banks pay you zip on your deposits and sovereign debt offers little return — even when going out 10 years on the yield curve.

Central banks have forced investors to play musical chairs with their money; but this dangerous game has millions of players and just a handful of chairs. When the music finally stops investors will find that bids for stocks have become very rare.

Pento warns that a US recession (Q1 growth was essentially zero; Q2 could be as bad or worse) and rising interest rates could easily pop the bubble. Missed earnings aren’t helping, either.

Pento’s warning could be premature however. If April and May look anything like January, February, and March, then the Fed probably won’t be raising rates in June like it keeps promising (threatening?) to do.

I’ve had my finger hovering over the SELL! button for what seems like ever now, but there still seems to be room left for this bubble to expand.

The Clinton Way

April 20th, 2015 - 12:53 pm

Mystery Machine

The New York Times previews Peter Schweitzer’s Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich and is forced to admit that the book is “potentially more unsettling” than previous Clinton exposés. From Amy Chozick’s writeup:

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department.

In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”

But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.

Potentially?

Part of the Clintons’ genius is a variation on the “Big Lie.” Tell a lie big enough, and no one will believe you could possibly be lying. The Clintons, with varying degrees of success, hide behind a sort of “audacity of corruption.” Nobody, people seem to figure, could possibly be that corrupt and still hold public office.

When busted, their four-part Crisis Amelioration Process usually works wonders:

• Deny, deny, deny

• Smear the accuser

• Admit, finally, to some technical violation

• Declare that everything is out in the open now, and that we “move forward” past all this

Technically there’s also a fifth part, which is after a long enough spell to insist that “that’s all in the past now.” We’ll watch this process play itself out again over the coming weeks. Will it work? My guess, based purely on 20-plus years of Clinton watching is that of course it will work. The best hope for the Right is to have a new one of these books or scandals coming out every two or three months from now until November, 2016, and hope that the American people have a nasty case of Clinton Fatigue long before Election Day.

I should add that after deleting 32,000 public emails located on an unsecured private server while under subpoena, Hillary Clinton belongs in jail rather than on the campaign trail.

Required Reading

April 20th, 2015 - 11:53 am

Mideast Iran Saudi Arabia Yemen UN

Jeff Jacoby on Obama’s Iran negotiations:

What makes the framework nuclear deal so grotesque and dangerous isn’t Iran’s trail of deception. The real reason to block any nuclear accord with Tehran’s rulers isn’t that they always lie. It’s that they don’t.

Maybe Iran would cheat on the loophole-ridden deal being promoted by the Obama administration. But it wouldn’t have to. Even President Obama admits Iran could abide by the terms agreed to and just wait for them to run out in a little more than a decade. “At that point, the breakout times [to nuclear weapons capability] would have shrunk almost down to zero,” the president told NPR. Cheat or don’t cheat, the end is the same: The Lausanne deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb either way.

And then it will be clear — apocalyptically clear — that the ayatollahs were telling the truth.

Read the whole thing.

No Static at All

April 20th, 2015 - 10:43 am

FM

You won’t be moving up and down the dial in Norway after next year:

Norway’s Minister of Culture announced this week that a national FM-radio switch off will commence in 2017, allowing the country to complete its transition over to digital radio. It’s the end of an era.

As Radio.no notes, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will provide Norwegian listeners more diverse radio channel content than ever before. Indeed, DAB already hosts 22 national channels in Norway, as opposed to FM radio’s five, and a TNS Gallup survey shows that 56% of Norwegian listeners use digital radio every day. While Norway is the first country in the world to set a date for an FM switch-off, other countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are also in the process of transitioning to DAB.

I haven’t turned on FM radio since shortly after leaving the industry more than 20 years ago — video might have killed the radio star, but Clear Channel killed the disc jockey. Homogeny makes for a miserable work environment, and the listening experience isn’t much better.

Maybe digital radio can breathe new life into music broadcasting.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 20th, 2015 - 9:37 am

Peter Ubel reports on what might be ♡bamaCare!!!’s fundamental failure — relying on mock “competition” on the exchanges to bring down prices:

The exchanges are subsidized markets. But subsidies inevitably mess up with normal market functioning. After all, insurers usually compete with each other, in part, based on price. And the cost of insurance varies dramatically, depending on who’s applying for insurance. A single man will typically pay less for his insurance than, say, a family of four. The price of insurance also changes depending on where someone lives, an expensive place like New York City or a cheap one like Topeka (please don’t send me nasty-grams, all you Topekans. I am a Midwesterner just like you!)

Because of this normal market variation in the price of health insurance, the ACA stipulated that the size of the subsidy would vary, in part, based on the cost of the plans in a person’s local market. Specifically, people purchasing insurance on the exchanges are offered plans ranging from bronze ones – with low monthly premium and high out-of-pocket costs – to platinum ones – with high premiums and low out-of-pocket costs. Subsidies are tied to the cost of the second cheapest silver plan.

Got that? That means that if there are five silver plans available in your local insurance market, the price of the second cheapest one sets a kind of limit to your subsidy. If you want to purchase a more expensive plan than the second cheapest one, you will pay the difference in the price of the monthly premium.

This approach makes some sense. If the government had chosen to subsidize people to purchase the most expensive plan in the local market, insurers would have had no incentive to lower their prices.

But this approach has a backwards consequence: The more competitive your local insurance market is – the more choices you have available – the more money you are likely to pay for your insurance.

Read the whole thing.

I’d just add that only a Progressive would create a market of captive customers, mandated to choose from a limited selection of government-defined products, sold by government-approved corporations, with prices effectively hidden by sliding-scale subsidies patrolled by the IRS, and call it “competition.”

Let’s Do the Time Warp (Again)

April 20th, 2015 - 8:24 am
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to potential voters at a house party, Friday, April 17, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to potential voters at a house party, Friday, April 17, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

That GOP cattle call in New Hampshire last weekend was really all about… Hillary? It sometimes seemed that way:

At the first major GOP event since Clinton became an official candidate, the candidates made a special effort to explain that they would measure up especially well against her.

In his last New Hampshire trip, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wore a sweater he said he bought at the Kohl’s discount store for $1. This time, for a Saturday night dinner speech, he wore a suit he said that he got on sale at Jos. A. Bank. Walker told the crowd that Clinton has probably never been to a Kohl’s, and he wondered whether the former first lady has even gone shopping for herself in the past two decades. He argues his modest roots will make a great contrast to her status as a high-flying global celebrity.

Mike Huckabee, who will announce whether he’s running on May 5, argued that he benefits from the unique experience of running “against the Clinton political machine” in Arkansas. “I’ll show you some scars, because I’ve got quite a few,” the former governor said.

Leaving aside that Huckabee’s “scars” date back to the 1980s and ’90s, it’s refreshing to see the GOP hopefuls attacking the presumptive Democratic nominee instead of each other. Of course, we saw this exact same kind of thing in 2011 — for all the good it ended up doing Mitt Romney in 2012.

Because eventually the long knives will come out, as is already happening in Florida:

Ties between Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, political allies for more than a decade, are fraying as the Republican presidential campaign picks up.

In public, mentor Bush and protege Rubio have avoided criticizing each other since Rubio announced his candidacy.

But Bush allies have started quietly spreading negative information about Rubio’s record. Also, supporters of the two Miami politicians are drawing contrasts between Rubio, a 43-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, and 62-year-old Bush, a member of one of the nation’s most powerful political dynasties.

“Sparks are going to fly,” said Al Cardenas, a Bush adviser who is also close to Rubio. “For the first time in our country’s history you’ve got two guys from the same town in the same state from same party running in the same primary.”

He added: “You can bet that regardless of how nice Jeb or Marco wants to be, their staffs are going to do anything they can to win.”

I’ve said here before that Rubio needs more seasoning. Watching how, or perhaps even if, he takes on the Bush Machine will tell us how serious a contender he really is for 2016.

Despite their WASPy demeanor, the Bushes play hardball and always have. If Rubio can take out Jeb, he might just be the candidate to take on Hillary.

Sign “O” the Times

April 20th, 2015 - 7:16 am

Woo-hoo! We’re number twelve! Read:

The U.S. now ranks not first, not second, not third, but 12th among developed nations in terms of business startup activity. Countries such as Hungary, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Israel and Italy all have higher startup rates than America does.

We are behind in starting new firms per capita, and this is our single most serious economic problem. Yet it seems like a secret. You never see it mentioned in the media, nor hear from a politician that, for the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total number of new business startups and business closures per year — the birth and death rates of American companies — have crossed for the first time since the measurement began. I am referring to employer businesses, those with one or more employees, the real engines of economic growth. Four hundred thousand new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying.

I remember reading all those assurances a few years back, that “business climate” doesn’t really matter, and that American businessmen would just keep doing what they do, no matter how many regulations or mandates Washington imposed.

I’d also remind you that squelching entrepreneurship is a great way for vested interests protect themselves from disruptive innovators. This is what’s known as “crony capitalism,” but I’ve always preferred the word “corruption,” which is both shorter and more honest.

If you prefer a longer phrase, in the Obama Administration it’s just “business as usual.”

(Hat tip, Glenn Reynolds.)

There’s an App for That

April 20th, 2015 - 6:06 am
(Image courtesy of DARPA)

(Image courtesy of DARPA)

Introducing KILSWITCH, the greatest military acronym of all time:

A new DARPA air support system will enable military members to call an air strike from a tablet. The tablet interface, called Kinetic Integrated Low-cost SoftWare Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld (KILSWTICH) [sic], uses Android and can zero in on an airstrike target within a few moments.

DARPA calls the program Persistent Close Air Support. The plan is for the tablets to use satellite positioning for more exact targeting and calling in UAVs to perform the strike. In addition to cutting the time required for an airstrike the new system also allows soldiers to carry less equipment compared to the radios and laptops they’ve been using.

Foxtrot Alpha says the military recently tested the program in an exercise in Yuma, AZ, that it called Talon Reach. There, the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs)—the guys who call in a strike—used ordinary off-the-shelf tablets to successfully launch a simulated airstrike.

Maybe the next US Army drone should do little other than carry small-diameter bombs and at the disposal of Android-equipped soldiers. We — and they — might have to worry less about replacing or endlessly refurbishing the Air Force’s A-10 fleet.

Awkward Questions for Clinton

April 20th, 2015 - 5:00 am
Italian Coast Guard officers disembark the body of a dead migrant off the ship Bruno Gregoretti, in Valletta's Grand Harbour, Monday, April 20 2015. A smuggler's boat crammed with hundreds of people overturned off Libya's coast on Saturday as rescuers approached, causing what could be the Mediterranean's deadliest known migrant tragedy and intensifying pressure on the European Union Sunday to finally meet demands for decisive action. So far rescuers saved 28 people a recovered 24 bodies. (AP Photo/Lino Azzopardi)

Italian Coast Guard officers disembark the body of a dead migrant off the ship Bruno Gregoretti, in Valletta’s Grand Harbour, Monday, April 20 2015. A smuggler’s boat crammed with hundreds of people overturned off Libya’s coast on Saturday as rescuers approached, causing what could be the Mediterranean’s deadliest known migrant tragedy and intensifying pressure on the European Union Sunday to finally meet demands for decisive action. So far rescuers saved 28 people a recovered 24 bodies. (AP Photo/Lino Azzopardi)

The big story in all my news alerts this morning is awful enough — that hundreds of Libyan refugees are feared dead in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean. This is from the New York Times writeup:

Europe has been grappling with an influx of thousands of illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East fleeing poverty and war, often traveling in rickety boats operated by smugglers. Many of the boats capsize.

Foreign ministers from the European Union’s 28 member states, joined by interior ministers, are expected to discuss how to avert such disasters in the future, including how to deal with conflict-ridden Libya, which has become a major gateway for smugglers ferrying illegal migrants to Europe.

I’d quibble with the use of the word “migrants.” Aren’t these people in fact refugees of the violence in Libya? And why is Libya a failed state from which tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing? Could it be the result of the actions of a former secretary of State who is now the presumed presidential candidate of a major political party?

For NYT reporter Dan Bilefsky, these questions aren’t even worth asking, much less answering. Although he did conclude with a dire warning:

This latest episode came as far-right parties across Europe have gained in strength, in part by exploiting the simmering resentment of immigrants in some quarters. It remains to be seen whether the extent of the episode will help foster sympathy toward migrants.

You just knew the far-right must somehow be to blame, didn’t you?

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Friday Night Videos

April 17th, 2015 - 10:22 pm

I’ll never be able to retrace the virtual steps which led me to this live & acoustic version of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.” But that’s OK, because I bookmarked the heck out of it, if only for that epic guitar work.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 17th, 2015 - 3:01 pm

Pete Kasperowicz reports for The Blaze that over 300,000 people received excess ♡bamaCare!!! subsidies last year:

When all the overpayments are added up, it comes to $305.2 million, the report said. That’s an average of about $840 per person in excess subsidies.

As of February, about half of that $305.2 million had been repaid, and half had not, the report added.

It’s been known for more about a year that officials implementing Obamacare were having problems with the premium tax credit that will help millions of people afford to buy health insurance under the law. Since early 2014, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and others have said the administration needs to do more to verify the eligibility of people taking these subsidies, to ensure there are not huge overpayments.

Under Obamacare, people can qualify for tax subsidies if they earn anywhere from the federal poverty level and four times that amount. The less people make, the more subsidy they receive.

But because the subsidy is given out in advance, it can lead to complications when people file their taxes. If their income rose during the year, for example, they could be in a position of having received too much of a subsidy, and they may have to pay some of it back.

The IG report said only about 90,000 of the returns claiming an Obamacare tax credit received the amount of subsidy they should have received, or about 12 percent.

I’m so old I remember when one of ♡bamaCare!!!’s big selling points was that it was going to eliminate waste and fraud.

But here’s where it gets really wasteful and perhaps fraudulent:

The IG report said only about 90,000 of the returns claiming an Obamacare tax credit received the amount of subsidy they should have received, or about 12 percent.

12 percent? Are you freakin’ kidding me? ♡bamaCare!!! has a 12% accuracy rate? It gets the subsidies wrong 88% of the time?

The fun part is that ♡bamaCare!!! can’t get it right when relatively few people are buying through the exchanges. That’s set to change — and in a big way — in 2018, when the Cadillac Tax kicks in, and it will behoove businesses to kick people off of employer-based insurance by the millions.

And remember, all of this extra paperwork is handled by you — and by the happy smiling angels of the Internal Revenue Service.

Thought for the Day

April 17th, 2015 - 2:11 pm

ISIS Family Values

April 17th, 2015 - 1:41 pm

DAILY MAIL

More from the Daily Mail:

Islamic State has released a new set of disturbing propaganda photos, showing off their growing number of military markets in Iraq and Syria.

With the fighting fiercer than ever, the extremist group have already started to convert local markets to supply the growing number of barbarous jihadis in their ranks.

Even young children appear to be allowed to browse through the market, with some of the children wearing their own miniature uniforms.

This is nothing new, of course. We’ve long grown used to seeing Palestinian children dressed up as suicide bombers or carrying automatic weapons — sometimes real ones. If you go to the darker places on the web, you can find videos of Muslim children being trained in the fine art of human decaptiation and other forms of slaughter.

What’s different about ISIS is the sheer scale of the area they hold — and that much of that area formerly belonged to a US client state, since abandoned by our own President.

Snuff Job

April 17th, 2015 - 12:32 pm
Heir apparent of the party of youth. (AP photo)

Heir apparent of the party of youth.
(AP photo)

An important question from Byron York:

What accounts for the Democrats’ dramatic change from the party of youth to the party of age?

And now the answer:

“It’s the snuffing out of young talent by the strength and size and sheer velocity of the inevitable nominee,” says a well-connected Democratic strategist. “The Clintons took all the air out of the collective Democratic room. There are a lot of people who would be running who are much younger, but they’ve got their future in front of them, and they don’t want the Clintons to ruin it, in this campaign or after this campaign. So they’re waiting for a moment when there is enough oxygen to run.”

“If Hillary Clinton weren’t running, we’d have a field that looks like the Republican field — young and vibrant and diverse.”

It’s always all about the Clintons, isn’t it?

Required Reading

April 17th, 2015 - 11:01 am
Another fine mess. (AP photo)

Another fine mess.
(AP photo)

Anthony Cordesman just absolutely rips the Obama Administration, Congress, and our Big Strategic Thinkers massive new ones:

The United States now faces a rapidly evolving world filled with new challenges at a time when real-world defense planning is focused on budget cuts, when U.S. “strategy” lacks plans and program budgets, and when talk of strategic partnership lacks clear and specific direction. Far too much U.S. strategic rhetoric is a hollow shell, while the real U.S. national security posture is based on suboptimizing the budget around the fiscal ceilings set by the Budget Control Act (BCA), persisting in issuing empty concepts and strategic rhetoric, and dealing with immediate problems out of any broader strategic context.

The end result resembles an exercise in chaos theory.

Read the whole thing.

That is all.

Army Morale Hitting New Lows

April 17th, 2015 - 9:54 am

Damn:

More than half of some 770,000 soldiers are pessimistic about their future in the military and nearly as many are unhappy in their jobs, despite a six-year, $287 million campaign to make troops more optimistic and resilient, findings obtained by USA TODAY show.

Twelve months of data through early 2015 show that 403,564 soldiers, or 52%, scored badly in the area of optimism, agreeing with statements such as “I rarely count on good things happening to me.” Forty-eight percent have little satisfaction in or commitment to their jobs.

All kidding aside, because this is a serious issue involving some of the finest men and women this country has to offer — but it’s going to take a lot more than six years and a few hundred million dollars to undo eight years of President Obama.

It’s going to take leadership.

Hill vs the Entire GOP Field [LINK FIXED!]

April 17th, 2015 - 8:36 am

TRIFECTA

It’s the third and final part of Bill Whittle’s Trifecta Triple on the 2016 race — but this one is just for members.

But we promise, each and every month, to produce at least $5.09 worth of news and entertainment for every $5 subscription fee.

Such a bargain!

The Truth About THAAD

April 17th, 2015 - 7:19 am
Protesters struggle with police officers as they march toward the Defense Ministry during a rally against the visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 10, 2015. Protesters opposed a possible deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on Korea Peninsula. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Protesters struggle with police officers as they march toward the Defense Ministry during a rally against the visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 10, 2015. Protesters opposed a possible deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on Korea Peninsula. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Here we go again:

South Korea is stuck between a rock and a hard place. After news leaked that the United States is exploring the possibility of deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea to counter North Korean missile threats, China voiced a strong objection, claiming that such a deployment would threaten its security. If the U.S. decides to make a formal request, Seoul will face an uncomfortable choice between its indispensable security provider and its largest trading partner – and China might not like the result.

China claims that THAAD – in particular the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance and Control Model 2 (AN/TPY-2) X-band radar that would accompany the interceptors – is unnecessary to counter North Korean missiles. Many Chinese analysts believe that, in fact, an overly hyped North Korean threat is Washington’s excuse to justify deployment of a system that actually targets China. [Emphasis added]

This is the same gambit repeated again and again by the Russians — that missile defense somehow “targets” someone.

But missile defense just kind of… sits there, until you need it. Like homeowner’s insurance. THAAD doesn’t threaten anybody — all it can do is knock down incoming enemy missiles. In other words, China doesn’t like THAAD because they worry it won’t allow them to use missiles as blackmail against their neighbors.

That’s not “targeting.” That’s keeping your friends a little safer from gangsters acting like gangsters.

Deploy THAAD already.

Hillary Twist

April 17th, 2015 - 6:14 am

MAP

If this image excites you, if the thought that a person who has not driven a own in 20 years and who has most of a great nation’s news media carrying tons of water for her, somehow engages you because she just spent three hours in coach and briefly touched her own suitcase, while on her way to “a top-secret meeting with Democratic Party insiders who were told to surrender their cell phones and cameras beforehand…”

… then you might be a liberal.

Go East, Young Man!

April 17th, 2015 - 5:24 am
All hail Freedonia! (Image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

All hail Freedonia!
(Image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Wow:

A Czech man named Vit Jedlicka proclaimed the new republic between Serbia and Croatia on the western bank of the Danube on Monday and has been doing the media rounds all week. With a land area of about 2.7 square miles, Liberland would be the world’s third-smallest country, after the Vatican City and Monaco. According to its website, it has a flag, a motto (“to live and let live”), and an official language (Czech, which seems ill-advised). Jedlicka is taking applications for citizenship, though you’ll have to apply by email because there’s no post office yet. Liberlanders must be people who:

have respect for other people and respect the opinions of others, regardless of their race, ethnicity, orientation, or religion
have respect for private ownership which is untouchable
do not have communist, nazi or other extremist past
were not punished for past criminal offences

Still a member of the Czech Republic’s libertarian, euroskeptic Party of Free Citizens, Jedlicka says he is working on writing a constitution that “significantly limits the power of politicians so they could not interfere too much in the freedoms of the Liberland nation.”

America hasn’t been the same since we closed the frontier and ran out of places to run away to — maybe the lawless areas of the Balkans, the Middle East, and someday perhaps Siberia could be made into new outlets for rugged individualists.

CLOSEUP

A lovely photo essay by Erika Smalley — a genuinely really real Iowan who tried to get to see Hillary Clinton.

A Long Time Ago…

April 16th, 2015 - 2:19 pm

I got chills.

Wow.

The weird part? The very last bit was a bit of a letdown — but the rest of it, nothin’ but chills.

Required Reading

April 16th, 2015 - 1:14 pm

shutterstock_156695750

A former TSA agent writes:

The recent story of two Transportation Security Administration screeners at Denver International Airport manipulating full-body scanners in order to grope men’s crotches is disturbing, but it came as no surprise to me.

Over the course of my six years with the TSA, the leveraging of rules and surveillance tools to abuse passengers was a daily checkpoint occurrence. Has the TSA screener searching your luggage suddenly decided to share with you the finer points of official bag-search procedure just as your final boarding call is being announced? There’s a good chance that he or she just doesn’t like you. Or in some cases, as we’ve seen, it may be that the screener finds you attractive and wants to use the TSA rules as an excuse to get his or her hands on you.

Has any presidential candidate come out in favor of abolishing TSA? This could be a populist issue with staying power, and a good starting place for a discussion about privacy, security, and that old warning of Ben Franklin’s.

News You Can Use

April 16th, 2015 - 12:45 pm

TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT

Oh, Japan:

Japanese game show Sing What Happens seriously tests their male contestants’ karaoke skills by giving them hand jobs while they sing. The object of the game is for the contestants to know the song by heart and to not be distracted by the hand job. They need to be able to hit the proper notes—perfectly—in order to win. Sometimes a hand is used and other times feet are used for zee sexual gratification. The contestants must be able to carry a tune until they…

Until they… you know.

Enter the Matrix

April 16th, 2015 - 11:20 am

LOCUST

I have seen the future, and it includes Laurence Fishburne asking me to take either the red or blue pill. Apparently:

The Office of Naval Research has unveiled what it is calling the future of the American military’s drone technology—lightweight, flying killer robots that can swarm and overwhelm an adversary.

As more than 120 countries convened at the U.N. in Geneva to discuss the future of drone warfare this week, the Navy’s research arm announced it had started testing its LOCUST drones (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology). And while the acronym may conjure a kind of dystopian sci-fi nightmare, Navy scientists insist that LOCUST drones will give sailors and marines a tactical advantage on the battlefield.

Currently, the military relies on MQ-Reaper drones, one of which costs $16 million and requires the guiding hand of a human being. LOCUST drones are far smaller and cheaper, and they guide themselves, says the military. According to Engadget, when dispatched, “they team up and overwhelm enemy aircraft like honey bees defending their hive.”

Picture a Virginia-class nuclear attack sub. Now replace a few of its Tomahawk cruise missiles with a launchable container full of LOCUST drones. The container/missile pops out of the water, proceeds to its destination, then unleashes a swarm of LOCUST drones ready to strike.

Imagine putting the enemy aircraft-killing capabilities of an aircraft carrier in a stealthy underwater platform.

Granted, a sub would have to return to base to reload on LOCUST missiles, so it wouldn’t enjoy a surface aircraft carrier’s ability to sustain operations. But its stealthiness and survivability would make LOCUST-equipped SSNs a valuable addition to — not a replacement for — our carrier strike groups.

The Fix Is In

April 16th, 2015 - 10:10 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Politico reports that Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street backers have a “wink wink, nudge nudge” understanding about her populist rhetoric:

Hillary Clinton sounded like a woman on a mission after her long drive into the heartland: “There’s something wrong,” she told Iowans on Tuesday, when “hedge fund managers pay lower taxes than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80 when I was driving here over the last two days.”

But back in Manhattan, the hedge fund managers who’ve long been part of her political and fundraising networks aren’t sweating the putdown and aren’t worrying about their take-home pay just yet.

It’s “just politics,” said one major Democratic donor on Wall Street, explaining that some of her Wall Street supporters doubt she would push hard for closing the carried interest loophole as president, a policy she promoted when she last ran in 2008.

There’s going to be a lot of populist rhetoric this cycle — from both sides. Honestly, I don’t care what a candidate threatens to do to Wall Street. What I care about deeply is what they promise to do to re-empower entrepreneurs and the middle class.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 16th, 2015 - 9:00 am

Must-read stuff from Cliff Asness in today’s WSJ:

While the administration might be forgiven for cheerleading, pundits such as Steven Rattner and Paul Krugman and many others have cited these statistics as serious evidence that ObamaCare is working.

That more people would be insured was never in dispute. If you mandate that people buy something, penalize them if they don’t and give it away to some, more people will end up with it. The proper response to this is: Duh.

The real question is how many of those covered by ObamaCare were previously uninsured, how increased coverage is translating into more or better health care, and at what cost this comes both to public finances and personal liberties—all compared with what other alternatives? That is the stuff for serious debate.

That’s why instead of a serious debate, ♡bamaCare!!! supporters give sob stories and accusations of cruelty.

Islamic State of Iraq, Syria, and… Mexico

April 16th, 2015 - 7:47 am

shutterstock_57979540

Well:

Islamic State fighters are operating training bases near the U.S. southern border and are being aided by violent drug cartels to smuggle terrorists into states like Texas, a report published Tuesday by a watchdog group claims.

The Judicial Watch report, which cited an unnamed Mexican Army officer and a Mexican police inspector, raises new fears that the fight with ISIS is closer to the U.S. than previously thought.

The report identified the locations of the two bases, and said one is as close as 8 miles from Texas in a town west of Juarez. Mexican authorities found possible evidence — plans written in Arabic and Urdu — last week in the town of “Anapra,” the sources said. These sources told the watchdog that “coyotes” who work for drug cartels assist in smuggling terrorists between Fort Hancock, Texas, and other undisclosed locations.

We can get serious and build a fence, or we can get people blown up.

It’s really that simple.

The Republican Obama?

April 16th, 2015 - 6:27 am

Matt Lewis has an interesting piece at The Week, discussing the styles of presidential contenders, and whether those styles do or don’t match the shifting moods of the electorate. You might want to read the whole thing, but start at least with this:

Cruz and Obama do indeed have some things in common, including an ambition to seize the brass ring after 15 minutes in the Senate, a keen intellect, and an Ivy league pedigree. But Cruz’s Texas style and penchant for hurling red meat to the base make him awfully dissimilar to the professorial Obama.

A much better model might be Marco Rubio. As both Politico and Hot Air point out, Rubio could best be seen as the Republicans’ Obama. This comparison has zero to do with political philosophy. And no, it’s not because Rubio’s is also a first-term senator (he made a pretty compelling case to Kasie Hunt about why he has more experience than then-Sen. Obama did in 2008). It’s really about style and temperament. Obama and Rubio both seem calm, reasonable, intellectual, professorial. They seem like they’d be more comfortable in a big cosmopolitan city than clearing brush on a Texas ranch. They’re telegenic thinkers, not brash doers.

Now, do Republicans really need their own Obama in 2016? Maybe.

What if 2008 marked a somewhat permanent political shift in presidential elections — away from the rural, rustic machismo of the Bush era and toward a more sophisticated, cosmopolitan ideal for a leader? Could it be that Republicans can only win again by playing this game — by casting aside the tough Southern thing, the Bush “swagger” — and nominating a young-ish, cosmopolitan conservative?

If the country has changed this way, and the GOP needs its own Obama — a conservative who can appeal to minorities, urbanites, and millennials — they might well turn to a Marco Rubio, a Bobby Jindal, or possibly a Jeb Bush.

I’m going to have to disagree strongly with Lewis’ take on Bush’s appeal, which doesn’t seem to exist outside of the GOP money machine and temporarily in the minds of lower-information voters who recognize the name and not much else. Scott Walker might fit that mold better, even if he lacks the Ivy League credentials. But that’s just an aside, a small detail — it’s Lewis’ premise about “style and temperament” which needs further exploring.

At this point in the pre-primary cycle, I’m like my young boys let loose in the toy section at Walmart. There’s so much to choose from, so much to take off the shelves and check out — the GOP bench is an embarrassment of riches like the party hasn’t seen since… since maybe not in my lifetime.

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