Slim by Chocolate — A Hoax

May 28th, 2015 - 1:06 pm

Sigh — turns out, you can’t lose weight by eating chocolate. John Bohannon reveals how he fooled the world:

I got a call in December last year from a German television reporter named Peter Onneken. He and his collaborator Diana Löbl were working on a documentary film about the junk-science diet industry. They wanted me to help demonstrate just how easy it is to turn bad science into the big headlines behind diet fads. And Onneken wanted to do it gonzo style: Reveal the corruption of the diet research-media complex by taking part.

The call wasn’t a complete surprise. The year before, I had run a sting operation for Science on fee-charging open access journals, a fast-growing and lucrative new sector of the academic publishing business. To find out how many of those publishers are keeping their promise of doing rigorous peer review, I submitted ridiculously flawed papers and counted how many rejected them. (Answer: fewer than half.)

Onneken and Löbl had everything lined up: a few thousand Euros to recruit research subjects, a German doctor to run the study, and a statistician friend to massage the data. Onneken heard about my journal sting and figured that I would know how to pull it all together and get it published. The only problem was time: The film was scheduled to be aired on German and French television in the late spring (it premieres next week), so we really only had a couple of months to pull this off.

Read the whole thing.

A couple of months is more than long enough to get people to believe something they really want to believe.

Now imagine what you could do if you had years and millions or billions in government grants to fool around with.


May 28th, 2015 - 12:00 pm

Steve Forbes would like to remind you that income tax cuts always work:

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas was pilloried for enacting major tax reductions that supposedly blew gaping holes in the state’s budget because rapid economic growth didn’t instantly materialize. Put aside the fact that some of his other tax proposals weren’t enacted and that he didn’t get all the tightening on overall spending he wanted. Democrats thought they’d knock him out in 2014. Instead, Brownback won, and his tax cuts, which took effect little more than two years ago (he not only whacked income tax rates but also eliminated those levies altogether for small businesses), are starting to yield a bumper crop in prosperity. Private-sector job growth in Kansas is now outpacing that in most other states. The state’s unemployment rate is among the nation’s lowest. Just as impressive is Kansas’ employment-to-population ratio, which is well above the national average.

Ohio’s chief executive and possible presidential candidate, John Kasich, is also hacking away at his state’s personal income tax, with an eye to eliminating it altogether, relying instead on broad-based consumption taxes. (He’s already done away with Ohio’s death tax.)

Even blue states are getting the tax message. Look at Maine, which a GOP presidential candidate hasn’t carried since 1988. Governor Paul LePage is pushing to eliminate the state’s income tax by 2020. Maine has long been in the economic dumps, and LePage, who was a successful businessman before going into politics full-time, knows that this is chiefly due to the state’s hostile tax environment. Liberals and legacy media outlets can’t stand LePage’s unabashed free-market principles and his willingness to let reporters know what he thinks of them and their employers. Their consternation was palpable when he won a stunning reelection victory.

“Work” of course depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If the goal is increased GDP growth and revenues, with the benefits going largely to entrepreneurs and their employees — then, yes, income tax cuts are just the thing.

But if your goal is to set faction against faction in a neverending fight over a shrinking pie, with growing opportunities for graft and crony capitalism, then, no, income tax cuts just aren’t for you.

Castle Anthrax, Moat Breached

May 28th, 2015 - 10:55 am
Image courtesy Python (Monty) Pictures

Image courtesy Python (Monty) Pictures


The U.S. military mistakenly sent live anthrax bacteria to laboratories in nine U.S. states and a U.S. air base in South Korea, after apparently failing to properly inactivate the bacteria last year, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The Pentagon said there was no known suspected infection or risk to the public. But four U.S. civilians have been started on preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis, which usually includes the anthrax vaccine, antibiotics or both.

The four face “minimal” risk, said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Your health care is totally safe with these big government people.


May 28th, 2015 - 9:37 am
(Image courtesy Warner Bros.)

(Image courtesy Warner Bros.)

There’s fast, there’s really fast, and then there’s hypersonic. Supermissiles should always fall into the last category, and Raytheon just scored a nice contract to develop just that:

Raytheon is getting $20 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the Pentagon branch best known for having sponsored the invention of the Internet. This time, the agency wants a technology that weapons designers have dreamed of since the 1930s — a hypersonic missile that travels so fast there’s virtually no defense against it.

Details of the project are closely guarded secrets; DARPA and Raytheon declined to provide specifics. But similar efforts have been underway for decades. The German scientist Eugen Sanger worked on hypersonic cruise missiles during the 1930s, but the effort was abandoned as impractical. Today, though, Russia, China and India are all making big investments in hypersonic hardware. The United States is working on several similar projects, including the Army’s land-based Advanced Hypersonic Weapon and the X-51 WaveRider being developed by the Air Force.

Would it be redundant if I said, “Faster, please?”

My dream of having a Friendly Skynet to automatically rain down destruction on bad guys anywhere in the world, in 30 minutes or less, keeps moving closer to reality.

Can You Dig It?

May 28th, 2015 - 8:08 am

I didn’t see this one coming — Russian soldiers are now having to defend against Russian weapons from being re-smuggled out of Ukraine and back into Russia:

Over 60 miles of trenches, four meters (13 feet) wide and two meters (six feet) deep, have been dug in Ukraine’s Rostov region, adjacent to the restive Donetsk and Luhansk regions, to prevent arms and munitions from being carried into Russia. Over 60 smuggling attempts have been stopped, leading to the detention of 130 people and the confiscation of land mines, firearms, artillery shells and grenades, the Moscow newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta said.

“The separatist regions of Ukraine have become a territory of uncontrolled weapons circulation and arms always flow into the black market in a period of de-escalation,” military analyst Anton Lavrov told Bloomberg News. The weapons could arrive in nearby North Caucasus, a largely Muslim region of Russia where militants have battled federal troops for over 20 years.

The longer this war goes on, the more tempted Kyiv may be to start providing weapons, money, and training to separatist forces to the restive Muslims in Russia’s south Caucasus region, which in the long run would end up doing nobody any good.

The First 100 Days

May 28th, 2015 - 7:35 am

Introducing Trifecta Platinum — and the first hit is free.

Nonmembers seem to prefer shorter segments, but PJTV members — being the awesomely involved people that you are — prefer the longer stuff. So we’re experimenting with longer, freer-form segments like these. And they’re more fun for Scott Ott, Bill Whittle and me to shoot, because we’re less worried about time constraints and the producers really want us to let loose and get our newsgeek on. But maybe the best part for us is the chance to get away from the blink-and-you-miss-it headline stories, and into deeper topics we really care about.

They whole series is available to members at no additional charge, and sets are available for purchase by non-members.

News You Can Use

May 28th, 2015 - 6:22 am
(Image courtesy LiveLeak/New York Daily News)

(Image courtesy LiveLeak/New York Daily News)

Meanwhile, in California:

An overjoyed driver in Los Angeles captured a wild encounter with a naked man who is seen leaping on passing cars and stopping traffic smack in the middle of a major highway.

The unidentified man strips to his birthday suit on the busy Interstate 5, sending the cameraman into a fit of laughter as he filmed the bizarre broad-daylight peep show.

“Unf—— believable! I’ve seen it f—— all! This is f—— amazing!” the driver says in the nearly 2-minute clip published to LiveLeak on Saturday.

The nude exhibitionist at one point dives face down onto the windshield of a passing car, then slides off and crouches on the road.

You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?

LiveLeak has the video, which is just as pointlessly entertaining as you might imagine. There’s some NSFW language, plus, you know, naked guy on the interstate.

Those Dumbwatch Blues

May 28th, 2015 - 5:31 am


Apple Watch is hurting the competition — but the competition ain’t Android Wear or Pebble:

Analysts predicted last year that the tech-savvy watch, which launched in April at a starting price of $349, would crush watch sales for companies like Michael Kors that sell timepieces in the price range of $300 to $500.

Those predictions might already be coming true.

Michael Kors reported a 5.8% decline in same-store sales for its fourth quarter on Wednesday, including a 6.7% drop in North America. Analysts had been expecting a same-store sales increase in North America — the company’s biggest market — of 3%.

In a research note last fall, Barclays analysts said they were “increasingly concerned” about Fossil, which makes watches for more than a dozen brands including Michael Kors, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and Burberry.

Apple’s new retailing chief, Angela Ahrendts, came to Cupertino from Burberry, and presumably knows what that kind of customer is looking for. Think of your typical Fossil-cum-Apple-Watch customer as “upscale but not too upscale.” Her hiring and the debut of Apple Watch are no coincidence.

The story goes on:

“We cannot overlook what is increasingly becoming a major disruption to the entire watch industry,” the analysts wrote. “Future innovation at Fossil …will largely be challenged by hype and innovative offerings from deep pocket technology-credible competitors such as Apple, Samsung and Motorola.”

Right now, Android Wear’s mostly oversized and geek-oriented offerings aren’t any kind of disruptive competition to Fossil, although that isn’t to say they won’t be in the future — aside from clunkiness, that LG Urbane is one handsome piece of hardware, hampered mostly by Android Wear’s weaknesses. Wear will improve and the hardware will become sleeker — but for the next year or two, there’s not much to talk about outside the Android Wear enthusiast community.

Can we learn anything then at this early stage from the Apple Watch launch and Fossil’s woes? Maybe.

The key might be found in this WSJ review of the Urbane:

The Apple Watch is, despite its many talents, a watch first and foremost. Rival Android Wear watches, which made a debut last year, are still frustrating wrist-top computers that happen to tell the time.

This isn’t an Apple vs Google fight — given time, I’m sure Android Wear will catch up, even if the target market never quite reaches the “upscale but not too upscale” crowd. Just like with smartphones, there’s plenty of room in the marketplace for both operating systems.

But we’re still in the early stages of wearable computers. Even when powered by slow CPUs and with faces that turn on only when you flick your wrist, they still have to be charged every night and require a paired smartphone (for now) to act as the real brains of the watch.

Google’s OEMs — like LG, Samsung, and Motorola — haven’t really come up with a solution to that problem. Apple’s solution was to make nice watches that also do some cool extra stuff, rather than “frustrating wrist-top computers that happen to tell the time.”

As best we know so far, Apple’s approach seems to be winning in the marketplace — at least for now. And I think I know why.

Like a lot of people, I liked wearing a watch. I miss wearing a watch, but there seems little point to it anymore when all it does it tell me the time and date — and I get those whenever I pull my phone out of my pocket. Since the smartphone, there just isn’t enough utility to make watches worth most people’s while. (One exception is beach vacations. Leave the damn phone in your room safe and strap a cheap Swatch or Casio to your wrist so you always know how long before the swim-up bar opens.)

So there are millions and millions of us who would be happy to wear a watch again — if it provided enough added utility and if it doesn’t look like crap right out there on our wrists for everyone to see.

Apple nailed the second part right out of the gate with stylish gear which isn’t too bulky for most wrists. But for many people the first part is less clear.

The first generation iPod interested me — because, hey, 1,000 songs in my pocket! However, giving up MusicMatch (before it sucked) for iTunes and switching to a PowerPC Mac weren’t worth it. By the third generation, Apple had added a color screen and PC connectivity — and MusicMatch 10 was complete crap. SOLD!

Same deal with the first generation MacBook Air — underpowered and too expensive. Now prices have come down, performance is way up, and damn near every decent laptop computer looks just like a MacBook Air. (This story will repeat itself over the next two-three years with the new-and-even-tinier Retina MacBook.)

On the other hand, Apple got the price/performance matrix just right with the first-gen iPhone and the new Mac Pro — and I was a happy buyer of the first generation of both.

So while I do miss wearing a watch, I’m still not sure this first-gen Apple Watch is the device to rekindle that old love. But if shrinking sales numbers from Michael Kors are any indicator of the Watch’s utility, then it might be a little more first-gen iPhone and little less first-gen MacBook Air.

Taliban 5 to Walk?

May 27th, 2015 - 3:07 pm
United States President Obama (center) walks with the parents of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl Jani Bergdahl (left) and Bob Bergdahl (right) back to the Oval Office after making a statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban Obama Statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Washington DC, America - 31 May 2014 (Rex Features via AP Images)

United States President Obama (center) walks with the parents of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl Jani Bergdahl (left) and Bob Bergdahl (right) back to the Oval Office after making a statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban Obama Statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Washington DC, America – 31 May 2014 (Rex Features via AP Images)

While US terror arrests show a frightening acceleration from recent years, the five Taliban leaders exchanged for deserter Bowe Bergdahl could be released as soon as Monday.

The five former Guantanamo detainees have been under close monitoring in Qatar and subject to a travel ban since their release last year. The agreement with Qatar is set to expire June 1.

While the Washington Post reported earlier this month that the administration was in talks with Qatari officials about potentially extending security measures for the group, it’s unclear if any restrictions will remain in place after the end of the month.

Asked this week if the talks produced any agreement, a State Department official told, “We don’t have any updates.”

Remember when Obama described his own foreign policy doctrine as “don’t do stupid shit?”

Good times, good times.

So It Has Come to This

May 27th, 2015 - 2:13 pm

President Barack Obama, addressing the ISIS threat in January 2014:

The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.

Obama, September 2014:

Our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so it’s no longer a threat—not just to Iraq but also to the region and to the United States.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest talking to reporters last week:

We are in the degrade portion of this operation.

Dov S. Zakheim writing for The National Interest just two days later:

Containment is a messy solution to an awful problem, however, there is none other in sight. The Obama administration, its strategy, if ever there was one, now in ruins, its credibility at an ebb, is left with no other choice.

And in today’s Wall Street Journal, Kevin Connolly feels the need to explain how to keep ISIS from taking Baghdad. He says it will require a mix of strategic air power, “ruthless” and large-scale special operations, capturing and interrogating ISIS leaders to develop solid human intelligence, and — of course — sending in US ground forces. But even Connolly concludes:

If the administration whistles past the graveyard and insists its policy is working even as ISIS nears Baghdad and our diplomats there, the White House may face a debacle that makes Benghazi seem minor in comparison.

In other words…

…minus the kind of air war the President won’t order, a scale of spec-ops he won’t risk, the kind of interrogations he won’t approve, and the sending in the ground troops which would destroy his legacy as the President who ends wars…

…minus all that, it seems more than possible that Baghdad will fall.

It is unlikely that the Iraqis will get their act together. But it seems impossible that POTUS will either.

Carly S. Grant

May 27th, 2015 - 1:31 pm


Watch the video at Breitbart.

All I would add is, find out what Fiorina drinks and send a barrel of it to each of my other candidates.

PS Hillary Clinton belongs in jail.

Is That a Gigayacht in Your Pocket?

May 27th, 2015 - 12:37 pm



Pictured for the first time, this is the superyacht that is set to eclipse all others.

Called Double Century, she has an incredible nine decks, will rise 88 feet above the water and at 656-feet long, she’s twice the length of a football field and 130 feet longer than the biggest superyacht around today, the Azzam, owned by the President of the United Arab Emirates.

Roman Abramovich’s Eclipse will also be put in the shade by Double Century, measuring a relatively meagre 535 feet.

By way of comparison, the USS Yorktown, lost at the Battle of Midway, measured 770 feet at the waterline — yet didn’t have even a single swimming pool.

Who Lost Ramadi?

May 27th, 2015 - 11:29 am
Displaced civilians from Ramadi wait to receive humanitarian aid from the United Nations in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 22, 2015. The United Nations World Food Program said it is rushing food assistance into Anbar to help tens of thousands of residents who have fled Ramadi after it was taken by Islamic State militant group. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Displaced civilians from Ramadi wait to receive humanitarian aid from the United Nations in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 22, 2015. The United Nations World Food Program said it is rushing food assistance into Anbar to help tens of thousands of residents who have fled Ramadi after it was taken by Islamic State militant group. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Everyone — and no one.


Iraqis lacked “the will to fight” against encroaching Islamic militants, with press secretary Josh Earnest calling it a “problem we’ve seen in the past.”

The Pentagon took the criticism a step further, saying the Iraqi troops “chose to withdraw” from Ramadi despite “a substantial” advantage in combat power.
“In this case of Ramadi, there was a problem of both low morale amongst the troops and there was a problem with the command structure,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said. “The command and control structure does not appear to have been fully up to the task.”

Iraqi officials have bristled at Carter’s criticism, with Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the parliamentary defense and security committee, calling it “unrealistic and baseless.”

President Obama’s hands-off approach to Iraq pretty much guaranteed that the country’s old sectarian problems would fester until they threatened to split the country — and they did split the government and the military. Obama’s scuttling of the Status of Forces talks completely guaranteed that should the worst come to pass, we would have very little ability to do much about it. Would the Iraqi government have held together better with a U.S. presence still in place? Perhaps. Would the Iraqi Army have performed better with the help of two or three full U.S. Army brigade combat teams? Almost certainly.

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Herding Cats Like a PATRIOT

May 27th, 2015 - 10:22 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

President Obama is desperate to save the PATRIOT Act in advance of Sunday’s deadline, but Roll Call reports that would take the unanimous consent of the entire Senate — and good luck getting at least three of them on board with that:

The Senate is slated to return Sunday in a last-ditch bid to extend the Patriot Act after the May 22 meltdown led by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has made his bid to kill the Patriot Act a signature issue for his presidential campaign.

Under Senate rules, there doesn’t appear to be a way around Paul’s objections — or those of other senators, including Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico — without their consent.

That means either cutting a deal with Paul guaranteeing him simple majority votes on his surveillance-limiting amendments — something leaders refused to do in the early hours of Saturday morning — or letting the authorities expire.

Congress could revive the authorities, but it would take days, if not a week or more, to go through the procedural hoops required in the face of persistent objections from Paul and company.

In his latest fundraising message, Paul again made clear he had no intention of relenting.

I love it when good politics and good policy coincide.

Speaking of Venn diagrams with very little overlap…

There were those who opposed the PATRIOT Act under a Republican president because it was just a laundry list of executive power grabs which would do little or nothing to enhance our security. The were those who opposed the PATRIOT Act under a Democrat president because is was still just a laundry list of executive power grabs which have done little or nothing to enhance our security. And they can change the name to the “USA Freedom Act,” which if nothing else proves that irony is alive and well in Washington, but it is still just a laundry list of executive power grabs which will do little or nothing to enhance our security.

So sitting in the middle of that Venn is you, me, Rand Paul, Ron Wyden and…


The Phil Hartman Effect

May 27th, 2015 - 9:00 am
(Image courtesy NBC)

(Image courtesy NBC)

Josh Kraushaar says that Hillary Clinton’s “flight from the media is reinforcing her weaknesses” as a candidate:

The reality is that Clinton’s avoidance of the press is a product of weakness, not the result of a shrewd campaign bypassing the media because it can. She may be avoiding short-term pain by sticking to her script, but she’s creating an imperial image of herself that’s hard to reverse—and one the media has every incentive to reinforce. If she doesn’t have a credible response to explain her use of a private unsecured email server, Republicans will eagerly fill the void with attack ads casting her in the most unfavorable light possible. Even if voters aren’t following every detail about her conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation, the constant unfavorable news coverage is bound to trickle down to voters. For a candidate looking to find a “warm, purple space” to unify the country, these controversies hit where it hurts the most.

Effective attack ads contain at least a nugget of truth — not about the candidate’s positions, but preferably about their character. Positions come and go, but character is forever. It wasn’t all that difficult to portray Mitt Romney as out of touch because, hey, dude with an elevator for his car.

But the very best attack ads are impossible to counter, because they have the Phil Hartman Effect.

During his days on SNL, Hartman wasn’t exactly the best voice guy ever to grace the small screen. His Sinatra didn’t sound much like Frank, and didn’t look much like him either. Same goes for Hartman’s Chuck Heston, his Phil Donahue, his Ronald Reagan, or even — yes — his Barbara Bush. (His Bill Clinton was amazing however.) And yet anyone who watched Hartman portray celebrities always marveled at how funny they were, and how dead-on he was.

Hartman’s trick wasn’t that he wore enough makeup to look just like them, or was such a vocal chameleon that he could sound just like them. What Hartman did instead was find that one defining character trait and then give it just enough zing for perfect parody.

Sinatra: Done it all, and with zero patience for upstart punks like Billy Idol who never even nailed Ava Gardner. Reagan: Smarter than almost anyone gave him credit for. Barbara Bush: Only looks sweet. Etc.

A great attack ad does the same thing, and there’s very little defense against them. Think of Mike Dukakis riding the tank. We always suspected he was a doofus, and then we knew — and we just don’t elect a doofus to POTUS. Barry Goldwater has a reputation as a nuke-rattling warmonger? Hit him with the “Daisy” spot. These ads might not be fair, especially “Daisy,” but that’s like complaining that Hartman was too tall to play Reagan — it completely misses the point.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a political candidate so ripe for the Phil Hartman Treatment as Hillary Clinton is — if only if someone in the GOP would dare to put on the blonde fright wig, don the crown and scepter, and have the whole country laughing at President Entitlement.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

May 27th, 2015 - 7:52 am

Megan McArdle says next year is going to involve “sticker shock” for an awful lot of ♡bamaCare!!! mandate-customers, and here’s why:

Moreover, significant rate increases are what I would broadly expect, because these rates are the first ones set with a full year of claims data, and what we know about the pool is that it is poorer and older — which would also mean sicker — than was projected. Initially, HHS was saying that it needed about 40 percent of the exchange policies to be purchased by people age 18-35 to keep the exchanges financially stable. It was 28 percent in both 2014 and 2015, according to HHS data. The CBO had projected about 85 percent of exchange enrollees to be subsidized, falling toward 80 percent as enrollment grew; instead, that number is 87 percent and actually rose slightly from 2014. It would be pretty surprising if rates weren’t increasing faster than inflation, or even than general health care cost inflation.

Another thing which can’t be helping is the ♡bamaCare!!! diktat that insurers can only change their prices on the exchanges once per year, rather than once per quarter. Having looked at last year’s numbers, the insurance companies (for whom you should feel zero pity, FWIW) must now lock in the rate increases they think they’ll need — for the entirety of 2016. Previously, they could have gone to the various state insurance commissars and said, “We think we need rates this much higher to stay solvent next year,” but since they had three more chances to nail the prices down, they were more likely to get it “right” and less likely to scare customers off with a one-time-super-price-hike and the resulting sticker shock.

So do Megan’s numbers portend the dreaded death spiral of rising rates and a shrinking customer base? I don’t think so, if only because those annual rate hikes also keep existing customers “locked in” at current rates for 12 months, and most of them will probably keep paying up for the full year. If I had to guess — and given the virtual Star Chamber in which ♡bamaCare!!! was constructed, it’s impossible to know for sure — there’s a good political reason for changing from quarterly to annual price changes. The hope, I’m guessing, was to keep the initial mandate-customer base locked in long enough for the dreaded Cadillac tax to kick in. At that point, millions more would start losing their employer-based plans, and get forced into the exchanges — thus help keeping them solvent.

It’s a big gamble, especially considering how unpopular the Cadillac tax is with the current Congress, and how unpopular it’s going to become with the general public once its effects begin to be widely felt.

There will be a big push to repeal the tax from 2018 and on (there’s a small push already), and there won’t be an Obama sitting at the Resolute desk with his veto pen to protect his cherished 40% excise tax on private insurance.

The structure of the exchanges was that initially they’d cover the sick, the poor, and the otherwise uninsured — making them fiscally unsound over the medium term, but politically impossible to kill over the short term. The long term would be covered by using the Cadillac tax to force damn near everyone onto the exchanges, and (hopefully) making them fiscally sound.

But I’m not sure anyone — even really well informed people — is ready for the uproar when the Cadillac tax hits home.

Program Note

May 26th, 2015 - 5:09 am

Taking today off for a funeral, but back to the usual fun & games bright & early tomorrow morning.

Friday Night Videos

May 22nd, 2015 - 10:15 pm

For my dearest friend Melenie Lambert, gone too soon after a shockingly short battle with cancer.

(Image courtesy

(Image courtesy

Seems legit:

Late April, Jeff Waters casually walked into the Jacksonville Bank of America and attempted to cash a check for $368,000,000,000.00 — that’s 368 billion dollars.

Armed with his identification and fully expecting the check to be cashed, Waters was befuddled when he learned that the blank check that he bought from a homeless man called Tito was unusable.

When the tellers became suspicious, Waters explained that a homeless man by the name of Tito Watts had sold him the blank U.S. Bank of Idaho check (which was issued in the ’90s) for 100 bucks a few months ago.

Tito, the “upstanding” guy that he is, told Waters that he can go ahead and cash the check for whatever amount his heart desires.

But here’s the really fun part:

“It’s always been my dream to own the best Italian restaurant in the earth,” he later told the police.

“I’m 10% Italian. Cooking authentic Italian food is in my blood. I had planned to make the restaurant 80 million square feet and able to accommodated [sic] 30 million eaters at once, plus it was gonna be totally underwater so people could look at sharks while they ate. But the bank wouldn’t give me my money they owed me,” said the hopeful entrepreneur.

Think of the good $368,000,000,000 could do for the south Florida economy, not to mention the bragging rights of hosting — by far — the world’s largest Italian restaurant. With sharks.

Just think of Waters as a freelance central banker, and I think you’ll see the wisdom in cashing that check.

Deere Smashes Expectations

May 22nd, 2015 - 12:20 pm

John Deere reported earnings of $2.03 per share, over expectations of $1.56.


Deere is the world’s leading seller of farming equipment. The company also produces heavy construction equipment like bulldozers and excavators.

In Friday’s earnings statement, the company also had an upbeat outlook for the US housing market:

“The sales improvement reflects economic growth and higher housing starts in the U.S. offset in part by weakening conditions in the energy sector and energy-producing regions as well as lower sales outside the U.S. and Canada.”

Deere forecast that sales of construction and forestry equipment will increase 2% this year, with sales improvements in the US and Europe offsetting declines elsewhere.

Housing starts data has been mixed this year, but in May, we saw starts surge to the highest level since November 2007.

Deere, however, has a bleak outlook for the agricultural sector, saying it sees weak demand for tractors and other heavy machinery.

Great news for Deere, and hopefully for the broader economy. The thing which concerns me however is that nearly all their growth came from housing starts. We’ve seen that bubble before, not coincidentally popping shortly after November 2007.

Sign “O” the Times

May 22nd, 2015 - 11:12 am


Love and marriage — who needs it? Not Millennials:

The 2015 U.S. Wedding Forecast from Demographic Intelligence says millennials in the next five years will have more of its members at a typical marrying age than any previous generation. But they are also less likely to tie the knot than their predecessors.

The report shows a marriage rate of 6.74 per 1,000 people this year, with the number expected to fall slightly lower over each of the next two years. In 2008, the marriage rate in America was 7.09.

Others have made similar findings. A Pew Research Center report recently said that one-fourth of millennials are likely to eschew marriage entirely.

“A lot of people would like to see marriage remain strong. It offers benefits to children,” said Sam Sturgeon, Demographic Intelligence president. He noted that research has been somewhat politicized, but is “pretty consistent” in showing that children raised with two parents who are married to each other fare better across multiple measures.

Getting married and starting a family, even more than starting a new business, is an indication of hope for the future.

With declining birth, marriage, and business startup rates, it’s clear there’s not a whole lot of that hope left these days.

Laser Beam Me

May 22nd, 2015 - 10:36 am
(Air Force image)

(Air Force image)

And now, planes with frickin laser beams:

The Air Force plans to be able to incinerate targets such as incoming missiles with laser weapons mounted on C-17s by 2023 as part of a directed energy developmental effort, service official said.

The High Energy Laser, or HEL, is being tested by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Ground tests are slated for later this year as part of a plan to precede air-launched laser weapons firing evaluations, Mica Endsley, Air Force Chief Scientist, told in an interview.

The first ever ground test of the weapon is slated to take place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., said Othana Zuch, an Air Force spokeswoman.

Service officials are working on a solid-state laser guidance mechanism and focus so the weapon can stay on track on a particular target.

“We’re working on maturing a lot of those kinds of technologies,” Endsley said. “We will be transitioning into airborne platforms to get them ready to go into a program of record by 2023.”

I know 2023 isn’t actually that far off, but still — faster please!

Rolling in It

May 22nd, 2015 - 9:58 am
He's so money and he knows it. (AP photo)

He’s so money and he knows it.
(AP photo)

The Drudge headline simply reads “slush,” but WaPo has the details:

The Clinton Foundation reported Thursday that it has received as much as $26.4 million in previously undisclosed payments from major corporations, universities, foreign sources and other groups.

The disclosure came as the foundation faced questions over whether it fully complied with a 2008 ethics agreement to reveal its donors and whether any of its funding sources present conflicts of interest for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins her presidential campaign.

The money was paid as fees for speeches by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Foundation officials said the funds were tallied internally as “revenue” rather than donations, which is why they had not been included in the public listings of its contributors published as part of the 2008 agreement.

This next part is, if you’ll excuse the word choice, rich:

The paid appearances included speeches by former president Bill Clinton to the Ni­ger­ian ThisDay newspaper group for at least $500,000 and to the Beijing Huaduo Enterprise Consulting Company Ltd., an investment holding company that specializes in the natural gas market, for at least $250,000. Citibank paid at least $250,000 for a speech by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The disclosures underscore how much the Clintons have leveraged their star power to draw more money not just for their personal enrichment but also for the benefit of their philanthropic work.

While the story notes that the Clinton Foundation has raised $2 billion-with-a-b since its founding less than 20 years ago, it fails to note that in 2013, the last year for which reports are available, it gave only 6% of its revenues as charity. Travel and office supplies were bigger expenses than “giving.”

So I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether the Clinton Foundation is more interested in “philanthropic work” or in the Clinton’s “personal enrichment,” but the numbers do seem to be rather lopsided towards the latter.

The End of Iraq

May 22nd, 2015 - 8:52 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Looks like ISIS can now move unopposed between (what was) Syria and (what used to be) Iraq:

Jihadists from the Islamic State group seized the last Syrian regime-controlled crossing on the border with Iraq late Thursday, a monitoring group said.

“IS seized control of the Al-Tanaf border crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border… after regime forces withdrew, leaving the Syrian regime with no control over its border with Iraq,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

But it’s cool, because the Pentagon says we’ve hurt their morale.

How to Avoid the Media’s New Sand Trap

May 22nd, 2015 - 7:34 am

I’ve Seen Some ‘Shops in My Time…

May 22nd, 2015 - 6:28 am



A little over a week ago, North Korea claimed to have successfully launched a ballistic missile from an undersea submarine. Such a launch would have been a major step forward for the hermit country, if it had actually happened. But according to German aerospace experts, the photos supposedly proving North Korea’s technological prowess only proved that, once again, North Korea is shit at Photoshop.

It’s like the Norks aren’t even trying anymore.

News You Can Use

May 22nd, 2015 - 5:20 am


Meanwhile in local news:

Colorado Springs Police said officers responded to calls about a woman chasing a man with a knife on Tuesday night and encountered the suspect, Jade Gurley. Officers then determined that Gurley,39, was trying to stab a man and had torn a “quarter-size chunk” out of his left ear, police added.

The department said that Gurley was arrested without incident — and the knife was recovered from a nearby motel room. It was not immediately clear what charges she was facing.

She ought to be charged with “You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?”

WiFi Is Not Making People Sick

May 21st, 2015 - 1:32 pm
Killing you softly?

Killing you softly?

It’s the latest medical scare story:

[Suzanne] Hoyt said that nothing prepared her for the rush of symptoms that she suddenly developed.

“Headaches, perspiration, pain in my jaws and my heart. It’s like physical expansion of the heart,” she said.

Hoyt said it all started when she installed wi-fi throughout her apartment.

“I started to be very uncomfortable, and I didn’t know what it was,” she said.

With wi-fi everywhere, from parks to restaurants and taxis it turns out Hoyt is not alone.

“With wi-fi everywhere…”

Stop. Right. There.

Wifi is everywhere. Years ago I had to turn off automatic wifi joining on my iPhone, because it would try to join every network at every house as I drove past in my car. iOS now uses motion detection to turn the feature off while you’re driving, but it isn’t perfect — and it still goes to show that wifi is indeed everywhere.

It’s at your Starbucks, it’s in your office, it’s at your school. It’s in the lobby of your hotel and in the drivethru of your local McDonalds.

WiFi is everywhere.

And yet Suzanne Hoyt claims she only got sick when she put a router in her apartment? Was there something wrong with the wifi that was already in almost every other apartment in her building, many of which were sending their signals right into her kitchen, 24/7?


It’s obvious Hoyt and others have some kind of problem — but the problem isn’t wifi.

It’s everywhere, and it’s been everywhere since about 2006. If you weren’t getting sick then, then wifi isn’t your problem.

It's safe to assume this is the first time in recent years that Liana Barrientos has stood before a judge without a man at her side. (AP photo)

It’s safe to assume this is the first time in recent years that Liana Barrientos has stood before a judge without a man at her side.
(AP photo)

New York City’s Liana Barrientos failed to show up in court earlier this week — after being brought up on charges of being married to nine men at once:

Barrientos, 39, was charged in April for marrying 10 times but only divorcing once – a Bronx detective uncovered records of marriage licenses filed across New York, including in the Bronx, Long Island and Westchester County.

The Bronx woman is charged with filing fraudulent marriage licenses, which is a felony. Her husbands are from Bangladesh, Egypt, Georgia, Turkey, Pakistan and Mali, according to PIX 11. Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson told the news station that Barrientos was allegedly married to eight men at once, and is still believed to be wed to four of them.

The problem with letting straight people marry is you just know some of them will abuse it.

You can’t pick up an op-ed page these days without getting whacked in the face with yet another idea for “fixing” the GOP primary debates. As Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ know, and as my liver could tell anyone else, the debates are in serious need of a fix. The style of the 2012 debate cycle was to cram the stage with enough candidates to serve as an Electric Light Orchestra road crew, then have them repeat as many rehearsed talking points as possible in each 60-second response, in the cadence of a coked-up jackrabbit.

If ecstasy has an exact chemical opposite, I’m pretty sure it was in the bottled water at those “debates.”

The second-best fix I’ve seen is from Ben Domenech, who gleefully suggested one simple trick: “Shoot the moderator.” And in the wake of Stephanopoulosgate, who wouldn’t want to do just that? Here’s more from Ben:

Here’s how a debate would work if you cut that out: candidates would debate an actual topic for an extended amount of time – say three topics with three questions in a policy space over an entire 90 minute debate (for example, a foreign policy debate where the questions concern what to do about ISIS, what to do about Russia, and what to do about the NSA, or an economic debate about taxes, trade, and Too Big To Fail). With 12 candidates speaking in that time period, they’re still only going to get two and a half minutes on each topic – but without a moderator, candidates are more likely to be drawn into debates with the people on the stage who disagree with their views. In a more free-flowing debate, there is no Wolf Blitzer to cut things off, and the confrontations will be more extended – but I expect also more substantive, as arguments will be more extended, gotcha questions eliminated, and the need to have quick quips as a substitute for a point will not be as pressing.

This harkens back to the best American presidential debate I’ve ever seen: Bruce Babbitt vs Pete DuPont in 1988. Two men, two chairs, two glasses of water, and a 90-minute free-form discussion of issues between two serious and well-informed candidates.

When I say “best debate,” I mean that only as someone who enjoys watching real debates. It’s more difficult to determine how much good the format did for the actual candidates, because neither former President DuPont nor former President Babbitt would return any of my calls.

This brings us to Dan Henninger in today’s WSJ:

One answer, as so often, lies with Ronald Reagan’s template. In 1980, Reagan’s campaign paid for the New Hampshire primary debate. “I am paying for this microphone.” Reinvent the Reagan model.

In addition to the traditional debates, the candidates or their supporters should underwrite a series of smaller debate/conversations. Divide the 19 into groups of four or five candidates, randomly selected. Pick the issues, and go at it. Give voters a chance to see who these mostly interesting people are and how their minds work outside the confines of a 60-second timer.

The moderator’s job would be to break clinches. Other than that, let ’em have at it. People say they “like” Scott Walker for what he did in Wisconsin. Agreed. Let’s see how he handles himself over 10 rounds with three other Republicans before climbing into the big ring with Mrs. Clinton.

This is a lovely idea, although I’m not certain Henninger has taken it quite far enough. Yes, allow each candidate to “buy” their own debates — but also let each candidate determine their own format, location, and opponents. “I am paying for this microphone!” indeed.

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