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Your Thursday Afternoon Dose of Doom & Gloom

April 24th, 2014 - 1:34 pm

It’s been a few weeks since I was able to muster the fortitude to write a full column-length Doom & Gloom piece, but that doesn’t mean happy days are suddenly here again. To wit, Anne Lowry asks “If a Bubble Bursts in Palo Alto, Does It Make a Sound?” Sweat out some details:

Pension funds, endowments, high-net-worth individuals and the like are also trying to figure out how to invest all their money — and along with places like the Bakken and a few emerging markets, Palo Alto seems awfully appealing. A few million in seed funding might turn to billions in an acquisition in just a few years, after all. “Valuations are at extreme levels because you cannot get a decent return on your money doing anything else,” Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures wrote on his blog. “It’s been a good time to be in the V.C. and start-up business, and I think it will continue to be as long as the global economy is weak and rates are low.” In other words, the perks-laden, savior-and-ninja-saturated, TED-talking beast that has seemingly taken over Northern California in recent years might be a byproduct of high corporate profits and Fed policy as much as anything else.

But what happens if and when the normal patterns of the economy reassert themselves?

By that time, the Democrat party’s Silicon Valley and Wall Street cronies will have already gotten plenty enough not to worry about it.

You and me, not so much.

Beijing Is Listening

April 24th, 2014 - 12:16 pm

China is getting serious about defending against our submarine force:

It was recently revealed that China began installing underwater passive sonar systems in its coastal waters back in 2011. This enables China to monitor submarines operating off its coasts and, presumably, in the South China Sea. South Korea did the same in 2011 when it announced that it was installing underwater submarine sensors off its coasts and this was apparently completed in 2013. The South Korean effort was in response to North Korea using a small submarine to torpedo a South Korea patrol ship in 2010. China simply wants to keep foreign warships as far awau as possible, even if it means trying to force them out of international waters.

I wonder how good their listening network really is, and how well trained their operators are. The network wouldn’t do any good protecting their commercial shipping, which could be sunk with ease (or stopped with greater risk and effort) anywhere on the high seas advantageous to the US Navy. But it could be of great use for keeping our boats out of their coastal waters, where we like to sneak in and spy.

Get Your Butt Away from My Butts

April 24th, 2014 - 11:10 am


Oh fer cryin’ out loud:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing long-awaited regulations governing the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.

The new rules, to be made public Thursday, are expected to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, placing them under the same requirements as cigarettes. That would likely include a ban on the sale to minors.

“That would be a little less stringent than if they were regulated as medicinal products used in smoking cessation,” said Dr. Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine and director of the tobacco treatment service at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The FDA said the public, the electronic cigarette industry and others will have 75 days to comment on the proposed regulations.

I’ll go ahead and add my comment before the 75-day period even begins.

Back off, bub.

I don’t smoke e-cigarettes, but a close friend of mine used them to quit smoking the real thing after years and years of failed attempts. He’d tried patches, gum, cold turkey, only smoking when his wife was at work — everything.

I’ve thought about buying one, just because I still sometimes miss that feeling of well being you get from a rush of nicotine with that first cup of coffee in the morning, or right after a big meal. And why not? Nicotine inhaled via vapor isn’t going to give anybody any cancer. The only reason I don’t do it is I’m afraid the busybodies will take them away, leaving me craving a real smoke for the first time in a long time.

That’s not a risk I’m willing to take, not after it took me years of failed attempts to quit, just like my close friend.

But that’s what busybodies do: Restrict pleasure for the sake of restricting pleasure.

You’ll Bow to Anything

April 24th, 2014 - 10:21 am


There’s no way he isn’t just trolling us now.

The Asia Re-Re-Re-Pivot

April 24th, 2014 - 9:45 am

It’s easy to get dizzy when our attention keeps getting pulled from Ukraine to East Asia and back again — and you don’t have to be a paranoiac to think there might be some method to that madness. So Dustin Walker wants to know if our Asia Pivot is dead:

Our regional allies are worried because our leadership has been “required” in the Middle East and Europe. Even after the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the U.S. presence in the Middle East is not likely to shrink. And in the aftermath of Ukraine, there are calls for a pivot to Europe as more U.S. troops are sent to NATO’s eastern frontiers.

But our allies are also worried because of the perceived failure to demonstrate such leadership. In particular, the handling of the crisis in Syria left security experts and government officials in the Asia-Pacific wondering how much America’s security commitments mean when challenged. Among America’s Asian allies, there was no appetite for American intervention in Syria, particularly military intervention. If America were to become too involved, many feared the rebalance would be over before it began.

Nonetheless, the credibility of the United States was hurt because it appeared that America was going soft on its commitments. President Obama’s red line on chemical weapons in Syria never had the same force as the mutual defense treaty with Japan, for example. But the importance and weight of the president’s public statements on matters of war should never be trivialized. The president set forth the conditions under which the United States would become militarily involved in Syria, and when those conditions presented themselves, he got cold feet. So, too, did many in Congress. Even for countries like Japan and South Korea who didn’t want the United States to become embroiled in Syria in the first place, that is a worrisome precedent.

It’s a lengthy piece, but you will want to take the time to read the whole thing.

The fact is that no country, not even ours a the height of its powers, has the resources to be everywhere and do everything at once. But if we were strong somewhere then we wouldn’t have to be racing around everywhere, because our rivals wouldn’t be willing to take so many risks against us, and our allies would be more willing to take risks for us.

As it is, we find ourselves facing emboldened rivals at a time when we have fewer resources and shakier alliances.

This, I shouldn’t have to add, is how bad things happen.

News You Can Use

April 24th, 2014 - 8:41 am


When the Prince does it, that means it is not illegal.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 24th, 2014 - 7:29 am

Fail? It might just be a win for Scott Brown in New Hampshire:

Blogger Jason Pye seems to have been the first to pick up on a Shaheen appearance last Friday “Good Morning With Dan Mitchell,” a radio talk show that airs on WKBR in Keene. His post includes audio of Shaheen’s exchange with an unidentified caller, which Pye says he obtained from America Rising, a conservative opposition-research group:

The caller told Shaheen that “President Obama’s health care is not affordable.”
“It’s cost me more, my deductible has more than tripled and my monthly premium has doubled, so it’s not affordable,” he said. “And so, I’d rather have my old healthcare, my old system back.”

Shaheen dismissed his concerns out of hand, telling him to leave his name with the host so her office could call him back “because that doesn’t sound right to me.” She chalked the caller’s complaints up to “misinformation.”

“It sounds, and there’s a lot of misinformation about what’s happening with the health care law,” Shaheen told the caller, “so we’ll get back in touch with you, we’ll find out what’s going on with your plan, and we’ll help you sort that out because you shouldn’t be paying that much more.”

Now perhaps this was a Republican prank call, or maybe the guy actually is misinformed. Offering to help sort the matter out is obviously the wise political response, noncommittal in substance while demonstrating (or at least asserting) a commitment to constituent service.

Before this story, I had Brown turning New Hampshire red in my Longshot column. But in American politics, there might not be any faster way for an incumbent to lose than to blame their constituents for the lousy result of a law the incumbent voted in favor of.

And this is the kind of story that can get around especially quickly in a small state like New Hampshire.

Spread the word.

The New Net Neutrality

April 24th, 2014 - 6:16 am

Net neutrality was probably as good as dead when Netflix and Comcast reached a deal for Netflix to pay the cable giant for high-speed access to its video streaming customers. (Full disclosure: Melissa and I are catching up on How I Met Your Mother by watching entire seasons on Netflix, just as quickly as the boys will let us, which isn’t very.) But now the FCC is getting into the game:

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new open Internet rules that would allow content companies to pay for faster delivery over the so-called “last mile” connection to people’s homes, but enhance scrutiny of such deals so they don’t harm competition or limit free speech.

That’s according to a senior FCC official familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is to present the proposed rules to the other commissioners on Thursday.

So-called “net neutrality” rules are hotly debated because without them, consumers’ ability to freely access certain types of content could be constrained by giant conglomerates for business, political or other reasons.

That last bit is the worrisome thing, isn’t it? And it’s difficult to know where to take a stand, when the players include free-speech killers like the federal government and giant, monopolistic utilities like Comcast.

If we get into a situation where the content of my downloaded bits can be regulated or priced, then I’m worried. In fact, then it’s Game Over for the internet as we know it. But the old days of the internet, where all bits were created equal, was over when HD video streaming became a thing. Because now we’re in a new situation. It’s no longer just web surfers going to similar HTML-based pages whenever they happen to have a computer in front of them. Netflix streaming customers make up a small minority of web users in this country, but during primetime viewing hours they make up one-third or more of all internet traffic. In this country, that’s about ten percent of all internet users taking up 40% of the bandwidth. And they can do it from their desktops, their laptops, their tablets, their phones, or even from the bedroom TV.

At some point, something’s gotta give — especially as Netflix continues to sign up new streaming customers, which is precisely their business model.

But we have to make a distinction here between the content of our bits and the number of our bits. What you download should follow the rules of the Old Internet — bits is bits. It shouldn’t matter to Comcast or to the FCC if you’re downloading Shakespeare, porn, or a political attack ad. Bits is bits.

But now that a small fraction of users have the ability to use up huge amounts of bandwidth right from their sofas, it makes sense for someone along the cable line to be able to charge them extra for their outsized demands on the system.

Generally I’d prefer to see private entities cutting bandwidth deals like the one between Netflix and Comcast. But if anyone — private or public — starts charging different rates based on the content of our bits rather than their sheer numbers, then it’s pitchfork time, folks.

His Finest Hour

April 24th, 2014 - 5:12 am

Lost’d and Foundeth

April 23rd, 2014 - 1:35 pm

Shakespeare’s personal, annotated dictionary discovered?

If it’s real, it’s the literary find of the century. New York antiquarian booksellers Daniel Wechsler and George Koppelman believe they have found William Shakespeare’s annotated dictionary.

We know that Shakespeare had an eye out for unusual words – but we have only limited knowledge of where he went to find them.

The book itself is John Baret’s An Alvearie or Quadruple Dictionarie, published in 1580. It was listed on eBay in late April 2008. They placed a bid of $US4300 and got it for $US4050. Wechsler is unequivocal, “only $250 separated us from never having had this experience.”

I’ll be first in virtual line for the Kindle edition.

The Best a Man Can Get? Really?

April 23rd, 2014 - 12:30 pm


No joke — what you see above is the latest and goofiest razor from Gillette:

Procter & Gamble Co. is preparing to roll out its latest weapon in the fight for men’s faces—a razor featuring a swiveling ball-hinge that allows the blade to pivot and comes with a high-end price, according to marketing documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Dubbed the ProGlide FlexBall, according to the documents, the new device is aimed at winning sales in a crucial and profitable business that has come under pressure as styles have favored facial hair and men have shifted at the margins to cheaper discount options.

I reserve the right to point and laugh at anyone dragging a FlexBall across his face.

If you want a good shave, just buy an old-fashioned safety razor, a brush, and some soap. You can buy a year’s worth of safety razor blades for the price of just one of those newfangled doohickeys — and you’ll get a better shave, too.

By the Numbers

April 23rd, 2014 - 11:12 am


Who’s winning the money race for the US Senate? The Democrats. Tom Dougherty explains:

Looking at the charts below, with a focus on the Democrat vs. Republican numbers, a notable item that jumps to the forefront is the faux outrage by Democrats over the recent McCutcheon decision; and their hollow support for campaign finance reform. When viewed through the prism of the considerable advantage Democrats hold, the recent outpouring by Dems can only be considered phony politicking and an opaque attempt to maintain their advantage.

There are certain factors that contribute to a portion of the Democrat advantage. A combination of first quarter reports that have favored some Republicans, and after some upcoming primaries the purging of many GOP candidates that currently are included as active candidates, could have some impact on the numbers. Though it is unlikely the changes will reverse the Democratic advantage and certainly will not support the aforementioned phony politicking by Dems.

I’m reminded of blithe Rovian promises in 2006 that their money advantage would overcome whatever weakness they showed in the polls. Nancy Pelosi made similar claims about her party’s money advantage in 2010.

I’ll leave you with one more bit:

Without wandering into the soft-money realm too far, suffice it to say that Harry Reid can rail against the Koch brothers all he wants but without acknowledging the infusion of vast sums of money from the likes of George Soros and Tom Steyer, his argument is baseless and lunatic

“Baseless and lunatic” pretty much sums up Reid in general, yes?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 23rd, 2014 - 10:58 am

These are not the enrollees you’re looking for:

By March, the percentage of young adults in the pool was hovering at around 25 percent. As I wrote back then, to get to the 38.5 percent that the administration was originally targeting, they needed for there to be a huge surge in enrollment — and for that surge to be much, much younger than the previous waves of enrollees.

They certainly got the surge. And the surge was indeed somewhat younger than previous waves … but not nearly sufficient to bring the demographics in line.

A month ago, assuming a much smaller surge than we got, I also assumed that the demographics would stay bad. I assumed that if we did get a big surge, we would also get much better demographics. The one thing I didn’t assume was that we’d get a huge influx of enrollees — and that we’d still only be at 28 percent young adults. I’m still at a loss to explain it.

That’s Megan McArdle, and I won’t claim to have an explanation, either. Except of course for the gut feeling that selling people a product they don’t currently need or want at any price was never going to be much of a winner. And there’s that other gut feeling that older, sicker people — who want and need insurance and are more likely to be able to afford it — would be the big takers of the big exchange subsidies.

So I’m forced to assume that the Administration has been forced to issue another delay, this one on the deadline for cutting the deficit and saving us money.

Here comes the crackdown? Maybe:

Pro-Russian militants in four key cities will be targeted as authorities seek to regain control of Ukraine’s restive east, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema said Wednesday.

“The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation continues,” Yarema was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Ukrinform.

Militants in the four cities — Kramatorsk, Slaviansk, Donetsk and Luhansk — have seized government buildings and show no signs of giving them up despite an international deal agreed to last week in Geneva, Switzerland.

Under the deal, illegal militia groups were to disarm and vacate occupied buildings, with an amnesty promised in return.

There’s a world of difference between foreign secretaries signing a deal in Switzerland, and what actually happens on the ground. So long as it serves Moscow’s interest for there to be unrest in Ukraine’s east, there will be unrest in Ukraine’s east.

There’s probably no need for another Crimea-style invasion. Patience and paid rabble rousers should eventually give Putin everything he wants.

Doing the Asia Pivot

April 23rd, 2014 - 8:22 am

Strong words from the Professor on the Senkaku Islands:

A major Japanese newspaper Wednesday published its transcript of an interview with the president where he gave what some analysts say is the clearest statement to date on the U.S. position regarding the disputed islands.

The islands, known as the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, have long been administered by Japan and claimed by China.

Obama told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper that islands fall under the U.S.- Japan Mutual Cooperation and Security Treaty and Washington opposes any “unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of the islands.”

Sounds like a red line to me.

There’s no need to detail just how much harm last year’s Syria Fiasco did to our international reputation, but it’s a safe bet China will be probing past the President’s words to see what advantages they might gain.

The Feel-Good Story of the Season

April 23rd, 2014 - 7:14 am

Feel-good, that is, if you have no idea why this country was founded or just generally hate people and liberty and goodness:

“More than 2,800 Internal Revenue Service employees who recently had been disciplined received performance bonuses totaling more than $2.8 million between Oct. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2012,” reports the Journal.

No, the group that targeted conservatives didn’t receive bonuses after the scandal broke last year. But the IRS sets a pretty low bar for employees to receive awards. About two-thirds of the agency’s 98,000 workers received bonuses for fiscal 2012.

As for those who broke IRS rules and still got paid, the Journal reports: “The misconduct ranged from failure to pay taxes to misuse of government travel cards, violation of official-conduct standards and fraud, according to the report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The discipline included written reprimands, suspensions and even removal. The oversight agency said some of the conduct issues might have occurred after an employee earned a bonus.”

Let us be generous in return and assume that our vicious tax system has nothing to do with America’s middle class falling behind the rest of the world’s.

All the News That’s Fit to Watch

April 23rd, 2014 - 6:06 am

Thought for the Day

April 23rd, 2014 - 5:19 am

Support Your Local Call Girl

April 22nd, 2014 - 2:25 pm


John Danaher: Will robots replace prostitutes?

If so, would that be a victory for oppressed women, or another loss of honest work to automation?

I vote for for latter.

That’s a Lot of Virgins

April 22nd, 2014 - 1:20 pm


The death toll of multiple U.S. drone strikes launched on Sunday against training camps of al- Qaida militants in Yemen’s southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa has risen to 55, the Yemeni Interior Ministry said on Monday.

Three local leaders were among the 55 dead militants, the ministry said in a brief statement on its website.

It said that its security services are working to identify the nationalities of foreign fighters who were killed among al-Qaida militants in the airstrikes.

The ministry described the air strikes as the strongest assault launched against the militants since 2012, when the army retook several cities of Abyan after months-long deadly battles with al- Qaida fighters.

Overall I much prefer Bill Clinton to Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom, but these drone strikes are major progress from the days of firing “a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt.” Al Qaeda isn’t exactly “on the run,” as the Professor likes to claim, but at least he’s keeping their heads down.

“Can the Democrats Go Long?”

April 22nd, 2014 - 12:38 pm

Robert Kuttner, on or off his meds, bemoans all the WINNING! the Republicans have gotten up to:

For more than 30 years, the right has been throwing long passes. The Democrats, with some fine individual exceptions in the Senate and House, have been playing an incremental game, eking out gains of a few yards at a time and often being thrown for big losses.

Guess which side has been winning.

Duh. The statists, represented more thoroughly by the Donkey Party, are winning. And they have been for a very long time.

The Republicans can point to a few long-term policy successes, such as…

Help a guy out here?

There was transportation deregulation, but that was a Carter/Kennedy project of the late ’70s. Reagan’s tax simplification was undone by a little by Bush, a lot by Clinton, more by that other Bush, and what little was left of it was burned, buried, and peed on by Obama. There was Newt Gingrich’s Balanced Budget Act, which HAHAHAHAHAHAHHA if there’s anything left of that. Welfare reform was undone by cowardly Democrat stealth in the 2009 stimulus. Every kind of welfare — personal and corporate — has done nothing but grow, while the sphere for private action shrinks, it seems, daily.

The Republicans have enjoyed some electoral successes, but that’s a far cry from actually enacting the kinds of policies Kuttner despises. I mean, the crowning domestic achievement of Bush 43 was a massive expansion of Medicare.

Some win, huh?

No, Crybaby Kuttner is wailing because the conservative movement has, on occasion, been able to throw up a few temporary speed bumps on the road to that happy place where everything which isn’t mandatory is forbidden.

So let him cry — while we work on a few more speed bumps.

News You Can Use

April 22nd, 2014 - 11:47 am



There’s no good way to break it to you, D.C. license holders. You’re going to have to make a trip to the DMV, all 540,000 of you.

Starting May 1, the District will start issuing REAL ID licenses that conform to stringent federal regulations, the Department of Motor Vehicles announced last week.

Any driver’s license issued before that date will need to be replaced by Oct. 1, to enter certain federal buildings and by 2016 to board a domestic flight (alternatively, a passport can still be used). All other licenses, permits and identification cards issued by the DMV also are affected by the new regulations.

Ever get the feeling that the entire government, at every level, is just trolling you?

Playing House

April 22nd, 2014 - 10:30 am


My Sunday morning personal look at the Senate races turned into a column for Monday morning, which made Managing Supereditor Aaron Hanscom happy, but what about the House? I haven’t done anything with the Other Chamber yet this cycle for two reasons: There are too many Republicans and too few Democrats to make things very dynamic. That is to say, even if there does turn out to be another GOP wave this fall, it won’t do much in the House. The Democrats are near their natural floor, and the Republicans are near their natural ceiling. And nobody says there’s going to be a Democrat wave, not even Debbie Wasserman-Schultz after three tabs of ecstasy.

But let’s look at RCP’s map above and see if we can’t get a feel for November anyway.

At first glance there’s little room for action because the Republicans currently hold 233 seats and are expected to come out with 232 — but that’s before we get to the close races. In other words, the GOP is expected to hold virtually all of its numbers without winning a single tossup. That 232 includes two Likely R pickups (NC07 & UT04) and one Leans D loss (CA31). With an expected minimum Democrat caucus of 187, that leaves just 16 seats in the Tossup center column.

I’d like to think that in turbulent times in a healthy Republic, we’d have for more than just 3.6% of our Peoples’ House up for grabs, but those aren’t the times we live in. Nevertheless, 13 of those 16 Tossups are currently held by Democrats. Simply split the difference, and come January, Speaker Boehner could enjoy an enlarged caucus of 240 Republican congresscritters. That’s just shy of his 242-seat majority in 2010.

The Donks could win every single tossup race and still come up 15 seats shy of the slenderest possible majority.

Where the Republicans could find themselves struggling to turn some of those tossups red is in California (CA07, CA36, CA52) and in New York (NY01, NY21). California is home to one-third of all the nation’s welfare cases (which I assume to include Medicaid expansion) and New Yorkers are expected to be among one of the small handful of states whose residence will actually pay less under ♡bamaCare!!!. That makes a harder case for GOP challengers to make against their sitting Democrat opponents. A savvy national party might do better concentrating spending efforts on taking D seats in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. But keep an eye on the polls, because House races are hyperlocal and anything can happen — be ready to spend.

If there’s a larger point to be found, it’s this: Now is the time to knock their d**** in the dirt.

The primary GOP effort must be to win back the Senate, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make a real effort to expand their majority in the House, even if it’s only a modest gain. That’s the kind of one-two knockout win which can’t be spun away. The Spin Cycle has already begun in anticipation of upcoming Democrat losses. But here’s the thing. The Democrat-Media Complex can only discredit itself even further if it keeps confronting the public with the political equivalent of “Who you gonna believe — me or your own lyin’ eyes?”

And the way you give them enough rope is by taking enough seats.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 22nd, 2014 - 9:48 am

Half the ♡bamaCare!!! enrollees in Georgia didn’t pay their first month’s premium. Here are the numbers, which unlike the White House’s, appear to be real:

Georgia insurers received more than 220,000 applications for health coverage in the Affordable Care Act’s exchange as of the official federal deadline of March 31, state officials said Wednesday.

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, though, said premiums have been received for only 107,581 of those policies, which cover 149,465 people.

The story comes from NRO’s Jim Geraghty, who ties Georgia’s numbers in with some recent polling data:

In a testament to how political affiliation potentially colors an individual’s view of the law, Morning Consult polling from November through April found that people reported more positive experiences in states with largely broken exchanges versus people who used the federal exchanges. And that includes states where the exchanges never were fully operational…

We separated states into three different groups to do this analysis. The “broken” state exchange group included Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Vermont. (While it is an inexact measurement, we put states where healthcare officials struggled throughout the enrollment period to fully launch their exchanges into the “broken” category.) The second group of states—those with relatively well running exchanges—included Washington, Rhode Island, New York, Kentucky, Colorado, Connecticut, California and the District of Columbia. All other states where included in our third group, as they used the federal exchange website to enroll customers.

Among these groups, you might expect the states with barely (or not-at-all) functioning exchanges to rank last when it comes to users’ experiences. But the federal exchanges took that spot in almost every measure.

Jim concludes that “there’s a strong possibility some Obama voters declared their state health insurance exchanges to be success even when they personally experienced its failure.”

Anyone who’s followed the decades-long struggle to reform Britain’s National Health Service shouldn’t be surprised by this disconnect. The reason reformers have such a tough go of it in Britain is that when polled, Britons report much better results and much shorter wait times than they actually experience under the NHS.

Ideology trumps real-world experience with Britain’s happy collectivists, so it follows that ours do the same.

Talk about giving your body for the cause.

More Russian Dirty Tricks in Ukraine

April 22nd, 2014 - 8:28 am

Perhaps there are no surprises here, but it’s worth a quick look regardless:

The New York Times reports that photos and descriptions circulated by the Kiev government show that some of the so-called “green men” — gunmen who have seized government buildings and demanded Crimea-style referenda on becoming part of Russia — have been identified in other photos as being among Russian troops.

The Times also reports that one of the men in the photos has been identified as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, a veteran Russian military and intelligence operative. Strelkov is believed to have served Russia undercover both in Crimea and in the city of Slovyansk, one of the centers of the most recent unrest.

What’s the opposite of dovetail? Whatever it is, that’s what this story does with Rasmussen’s latest numbers on American sentiment in Eastern Europe:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% of Likely U.S. Voters think the United States should get more directly involved in the situation in the Ukraine if the political violence continues there. Fifty-eight percent (58%) say the United States should leave the Ukrainian situation alone.

A vigorous and imaginative diplomatic effort could overcome that domestic ennui, deal us back into the game, and buy us back some prestige. What we’re likely to get however is more of what I’ve come to call “petulant impotence.”

Sign “O” the Times

April 22nd, 2014 - 7:14 am


Big Labor is taking on The Man — in the White House:

A top labor union blasted the Obama administration on Friday over what it described as a nakedly political decision to once again delay a decision on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers International Union of America (LIUNA), called the move “gutless” and a “low blow to the working men and women of our country.”

What should Wiggleroom say to private sector labor unions?

That’s an easy one.

“I’m just not that into you.”

Making a Play for Oregon

April 22nd, 2014 - 6:04 am

The GOP has its strongest Senate candidate in the Beaver State in at least a decade, in the person of Dr. Monica Wehby:

The race is shaping up to be a strong test of the GOP strategy of relentlessly using the health law against Democrats in hopes of regaining control of the Senate.

The rollout of the law in Oregon has been worse than in most other states, and Republicans are hoping a doctor has the credibility to capitalize on the resulting voter discontent.

“Doctors are trained differently,” Wehby said in a recent candidate forum at a Republican women’s club in Lake Oswego, a well-to-do Portland suburb. “We know how to look at things logically, not ideologically, and we also know how to work with other people.”

Running on “not ideology but competence” didn’t do Michael Dukakis any favors in 1988, because he exuded competence like I exude sobriety on Friday Tacos and Margaritas Night. But in a blue state like Oregon — or Michigan or New Hampshire — someone like Wehby is the best shot Republicans have. The party has been maligned as overly-ideological, and certain candidates from the last two cycles have done nothing to improve that image.

Getting the GOP out of its funk means at least trying to win longshot elections, and doing so with credible candidates instead of crackpots who run because nobody credible is willing to make a go of it.

Progress for Me But Not for Thee

April 22nd, 2014 - 5:01 am

Two Americas? That’s on purpose:

In cities around the world, two-tier societies are becoming increasingly common. While much ink has been spilled over widening income inequality in cities such as New York, where Bill de Blasio rode his “tale of two cities” theme all the way to City Hall, most attempts to solve the problem have focused on the poor, not the middle class. Liberal mayors across the country are proposing an array of policies intended to address income inequality, including minimum-wage hikes—Seattle’s mayor wants to raise it to $15 per hour—affordable-housing mandates, and tax increases on the wealthy. At the same time, they’ve made massive investments in upscale neighborhoods and business districts. But no one is championing the middle class, even rhetorically.

High taxes and big government are the price the progressive rich happily pay to avoid competition from the rising middle class. The welfare crumbs thrown at the poor buy them the “social harmony” they require to keep winning elections and avoid being tarred and feathered.

Required Reading

April 21st, 2014 - 2:34 pm

Ron Fournier is on another tear:

The turnaround on Russia is no more remarkable than the pivot Obama took after the 2008 election, when he abandoned his post-partisan brand at the first sight of Republican intransigence and forced the Affordable Care Act through Congress without GOP backing. Once poisoned, the well went dry: The candidate who had the “audacity to hope” for a new kind of politics surrendered to the toxic culture he promised to change. Obama wrote off Republicans. He said House Speaker John Boehner can’t or won’t bargain on the budget, then wrapped the white flag of surrender around the debt, gun control, tax reform, immigration, and other issues. Obama stopped looking for compromises, and then expressed outrage when he couldn’t find them.

The only flaw here is the illusion — bordering after five-plus years on delusion — that Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom ever meant any of that stuff about a post-partisan Washington or a new kind of politics or hope or change or any of the feel-good messaging from 2008. Wiggleroom is a one-party pol from a one-party town and despite some nice words, he’s never once governed in any other way.

But do still read Fournier’s entire column today.

Well, sort of:

A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law.

Forget for a moment the corn vs crude debate. Instead notice that Washington threw money and mandates at the problem without getting the desired production or the desired outcome.

Maybe there’s a larger lesson in there somewhere.