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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
So it’s safe to assume that now that the signup period is “over,” the Happy Fun Messaging with keg stands and stuff is over, and it’s time to remind people to pay up.
The “or else” is implied.
David Gregory on the declining (and declining and declining) ratings of Meet the Press:
“I get it,” says Gregory, the face of the longest-running TV program in American history (founded: 1947). “Do I want to be number one in the ratings? Every week I want to be number one, and we fight like hell to get there. And it’s tough right now. It’s a fight.”
He adds, “I’m not just trying to sell you — well, I am trying to sell you — but I’m not going to B.S. you, either. Yeah, it’s hard. I see what our challenges are. But we’re going to fix our problems.”
I have nothing to add to what I wrote in January:
Ann [Althouse] missed what I’ve found to be Gregory’s most glaring weakness as a “tough” interviewer. He will sometimes ask what is supposed to sound like a tough question, only really it’s just a Gotcha! question. And then there would be no follow-up. None. Zilch.
It’s as though his tougher questions weren’t designed to elicit difficult truths from his guests, but rather to demonstrate how very clever David Gregory could be.
That’s not good TV. That’s just tiresome.
OK, I will add one thing. NBC is in a real bind here, because who is there better to replace Gregory? NBC’s bench is so shallow that he really is the best they’ve got to host TV’s longest-running program.
So the bad choices are to suffer the shame of canceling TV’s longest-running program, bringing in one of the D-listers from the MSNBC farm team, or keep Gregory as captain of the sinking ship.
Honestly, it couldn’t happen to a nicer group of shills.
The war for gamers is moving (has moved?) out of the living room:
A long-running battle between Apple Inc. and Google Inc. for mobile dominance is spreading to the most lucrative genre of apps: videogames.
The two Silicon Valley giants have been wooing game developers to ensure that top-tier game titles arrive first on devices powered by their respective operating systems, people familiar with the situation said.
In exchange, Apple and Google are offering to provide a promotional boost for these games by giving them premium placement on their app stores’ home pages and features lists, these people said.
Apple and Google’s battle is the headline story at a time when Microsoft and Sony’s latest releases still have that new console smell.
I’m not sure I’ve touched our Xbox 360 — released not long before the original iPhone — since the App Store opened the following year. And I’ve had no desire to buy and Xbox One or a Playstation 4, even with small boys in the house, in need of distractions.
Are the console wars over?
Al Hunt, either on or off his meds, complains that the President just can’t get out the good news on the economy and ♡bamaCare!!!:
On the economy, which is likely to be the determining issue in the congressional contests, the White House and Democrats are winning on the parts or pieces — a minimum wage increase, pay equity for women, more generous overtime regulations — and losing the fight for the larger picture of people’s lives and futures.
The White House says the president has repeatedly evoked the good news. The problem, aides contend, has been breaking through with a clear message. One time he did so was when he pushed health-care reform on “Between Two Ferns,” the webcast hosted by the comedian Zach Galifianakis, which had two and a half times more viewers than the network nightly news.
Although Obama’s personal story is one of can-do optimism, that isn’t what he often conveys. He had a similar problem of tone during his 2012 re-election campaign, as he struggled to frame the message of an improving economy.
If only there were some kind of helpful media outlet where the President could turn!
Hunt’s column however might serve as a preview of the sackcloth and ashes we’ll have to endure from the left leading up to and following the November election.
Let us go now to Georgia, where Michelle Nunn is running in one of only two states where Democrats have a hope of picking off a GOP-held seat. TPM’s Dylan Scott has the story:
For now, a nasty Republican Senate primary has largely captured the media’s attention thus far and Nunn has stayed somewhat low-key on the subject — the Affordable Care Act is almost entirely absent from her campaign page. It’s never going to be a top priority for her, but, eventually, Republicans will attack her over the law and she’ll have to respond. That’s when her balancing act will be tested.
“I am running as someone who wants to fix the things that are broken in the health care system and build upon the things that are good,” Nunn said during an interview last month. That’s not going to change after the law hit 8 million sign-ups, her campaign indicated to TPM.
If the law is working, then why is even a strong Democrat running on fixing it (and then, even not really by name) rather than “forcefully defending” it?
CNN’s Halimah Abdullah doesn’t dance around the issue even a little, asking “Why are some Democrats running from ObamaCare?” Here’s that story:
A Democratic strategist and pollster thinks some Democrats will follow that advice.
“I think it’s easier to talk about issues like equal pay or an increase in the minimum wage,” said Margie Omero, president of Momentum Analysis LLC, a public opinion research firm in Washington, and a Huffington Post contributor. “Obamacare has always been less popular. … I think we’re going to see some of these impressions change. But for some members, they look at one poll number and they think maybe I should speak about something else.”
I won’t even bother dissecting the consonant dissonance in Abdullah’s piece, which leads with the Party line that ♡bamaCare!!! is working working working. Politicians have an instinctive feel for what people like — or at least solid pollsters — or they wouldn’t be politicians.
On Friday I put up a short piece wondering about the electoral politics of ♡bamaCare!!!, and that we might not know until November. But stories like the two above are starting to bring things into relief.
Starbucks is going more restaurant-y:
The coffee chain plans to roll out alcoholic beverages to thousands of stores over the next few years as part of a program it calls Starbucks Evenings, which starts after 4 p.m. A few things for consumers to note: The options will be bottled beer or wine, not cocktails, and the selection will vary to meet “local taste preferences,” according to a spokesperson. Customers should expect to be carded, and shouldn’t expect to find evening-time Starbucks turning into a bar.
Starbucks considers its locations to be cafes, and the wine and beer won’t override the family-friendly atmosphere. Anyone working at a Starbucks that serves booze will have to be 21 or older. The chain will also offer new small plates to go with your drinks, such as bacon-wrapped dates and truffle macaroni and cheese.
Smart use of commercial space which starts going stale around 2PM as coffee and munchies consumption drops off.
Election-year memo to Democratic candidates: Don’t talk about the economic recovery. It’s a political loser.
So say Democratic strategists in a blunt declaration that such talk skips over “how much trouble people are in, and doesn’t convince them that policymakers really understand or are even focusing on the problems they continue to face.”
In addition, Stan Greenberg, James Carville and others wrote that in head-to-head polling tests the mere mention of the word “recovery” is trumped by a Republican assertion that the Obama administration has had six years to get the economy moving and its policies haven’t worked.
Coincidentally or not, Democrats have largely shelved the “R” word.
The worst part might be that the Donks have taken away my ability to go all Inigo Montoya on their use of the word recovery.
No time to write up an FNV mini column, but I did wake up this morning missing The Ramones for whatever random reason. So here they are, probably in ’78, performing “Teenage Lobotomy” live.
Most of The Ramones are dead. Long live The Ramones!
The Operative: “It’s worse than you know.”
Captain Mal Reynolds: “It usually is.”
Firefly/Serenity is infinitely quotable, and fans of the series/movies will recognize that bit of dialog from the scene where they’re discussing Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s spending problem:
President Obama’s budget adds $6.6 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Thursday.
That estimate is significantly worse than the $4.9 trillion in deficits predicted by the White House. The CBO used its own less rosy estimates of the economy to complete the analysis.
The CBO said by 2024, the deficit would be $746 billion, or 2.8 percent of the economy.
The Office of Management and Budget had said by 2024, the deficit would fall to $434 billion or 1.6 percent of the economy under the budget. In 2013, the deficit was 4.1 percent of the economy.
Good luck getting even to the CBO’s less-rosy numbers. When the debt is growing faster than the economy during the recovery, then what’s going to happen during the inevitable downturn? We’re buying what little growth we have, with trillions in the Fed’s
Bernanke Yellen Bucks, and trillions more in deficit spending. That’s the very definition of unsustainable.
If the question is “Why is China building a carrier navy?” then Bryan McGrath and Seth Cropsey might have the answer:
The most consequential misconception about the PLAN carrier program is that it is designed as part of a strategy to deter the United States from using its naval power to mediate East Asian conflict, the “mirror imaging” mentioned above. This is not the case.
China is building the capability to project power from the sea in order to build its strength relative to its neighbors, primarily those with whom it has ongoing territorial seas claims (including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan). China does not need to build a navy as large or as powerful as the U.S. Navy in order to create fear and uncertainty among its neighbors. It only needs to build a navy with the credible means to project power over those neighbors’ shores.
Put another way, the strategic target of the PLAN in building a carrier force is not the U.S. Navy, but the network of alliances that longstanding U.S. economic and security interests in the region aim to preserve. Creating uncertainty and doubt in the minds of regional governments that the United States can continue to assure their security is at the heart of China’s desire to see the U.S. diminished in the region.
There are two steps needed to replace the major partner in an alliance. The first is to show that the major partner is too weak or feckless or uncommitted to be a strong and reliable partner. I’d say we’ve demonstrated fecklessness all too often in recent years, bordering on “uncommitted.” We’re demonstrating at least some weakness with our broken naval procurement system and our refusal to maintain our fleet even at its present size.
The second step is to demonstrate yourself as a viable replacement — not loved, but at least strong enough to be respected. And China is certainly going down that path, even if they are a decade or two away from getting there.
For a preview of East Asia, look at what’s happened to the Middle East as we’ve retreated from there and Russia has risen in stature.
Byron York tries to figure out the winners (you may already receive a subsidy!) and the losers:
“When carriers converted their old policies to Obamacare-compliant, it was typical for the insurance company to increase costs about 35 percent to comply,” Laszewski says. “That increase could come in the form of higher premiums, more co-pays and deductibles, and narrower networks. A carrier might have only increased rates 15 percent but then created a narrow network worth another 25 percent, for example. Even when they did the above, some individuals might have seen a 15 percent decrease and others a 50 percent increase — many demographic issues skewed the rate result. So, getting any simple ‘it went up 34.7 percent’ just isn’t possible.”
The bottom line, according to Laszewski: “We have literally millions of people each impacted a bit differently.” That’s hard to quantify and turn into a neat political argument.
We have lots of known unknowns here. But it’s the unknown unknowns that usually sneak up behind you and bite you on the rear. We might not get a real feel for those teeth, and whose behind they land in, until election day.
Around 40% has been the most common answer given to the question of what percentage of Young Invincibles is needed to make the exchanges solvent. That 28% is “up” from 27% the month before — and the young invincibles were the ones who were expected most likely to sign up at the last minute. So it’s a pretty safe assumption that the youth surge never happened.
And those who did sign up are probably also the most likely to drop out after making only a payment or two.
I’d like to stress however that this is a national average. Some states will be in better shape, while others must already be actuarial disaster areas.
Bailouts today, bailouts tomorrow, bailouts forever!