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Monthly Archives: April 2013

The End is Nigh. Awesome.

April 24th, 2013 - 5:45 am

We are so deeply messed up as a nation, I hardly know where to begin. Lenin famously wrote that the capitalists “will sell us the rope with which we shall hang them.” Nope. We’re not even that greedy and shortsighted; now we just give the rope away.

Sorry for whatever, jihadi — may I build you a scaffolding, too?

The next thing that comes to mind is a link Glenn put up yesterday to this book, The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure.

Think of a gallon of gas. The government gets paid a fee when the oil comes up out of the ground. It taxes the profits on the oil. The oil goes to a refinery, where more profit is made and taxed. The gasoline is delivered to the station by truck, which pays about 25 cents a gallon on the diesel fuel needed to make the truck run. Then you pump the gallon into your car, and pay another 18 cents on top of all the rest.

So I have no idea how to calculate all the taxes and fees and hidden costs the government imposes on a gallon of gas, but I know it’s a hell of a lot more than the official 18.4-cent “fuel tax” that they’re actually upfront about.

All of that. Taxes and fees and costs imposed at every level and stage of getting one damn gallon of gas into your car. And it isn’t just gasoline. There’s not a product or service that in some way, every step of the way, isn’t providing revenue to Uncle Sugar. And yet they still can’t provide adequate screening to keep jihadis from becoming citizens. But welfare for nice men who want to blow you up? Maybe! Sure!

We’re going to have to go broke to fix it, because there’s no other way to kill a beast to big and so greedy and so fundamentally (and dangerously) incompetent.

Let. It. Burn.

On a Scale of Bad to Total Suckitude…

April 23rd, 2013 - 3:15 pm

Presented for your morbid curiosity.

The President’s plan is worse than even the Progressive Caucus plan, yet not as bad as Harry Reid’s plan, which is far better than what’s already destined to happen.

Of course, this chart only shows projected deficits. What it doesn’t show you is just how high the vile prog caucus plans to jack up taxes and spending — and only the latter would ever truly materialize.

Too Cool to Rule

April 23rd, 2013 - 2:13 pm

ICYMI: Over at The Tatler I’m having way too much fun at the New York Times’ expense.

Any Man Left on the Rio Grande…

April 23rd, 2013 - 1:51 pm

…is the king of the world, as far as I know.

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye

April 23rd, 2013 - 9:23 am

Max Baucus won’t seek a seventh US Senate term, the sixth Democrat to Just Say No to 2014.

Since he was the primary author of ObamaCare, let’s hope the door hits him squarely on the ass on his way out the door.

The Anti-Sirota

April 23rd, 2013 - 7:49 am

Jim Goad: “Let’s hope the next bomber is a liberal journalist.”

Seems a lot more likely than the ever-elusive Tea Party Bomber.

Tynt is the Armpit of the Internet

April 23rd, 2013 - 6:29 am

I’m going to war against Tynt. They’re the [REDACTED] who came up with that bit of Javascript to add custom text into your computer’s clipboard without your permission. So when I copy text from, say, RealClearPolitics, I don’t just get the text I copied. Instead, RCP “helpfully” added this to the bottom of the stuff I actually wanted from Michael Barone’s piece yesterday:

Read more: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/04/22/at_every_turn_things_were_spinning_out_of_control_118057.html#ixzz2RDoOFBWo
Follow us: @RCP_Articles on Twitter
Because we’re douchebags

I might have added a tiny bit of my own text to the crap Tynt bottom-loaded into my clipboard. Maybe.

But you see what I mean. If you’re adding RCP stuff to your blog, or even just to an email or a Facebook post to a friend, they’re going to insert text which, if you don’t delete it, will make you look like a ham-fisted SEO douche. But I repeat myself.

Now, leave it to the nags at Financial Times to make a bad thing even worse. They’re using Tynt to add text to the top of what you copy. In this morning’s story about the revised GDP, I almost let this slip through:

We’re the world’s biggest douchebags here at FT, and we hope we’ve thoroughly alienated you, the bloggers who help direct traffic our way.

FT was extra sneaky, because I’d never seen Tynt add anything to the top of what I’d copied, and it almost slipped through. And again, I might have made my own small changes to the stuff FT forced into my clipboard. Because two can play that game. Besides, they’re hacking our computers in a small way, installing things we didn’t approve of or ask for. They deserve to be treated with the same disdain with which they treat us.

Look. There’s no such thing as a perfect website, and we’re all trying to increase our pageviews and our revenues. But Tynt is just wrong. It takes something we’ve all been doing on our computers for almost as long as we’ve been using computers, and it ruins it. By adding nag messages. Which then get deleted before they actually serve their intended purpose.

To make things worse, Tynt seems to have found a way to get around the Tynt-blocker I have installed in Chrome and Safari, so now I have to use site-wide JavaScript blockers instead. That means sites like FT and RCP lose lots of their nifty features, unless I bother to temporarily switch JavaScript back on — which believe me is not generally worth the time.

There’s an unwritten blogger’s code: You quote your source, you link your source, and you send readers to your source by not quoting all their material. We get to borrow material, they get publicity and traffic. Everybody wins, so long as bloggers treat their sources with respect — and vice-effing-versa.

But nobody wins when you treat the people who send you traffic like thieves, or make them look like idiots to their readers.

I’m tired of being treated like a thief. So from now on, I’m going to replace Tynt text with my own. And I plan on getting real creative with it.

To my fellow bloggers, I ask only this: Link to this post if you like, but please join me in my crusade and replace Tynt’s text with your own. Left, right, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, or Jew, there’s one thing we can agree on:

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take Tynt anymore!”

Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River

April 23rd, 2013 - 5:17 am

When all else fails, I used to tell myself in night clubs, lower your standards. The US government takes a similar view to measuring our low-growth recovery:

The US economy will officially become 3 per cent bigger in July as part of a shake-up that will see government statistics take into account 21st century components such as film royalties and spending on research and development.

Billions of dollars of intangible assets will enter the gross domestic product of the world’s largest economy in a revision aimed at capturing the changing nature of US output.

So I’m feeling 3% richer. How about you?

It Was(n’t) a Very Good Year

April 22nd, 2013 - 3:45 pm

Speaking of the ’70s, here’s the awful year that gave them birth.

I remember ages ago somebody wrote something like, “The ’70s were when every bad idea from the ’60s became a commercial venture.” I’m not sure there’s any more succinct way to damn an entire decade. But for a fuller treatment, you’ll have to follow the link.

Breaking: EU Broke

April 22nd, 2013 - 3:35 pm

The Telegraph‘s Christopher Booker has a story that hasn’t gotten any notice on this side of the pond:

Shouldn’t it be making more headlines than it has that the European Union is today insolvent – since its astronomic debt in unpaid bills is nearly twice as large as its annual income? Such is the crisis lately highlighted by its parliament’s budget committee, which finds that the EU now owes 217 billion euros, or £182 billion, as compared with its current year’s income of just £108 billion. Much of this represents “cohesion funding” relating to Eastern Europe, in contracts agreed under the EU’s current budgetary arrangements. But when, at the end of this year, those arrangements come to an end, the rules strictly prohibit the EU from rolling forward its debts from one period to the next. So, in eight months’ time, it will lurch into bankruptcy.

Since the sums involved here are fairly modest, given the size of the EU, and in comparison to our own debt, so the solution is clear.
(more…)

“The 1970s were a lousy decade.”

April 22nd, 2013 - 2:10 pm

As a recovering victim of large-collared shirts, it’s a sure thing I’m going to read any column with the lede quoted in the headline up above. Anyway, Jon Gabriel took on the unpleasant/hilarious work of collecting the 13 stupidest predictions from the very first Earth Day, held just in time to kick off America’s ugliest decade:

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” — Harvard biologist George Wald

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” — Washington University biologist Barry Commoner

“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” — New York Times editorial

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” — Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich

“Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” — Paul Ehrlich

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” — Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day

Head on over to FreedomWorks for the the other seven.

Real Love

April 22nd, 2013 - 12:32 pm

Trifecta: Isn’t that cute — an 11-year-old singing about a one-night-stand.

To wild applause.

Hezbollah on the Ropes

April 22nd, 2013 - 11:10 am

Michael Totten reminisces about his experiences in the Middle East, what it’s taught him, and what the future holds for Hezbollah:

My own naïve optimism was dashed on the rocks in Lebanon and Iraq and hasn’t recovered. I never even bothered with optimism in Egypt. There’s nothing there to be optimistic about.

And I rarely meet anybody who actually lives over there who isn’t a pessimist. Expecting the best while everyone around you is expecting the worst is a difficult thing to pull off. It probably isn’t advisable even to try.

But I’m finding a bit of homegrown optimism in some quarters of Lebanon now, despite the fact that the economy is on its back and the Syrian war threatens to blow the country to pieces again, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t report it. The place has a serious case of the jitters and everyone knows this summer will be the third bad one in a row, but the medium and long term might be a little bit better, at least for some.

Though not for Hezbollah. No, the medium and long term for Hezbollah looks bleaker than ever.

Good.

It’s a great report from Totten, and it’s a given when I link to his stuff to Read the Whole Thing™. But it also dovetails into this al-Monitor report:

Why is Hezbollah fighting in Syria? Why did such a popular resistance group decide to risk its reputation around the Arab world and open a new front in order to back Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad? Assad, who himself does not know if he can keep his chair for another year or not. What made Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who is famous for his stances that repeatedly warned of the Fitna — the Arabic word for sectarian confrontation — meddle in the Syrian mud?

According to circles close to the organization, Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria wasn’t a choice, but rather an obligation. Those sources say that in the very beginning of the Syrian uprising, the group’s charismatic leader Hassan Nasrallah “tried to initiate a solution.” He, and other factions such as Hamas, opened a hotline with the Syrian leadership to make sure “Syria as a nation, people, and a political choice could survive the crisis.”

Without Assad, it becomes more difficult for Iran to keep Hezbollah supplied. And without Assad, there’s probably no Syria, either. The entire region seems to be entering what will likely be a long period of devolution.

What this makes me think of is the afterword to the excellent Ralph Peters novel, The War in 2020. Boy, did that seem like a long time in the future, when Peters published it back in 1990 or ’91. Peters had deftly combined all of our late-’80s fears of plague and Japanese industrial might and Moslem terrorism into a dense weave of plot and all-too-real characters.

In the book’s opening, a feckless US intervention into Zaire goes wrong, and the Arab states use our moment of weakness to nuke Israel off the map. Flush with victory, the Arabs for a Pan-Arab Union from Morocco through Iraq. But Peters noted in the afterword that such a Union is hardly likely:

Only outside enemies, real or imagined, allow the Islamic world to display the odd, fleeting semblance of unity. The destruction of Israel in a nuclear exchange, for example, will be less likely to trigger Islamic unity than to utterly dissolve it. Unable to direct their frustrations at the Zionist devil, the Islamic nations of the Eurasian landmass would quickly rediscover the holy and delectable mission of slaughtering each other over trivia.

It looks like in Syria at least, they might just be going directly to the mutual slaughter without bothering to first get rid of those stubbornly resilient Jews.

Required Reading

April 22nd, 2013 - 9:36 am

Dr. Jeffrey A. Singer in the new Reason:

I am a general surgeon with more than three decades in private clinical practice. And I am fed up. Since the late 1970s, I have witnessed remarkable technological revolutions in medicine, from CT scans to robot-assisted surgery. But I have also watched as medicine slowly evolved into the domain of technicians, bookkeepers, and clerks.

Government interventions over the past four decades have yielded a cascade of perverse incentives, bureaucratic diktats, and economic pressures that together are forcing doctors to sacrifice their independent professional medical judgment, and their integrity. The consequence is clear: Many doctors from my generation are exiting the field. Others are seeing their private practices threatened with bankruptcy, or are giving up their autonomy for the life of a shift-working hospital employee. Governments and hospital administrators hold all the power, while doctors—and worse still, patients—hold none.

Read the whole thing, and try not to lose your breakfast.

Honestly, this is the scariest thing I’ve read since Dr. Thomas Hendricks said

Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward.

I should probably mention that Hendricks is a fictional character from Atlas Shrugged, although I did very nearly put scare quotes around the word “fictional.”

Housing Re-Bubble Set to Re-Pop?

April 22nd, 2013 - 7:59 am

It’s a swing and a miss for Caterpillar, the construction giant; TD has the details:

•Q1 EPS $1.31, Exp $1.38; this includes a tax benefit of $87 million

•Q1 revenue: $13.2 billion, Exp. $13.8 billion

•Guides much lower, with revenue now seen at $57-61 billion, compared to $60-68 billion previously

•CAT forecasts profit per share of $7.00, compared to $7.00-9.00 previously.

•Operating cash flow of $900MM, but all of it generated from net working capital, i.e., inventory liquidation

•And when you can’t spend on capex, you spend on buybacks: CAT to extend buyback through 2015

Ben Bernanke might have to turn up the presses from Plaid all the way to Ludicrous Speed.

UPDATE: “Sales of previously owned U.S. homes unexpectedly dropped in March, showing uneven progress in the industry.”

Keep blowing into that torn balloon, Uncle Ben.

Here’s the latest:

Police spokesman Sonny Jackson told The Denver Post that the suspect is shown in the video walking in a crowd away from the scene of the shooting as sirens wailed in the background.

The suspect, a black male who was wearing a brown and white checkered shirt, can be seen about six seconds into the video, he said.

“We are seeking this individual as we believe he assisted the primary suspect after the shooting,” Jackson said in an email to the newspaper.

Other witnesses had already told police, “Uh… what?”

RIP: Chrissy Amphlett

April 22nd, 2013 - 5:33 am

The Divinyls frontwoman succumbs to breast cancer and MS. Never knew she was sick — just figured she’d faded away like most of the ’80s greats. Here she is with the band in Australia in 1981.

Friday Night Videos

April 19th, 2013 - 10:52 pm

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned in passing the radio edit of Lenny Kravitz’s “Let Love Rule,” and the hideous cuts they’d made to Karl Denson’s sax solo. I believe I called it “criminal.”

So to do my bit to rectify that wrong, here it is in all its unedited glory.

They Got the Second Bastige

April 19th, 2013 - 7:05 pm

Via Salena Zito on Twitter.

Oh, Boehlert!

April 19th, 2013 - 12:26 pm

You won’t believe it. You simply won’t believe it.

Yes.

April 19th, 2013 - 11:03 am

Trifecta: Should Americans be shown graphic images like the ones from Boston on Monday?

Grozny-by-the-Bay

April 19th, 2013 - 10:25 am

Starting back in the early ’60s, Colin McEvedy wrote a remarkable series of historical atlases for Penguin Books. Each covered a particular era and a particular area, usually Europe. And each map was exactly alike — except the borders. And every two-page spread was set up the same way: a map on the right-hand page, and explanatory text on the left. McEvedy’s writing style was that of an avuncular Oxford dean: friendly, warm, and knowing.

Later revisions of his work have more maps, but McEvedy’s words — those wonderful words! — had been tramped down by the boot of political correctness. But used copies of the original editions aren’t too hard to find. I highly recommend them, and still read the whole series every few years.

All of this comes to mind because of the craziness in Boston today, straight outta Caucasus.

To understand why, here’s one of McEvedy’s maps from The Penguin Atlas of Recent History, with “recent history” in his estimation being everything in Europe since Napoleon:

Look closely at the right hand side of the map in Tsarist Russia. There, in the northern Caucasus in the Krasnodar-Maykop region, you’ll see a bit of “Russian” territory indicated by a dotted line. If you can’t read it at this scale, it’s labeled “Unsubdued Circassians.” The territory is within the Russia Empire, but the Tsar’s writ did not run there. “Unsubdued” was how the Russians found the area when they took it from the Turks in the 1820s. And that’s how it stayed until the Soviets really clamped the lid down a century later.

It’s no coincidence that as the Soviet Union began to fall apart in the mid-to-late ’80s, the first violence to erupt was in the Caucasus. It’s a crazy patchwork of ethnicities and religions, everybody with legitimate grievances against everybody else.

We need two more maps to really see it.

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It’s early. First cup of coffee is still untouched. But if I’m reading this right, Russia’s endless Chechen War has spilled over into Boston?

That’s insane. Is anywhere safe?

Nope.

Carry on.

More importantly, how many clicks does it take to wear out a Lego brick?

37,112 and some very nifty home engineering.

ObamaFail

April 18th, 2013 - 2:08 pm

ICYMI: Over at the Tatler I’m have a field day banging on Kevin Drum.

If it Falls, Tax It

April 18th, 2013 - 12:37 pm

There is nothing — nothing — this Administration won’t try to tax the bejeebus out of. For yet another example, let’s go to the U.S. Parachute Association, courtesy of my friend Ed Lambert:

On April 11, one day after President Obama unveiled his 2014 budget containing a new $100 per flight user fee, USPA wrote to the president explaining how such a fee would devastate businesses that operate skydiving airplanes. The new fee would apply to each flight by a turbine aircraft in controlled airspace. “It is clear that no one within the administration understands that turbine jump planes routinely make up to 25 flights per day. An operator with one turbine airplane could pay $2,500 each day in user fees; an operator with two aircraft could pay $5,000 each day,” said Ed Scott, USPA’s Executive Director. USPA pointed out that those same operators already pay between $158 and $263 per aircraft per day in federal fuel taxes on jet fuel. USPA described a new user fee as “inequitable, duplicative and (requiring) a new, costly bureaucratic process to assess and collect the fee.” USPA requested that the president withdraw his aviation user fee proposal.

What industry do you think Obama will try to destroy next week?

Dude, Where’s My Car?

April 18th, 2013 - 10:45 am

So this happened in Chicago, and we’re pretty sure it’s the fault of a white Christian male, the NRA, and/or the Tea Party’s powerful sinkhole lobby.

‘Softies Surrender Smartphone Sales

April 18th, 2013 - 9:01 am

It’s a race to the bottom between Microsoft and… I dunno… HTC? Read:

Microsoft recognizes that the cost of creating a premium handset to compete at the high-end of the smartphone market against Apple’s iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S3 is an enormously expensive and risky proposition.

“Making that ‘hero’ smartphone isn’t necessarily the best use of Microsoft’s resources and time,” said IDC analyst Kevin Restivo. “The race (in the smartphone market) is to the bottom.”

So instead, the company is looking to gain ground in emerging markets. In those markets, the smartphone business is particularly price sensitive.

Windows Phone will compete only in the bottom of the market, because Apple and Samsung have the top (and the middle) all sewn up.

There’s just one problem. Android is free for manufacturers to use, and easily customized or even forked to provide unique user experience. Windows Phone isn’t free, and must conform to Microsoft’s OEM guidelines.

So who is going to spend extra money for Windows Phone licenses to put on near-zero margin phones?

Train wreck ahead. Another one, I mean. Yesterday we talked about how Microsoft had no real strategy for mobile, and this is just one more sign of it. How are they going to build an ecosystem to help sell pricy tablets in the US, if they’re giving up the top end of the smartphone market? Nokia has shown how not to build and sell a top-end WP8 phone, and they’re Microsoft’s last remaining OEM with any real devotion to the OS.

The company isn’t going broke any time soon, but it looks increasingly likely that they’ll become yet another services company (like IBM, or like Dell is trying to become) devoted to the back of the office.

Milk it for All it’s Worth, You Will

April 18th, 2013 - 7:39 am

If I were still ten years old, I’d probably wet myself at this news:

Are you ready for a barrage of Star Wars films? Disney hopes so: according to multiple outlets, the company has just announced at CinemaCon that it will be releasing a new film in the universe every summer, starting in 2015. We had previously heard that Episode VII was destined for a 2015 release, but with today’s development plans have become much clearer. Episode VIII should come out in 2017, followed by Episode IX in 2019. Meanwhile, the standalone films that will focus on particular characters from the Star Wars franchise will be slotted between each of those movies.

But I’m not ten, and I have to wonder if Disney isn’t getting a wee bit too ambitious here.

Then again, maybe they’ll do something interesting. I remember before Barbara Broccoli rebooted the James Bond franchise, some smart critic came up with a great idea: Hire a new actor/director combination for each movie, and see what happens. An Ang Lee-directed Bond? A female lead directed by Quentin Tarantino? Why not! The Bond world is rich enough for endless variety.

And so is the Star Wars galaxy. Shake things up. Have some fun with it, Disney. Hit us with the unexpected. Just don’t make direct-to-home-video quality stuff and expect us to pay top dollar to see it on the big screen.

I’m willing to give Disney the benefit of the doubt — for a while. But I’d better see a lot more Toy Story 3 and a lot less Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue.

Sock it, Toomey!

April 18th, 2013 - 5:43 am

On today’s Trifecta, Scott Ott has us look at Senator Pat Toomey, and his teamup Democrat Joe Manchin on expanding background checks for gun purchases. I got in a good answer to Scott’s second question, but I need to expand on it because I forgot to mention one important bit.

Scott’s argument was that Toomey probably honestly does believe in the bill he’s pushing, and that that’s fine. It’s place, if I heard Scott correctly, where reasonable people may reasonably disagree. I don’t see a simple background check as an infringement, provided it’s done quickly and honestly.

But Scott’s question to me was why would Toomey risk the wrath of his constituents for a bill that can’t pass? I think the answer lies in the second half of the question.

If Toomey is a reasonable believer in reasonable background checks, then he’s working to pass a bill he believes in. That’s fine. And if he doesn’t? He knows two things: One, the bill probably won’t pass the Senate, and it almost certainly won’t pass the House. Two, that he’s gone a long ways towards showing the GOP can be “reasonable” by the President’s own estimation. The bill had a big GOP sponsor, and if it can’t make it past Harry Reid’s Democrats… well, that’s hardly the fault of Pat Toomey.

Oh, he also knows a third thing: He’s in his first year and has plenty of time to make good with his 2A constituents, and to regain his perfect rating from the NRA.

So Toomey may or may not be wrong on this one particular issue, but by playing it the way he has, he’s eliminated some of the GOP’s stigma and helped to humiliate a President.

That’s not a bad week’s work.