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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Friday Night Videos

February 28th, 2014 - 10:32 pm

In the shower this morning with the iPod plugged into the bathroom dock speakers as always, and Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” came on. As a teen I finally got hold of an LP with the lyrics in the liner notes, and the song turned out to be a whole lot less dirty than I’d thought, listening to it on a weak radio or an overworked cassette. Turned out, Bennie had electric boots, which really made a world of difference and also a lot more sense.

Misheard words aside, I’m pretty sure this number was my introduction to Elton back in the mid-’70s, and I spent my shave time trying to figure out the when and the where. The song came out too early in the decade for me to have heard it on my infamous avocado green handheld AM radio, and it’s not on the long list of songs I remember from riding around in various cars. So I figured I must have seen it on TV.

Sure enough, searching for “Bennie And The Jets” on YouTube, and the very first result was this live performance on Soul Train from 1975 — right around the time I started watching the original music television. And there was Elton exactly as I remembered him, dressed outrageously — this time as a sort of leprechaun — with the giant sunglasses, and putting out some damn fine music.

An excessive rock and roll ode to rock and roll’s excesses? Elton was meta before meta was cool, and that’s why this one has stood the test of time.

Even if the fashion hasn’t.

Overreach or Usurpation?

February 28th, 2014 - 3:22 pm

AGs from 21 states are suing to stop another instance of EPA overreach:

The attorneys general filed an amicus brief earlier this month in support of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s challenge to the cleanup plan, which aims to reduce pollutants and get the [Chesapeake Bay] up to federal clean-water standards by 2025, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The states argue that the effort is “the culmination of (the EPA’s) decade-long attempt to control exactly how states achieve federal water quality requirements under the (Clean Water Act), and marks the beginning of the end of meaningful state participation in water pollution regulation.”

“The end of meaningful state participation” has always been the goal. What’s differed are the means used to achieve it.

It’s much easier — heck, it’s much more fun — to reward your friends and punish your enemies from a centralized location. Not to mention you can hang out with only likeminded people and you get to dole out the goodies on a continental scale.

Anything less is for pikers.

News You Can Use

February 28th, 2014 - 2:14 pm


Holy cow — you know you’re not supposed to do that, right?

And just so there’s no ambiguity, I’m referring to the making of cow porn and not to the sleuthing to catch the culprits.

Alex Sink Lets Go of Her ♡bamaCare!!! Embrace

February 28th, 2014 - 1:06 pm

Democrat Congressional Candidate Alex Sink is trying to run away from her previous support of ♡bamaCare!!!, but Javier Manjarres has the goods on her record.

Florida’s special election should be a pickup, if not quite an easy one, for the GOP. And if not, we’re still going to get lots of good use out of Brave Sir Robin between now and November.

Hitting Back at Harry

February 28th, 2014 - 12:41 pm

It’s a day late, but maybe the NRSC will learn from this to pick up speed for the next one.

Swedish Neo Nazis Invade Ukraine

February 28th, 2014 - 11:57 am

The headline sounds like the headline to some weird alternate history book or maybe some kind of dystopian cyberpunk thriller — but no:

Revolutionary tourists, thrill seekers, and parachute journalists suffused Kiev. Sen. John McCain, actress Hayden Panettiere, and French intellectual Bernard Henri-Levy roused massive crowds with paeans to freedom and national sovereignty, while offering moral support to the opposition forces led by former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.

But Hagberg, a square-jawed and baby-faced member of the Swedish armed forces, had a darker message.

“I stand before your forces of revolution to tell you about what your future might be if you fail your glorious endeavour,” he said in fluid-but-clipped English. “I stand here as a Swede. However where I come from is no longer Sweden.” Hagberg warned Ukrainians that a successful revolution must chart a path that carefully avoided the evils of abortion and ethnic mongrelization, one that harshly punished welfare abuse and rejected the normalization of homosexuality. “Officials in Sweden like to calls us the most modern country in the world. I say to you, brothers, this is what awaits you if you choose to follow our example. You now have the opportunity to choose and create your own future. Do not accept the trap of choosing either the West or Russia.”

Cheap travel, expansive ideologies, and a world in chaos — they add up to trouble in ways we could scarcely dream of during the Cold War.

Human Barbie Preaches Breatharianism

February 28th, 2014 - 10:49 am


Just when you thought you’d read it all:

Ukranian model Valeria Lukyanova, who lives her life as a ‘human Barbie’ has revealed she doesn’t consume food or water anymore.

Some have said she uses plastic surgery and Photoshop to create her doll-like image, but her impossibly thin waist could actually be down to not eating for weeks.

The model, 23, has said she is now converting to ‘Breatharianism’ – training herself to live off only light and air.

‘In recent weeks I have not been hungry at all; I’m hoping it’s the final stage before I can subsist on air and light alone,’ she has said.

The model and singer’s new vice, Breatharianism, is a cult that believes food – and possibly water – are not necessary.

A breatharian is said to be someone who never eats or drinks as they can exist on ‘cosmic micro-food’, according to the International Business Times.

Two things. First, that’s not attractive. Second, this poor fool is going to end up dead.

Assuming this isn’t a hoax, and I rather hope it is.

Wall Street to GOP: Tax Us and Die

February 28th, 2014 - 9:40 am


Private equity and investment firms in New York are telling key Republican players in D.C. that commitments for big-dollar fundraising have been “canceled for the foreseeable future,” according to one GOP lobbyist with knowledge of the conversations.

Lobbyists for Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan and others are meeting privately with lawmakers to explain what the bank tax would cost and how it would function.

Big banks want to turn Republicans against the bank tax. The situation puts the party at risk of seeing a reliable source of campaign cash dry up right in the middle of a critical election year.

I’m not sure which side is more dysfunctional, but I do know that when Wall Street and Washington get into bed together, it’s the middle class that gets screwed.

Boeing makes smartphones? At least just one really cool one:

It’s the smartphone every “Mission Impossible” fan would love to have.

Boeing is set to debut a new secure phone for government agencies and defense contractors that will self-destruct if it’s tampered with. It just won’t be won’t be quite as dramatic as it was on the old television show. There won’t be any smoke or explosions, but the contents of the device will be completely erased.

“Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable,” explained a company filing with the Federal Communications Commission, posted on the FCC’s Web site Wednesday.

I can promise you this thing would sell better if they’d add the smoke.

Charge of the Right Brigade

February 28th, 2014 - 7:22 am

Observing from Arizona that state’s recent journey through comical political malpractice, Jon Gabriel writes:

I agreed with the bill’s modest intentions, but, like many, was concerned about abuses and unintended consequences. With or without a new law, this matter will be fought in the courts and superseded by federal law anyway. Not to mention that Gov. Brewer vetoed it the previous year and was almost guaranteed to veto it again. After the expensive PR mess of SB 1070, the last thing her “Arizona Comeback” needed was another year of headlines decrying us as intolerant rubes.

But the legislature pushed it through anyway. And, despite a famously media-savvy opposition, the lawmakers had no P.R. plan, a negligible online presence and woefully unprepared spokesmen. As most who voted for it hid from the press, the most prominent supporter looked like the cardboard God-bothering hick in every Aaron Sorkin dramedy. Each interview further demonized the bill in the public’s eye.

Predictably, GOP officials across Arizona and the nation fled the unforced error, urging a quick veto. After further damaging the state’s image by dragging out her obvious decision, Gov. Brewer finally nixed the measure last night.

Final score: The Right 0, The Left 1,062.

But it sure felt good.

When did the Right start acting so much like the Left?

Required Reading

February 28th, 2014 - 6:13 am

Krauthammer on Ukraine, Putin, and Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom:

Sure, Obama is sympathetic to democracy. But it must come organically, from internal developments, you see. Must not be imposed by outside intervention, but develop on its own.

But Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn’t allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.

What Obama doesn’t seem to understand is that American inaction creates a vacuum. His evacuation from Iraq consigned that country to Iranian hegemony, just as Obama’s writing off Syria invited in Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah to reverse the tide of battle.

What Krauthammer failed to mention is that there was one time democracy tried to sprout “organically” in a country where it was desperately needed and just as desperately desired.

That country was Iran in 2009, and Wiggleroom sat on his hands then just as he’s doing today.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 28th, 2014 - 5:06 am

Hillary Clinton might not be shouting, “Run away! Run away!” But she’s certainly whispering it:

Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton nudged the accelerator in her effort to get past the problems with ObamaCare bedeviling the president and their party. Talking to a gathering of health information specialists in Florida, Clinton sounded more than open to substantial changes to President Obama’s signature law. From Reuters: “Part of the challenge is to clear away all the smoke and try to figure out what is working and what isn’t,’ Clinton, who served as secretary of state in Obama’s first term, was quoted by CNN as saying. ‘What do we need to do to try to fix this? Because it would be a great tragedy, in my opinion, to take away what has now been provided.’”

What’s there to lose? Near as I can tell here’s what’s been provided:

• The world’s first half-functional, $20 million dollar website purchased for $1 billion.

• Bunches of equally unloved state exchanges.

• Less-desirable plans.

• Somewhere around 20,000 new IRS agents.

• The legal right to keep your kids dependent on your plan eight frigging years past high school.

• Death panels.

• Mandates, paperwork, fewer doctors, the twilight of private practice, and all the rest.

• Continued non-coverage for tens of millions of the previously non-covered.

• Whiny little beyotches bragging — bragging! — on Twitter and Whitehouse.gov about how they’ve gone on the dole.

Yes, it would be a shame if the country were to lose all that.

Obama Has Released the Homo Demons!

February 27th, 2014 - 4:33 pm

I’ll have what the gentleman at the pulpit is having:

“Obama has released the homo demons on the black man. Look out black woman. A white homo may take your man,” reads the marquee for ATLAH World Church at Lenox and 123rd.

The pastor of the church, James David Manning, has been very critical of President Obama, calling him “The Long Legged Mack Daddy” and often blaming him for the destruction of the black family, the Village Voice reported.

“This homosexual demon hoping to enforce as many black males to subscribe to ideas …, ” he said during a sermon the church posted on YouTube Tuesday. “So we have the outing of people like Jason Collins, who is an alleged basketball player, and Michael Sam, a football player. Two blacks that have come out of the closet and have received national acclaim from Obama, from Michelle ‘the fistbumper’ Obama, from Oprah Winfrey, from all black people encouraging more black men to come out of the closet.”

“You’ll have a very hard time competing against a white homosexual male,” Mr. Manning continued. “He’s usually got money. The white homo usually has an American Express card. He usually has an opportunity at the theater. Homos love the theater. They love to go out to dinner, parties. They love that kind of thing.”

If anything is going to get me to leave my wife and abandon my family and my home, it’s a night out at the theater with an American Express-wielding white man.

On second thought, I think maybe I’ll give the President a pass on this one.

Is Facebook Cheating?

February 27th, 2014 - 3:26 pm

I don’t know what other conclusion you can draw after reading about the company’s clickthru advertising practices as discovered by publisher Raaj Kapur Brar:

The results were disastrous, Brar says.

Facebook’s analytics said the campaign sent him five times the number of clicks he was seeing arrive on his sites, which Brar was monitoring with Bitly, Google Analytics, and his own web site’s WordPress dashboard. There was a reasonable discrepancy between the Bitly and Google numbers, Brar says, but not the five-fold margin between Google’s and Facebook’s click counts.

At one point, data from Facebook indicated his ads had delivered 606,000 clicks, but the site itself registered only 160,000 incoming clicks from Facebook, according to data supplied by Brar. (160,000 clicks is a not insignificant return. After all, these are not clicks on a mere Facebook page, these are users who clicked through to an off-Facebook site.)

“I don’t know what to say, right? This is a huge loss. This ran for four days, then we just stopped the campaign,” Brar says.

Then, things got worse. Even though Fetopolis wasn’t advertising, the likes and new followers kept on piling up. Normally, an advertiser would be pleased at such a result, but every time Brar checked a sample of the new fans he found people with dubious names; a picture of a flower as a profile shot; and fewer than 10 friends — classic signs of a fake profile.

I suppose that’s one way to generate $19 billion to spend on a messaging app.

Facebook’s terms and conditions forbid any third-party audits of clickthrus, contrary to industry standards.

Wither Ukraine?

February 27th, 2014 - 2:18 pm


From the comments to this morning’s post about Russian mobs in Crimea:

Is a shrunken Ukraine necessarily a bad thing? It can be argued that the Czech Republic and Slovakia both benefited from the breakup of Czechoslovakia. Likewise for a Ukraine relieved of its Russified parts.

And my reply:

It’s part of the sometimes tragic nature of the human condition that ethnic cleansing works. That’s not an endorsement of, say, the horrors of Bosnia 20 years ago, but it is a simple observation. Eastern Europe is now at peace in no small part because Stalin cleared Poland and Czechoslovakia of Germans, and he also cleared Ukraine and Belarus of Poles. As one historian noted, Stalin drew the borders he wanted, then moved the people to fit.

I’m not sure Ukraine will ever find peace until it is more ethno-linguistically homogenous. There are only three ways for Ukraine to accomplish that.

• Kill all the Russians.

• Remove all the Russians.

• Surrender the Russian-majority areas contiguous with the Russian border, plus Crimea (or at least Sebastopol).

None of these options is good. But the third one is clearly the least bad.

But then there’s this comment from Max:

“Russian-speakers” is a total and complete misnomer. I\’ve been visiting Kyiv a few times a year for the last 4 years due to business interests and can tell you that literally everyone there speaks unaccented fluent Russian and something like half the population speaks it by preference. They are still Ukrainians — in the sense that they don\’t care a whit for Putin or unity with (read subjugation by) Russia. I am Russian by birth and can\’t help but support this sentiment.

The internal split in Ukraine exists nevertheless, and in a sense it\’s probably tripartite: “pro-European independents” vs “great Russia holdovers” vs “west Ukraine nationalists”. The first group not only has no enmity towards Russians, it is likely half-Russian ethnically. The second group is largely dependent on Russia economically and the areas where they are dominant — the two easternmost provinces full of heavy industry — would likely join Russia by referendum if given half a chance. Crimea would be the same if not for the Tatars.

Lots of White Russians speak Russian, too — but that doesn’t make them Russian. It’s just that when you have a massive neighbor like Belarus does, with which you have historic and commercial ties, it makes sense to speak their language. Max is spot-on however about Ukraine’s tripartite split. Western Ukraine has more in common with Poland (other than language) than it probably has with the easternmost part of the country. Don’t forget too that during the interwar period, western Ukraine was even a part of Poland.

Crimea is where it really gets tricky. Moscow fought hard in a series of wars to take it from the Tatars, then settled it with probably as many Russians as could be herded onto the peninsula. The locals never did acclimate themselves to Russian rule, so much so that Stalin (there’s that name again) deported them to Central Asia in 1944 — for allegedly collaborating with the Nazi invaders. When Soviet Union collapsed, the Tatars returned. Understandably they maintain something of a “never again” attitude towards Russian (mis)rule. Any border adjustment between Russian and Ukraine will have to take that under serious consideration, or merely create heightened tensions between different players.

There are no easy outs here.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 27th, 2014 - 1:10 pm


Yep, that’s a problem all right:

Fifty-six percent of those who identified as uninsured in a new poll conducted in February by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a research institution, had an unfavorable view of the health care reform law, compared to just 22 percent who said they view it favorably. The uninsured now see Obamacare less favorably than they did when the enrollment period began in October. As recently as September, more uninsured approved of the law than disapproved.

The survey results illustrate just how deep a hole the Obama administration is in when it comes to gaining the support of those the law is most intended to benefit. Indeed, the new findings show the uninsured feel worse about the law than the public at large.

Forget for a moment the politics or even the solvency of the exchanges. What this poll does is put lie to the Fierce Moral Urgency of providing coverage right the hell now! to 47 million uncovered Americans who were dying in the streets of Republicanism.

Instead, what we’re left with is a government usurpation of 1/6th of the economy to provide coverage for people who, by and large it seems, never really wanted it. It’s as though Washington had launched a trillion-dollar program to provide free or subsidized kicks to the groin for those whose groins were going sadly un-kicked.

But let’s keep that last point to ourselves, in case Washington gets any ideas.

I should mention in closing however that this poll was released at the same time the New Pravda was declared by ♡bamaCare!!!’s supporters. Harry Reid and Paul Krugman and Greg Sargent have all gone on the record this week to assure us that the horror stories are “untrue” or that the GOP is “just making stuff up” and that the nasty claims “fall apart under scrutiny.”

If all that is true, then why is the law not just unpopular, but most unpopular with its intended beneficiaries?

A Tale of Two Internets

February 27th, 2014 - 12:01 pm

First, let us go to Nilay Patel who declares “the Internet is f*****.”

After months of declining Netflix performance on Comcast’s network, the two companies announced a new “paid peering” arrangement on Sunday, which will see Netflix pay Comcast for better access to its customers, a capitulation Netflix has been trying to avoid for years. Paid peering arrangements are common among the network companies that connect the backbones of the internet, but consumer companies like Netflix have traditionally remained out of the fray — and since there’s no oversight or transparency into the terms of the deal, it’s impossible to know what kind of precedent it sets. Broadband industry insiders insist loudly that the deal is just business as usual, while outside observers are full of concerns about the loss of competition and the increasing power of consolidated network companies. Either way, it’s clear that Netflix has decided to take matters — and costs — into its own hands, instead of relying on rational policy to create an effective and fair marketplace.

Patel says the solution to this “perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government” is to declare the internet a utility and regulate the bejeebus out of it:

The corporations that control internet access insist that they’re providing specialized services that are somehow different than water, power, and telephones. They point to crazy bullshit you don’t want or need like free email addresses and web hosting solutions and goofy personalized search screens as evidence that they’re actually providing “information” services instead of the more highly regulated “telecommunications” services. “Common carrier rules are basically free speech,” says the Free Press’ Aaron. “We have all these protections for what happens over landline phones that we’re not extending to data, even though all these people under 25 mostly communicate in data.”

In a short phrase, “net neutrality.” And that would seem to solve some problems.

But at the Wall Street Journal we have Holman Jenkins who says Comcast/Netflix deal is “how the internet was meant to be.” Read:

The deal is a triumph of the Internet’s nonideological adaptability and flexibility.

Cogent Communications, a content delivery network, was getting paid by Netflix to deliver loads of content to Comcast, without any incentive to care about Comcast’s capacity to receive it.

So Comcast could either accept an unlimited obligation to accommodate whatever traffic Netflix and its intermediate partners wanted to send, however inefficiently they wanted to send it—as, in fact, happened after Mr. Hastings in September decided every Netflix customer would get its new “SuperHD” feed.

Or Comcast could resist a blank check being drawn on its network in the only way available to it—by letting traffic back up at its interconnection point until Cogent and Netflix cried uncle.

That’s exactly what Comcast did do, and the result was to create a deal where Comcast now does have an incentive to accommodate Netflix’s demands — via the healing power of cold hard cash.

It’s true that the telecoms are highly regulated. It’s also highly true that the last real innovation in landline service was the addition of call waiting back in the early 1980s. I’ll repeat: Back in the early 1980s. That’s the very definition of the “dumb pipe” Patel dreams of, with the accent on “dumb.”

The Wild West atmosphere on the internet has given us… everything, really.

That’s not to say that it can’t get better, faster, and stronger. Comcast’s/Time-Warner’s hold on the “last mile” in so much of the country can’t do anything good for pricing or for innovation. But I maintain that smothering the whole industry alá Ma Bell back in the day is hardly the answer.

Wargaming Senate Control

February 27th, 2014 - 10:54 am

Colorado Republicans might have just found the answer to the question of how to defeat Mark Udall:

Crystal Ball Senior Columnist Alan Abramowitz’s discussion of his Senate elections model not only confirms how close we expect the 2014 Senate campaign will be, but it’s also quite timely, as the Republicans yesterday expanded their list of credible Senate targets. Rep. Cory Gardner (R, CO-4), after previously declining to challenge Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), is now reportedly entering the contest. Assuming he advances to the general election, Gardner should give Udall a stiffer challenge than the other Republicans in the field. This news moves the Colorado Senate race from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic.

That’s from “the editors” of Sabato’s Crystal Ball on the top of Abramowitz’s latest, and it makes Sabato the first major outfit to move CO out of the Likely Dem column. Rothenberg still has it Safe Dem, but let’s wait until this news sinks in and we see how Gardner performs.


February 27th, 2014 - 9:46 am


Just no.

What are you looking at? Mashable has the story:

Photoshop is a powerful tool that usually removes the unwanted facial hair of celebrities. But when you realize that eyebrows are really just upside-down mustaches, of course you should use Photoshop less traditionally.

Tumblr user Sam Cannon has done just that in Browstaches. The name of the project encapsulates precisely what is happening: taking celebrity eyebrows and putting it where their mouth is.

Just because you have the ability to do something, doesn’t mean you should.

Seriously — that’s a real nightmare image.

Race to the Bottom

February 27th, 2014 - 8:38 am

Microsoft has a smart new CEO, but this is a move which stinks of flop sweat:

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports Microsoft will slash Windows licensing fees by 70 percent for low-cost hardware manufacturers in an attempt to regain marketshare lost to devices running iOS, Android and Chrome.

Under the supposed pricing scheme, OEMs will pay $15 to preinstall Windows 8.1 on devices that sell for less than $250. The fee is down from a traditional rate of $50 per device. Further, Microsoft will not impose restrictions on hardware size or form factor as long as the final product meets the required low retail price.

The problem isn’t the OEM’s slim-to-none margins — although they are a problem and lower licensing fees will help. The major problem though comes in two parts.

• Microsoft has failed time and again to adapt to mobile

• As a result, Microsoft’s licensing model has fallen apart

Cutting prices for a product few people want — which isn’t even sold directly to people — does nothing to make them want it. You’ve got to fix the product.

TANGENTIALLY RELATED: BlackBerry is moving downmarket, too.


John Hinderaker calls it “the photo of the day,” but it really might be the Middle East’s photo of the 21st Century. The scene is from Damascus, which under the Byzantines and later under Muslim rule, was one of the Middle East’s great cities.

Today it could be mistaken for Baghdad in 1258.

(H/T, Glenn.)

MORE: I presume the shelling is real, but the crowds are photoshopped. Apologies for the error.

Thanks to Robert Demuth for the heads-up.

Russian Flag Raised Over Parliament in Crimea

February 27th, 2014 - 6:21 am

Yesterday when I said Putin still had plenty of cards to play, this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about:

Dozens of armed men seized the regional government administration building and parliament in Ukraine’s southern Crimea region Thursday and raised the Russian flag, in a challenge to the Eastern European country’s new leaders.

Crimea, with its ethnic Russian majority, is the last big bastion of opposition to the new political leadership in Kiev after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster Saturday.

The incident, coming a day after Russia ordered surprise military exercises on Ukraine’s doorstep, has raised fears about the push and pull of opposing allegiances in a country sandwiched between Russia and the European Union.

It looks increasingly likely that it will be a shrunken Ukraine which ends up enjoying its new government.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Lie of the Day

February 27th, 2014 - 5:13 am

Reading this piece from Sam Baker on ♡bamaCare!!!’s disappointed customers, I was struck by a single line early on:

But “if you like your doctor you can hope she’s in our network” was always going to be a tough sell for insurers.

What the heck is that supposed to mean? We were told, cooly and repeatedly, that if we liked our doctor we could keep our doctor. That was Professor Wiggleroom’s oft-repeated promise. What Baker implies here is that it’s the insurers who broke the promise, rather than the law’s authors.

Wiggleroom meant well, but those meanie insurance companies took your doctor away.

Well, no.

The law as written is working exactly as it was meant to work — saving the government money by reducing your access and your choices.

The line forms to the left, comrades.

News You Can Use

February 26th, 2014 - 3:09 pm


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

Ukraine Disbands Riot Police

February 26th, 2014 - 2:02 pm

The good news from Ukraine:

Earlier Wednesday, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced that a riot police force used against anti-government protesters in Ukraine had been disbanded.

Demonstrators accused the elite Berkut force, deployed by the government of Yanukovych to quell recent protests, of using excessive force.

Avakov said on his Facebook page that he’d signed the order disbanding the force Tuesday.

But from the same CNN story we get the bad news, too:

The new, pro-Russian mayor of Sevastopol [on the Crimea peninsula] said Tuesday night at a rally in the city that he had secured funding to keep paying Berkut riot police there even after the force was disbanded.

And the scary news:

Russia ordered surprise military exercises on Ukraine’s doorstep Wednesday as tensions in that country’s southern Crimea region simmered, with pro-Russian demonstrators facing off against rival protesters in the city of Simferopol.

This isn’t even close to over. Reactionary forces lost a round last week, but Putin still hold a couple of high cards and he’s not afraid to play them.

Defending the Undefendable

February 26th, 2014 - 12:56 pm

I’ve said on many occasions that I believe one-party rule is inherently corrupting, that I vote for Democrats whenever politically feasible for just that reason, and that I think the national GOP is for the most part non-representive of conservative or libertarian interests.

This is all true. And yet I’ve been pushing (and pushing and pushing) for GOP candidates, any GOP candidates, this election cycle.


Let’s look at Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1981. He was the nominee of a Republican Party so moderate he felt he had to take on George H W Bush as his veep to reassure the party bigwigs. He faced a hostile House headed up by Tip O’Neil with solid Democratic majorities, including the super-liberal Class of ’74. Reagan delivered the Senate that cycle, too, but with a majority even more moderate than today’s GOP Senate minority. Yet Reagan was able to accomplish some great things his first two years in office.

The reason is simple. Even the squishiest RINO will follow a strong GOP leader rather than the Democrat. Moderation is always the easier path. Cooperation always looks better on camera. But a strong leader can overcome those obstacles — and even bring along a few stragglers from the other party. Sometimes more than a few.

Tomorrow’s leaders come from today’s lower ranks. One of the reasons the GOP field was so weak in 2008 and 2012 is that the ranks had been thinned due to poor leadership from George W Bush, naming a dead-ender (Dick Cheney) as his Veep and then earning deep voter distrust in Iraq. To compound the problem, Bush betrayed small government interests on several occasions, including the Patriot Act, Medicare Part D, and TARP — just to name a three. The resulting disgust kept a lot of conservative voters home over the next few cycles, and the party has yet to recover.

If the GOP is going to recover, it’s going to mean holding the House and taking the Senate, so that the party is in a strong position to oppose the White House.

From there, we can hope, principled leadership will emerge. (I’m looking at you, Rand Paul.) If not, we’ll get another two years like the last two years. Except they’ll be even worse, because Professor Wiggleroom will enjoy even more of his beloved “flexibility.”

Do I know that such a leader will emerge? No. Do I know that if he does, the rank and file will follow? I’m on firmer ground here, but still not entirely certain.

But I do know that absent the Senate, then nothing will change. We’ll get the occasional feel-good stunt like Ted Cruz’s filibuster… and that’s about it. Owning all of Capitol Hill is vital, and if that means voting for every RINO and squish — well, it’s not like it won’t be my first trip to the voting booth wearing a clothespin on my nose.

It’s going to be a long road back. But it starts with the Senate, and it starts now.

Sinking Sink

February 26th, 2014 - 11:50 am

News from Florida’s special congressional election in FL13:

A new poll conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows David Jolly with a 44-42 lead over Alex Sink, but the lead is well within the margin of error, amplifying how close the race is in the final stretch.

Lucas Overby, the libertarian candidate, takes 7 percent while 7 percent of voters are undecided. Among voters who say they will definitely vote (83% of the sample) the race is tied at 43% each.

On Jolly’s side is that 54 percent of these voters oppose Obamacare while only 39 percent support it.

The poll was conducted by Fabrizio, Lee and Associates and included 400 likely special election voters on Feb. 17-18. Cell phone interviews comprised 25% of the overall sample and landline interviews 75%. The MOE is +/- 4.9%.

This is one of those “unwinnable” elections, if you take your cues from the national GOP.

UPDATE: Oy. If Sink were a Republican, she’d have been sunk by the national media before lunch today.

“Your congressman lied to you… “

February 26th, 2014 - 10:44 am

Hard-hitting ad from GOP candidate Richard Tisei in MA06, where he lost in 2012 to John Tierney by just 4,000 votes.

Supplying the Syrian Civil War

February 26th, 2014 - 9:38 am


Despite an international arms embargo on Syria, both sides are getting weapons. The rebels get weapons smuggled in via Turkey and Jordan while the Assad government gets all that and heavier stuff (armored vehicles, smart bombs. Aircraft spare parts and UAVs) via ship or flights from Russia. Most of the weapons for the rebels are paid for by the Arab Gulf oil states while the stuff for the Assads is paid for by Iran. Technically Russia is selling the military equipment to Syria but the major source of financial aid for Syria is from Iran. This breaks all sorts of rules because Iran is under more stringent arms embargoes than Syria. Russia and China use their permanent seats on the UN Security Council to block any efforts to enforce the prohibitions against sending weapons to Syria.

Iran is also flying in a lot of weapons and personnel. Sending anything by ship is too risky as the Americans have apparently gotten too good at detecting seaborne weapons smuggling efforts into or out of Iran. Air freight is another matter, at least as long as Iraq continues to ignore the illegal flights. The Iranian transports have been seen landing at several different Syrian airports and even some rural airfields.

All those weapons going in via Iranian and Russian backdoors — and yet Assad’s chemical weapons aren’t coming out as promised.

I think it’s safe to conclude that the American position in Syria, and in the rest of the Arab Middle East, has broken down completely.

Steal of the Century

February 26th, 2014 - 8:32 am

Market Watch’s Therese Poletti on Facebook’s monster purchase of WhatsApp:

“What’s going to happen? Who really knows? WhatsApp came out of nowhere,” Pisarski said. He singled out two smaller mobile messaging firms, Kakao and Kik, as worth watching. Kakao Corp., founded in 2010 in South Korea, has 133 million users, and Kik, founded in 2009 with 100 million users, is in Canada. Earlier this month, Kakao was close to hiring investment bankers for an IPO that would value the company at more than $2 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Still, the price for WhatsApp and lofty valuations for other young companies without much revenue could spark even more zealousness and arrogance among tech entrepreneurs. It could also fuel a dangerous return to a mentality prevalent in the last dot-com bubble, when companies without a solid, stand-alone business model were acquired for huge sums by tech giants.

Deals like that one could fuel a bubble? Our entire “recovery” has been based on re-inflating the housing and equities bubbles. The underlying values simply aren’t there.

Now this Facebook/WhatsApp deal isn’t directly attributable to ZIRP or QE, but it is made possible, or at least easier by the kind of easy money floating around in the bubble. Social networking companies should never, ever earn such massive valuations, because they’re so easily disrupted. WhatsApp didn’t even exist five years ago, and already has hundreds of millions of users — who could disappear tomorrow for the Next Cool Thing. Worrywarts used to worry that Facebook was going to become the internet, for all intents and purposes. Now the worry is that Facebook has to spend $19 billion on a dubious acquisition just to protect its flanks.

It’s insanity.