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Stephen Green

Stephen Green began blogging at VodkaPundit.com in early 2002, and has served as PJMedia’s Denver editor since 2008. He’s one of the hosts on PJTV, and one-third of PJTV’s Trifecta team with Scott Ott and Bill Whittle. Steve lives with his wife and sons in the hills and woods of Monument, Colorado, where he enjoys the occasional lovely adult beverage.

Name That Pundit!

Enjoy the ironic lapel pin.

Enjoy the ironic lapel pin.

Here’s some hard-hitting stuff concerning President Look At Me Looking At Me, and this time the author is not Ron Fournier. Here you go:

The Obama administration does not suffice with condemning Netanyahu’s visit. Obama has announced that he will not meet with Netanyahu on the grounds that he does not meet with state leaders a short while before elections take place in their countries, [though] elections in Israel will take place weeks after the visit!! Likewise, American Vice President Joseph Biden, whose presence at Netanyahu’s speech in Congress is expected by virtue of his constitutional role as Senate president, announced that he would be on a trip abroad [on the day of] Netanyahu’s speech!! U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also said he would be in Switzerland meeting with the Iranians on the nuclear dossier and therefore would not be able to attend Netanyahu’s speech!! What angers the Obama administration even more is that Netanyahu refused an official request by several Democratic Congressmen to meet with him during [his] visit!!…

I will conclude by saying the following: Since Obama is the godfather of the prefabricated revolutions in the Arab world, and since he is the ally of political Islam, [which is] the caring mother of [all] the terrorist organizations, and since he is working to sign an agreement with Iran that will come at the expense of the U.S.’s longtime allies in the Gulf, I am very glad of Netanyahu’s firm stance and [his decision] to speak against the nuclear agreement at the American Congress despite the Obama administration’s anger and fury. I believe that Netanyahu’s conduct will serve our interests, the people of the Gulf, much more than the foolish behavior of one of the worst American presidents. Do you agree with me?

The godfather of the prefabricated revolutions in the Arab world? Can you think of one American pundit, no matter how crazy, who might go out on that limb?

Me neither — the author is Saudi columnist Ahmad Al-Faraj. And it’s OK because I couldn’t have named him either without the link from Don Surber. Surber adds:

I dislike the House of Saud, which despite great wealth and education is an 11th century caliphate practicing sharia law. But Ahmad Al-Faraj, a columnist with the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, ripped Barack Obama over the Benjamin Netanyahu speech, an indication that even the Saudi Arabians get what the stakes are in Iran.

Of course the Saudis get it: Iran a big scary neighbor in pursuit of nuclear weapons. But I’d go further and say Obama gets it too — it’s just that his interests align with the big scary neighbor.

Posted at 7:07 am on March 5th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Too Damn Big: Part II

Posted at 6:14 am on March 5th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Sign “O” the Times

I wish that Tweet were a joke, but even if it were it would be a seriously unfunny joke. Here’s the story from Ukraine Today:

The details of a deal with Russia to expand Hungary’s only nuclear power plant will remain secret for the next 30 years. The two countries agreed to keep the details of the agreement classified due to what they are calling security reasons.

Observers, such as Transparency International, say the agreement is illegal because it seeks to hide information about public works deals.

Under the agreement, Russia will supply around USD 11 billion to finance most of the constrution of two new reactors for the Paks nuclear power plant.

It’s all very technical, I’m sure we wouldn’t understand [cough, cough].

You might remember a few months ago, I went into Serious History Geek Mode and wrote a lengthy article about the history of Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia — a tiny bit of Europe long fought over by Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Hungarians, Slovaks, Czechoslovaks, and maybe briefly by even the Moldovans and the Turks. The impetus for that admittedly niche column was a story about Moscow and Budapest working together to distract Kyiv from the action on its eastern front:

In its efforts to promote secessionist ideas among the half-million-strong Rusin community along Ukraine’s Western border, Moscow is simultaneously pursuing three goals. First, it is forcing Kyiv to divert its attention from Russian aggression in the east to another theater, thus limiting the ability of Ukrainian forces to counter what Moscow is doing in Crimea and Donbas (eastern Ukrainian region encompassing the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk). Second, it is cementing an ever closer relationship between Vladimir Putin and the increasingly pro-Moscow Hungarian government of Viktor Orban, a government that presents itself as a defender of the Rusins against Ukrainians. And third, Moscow is suggesting that if Kyiv continues to resist, Russian forces could dismember Ukraine to the point that it would be a landlocked republic with no direct access either to the Black Sea or to the countries of Central Eastern Europe.

I’ll remind you that Hungary is a member of the European Union and ostensibly a NATO ally. And yet there’s been talk — and action — for months that the country is leaning pro-Moscow.

This is just one of the many pieces of rotten fruit resulting from six years of President Look At Me Looking At Me leading from his behind.

Posted at 5:02 am on March 5th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

John Kasich

It looks like Ohio tried to use some tax trickery [PDF] to fund ♡bamaCare!!! Medicaid expansion in the Buckeye State:

The key revenue stream in question is the state sales and use tax as applied to Medicaid managed care organization (MCO) premiums. The state takes advantage of a loophole in the Medicaid funding system through which taxing these premiums provides revenue to the state and increases the amount of federal grant money that Ohio receives. Thus far, this tax loophole has cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars, and allowed Ohio to reduce its share of total Medicaid expenditures and spend even more. But that loophole is about to close.

A recent investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) should warn states like Ohio currently using the loophole to fund expansion. Responding to OIG, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stated it intention to bring wayward states into compliance. This means that Ohio will likely need to abolish its sales tax on Medicaid MCO premiums, and lose the critical revenue it provides.

The link is from Kristina Ribali and she explains things further:

It’s a slick system. So slick, in fact, that other states have tried it. For instance, Pennsylvania tried it and got a whopping $1.76 BILLION in extra federal grants over a three year period. The only problem – it’s illegal. In fact, this was already decided before Ohio tried it.

The Buckeye Institute’s President, Robert Alt, urged Ohio state lawmakers to pass a budget without Medicaid expansion. The testimony was successful, but Governor Kasich bypassed the State House and expanded Medicaid anyway via the Controlling Board – complete with this sketchy funding mechanism.

This is just going to kill whatever is left of Kasich. He made his name as a principled small-government conservative, almost libertarian, then threw that out when he saw the gleaming gobs of reverse-Danegeld hiding the manure pile known as ♡bamaCare!!!. Whatever remains of his reputation could be forever tarnished by this illegal funding gimmick.

I really used to like and respect him, too.

Posted at 2:27 pm on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Emailgate: It’s Worse Than You Think

CLINTON

This is a very big deal:

A week before becoming Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton set up a private e-mail system that gave her a high level of control over communications, including the ability to erase messages completely, according to security experts who have examined Internet records.

“You erase it and everything’s gone,” Matt Devost, a security expert who has had his own private e-mail for years. Commercial services like those from Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. retain copies even after users erase them from their in-box.

Although Clinton worked hard to secure the private system, her consultants appear to have set it up with a misconfigured encryption system, something that left it vulnerable to hacking, said Alex McGeorge, head of threat intelligence at Immunity Inc., a Miami Beach-based digital security firm.

It’s a foregone conclusion in my mind that for perhaps as long as four years, foreign powers were reading the Secretary of State’s official emails.

UPDATE: And then there’s this.

More here from Kyle Becker.

Posted at 2:14 pm on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Leadership Means Begging Forgiveness?

DEM 2016 Clinton

I’m sorry this page has turned into HillaryScandalPundit today, but we must return one more time to that well. This time it’s Frank Bruni asking if Hillary Clinton has a political death wish:

She and Bill have lived their entire political lives under fire, some of it deserved, some of it not. It’s as if they decided at a certain point that they’d never get a fair shake and should cut the corners that they could and behave as they wished. Their foes would storm the gates regardless.

But there are times when the Clintons are their own worst enemies.

Insistent that his persecutors would find sexual misdeeds even where none existed, Bill gave them a blue dress and Monica Lewinsky.

Aggrieved by the way her detractors saw her as haughtily above it all, Hillary decided on an approach to emails as secretary of state that has made her look haughtily above it all.

Is that entitlement? Or hubris?

An inability to change? Or a refusal to?

I approached someone who knows the Clintons well, asked how to make sense of this and got an answer that echoed observations about them from the past: “They’d rather seek forgiveness than permission.”

You get exhausted just briefly considering another eight years of a Clinton White House.

I’m all out of forgiveness, too, and sometimes get the feeling I’m far from alone.

Posted at 1:27 pm on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Et Tu, Guardian?

Even the leftwing folks at The Guardian see trouble ahead for Hillary Clinton because of Emailgate:

It leaves Clinton vulnerable to at least three lines of criticism: that she potentially broke fundamental rules governing the handling and security of state secrets; that she skirted around guidelines put in place to ensure historical accountability and transparency within high public office; and the political attack that she must have had something to hide.

Potentially breaching rules relating to state secrets
Perhaps the most serious accusation facing Clinton is that she may have breached one of the fundamental tenets of classified information. J William Leonard, former director of the body that keeps watch over executive branch secrets, the Information Security Oversight Office, told the Guardian that if Clinton had dealt with confidential government matters through her personal email, that would have been problematic. “There is no such thing as personal copies of classified information. All classified information belongs to the US government and it should never leave the control of the government.”

Tell that to Sandy Berger’s pants.

Posted at 12:55 pm on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Overseas Misfire in the War on Drugs

On the off chance you thought Zero Tolerance lunacy was limited to this country, here’s the heartwarming story of a 26-year-old American woman now sitting in a Japanese jail after her mother sent over her Adderall prescription:

Carrie Russell, a graduate from Western Oregon University, was reportedly diagnosed with attention deficit disorder at age 7. She is now jailed outside of Nagoya after her friends witnessed five plain-clothed police officers arrest her Feb. 20 at a restaurant in Tokyo, nearly 300 miles away, the Oregonianreported.

Her adoptive parents, John and Jill Russell, learned of the arrest the next day from their daughter’s friends. It took U.S. diplomats 24 hours to locate her, because the National Police Agency hadn’t notified the embassy of her arrest, a step typically taken when Japanese police detain an American, the Oregonian reported.

I hope this gets cleared up quickly and Russell is released, maybe even gets an apology. But the Drug War makes these things inevitable.

Posted at 11:49 am on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Over the Hillary

Canada DEM 2016-Clinton

In the wake of Emailgate, Bill Scher explains what happens if Hillary Clinton chooses not to run:

“Panic,” says Democratic consultant Chris Lapetina. Indeed, the biggest problem is that the Democratic establishment is apparently so terrified of the idea of a Hillary-less race—and the vicious primary that might result—it’s not even considering contingency plans. Political professionals, like military generals and crisis management experts, know that the way to avoid being blindsided is to prepare for every scenario. But while the Democratic National Committee has to officially remain neutral, much of the extraparty infrastructure has been moving ahead on the presumption of a Hillary campaign.

After Hillary the Democrats have Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren and Martin “Who?” O’Malley.

I’d panic, too.

Posted at 10:40 am on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Vice President Fiorina

CPAC 2015

Josh Kraushaar is the third person I’ve read saying that former HP CEO Carly Fiorina is actually running for Vice President in 2016. And he’s the second person I know of (Bill Whittle was the first) to say she’s come a long way from her unimpressive bid to unseat California Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010. Kraushaar saw her speak at CPAC and came away with this:

After watching her latest stump speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, it’s clear that she’s got more potential than many have given her credit for.

She’s an engaging speaker who has articulated a more cogent contrast against Hillary Clinton than any of the other prospective Republicans. She earned one of the loudest applause lines at CPAC on Thursday when she argued that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was speaking before Congress not to offend the president but to warn the world of the dangers of a nuclear Iran.

Most significantly, she was one of the few speakers who actually delivered a speech that was focused against Hillary Clinton—the GOP’s all-but-certain opponent in 2016—rather than dwell on President Obama’s shortcomings.

Think about this for just a moment, and having Fiorina at the bottom of the ticket makes an awful lot of sense.

Need a Spiro Agnew-type attack dog to keep her teeth sunk into Hillary? Fiorina is all that and a woman, neutering at least some of the Left’s cries of “Sexism!” (I say some because you know they’ll cry it regardless.) Fiorina also stands as a woman of actual accomplishment, as opposed to Hillary having ridden her husband’s coattails to fame and fortune and having served as one of our least-distinguished Secretaries of State.

Fiorina’s weakness is of course her tumultuous time at HP and her messy exit from the company. She may very well have saved HP, but she laid off an awful lot of people, and worse yet ruffled an awful lot of feathers — there’s a lot of oppo to be had from her former employees. Like Mitt Romney, she will be hit and hit hard on her record. Unlike Romney, she can be an excellent counterpuncher.

(As an aside, I had a brief conversation with Tammy Bruce on just that topic a year or two ago, between taping Trifecta segments when she was filling in for Bill or Scott Ott. I mentioned what a terrible counterpuncher Romney was during the campaign, and she stopped and thought for a moment and added, “He probably would have been a terrible President.” Politics doesn’t take time off between campaigns, so a sitting President has to be just as good at taking and returning a hit as a candidate. It’s easy to see how the Democrats would have made short work of Romney, even during the so-called honeymoon period.)

So Fiorina would come in as Veep with considerable strengths and just one liability — but it’s almost impossible for me to see how any successful business leader could survive the Progressive Hate Machine. What do you think? Would her time at HP hurt the ticket more than her other skills would help?

Posted at 9:12 am on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Thought for the Day

Posted at 8:20 am on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

8,000 Congressmen and Nothing On

Bill Whittle has the Trifecta Triple this week, where one host spends three segments on one topic, and his set asking if America Is Just Too Damn Big is among the best of these I can recall ever taping.

So here’s Part I, and I hope you enjoy the heck out of it.

Posted at 7:28 am on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

To Protect and to Server Herself

SECURE

How bad is Emailgate? Hillary Clinton wasn’t just using a private account for official State Department business, which is totes against the law, she was using her own server:

Operating her own server would have afforded Clinton additional legal opportunities to block government or private subpoenas in criminal, administrative or civil cases because her lawyers could object in court before being forced to turn over any emails. And since the Secret Service was guarding Clinton’s home, an email server there would have been well protected from theft or a physical hacking.

But homebrew email servers are generally not as reliable, secure from hackers or protected from fires or floods as those in commercial data centers. Those professional facilities provide monitoring for viruses or hacking attempts, regulated temperatures, off-site backups, generators in case of power outages, fire-suppression systems and redundant communications lines.

A spokesman for Clinton did not respond to requests seeking comment from the AP on Tuesday.

Of course they didn’t respond.

To anyone who might still miss the Clintons and their adorable antics, all I can say is: Well.

Posted at 6:01 am on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Required Reading

Kurt Schlichter says, “Let’s Destroy Liberal Academia.” And I say, “But of course.” Here’s more:

This is where I must help out the liberal readers operating under the delusion that their self-designed dual major in Otherkin Activism and Post-Modern Self-Actualization gave them the ability to understand simple concepts. The enemy is academia, not education. But except for a few bastions of true learning, like Hillsdale College, the rare instances where modern academia overlaps with actual education are the result of sheer chance.

Understand that the purpose of modern American “education” is not to educate students. It is primarily to provide cushy, subsidized sinecures for liberal administrators and faculty while, secondarily, providing a forum to indoctrinate soft young minds in the liberal fetishes du jour. Actually educating students is hard, and a meaningful education is anathema to liberalism.

So much more red meat, you’ll want to read the whole thing.

Posted at 5:13 am on March 4th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Sign “O” the Times

In a Gallup poll taken on the eve of his historic speech this morning to Congress, Bibi Netanyahu is more popular with Americans than ever:

Among the 837 adults surveyed nationwide, 45 percent view the Israeli prime minister favorably, while 24 percent view him unfavorably. During Netanyahu’s first stint as prime minister in 1998, 46 percent responded that they viewed him favorably, a statistical tie with the most recent figures.

In 2012, just 35 percent of Americans responded that they saw Netanyahu in a positive light.

This time around, Republicans, independents and even Democrats responded more favorably.

One caveat is that it’s always easier to like a foreign leader who doesn’t have to make any tough domestic decisions which might negatively impact you personally. Of course, a foreign leader also doesn’t really have any base supporters, meaning there’s no real lower limit (other than zero) to how far their popularity can drop.

Those two details aside, do you think today’s speech will hurt or help Netanyahu’s big numbers?

Posted at 2:53 pm on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

Build It and They Will Leave

Russia Resurgent Military

Are you enjoying seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night? Are you not drinking too much? Are you unable to break out into cold sweats at random moments throughout the day? Kaj Leers can fix all that:

Are you a world leader with dictatorial aspirations? Need cash quick? Want the world to listen? Would you like an embargo scrapped, or to invade a country without drawing immediate condemnations and threats of war from the other neighborhood toughs? Then build yourself some nuclear weapons, pronto.

That seems to be the message the West’s diplomats are sending the world. Whether you’re terrorist-supporting Iran, a tinpot dictator in North Korea or a would-be czar with aspirations to reunite Russian-speaking territories by force, the path to getting your heart’s desire involves possessing and developing a nuclear weapons program.

Obama and NATO have shown that against someone like Putin, words are preferable to action — although it’s difficult to say how much of that fecklessness is due to Russia’s nuclear stockpile, and how much of it is due to Western leaders living in a dream world informed by wishful thinking rather than by hard reality.

But whatever the reason, between the Russo-Ukrainian War (let’s call it what it is) and more than a decade of failure to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it’s safe to say that non-proliferation is dead or very close to it.

Posted at 1:10 pm on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

‘Preparing for China’s Collapse’

boeing_assembly_line_-3-15-1

In this photo taken May 30, 2013, a U.S. flag is displayed on the Boeing 737 assembly line in Renton, Wash., above a nearly completed 737. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

It’s never too early to prepare for a crisis, but Peter Mattis makes the seemingly impossible claim that “China could be on the brink of collapse.” Before we get to Mattis’s preparations, the original warning came from AEI’s Michael Auslin, whose WSJ column from January began with a warning from an unnamed source who is one of America’s premier China watchers. The warning? ““I can’t give you a date when it will fall, but China’s Communist Party has entered its endgame.”

Keep in mind that China has spent more of its history disunited than it has spent as a unitary state. Also keep in mind that Beijing has at least $3 trillion in the bank, which is enough to paper over a lot of differences — the end game for the Communist Party could likely be years and years away.

Here’s where Mattis starts:

The purpose of these tasks is to reduce the uncertainty faced by policy makers as a Chinese crisis emerges and cascades across the country, as well as to identify ways and decision points where Washington can influence the CCP’s choices. If an effort is not made to reduce the uncertainty, then fear of the unknown is likely to drive U.S. policy makers to a decision about whether to support the Chinese government out of ignorance, rather than informed calculation.

One of the first research-related steps is to identify the cohesive and centrifugal forces inside China. The CCP used its sixty-six years in power to dismember Chinese civil society and insert itself into any group with the potential to become a political force. Groups that could not be coopted, like Falungong, became pariah and hunted by the regime. Nascent civil-society and activist groups survive in the blind spots of China’s underlapping bureaucratic maze. Chinese political culture beyond the party needs to be understood if Washington wants to claim a “moral stake.”

That’s solid advice, reaching out to groups beyond Beijing with “Hey, we’re the good guys and we believe in your country.” It’s also exactly the kind of thing our State Department would almost certainly refuse to even consider, for fear of offending Beijing. Presidents Carter and Reagan took increasingly active roles in wooing Soviet dissidents — Carter because he’d been dealt such a weak hand, and Reagan because he was determined to put the USSR in “the ash heap of history.” But China is our frenemie, our sometimes “strategic partner,” our financier, and much of our manufacturing base. And so Washington craves stability there above all things. That attitude, that need for stability before anything else, won’t serve us well if and when the end comes for the Communist Party.

Posted at 12:17 pm on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

No Going Back

APTOPIX Ukraine

The following is excerpted from a CNN interview with Norwegian defense minister Ine Eriksen Soreide:

“We are faced with a different Russia. I want to warn against the fact that some people see this as something that is going to pass. The situation has changed. And it has changed profoundly.”

There is “no going back to some sort of normality or some sort of back to normal business. Because that normality does not exist.”

Norway, a NATO member country, shares a northern border with Russia….
It is critical, she said, that Russia and Europe “avoid miscalculations” that could “easily happen in a situation like this.

“NATO countries are required to come to the defense of each other — an attack on one is an attack on all — but Eriksen Søreide said the organization is ill-prepared to respond quickly.

“The decision structure in NATO is working quite slowly if something was to happen.”

The mistake a year ago was thinking that Putin had any interest in whatsoever in the status quo ante bellum. The post-Cold War order is of no use to him, and he means to upend it.

Which brings us back to a modest proposal I made last April following Russia’s annexation of Crimea:

Maybe it’s not too late to cut a deal with Putin. He gets everything up to and including Kyiv and its environs, although he might not want to outright annex the more Ukrainian bits directly to Russia. Federation, Finlandization, or something similar might be the best bad fate for central Ukraine. The Donbas and the Russified east and south Moscow would gobble up whole, of course.

But the price of our acquiescence would be federating western Ukraine — old Galicia — with our Polish allies. The two have a long and pretty decent history together, and something slightly short of total reunification might be the best outcome for all involved, provided the locals were all happy with the new arrangement. A plebiscite — an honest plebiscite — would put the democratic seal of approval on the deal.

That was a lousy deal then, but the best we might have expected. Today, NATO and Ukraine would be lucky to get that much. At this late date, I’m not sure Putin will settle for anything less than all of Ukraine and the emasculation of NATO.

Posted at 11:28 am on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

You know how the Mainstream Media keep going on and on with the constant reminders that “coverage doesn’t equal care?”

I’m kidding, of course — you have to go to bloggers like yours truly for anything which might remind people of how much ♡bamaCare!!! sucks, and so here’s another one:

If you’re a newly enrolled Medicaid patient, finding a doctor is increasingly challenging. A new study examining government data which catalogues how many health care providers accept Medicaid patients, shows that access to providers is a real problem.

HealthPocket found that in 2015 only 34% of the healthcare providers examined were listed as accepting Medicaid insurance. This represents a 21% decrease from the listings of Medicaid acceptance found in the 2013 data for the same categories of healthcare providers.

This news comes as we also learn that Medicaid and CHIP now cover a whopping 1-5 Americans. Because of Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare, millions previously ineligible due to lack of disability or higher income levels have been added to the welfare rolls.

Keep in mind that the majority of the newly “insured” are actually on the expanded Medicaid dole, meaning that ♡bamaCare!!! screwed up the entire private insurance system mostly for the sake of an expensive and wasteful welfare program which two-thirds of doctors won’t even accept as payment.

It’s fair to say that the only accurate word in “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” is “Act.”

Posted at 10:36 am on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

Hopped Up Bunnies Terrorize Utah

The new face of terror?

The new face of terror?

You’re going to think I’m making this one up — but I’m not. Maybe you thought the nanny staters couldn’t climb any higher along the Silly/Desperate Axis — but they can. Maybe, just maybe, stoned bunny rabbits will someday eat our children:

Utah is considering a bill that would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to be treated with edible forms of marijuana. If the bill passes, the state’s wildlife may “cultivate a taste” for the plant, lose their fear of humans, and basically be high all the time. That’s according to testimony presented to a Utah Senate panel (time stamp 58:00) last week by an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

And with that, the Drug Warriors have lost the argument forever.

Posted at 9:08 am on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

Bro, Do You Even Black Hole?

THE BLACK HOLE

Huh:

The headlines are reporting on a recent paper submitted to arXiv, which has not, as of this writing, emerged from peer-review, although it builds on the author’s earlier work which has. The paper’s primary author, Laura Mersini-Houghton, a theoretical physicist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, claims her work proves that black holes cannot form in the first place. “I’m still not over the shock,” she said in a written statement issued by the university. “We’ve been studying this problem for more than 50 years and this solution gives us a lot to think about.”

Mersini-Houghton is not the first one to claim that black holes don’t exist. Stephen J. Crothers has been claiming to have disproven their existence for quite some time, and even Stephen Hawking has issued a statement that “there are no black holes” (although he didn’t mean that literally).

Mersini-Houghton’s claims are even more extraordinary, however. (And we all know what extraordinary claims require.) In order to conclude that black holes don’t exist, she claims to have united general relativity with quantum mechanics, a feat which has been a sort of “holy grail” of modern physics.

If anyone is going to find this particular Holy Grail, I’ve always believed it’s likely going to be a young turk scientist, and not a member of the old guard. If took a youthful Einstein to overturn the Newtonian order, and even he was kind of blindsided shortly thereafter by quantum mechanics, and never seemed to get completely comfortable with it.

ASIDE: Nobody is comfortable with quantum physics. It’s too deeply weird and anyway our brains don’t function at that level.

But for now, color me deeply skeptical of Mersini-Houghton’s claims and conclusions.

Posted at 8:28 am on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

Required Reading

20Committee’s John R. Schindler compares old Yugoslavia to the United States today, and the parallels are ominous:

Some of the parallels are eerie and troubling. The differences must be explained up-front. Yugoslavia at its collapse had less than one-tenth of America’s population now, and its system of government was a socialist dictatorship, albeit one of a relatively enlightened kind. Notwithstanding a very nasty secret police force, Yugoslavia as nurtured under the charismatic Tito was a good deal more pleasant place to live than anywhere in the Soviet Bloc. Yugoslavs were free to travel abroad and, after the early 1950s, the repressive state apparatus didn’t have to throw many dissidents in prison, as public shaming, including threats of unemployment and loss of housing, cowed most would-be complainers into towing the party line, at least in public.

The root of Yugoslavia’s collapse was economic, particularly its parlous state finances. During the Cold War, Tito, who broke with Stalin in 1948 and thereby shattered Communist unity in Eastern Europe, was able to get big Western loans, since NATO viewed Yugoslavia as a necessary anti-Soviet bulwark in Europe, and with these billions of dollars, at low interest rates, the country developed a wide array of industries under its unique market socialist model.

Unfortunately, the oil shocks of 1973 ultimately undid this Balkan ponzi scheme, and as the cost of borrowing foreign money became prohibitive, Yugoslavia’s economy began to creak. At root, the country’s current operations, including funding the bloated state sector, depended on borrowed foreign money that Yugoslavia could no longer afford.

Let’s try and look at this rationally.

With health insurance, education, retirement, and welfare more or less nationalized, it’s difficult to argue the US isn’t a social state, if not nearly a socialist dictatorship. (Although the trend in that direction is unsettling.) The next line really intrigues me, where the authors say, “the repressive state apparatus didn’t have to throw many dissidents in prison, as public shaming, including threats of unemployment and loss of housing, cowed most would-be complainers into towing the party line.” Again, the current trend line is not exactly comforting, as we saw the FBI crack down on a peaceful political group in Texas in reports yesterday.

If Schindler has it right, (and it jibes with my dim memories) what undid Yugoslavia was the oil shock of the early ’70s, and Belgrade’s sudden inability to keep the gravy train running. We’re in luck, as the US is now the number one or two producer of crude oil, a huge producer of natural gas, and despite the Administration’s best efforts we’re still a huge producer of coal.

Energy shocks seem unlikely to derail our gravy train.

Could anything derail it? Yes, absolutely — the sheer size of the train. Our funded welfare state liabilities for the next half century or so have been given estimates of anywhere between $50,000,000,000,000 and $150,000,000,000,000. That’s on top of our funded liabilities, which are already massive. There’s simply no way to squeeze that much more money out of our economy, even if growth rates and labor participation rates didn’t suck so badly. Worse, the worker-to-recipient ratio will go from “I got this, gramps!” to “Where did all the workers go?” in fairly short order.

We don’t need an oil shock to send of over the edge — the entitlement mentality in Congress and in ourselves sealed that deal long ago.

The Great Unanswerable is whether we can summon the political will to rein in those unfunded liabilities before they crush us, or whether we go the way of Japan — or the way of Yugoslavia.

Eleven years ago when George W Bush ran for reelection partly on a promise to partially privatize Social Security, I had some hope. Nowadays? Less.

Posted at 7:20 am on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

Hot Models

Another big “Whoops!” for the Climate Panic crowd:

In the case of Antarctica, the climate models were dead wrong, according to a new study by Chinese scientists published in the journal Cryosphere. The study found that most climate models predicted Antarctic sea ice coverage would shrink as the world warmed and greenhouse gas levels increased.

The opposite happened. Most climate models analyzed in the study predicted Antarctica would shrink between 1979 and 2005, but instead south pole sea ice levels increased during that time. Going a step further, sea ice levels have only increased since 2006, hitting all-time highs for sea ice coverage in September of last year.

“For the Antarctic, the main problem of the [climate] models is their inability to reproduce the observed slight increase of sea ice extent,” researchers wrote in their study.

Perhaps the real problem is the Antarctic’s stubborn refusal to comply with perfectly reasonable models.

Posted at 6:02 am on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

What Shall We Dump into Boston Harbor This Time?

Josh Earnest

So yesterday’s underreported story is that President Obama is “very interested” raising taxes through — wait for it — executive action. Read:

“The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans,” Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action.

“Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression that there is some imminent announcement, there is not, at least that I know of,” Earnest continued. “But the president has asked his team to examine the array of executive authorities that are available to him to try to make progress on his goals. So I am not in a position to talk in any detail at this point, but the president is very interested in this avenue generally,” Earnest finished.

Tyranny.

The reason the Constitution requires that all new taxes originate in the House is because its members face reelection every two years, and are thus very responsive to the desires of their constituents and/or are quickly replaced. At least that’s the theory. A big hole in that limitation is that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of enforcement mechanism available, otherwise ♡bamaCare!!! — which originated, taxes and all, in the Senate — could never have become law.

Bad as that is, at least the Senate also faces popular pressure, so much so that half of the Democrat Senators who voted to pass ♡bamaCare!!! have since been removed or exited gracelessly from their jobs.

But the executive? Raising taxes on his own accord? Because the House, most closely representing the will of the people, won’t succumb to his will and enact his “preferred option” on its own?

Tyranny.

Plain and simple tyranny.

This country was founded to stop exactly such tyranny, and if Obama succeeds in restoring it then the America I knew and love is well and truly gone.

ONE MORE THING: What kind of “constitutional scholar” doesn’t know and understand all of this far in advance of having his PR flack send up a trial balloon, but then and goes and pursues it anyway?

Posted at 5:08 am on March 3rd, 2015 by Stephen Green

The War for Mobile Payments: Ready, Fire, Aim!

Spain Wireless Show Flagship Phones

First there was PayPal, which wasn’t really mobile at all, but did allow small merchants the ability to take credit card swipe payments at a nice discount. Then there was Google Wallet, which never really took off. Last fall, Apple Pay was the first easy-to-use and secure mobile payments option — but only in the US, only with certain banks, only with merchants with NFC readers, and only for owners of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple Pay is accepted by more and more banks and merchants, but is still limited to the most recent iPhones (and next month, to Apple Watch wearers).

But if you think all that is disjointed, just wait until you see the news from the last two days.

Samsung announced yesterday its own Apple Pay rival called — no shocker here from our South Korean copycat friends — Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay (initially available on the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge) will rely on the company’s purchase of mobile payment system maker LoopPay, which is a bit more convoluted and less secure than Apple’s method. Rather than a secure and anonymous code generated unique to each transaction, Loop Pay “broadcasts” your credit card number — in the clear, mind you — to the merchant’s card swiper. That’s fine and dandy for merchants who won’t quite yet have to upgrade their hardware, but it might prove a tough pill to swallow for consumers.

Samsung’s smartphones of course run Google’s Android operating system, so the South Korean giant might find competition right there on their own phones. That’s right: Google is set to announce yet another mobile payment system, perhaps to be called Android Pay. Phandroid reports:

Google’s Sundar Pichai spoke at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this morning about the company’s plans for mobile payments in the future. This comes at a time where Apple and now Samsung have thrown their hats into the arena with exciting platforms of their own.

Google Wallet in the now slightly pales in comparison to those guys, but Android Pay will hopefully look to change that. The first thing to know is that Android Pay won’t actually replace Google Wallet.

So Android Pay won’t replace Google Wallet, even though Google Wallet never really caught out outside a dedicated core of users. Instead, Android Pay will perhaps be another layer on top of Google Wallet, while also sitting alongside it on your phone. I’d suggest keeping it (or both of them) on a separate app page from Samsung’s offering, just to try and reduce the confusion level.

On the other hand, Android Pay might necessarily elevate the confusion level, if this Yahoo report is correct:

Google has been attempting to get consumers to ditch their cards and use a smartphone to pay for goods in physical stores since the start of the decade with its Google Wallet app. However, what makes Android Pay different is that it will be a feature that any app developer will be able to integrate into their titles for automatic wireless payment support.

In other words, developers may gain the ability to stuff your virtual wallet with more crap than already collects in your real-world wallet.

It’s unwise to simply dismiss any Google project before it has a chance to get off the ground, and certainly before it has even been demoed. But neither Android Wallet nor Samsung Pay look like the kinds of mobile payment solutions consumers are clamoring for, certainly not at this stage of their development.

Posted at 2:15 pm on March 2nd, 2015 by Stephen Green

That Would Be Illogical — But Awesome

A worthwhile Canadian initiative, yes?

(Although the result looks more like Sarak to me.)

Posted at 1:15 pm on March 2nd, 2015 by Stephen Green

AIPAC Breaks with Administration

Benjamin Netanyahu

This was a long time coming — too long — but here it is:

Those who are not students of the history of U.S./Israel relations may not understand the significance of yesterday’s action. As an organization AIPAC never publicly criticizes a sitting administration or administration policy. They go out of their way to appear non-partisan, not leaning to one party or another. This is as it should be as opposed to organizations such as the Jewish Federation, the ADL, the Reform Movement and the Conservative Movement which seem to regularly worship the golden calf of progressive politics.

But yesterday the leadership of the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. publicly broke from the White House over the issue of Iran policy

That’s Jeff Dunetz at Yid With Lid, and here’s the WSJ story he linked to:

AIPAC’s efforts to shape the Iran deal through the Congress is being driven by what the organization believes has been President Barack Obama’s wariness of using both financial pressure and the threat of military force to challenge Tehran
(…) AIPAC’s leadership on Sunday was already challenging the White House’s position. “We shouldn’t be afraid of Iran leaving the table,” Mr. Kohr said.

He also aggressively pushed back against the White House’s argument in recent months that no deal with Iran would lead to war. “That’s a false choice…that’s meant to silence the critics,” Mr. Kohr said. “And we won’t be silenced.”

This is a big deal, and it signals AIPAC’s permission, for lack of a better word, for American Jews to stop being so stupidly Democratic all of the time.

Posted at 12:04 pm on March 2nd, 2015 by Stephen Green

Texas Crackdown

Feds raid, fingerprint, seize cell phones at political event:

Members of the Republic of Texas, a secession movement dedicated to restoring Texas as an independent constitutional republic, had gathered Feb. 14 in a Bryan, Texas, meeting hall along with public onlookers. They were debating issues of currency, international relations and celebrating the birthday of one of their oldest members. The group, which describes itself as “congenial and unimposing,” maintains a small working government, including official currency, congress and courts.

According to MySanAntonio.com: “Minutes into the meeting a man among the onlookers stood and moved to open the hall door, letting in an armed and armored force of the Bryan Police Department, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, agents of the Texas district attorney, the Texas Rangers and the FBI.

“In the end, at least 20 officers corralled, searched and fingerprinted all 60 meeting attendees, before seizing all cellphones and recording equipment in a Valentine’s Day 2015 raid on the Texas separatist group.”

“We had no idea what was going on,” said John Jarnecke, president of the Republic of Texas. “We knew of nothing that would warrant such an action.”

Intimidation, much?

I’ve heard of groups like Republic of Texas, and really they’re just more pointed versions of the Tea Party. Present their members with a choice of “Would you rather secede or see Washington restored to its constitutional limits,” and I bet you 99% of them would choose the latter every time. Secession talk to them is a way of making the case plain of just how important constitutional rule is. They certainly aren’t spearheading any actual secession movement, and even if they were, they’re so small and so powerless that the proper response from the Feds ought to be bemused tolerance.

Besides, these people are Americans, and Americans have the right to say and believe in whatever political cause they support — without being fingerprinted and having their personal possessions confiscated by the jealous god of progressive government.

So why the crackdown? Washington knows in its corrupt, greedy heart that it is losing legitimacy with great big swathes of the American public — and with many people DC has already lost it. Which leaves Washington with little more than thuggish displays of intimidation, because that’s what thuggish governments do.

Posted at 11:44 am on March 2nd, 2015 by Stephen Green

No Book for You!

Sometimes the little stories tell you everything you need to know about the political health of a nation, and this is one of those.

Posted at 10:30 am on March 2nd, 2015 by Stephen Green

Westboro Will Neither Live Long Nor Prosper

SPOCK FUNERAL

Yep:

The Westboro Baptist Church had announced plans to picket the funeral of Leonard Nimoy, but now the hate-filled church has been thwarted by funeral planners.

Nimoy died this week, prompting an outpouring of support from across the country, including President Obama. But his death also drew an angry response from the Westboro Baptist Church, the church famous for its anti-gay protests. The group often targets funerals, both of celebrities and of soldiers killed overseas, showing up with signs filled with anti-gay slurs. It had promised to be on site when Nimoy was laid to rest.

But now the Westboro Baptist Church has announced it will not be protesting at Leonard Nimoy’s funeral after planners decided to make the memorial private. The church announced the decision early Sunday on one of its official Twitter handles.

I don’t know and don’t care what Westboro’s beef is with Leonard Nimoy. But I do know that the First Amendment recognizes our right to petition the government to redress out grievances — not to make a nuisance of ourselves at private affairs like funerals.

What is wrong with us that we let them get away with this crap?

Posted at 9:37 am on March 2nd, 2015 by Stephen Green