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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.

Life In Wartime (Crimean Mix)

(Map courtesy of Google.)

(Map courtesy of Google.)

All your base are belong to Russia:

Since the March 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia, many things have changed on the peninsula. The first thing Russia has done after this action was to break the abovementioned treaty, lifting all limits on Russian presence in Crimea, and effectively take over the local Ukrainian law enforcement and military forces stationed on the peninsula.

All the Ukrainian military and law enforcement personnel was given three options – join equivalent Russian forces while keeping their rank, retire, or leave Crimea and continue to serve Ukraine. Only about 3,000 of 19,000 of the Ukrainian security personnel took the third option. Many of the soldiers and police in Crimea were ethnic Russians and didn’t mind the change. For the ethnic Ukrainians leaving Crimea would constitute hardship, as it would involve moving their whole families, and losing their real estate in Crimea. Overall, between 70% and 80% of the security personnel took the first option and switched their allegiance to Russia.

At first Russia announced it would return the captured equipment, supplies, and vehicles to Ukraine, and has returned some of it. However that process stopped on 15th April, and some of the unreturned equipment was given to the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine instead. That did not include any naval vessels and 43 of 72 Ukrainian ships were returned to Ukraine. Even though most Ukrainian security personnel remained the organizations they belonged to were usually disbanded or reorganized.

Crimea is well and truly annexed in a way Ukraine may never be.

The article above, quoted from StrategyPage, got me to thinking about peacetime life in Ukraine — not even this (mostly) low-level fighting can continue indefinitely. Eventually, changes will be made to the map, either de jure or de facto, and peace will return.

Or maybe that should be “something like peace will return.”

The eastern parts of Ukraine which Moscow craves are only mostly ethnic-Russian, and in some cases only partly so. What worked so quickly and thoroughly in Crimea, which is overwhelmingly Russian, might not work so well in the other parts of Ukraine which is far less Russified.

Without an extensive ethnic cleansing campaign, there’s a good chance that ethnic Ukrainians will continue to resist, even if brought formally under Moscow’s rule. And Vlad Putin does not want to ethnically cleanse any region of Slavs, when his goal is to bring more and more Slavs under his rule.

But if they don’t want his rule?

Then you have the former Yugoslavia writ large, only without any major outside powers able to come in to enforce a peace.

What Putin has unleashed he may never be able to contain again.

Posted at 2:45 pm on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

Whistleblower — and onetime ♡bamaCare!!! convert — Aiden Hill has blown a very big whistle on Covered California:

[Covered California Executive Director Peter] Lee publicly touted 30,000 successful enrollments for the first month. Hill says the actual number was closer to 4,000.

“A lot of the information that came out of Covered California was misleading or outright lies,” Hill insists.

Another Covered California official agrees.

“There’s no way he didn’t know he wasn’t telling the truth,” says an official, who still works at the agency and asked not to be identified. “We were fully aware that those numbers were inflated. It was horrible … morale busting. Things were being said that were blatantly untrue.”

The Daily Signal asked for Lee’s side of the story, but Covered California declined to make him available.

Of course they did.

Posted at 1:22 pm on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

Marching in Heels

ROTC

Here’s what six-plus years of deeply unserious, that is to say “progressive” leadership is doing to our military:

A Reddit post supposedly containing a message from the cellphone of a cadet has raised questions concerning an allegedly mandatory ROTC event.

In the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, cadets were required to wear high heels and march to “raise awareness of sexual assault against women.”

Comments on the Reddit discussion thread were overwhelmingly critical of the initiative.

Ya think?

Whoever dreamed this up needs to be drummed out of the service. Instead, they probably have a fine Pentagon career ahead of them either in operations or personnel.

Posted at 12:39 pm on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

Lasers, Ahoy!

Artist's rendering.

Artist’s rendering.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you ships with even more frickin laser beams, courtesy of General Atomics:

The company has responded to an Office of Naval Research (ONR) solicitation for a 150-kw laser weapon suitable for installation on DDG-51-class destroyers to counter unmanned aircraft and small boats using only ship power and cooling.

Under ONR’s Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation program, the weapon is to be demonstrated in 2018 on the USS Paul Foster, a decommissioned Spruance-class destroyer that now serves as the U.S. Navy’s ship-defense test vessel at Port Hueneme in California.

GA-ASI has proposed its Gen 3 High-Energy Laser (HEL) system, which recently completed independent beam-quality and power testing for the U.S. government. The Gen 3 system is the third generation of electrically pumped laser using the architecture developed for Darpa’s Hellads program.

Posted at 11:05 am on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

Death Race 2015

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and an aid behind the wheel of her touring van in New Hampshire. (Not an AP photo. Image courtesy New World Pictures)

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and an aid behind the wheel of her touring van in New Hampshire.
(Not an AP photo. Image courtesy New World Pictures)

The actual Mystery Machine (not the “Scooby van”) was reminiscent of a VW Minibus like the ones all good hippies aspired to own, and could do 0-60 downhill, perhaps.

Hillary Clinton’s black, mirrored-glass, up-armored luxury touring van of the people is somewhat more powerful:

Democratic Presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s security detail led a handful of journalists on two lengthy high-speed chases to homes of influential Democrats on Monday.

Her lone official appearance on her first day in New Hampshire was a carefully stage-managed small-business roundtable in Keene.

But a lunchtime visit to a main-street bakery and two more appointments later in the day were off-the-books and under the public’s radar.

If police radar had been engaged, however, it would have clocked Hillary’s signature black conversion van – ‘Scooby’, for the uninitiated – hitting 92 mph in a driving rainstorm on Interstate 89, where the top speed limit is 65.

No one in the motorcade displayed flashing lights or blasted a siren.

Meanwhile, the “candidate” continues to campaign at more intimate venues as seen below in these AP photos.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dave Stabler

Hillary Rodham Clinton

KIM

Posted at 9:52 am on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

Kim Can Climb a Snowcapped Mountain, Sail the Mighty Ocean Wide

(Image courtesy Sydney Morning Herald)

(Image courtesy Sydney Morning Herald)

Is there no end to the physical and mental prowess of that most perfect of all men, Kim Jong-un? No, there is not! Read, comrades, and behold:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has scaled the country’s highest mountain, state-run media say, arriving at the summit to tell troops that the hike provides mental energy more powerful than nuclear weapons.

A photo of the leader of the isolated state showed a smiling and wind-swept Kim standing on a snow-covered mountaintop, the sun rising behind him.

“Climbing Mt Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon,” the Rodong newspaper quoted Kim as saying.

Kim made the climb with his wife, Morgan Fairchild, whom he’s seen naked.

Posted at 8:39 am on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

Bringing the Sexy Back (And the Kids, Too)

"Think of America, honey."

“Think of America, honey.”

Kurt Schlichter says conservatives need to outbreed liberals:

Basically, we already erotically high-achieving conservatives need to do even better. Sure, it’s a sacrifice, but we owe it to our country.

Liberal women, encouraged by the sour crones of the radical feminist movement, often wait far too long to marry and to begin families. They were lied to – you can’t have it all. Life is choices, and a family is a choice that means trade-offs. Choose unwisely, and one may not be able to undue the relentless ticking of the biological clock.

And as far as liberal men go, well, just look at them. It’s hard muster raw sexual energy when you think foreplay consists of sobbing to your life partner about how you can’t bear the weight of your undeserved phallocentic privilege.

When leftists do breed, it seems less like a joyous reaffirmation of God’s bounty than a concession to a vaguely unpleasant conformity. Here in the heart of blue America, I see coastal liberals pushing their designer strollers with their one sad, designer clothes-clad kid. But it’s less a kid then a receptacle for their own inadequacies and unhappiness.

Read the whole thing, which is exactly the kind of red-meat fun you’ve come to expect from Kurt.

I’d add that conservatives already do outbreed the left — which is why the left is so determined to maintain its iron hold on education, K-through-12-through-infinity. If they can’t (or won’t) breed more lefties, they know how to make them.

That’s why homeschooling frightens them so much. That’s why the fight so hard against their own strongest constituents in the effort to prevent school choice and teacher accountability.

I say, hit them where it hurts.

And between the sheets, too.

Posted at 7:22 am on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

The Third World War: August 2015

(Image courtesy United Artists)

(Image courtesy United Artists)

Excuse the alarmist headline — it’s just a play on the famous 1977 novel by retired British General Sir John Winthrop Hackett. But today’s question, “Are we stumbling towards war with Moscow over Ukraine?” brought that old yarn to mind.

Graham Allison and Dimitri K. Simes posit just that fear over at National Interest:

Could a U.S. response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine provoke a confrontation that leads to a U.S.-Russian war? Such a possibility seems almost inconceivable. But when judging something to be “inconceivable,” we should always remind ourselves that this is a statement not about what is possible in the world, but about what we can imagine. As Iraq, Libya and Syria demonstrate, political leaders often have difficulties envisioning events they find uncomfortable, disturbing or inconvenient.

Prevailing views of the current confrontation with Russia over Ukraine fit this pattern. Since removing Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Muammar el-Qaddafi from power had limited direct impact on most Americans, it is perhaps not surprising that most Washington policy makers and analysts assume that challenging Russia over Ukraine and seeking to isolate Moscow internationally and cripple it economically will not come at a significant cost, much less pose real dangers to America. After all, the most common refrain in Washington when the topic of Russia comes up is that “Russia doesn’t matter anymore.” No one in the capital enjoys attempting to humiliate Putin more than President Barack Obama, who repeatedly includes Russia in his list of current scourges alongside the Islamic State and Ebola. And there can be no question that as a petrostate, Russia is vulnerable economically and has very few, if any, genuine allies. Moreover, many among its business and intellectual elites are as enthusiastic as the Washington Post editorial page to see Putin leave office. Ukrainians with the same view of former Ukrainian president Viktor F. Yanukovych successfully ousted him with limited Western help, so, it is argued, perhaps Putin is vulnerable, too.

Nevertheless, Russia is very different from the other countries where the United States has supported regime change.

This is an important piece, and a lengthy one, too — I wasn’t able to get through the whole thing last night without having dinner interrupt, and then tuck-in for the kids, too.

The Law of Unintended Consequences is never more ironclad than when it comes to international relations — and war.

Find the time to read the whole thing. I’m going to let it stew in my brain for a few days and see what bubbles up.

Posted at 6:23 am on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

The Bear Lives On

(Public domain image courtesy of Wikipedia)

(Public domain image courtesy of Wikipedia)

What do you call a bear with gray hair? Russia’s most reliable heavy bomber:

Russia is increasing its effort to modernize its aging Tu-95MS bombers. Eight of these were modernized (mainly with new electronics, including communications, navigation and automated landing systems) in 2014 and ten more will undergo the process in 2015-16. This modernization effort has been going on since 2000 but because so many of these elderly Tu-95s are wearing out Russia only has 43 in service in 2015. Plans to design and build a new heavy bomber have constantly been stalled by budget problems. That will become a critical problem once the Cold War era “heavies” all wear out.

In the meantime the Russian program to put Cold War era heavy bombers back in service continues to get funded.

The Tu-95 first flew in 1952, and if you hadn’t noticed in the photo above, is a prop-driven heavy bomber — like a WWII-vintage B-29 on steroids.

Russia however doesn’t have much choice other than to try and keep them flying. Their only jet-driven heavy bomber, the 1987-vintage Tu-160 “Blackjack,” was never produced in great numbers (35), and its engines are notoriously unreliable.

Posted at 5:24 am on April 21st, 2015 by Stephen Green

An Overnight Billion-Dollar Business

Apple-Watch

Carl Howe has an excellent track record as an analyst of Apple products and practices, and here are his preliminary numbers on Apple Watch pre-launch sales:

The Apple Watch went on sale for pre-orders on April 10, 2015, and the Apple Store tells us that delivery dates for all orders now stretch into summer and beyond. We know that the initial production run of Apple Watch has sold out; what we don’t know is how many Apple Watches that represents. I’ve built a simple model that predicts that the initial run of watches was more than 3 million units and will yield Apple Watch revenues of over $2 billion for the first two weeks of sales. While this figure is smaller than first weekend sales of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it dwarfs all other smartwatch sales to date and represents a milestone in wearable sales. The model suggests that while Sport Watch will lead sales in volume, selling 1.8 million units through May 8, Apple Watch will actually lead in revenue during that period, garnering about $900 million versus Sport’s $675 million. I also believe that Apple’s decision to introduce the Edition will be validated by $500 million in sales on only 40,000 units.

Back in September when Tim Cook first demoed the Watch, I wrote, “At long last we know what a wearable computer is supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to do, and how it’s supposed to work.”

Consumers — so far — would seem to agree, and in numbers never before seen for any new electronics device. Ever.

Those who predicted Apple Watch would flop from the start have some ‘splainin to do.

(Hat tip, John Gruber.)

Posted at 3:01 pm on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

The Return of Dow 7,000?

Michael Pento says “it is clear stock prices are still extremely overvalued by virtually every metric.” Here’s more:

These lofty valuations sit atop negative earnings growth and a faltering economy. The Atlanta Fed’s GDP model currently shows first-quarter 2015 economic growth will come in at a paltry 0.2 percent annualized rate. And S&P Capital IQ predicts first-quarter earnings will fall 2.9 percent, while also projecting second-quarter earnings growth will contract 1.8 percent.

So how can stock prices remain at record high valuations; given the fact such levels seem egregiously ridiculous within the context of no growth? The answer is simply that central banks have given investors no other alternatives. Banks pay you zip on your deposits and sovereign debt offers little return — even when going out 10 years on the yield curve.

Central banks have forced investors to play musical chairs with their money; but this dangerous game has millions of players and just a handful of chairs. When the music finally stops investors will find that bids for stocks have become very rare.

Pento warns that a US recession (Q1 growth was essentially zero; Q2 could be as bad or worse) and rising interest rates could easily pop the bubble. Missed earnings aren’t helping, either.

Pento’s warning could be premature however. If April and May look anything like January, February, and March, then the Fed probably won’t be raising rates in June like it keeps promising (threatening?) to do.

I’ve had my finger hovering over the SELL! button for what seems like ever now, but there still seems to be room left for this bubble to expand.

Posted at 2:17 pm on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

The Clinton Way

Mystery Machine

The New York Times previews Peter Schweitzer’s Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich and is forced to admit that the book is “potentially more unsettling” than previous Clinton exposés. From Amy Chozick’s writeup:

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.

His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department.

In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”

But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.

Potentially?

Part of the Clintons’ genius is a variation on the “Big Lie.” Tell a lie big enough, and no one will believe you could possibly be lying. The Clintons, with varying degrees of success, hide behind a sort of “audacity of corruption.” Nobody, people seem to figure, could possibly be that corrupt and still hold public office.

When busted, their four-part Crisis Amelioration Process usually works wonders:

• Deny, deny, deny

• Smear the accuser

• Admit, finally, to some technical violation

• Declare that everything is out in the open now, and that we “move forward” past all this

Technically there’s also a fifth part, which is after a long enough spell to insist that “that’s all in the past now.” We’ll watch this process play itself out again over the coming weeks. Will it work? My guess, based purely on 20-plus years of Clinton watching is that of course it will work. The best hope for the Right is to have a new one of these books or scandals coming out every two or three months from now until November, 2016, and hope that the American people have a nasty case of Clinton Fatigue long before Election Day.

I should add that after deleting 32,000 public emails located on an unsecured private server while under subpoena, Hillary Clinton belongs in jail rather than on the campaign trail.

Posted at 12:53 pm on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Required Reading

Mideast Iran Saudi Arabia Yemen UN

Jeff Jacoby on Obama’s Iran negotiations:

What makes the framework nuclear deal so grotesque and dangerous isn’t Iran’s trail of deception. The real reason to block any nuclear accord with Tehran’s rulers isn’t that they always lie. It’s that they don’t.

Maybe Iran would cheat on the loophole-ridden deal being promoted by the Obama administration. But it wouldn’t have to. Even President Obama admits Iran could abide by the terms agreed to and just wait for them to run out in a little more than a decade. “At that point, the breakout times [to nuclear weapons capability] would have shrunk almost down to zero,” the president told NPR. Cheat or don’t cheat, the end is the same: The Lausanne deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb either way.

And then it will be clear — apocalyptically clear — that the ayatollahs were telling the truth.

Read the whole thing.

Posted at 11:53 am on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

No Static at All

FM

You won’t be moving up and down the dial in Norway after next year:

Norway’s Minister of Culture announced this week that a national FM-radio switch off will commence in 2017, allowing the country to complete its transition over to digital radio. It’s the end of an era.

As Radio.no notes, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will provide Norwegian listeners more diverse radio channel content than ever before. Indeed, DAB already hosts 22 national channels in Norway, as opposed to FM radio’s five, and a TNS Gallup survey shows that 56% of Norwegian listeners use digital radio every day. While Norway is the first country in the world to set a date for an FM switch-off, other countries in Europe and Southeast Asia are also in the process of transitioning to DAB.

I haven’t turned on FM radio since shortly after leaving the industry more than 20 years ago — video might have killed the radio star, but Clear Channel killed the disc jockey. Homogeny makes for a miserable work environment, and the listening experience isn’t much better.

Maybe digital radio can breathe new life into music broadcasting.

Posted at 10:43 am on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

Peter Ubel reports on what might be ♡bamaCare!!!’s fundamental failure — relying on mock “competition” on the exchanges to bring down prices:

The exchanges are subsidized markets. But subsidies inevitably mess up with normal market functioning. After all, insurers usually compete with each other, in part, based on price. And the cost of insurance varies dramatically, depending on who’s applying for insurance. A single man will typically pay less for his insurance than, say, a family of four. The price of insurance also changes depending on where someone lives, an expensive place like New York City or a cheap one like Topeka (please don’t send me nasty-grams, all you Topekans. I am a Midwesterner just like you!)

Because of this normal market variation in the price of health insurance, the ACA stipulated that the size of the subsidy would vary, in part, based on the cost of the plans in a person’s local market. Specifically, people purchasing insurance on the exchanges are offered plans ranging from bronze ones – with low monthly premium and high out-of-pocket costs – to platinum ones – with high premiums and low out-of-pocket costs. Subsidies are tied to the cost of the second cheapest silver plan.

Got that? That means that if there are five silver plans available in your local insurance market, the price of the second cheapest one sets a kind of limit to your subsidy. If you want to purchase a more expensive plan than the second cheapest one, you will pay the difference in the price of the monthly premium.

This approach makes some sense. If the government had chosen to subsidize people to purchase the most expensive plan in the local market, insurers would have had no incentive to lower their prices.

But this approach has a backwards consequence: The more competitive your local insurance market is – the more choices you have available – the more money you are likely to pay for your insurance.

Read the whole thing.

I’d just add that only a Progressive would create a market of captive customers, mandated to choose from a limited selection of government-defined products, sold by government-approved corporations, with prices effectively hidden by sliding-scale subsidies patrolled by the IRS, and call it “competition.”

Posted at 9:37 am on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Let’s Do the Time Warp (Again)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to potential voters at a house party, Friday, April 17, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to potential voters at a house party, Friday, April 17, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

That GOP cattle call in New Hampshire last weekend was really all about… Hillary? It sometimes seemed that way:

At the first major GOP event since Clinton became an official candidate, the candidates made a special effort to explain that they would measure up especially well against her.

In his last New Hampshire trip, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wore a sweater he said he bought at the Kohl’s discount store for $1. This time, for a Saturday night dinner speech, he wore a suit he said that he got on sale at Jos. A. Bank. Walker told the crowd that Clinton has probably never been to a Kohl’s, and he wondered whether the former first lady has even gone shopping for herself in the past two decades. He argues his modest roots will make a great contrast to her status as a high-flying global celebrity.

Mike Huckabee, who will announce whether he’s running on May 5, argued that he benefits from the unique experience of running “against the Clinton political machine” in Arkansas. “I’ll show you some scars, because I’ve got quite a few,” the former governor said.

Leaving aside that Huckabee’s “scars” date back to the 1980s and ’90s, it’s refreshing to see the GOP hopefuls attacking the presumptive Democratic nominee instead of each other. Of course, we saw this exact same kind of thing in 2011 — for all the good it ended up doing Mitt Romney in 2012.

Because eventually the long knives will come out, as is already happening in Florida:

Ties between Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, political allies for more than a decade, are fraying as the Republican presidential campaign picks up.

In public, mentor Bush and protege Rubio have avoided criticizing each other since Rubio announced his candidacy.

But Bush allies have started quietly spreading negative information about Rubio’s record. Also, supporters of the two Miami politicians are drawing contrasts between Rubio, a 43-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, and 62-year-old Bush, a member of one of the nation’s most powerful political dynasties.

“Sparks are going to fly,” said Al Cardenas, a Bush adviser who is also close to Rubio. “For the first time in our country’s history you’ve got two guys from the same town in the same state from same party running in the same primary.”

He added: “You can bet that regardless of how nice Jeb or Marco wants to be, their staffs are going to do anything they can to win.”

I’ve said here before that Rubio needs more seasoning. Watching how, or perhaps even if, he takes on the Bush Machine will tell us how serious a contender he really is for 2016.

Despite their WASPy demeanor, the Bushes play hardball and always have. If Rubio can take out Jeb, he might just be the candidate to take on Hillary.

Posted at 8:24 am on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Sign “O” the Times

Woo-hoo! We’re number twelve! Read:

The U.S. now ranks not first, not second, not third, but 12th among developed nations in terms of business startup activity. Countries such as Hungary, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Israel and Italy all have higher startup rates than America does.

We are behind in starting new firms per capita, and this is our single most serious economic problem. Yet it seems like a secret. You never see it mentioned in the media, nor hear from a politician that, for the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total number of new business startups and business closures per year — the birth and death rates of American companies — have crossed for the first time since the measurement began. I am referring to employer businesses, those with one or more employees, the real engines of economic growth. Four hundred thousand new businesses are being born annually nationwide, while 470,000 per year are dying.

I remember reading all those assurances a few years back, that “business climate” doesn’t really matter, and that American businessmen would just keep doing what they do, no matter how many regulations or mandates Washington imposed.

I’d also remind you that squelching entrepreneurship is a great way for vested interests protect themselves from disruptive innovators. This is what’s known as “crony capitalism,” but I’ve always preferred the word “corruption,” which is both shorter and more honest.

If you prefer a longer phrase, in the Obama Administration it’s just “business as usual.”

(Hat tip, Glenn Reynolds.)

Posted at 7:16 am on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

There’s an App for That

(Image courtesy of DARPA)

(Image courtesy of DARPA)

Introducing KILSWITCH, the greatest military acronym of all time:

A new DARPA air support system will enable military members to call an air strike from a tablet. The tablet interface, called Kinetic Integrated Low-cost SoftWare Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld (KILSWTICH) [sic], uses Android and can zero in on an airstrike target within a few moments.

DARPA calls the program Persistent Close Air Support. The plan is for the tablets to use satellite positioning for more exact targeting and calling in UAVs to perform the strike. In addition to cutting the time required for an airstrike the new system also allows soldiers to carry less equipment compared to the radios and laptops they’ve been using.

Foxtrot Alpha says the military recently tested the program in an exercise in Yuma, AZ, that it called Talon Reach. There, the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs)—the guys who call in a strike—used ordinary off-the-shelf tablets to successfully launch a simulated airstrike.

Maybe the next US Army drone should do little other than carry small-diameter bombs and at the disposal of Android-equipped soldiers. We — and they — might have to worry less about replacing or endlessly refurbishing the Air Force’s A-10 fleet.

Posted at 6:06 am on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Awkward Questions for Clinton

Italian Coast Guard officers disembark the body of a dead migrant off the ship Bruno Gregoretti, in Valletta's Grand Harbour, Monday, April 20 2015. A smuggler's boat crammed with hundreds of people overturned off Libya's coast on Saturday as rescuers approached, causing what could be the Mediterranean's deadliest known migrant tragedy and intensifying pressure on the European Union Sunday to finally meet demands for decisive action. So far rescuers saved 28 people a recovered 24 bodies. (AP Photo/Lino Azzopardi)

Italian Coast Guard officers disembark the body of a dead migrant off the ship Bruno Gregoretti, in Valletta’s Grand Harbour, Monday, April 20 2015. A smuggler’s boat crammed with hundreds of people overturned off Libya’s coast on Saturday as rescuers approached, causing what could be the Mediterranean’s deadliest known migrant tragedy and intensifying pressure on the European Union Sunday to finally meet demands for decisive action. So far rescuers saved 28 people a recovered 24 bodies. (AP Photo/Lino Azzopardi)

The big story in all my news alerts this morning is awful enough — that hundreds of Libyan refugees are feared dead in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean. This is from the New York Times writeup:

Europe has been grappling with an influx of thousands of illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East fleeing poverty and war, often traveling in rickety boats operated by smugglers. Many of the boats capsize.

Foreign ministers from the European Union’s 28 member states, joined by interior ministers, are expected to discuss how to avert such disasters in the future, including how to deal with conflict-ridden Libya, which has become a major gateway for smugglers ferrying illegal migrants to Europe.

I’d quibble with the use of the word “migrants.” Aren’t these people in fact refugees of the violence in Libya? And why is Libya a failed state from which tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing? Could it be the result of the actions of a former secretary of State who is now the presumed presidential candidate of a major political party?

For NYT reporter Dan Bilefsky, these questions aren’t even worth asking, much less answering. Although he did conclude with a dire warning:

This latest episode came as far-right parties across Europe have gained in strength, in part by exploiting the simmering resentment of immigrants in some quarters. It remains to be seen whether the extent of the episode will help foster sympathy toward migrants.

You just knew the far-right must somehow be to blame, didn’t you?

Posted at 5:00 am on April 20th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Friday Night Videos

I’ll never be able to retrace the virtual steps which led me to this live & acoustic version of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.” But that’s OK, because I bookmarked the heck out of it, if only for that epic guitar work.

Posted at 10:22 pm on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

Pete Kasperowicz reports for The Blaze that over 300,000 people received excess ♡bamaCare!!! subsidies last year:

When all the overpayments are added up, it comes to $305.2 million, the report said. That’s an average of about $840 per person in excess subsidies.

As of February, about half of that $305.2 million had been repaid, and half had not, the report added.

It’s been known for more about a year that officials implementing Obamacare were having problems with the premium tax credit that will help millions of people afford to buy health insurance under the law. Since early 2014, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and others have said the administration needs to do more to verify the eligibility of people taking these subsidies, to ensure there are not huge overpayments.

Under Obamacare, people can qualify for tax subsidies if they earn anywhere from the federal poverty level and four times that amount. The less people make, the more subsidy they receive.

But because the subsidy is given out in advance, it can lead to complications when people file their taxes. If their income rose during the year, for example, they could be in a position of having received too much of a subsidy, and they may have to pay some of it back.

The IG report said only about 90,000 of the returns claiming an Obamacare tax credit received the amount of subsidy they should have received, or about 12 percent.

I’m so old I remember when one of ♡bamaCare!!!’s big selling points was that it was going to eliminate waste and fraud.

But here’s where it gets really wasteful and perhaps fraudulent:

The IG report said only about 90,000 of the returns claiming an Obamacare tax credit received the amount of subsidy they should have received, or about 12 percent.

12 percent? Are you freakin’ kidding me? ♡bamaCare!!! has a 12% accuracy rate? It gets the subsidies wrong 88% of the time?

The fun part is that ♡bamaCare!!! can’t get it right when relatively few people are buying through the exchanges. That’s set to change — and in a big way — in 2018, when the Cadillac Tax kicks in, and it will behoove businesses to kick people off of employer-based insurance by the millions.

And remember, all of this extra paperwork is handled by you — and by the happy smiling angels of the Internal Revenue Service.

Posted at 3:01 pm on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Thought for the Day

Posted at 2:11 pm on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

ISIS Family Values

DAILY MAIL

More from the Daily Mail:

Islamic State has released a new set of disturbing propaganda photos, showing off their growing number of military markets in Iraq and Syria.

With the fighting fiercer than ever, the extremist group have already started to convert local markets to supply the growing number of barbarous jihadis in their ranks.

Even young children appear to be allowed to browse through the market, with some of the children wearing their own miniature uniforms.

This is nothing new, of course. We’ve long grown used to seeing Palestinian children dressed up as suicide bombers or carrying automatic weapons — sometimes real ones. If you go to the darker places on the web, you can find videos of Muslim children being trained in the fine art of human decaptiation and other forms of slaughter.

What’s different about ISIS is the sheer scale of the area they hold — and that much of that area formerly belonged to a US client state, since abandoned by our own President.

Posted at 1:41 pm on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Snuff Job

Heir apparent of the party of youth. (AP photo)

Heir apparent of the party of youth.
(AP photo)

An important question from Byron York:

What accounts for the Democrats’ dramatic change from the party of youth to the party of age?

And now the answer:

“It’s the snuffing out of young talent by the strength and size and sheer velocity of the inevitable nominee,” says a well-connected Democratic strategist. “The Clintons took all the air out of the collective Democratic room. There are a lot of people who would be running who are much younger, but they’ve got their future in front of them, and they don’t want the Clintons to ruin it, in this campaign or after this campaign. So they’re waiting for a moment when there is enough oxygen to run.”

“If Hillary Clinton weren’t running, we’d have a field that looks like the Republican field — young and vibrant and diverse.”

It’s always all about the Clintons, isn’t it?

Posted at 12:32 pm on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Required Reading

Another fine mess. (AP photo)

Another fine mess.
(AP photo)

Anthony Cordesman just absolutely rips the Obama Administration, Congress, and our Big Strategic Thinkers massive new ones:

The United States now faces a rapidly evolving world filled with new challenges at a time when real-world defense planning is focused on budget cuts, when U.S. “strategy” lacks plans and program budgets, and when talk of strategic partnership lacks clear and specific direction. Far too much U.S. strategic rhetoric is a hollow shell, while the real U.S. national security posture is based on suboptimizing the budget around the fiscal ceilings set by the Budget Control Act (BCA), persisting in issuing empty concepts and strategic rhetoric, and dealing with immediate problems out of any broader strategic context.

The end result resembles an exercise in chaos theory.

Read the whole thing.

That is all.

Posted at 11:01 am on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Army Morale Hitting New Lows

Damn:

More than half of some 770,000 soldiers are pessimistic about their future in the military and nearly as many are unhappy in their jobs, despite a six-year, $287 million campaign to make troops more optimistic and resilient, findings obtained by USA TODAY show.

Twelve months of data through early 2015 show that 403,564 soldiers, or 52%, scored badly in the area of optimism, agreeing with statements such as “I rarely count on good things happening to me.” Forty-eight percent have little satisfaction in or commitment to their jobs.

All kidding aside, because this is a serious issue involving some of the finest men and women this country has to offer — but it’s going to take a lot more than six years and a few hundred million dollars to undo eight years of President Obama.

It’s going to take leadership.

Posted at 9:54 am on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Hill vs the Entire GOP Field [LINK FIXED!]

TRIFECTA

It’s the third and final part of Bill Whittle’s Trifecta Triple on the 2016 race — but this one is just for members.

But we promise, each and every month, to produce at least $5.09 worth of news and entertainment for every $5 subscription fee.

Such a bargain!

Posted at 8:36 am on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

The Truth About THAAD

Protesters struggle with police officers as they march toward the Defense Ministry during a rally against the visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 10, 2015. Protesters opposed a possible deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on Korea Peninsula. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Protesters struggle with police officers as they march toward the Defense Ministry during a rally against the visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 10, 2015. Protesters opposed a possible deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on Korea Peninsula. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Here we go again:

South Korea is stuck between a rock and a hard place. After news leaked that the United States is exploring the possibility of deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea to counter North Korean missile threats, China voiced a strong objection, claiming that such a deployment would threaten its security. If the U.S. decides to make a formal request, Seoul will face an uncomfortable choice between its indispensable security provider and its largest trading partner – and China might not like the result.

China claims that THAAD – in particular the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance and Control Model 2 (AN/TPY-2) X-band radar that would accompany the interceptors – is unnecessary to counter North Korean missiles. Many Chinese analysts believe that, in fact, an overly hyped North Korean threat is Washington’s excuse to justify deployment of a system that actually targets China. [Emphasis added]

This is the same gambit repeated again and again by the Russians — that missile defense somehow “targets” someone.

But missile defense just kind of… sits there, until you need it. Like homeowner’s insurance. THAAD doesn’t threaten anybody — all it can do is knock down incoming enemy missiles. In other words, China doesn’t like THAAD because they worry it won’t allow them to use missiles as blackmail against their neighbors.

That’s not “targeting.” That’s keeping your friends a little safer from gangsters acting like gangsters.

Deploy THAAD already.

Posted at 7:19 am on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Hillary Twist

MAP

If this image excites you, if the thought that a person who has not driven a own in 20 years and who has most of a great nation’s news media carrying tons of water for her, somehow engages you because she just spent three hours in coach and briefly touched her own suitcase, while on her way to “a top-secret meeting with Democratic Party insiders who were told to surrender their cell phones and cameras beforehand…”

… then you might be a liberal.

Posted at 6:14 am on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green

Go East, Young Man!

All hail Freedonia! (Image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

All hail Freedonia!
(Image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Wow:

A Czech man named Vit Jedlicka proclaimed the new republic between Serbia and Croatia on the western bank of the Danube on Monday and has been doing the media rounds all week. With a land area of about 2.7 square miles, Liberland would be the world’s third-smallest country, after the Vatican City and Monaco. According to its website, it has a flag, a motto (“to live and let live”), and an official language (Czech, which seems ill-advised). Jedlicka is taking applications for citizenship, though you’ll have to apply by email because there’s no post office yet. Liberlanders must be people who:

have respect for other people and respect the opinions of others, regardless of their race, ethnicity, orientation, or religion
have respect for private ownership which is untouchable
do not have communist, nazi or other extremist past
were not punished for past criminal offences

Still a member of the Czech Republic’s libertarian, euroskeptic Party of Free Citizens, Jedlicka says he is working on writing a constitution that “significantly limits the power of politicians so they could not interfere too much in the freedoms of the Liberland nation.”

America hasn’t been the same since we closed the frontier and ran out of places to run away to — maybe the lawless areas of the Balkans, the Middle East, and someday perhaps Siberia could be made into new outlets for rugged individualists.

Posted at 5:24 am on April 17th, 2015 by Stephen Green