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February 20th, 2015 - 1:13 pm

MEDIOCRE SEX LUBE

I don’t think I’ve ever used these words before, or at least not in this order, but after reading this headline I have nothing else to say:

I can’t even. I literally can’t even.

The Phantom Menace Within

February 20th, 2015 - 12:07 pm

DISTRACTION

Iran works nearly unimpeded on its nuclear weapons program. ISIS has spread from Syria to Iraq to Libya. Al Qaeda remains quite un-decimated. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of passport-holding European and American citizens flock to Syria’s wariness for jihadi training.

But behind all that lies the true threat — right within our very borders! Read:

A new intelligence assessment, circulated by the Department of Homeland Security this month and reviewed by CNN, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists and comes as the Obama administration holds a White House conference to focus efforts to fight violent extremism.

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.​

Among their many fearsome acts of terror? Behold:

The government says these are extremists who believe that they can ignore laws and that their individual rights are under attack in routine daily instances such as a traffic stop or being required to obey a court order.

Granted, two Louisiana police officers were killed in a shootout with two of these bozos three years ago — but claiming that they’re as big — or a bigger! — threat than Islamic terrorists? I’ve reached the point where I can’t even laugh at this crap after drinking half of my lunch.

We are so screwed.

Thought for the Day

February 20th, 2015 - 11:47 am

d-day_inflatable_tank_2-20-15-1

“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” — Winston Churchill

Perhaps it was in that spirit that the western Allies named Operation Bodyguard in the months before the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and the start of the liberation of France. You’ve probably heard of it, but you might not know just how extensive the deception was. The plan was to trick Hitler into believing that the main Allied invasion would make landings at Pas de Calais. Whether Allied planners knew it or not, that fit right in with Hitler’s preconceived notion that the most sensible place for the Allies to land was… Pas de Calais.

(Hitler, the amateur, was thinking strategy rather than logistics. Since the invading forces would have to come from Channel ports all across England’s southern shore, a central location like Normandy made much more sense than a landing beach on the farthest east part of the Channel. Had we invaded at Calais, troop ships leaving from the western tip of Great Britain would have had to travel the entire length of the Channel — a rough trip. It would also make it more difficult synchronize the landing with troopships leaving from the southeast of England, who would have to travel hardly any distance at all. Anyway.)

The Allies had inflatable tanks lined up to fool German spy planes. Fake units broadcast fake radio chatter — sometimes “accidentally” in the clear for German radio intercept to pick up. General George Patton, the man Hitler was certain would lead the invasion, was given command of the entirely fictional First US Army Group (“FUSAG”). Fake division patches were even made up, and every possible indication was given to the Germans that Pas de Calais was the main target.

Operation Bodyguard had the Germans believing the U.S. and Great Britain had many more divisions than would actually be available by the summer of ’44 — more even than we raised during the entire war. Those phantom divisions kept German High Command guessing as to our true intentions, with “planned” invasions from the Balkans, to southern France, to Scandinavia.

It worked so well that Hitler kept 400,000 — 400,000! — soldiers stationed in Norway, including 6,000 of his best SS troops. It worked so well that two weeks after D-Day, Hitler was still convinced that Normandy was just a diversion, and that the real blow would still land at Pas de Calais.

It is impossible to say for sure how many thousands of Allied lives were saved by the deception, but it’s safe to say that the numbers were certainly in the thousands.

The story of Operation Bodyguard is the first thing to come to mind this morning when I read the latest news to come out of CENTCOM:

US wants Mosul offensive on IS in April-May

Washington (AFP) – The US wants Iraq to launch its offensive to retake the strategic northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group in April or May, military officials said.

Mosul is believed to be held by 1,000-2,000 IS fighters and 20,000-25,000 Iraqi troops are needed to carry out the offensive, an official with US Central Command said on Thursday.

“The mark on the wall we are still shooting for is the April-May timeframe,” the official said, adding that because of Ramadan and the increasing heat of summer, “it becomes problematic if it goes much later (than May).”

Yep, the regional military headquarters under the Smartest President EVAH!™ just announced the timing, target, direction, and forces to be used against ISIS.

There was a Saturday Night Live sketch from the build-up phase before the first Gulf War, with Kevin Nealon playing a Pentagon spokesman at a Coalition press conference. Each reporter kept asking him to reveal classified information about our troop deployments, etc., and Nealon kept refusing to answer. The clueless reporters kept on going, asking for more and more sensitive information, increasingly frustrated by Nealon’s non-responses. The kicker was the “reporter” wearing dark sunglasses and an Arab headdress asking, “Where are your troops, and can I go there and count them?”

Today we have a Nealon-like Pentagon spokesweasel just giving out the information, free.

It took 25 years, but we’ve finally arrived at a place where we have an Administration even more absurd than SNL the last time it was funny.
Read more: Senators Fuming Over CENTCOM Revealing Mosul Offensive Strategy to Reporters

Hillary: Most Corrupt SecState Ever?

February 20th, 2015 - 9:45 am

That’s not an outrageous conclusion after reading this story:

Hillary Clinton’s ties to large corporations have come under more scrutiny after it was revealed that dozens of companies that have donated millions to her family’s foundation also lobbied the State Department during her tenure as secretary of state.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the 60 companies who lobbied Clinton’s State Department between 2009 and 2013 donated over $26 million to the Clinton Foundation in that period. The donors include instantly recognizable names like General Electric, Exxon Mobil, and Boeing.

The Journal also reports that at least 44 of the 60 companies participated in philanthropy projects valued at $3.2 billion set up by the Clinton Global Initiative, which is a wing of the foundation. At least 25 of the companies also contributed to 15 public-private partnerships created by Clinton and coordinated by the State Department.

If you really want to get the money out of politics, a good start would be to get the Clintons out of politics. They’ve long used their officers, access, and fame as tools for self-enrichment.

Flame War I

February 20th, 2015 - 8:26 am

President Look At Me Looking At Me will never stop mistaking jaw, jaw for war, war:

President Barack Obama has warned that Muslim community leaders are in danger of losing the propaganda war with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and are often too “boring” to prevent their young people from getting radicalised.

Paying Isil a back-handed compliment for the effectiveness of its gruesome social media outreach campaign, Mr Obama said it was imperative to reach young Muslims and address their social, political and economic grievances in a way that they understood.

“By the way, [to] the older people here – as wise and respected as you may be – your stuff is often boring,” he told a White House summit on combatting the rise of extremism, “compared to what they’re doing. You’re not connected. And as a consequence, you are not connecting.”

Obama is correct to a limited extent — propaganda is an effective tool of war. But when propaganda is disconnected from reality, then populations dismiss it and become weary. A good proof of that comes from wartime Imperial Japan. State radio kept claiming big victories on land and sea over the Americans, but listeners couldn’t help but notice that each “victory” was was on an island or in a body of water closer to the Japanese Home Islands. You didn’t have to be a cynic to start tuning out those claims of victory.

And so it goes with the fight against ISIS. Their propaganda isn’t effective only because it has Hollywood production values (although that is a part of it). ISIS propaganda works because it romanticizes and glamorizes the truth — and the truth is that ISIS is enforcing its vision of Islamic law and taking new territory despite months of Allied air attacks.

Meanwhile, President Look At Me Looking At Me’s answer to the horrors of Boko Haram has consisted of little but hashtag games on Twitter.

One kind of propaganda works, the other doesn’t.

In the unlikely event that “Muslim community leaders” start winning some actual battles against ISIS, their social media efforts will amount to squat. The fact that Obama is pinning his hopes on “Muslim community leaders” while actively spiting real efforts by the Egyptian and Jordanian militaries tells you everything you need to know about the White House’s propaganda…

…it’s nothing but victory after victory, each one getting closer to home.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 20th, 2015 - 7:16 am

BLOOMBERG

♡bamaCare!!! supporters have been happy to take credit for declining increases in health care costs, even though the decline began in 2005, when Evil George W Bush was President, and millions of Uninsured-Americans were dying in the streets right in front of overcrowded hospitals because nobody cared. I wonder what they’ll make of this news:

The national medical bill may be back to growing faster than gross domestic product. After five years of historically slow growth, new data show U.S. health-care spending accelerated significantly in 2014.

The analysis, from the Altarum Institute research group and based on preliminary government data, shows health spending increasing by 5 percent last year, compared to 3.6 percent in 2013. If confirmed by the final tally, health-care spending during 2014 would mark the biggest jump since before the recession.

Now it would be unfair, or at least premature, to pin all of last year’s rise on ♡bamaCare!!!, even though millions of mandate-customers on the exchanges were forced to pay for coverage for things like acupuncture, psychoanalysis, and prenatal care — even if they were of the opinion that acupuncture and psychoanalysis are big steaming crocks, and regardless of whether they were planning on having a baby, or even in possession of a uterus.

That aside, it does go to show that simply waving the magic wand of law cannot repeal the law of supply and demand. And it might go to show that health care spending is far less inelastic than the Left claims — that people really do buy more of it when they have more money to spend, and buy less of it when they have less money to spend.

Whatever the case turns out to be, it’s becoming clear that ♡bamaCare!!! has done far less than advertised, except for needlessly disrupting millions and millions of lives in order to provide overpriced and difficult-to-use “coverage” for a few million others.

Lame Duck is Lame

February 20th, 2015 - 6:31 am

A big majority of Congressional Democrats would rather be seen with Benjamin Netanyahu than be seen going along with President Obama’s plan to boycott his speech:

Despite two weeks of intense anti-Netanyahu leaks, insults, and pressure, the White House has so far succeeded in persuading only a handful of Democratic members of Congress to stay away from the speech.

A grand total of two Senators and 12 Representatives have publicly announced that they are boycotting Israel’s prime minister. Assuming that those figures change only marginally in the days ahead, it will mean that 98% of the Senate and 95% of the House of Representatives will be in attendance.

A President not so assured of his own infallibility would have made a few private calls to his friends on Capitol Hill, to get a sense of how many would be willing to follow his lead, before trying very publicly to get them to do so.

But President Look At Me Looking At Me has never been constrained by such considerations, and has never had any real friends on Capitol Hill.

I hope Bibi is steeping in schadenfreude today.

It’s Not Just Metadata Anymore

February 20th, 2015 - 5:05 am

The NSA and Britain’s GCHQ stole — stole — the encryption keys used by the world’s largest manufacturer of SIM cards:

The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.

In all, Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. Its motto is “Security to be Free.”

With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt.

NSA is out of control.

Welcome to the Permanent (For Now) Oil Glut

February 19th, 2015 - 2:05 pm

Almost buried in this Zero Hedge post on our oil glut is this bit from a press release from shale producer Devon Energy:

We expect to sustain operational momentum in 2015 with the significant improvements we have seen in our completion designs and a capital program focused on development drilling. With strong results from our enhanced completions and a focus on core development areas, we expect growth in oil production to be between 20 and 25 percent in 2015, even with a projected reduction of approximately 20 percent in E&P capital spending compared to 2014.

As ZH notes, “despite slashing the capital expenditure budget by 20%, the company’s oil production in 2015 would grow 20% to 25%.”

Imagine if something happened to your kitchen sink that when you turn the knob to the right, the water flow increases. But when you turn the knob the other way, the water flow… still increases.

Wild.

Sign “O” the Times

February 19th, 2015 - 12:31 pm

I don’t care if extremely unhappy people have deep-seated reasons for their unhappiness, and I can even show some understanding for wanting to work out those issues in public.

What troubles me deeply is when extremely unhappy people decked out in some kind of homemade Indian costume that would be too obvious and stereotypical for a comedian to wear on a 1950s TV sketch comedy show, hipster glasses, some sort of rainbow medallion, what appears to be Darth Vader’s belt, while claiming to be “erased” and “ignored.”

Legitimate Grievances

February 19th, 2015 - 11:31 am

STAB

Jim Hoft has the story from the Canon City Daily:

At about 2 p.m. Dec. 6, the suspect’s family told law enforcement that they were worried because Clark left his residence in Penrose and said he wasn’t going to return. They said Clark was mentally disturbed, according to Cañon City Police Department Chief Paul Schultz.

At about 3:30 p.m., he allegedly stole a holster from Victory Defense, a police supply store.

“One (clerk) walked up to him, tapped him on the back of the shoulder.” Schultz said. “He turned around, he pulled out an open knife on this clerk and said, ‘Don’t touch me or I’ll cut you.’ He then took another step toward the clerk.”

Clark then left the scene, Schultz said, and was found 10 minutes later at the intersection of Ute and Raynolds by CCPD Cpl. Andrew Sanders.

“Mr. Clark did not respond to the officer’s commands to stop and talk to him,” he said. “Our officer went up, tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around with a eight-inch knife … Then without saying anything, stabbed Corporal Sanders under the left arm toward the armpit and then continued to encroach upon him.” Schultz said the officer told him to stop after he was injured, but he didn’t comply.

Sanders ended up shooting Clark five times without killing him.

The story doesn’t say if Clark had a job or not.

It’s a Conference About Nothing

February 19th, 2015 - 10:34 am

Sure, the White Houses bills it as the conference on “Preventing on Violent Extremists,” but really it’s the Seinfeld Conference — a conference about nothing. (NBC should love it –ed.)

If you were to use the Socratic Method to prove my point, the conversation between you and President Obama would go something like this.

YOU: I know it’s important to prevent violent extremism, so what is it that makes these people extremists?

OBAMA: What people?

YOU: The Muslim people committing the violence.

OBAMA: They aren’t really Muslim. And they aren’t the only ones committing violence. Take the Crusades, for example…

YOU: Can we talk about the Crusades another time? They were bad and all, but right now the big problem is in the Middle East. So what is it that makes the violent people there so extreme?

OBAMA: Jobs. They don’t have jobs.

YOU: Why don’t they have jobs?

OBAMA: Their infrastructure is a shambles.

YOU: What happened to the infrastructure?

OBAMA: Their economies lag behind considerably.

YOU: Now maybe we’re getting somewhere! What’s wrong with their economies?

OBAMA: Jobs.

And on and on it goes, like the Seinfeld gang looking for Kramer’s car in a parking garage — and when they do find it, the car won’t start.

Why the focus on jobs? We can’t get an honest explanation from the administration, just more of the round-robin logic always coming back to jobs. There’s just this big black hole in their thinking, into which “Islamic fundamentalism” was dropped years ago, and it can never escape.

The most charitable explanation I can come up with is that Obama sincerely believes that the syncretic, laid-back, beach-combing, borderline polytheistic Islam he knew as a kid in Indonesia is the “real” Islam, and that all those mullahs and emirs and caliphs back in Islam’s Arab birthplace are doing it all wrong.

There are less charitable explanations, which along with the one above can be grouped into four broad categories:

1) Fundamentalist Islam isn’t the “real” Islam Obama knew as a boy.

2) It’s all Valerie Jarrett’s doing.

3) Obama is proving rhetorical cover for the fundamentalists who rule Iran, in pursuit of either a formal alliance or at least an entente cordiale with Tehran’s mullahs.

4) He’s a secret Muslim plotting to destroy America.

The truth is probably some combination of elements of 1, 2, and 3 — although if someone came up with irrefutable proof of 4, I wouldn’t exactly need to lie down on my fainting couch.

Whatever Obama’s real motives, he must keep pushing this notion of “Jobs!” for two reasons. One, he needs something to cover up his real motive, and two, “Jobs!” is exactly the sort of Marxian bullshit determinism Obama’s progressive lefty base craves to hear.

On second thought, maybe this is really the Reservoir Dogs conference. The opening diner sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s first movie includes a funny — if a bit rough — conversation about the real meaning of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin.” My more tender readers will want to skip this next bit, quoted from the movie:

Mr. Brown: What the fuck was I talking about?

Mr. Pink: You said ‘True Blue’ was about a nice girl, a sensitive girl who meets a nice guy, and that ‘Like a Virgin’ was a metaphor for big dicks.

Mr. Brown: Lemme tell you what ‘Like a Virgin’ is about. It’s all about this cooze who’s a regular fuck machine, I’m talking morning, day, night, afternoon, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.

Mr. Blue: How many dicks is that?

Mr. White: A lot.

Mr. Brown: Then one day she meets this John Holmes motherfucker and it’s like, whoa baby, I mean this cat is like Charles Bronson in the ‘Great Escape’, he’s digging tunnels. Now, she’s gettin’ the serious dick action and she’s feeling something she ain’t felt since forever. Pain. Pain.

Mr. Brown: It hurts her. It shouldn’t hurt her, you know, her pussy should be Bubble Yum by now, but when this cat fucks her it hurts. It hurts just like it did the first time. You see the pain is reminding a fuck machine what it once was like to be a virgin. Hence, ‘Like a Virgin’.

Now the story goes that Tarantino got to meet Madonna shortly after the movie came out, and asked her to autograph one of her albums for him. And Madonna took the pen and the album and wrote, “Dear Quentin, It’s not about dicks.”

If only we had someone with Madonna’s (former) star power in a position to say, “Dear Barack, It’s not about jobs.”

Run Silent, Run Deep, Get Detected Anyway

February 19th, 2015 - 8:37 am

This is honestly one of the scariest news items I’ve read in a long time:

In early 2014 U.S. Navy submarine detection experts got a scare when a Russian Vishnya class AGI (Auxiliary General Intelligence, or electronic reconnaissance) ship was seen several times off the east coast of Florida, in the vicinity of naval air and submarine bases. The Vishnya spotted off Florida was accompanied by a sea going tug. Both ships used Cuban ports for resupply. The two ships apparently first showed up in Cuba in February. What scared the submarine detection crowd was the recent realization that computers had become cheap and powerful enough to make it possible to detect submarines via the faint signs (like disturbance of the surface waters above them) that they leave. It has been known for decades that these telltale signs existed and that with sufficient computing power and sensitive enough sensors you could use this method to track submarines in real time. In other words, it no longer mattered how quiet a sub was, just whether it was there or not and moving. U.S. Navy experts had been doing the math and realized that the time was rapidly approaching, if not already here, when the sensors were sensitive enough and the computers fast enough to unmask all current subs.

“All current subs” would of course include our 14 Ohio-class nuclear missile boats, carrying over half the deployed warheads of our nuclear deterrent.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 19th, 2015 - 7:19 am

White House: 11.4 million Uninsured-Americans now covered by ♡bamaCare!!!.

Avik Roy: Not so fast.

Could the real number not be quite what President Obama claims? Would you believe… less than half what the President claims? Of course you would. Roy explains:

We don’t know the actual number of Obamacare exchange enrollees who were previously uninsured, because the Obama administration hasn’t tracked those statistics. But we do know that at least 4.7 million Americans received cancellation notices in 2013, because Obamacare’s regulations made their health plans illegal. Based on survey data from McKinsey, last May I estimated that 2.6 million previously uninsured individuals gained private non-group coverage. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 57% of those with exchange-based coverage were previously uninsured, which would amount to 3.8 million in 2014.

We also can’t predict whether or not the uninsured fraction will be higher in 2015 than it was in 2014. But if we carry forward the more generous Kaiser estimate of 57%, and combine it with the 84% retention rate, we can estimate that about 5.4 million previously uninsured individuals would be enrolled in Obamacare’s exchanges by the end of the 2015 enrollment period, based on current figures.

Needless to say, 5.4 million is not as impressive as 11.4 million.

Every Administration fudges the numbers. This Administration uses double fudge, slathered in Nutella and coated in a hard candy shell with sprinkles on top. This confectionary monstrosity is then served with a side lecture about the importance of nutrition.

Dear Egypt: We Got Your Back (Not)

February 19th, 2015 - 7:19 am

Nancy Youssef reports for the Daily Beast:

The Obama administration was given multiple chances Wednesday to endorse a longtime ally’s airstrikes on America’s biggest enemy at the moment, the so-called Islamic State. Over and over again, Obama’s aides declined to back Egypt’s military operation against ISIS. It’s another sign of the growing strain between the United States and Egypt, once one of its closest friends in the Middle East.

This shouldn’t be a complete surprise; Cairo, after all, didn’t tell Washington about its strikes on the ISIS hotbed of Derna, Libya. Still, Wednesday’s disconnect was jarring. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest passed on a reporter’s question about an endorsement of Egypt’s growing campaign against ISIS. So did State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“We are neither condemning nor condoning” the Egyptian strikes, is all one U.S. official would tell The Daily Beast.

The story is filed under the cutesy word “Frenemies,” but this is deadly serious stuff. As I wrote all of two days ago, our mistreatment of Egypt

illustrates exactly why the Look At Me Looking At Me Administration keeps getting caught flat-footed by a foreign policy which is, and must be, essentially reactive. ISIS, like al Qaeda before it, thrives on chaos — and there’s plenty of that to be had there courtesy of Team Obama. ISIS moves in, and the closest thing this White House takes to an actual action, is to send a Pentagon spokesman out in front of the cameras to berate the Egyptians and the Emirates for taking some small action to defend themselves from the growing threat. To top it off, Kirby’s statement included an oh-so-Obama little lecture about how real smart grownup countries wage war.

Vladimir Putin has been cozying up to Egypt since President Selfie Stick first turned his back on Sisi’s military government for deposing the corrupt and terror-sponsoring Muslim Brotherhood. So we’ve traded in Egypt for… what, exactly?

It’s against this backdrop of stepping back while the Russians step up that Obama expects to arm twist the Israelis into making a bad peace deal with the Palestinians, while bragging to international audiences about three lousy airstrikes a day against ISIS. And it’s a safe bet that absolutely everybody in or interested in the Middle East sat up and took note when Obama asked Congress for a new AUMF designed on purpose to tie his hands, and thus guarantee failure.

Obama is playing high-stakes poker in the Middle East, and as he looks around the table he has no idea who the sucker is.

Either that or he’s playing to lose — with other people’s chips.

Thought for the Day

February 19th, 2015 - 6:14 am

(Re)Authorization of the Use of Military Force

February 19th, 2015 - 5:12 am

ZIRP Today, ZIRP Tomorrow, ZIRP Forever!

February 18th, 2015 - 2:27 pm

Janet Yellen’s Fed seems to be backing off earlier promises to raise interest rates from practically zero:

The minutes from the Fed’s Jan. 27-28 policy-setting meeting, released Wednesday, show officials grappling to square solid U.S. economic growth with the weakness in international markets as well as worrying about falling inflation expectations in the United States.

Fed officials debated the impact that stubbornly low inflation measures were having on the central bank’s confidence in moving ahead with the rate hike plan, the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee meeting showed.

They also noted how China’s economic slowdown and tensions in the Middle East and Ukraine posed downside risks to the U.S. economic growth outlook, according to the minutes.

Since early February, bond yields have shot higher, a move that showed investors were getting more comfortable with the expectation that the Fed’s initial rate hike would happen in June, on the back of strong economic growth and jobs data.

A recovery which can’t sustain interest rates even on the low end of historical norms isn’t much of a recovery.

Are You in Compliance, Comrade Dope Dealer?

February 18th, 2015 - 1:26 pm

PRESCRIBED

Operation Choke Point is putting the squeeze on some small business owners you might not have thought much about:

An Internal Revenue Service appeals officer told [medical marijuana dispensary] Allgreens LLC that not being able to get a bank account is no excuse for not paying employee withholding taxes electronically, as required by federal tax law. The dispensary has tried to get a bank account for at least two years.

That Allgreens “cannot secure a bank account due to current banking laws is not considered reasonable cause to abate the penalty,” an IRS hearing officer ruled in denying the dispensary’s request to waive the 10 percent penalty.

The dispensary is one of many to face the fine, assessed even though the company pays its taxes in cash and on time at the Denver downtown IRS office twice each month.

The IRS requires all businesses to pay the quarterly tax by bank wire, which is impossible for hundreds of medical and recreational marijuana shops nationwide that are unable to obtain banking services.

The IRS cannot be held responsible for greedy business owners who refuse to pay their taxes in the strictly mandated fashion.

Hello, Nurse!

February 18th, 2015 - 12:39 pm

SASHA GREY'S ANATOMY

You might think that the whole story is told by the headline, and I suppose maybe it is. But the delight is in the details:

Former porn star Sasha Grey has denied reports of her death which appeared on social media.

The posts appeared on a group which supports Russian-backed militants in east Ukraine. They said that Grey was volunteering as a nurse and died whilst treating militants injured in fighting with the Ukrainian government.

After the posts appeared the musician and now mainstream actress issued a tweet saying that “the propaganda war has gone too far.”

The posting on the pro-militant social media group also said that Grey “was able to bring to life even to the most hopeless of cases.”

Whatever. You have to admit though that “Sasha Grey’s Anatomy” would make an awesome name for a porn flick.

Thought for the Day

February 18th, 2015 - 11:21 am

Does the GOP Hate Its Own Voters?

February 18th, 2015 - 10:08 am
Jon Huntsman

Vintage 2012 Huntsmania, zooming into action! (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The headline question is nearly rhetorical, after reading the latest antics of the once grand party. It seems the national GOP was looking to run someone against Republican Utah Senator — and grassroots favorite — Mike Lee in next year’s primary. But it gets worse. CNN’s John King has the story:

Lee stunned the GOP establishment by wresting the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Utah from longtime incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett, and from that moment on has been a national tea party star.

Now, the establishment is looking to return the favor.

So far, no credible 2016 primary challenger has emerged despite frequent complaints about Lee from Utah business and GOP establishment figures.

But CNN is told there is now an aggressive push to lure a onetime Utah GOP star back into the game.

That onetime GOP star? Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor, former Obama ambassador to China, and former failed presidential contender. The good news is that Huntsman doesn’t seem interested in running. But by even considering Huntsman, Republican leaders show just how little they either understand or respect (or both) the party’s very own rank and file. If there were any genuine clamor to remove Lee, a primary opponent would already be organically emerging. Having the party leadership look to Huntsman, however, shows a special kind of stupid from the Stupid Party.

Huntsman’s short-lived 2012 presidential run was notable only for the disdain he demonstrated for the very people whose votes he needed to earn to win the nomination. In a recent National Journal article called “How Not to Run for President,” James Oliphant reminds us just where Huntsman’s troubles began:

The presidential battlefield is littered with casualties who won over Beltway columnists but fell flat in the rest of the country. Clark made the cover of Newsweek, and Pawlenty earned a huge amount of hype from political journalists in early 2011. Huntsman, too, did well with the elite media—New York magazine put him on the cover with Mitt Romney—before foundering in the actual campaign. “Huntsman had a lot of good press coverage,” says Matt David. “But we needed press coverage to translate into fundraising. Our fundraising never changed.”

The path to popularity with GOP voters does not run through the gamut of leftwing Complicit Media magazine covers. To put it another way, Huntsman would have gotten similar results trying to win over the attendees of a PETA rally by wearing a fur coat and munching on a Big Mac slathered in foie gras. Huntsman wanted to be loved by the media, which meant not offending the White House. In the same Oliphant piece, Huntsman’s former communications director is quoted as saying, “In ’12, [GOP primary voters] wanted someone who was really going to take it to Obama, and that wasn’t the candidate we had.”

And just in case you’d forgotten, there were Huntsman’s “love letters” to President Obama:

“You are a remarkable leader,” Huntsman wrote to Obama in an Aug. 16, 2009 note, underlining the word “remarkable,” “and it has been a great honor getting to know you.”

The letter thanks Obama for “the graciousness and kindness you have shown me and my family – particularly your confidence in my ability to represent you in China.” Huntsman said he was “leaving behind a state we love – but anticipating an extraordinary experience in Beijing.”

Around the same time, Huntsman wrote an even more gushing love note to former President Bill Clinton. Obviously, Huntsman is not a candidate whose main appeal is to GOP grassroots voters — especially in a state as traditionally conservative as Utah.

But why all the Mike Lee hate from bigwig Republicans, both inside the Beltway and back home in Salt Lake City? For that, we go back to October of 2013 and the government shutdown, when Lee stood arm-in-arm with Texas Senator (and Tea Party favorite) Ted Cruz:

Utah, one of the most Republican states in the nation, has a long tradition of being represented by pragmatic, business-minded conservatives in the U.S. Senate. Lee broke that pattern by governing as an ideological firebrand — standing alongside Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in the push for a shutdown in a failed bid to undermine President Obama’s health-care law.

As a result, Lee’s approval ratings in Utah have cratered, and prominent Republicans and local business executives are openly discussing the possibility of mounting a primary challenge against him. Top Republicans are also maneuvering to redesign the party’s nomination system in a way that would likely make it more difficult for Lee to win reelection in 2016.

In other words, Lee made the “wrong” people nervous — the same party insiders who seem determined, over early and strenuous objection, to make Jeb Bush the nominee.

OK, fine — party leaders always have and always will try to rig the system to produce the candidates they desire, and it’s always been up to primary voters to try to keep them in check.

But Jon Huntsman? That’s putting salt in the wound to cover the lemon juice that was poured in to loosen up the gravel they ground in there. My epitaph for his 2012 campaign read:

Somehow, a stiff and uncharismatic candidate who spoke Mandarin better than conservatism never caught on with GOP voters, even after sucking up to the MSM. But some things in politics shall forever remain mysteries.

Running Huntsman would show the GOP grassroots that the party leadership doesn’t understand what they want in a senator. But rigging the game — excuse me, “redesigning the party’s nomination system” — to force Huntsman on the grassroots would be tantamount to a declaration of a GOP Civil War.

There are plenty of indicators, economic and political, that 2016 could be a winnable year for Republican candidates, from the top of the ticket straight down to the very bottom.

Or maybe 2016 just isn’t meant to be the GOP’s year. Maybe a Civil War is what needs to happen, as Clemenza once explained to young Michael Corleone.

It’s been almost exactly seven years since the Tea Party first placed its antiestablishment grassroots into the GOP soil. Maybe now is the time to settle the bad blood between the grassroots and the establishment.

Paying for Privacy — With Cash on the Table

February 18th, 2015 - 9:41 am

For an extra $29 a month, Kansas City customers of AT&T new fiber-based, high-speed internet service can keep Big Brother from snooping on their browsing:

“When you select AT&T Internet Preferences, we can offer you our best pricing best pricing on GigaPower because you let us use your individual Web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the web pages you visit, to tailor ads and offers to your interests.”

For consumers, there’s a lot to think about on both sides of the bargain. On one hand, at nearly $350 a year, the privacy option sure isn’t cheap.

But on the other hand, the discount requires consumers to give up a lot of data. Unlike with other ISPs, customers can’t thwart AT&T ‘s data collection through cookie settings or private browsing since the company is drawing the data right from their fiber connection. (To read more about the prospect of deep packet inspection and other technical aspects, see my colleague Stacey Higginbotham’s post from 2013).

There’s also the question of whether such a bargain should even exist. Is it really fair for AT&T to force consumers to make a deal-with-the-data-devil in the first place?

I’ll take this free market solution to privacy over the FCC’s 322 pages of regulations and taxes any day of the week.

Now That’s Cold

February 18th, 2015 - 8:29 am

Russian and pro-Russian forces appear to have gained the upper hand in Debaltseve, a strategically located railroad hub in eastern Ukraine:

The Wall Street Journal reported that Semyon Semenchenko, a member of parliament and commander of a pro-Kiev volunteer battalion, wrote on Facebook that “the withdrawal for forces from Debaltseve is being conducted in a planned and organized way.”

However, a military spokesman in Kiev said troops were “regrouping” and continuing to fight in Debaltseve. “The enemy, grossly violating the peace agreements, began to storm Debaltseve after a massive artillery assault.”

The separatists have claimed that the area around Debaltseve isn’t covered by the cease-fire deal. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who helped broker the agreement last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested while visiting Budapest last week that Ukrainian forces should lay down their arms.

The next part is classic Putin:

“Of course, it’s always bad to lose,” Mr. Putin told reporters, according to The Journal. “Of course it’s always a hardship when you lose to yesterday’s miners or yesterday’s tractor drivers. But life is life. It’ll surely go on.”

It’s not just that Putin is lying — of course Putin is lying. And it’s not just that Putin’s gives cover to the Russian Army forces doing the real fighting under the guise of local separatists. It’s that his lie does that and impugns the fighting abilities, even the manliness, of the Ukraine Army forces opposite him. And then he wraps it all up with the implication that these girly Ukrainian men should lay down their arms so that they might go back to their homes and live quiet girly man lives. Meanwhile, Manly Man Vlad will take what he wants.

Good thing we have President Look At Me Looking At Me on top of the situation.

Make Way for Jeb

February 18th, 2015 - 7:21 am

This CNN story on the former Florida Governor’s plans for a big foreign policy speech includes everything but “I am running for President.” See for yourself:

On Wednesday, he’ll deliver his first foreign policy speech since signaling his serious interest in running for president next year, laying out “how America can regain its leadership in the world,” according to advanced excerpts of the speech.

The remarks come as the United States is again being drawn back into the Middle East, including Iraq, to combat the brutality of the Islamic State. The speech will offer Bush a chance to show whether his national security views align more with the swaggering interventionism of his brother or the cautious internationalism of his father.

Democrats are vowing to tether him to the controversial decisions of his brother, President George W. Bush, who they blame for starting a war in Iraq on false pretenses and for presiding over a disastrous occupation that cost trillions of dollars, thousands of U.S. and Iraqi lives and destabilized the region.

The challenges of addressing his family’s foreign policy legacy are clear to Bush, who is already trying to defuse them.

“I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make,” Bush will say according to excerpts of his speech. “But I am my own man — and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”

The question he’s going to have a very difficult time answering is, Why does the country need yet another Bush?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 18th, 2015 - 6:08 am

Covered California has got you covered, unless you need or were expecting a tax return this year, or even just to have all your tax forms delivered on time:

Stacy Scoggins gets plenty of mail from Covered California, but the one tax form the agency was required to send her by February 2nd still hasn’t arrived.

“After being on hold for 59 minutes, told me that the 1095-A was never generated,” Scoggins told KPIX 5 ConsumerWatch.

She’s talking about the 1095-A form, a document required for enrollees to file their tax returns. It’s a problem, for the recent widow who desperately needs to file now.

“I need my tax refund,” Scoggins said.

And she’s far from the only Covered California enrollee with 1095 problems. About 100,000 or 12 percent of the forms generated by Covered California have inaccuracies.

“We realized the data wasn’t exactly the same,” Covered California spokesperson Dana Howard told KPIX 5.

Dealing with private insurers, who might be just as prone to SNAFUs like these, oftentimes sucks. But now people like Scoggins are stuck dealing with the IRS, which is a government agency with broad powers to fine you, punish you, harass you, audit you, and generally make your life miserable.

This is why those of us on the right — and even a few on the left — knew it was a laughable promise that ♡bamaCare!!! would someone reduce waste and paperwork by giving the thing to the IR-effing-S.

Wipe Them Out… All of Them

February 18th, 2015 - 5:07 am

Required Reading

February 17th, 2015 - 1:38 pm

Michael Barone explains how a smart GOP contender could break through the “blue wall” of heavily Democratic states:

A Republican strategist looking ahead to 2016 has 12 states where Mitt Romney won 43 to 49 percent of the vote in 2012. Add some significant share of their 146 electoral votes to the 206 Romney won, and you get well above the 270 majority.

At the top of the list are perennial targets Florida and Ohio. Just below, at 47 percent in favor of Romney, are Virginia and — part of the supposedly immoveable blue wall — Pennsylvania. Republicans nearly beat a popular Democratic senator in Virginia last year and have been making steady gains in blue-collar Western Pennsylvania. Those four states added to Romney’s would give Republicans 286 electoral votes — George W. Bush’s winning total in 2004.

What states could Republicans target beyond that? A nominee with Midwestern appeal might go after Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota (42 electoral votes). One with Hispanic appeal could target Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico (20 electoral votes). One with appeal to upscale whites could target Colorado, New Hampshire and Minnesota (23 electoral votes). One with working-class appeal might choose Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan (32 electoral votes).

Critics might ask whether a 2016 Republican nominee can count on all the Romney states. Certainly not, if the party is as unpopular as it was in 2008. And North Carolina, a 48 percent Obama state, certainly looks like a realistic Democratic target in a close race.

But Obama got no more than 45 percent in other Romney states. Of the six where he got 44 or 45 percent, Democrats have had little success lately, even when running candidates better adapted to the local terrain than Hillary Clinton would be. None looks like a good Democratic target.

Read the whole thing, of course.

The important question is which groups will be ripe for targeting in 2016, and it may well take the primary process before that data really shakes out. — and the GOP will need an honest primary process, one which avoids MSM pitfalls and long-range cultural traps like the phony War on Women.

Groups I’d look at early include:

• Middle class or otherwise upwardly-mobile blacks, worried about amnesty.

• iVoters with privacy concerns — Rand Paul becomes your point man.

• Private-sector union workers — there aren’t many of these potential Reagan Democrats left, but they are organized.

• Frustrated ♡bamaCare!!! mandate-customers.

There are essentially three kinds of voters to be won in any race, if we ignore gradations between them: Your base voters, independent voters, and the other guy’s base voters. First you have to mobilize your base, which is, well, your base. Without them you have nothing to stand on. Every vote in the middle you can win is great, because that’s a vote the other guy can no longer get. But the richest prize of all is winning one of the other guy’s base voters, which adds one to your tally and takes one away from the other guy’s tally — which effectively puts you up by two votes. Suppressing the other guy’s base voter is a neat trick, and one at which Team Obama excelled. But to score really big wins, to break through the Blue Wall, means winning over Democrats.

These four groups I’ve identified here are each typical Democrat base voters who could be swayed by good messaging, properly targeted, and delivered by a non-crazy, non-stick-in-the-mud candidate.

That’s a short list, bordering on non-existent.

Ukraine Peace Deal Unraveling

February 17th, 2015 - 12:30 pm

UKRAINE

Well that didn’t take very long:

Pro-Russian rebels and government forces fought street-to-street in a strategic town in east Ukraine on Tuesday and refused to pull back their heavy guns, all but scuppering hopes that a European-brokered peace deal will end months of conflict.

Two days after a truce went into effect, the agreement reached at all-night talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk last Thursday was unraveling rapidly.

The Moscow-backed rebels say the ceasefire does not apply to the main battle front at the town of Debaltseve, astride a railway hub, where they have a Ukrainian military garrison surrounded. They have continued an all-out assault.

Kiev acknowledged that rebels had fought their way into the town and captured some of its troops defending it.

We have to go all the way back to last week, and the day the agreement was signed, to re-read my not-so-bold prediction that “Putin will be back for more.”