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Required Reading

July 14th, 2014 - 11:03 am

Salena Zito has a must-read report on the underreported divides with the D-party:

Republicans have all types of factions dividing them as they look past November’s midterm elections to 2016.

“The Democrats have a very similar problem but, because we are the party in power, the focus is on the other guys,” said Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia Democrat media consultant. “I don’t think, as Democrats, we are as fractured as the Republicans but I think we certainly have strong divisions and some of the same problems as the GOP.”

Adam Bonin, board chairman of Netroots Nation, the annual progressive convention that will descend on Detroit this week, breaks down the division between two types of Democrats: “There are the establishment Democrats who are supportive of the president, excited about Hillary, and who are interested in preserving the liberal state as we know it.

“Contrast that with the progressive Democrats, who are much more concerned with income equity and who are frustrated with Obama and his excessive connection to Wall Street, the NSA stuff, and felt that ObamaCare did not go far enough” — the single-payer crowd.

Many Democrats, like Marilyn, argue that scars remain from the Hillary-Obama primary race of 2008 and that no one from the Obama team reached across the divide to heal.

Read the whole thing, of course.

After eight years of George Bush, it was easy for the various factions in the Democratic coalition to gloss over their differences, which is usually the case for any out-of-power party. The Democrats in 2008 were further aided by “Black Jesus,” and the promise of supermajorities on Capitol Hill. Between the charismatic new candidate and unfettered access to trillions of dollars to divvy up, Democrats came together like at no time since 1964.

But then some actual governing had to be done and, as always, there were winners and losers within the coalition. The GOP coalition began to split after 9/11. Big-L Libertarians had doubts about even Afghanistan, and Iraq and the PATRIOT Act soured them on the GOP for perhaps a generation. Small-government types never reconciled with the “compassionate” wing after Bush and Hastert shoved Medicare Part D through the House, and rightly so. Libertarians bolted, and what was left was RINOs versus the grassroots — with the SoCons at turns sitting out, playing peacemaker, or trying to wrest control.

Six years out of the White House, eight years out of the Senate, and the GOP Civil War wages on. Even now, in Year Six of the “recovery,” and scads of weak Democrat incumbents, and winning the Senate back still isn’t a sure thing. Only the burst of Tea Party energy in 2010 allows the GOP any Washington credibility at all.

They key to winning in 2016 will be to find a way for Republicans to gloss over their differences, while creatively exploiting the fault lines amongst the Donks — but at this early stage, it isn’t looking very good.

Collateral Damage

July 14th, 2014 - 10:22 am

Ukrainemap-1

Time is on Putin’s side:

The decisive campaign in Ukraine’s separatist rebellion — the battle for Donetsk — is imminent, and the looming question is how much damage the jewel of the country’s economy will suffer.

Fearing that the faceoff between 30,000 Ukrainian military troops and about 10,000 pro-Russian separatists will destroy much of the city of 1 million people, tens of thousands of residents have fled Donetsk.

Afraid that the military will use the artillery approach, billionaire Donetsk industrialist Rinat Akhmetov went on television July 6, the day after the separatists fled Slovyansk, to plead: “Donbass (the Donetsk and Lugansk regions) must not be bombed. Cities, towns and infrastructure must not be destroyed.”

Ukraine is already dependent on the West for cash and on Russia for energy. Taking the Donbass — Ukraine’s most industrialized region — out of play would put Kyiv in the impossible position of have to rely even more upon the kindness of strangers. Putin enjoys the luxury of being able to determine how much force Kyiv will have to employ in the Donbass, by sending in additional fighters and/or heavier weapons. Kyiv faces the choice of destroying its own industrial heartland, or seeing it go the way of Crimea.

If I were Putin, I’d send in enough men and matériel to keep engaged, then really turn up the heat (so to speak) once the weather turns cold and Kyiv simply can’t do without Russian energy supplies.

Sharks Gotta Swim, Bats Gotta Fly…

July 14th, 2014 - 9:43 am

reidharry_052014

Juan Williams: Reid just wants to legislate.

That’s what I’m afraid of.

DEA Takes it on the C-H-I-N

July 14th, 2014 - 8:30 am

For the first time in 40 years, the DEA is finds itself facing criticism — from Congress. Read:

Bill Piper, a Drug Policy Alliance lobbyist, said the tides are changing for marijuana policies as lawmakers have begun questioning the DEA’s efforts on the matter.

“For 13 of the 14 years I have worked on this issue, when the DEA came to a hearing, committee members jumped over themselves to cheerlead,” Piper said. “Now the lawmakers are not just asking tough questions, but also getting aggressive with their arguments.”

The tough questions are bipartisan, too, coming from both sides of the aisle and from both sides of the Capitol Building. I can think of a big bowl of alphabet soup’s worth of agencies I’d like to see face similar criticism…

The Most Powerful Woman in the World

July 14th, 2014 - 7:25 am

It’s earnings season for Wall Street, but the real action is at the Fed:

The other thing Wall Street loves to obsess over is the Fed and parsing every word every governor says about the state of the job market, the broader economy, inflation and any potential hint about when interest rates may begin to rise. Fed Chair Janet Yellen heads to Capitol Hill for two days of testimony before Congress Tuesday and Wednesday, and Wall Street will be watching and listening closely, especially after the minutes from the latest policy meeting sent stocks lower in the middle of this past week.

Alan Greenspan helped get us into this mess, but at least his unintelligible mumblings and indecipherable musings to Congress were designed to keep Wall Street from having any clue about his intentions, with the idea of keeping the Street’s focus on little things — like earnings.

Those days are over. Now it’s live by the Fed, die by the Fed.

Cuts Coming to Microsoft?

July 14th, 2014 - 6:21 am

That’s what some analysts are saying after reading CEO Satya Nadella’s big new memo:

“Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy,” Nadella wrote. “Organizations will change. Mergers and acquisitions will occur. Job responsibilities will evolve. New partnerships will be formed.”

Many analysts put a spotlight on those lines, and others in the same paragraph, to conclude that headcount cuts are coming.

“The focused mission Nadella articulated does not need 130,000 people. Period. There are absolutely cuts coming, and they are likely to be brutal,” said Ben Thompson, an independent analyst who covers technology on his Stratechery website (paid subscription required for Thompson’s analysis).

There’s no doubt left in my mind that Nadella is a serious CEO with big ambitions on where to take the company. The fact that this memo went public indicates that either Gates & Ballmer approve of Nadella’s ambitions, or that someone is attempting to sideline them. Either would be good news for the company.

I don’t know if there’s anything like this yet in Colorado, but California has a booming business in medical marijuana home delivery:

Needing to replenish his stash of pot one recent afternoon, the Burbank resident dialed Speed Weed. Within the hour, a driver arrived with a white paper bag carrying a gram of cannabis, 10 joints and a handful of pot-infused candies and cookies.

“They come to my house, and they’re in and out,” said Reichle, 39, a comedian who spends about $100 a week on medical marijuana. “I shouldn’t have to go to a store.”

I say this as a guy who isn’t about to pare down his martini habit, but doesn’t $100 a week sound a bit excessive? I remember what the stuff used to cost a quarter century ago and how long each purchase would last, and inflation doesn’t come anywhere near to covering the difference. I don’t see how anyone can ingest that much THC and still stand up off the sofa to go to the bathroom, much less do comedy.

That aside, the story opens by claiming that Reichle “couldn’t have gotten a pepperoni pizza much faster.” And I bet right now he’s thinking, “Mmm, pizza.”

Friday Night Videos

July 11th, 2014 - 10:18 pm

Chris Isaak released Heart Shaped World in 1989 to tepid sales. A year later, David Lynch used an instrumental version of tonight’s pick, “Wicked Game,” in his totally weird & awesome flick, Wild at Heart, with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern back when they were still both totally weird and awesome. From there the single generated enough radio play to belatedly become a monster hit, and the album topped out at #7 in 1991 — almost two years after its release. And it’s not like Wild at Heart was a runaway hit in movie theaters and everybody just had to hear that one song and became instant Chris Isaak fans.

Crazy.

Crazy until you listen the “Wicked Game” again and watch the video again. I don’t know why audiences didn’t find it the first time around, but once they did they went crazy for it.

The music is haunting. The lyric is a simple one, but equally haunting. It’s an old story which goes like this:

• Boy meets girl
• Boy knows girl will break his heart
• Boy falls for girl anyway
• Girl breaks boy’s heart
• Boy learns that knowing in advance this would happen only makes the heartbreak worse

I know the story well, having lived right through it around the time the song came out. Maybe that’s why I found it so haunting, and still do.

Here’s the part which undoes me every time:

What a wicked game to play, to make me feel this way.
What a wicked thing to do, to let me dream of you.
What a wicked thing to say, you never felt this way.
What a wicked thing to do, to make me dream of you.

And the whole album is just like that — beach music for the clinically heartbroken.

And the video? It’s a memory of a perfect day together, maybe the last one, starring Isaak, the beach, and a hauntingly beautiful (and stunningly photographed) Helena Christensen. This is one of those rare cases where the video perfectly fits the lyric which is perfectly complimented by the music.

If Heart Shaped World isn’t already part of your collection, it really ought to be.

Losing Track

July 11th, 2014 - 11:04 am

A public service from Andrew Klavan.

Non-Shocker of the Day

July 11th, 2014 - 9:40 am

Fox News:

New data from immigration courts, as well as individual testimony, indicates that many of the thousands of children undertaking a perilous journey across the U.S. border from Central America will get to stay, despite warnings to the contrary.

The Wall Street Journal reports that data, as well as interviews with the children and their advocates, show that very few children are sent home, with many being allowed to stay in the U.S. for years, if not permanently.

According to Justice Department figures seen by The Wall Street Journal, in fiscal year 2013, immigration judges ordered 3,525 children to be deported, with an additional 888 allowed to return home voluntarily. These numbers pale in comparison with the number of juveniles apprehended, amounting to between 23,000 and 47,000 children apprehended annually in each of the last five years.

The reasons for the children staying included backlogged courts, winning the right to stay, and minors simply ignoring orders to appear in court.

Anyone saying anything different is basically claiming that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

July 11th, 2014 - 8:17 am

Philip Klein warns Americans to “prepare for the next round of rate shock.” Here’s why:

The primary way is that it requires insurance plans to offer a certain raft of benefits specified by the government and to cover everybody who applies, regardless of pre-existing conditions. It then limits the amount that insurers can charge older and sicker patients relative to younger and healthier patients, driving the costs up for the latter group.

And then there’s this:

In addition, the law imposes over $100 billion in taxes on insurance plans between 2014 and 2022, and the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the taxes “would be largely passed through to consumers in the form of higher premiums for private coverage.”

Perhaps the saddest part in all this is with the insurance companies having been turned into vessels for distributing government benefits and enforcing government mandates, there’s no longer any room for innovation or disruption in the industry. Should some smart person come up with a better and cheaper way to do business, or an entirely new business model altogether, there’s no legal market for that new model or new business. It will simply die on the vine, and consumers will never know of it.

Everything goes through Washington now, which is exactly how Washington likes it.

Smiles, Everyone, Smiles

July 11th, 2014 - 6:59 am

Welcome to Plastic Fantasy Island.

Comment of the Day

July 11th, 2014 - 5:34 am

Below yesterday’s post about that Reason-Rupe poll of Millennials, Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Reader™ Faceless Commenter writes:

Well, it’s a start, but my unscientific observation IDs two problems:

1 – They don’t get the connection between their government-induced misery and their voting habits — EXCEPT

2 – on the social issues, which trump everything else.

There’s truth in this. Social issues do trump everything, which is sometimes wise but often foolish — which is why Democrats play to them so hard and so well.

And make no mistake that the GOP must court Millennials. They’re a huge cohort, easily dwarfing my own Gen X, and without significant support from them in the coming years the GOP faces political extinction. This too is truth.

Putting two and two together, and it’s obvious that the SoCons must, so to speak, privatize social conservative issues. Libertarians such as myself offered them an “out” on gay marriage by separating State and Marriage, but this was fiercely rejected by most — all too many SoCons seem to like their Big Government when it suits their ends. But if they want to enjoy any future electoral or practical successes, they’ll have to come up with creative, Millennial-friendly solutions to the issues which concern them.

Hail to the Whiner-in-Chief

July 10th, 2014 - 4:51 pm

I called it three or four years ago when I bleated like a Valley Girl, “Being President is HAAAAAAARD.”

You stay classy, Mr. President.

Losing Their Religion

July 10th, 2014 - 9:39 am

hipster-barista

Very encouraging numbers from the latest Reason-Rupe poll of Millennials and their attitudes towards government:

The Reason-Rupe report finds this skepticism of government has millennials favoring general reductions to government spending and regulations:

73 percent of millennials favor allowing private accounts for Social Security; 51 percent favor private accounts even it means cutting Social Security benefits for current and future retirees because 53 percent of millennials say Social Security is unlikely to exist when they retire

64 percent of millennials say cutting government spending by 5 percent would help the economy

59 percent say cutting taxes would help the economy

57 percent prefer a smaller government providing fewer services with low taxes, while 41 percent prefer a larger government providing more services with high taxes

57 percent want a society where wealth is distributed according to achievement

55 percent say reducing regulations would help the economy

53 percent say reducing the size of government would help the economy

The numbers aren’t great across the board. Millennials still support socking it to the rich, guaranteed food, shelter, health insurance, and college education (What’s left? –ed), hiking the minimum wage, etc.

What it looks like to me is, the Millennials love progressivism in theory, but they’ve become disillusioned with Big Government’s ability to deliver on it — or on much of anything else. And that’s not a bad place to begin winning them over to free minds and free markets.

Or as I’ve written and stated too many times to count: There’s no faster way to discredit progressivism than to enact it… but, dear lord, the cleanup.

Working for the Backdoor Wiretap Blues

July 10th, 2014 - 8:07 am

BILL

Uh-oh — Diane Feinstein is sponsoring a new cyber snooping bill:

The bill’s primary effect would be a new requirement for sharing information on “cyber threat indicators,” a vague term that could refer to anything from an ongoing hack to a vulnerability in commercial software. Once a company makes a report to the government with information about a threat indicator, CISA would require broad sharing across federal agencies, including with the NSA, which would be given a more central role in threat management under the new scheme. Companies would also be encouraged to monitor their networks to gather more information about the threat.

Advocacy groups have seized on the reporting requirements as a troubling expansion of NSA access to private networks. The Center for Democracy in Technology says the provision “risks turning the cybersecurity program it creates into a back door wiretap.” CDT also notes the bill lacks many crucial privacy protections that were included in previous cybersecurity acts. The Electronic Frontier Foundation calls the bill “fatally flawed,” and raised concerns that it would create a new pipeline of data from independent companies to the NSA.

Kill this bill. A smart Republican ought to sponsor a bill along with a few principled Democrats which would first severely curb the NSA’s domestic surveillance, then sunset the agency while ramping up its replacement. Old management would be forbidden from working for the new agency.

“I’m not interested in photo ops.”

July 10th, 2014 - 6:46 am

obama_photoop_092111

Whatever you say, man.

So Sue Me

July 10th, 2014 - 5:29 am

intel_penryn_quadcore_processor

Dear Intel,

Quit failing.

-Your friendly neighborhood VodkaPundit

PS Do you really wonder about those rumors of Apple switching to their own CPUs?

Lerner Caught Trying to Learn…

July 9th, 2014 - 1:52 pm

…how to hide emails from Congress.

Lerner-email-use-2

Sign “O” the Times

July 9th, 2014 - 1:38 pm

Tyler Durden on consumer debt:

Remember that epic spending spree that took place in March when consumers cleaned out their savings account and which resulted in a surge in March retail spending in consumer outlays? Now we know that in addition to borrowing from their savings, consumers also “charged” it, because as we reported last month, the April consumer credit soared by an unprecedented $8.8 billion, the most since 2007, and a clear outlier in recent years. April, incidentally is precisely when the credit card statements for March purchases would come due so while impressive, the surge in revolving credit wasn’t quite surprising.

However, what is perhaps more notable now that the Fed just released the May consumer credit numbers, is that the month after the March spending spree, funding largely on credit, consumers hunkered down once more, and the May increase in revolving credit was a paltry $1.8 billion, much lower than the April surge, and the lowest since February. In other words, after the spending binge, came the credit card bills, and with them, the spending hangover.

Auto sales were way up in June, too, with the additional debt that implies. As we discussed on Monday, there was an increase in the percentage of questionable auto loans, with terms as long as six or seven years. So the debt consumers didn’t add to the Visa card in May, they tried to make up for with new auto loans in June.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? The surge in part-time employment might be partially due to the fact that part-timers are cheaper and easier to get rid of, once the consumer debt merry-go-round stops spinning.

News You Can Use

July 9th, 2014 - 12:12 pm

STALKER

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

Samsung Getting Samsung’d

July 9th, 2014 - 11:07 am

Samsung’s big profits are shrinking:

Samsung has long been the giant of the smartphone market, churning out phones like there’s no tomorrow. All good things must come to an end, however, and Samsung could finally be reaching that point. For Q2 2014, Samsung profits dropped 24% from Q2 2013. While the numbers, $51.5 billion in revenue and $7.1 billion in profit, are enormous, they represent Samsung’s slowdown in the smartphone market.

Samsung, though, sent along an explanation for the drop. The Korean Won’s up-and-up improvement is making exports much harder for Samsung. An over-saturation of the market in China and Europe has also led to a large drop in demand for Samsung devices. That issue is combined with Samsung’s struggle to gain a foothold in China. Samsung’s 3G Chinese devices aren’t selling well, because most Chinese consumers are holding out for the next-gen 4G LTE devices. On top of that, Chinese companies like Xiaomi are taking off and pushing out Samsung.

Samsung has relied on big marketing dollars to push big volumes of low margin devices. This makes them especially sensitive to low-cost competitors and currency fluctuations. Or as I wrote almost exactly one year ago today, “that’s not a sustainable operating model.”

Burma Crackdown

July 9th, 2014 - 10:46 am

It’s not exactly the slow-motion disintegration of Ukraine or the reestablishment of the Caliphate, but Burma is going back to hell in an all-new handbasket. At her WaPo blog, Jen Rubin adds:

At the time, many conservatives questioned whether the United States was overdoing things, lifting sanctions too readily and frittering away leverage it would later need to insure Burma stayed on the road to reform. To a large degree that is what happened.

Hillary Clinton personally visited Burma and now President Obama plans to, even amidst the deteriorating human rights situation. The president has appeared clueless about the decline and praised his Burma policy in late May at West Point. What did he miss?

The glib answer is that he didn’t miss anything he can’t be briefed on along the back nine. The more serious answer is that our lack of leadership has allowed so many crises to erupt or fester that it’s easy for Burma to slip unnoticed back into its bad old ways, and for the Burmese government to figure they can get away with it.

We’ll see more of this kind of thing over the next two-plus years.

Sign “O” the Times

July 9th, 2014 - 9:05 am

POST

Stupid elections are just a big popularity contest, anyway.

Where the Jobs Aren’t

July 9th, 2014 - 8:08 am

Self-Serve Beer Machines

July 9th, 2014 - 7:08 am

ICE COLD BEER

They’re coming to Minnesota, natch:

Self-serve beer stations are up and running in Target Field, so Minnesota Twins fans and those who attend the Major League Baseball All-Star festivities next week can decide what they want and even how much they want of it.

The machines, called DraftServ, are a partnership between concessionaire Delaware North and Anheuser-Busch.

My first (and only) experience with beer vending machines was as a 15-year-old on a monthlong summer tour of West Germany, where I and a gang of fellow 15-year-old boys spotted one in a train station in Köln. Dropped a 1DM coin in the slot, pushed a button, and out popped a can of staggeringly bad beer — and that was by the standards of a (relatively) inexperienced drinker.

Let’s hope Twins fans get a better selection.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

July 9th, 2014 - 6:29 am

Even some Democrats are starting to give up on one of ♡bamaCare!!!’s key provisions, the employer mandate:

West Virginia Senate candidate Natalie Tennant is a rare prominent Democrat to address repeal.

“Washington should be having a serious conversation about getting rid of the so-called employer mandate. The facts show it doesn’t do much good for the workers who need it most, or help many people get insurance,” Tennant said. “The longer Washington puts off that conversation by delaying the rule instead of getting rid of it, the longer small-business owners are stuck in limbo, waiting to plan for the future or holding off on hiring that extra worker.”

The story opens with a reminder from ♡bamaCare!!! architect Jon Gruber, that “The employer mandate doesn’t have a huge impact on insurance coverage. But it does raise a lot of money.”

Remember yesterday report on how ♡bamaCare!!! was going to balloon our already-massive deficits? It looks positively panglossian with just a single day of hindsight.

The Price Tag for Terror

July 9th, 2014 - 5:21 am

The face of justice is evolving in Israel:

For decades the settlers could be depended on to be passive after a Palestinian attack, letting the Israeli police and military look for the culprit. But now the settlers are increasingly launching “price tag” counterattacks. The price tag refers to what the Palestinians must suffer for every attack on Israelis, or for Israeli police interfering with settler activities. This is vigilante justice, and it does more damage to Palestinians than Israeli police efforts to catch and prosecute Palestinian attackers. The Palestinians are not accustomed to this kind of swift payback and they do not like it. Israel has been under growing public and international pressure to crack down more vigorously on the vigilantes. This became especially urgent because the attacks are much more common, and are even extending to feuds between factions of Jewish religious extremists. The Palestinians are still committing most of the terror attacks, but the Jewish terrorists are catching up and extremists on both sides back increased violence in the hope of driving the other side out. Some extremist settler groups have long called for the expulsion of all Arabs from the West Bank and that idea is becoming more popular among settlers and Israelis in general. It’s still a minority attitude, but as more Israelis become frustrated with the relentless Arab calls for destroying Israel, extreme countermeasures appeal to more people.

Whatever you think of the actual righteousness of this “price tag” justice, it is clearly a case of the Palestinians reaping what they’ve sown for decades.

The Time for Windows Is Closing

July 8th, 2014 - 3:02 pm

BROKEN WINDOWS

Ouch:

With Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella battling to shoehorn Windows into more and more devices, the OS behemoth is forecast to swell by – er – half a percentage point from close of last year to the end of next.

Folks at Gartner told us Windows accounted for 13.96 per cent of the 2.33 billion devices shipped globally in 2013, and that they expect a dip this year to 13.7 per cent of the 2.43 billion units that will find a home. The analyst house added that the operating system is projected to climb to 14.4 per cent of the 2.59 billion PCs, smartphones, tabs and Ultrabooks estimated to be flogged in 2015.

“Microsoft is still trying to transition beyond PCs into ultra mobile and phones,” said research director Ranjit Atwal. “They are not making inroads, the volumes are still pretty small relative to the overall market.”

It’s a mobile world and Microsoft remains a desktop company.