VodkaPundit

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Götterdämmerung, Syrian Style

May 11th, 2015 - 9:32 am
An Israeli soldier sits next to a mobile artillery unit deployed in a position near the border with Syria in the Israeli controlled Golan Heights, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Sirens went off in the Golan Heights Tuesday and explosions were heard. The Israeli military said it was most likely a result of errant fire from the internal fighting in Syria. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

An Israeli soldier sits next to a mobile artillery unit deployed in a position near the border with Syria in the Israeli controlled Golan Heights, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Sirens went off in the Golan Heights Tuesday and explosions were heard. The Israeli military said it was most likely a result of errant fire from the internal fighting in Syria. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Remember those Syrian chemical weapons our Dear Leader so deftly got rid of? The ones with the vanishing red lines and the midnight deals with Moscow which made us effective guarantors of the odious Assad Regime? Yes, those chemical weapons. They’re back:

Inspectors from an international watchdog reportedly discovered traces of deadly nerve agents at a military research site in Syria, potentially bolstering evidence that contradicts President Bashar al-Assad’s denials that the country still possesses and is using chemical weapons during its ongoing civil war.

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found chemical precursors used to make the nerve agents sarin and VX in samples taken from Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre in December and January, anonymous diplomatic sources told Reuters on Friday.

Did I say they’re back? Heck, it’s like they never left!

Enough of the snark. Let’s juxtapose that Vice story with a little something from PJ’s own Richard Fernandez:

The Obama administration, presented by the regional parties with a choice of evils, ought to have retained a freedom of action in order to avoid the disaster on either hand. But having adopted the policy of “leading from behind” it limited itself to the choices on offer. Now it only has a choice of catastrophes. Ibrahim al-Amin, editor of the pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar, argued that the nuclear negotiations illustrated how Obama was deluding himself. He described how Obama forgot that conflict was often a zero-sum game.

That same delusion is dooming the administration to the role of an impotent bystander reduced to watching events unfold in Syria and Iraq. Instead of the “win-win” he confidently expected, Obama is now compelled to accept a “lose-lose” situation. Either the evil Assad regime prevails or the evil of al-Qaeda triumphs. Now all courses run ill. No one can say where this tragedy will end, but one possible outcome is the implosion of Syria and even Lebanon.

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but groups like ISIL and al Qaeda thrive there.

So it’s a good thing Assad cleared out all the chemical weapons for us, right?

Right?

Required Reading

May 11th, 2015 - 8:30 am

Salena Zito on the contrast and tension between Washington and the rest of America:

Washington isn’t just the home of the powerful seeking to make their mark, to govern, to become lobbyists, or to move up power’s ladder. It is supposed to be where all races, classes and ages can mingle, learn and view where a new republic struck a foothold in a plot of land that was mostly swamp, and set about to be more than a great experiment.

This collision — of those hopeful souls who live outside the center of power and wealth, and those who wield the power and cause the ineffectiveness — is at the crossroads of today’s populist movement, in which both parties push away from a strong federal government and toward local or state governments for solutions.

The country seems headed in two directions, at different levels.

Read the whole thing.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

May 11th, 2015 - 7:23 am
Round and round with Florida Governor Rick Scott. (AP photo)

Round and round with Florida Governor Rick Scott.
(AP photo)

As ever, Washington giveth and Washington threatens to taketh away:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, is suing Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services over plans to stop funding the state’s Low Income Pool program, which compensates hospitals for seeing uninsured patients.

Almost immediately, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced they would join the suit against HHS.

Christie Herrera, senior fellow at Florida’s free-market Foundation for Government Accountability, told Watchdog.org the Obama administration has “awakened a sleeping giant.”

“They’ve raised the ire of all these other states that are in Florida’s exact position, and that’s why you’ve seen Kansas and Texas filing amicus briefs in the lawsuit,” Herrera said during a phone interview.

FGA and other critics of Obamacare expansion have warned states not to trust promises of new federal funding — a point the Obama administration is inadvertently driving home.

Florida’s LIP, like other Medicaid waiver programs, must be periodically reauthorized by the federal government. The waiver system keeps states on a short leash and makes any meaningful state control temporary.

In the modern welfare state, once you take the Danegeld, you’ll never be rid of the Dane.

About That Jobs Report…

May 11th, 2015 - 6:14 am

Nice weekend, eh? Nearly a quarter million new jobs added and the DOW up 1.5% in a single day. Good times, good times — or not so fast, writes John Crudele:

Last week I wrote that there was an excellent chance the April report would be good, mainly because of some optimistic assumptions Labor starts making in springtime.

Indeed, that was part of the reason why the April employment figures looked decent.

First off, a gain of 223,000 jobs is just OK, not great. And that figure included a guesstimate — before seasonal adjustments — that 213,000 jobs were created by newly formed companies that Labor can’t prove really exist. Without that assumption, which comes from something called the birth/death model, the April jobs report would have been worse than March.

Do any of those 213,000 phantom jobs really exist? Considering the fact that bankruptcies soared during the first three months of this year and that this trend probably continued into April, you have to wonder if Labor should have been subtracting jobs for the “death” part of the birth/death model, instead of adding them for newborn companies.

As I’ve been writing here for ages, the birth/death model is badly broken and based on assumptions about business creation which are no longer true.

The Problem with Seymour Hersh

May 11th, 2015 - 5:14 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Seymour Hersh always generates big headlines — but all-too-often with thinly sourced stuff nobody else can (or perhaps is willing to) verify. Sometimes his single source turns out to be a liar or a fraud.

So you’ve got to take Hersh with a gain of salt or three, especially when he makes a really bold claim like this:

Author Seymour M. Hersh accuses Obama of rushing to take credit for the al Qaeda leader’s death.

This decision, Hersh argues in the London Review of Books, forced the military and intelligence communities to scramble and then corroborate the president’s version of events.

“High-level lying nonetheless remains the modus operandi of U.S. policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no,” Hersh wrote of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies.

Hersh based his report on a single, anonymous source. This individual, he said, is a “retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abottabad.”

Hersh’s source alleged that the Pakistani government had an active role in approving and implementing the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

But let’s go back to May 4, 2011 — almost exactly four years ago — and the piece I wrote on the OBL assassination’s political aftermath:

The plan for killing Osama Bin Laden was perfectly conceived and as perfectly executed as any special forces operation since Israel’s raid on Entebbe. But the follow-through has been strange at best, sometimes bordering on incompetence.

First, there was that weird burial at sea “in accordance with Islamic tradition.” There, the White House managed to annoy most everyone. There are those like me, who thought Bin Laden’s corpse was treated with too much respect, to those in the Islamic world now inflamed because it wasn’t really done properly after all.

Then there was the president’s oddly bloodless speech Sunday night. For almost ten years we’d been trying to get the guy who murdered 3,000 Americans, attacked our military HQ, and ripped the heart out of the New York City skyline. The effort spanned two continents, four or five countries, a Caribbean Navy base, and the persistent efforts of two presidents, the American intelligence community, and the best of the best of our special forces. And yet President Obama sounded as if he were announcing a “worthwhile Canadian initiative.”

Now the Administration can’t even decide whether or not to release a photo of the body. They didn’t have a PR plan in place before the killing? It must be amateur night at the White House, because what I’m hearing sounds increasingly like karaoke.

I can’t say if Hersh is up to his usual tricks or not, and you certainly wouldn’t stake the rent money on him. But given the general weirdness of everything that followed the bin Laden hit, for now I’m willing to give Hersh at least some small benefit of the doubt.

Friday Night Videos

May 8th, 2015 - 10:44 pm

The ’80s was such a great decade for Australian and New Zealand bands making it big in the US, even if sometimes just on the alt-rock scene. Nick Cave, INXS, Crowded House, The Church, the Hoodoo Gurus (tonight’s song, “What’s My Scene?”).

Hell, I’d even count Men At Work.

But not Rick Springfield or The Little River Band.

OK, sometimes maybe even Rick Springfield and The Little River Band.

And, sure, the occasional dose of Olivia Newton-John, especially the stuff she recorded after she ditched the good-girl routine. I’d love to write up “Soul Kiss” one of these Friday nights, which is just delightfully dirty, as you can probably guess from the title even if you don’t remember the song.

But I got off track. So many fun acts from Down Under in the ’80s, followed by… not much that I can find after that.

So what happened? I doubt the music scene dried up down there. Maybe our musical taste briefly converged and then diverged again. Maybe I just missed some stuff.

But part of the reason the ’80s were so awesome was the imports we got from our Aussie and Kiwi friends, and all these years I’m still grateful.

Cannibalism in the Indian Navy

May 8th, 2015 - 1:31 pm
(Image courtesy Indian Navy/Wikipedia)

(Image courtesy Indian Navy/Wikipedia)

It isn’t quite as bad as the headline suggests:

The new Russian built Indian aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, was supposed to be fully operational by mid-2014 and it was, sort of. What was missing was its primary anti-aircraft missile system; the Israeli LRSAM/Barak 8. Also missing was the short range AK-630 Russian made six-barrel 30mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS), for defense against anti-ship missiles. A year later (Vikramaditya arrived from Russia in January 2014) a temporary solution was found. A 32 year old Indian frigate is about to be retired and had an older version of Barak installed a decade ago. This Barak system will be removed and installed in Vikramaditya as will two AK-630 systems from the frigate. It will likely take at least a year to move the Barak and AK-630 systems from the Godavari class frigate to the Vikramaditya. Long range anti-aircraft missiles are a major part of the carrier air defenses and Barak 1 will do until Barak 8 is ready.

Ya do what ya gotta — and I guess it’s some small comfort that we’re far from the only country with a broken procurement system.

Her Reputation Precedes and Protects Her

May 8th, 2015 - 12:03 pm
Thinking crooked thoughts. (AP photo)

Thinking crooked thoughts.
(AP photo)

A few weeks ago I called it “the audacity of corruption,” and Peggy Noonan has had similar thoughts about what makes the Clintons the Clintons:

I wonder if any aspirant for the presidency except Hillary Clinton could survive such a book [as Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash]. I suspect she can because the Clintons are unique in the annals of American politics: They are protected from charges of corruption by their reputation for corruption. It’s not news anymore. They’re like . . . Bonnie and Clyde go on a spree, hold up a bunch of banks, it causes a sensation, there’s a trial, and they’re acquitted. They walk out of the courthouse, get in a car, rob a bank, get hauled in, complain they’re being picked on—“Why are you always following us?”—and again, not guilty. They rob the next bank and no one cares. “That’s just Bonnie and Clyde doing what Bonnie and Clyde do. No one else cares, why should I?”

They get away with it because we let them, but never forget that Hillary Clinton belongs in jail.

Show Me Your Torts

May 8th, 2015 - 10:50 am

Over at Chicks on the Right, Mockarena says she wishes she were making this up, and I wish she were, too — but no:

66-year old Sylvia Ann Driskell, from Auburn, Nebraska, has decided to sue every gay person on earth on behalf of God and His Son, Jesus.

Sylvia presented her HANDWRITTEN, 7-page petition to the US District Court of Omaha, and she’s representing herself. She is asking the court to decide whether or not homosexuality is a sin, and she’s offering all kinds of biblical reasons (Leviticus in particular) why it is. Further, she says all gay people are “liars and deceivers and thieves.”

I don’t care where you stand on homosexuality. This chick is wack.

And I can’t even believe I’m about to offer props to anyone at the Daily Kos, but Steven Payne wrote there that he and his husband would be, “liquidating our assets in preparation for a certain loss. We anticipate the restitution ordered to this woman will take us down to our very last penny. In the meantime, our fear is so great we have ceased and desisted being homosexual.’

If being fabulous is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Tank You Vedy Much

May 8th, 2015 - 9:21 am
T-14 Armata on display. (AP photo)

T-14 Armata on display.
(AP photo)

So Russia’s new main battle tank isn’t a turretless design as was supposed last month — and all the way back in the mid-’80s. The turret though is reduced in size and the crew moved outside of it, to an “armored capsule” forward of the turret. There’s no telling how it will perform in combat, but the look is thoroughly modern and historically Russian all at once.

It may also prove historically Russian in its reliability, if this story is anything to go by:

A new Russian tank announced with much fanfare as superior to Western machines stalled during a dress rehearsal for Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on Thursday.

The T-14 Armata, making only its second public appearance, ground to a halt on Red Square, opposite Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum.

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minster, was reportedly forced to approach the tank to find out what had happened; servicemen then tried to hook it up to another military vehicle and tow it away.

That attempt was unsuccessful but the tank finally moved off after an expert from the Urals factory – where it was made – took the controls, according to Alexei Zharich, the deputy general director of Uralvagonzavod, the tank’s manufacturer.

Don’t get too excited — new systems always have teething problems (see the last 1,000,006 items I’ve posted about the F-35) and usually at the most embarrassing possible time.

Florida Woman to the Rescue!

May 8th, 2015 - 8:00 am
30 minutes or your police rescue is free. (AP photo)

30 minutes or your police rescue is free.
(AP photo)

A Florida mom held hostage by her knife-wielding boyfriend came up with a brilliant plan — ordered a pizza online with a secret message for the police:

Highlands County Sheriff’s Office investigators say at 3:40 p.m. Monday an online pizza order was received by the Pizza Hut in Avon Park. Under the comments section there was a message asking them to send help and call 911 as the customer was being held hostage.

Pizza Hut employees recognized the order as being from a frequent customer, but the comments were out of the ordinary.

“We’ve never seen that before,” the restaurant’s manager, Candy Hamilton, said. “I’ve been here 28 years and never, never seen nothing like that come through.”

Deputies responded to the Pizza Hut and to the delivery location for the order.

Upon arrival at the home, deputies were greeted by Cheryl Treadway who was carrying a small child in her arms. She told deputies that her boyfriend, Ethan Nickerson, was in the home armed with a knife and that her other two children were also in the home with him. After she was escorted to safety, deputies approached the home.

Nickerson eventually surrendered himself peacefully, but there’s no word on the fate of the pizza.

Cameron Upsets Everybody

May 8th, 2015 - 6:49 am
(Map courtesy the Telegraph)

(Map courtesy the Telegraph)

How strange — Scottish voters rejected independence last year and Labour this year. Labour was virtually “wiped out” in the Scotland as voters switched the the independence-minded Scottish National Party.

The Telegraph reports:

David Cameron was this morning set to triumph in the general election as Labour was virtually wiped out in Scotland and the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed.

There was an electoral earthquake in Scotland, with Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP seeing unprecedented swings and decimating Labour north of the border.

Against all expectations, Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives picked up 22 seats and will (just barely) be able to form a government without a coalition partner in Parliament.

At Forbes, Marcel Michelson says a Conservative win may be a blow to anti-EU forces in the UK:

However, Cameron may be forced to reluctantly stay in the EU boat if he wants to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom and keep his business backers on board as well.

The latest exit poll result would mean the “Tories” do not need to find a new coalition to obtain a majority in the Lower House and could create a one-party government and strike it out on their own.

In any case, while the voters seems to have given Cameron a second term at Number 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister, they have not given a clear answer yet to whether they want to leave the European Union or not. Cameron famously said in 2013 that he would organize an “in/out” referendum on the European Union in 2017, after a period of renegotiation with the EU.

However, he made this promise based on an absolute majority for the Conservative Tory party in the 2015 parliamentary elections, against a background of a rise in support for the anti-EU UKIP party.

I’m less certain. A two-seat majority is nothing to brag about, and it isn’t like the Tory MPs are big EU supporters. If Cameron were to balk on his promised EU referendum, that could be big trouble for him in Parliament.

In any case, it was a hell of an election for the Conservatives — maybe their best since Thatcher.

The 200-Pound Mayor Test

May 8th, 2015 - 5:25 am

News You Can Use

May 7th, 2015 - 2:46 pm

dodgeball

A Maryland cop has been charged with biting another man’s testicle during a fight over a woman:

Michael Flaig, 30, was charged with assault after the fight Tuesday night in the alley behind Looney’s Pub in Baltimore’s South Linwood neighborhood.

According to the charging documents, Flaig had been fondling a woman when her friend and roommate, the alleged assault victim, intervened.

The alleged assault victim left on foot not long after but heard footsteps behind him. When he turned, he saw a fist coming at his face, according to court papers.

But the victim managed to dodge the punch, bring Flaig to the ground, and then straddle him, the court papers read.

Naturally, you can imagine what happened next.

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

Productivity on the Decline

May 7th, 2015 - 1:39 pm

Higher labor costs, lower labor outputs — that’s the situation business finds itself in right now:

The Labor Department said Wednesday that productivity, which is the amount of output per hour of work, fell at 1.9 percent rate in the first quarter. Productivity dropped at a 2.1 percent rate in the final three months of 2014.

Labor costs surged at a 5 percent rate in the first quarter, after having increased 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

Falling productivity coupled with higher labor costs are usually a negative for the economy, since it implies additional expenses without improvements in worker efficiency.

One economist quoted in the story blames the weather, but that excuse is wearing thin. I wonder if the stronger dollar isn’t behind a good chunk of the productivity losses. Overall a strong dollar is beneficial to the economy, but of course there are disruptions when it appreciates so much, so quickly.

We’ll see.

If you still harbor any doubts that our federal bureaucracy has become a privleged class, enjoying all the arbitrary powers and immunities as an agent of King George III, then this is the story to cure you of your illusions:

The Internal Revenue Service chose not to fire workers who violated tax laws in about 60% of cases over a 10-year period, according to a new report by the IRS inspector general.

IRS reform legislation adopted in 1998 said that the agency must fire any employee who violates tax laws, unless the agency decides to soften the punishment.

The new report found that over a 10-year period starting in 2003, 1,580 IRS employees were found to be willfully noncompliant with tax laws. Of that total, 620 or 39% were terminated, resigned or retired. The remaining 61% got lesser penalties such as suspensions, reprimands or counseling.

Specific violations included overstatement of expenses, claiming of a first-time homebuyer tax credit without buying a home, and failure to timely file tax returns. Some employees had “significant and sometimes repeated tax noncompliance issues, and a history of other conduct issues,” according to the report.

The report is the latest in a string of reports dinging the agency for its treatment of misbehaving employees.

The telling detail is that the IRS chose not to fire or punish these cheats, in what looks like clear violation of the 1998 reform act.

Repeal the 16th Amendment, force Washington to subsist on a diet of excise taxes, and maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to strip IRS employees of their citizenship and keep them all at Gitmo.

Pointing left. (AP photo)

Pointing left.
(AP photo)

That’s what Peter Beinart argues in this Atlantic piece:

By conventional standards, Sanders’s candidacy is absurd: He’s not well known, he doesn’t have big money donors, he’s not charismatic, and by Beltway standards, he’s ideologically extreme. But candidates with these liabilities have caught fire before. Think of Jerry Brown, who despite little funding and an oddball reputation outlasted a series of more conventional candidates to emerge as Bill Clinton’s most serious challenger in 1992. Or Pat Buchanan, who struck terror in the GOP establishment by winning the New Hampshire primary in 1996. Or Howard Dean, who began 2003 in obscurity and ended it as the Democratic frontrunner (before collapsing in the run-up to the Iowa Caucuses). Or Ron Paul, who in 2012 finished second in New Hampshire and came within three points of winning Iowa.

What did all these insurgents share? They gave authentic voice to the grievances of their time.

The real value in a Sanders campaign is what is does to Hillary Clinton’s. Does he force her to the left and outside the national election mainstream? Or by comparison does he make her appear to be the moderate middle?

Any guesses?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

May 7th, 2015 - 9:12 am

What’s a good way to reduce waste and inefficiency in costly health markets? Big government, of course! IDB has the numbers:

After spending billions on state-run ObamaCare exchanges, the federal government is only now writing clear rules on how that money can be spent, while half of the exchanges head toward bankruptcy.

state-run exchanges were supposed to form the beating heart of ObamaCare. And the Obama administration dumped almost $5 billion in an effort to make it a reality.

The results have been a disaster.

Of the 37 states that received $2.1 billion in grants to establish an exchange, only 17 did so, and they got an additional $2.7 billion from the feds.

Of those 17, two went bankrupt in the first year. One of them, Oregon, had received a $60 million “early innovator grant.” Residents of those states now use the federal Healthcare.gov site.

A memo from Health and Human Services’ Inspector General Daniel Levinson warns that some of the remaining may be violating federal law in an effort to stay afloat.

Relax. It’s just other people’s money.

Render Unto King Carbon…

May 7th, 2015 - 7:50 am

Whelp:

Today, against all expectations, the United States has overtaken the Saudis as the number one global producer of oil. Combined with rising output from Mexico and Canada, North America stands to become the dominant energy region in the world. It is a shocking transformation, and one which promises huge advantages to the U.S. China may have cheap labor, but we have cheap power.

Unless we give it away.

That’s what President Obama would like us to do; he wants the U.S. to adopt the policies of Tony Blair and other European leaders who have saddled their economies with huge tax subsidies for high-cost, low-carbon fuel and adoption of onerous efficiency measures.

The U.S. has long enjoyed low electricity prices, but that is changing thanks to Mr. Obama’s climate quest. In February, the EIA reported that the price of residential electricity rose 3.1 percent from a year ago, in spite of a 52 percent drop in the cost of natural gas. Cheap gas has kept a lid on electricity prices that otherwise would be rising as coal-burning pants close and a higher percentage comes from mandated renewables. That won’t last.

Last November, the grid operator in Texas, the Electric Reliability Council, said that the new EPA rules will cause consumer energy costs in Texas to rise by as much as 20 percent by 2020.

In Obama’s mind, it serves us right for being such a wicked country. He’s just spreadin’ our wealth around a little bit (OK, a lot) to good and decent nations like… well, I’m sure I could name one or two if I weren’t under deadline pressures.

In my mind, it serves us right for electing the Marxian creep — twice.

Freedom Is (Still) the Best Medicine

May 7th, 2015 - 6:13 am

HEAL

Not sick enough for the emergency room but can’t make it to the doctor’s office? There’s an app for that:

Heal is a smartphone app similar to the on-demand car service Uber, but instead of a car, a doctor shows up at your door. Users download the app and then type in a few details such as address and the reason for the visit. After adding a credit card and a request for a family doctor or a pediatrician, the physician arrives in 20 to 60 minutes for a flat fee of $99. Heal began in Los Angeles in February, recently expanded to San Francisco and is set to roll out in another 15 major cities this year. Heal doctors are on call from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, said Dr. Renee Dua, a founder and the chief medical officer of Heal.

Heal doctors arrive with a medical assistant and a kit stocked with the latest high-tech health gadgets, including tools needed to take your vitals or shoot high-definition video of your eardrum. Heal has a roster of doctors who have affiliations with respected hospitals and programs such as the University of California, Los Angeles; Columbia; and Stanford.

“We’re bringing back old-school techniques with new-school technology,” Dr. Dua said.

We’re in an enviable time of what I’ve been thinking of as “sidelong innovation.” Technology has empowered entrepreneurs to innovate alongside existing businesses, rather than bubbling up from underneath in the more traditional manner. The traditional model for disruptive innovation is to create an entirely new product or service competitors couldn’t imagine, or at a price they can’t match. The Apple II put computers in the hands of the masses, and cut the legs out from under IBM’s “big iron.” Windows 3.1 was the “good enough” competitor to Macintosh which ran on much cheaper hardware, undercutting Apple’s fat profit margins. Google’s Docs and Chrome OS right now threaten to slaughter Microsoft’s Office and Windows cash cows. Somewhere, someone clever is figuring out how to swipe Google’s lunch money.

Uber is a perfect example of how portable communications technology empowers sidelong innovation. Uber didn’t create its own taxi service from scratch while looking for cheaper ways to deliver the same service, or build a science fiction fleet of human delivery drones. Drones aren’t (yet) practical, and building up a nationwide taxi service would entail overcoming impossible capital requirements and regulatory hurdles. Instead, Uber created a technological means to directly and frictionlessly connect drivers with riders. The rest sprang up nearly organically, before municipalities and their crony capitalist taxi companies could do anything to stop it.

That’s not to say in some cities officials and cab companies aren’t trying to snuff out Uber. But it’s much more difficult to regulate an existing competitor out of existence — especially a popular one — than it is to stop it from coming around sidelong first place.

By design, ♡bamaCare!!! makes it more difficult for small private practices and smaller insurance companies to compete against massive hospital and insurance conglomerates. Big Government and Big Business love getting in bed together, and hideous offspring is always a bloated mess of poor, but expensive, services. The President’s promise to “eliminate waste and paperwork” was code for “creating so much new waste and paperwork that only the biggest (and best-connected) can hope to compete.”

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The Triumph of Experience Over Hope

May 7th, 2015 - 5:25 am

In this AP photo, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook is seen desperately trying to quiet the overenthusiastic masses at a recent campaign rally.

In this AP photo, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook is seen desperately trying to quiet the overenthusiastic masses at a recent campaign rally.

Clinton campaign chief Robby Mook doesn’t seem to be worried about his boss’s ability to mobilize the Obama Coalition in 2016:

“That coalition of voters that was so strong for Obama, including young people, we’re seeing in the polling and as Hillary is out campaigning, they’re on board,” Robby Mook told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Voters are looking for a president who will be a champion for everyday people, Mook said. For young voters, that means creating the conditions that will allow them to get a college education without taking on debt and find employment after graduation, he added.

For seniors, it means standing up for Social Security and Medicare, two entitlement programs Clinton has a track record of protecting, Mook said.

All that “enthusiasm” explains why Clinton has been campaigning in tiny venues like private homes, and why she polls best among millionaires and billionaires.

Sign “O” the Times

May 6th, 2015 - 1:00 pm

GALLUP

Consumer confidence drops sharply in new Gallup poll:

Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index was -9 for the week ending May 3 — its lowest weekly score since December. This reflects a six-point decline from the previous week, and is the largest week-to-week drop since last July.

After falling from the high points in January and February this year, the index had barely moved in the previous six weeks. It had wavered between -3 and -4 since late March, before dropping last week. This included an average of -3 for all of April. And nearly all weekly readings in 2015 prior to now had been close to zero, with little week-to-week change.

Even after last week’s sharp decline, the index’s latest figure is well above most readings Gallup recorded from 2008 to 2014.

Gas prices are a delightful and obvious bright spot for consumers, one we get reminded of every time we fill up the tank. Yet even that isn’t enough to stop the slide.

News You Can Use

May 6th, 2015 - 11:39 am
(Image courtesy DNAinfo)

(Image courtesy DNAinfo)

Here’s the weirdest case I’ve ever seen of adding insult to injury:

Police say a Chicago man robbed a Subway sandwich shop with a knife, and then crossed the street and bought a sandwich at Subway’s competitor, Potbelly, where he was arrested.

Fredrick Warren, 43, was still eating his Potbelly sandwich when police arrived just before 5 p.m. on April 26, police said.

Investigators caught Warren’s trail by watching Loyola University Police surveillance video, according to Chicago and Loyola police departments.

It showed Warren walking south down Sheridan Road, crossing the street and then walking back north to Potbelly at 6464 N. Sheridan Road, police said.

There was no sign of him leaving the Potbelly, so they went inside and found him eating near the back of the shop, his gold coat draped over his seat, police said.

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

Former UN SecGen: Eat Bugs, Peasant

May 6th, 2015 - 10:28 am
Kofi Annan in 2014, looking well fed. (AP photo)

Kofi Annan in 2014, looking well fed.
(AP photo)

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has a tasty way to beat global warming:

In an interview with The Guardian, Annan called the global livestock industry “a major threat to the climate” and suggested insects as an alternative protein source to meat.

“Eating insects is good for the environment and balanced diets,” he said.

Annan told The Guardian that the growing population and middle class are making it more difficult to meet meat demands.

“It represents 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,” he said.

You first, Kofi.

Iowans Burn Bush

May 6th, 2015 - 9:18 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Scott Walker has a comfortable early lead with Iowa GOP voters, which isn’t a huge surprise given he’s been governor of neighboring Wisconsin and making national news there in a positive way. But the new Quinnipiac polls gets really interesting further down:

In the scramble for second place are U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 13 percent each, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 12 percent and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 11 percent. Physician Ben Carson has 7 percent, with 5 percent for Bush. No other candidate is above 3 percent and 6 percent are undecided.

Bush tops the list at 25 percent, followed by New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie with 20 percent, when likely Republican Caucus participants are asked if there is any candidate they would definitely not support.”

Bush’s name and money haven’t bought him much love in Iowa.

Religion of Peace Update

May 6th, 2015 - 8:20 am

DRUDGE

I’m sure the feminists will be up in virtual arms against ISIS now that the self-proclaimed Caliphate has declared war against one woman:

ISIS appeared to declare war on right-wing blogger Pamela Geller Tuesday in an ominous online message claiming it has fighters across America ready to attack “any target we desire.”

The threat, posted on JustPasteIt, singles out Geller, who helped plan a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas over the weekend, which was attacked by two gunmen. ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting early Tuesday in a radio broadcast, making it the first time the terror group called an American attack one of its own.

The chilling Tuesday post also boasts of ISIS having “71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack,” specifically naming only Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan and California.

It’s impossible not to notice that they didn’t name Texas.

And of course I’m kidding about the feminists. They’ve become little more than toadies and suckups to anything anti-conservative, anti-liberty, and anti-individual.

Meanwhile, here’s how a genuinely strong and independent woman behaves:

Breitbart News: Are you planning another free speech event in the near future?

Pamela Geller: Yes, but we have no concrete plans as of yet.

Undaunted and undeterred by a tribal group of violent misogynists. So-called feminists could learn a lot from Geller.

Of Mousetraps and Men

May 6th, 2015 - 7:35 am

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

May 6th, 2015 - 6:28 am

After 123 years, Assurant Health will close its doors, unable to turn a profit under ♡bamaCare!!!’s loving strictures:

The company and industry watchers blamed its losses directly on the impact of Obamacare. Following implementation of the requirements to participate in the ACA exchanges, Assurant lost $63.7 million in 2014. The insurer raised its rates by 20 percent in 2015, in hopes of returning to profitability, but lost between $80 to $90 million during the first quarter of this year.

Assurant currently provides plans for approximately 1 million people, with a revenue of about $2 billion.

“In a letter to its shareholders, [the company] said it lost money because of a reduction in recoveries under Obamacare’s risk mitigation programs and increased claims on the health care law’s 2015 policies,” the Daily Signal reports.

“It’s significant,” Andrew Edelsberg, a vice president of the rating agency A.M. Best, told The Daily Signal of how Obamacare affected Assurant Health. “It’s impacted the industry.”

Ed Haislmaier, health policy expert at The Heritage Foundation, says that government intervention in the healthcare market is having the predictable effect of pushing private companies out of business.

Smaller companies simply can’t compete against the big ones when innovation is outlawed by government regulation.

Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Hillary is from an episode of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century." (AP photo)

Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Hillary is from an episode of “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.”
(AP photo)

If there’s one thing the Clintons understand, it’s that you can’t make crony capitalists without cronies. Case in point:

Boeing gave heavily to the Clinton Foundation after Hillary Clinton helped it secure a major deal with a Russian airline in 2009, author Pete Schweizer noted in his book, Clinton Cash.

The company was also involved in funding one of Clinton’s pet projects at the State Department after the agency reportedly brushed aside ethical guidelines to secure a $2 million contribution.

Schweizer notes a $900,000 donation from Boeing to the Clinton Foundation came on the heels of a multibillion dollar contract between the Russian government and the aerospace behemoth.

Bill Clinton likes to say his family foundation did nothing “knowingly inappropriate.” That was difficult to swallow on Monday, and impossible to swallow after reading the latest from Pete Schweizer.

Hillary Clinton, who belongs in jail, claims she deleted 32,000 official emails about yoga class.