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ANDREW MCCARTHY: In Politicized Justice Department, Desperate Times Call for Disparate Measures.

It has now been confirmed that the Trump campaign was subjected to spying tactics under counterintelligence law — FISA surveillance, national-security letters, and covert intelligence operatives who work with the CIA and allied intelligence services. It made no difference, apparently, that there was an ongoing election campaign, which the FBI is supposed to avoid affecting; nor did it matter that the spy targets were American citizens, as to whom there is supposed to be evidence of purposeful, clandestine, criminal activity on behalf of a foreign power before counterintelligence powers are invoked.

But what was the rationale for using these spying authorities?

The fons et origo of the counterintelligence investigation was the suspicion — which our intelligence agencies assure us is a fact — that the Democratic National Committee’s server was hacked by covert Russian operatives. Without this cyber-espionage attack, there would be no investigation. But how do we know it really happened? The Obama Justice Department never took custody of the server — no subpoena, no search warrant. The server was thus never subjected to analysis by the FBI’s renowned forensics lab, and its evidentiary integrity was never preserved for courtroom presentation to a jury.

How come? Well, you see, there was an ongoing election campaign, so the Obama Justice Department figured it would be a terrible imposition to pry into the Democrats’ communications. So, yes, the entire “Russia hacked the election” narrative the nation has endured for nearly two years hinges on the say-so of CrowdStrike, a private DNC contractor with significant financial ties to the Clinton campaign.

In Investigations 101, using foreign-intelligence authorities to spy on Americans is extraordinary, while taking custody of essential physical evidence is basic. By the way, the government’s failure to ensure the evidentiary integrity of the DNC server by taking possession of it and performing its own rigorous testing on it makes it practically impossible to prosecute anyone for “colluding” in Russia’s cyber-espionage. It’s tough to prove that anyone conspired in something unless you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the something actually happened the way you say it happened. To do that in a courtroom, you need evidence — a confident probability analysis by your intelligence agencies won’t do.

They covered for Hillary. They spied on Trump, and then when he unexpectedly won they panicked. Now, you’ll notice, all the mad leaking to the NYT and the WaPo is defensive in nature: Smoke-blowing to try to cover their tracks. In fact a lot of people involved in this should be in jail, and I’m beginning to think some of them might actually wind up going to jail.

JONATHAN SWIFT IN A WHITE SUIT:

In 1965 Tom Wolfe visited Princeton University for a panel discussion of “the style of the Sixties.” The author of The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, published that year, was scheduled to appear alongside Günter Grass, Allen Ginsberg, and Paul Krassner. Grass spoke first. The German novelist’s remarks, Wolfe wrote later, “were grave and passionate. They were about the responsibility of the artist in a time of struggle and crisis.” And they were crudely dismissed by Krassner. “The next thing I knew,” Wolfe wrote, “the discussion was onto the subject of fascism in America.”

Wolfe was flummoxed, Grass silent as their co-panelists described the nightmares and injustices taking place outside the hall. “Suddenly,” Wolfe recollected, “I heard myself blurting out over my microphone: ‘My God, what are you talking about? We’re in the middle of a … Happiness Explosion!”

That was not what the crowd wanted to hear. A “tidal wave of rude sounds” drowned out Wolfe. But he found an unexpected ally in Grass, who spoke up once more. “For the past hour I have had my eyes fixed on the doors here,” he said. “You talk about fascism and police repression. In Germany when I was a student, they came through those doors long ago. Here they must be very slow.”

How little our intellectual climate has changed between that evening in the sixties and Wolfe’s death on May 14.

“Progressivism” – where time stands still.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Blackouts, hyperinflation, hunger: Maduro faces reelection as Venezuela deteriorates.

Since Maduro took over from Hugo Chávez — his mentor, who died in 2013 — Venezuela’s crisis has steadily intensified as a result of lower oil prices, corruption and a socialist system plagued with mismanagement. But as Maduro has sought to further consolidate power in the past 12 months, the economy, public services, security and health care have all but collapsed.

Armed gangs and Colombian guerrilla groups are operating unchecked on Venezuela’s borders. Pro-government militias are terrorizing urban areas, while police stand accused of extrajudicial killings. Four of the 10 most dangerous cities in the world are now in Venezuela, according to a 2017 study by the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think tank that studies violence.

Hundreds if not thousands of members of the armed forces are deserting, in part because of meager rations, according to military analysts. Power and water grids and the transportation systems are breaking down. In just the first three months of the year, Venezuela suffered 7,778 blackouts.

Saddled with a soaring inflation rate that has put food out of reach, Venezuelans, weakened and thin, are getting extraordinarily sick. Doctors say cases of diseases once thought largely eradicated — malaria, diphtheria, measles and tuberculosis — are not only resurfacing but surging.

In a nation that lives off oil, production is collapsing as plants break down and the bankrupt government cannot fix equipment. Venezuela’s unpaid creditors are beginning to tighten the financial noose, going after the country’s offshore assets.

[The Venezuelan oil industry is on a cliff’s edge. Trump could tip it over.]

At the state oil giant, 25,000 workers — more than a quarter of its staff — quit last year in a mass exodus. Fleeing workers are joining a flood of humanity, at least 5,000 people a day, exiting the country. The outflow has left schools without teachers, hospitals without doctors and nurses, and utilities without electricians and engineers.

“A failed state is one that cannot meet the most basic functions of government,” said Jean Paul Leidenz, an economist at Ecoanalítica, a Caracas-based analytical firm. “Venezuela now certainly has that characteristic.”

Unexpectedly.

And without comment from Bernie Sanders, Sean Penn, Michael Moore, et al.

The media seem finally to be taking serious note, usually framed around the upcoming election. One suspects they want to see Maduro go because he’s making Leftism look so bad.

UNEXPECTEDLY: I Wrote a Post Critical of Twitter’s New Rules — Guess What Happened Next.

CHANGE: From Iraq to Yemen: Israel’s Eurovision Entry Draws Unexpected Support From the Arab World. Anything is possible in the Age Of Trump, it seems.

I’M FROM THE GOVERNMENT AND I’M HERE TO HELP YOU: New Research Reinforces Earlier Studies Suggesting PDMPs Are Adding to Opioid Overdose Rate.

A study published last year by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University found that state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), a popular method used to drive down the opioid prescription rate, do not drive down opioid overdose death rates, but might have the unintended consequence of adding to them, by driving users to the underground market where dangerous drugs like fentanyl and heroin await them. Another study last October by a Purdue University researcher found that while PDMPs drove down the prescription rate of oxycodone, they significantly drove up the rate of heroin use.

Yesterday the Annals of Internal Medicine published a systematic research review by Columbia University epidemiologist David Fink and others that drew the same conclusion. The authors stated, “Evidence that PDMP implementation either increases or decreases nonfatal or fatal overdoses is largely insufficient, as is evidence regarding positive associations between specific administrative features and successful programs.” They added, “implementation of PDMPs may have unintended negative outcomes—namely, increased rates of heroin-related overdose.”

Meanwhile, all 50 states have implemented PDMPs and state and federal policymakers seem focused on beefing them up. This is driven by the mistaken belief that the opioid overdose rate is primarily the result of doctors over-prescribing opioids to patients. As I have written numerous times, the overdose crisis is primarily a product of drug prohibition, as non-medical users access drugs in the dangerous black market.

Unexpectedly!

WAIT, THATS NOT THE NARRATIVE: April was best month in history for U.S. budget, according to CBO figures.

The federal government took in a record tax haul in April en route to its biggest-ever monthly budget surplus, the Congressional Budget Office said, as a surging economy left Americans with more money in their paychecks — and this more to pay to Uncle Sam.

All told the government collected $515 billion and spent $297 billion, for a total monthly surplus of $218 billion. That swamped the previous monthly record of $190 billion, set in 2001.

CBO analysts were surprised by the surplus, which was some $40 billion more than they’d guessed at less than a month ago.

Analysts said they’ll have a better idea of what’s behind the surge as more information rolls in, but for now said it looks like individual taxpayers are paying more because they have higher incomes.

Unexpectedly!

UNEXPECTEDLY! U.S. unemployment rate falls to 3.9 percent — lowest since 2000.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Whisky shops in England braced for Scottish booze cruisers as minimum alcohol pricing hits.

Whisky shops in Berwick and Carlisle are preparing for Scottish drinkers on booze cruises after the introduction of minimum pricing.

Industry experts have warned the new rules will mean drinkers may cross the border in search of cheaper alcohol.

At midnight tonight, new pricing rules to discourage problem drinking will increase the prices of alcohol in Scotland.

Shops in England are already preparing for the surge in Scottish customers by increasing stock of whisky, other spirits and beer.

The law will affect lower-end whisky, as it is the less expensive brands which will be hit by the minimum alcohol pricing, with price per unit set at 50p.

This means that 70cl bottle of whisky (28 units of alcohol) could not be sold for less than £14.

The House of Malt in Carlisle is hoping to cash in on the minimum alcohol pricing ruling. The shop specialises in high-end whiskys but is expanding its lower-end range for Scots hoping to buy cheap booze.

Hordes of angry Scotsmen driving south into England in search of cheap booze — what could go wrong?

UNEXPECTEDLY! Facebook Investigating Claim That Employee Used ‘Privileged Access’ to Cyber-Stalk Women.

NOTHING’S IMPOSSIBLE: Oil Hedge Fund Manager Says $300 Oil ‘Not Impossible.’

Pierre Andurand, one of oil’s most prominent hedge fund managers, said the current reluctance of energy companies to invest in new production meant $300 a barrel was “not impossible” within a few years.

Andurand, who’s often espoused bullish views, said in a series of tweets on Sunday that concern about the impact of electric vehicles on future demand was limiting investment in projects with long lead times.

“So paradoxically these peak demand fears might bring the largest supply shock ever,” he wrote. “If oil prices do not rise fast enough, $300 oil in a few years is not impossible.”

The hedge fund manager, who runs oil-focused Andurand Capital Management LLP, also went against the conventional view that triple-digit oil prices will dampen demand growth.

“So no, $100 oil will not kill the economy,” he wrote. “And we need +$100 oil to encourage enough investments outside of the U.S.”

A spokesman for Andurand declined to comment on the tweets, which were later removed from Andurand’s Twitter account.

His comments on demand echo those of Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih, who earlier this month suggested that prices could rise further from their current level close to $75 a barrel without doing economic damage.

Left unsaid is that the cure for $300 oil is $300 oil.

In the meantime, American frackers are encountering unexpected hurdles ramping up production to catch $75 oil, which might be making the market seem worse than it actually is.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Americans Have Little Confidence in Grads’ Readiness for Work, College, according to Gallop poll.

Who could have seen this one coming?

HEADLINES FROM 1972: Film and TV workers take aim at Nixon for criticizing tax breaks.

Cynthia Nixon’s platform for governor is a show stopper to these furious film and TV industry workers who used to share a set with her.

The “Sex and the City” actress and Democratic candidate for guv was blasted by production crew and small businesses after she bashed a big film industry tax break that helped earn her fat paychecks.

“If you had your way you would bring production to a halt, causing long term damage to the New York economy, and more personally, you would take away our livelihoods,” 40 vendors and crew workers with New Yorkers for TV & Film Jobs wrote in an open letter to Nixon defending the $420 million program.

On the one hand, it’s fascinating to watch a mass of Hillary supporting leftists rally to support a tax break.* On the other, it’s good to see Glenn’s “Repeal the Hollywood Tax Cuts” mantra finding “unexpected” east coast support.

 * As Robert Conquest stated in his First Law of Politics, “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.”

UNEXPECTEDLY! U.S. economy grew faster than expected in first quarter, the first since Trump’s tax cuts.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Broward County Scott Sheriff Israel defiant after 534-94 no confidence vote by his deputies.

UNEXPECTEDLY! Bush-bashing professor has Fresno State scrambling to keep its donors.

I WAS TOLD THIS WAS IMPOSSIBLE: Congressional Budget Office: Trump Tax Cuts Are Boosting Growth And Mostly Paying For Themselves. “Last June, the CBO said GDP growth for 2018 would be just 2%. Now it figures growth will be 3.3% — a significant upward revision. It also boosted its forecast for 2019 from a meager 1.5% to a respectable 2.4%.”

UPDATE: Unexpectedly! “Those who lack any understanding of how the world works are continually surprised.”

UNEXPECTEDLY: Chris Wallace Surprised At ‘How Bitchy’ Comey’s Book Is.

MAKE TRADE DEALS GREAT AGAIN: Trump Asks Advisers to Study Rejoining Pacific Trade Pact Talks.

Mr. Trump has deputized Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, and Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, to study the possibility of re-entering the TPP if the terms were favorable, the president told a group of lawmakers on Thursday.

The president’s new openness toward the TPP, which he had said during his campaign was a deal “pushed by special interests who want to rape our country,” comes as he is facing criticism from farmers for his escalating trade battle with China. After Mr. Trump took aim at China with new steel and aluminum tariffs, Beijing responded by announcing it would place penalties on a list of agricultural products that would affect swaths of the president’s political base.

Mr. Trump was meeting with lawmakers from states that rely on agriculture when he made the comments about the TPP. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who was in the meeting, said he believed Mr. Trump was serious about his interest in re-entering the trade pact.

“That’s really good news for America,” Mr. Sasse said.

Well that was unexpected.

UNEXPECTED HEADLINES: Marijuana Stocks Spike After Ex-House Speaker John Boehner Joins Cannabis Company Board.

SCIENCE: Study: Topical antibiotic triggers unexpected antiviral response.

UNEXPECTEDLY: California’s Legal Weed Is So Heavily Taxed and Regulated That the Black Market Might Survive.

THAT WAS UNEXPECTED: Show Trial Ends in Acquittal for Russian Activist Yuri Alexeyevich Dmitriev.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Nets Skimp on YouTube Shooter’s Animal Rights Extremism.

Say it with me:

JOE PAPPALARDO: Hollywood Has No Idea How Nukes Work.

Related: The Unexpected Return of ‘Duck and Cover.’

SMASH ALL THE STATUES! AIRBRUSH ALL THE HISTORY! Michael Graham: It turns out the crazy rednecks were right! ALL history has to come down.

Unexpectedly.

And if you missed yesterday: “‘Is there a difference between honoring McKinley and Robert E. Lee?’ the mayor [of Arcata, CA], Sofia Pereira, who was part the majority, said in a recent interview. ‘They both represent historical pain.’”

UNEXPECTEDLY: Cultural-Marxist Left Doesn’t Like Term ‘Cultural Marxism,’ Michael Walsh writes.

Read the whole thing.

DISPATCHES FROM THE INTERSECTION OF 21st CENTURY RELATIONSHIPS AND NAME THAT PARTY: “A grand jury Thursday indicted Bryon Hefner, the husband of [state] Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg, on multiple charges of sexual assault, criminal lewdness, and distributing nude photographs without consent,” the Boston Globe reports, “unexpectedly” omitting Rosenberg’s party affiliation.

UNEXPECTEDLY: IS HE FOR REAL? DAVID HOGG HAD CHANCE TO TAKE THE HIGH ROAD WITH LAURA INGRAHAM AND ROYALLY BLEW IT.

It’s almost as old as Ezra Klein thinks the Constitution is, but Hogg might want to watch Elia Kazan’s cautionary 1957 film A Face in the Crowd a few times. He’s the boy band version of Lonesome Rhodes.

UNEXPECTEDLY: DNC Chairman Equates Census Citizenship Question to Voter Suppression.

CHANGE: Gun maker Remington files for bankruptcy.

But there’s a silver lining:

The Journal reported that the gun industry is facing low demand and high stock after Donald Trump’s unexpected election to the presidency in 2016. According to the paper, firearms manufacturers boosted output in the run-up to the election, expecting that a Hillary Clinton victory would lead to a boost in sales ahead of tighter gun laws.

It’s a buyers’ market.

WELL, GOOD: Viagra Turns Out to Have a Totally Unexpected Side Effect That Could Save Thousands of Lives. “Researchers studying the effects of Viagra (aka sildenafil) on mice have discovered a small, daily dose of the medication in the animals’ drinking water significantly reduces their risk of developing colorectal cancer.”

NICK GILLESPIE: Hillary Clinton, Not Donald Trump or Cambridge Analytics, Is Gaslighting America: When can we as a country admit that the “most-qualified candidate in history” lost the 2016 election and get on with living our lives?

nstead of nailing down every electoral vote in less-glamorous precincts, the Clinton campaign spent time raising money and running up popular vote counts in California and New York (she won the popular vote by about 3 million). The same take-it-for-granted attitude that led to her loss was on brazen display in her recent comments to an Indian audience, where she explained “I won the places that represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product… I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward…. We don’t do well with married, white women…and part of that is an identification with the Republican Party, and a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.”

Whenever an election is unexpectedly close, there will always be weird things that crop up to “explain” the result. But just as with George W. Bush’s razor-thin victory in 2000, the real question isn’t what put the underdog over the top but how the hell the odds-on favorite managed to squander such a lead. In 2000, Bush didn’t win so much as Al Gore lost. So it is with 2016: Trump didn’t win as much as Hillary Clinton did everything possible to lose. And now we are paying for her loss by being treated to an endless procession of explanations that will take the measure of every possible reason except for her own incompetence, arrogance, and sense of entitlement.

The literal insanity coming from our alleged best-and-brightest in the wake of the 2016 election (undiminished in 2018!) is proof that our ruling class is unfit to rule.

BYRON YORK: House GOP delivers blow to Trump-Russia collusion story. Will others follow?

It has long been the key question of the Trump-Russia affair: Did Donald Trump’s presidential campaign collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election? Now, we have the first official, albeit partisan, answer.

“We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” said Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee Monday as they released findings from a 14-month Trump-Russia investigation.

GOP Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who formally oversaw the committee probe, said, “We found perhaps bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment in taking meetings.” But no collusion.

Committee investigators looked at the events often cited as evidence of collusion. They looked at the June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Donald Trump Jr. and other top campaign officials talked to a group of Russians who promised, but did not deliver, damaging information on Hillary Clinton. They looked at the activities of peripheral Trump advisers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page. They looked at the allegations in the Trump dossier. They looked at all that, and they could not find a thread connecting events into a narrative of collusion.

“Only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, or meetings, whatever, and weave that into a some sort of fictional page-turner spy thriller,” Conaway said. “But we’re not dealing with fiction, we’re dealing with facts. And we found no evidence of any collusion, of anything that people were actually doing, other than taking a meeting they shouldn’t have taken or inadvertently being in the same building.”

The collusion question is the most contentious of the Trump-Russia investigation. Some Democrats have long said we know enough now to prove collusion. Indeed, just last month, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said, “There is already, in my view, ample evidence in the public domain on the issue of collusion if you’re willing to see it.”

When Republicans released their findings, though, Schiff did not mention collusion. . . .

Would-be believers in collusion could suffer another disappointment later this year when the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee releases its report. Shortly after the House findings were made public, the chairman of that committee, Sen. Richard Burr, told CNN he has not seen evidence of collusion in the more than a year his committee has been looking for it.

It’s as if the whole thing was invented out of whole cloth, to keep the Democrats’ troops riled up after Hillary’s unexpected and humiliating defeat.

PALLYWOOD, THE SEQUEL: Richard Landes at Second Draft: demonstrating how the MSM contributes to the Palestinian cause by hiding reality (video).

“Unexpectedly,” the MSM and reality have been mutually exclusive terms for quite some time now.

UNEXPECTEDLY: The projected cost of California’s bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles has jumped to $77 billion and the opening date has been pushed back four years to 2033, according to a business plan released Friday.

Sportswriter Scott Criscione tweets, “According to math at that price it’ll be roughly 201-Million dollars per mile. Someone is pulling off the greatest heist of all time.”

It’s the graft inherent in “The Desire Named Streetcar”  taken to its most extreme.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Washington Post Writer Advocates for Outright Socialism.

A little late, isn’t she? In early 2009, a publication then-owned by the Washington Post assured me that we were already all socialists.

In the February 16 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands February 9), “We Are All Socialists Now,” Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas observe that the America of 2009 has become a more socialist country, and the shift began not under a Democrat but a Republican. Plus: how the United States is turning European; the draw of gangs in L.A.; the blackberry president; why Americans don’t hate the rich; and an interview with the Prime Minister of Pakistan. (PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK) (Newscom TagID: prnphotos078747) [Photo via Newscom]

NO. NEXT QUESTION? Is Islam the Solution for Wayward Youth? “If young Muslims in Western countries who get involved in juvenile crimes stop what they’re doing and become observant in Islam, authorities should breathe a sigh of relief, no? That’s what Australian authorities encouraged recently. Things didn’t work out quite the way they had hoped.”

Unexpectedly.

EURABIA: ‘Hair-Raising’: Sharia Law Makes Its Debut in Swedish Court.

In a landmark case, the Solna District Court has acquitted an Iraqi man suspected of abusing wife by pushing her against furniture, pulling her hair and hitting her face with a shoe. The court called the credibility of the woman’s testimony into question, stressing her “lowly” parentage, the daily newspaper Aftonbladet reported.

In addition to stressing that the man “came from a good family,” unlike the woman, the court ruled that the fact that the woman turned to the police instead of the husband’s family “further” undermined her credibility. According to the court, “the normal thing” to do “in these circles” would be to try and resolve the conflict within the family.

The ruling, adopted by a divided court, triggered an immediate response from Sweden’s legal circles.

“This is one of the most prejudiced and strange judgments I have read. Not completely unexpectedly dictated by two lay judges. Still no one in charge who wants to do something about the lay judge system?” former Swedish Bar Association president Bengt Ivarsson tweeted.

​Prosecutor Josefine Dahlqvist appealed the ruling straight away, claiming that the ruling violated the foundations of Sweden’s legal system.

Of course it did — that was the entire point.

And I still think we need a word for cultural self-genocide.

UNEXPECTEDLY. New York Times: If GOP Wins Midterms, Democrats Will Rage at Russian Meddling.

I miss the good old days, when the Democrats simply blamed “right wing media bias” for their midterm losses.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Boston Globe: The Nation’s Toughest Gun Control Law Made Massachusetts Less Safe.

UNEXPECTEDLY: “We Don’t Belong Here Anymore” — Even Landlords Are Fleeing The Bay Area.

WHAT’S THIS? CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS REJECT FEINSTEIN’S RE-ELECTION BID: Yes, Dianne Feinstein, the former San Francisco mayor, has been a U.S. Senator from California since Bill Clinton was in the White House, but she’s not sufficiently “progressive” for the Democrats in 2018? Kathryn Blackhurst of LifeZette counts the unexpected numbers.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Hollywood Enters Gun Debate to Get Its Virtue-Signaling Back.

CAKEWALK SONAR LIVES — BANDLAB TECHNOLOGIES ACQUIRES CAKEWALK BRAND FROM GIBSON:

[Updated at 17.20pm GMT to reflect CEO Meng Kuok’s statement about not charging existing SONAR customers again for cross-grades and also BandLab’s hiring of Cakewalk personnel]

BandLab Technologies — the company behind social music platform BandLab, as well as Rolling Stone magazine, Mono cases, Harmony Guitars and more — have today announced the acquisition of certain assets and the complete set of intellectual property of Cakewalk Inc. from Gibson Brands.

CEO of BandLab Technologies, Meng Ru Kuok said, “The teams at both Gibson and BandLab felt that Cakewalk’s products deserved a new home where development could continue. We are pleased to be supporting Cakewalk’s passionate community of creators to ensure they have access to the best possible features and music products under the BandLab Technologies banner.”

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for Sonar users since November 2017 when previous owners Gibson unexpectedly announced that they were ceasing development of the popular Windows-based DAW. This latest news will come as a huge relief to those who rely on Sonar and other Cakewalk products such as the Z3TA +2 and Rapture Pro synths. There’s every reason to be optimistic about the future of Sonar after this announcement. BandLab have past form in acquiring and developing audio technologies — something they’ve done already with AudioStretch, an iOS app that slows down audio and video without any change to pitch for transcription and music learning.

As someone who has used Sonar as my primary digital audio workstation software since around 2000, for music, podcasts, and PJM’s late, lamented Sirius-XM show, I was genuinely stunned when Gibson unceremoniously pulled the plug on Cakewalk right around Thanksgiving of last year, after acquiring the company in 2013. I don’t know anything about BrandLab other than what is reported above, but I’m glad somebody bought the Cakewalk brand, which dates back to 1987.

Related: Speaking of Gibson, “S&P lowered its rating for Gibson to CCC-minus, from the already very low rating of CCC. S&P says a CCC-minus rating indicates that a default is imminent,” CNN reports, adding, “The company has $145 million in outstanding bank loans that will come due on July 23 and another $377 million of outstanding secured notes maturing on August 1. ‘With multiple maturities looming and operating weakness ongoing, we believe Nashville-based Gibson Brands could default on its debt obligations over the next six months,’ said S&P in a report from analyst Francis Cusimano Jr.”

YES, HEADS SHOULD ROLL FOR FAILURE: John Fund: End the 9/11 Syndrome at the FBI: Terrible Things Happen, and There’s Little Accountability.

In the wake of the Florida school shooting, can we now have a real conversation about what is wrong with the FBI?

Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County public defender whose office is representing Nikolas Cruz, the suspect in the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., puts it bluntly:

This kid exhibited every single known red flag, from killing animals to having a cache of weapons to disruptive behavior to saying he wanted to be a school shooter. If this isn’t a person who should have gotten someone’s attention, I don’t know who is. This was a multi-system failure.

Specifically, the FBI admits that it received two separate tips about Cruz. Last fall, a frequent YouTube vlogger noticed an alarming comment left on one of his videos. “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” said a user named Nikolas Cruz. The vlogger alerted the FBI and was interviewed. But the agency subsequently claimed its investigators couldn’t locate Cruz, despite the highly unusual spelling of his first name.

Then, just six weeks ago, a person close to Cruz warned a call taker on the FBI’s tip line that the expelled student had a desire to kill and might attack a school. The bureau said that the information was not passed to agents in the Miami office. Florida governor Rick Scott has called for FBI director Christopher Wray to be fired. So has NRO’s Kevin Williamson in a powerful piece: “Fire the FBI Chief.” Other officials are calling for FBI heads to roll, but at a level below Wray’s. Florida attorney general Pam Bondi told Fox News, “The people who had that information and did not do anything with it, they are the ones that need to go.” . . .

Nor is the Parkland shooting the first time the FBI has fallen down on its most basic job: assessing threats and acting on them. Look at what has happened just in Florida in the last two years. FBI agents investigated as a suspect the man who gunned down 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, but concluded the agency couldn’t act against him. The FBI also had an unexpected visit from the mentally ill man charged with killing five people at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport last year. He had walked into an FBI field office and made bizarre, though not threatening, statements.

Of course there should be a housecleaning at the FBI. But there is a larger issue. I call it America’s 9/11 Syndrome. I was across the street from the World Trade Center the day the terrorists flew two planes into it. I will never forget what I saw that day, including people holding hands jumping from the burning towers before they collapsed and killed 2,606 people.

I retain a mixture of feelings about that day, ranging from deep sadness to pride that my fellow New Yorkers played against stereotypes and helped each other so much that day and afterwards. But what also sticks in my mind is a simple fact: Not one person in the federal government was fired on account of 9/11.

When there’s this sort of major failure, the firings should begin at the top, but reach all the way down the chain. And not just at the FBI.

THIS VETERAN FBI INVESTIGATOR MAY KNOW KEY DETAILS ON THE CLINTON EMAILS: But he suddenly and unexpectedly retired a few months into it. Some might wonder why. Long-time Clinton Foundation exposer Charles Ortel lays it out in LifeZette.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Dems Politicize Florida School Shooting.

Ongoing updates on the situation can be found at PJM’s Hot Mic section.

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDUCATION APOCALYPSE: Student Snowflakes Sign Petition To Ban ‘Offensive’ Valentine’s Day.

Unexpectedly.

Related: Woke bros wonder: How does a woke bro get laid in this difficult #MeToo era?

THE NASHVILLE POST: GIBSON ‘RUNNING OUT OF TIME — RAPIDLY.’

“Gibson Brands, Inc. today announced that the company made a $16.6 million coupon payment to holders of its $375 million, 8.875% senior secured notes due 2018.”

That simple statement issued a week ago — at all of 26 words, it’s less than a quarter the length of Gibson’s boilerplate company description that accompanied it — suggests a business-as-usual tone of a company taking care of its contractual commitments.

But the situation facing the iconic Nashville-based music instrument maker, which has annual revenues of more than $1 billion, is far from normal: CFO Bill Lawrence recently left the company after less than a year on the job and just six months before $375 million of senior secured notes will mature. On top of that, another $145 million in bank loans will come due immediately if those notes, issued in 2013, are not refinanced by July 23.

Less than six months out from those crucial deadlines, the prospects for an orderly refinancing — Gibson has hired investment bank Jefferies to help with that — look slim, observers say. And the alternative scenarios look likely to sideline longtime owner and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz.

That helps to explain why Gibson tossed Cakewalk, the 31-year old Boston-based digital audio workstation and home recording software manufacturer it acquired in 2013 under the bus this past November so unexpectedly. (In the non-ironic sense of the word; I was genuinely shocked when the news broke).

(Via Iowahawk.)

#METOO FALLOUT: Almost Half of Male Managers ‘Uncomfortable’ in a Work Activity With a Woman.

Unexpectedly.

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE: What To Do In A Nuclear Attack. Honestly, this is not a very good piece, as it conflates thermal radiation with ionizing radiation.

Related: The Unexpected Return of Duck and Cover.

CHANGE: U.S. jobless claims drop to near 45-year low.

UNEXPECTEDLY! New Minimum Wage Laws Will Eliminate More Than 260,000 Jobs in 2018.

If only there were some kind of easy-to-understand relationship between price and demand, maybe do-gooders wouldn’t keep making the same mistakes.

AMERICA’S LOST DECADE:

Many negative consequences flow reliably from a financial crisis, including unemployment, political turmoil, and piles of sovereign debt. Since the 2008 financial meltdown, however, we’ve seen none of the good consequences—and there are supposed to be good ones. Crashes and severe recessions often are followed by bursts of innovation that lay the groundwork for several decades of future growth and productivity increases. Severe economic downturns can perform a vital cleansing for the economy, toppling unchallengeable market positions and clearing a path for newcomers with disruptive ideas. The economic transformations that followed major worldwide crashes prior to 2008—in 1873, 1929, and 1973—were breathtaking. Indeed, the 1870s, 1930s, and 1970s were among the most innovative decades in history. The 1930s, for example, remembered mostly for the Great Depression, were also a time of great technological progress, in areas such as jet engines, synthetic materials, television, and computers. The 1970s saw enormous advances in personal computing, the digital camera, the Internet and e-mail (via the ARPANET), automotive technology (such as antilock brakes), phones that were truly mobile (even if you weren’t in a car), CAT and MRI scans, recombinant DNA, and IVF.

Yet here we are, nearly a decade after the worst financial crisis in modern memory, and we’ve seen few of these kinds of benefits. Don’t let heady stock prices, record corporate profits, and low unemployment fool you. America is only now emerging from a lost decade. Instead of renewal, the last ten years were blighted by slow growth, stagnant productivity, limited social mobility, long-term unemployment and underemployment, and despair.

Unexpectedly:

CHANGE: Tillerson says U.S. still considering Venezuela oil sale restrictions.

I wouldn’t bother. Why provide Maduro another with another foreign scapegoat when Venezuelan oil production is already cratering (unexpectedly!) under socialism?

DON’T BE EVIL: There’s A Newfound Hatred Of Silicon Valley.

“Unexpectedly.” Or as J. Christian Adams wrote last month, Employee Lawsuit Reveals Google As Intolerant Race Cult.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): They were warned, years ago. But no dice.

L.A.’S HOMELESSNESS SURGED 75% IN SIX YEARS. HERE’S WHY THE CRISIS HAS BEEN DECADES IN THE MAKING:

Three out of four homeless people — 41,000 — live in cars, campers, tents and lean-tos, by far the biggest single group of unsheltered people in any U.S. city. If you took out Los Angeles, national homelessness would have dropped last year for the first time since the recession.

People left behind by the economic recovery can’t compete with young professionals who have bid rents up to record levels.

In another era, they might have found refuge in crumbling hotels and tenements. But many of those buildings were lost in the city’s post-recession spree of building, evictions and renovations.

The problem has only gotten worse since Mayor Eric Garcetti took office in 2013 and a liberal Democratic supermajority emerged in 2016 on the county Board of Supervisors.

Unexpectedly. And if you missed it last month, here’s California in a single headline: Anaheim to evict homeless to make way for flood-control project and preserve bike path.

The video in the post at Twitchy of ten speed-bicyclists in full spandex Lance Armstrong Tour de France gear and GoPro-equipped helmets videotaping themselves riding past an endless row of homeless tents is California in a single video:

Ayn Rand didn’t write The Return of the Primitive as a how-to guide.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Dodge under fire after using Martin Luther King Jr. in  Super Bowl ad.

And note this:

As Twitchy says, “oof.”

UPDATE: MLK Jr’s Daughter & Foundation Denounce Dodge Super Bowl Ad.

LIMITS: Have Self-Driving Cars Stopped Getting Better? “One solution could be to deploy a teleoperation system such as the one being developed by Phantom Auto, where a remote human driver can take control for a short time to navigate an unexpected obstacle or assist passengers. Another possibility is that the road to our driverless future is going to be bumpier than expected.”

ROBERT TRACINSKI: Twenty-five years ago, ‘Groundhog Day’ seemed like just a light screwball comedy. It has since been accepted as a beloved classic with unexpected depths. “‘Groundhog Day,’ a seemingly light and whimsical 1993 comedy from director Harold Ramis, is 25 years old this year, and the film has had an interesting life. It debuted to generally positive but not reverential reviews, yet has since been accepted as a beloved classic with unexpected depths. The general response was summed up when Roger Ebert upgraded his review 12 years later from three stars to four. It seems he only came to appreciate it after repeated viewings—which, given the film’s premise, is kind of amusing.”

CITING TAX REFORM, Altria will give its employees $3000 bonuses.

Related: Best Buy to hand out bonuses to workers. “The Minneapolis-based chain says that this month it will pay one-time bonuses of $1,000 to full-time workers and $500 to part-time employees.”

Crumbs, says Nancy Pelosi. But we’re sure seeing a lot of crumbs.

UPDATE: Unexpectedly!

UNEXPECTEDLY: A male backlash against #MeToo is brewing.

“I’m getting the feeling that we’re going back 20 years as female professionals,” said Green, who owns her company. “I fully anticipate I’m going to be competing with another firm that is currently owned by some male, and the deciding factor is going to be: ‘You don’t want to hire a female lobbying firm in this environment.’”

This kind of thinking is catching on in aggressively P.C. Silicon Valley, where men are taking to message boards like Reddit to express interest in sex segregation — sometimes labeled “Men Going Their Own Way,” or the “Man-o-Sphere.” How will that work out for women in the tech industry, where they already face substantial challenges?

Read the whole thing. On Thursday, Dr. Helen wrote, “There must be a better method that results in more true predators being brought to justice than a movement like #MeToo that results in so many false positives, but then, that may be their underlying goal. Because sadly, #Me Too thinks all men are guilty.”

And that all women are victims. Or as Megan McArdle wrote last month, “Listen to the ‘Bad Feminists’ — They’re the ones who still believe women have power.”

I’D PUT BETTER-THAN-EVEN ODDS THAT HARVEY WEINSTEIN IS BEHIND THIS: Rose McGowan Punished For Refusing To Be Harassed By Trans Activist.

On Wednesday night in New York City, actor Rose McGowan spoke about her new book, “Brave,” a memoir recounting the sexual abuse she has suffered. As a central figure in the Me Too activism, McGowan has taken a prominent place among activists fighting to end sexual harassment and assault. But as she chatted with the crowd, things took an unexpected and ugly turn.

A transgender activist named Andi Dier, a male who identifies as a woman, rose and began screaming at McGowan about the how trans people face more sexual abuse than what Dier refers to as “cis” women, those who accept their biological femaleness. McGowan began yelling back, telling the activist to sit down. The activist did not sit down and was eventually removed by store security. . . .

McGowan’s experience growing up female apparently included statutory rape. For having the temerity to suggest differences in life experiences, she was subjected to a yelling lecture about how she should talk less about “cis” women’s abuse, and more about the abuse facing trans women.

Dier’s message is clear: concerns about women who used to be men are more important and pressing than concerns about women who grew up as women. McGowan’s response to Dier was angry, but also full of transgender-reaffirming statements such as referring to Dier as “sister,” and saying “we are the same.”

But that wasn’t good enough. McGowan also objected to being called “cis,” saying she didn’t want the label. The feminist outlet “Them” said of this, “It’s common for anti trans activists to disavow the label “cis” and position themselves as women…The McGowan rant reeks of this trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) ideology…[and it] backs up her critics’ claims that she is a transphobe.”

Here’s the thing: When dealing with “activists,” nothing is ever good enough.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Venezuela’s Oil Power Vanishing, Hard Default Fears Rising.

The country has over $1 billion in overdue interest payments, which is more than 10% of the country’s central bank reserves at this point.

There has been no official communication from the government on any other coupon payments and lengthy delays are now prompting review on whether the oil firm has entered into permanent default. If so, bond holders will accelerate and request principal payment. Of course, they will not get their principal payments, at least not immediately.

“The markets will recognize declining probability of payment each day that passes without receipt of funds or notification from the intermediaries,” says Siobhan Morden, a managing director at Nomura in New York.

Defaults stress erodes the margin of flexibility for Maduro and exposes a worse phase of cashflow woes for the bills the country owes in dollars.

Unexpectedly.

UNEXPECTEDLY! Exxon Mobil to invest $50 billion in US over 5 years, citing tax reform.

UNEXPECTEDLY: CNN’s Jeff Toobin Regrets Being Too Tough On Hillary Clinton in 2016: ‘False Equivalence’ to Trump.

Flashback: An internal memo written by ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin admonishes ABC staff: During coverage of Democrat Kerry and Republican Bush not to “reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable.”

Two guesses as to which side of the scale Halperin was pushing down on with his thumb back in October of 2004.

Just think of the media as being Democratic operatives with lavaliers, and it all makes sense.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Grammy Awards Ratings Down Sharply From 2017 in Early Nielsen Numbers.

Who wants to watch MSNBC with uglier fashions and a lousier soundtrack?

And astonishingly enough, even worse journalism, to boot: ‘Don’t ruin great music with trash’: Nikki Haley complains after Grammys feature Hillary Clinton reading ‘Fire and Fury’ with UN envoy saying she prefers her ‘music without the politics.’

All of which flows into Iowahawk’s observation about the left’s long march into cultural institutions, pop and otherwise:

Related: CBS fail in progress: #Grammys fans are pissed CBS is showing golf instead of the red carpet.

Perhaps the golf game was pulling in better ratings?

UNEXPECTEDLY! NYT: Weird how for the first time since the financial crisis, the economy is really taking off.

MAINSTREAM MEDIA IGNORES PELOSI’S ‘CRUMBS’ COMMENTS ABOUT BONUSES.

Unexpectedly.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Facebook censors The Rebel’s ad about Christian genocide documentary.

THE PASSWORD IS: LYSENKOISM. Feminist Event Encourages Scientists To Only Pursue ‘Socially Just’ Research: “Got that? They want scientists to only undertake studies and only publish conclusions that will support a radical feminist worldview. Testicular cancer is striking down many men in their prime, you say? Well, don’t you dare invest scarce research money into finding a cure — men already have too many advantages.”

Unexpectedly.

(Classical reference in headline.)

NAME THAT PARTY: Texas Politician Accused of ‘Grooming’ Grieving Mother for Sex and a Ponzi Scheme:

Texas state Sen. Carlos Uresti “groomed” nearly $900,000 out of a former client and grieving mother by cultivating a sexual relationship with her, according to prosecutors in court on Monday.

The 54-year-old Uresti, who has also been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment during his time as a legislator, is on trial for 11 felony charges—including money laundering, wire fraud, and securities fraud—over his alleged part in a Ponzi scheme involving frac sand company FourWinds Logistics‍. Uresti, who served as legal counsel for the now-defunct company, has repeatedly denied all of the charges.

“Unexpectedly,” it takes the Daily Beast 15 paragraphs to reveal that Uresti is a Democrat, in the second-to-last ‘graph. At least the San Antonio Express-News article linked to in the above except identifies it in the fourth paragraph.

(Via Neontaster.)

UNEXPECTEDLY: AMVETS says NFL censored its ad against flag protests.

Pete Rozelle is pretty much doing non-stop 360s in his grave at this point.

BLUE STATE BLUES: New Englanders Have Only Themselves to Blame for Energy Price Spikes.

Both prices and demand for domestic natural gas have surged as people have started plugging in their space heaters. Gas consumption set a new record for daily use on January 1, surpassing the previous record set in January 2014 in the midst of the “Polar Vortex.” Energy prices in most of the country increased 20–30 percent to account for the strong demand before quickly returning to previous levels. But in parts of New England prices spiked more than 400 percent.

Why? New England — including Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island — is the only part of the country that has constrained supplies of natural gas. This constraint is largely self-induced by “above-ground” political issues. Local and state opposition have blocked a number of natural gas pipelines in recent years, with the result that the region hasn’t benefited from the gas production growth in the Marcellus shale formation in nearby Pennsylvania.

Unexpectedly.

MEGAN MCARDLE: Listen to the ‘Bad Feminists:’ They’re the ones who still believe women have power.

Was it only a year ago that Margaret Atwood was the avatar for feminist resistance? That’s when the TV adaptation of her “Handmaid’s Tale” was widely praised for being “unexpectedly timely” (and I poked gentle fun at the notion).

But oh, how time does fly these days. Suddenly Atwood is defending herself from the charge of being a “bad feminist” because she suggested that railroading the accused out of their jobs without any semblance of due process was not, in the end, apt to be a net social improvement.

There is something odd happening to feminism these days, a stark split between its older and its younger practitioners. Daphne Merkin hinted at it in her recent New York Times op-ed on women’s misgivings about the #MeToo movement. Caitlin Flanagan came right out and said it after the comic actor Aziz Ansari was the subject of a humiliating tell-all about a recent date: “Sexual mores in the West have changed so rapidly over the past 100 years that by the time you reach 50, intimate accounts of commonplace sexual events of the young seem like science fiction,” she writes. “You understand the vocabulary and the sentence structure, but all of the events take place in outer space. You’re just too old.”

I have now had dozens of conversations about #MeToo with women my age or older, all of which are some variant on “What the hey?” It’s not that we’re opposed to #MeToo; we are overjoyed to see slime like Harvey Weinstein flushed out of the woodwork, and the studio system. But we see sharp distinctions between Weinstein and guys who press aggressively — embarrassingly, adulterously — for sex. To women in their 20s, it seems that distinction is invisible, and the social punishments demanded for the latter are scarcely less than those meted out for forcible rape.

There’s something else we notice, something that seems deeply connected to these demands for justice: These women express a feeling of overwhelming powerlessness, even though they are not being threatened, either physically or economically. How has the most empowered generation of women in all of human history come to feel less control over their bodies than their grandmothers did?

You could write a pretty strong argument for restoring patriarchy, just by quoting millennial feminists talking about how weak and fragile women are.

UNEXPECTEDLY: President Trump Releases ‘Fake News Awards,’ Crashes GOP Website.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Alec Baldwin Defends Woody Allen Against ‘Unfair’ Backlash Over Alleged Child Abuse.

Flashback: “Anthony Weiner Is a Modern Human Being.”

—Alec Baldwin, the Huffington Post, June 9, 2011.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Soda Tax Sticker Shock Grips Seattle.

UBER’S SECRET TOOL FOR KEEPING THE COPS IN THE DARK. “At least two dozen times, the San Francisco headquarters locked down equipment in foreign offices to shield files from police raids:”

Most tech companies don’t expect police to regularly raid their offices, but Uber isn’t most companies. The ride-hailing startup’s reputation for flouting local labor laws and taxi rules has made it a favorite target for law enforcement agencies around the world. That’s where this remote system, called Ripley, comes in. From spring 2015 until late 2016, Uber routinely used Ripley to thwart police raids in foreign countries, say three people with knowledge of the system. Allusions to its nature can be found in a smattering of court filings, but its details, scope, and origin haven’t been previously reported.

The Uber HQ team overseeing Ripley could remotely change passwords and otherwise lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops, and desktops as well as shut down the devices. This routine was initially called the unexpected visitor protocol. Employees aware of its existence eventually took to calling it Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver’s flamethrower-wielding hero in the Alien movies. The nickname was inspired by a Ripley line in Aliens, after the acid-blooded extraterrestrials easily best a squad of ground troops. “Nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

Other companies have shut off computers during police raids, then granted officers access after reviewing a warrant. And Uber has reason to be cautious with the sensitive information it holds about customers and their locations around the world. Ripley stands out partly because it was used regularly—at least two dozen times, the people with knowledge of the system say—and partly because some employees involved say they felt the program slowed investigations that were legally sound in the local offices’ jurisdictions.

I’ll defer to Glenn’s legal judgement, but at least in some cases Ripley looks an awful lot like obstruction of justice.

PANDEMONIUM AND RAGE IN HAWAII.

Related: The Unexpected Return of Duck and Cover.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Brain-Dead Lefties Blame Trump for False Missile Alert.

Related:

STILL RELEVANT: The Unexpected Return of Duck and Cover. Honestly, I think this was one of my best magazine pieces. And certainly it had legs. . .

DAS IST SCHRECKLICH: German Engineering Yields New Warship That Isn’t Fit for Sea.

Germany’s naval brass in 2005 dreamed up a warship that could ferry marines into combat anywhere in the world, go up against enemy ships and stay away from home ports for two years with a crew half the size of its predecessor’s.

First delivered for sea trials in 2016 after a series of delays, the 7,000-ton Baden-Württemberg frigate was determined last month to have an unexpected design flaw: It doesn’t really work.

Defense experts cite the warship’s buggy software and ill-considered arsenal—as well as what was until recently its noticeable list to starboard—as symptoms of deeper, more intractable problems: Shrinking military expertise and growing confusion among German leaders about what the country’s armed forces are for.

A litany of bungled infrastructure projects has tarred Germany’s reputation for engineering prowess. There is still no opening date for Berlin’s new €6 billion ($7.2 billion) airport, which is already 10 years behind schedule, and the redesign of Stuttgart’s railway station remains stalled more than a decade after work on the project started. Observers have blamed these mishaps on poor planning and project management, which also figured in major setbacks for several big military projects.

Undenkbar.

STUDY: The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landlords, and Inequality: Evidence from San Francisco.

The whole thing is behind the SSRN paywall, but maybe you’ll find it worth your $5.

Here’s the summary:

We exploit quasi-experimental variation in assignment of rent control to study its impacts on tenants, landlords, and the overall rental market. Leveraging new data tracking individuals’ migration, we find rent control increased renters’ probabilities of staying at their addresses by nearly 20%. Landlords treated by rent control reduced rental housing supply by 15%, causing a 5.1% city-wide rent increase. Using a dynamic, neighborhood choice model, we find rent control offered large benefits to covered tenants.

Unexpectedly.

SHOT: Concerns mount as Venezuela closes in on petro, an oil-backed cryptocurrency.

A cryptocurrency backed by oil would be a big first. A cryptocurrency backed by a sovereign government would be even bigger.

But while Venezuela claims it is going to do both very soon with the petro, experts are doubtful the country has the capabilities or the characteristics to achieve its goal.

The petro will be dogged by a major question, “Is it redeemable, in other words, can you take physical delivery?” notes finance professor Stephen McKeon of the University of Oregon.

The strength of any currency backed by a commodity, regardless of whether it is physical or digital, is that holders must believe they can exchange it for the actual commodity. When the U.S. was on the gold standard, individuals could bring their dollars to a bank and exchange them for physical gold.

Presuming Venezuela can get the oil out of the ground — quite the presumption, these days — how would you like to take delivery of the physical product? Gold is useful because it its value is portable and divisible in exactly the ways that a barrel of oil is not.

CHASER: Venezuela 2017 annual inflation at 2,616 percent.

Opposition politicians, whose numbers are broadly in line with analysts’ estimates, on Monday put December’s inflation figure alone at 85 percent, well into hyperinflation territory for which the benchmark is usually 50 percent.

“Inflation in December alone is greater than accumulated inflation (over the whole year) for all of Latin America,” said lawmaker José Guerra.

Venezuelan authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

They were too busy dreaming that their DOA cryptocurrency would restore some purchasing power to the Maduro regime and its flunkies.

HANGOVER: Halliburton Says $400 Million Exposure To Venezuela Could Be Problematic.

Unexpectedly.

DID A REPUBLICAN SENATOR ACTUALLY MEET WITH A PSYCHIATRIST ABOUT TRUMP’S SANITY? “The ‘meeting’ isn’t quite what Politico made it out to be.”

Unexpectedly.

Related: How The Media Mainstreamed A Democratic Conspiracy Theory.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: How Do You Survive Nuclear War? The CDC Is About to Tell You.

Related: The Unexpected Return of Duck and Cover.

DISPATCHES FROM THE CADDYSHACK NEWS NETWORK: CNN Whines About Truck Blocking Golf Course [VIDEO].

The Secret Service and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office both denied responsibility for the truck, causing CNN to launch into full-on conspiracy theory mode.

“Today this truck showed up out of nowhere and actually moved at one point when our journalists tried to get a different angle,” CNN’s Ryan Nobles cried. “It’s clear no one wanted us to get a picture of the president golfing.”

The Secret Service responded to CNN’s inquiries about the truck with an appropriate level of snark, stating, “The USSS is in the business of protection and investigations not in commissioning vehicles to block the media’s view of the president’s golf swing.”

CNN will get to the bottom of who the truck driver was – and then doxx the daylights out of him. You know they don’t take any guff from their viewers at Time-Warner-CNN-HBO.

Related:

23: The number of times over the past day that CNN has mentioned the white box truck that obscured view of Trump golfing.

0: For comparison, the number of times CNN has mentioned that Politico report on Obama admin’s quashing of Hezbollah investigation.

Unexpectedly.

Update: “At this point, I think the only way we get CNN off this dumb truck story is if we tell them there are Hezbollah drug runners released by Obama behind it.” Heh, indeed.™

HERE COME THREE HUGE,  UNEXPECTED SURPRISES FOR THE “EXPERTS” IN 2018: If yours truly has learned anything living in Washington, D.C. since 1976, it’s that when you need to know where the country is headed in the near future, check the conventional wisdom among America’s political, academic and media elites, then expect the opposite to occur. Here are three major examples. And boy are there going to be some dumbfounded swamp creatures in coming months.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Venezuelans scramble to survive as merchants demand dollars.

“There’s no point keeping bolivars.”

For a decade and a half, strict exchange controls have severely limited access to dollars. A black market in hard currency has spread in response, and as once-sky-high oil revenue runs dry, Venezuela’s economy is in free-fall.

The practice adopted by gourmet and design stores in Caracas over the last couple of years to charge in dollars to a select group of expatriates or Venezuelans with access to greenbacks is fast spreading.

Food sellers, dental and medical clinics, and others are starting to charge in dollars or their black market equivalent – putting many basic goods and services out of reach for a large number of Venezuelans.

According to the opposition-led National Assembly, November’s rise in prices topped academics’ traditional benchmark for hyperinflation of more than 50 percent a month – and could end the year at 2,000 percent. The government has not published inflation data for more than a year.

“I can’t think in bolivars anymore, because you have to give a different price every hour,” said Yoselin Aguirre, 27, who makes and sells jewelry in the Paraguana peninsula and has recently pegged prices to the dollar. “To survive, you have to dollarize.”

Eventually, every America-despising socialist state ends up pining for US dollars it can no longer steal enough to trade for.

Unexpectedly.