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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.

 

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.

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.”

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, 2001.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Soda Tax Sticker Shock Grips Seattle.

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

Related:

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.

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.™

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.

A STRANGE GAME. THE ONLY WINNING MOVE IS NOT TO PLAY.

● Shot:

As part of her Let’s Move campaign, [Michelle Obama] wants to help families make better choices — especially the 23.5 million Americans living in largely urban, low-income areas where access to healthy food can be spotty.

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity has identified this challenge of bringing more nutritious, affordable foods to so-called food deserts as one of the key pillars to solving the epidemic.

“We can give people all of the information in the world about healthy eating… but if parents can’t buy the food they need to prepare those meals… if their only options for groceries are in the corner gas station or the local mini mart, then all of that is just talk… and that’s not what Let’s Move is about,” she said.

—“First Lady: Let’s Move Fruits And Veggies To ‘Food Deserts,’” NPR, July 20, 2011.

And what happens if businesses go along with this, and take the risk of installing Whole Foods or farmers’ markets-style venues in higher crime urban areas? As they at the college that gave us the esteemed Senator Blutarsky, you f***ed up; you trusted us. And — unexpectedly! — you’ll be called a racist either way.

● Chaser:

Two professors from San Diego State University claim…that 44 percent of San Diego’s farmers’ markets cater to “households from higher socio-economic backgrounds,” which raises property values and “[displaces] low-income residents and people of color.”

“The most insidious part of this gentrification process is that alternative food initiatives work against the community activists and residents who first mobilized to fight environmental injustices and provide these amenities but have significantly less political and economic clout than developers and real estate professionals,” the academics write.

The men claim that negative externalities of “white habitus” formed at farmers’ markets can be managed through “inclusive steps that balance new initiatives and neighborhood stability to make cities ‘just green enough.’”*

—“Professors claim farmers’ markets cultivate racism: ‘Habits of white people are normalized,’” the Washington Times, yesterday.

* “Just green enough?” I knew Al Gore declared Mission Accomplished on radical environmentalism when he sold off his cable television network to Big Oil five years ago; it’s nice to see his fellow far leftists confirm that.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Venezuela’s Oil Industry Staggers Closer To Collapse.

Venezuela used to have a diversified economy and some of the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Now they have an oil-dependent economy yet can’t even get the oil extracted.

Unexpectedly, of course, and certainly the fault of wreckers, hoarders, saboteurs, Trotskyites, kulaks, Yankee Imperialists, counterrevolutionaries, and Jews.

UH-OH: U.S. warship unexpectedly docks in Port Colborne.

A U.S. navy warship named for Arkansas’ capital city that was to pass down the Welland Canal for its homeport in Florida docked in Port Colborne Wednesday afternoon due to a reported mechanical issue.

The USS Little Rock, a Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship, was recently-commissioned alongside its namesake in Buffalo Harbor, marking the first time that has happened in the navy’s 242-year history, according to a website dedicated to the vessel’s commissioning.

The new warship is one of a number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) the navy will operate in waters close to shore.

It was built in Marinette, Wisc., at a cost of between US$300 million and $350 million.

It left Buffalo Wednesday morning and after the delivery of two pilots to it in the Port Colborne anchorage, some four kilometres offshore, it tied up along the east wall of the Welland Canal in the city.

The USS Little Rock was headed to Naval Station Mayport, its homeport in Jacksonville, Fla.

There was no word on how long the vessel would be tied up in Port Colborne. The area it is docked alongside on the canal is restricted and there is no public access.

The LCS ships have been almost nothing but trouble — late, over budget, and with serious operational issues.

JOEL KOTKIN: The New Mandarins Of The Deep State.

America’s authoritarian shift did not start with Trump’s election, but has been brewing for years. In the Obama years, we lived under “pen and phone” rule by decree that largely disempowered both Congress and local control. The former president’s legacy to the progressive coalition — paused briefly when power unexpectedly went to the GOP — means continued Democratic support for agglomeration of power in the executive.

This form of executive dictatorship is now more likely to return to the White House in 2020. The notion of enlightened rule from above may have even been further justified by the very fact that what Time’s Joe Klein has called “a nation of dodos” voted for Trump in the first place. The hoi polloi can be appealed to and cajoled, it appears, but not really trusted.

Unlike Trump, whose political methods are both offensive and self-defeating, the mandarins can count on support from most of the media, the non-profit world and the ascendant techie wing of the tech/media oligarchy, what Daniel Bell called “the priests of the machine.” Unlike the factionalized Republicans, the new mandarinate — entertainment, news media, law, software — share a strong commitment to a common progressive ideology.

More important still, the mandarins control most of the means of communication, particularly those that attract younger people. This will assist, as our secular pontiff, Jerry Brown, put it, efforts to successfully “brainwash” the masses. China’s recently anointed emperor, Xi Jinping, admired by Brown and many other American mandarins, may emerge as the new role model. That is, after Xi has shown how control of education and media can work on getting the masses to embrace “right thinking.”

I’m not sure the peasants will be as easy to put down as all that. And the loss of legitimacy by the “Establishment” far exceeds anything that happened in the 1960s.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Flood of Venezuelans are fleeing depressed country.

“Leaving was tough, but staying would have been tougher,” said Andrea Sequiera, 29, as she waits at the back of the line with her husband Luis, 31, and 8-year-old son Fabian. ”We know lots of people who would like to get out of Venezuela but can’t afford the ticket.”

Although Venezuelans for years have been fleeing the “socialist revolution” first launched by the late Hugo Chávez in 1999, in recent months the trickle has turned into a flood as living conditions become ever more dire — from hyperinflation to acute shortages of food and medicine to one of the worst homicide rates in the world.

In response to protests over the once-wealthy country’s seeming demise, President Nicolás Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian regime has cracked down on opponents, making prospects for improved times less and less likely.

Unexpectedly.

UNEXPECTEDLY! US retail sales rose 0.8% in Nov, vs 0.3% increase expected.

IN A VENEZUELA RAVAGED BY INFLATION, ‘A RACE FOR SURVIVAL:’

The economic turmoil has put families — poor and affluent alike — at the intersection of some very tough choices, bred a stressful uncertainty about the course of any given day and turned the most basic tasks into feats of endurance.

Oh sure – but the sex there is awesome, the Times assures me.

On a more serious note, typing ctrl-F “socialism” on the Times’ article on Venezuela brings back zero results, unexpectedly.

HILLARY CLINTON DISPLAYS HER USUAL LEGENDARY SELF-AWARENESS:

Thursday night, a little more than a year after her shocking loss to President Donald Trump, Secretary Clinton returned to Philly for a promotional event at the Academy of Music for her campaign memoir, What Happened. At the event, which was sold-out but not quite full, with an audience about two-thirds female, Clinton was interviewed on-stage by Philly native and best-selling author Jennifer Weiner.

* * * * * * * *

When it came to sexism and the media, it was Weiner who brought up the elephant in the room, reading out a section of What Happened about the September 2016 Commander-in-Chief Forum on NBC, in which the host separately interviewed both candidates but was notably tougher on Clinton than Trump. That host? Matt Lauer.

“Every day I believe more in karma,” Clinton said to that, referring further to several “men who shaped the narrative” during the campaign who have since been sidelined in the wave of sexual harassment scandals.

Control-F “Bill Clinton” returns zero results, unexpectedly.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: How Venezuela inadvertently became a cashless economy.

The cash crunch is so acute that ATMs now provide a daily limit of 10,000 bolívars, enough to buy just a few cups of coffee. Black-market money changers charge commissions of up to 20% to score paper money for small business people who pay their workers in cash. Banks are running out of banknotes.

“Sometimes, bank tellers will only pay you half of your pension and suggest that you come back later for the rest,” said Marta Milano, who was waiting in a long line outside a state-run bank in Caracas hoping to collect her pension.

Although many nations are moving away from paper money in favor of electronic payments – for convenience and to reduce street crime – critics contend that Venezuela is inadvertently turning into a cashless society thanks to economic blunders by President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government.

Out-of-control state spending, government currency controls and other policies have led to what many describe as hyperinflation, as well the collapse of the bolívar – which now trades at about 107,000 to the pound on the black market.

Now, there is not enough cash in circulation to keep up with skyrocketing prices.

Another thing there isn’t enough of to go around? “Unexpectedlys” for this report.

MICHAEL BARONE: Angela Merkel and Davos rebuked in Germany.

It’s been a tough era for Davos Man, the personification of the great and the good who meet in the World Economic Forum in that Swiss ski resort every January. The rebukes just keep coming: the Euro crisis, Brexit, Trump, and now, and once again unexpectedly, Angela Merkel’s failure to form a German government.

For a dozen years, European elites who have recoiled from former President George W. Bush and swooned over former President Barack Obama have regarded Merkel as a rock-solid firmament of good sense. Her considerable internal political skills, her seeming unflappability, her upholding of conventional wisdoms, both well- and ill-founded, have made her a favorite at Davos.

Merkel has been the pillar of the European Union and seems to have been the dominant force behind the multiple responses to each in a succession of euro crises. It helps, of course, that Germany has Europe’s largest economy, one mostly unscathed by the 2008 financial crisis — though that owes much to the Thatcherish labor law reforms of Merkel’s predecessor, the Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder.

By standard political science rules of thumb, Merkel and others in the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, should have been a big winner in the Sept. 24 elections. The national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent. Inflation, the bugaboo of Germans since the 1920s, is low. The Social Democrats’ leader is untested in national politics.

Yet the CDU and its Bavarian partner the Christian Social Union, or CSU, got only 33 percent of the vote — their lowest percentage since West Germany started voting in 1949. The Social Democratic Party for Germany, or SPD, arguably the world’s oldest social democratic party, plummeted to 21 percent. The two major parties thus barely topped 50 percent, compared to the high 60s in 2005-13 and 76 to 77 percent in 1992-2002.

This, like Brexit in Britain and Donald Trump’s victory in the United States, was a slap in the face of the political, media, and business establishment.

Maybe the establishment would get slapped less if it were less awful.

JUST BE HONEST, MILLENNIALS, AND SAY YOU DON’T WANT KIDS.

Unexpectedly.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Turkey’s Erdogan takes on financial markets again. And may lose, again.

Erdogan triggered a slump in lira assets this week by reviving his long-standing criticism of conventional central banking, namely, that policy makers should cut interest rates — rather than raise them — to stem soaring inflation.

That approach didn’t work in January 2014 when the central bank eventually had to more than double borrowing costs to stem a flight of foreign cash. As the lira plunges toward a record-low of four to the dollar, traders say he’ll be pushed into a corner again if he wants to avoid alienating the very investors he needs to sustain his economy.

“Nobody genuinely believes that high interest rates cause inflation, this is populist rhetoric from Erdogan. I’d be very surprised if he himself believes it,” said Paul McNamara, a London-based fund manager at GAM UK, which sold all its Turkish holdings months ago. “The lira is going to keep falling until we see tighter money.”

As James Carville quipped 25 years ago, upon discovering the limits even the White House faced going up again free markets, “I would like to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.”

DISPATCHES FROM THE K-12 IMPLOSION: NYC’s high school equivalency program is a complete boondoggle.

Unexpectedly.

FRANKEN ACCUSER: I’m not calling for him to step down.

Does this save him? If his own victim isn’t willing to call what he did a firing offense, Senate Dems could hide behind that as a reason to give him a second chance — if no one else accuses him of sexual misconduct. But what if someone does? Watch the clip and you’ll see Leeann Tweeden note that she’s already received a phone call from a woman claiming that something similar happened between her and Franken.

He’s all broken up about it, apparently. And by “it,” I of course mean getting caught.

Unexpectedly.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Venezuela just defaulted, moving deeper into crisis.

Venezuela has no other meaningful income other than the oil it sells abroad. The government, meanwhile, has failed for years to ship in enough food and medicine for its citizens. As a result, Venezuelans are waiting hours in line to buy food and dying in hospitals that lack basic resources.

If investors seize the country’s oil shipments, the food and medical shortages would worsen quickly.

“Then it’s pandemonium,” says Fernando Freijedo, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research firm. “The humanitarian crisis is already pretty dire … it boggles the mind what could happen next.”

Apparently the only thing Venezuela hasn’t run out of is Unexpectedlys.

Also, this being CNN, “This story has been updated to characterize Venezuela’s government as socialist.”

UNEXPECTEDLY: The Media Doesn’t Want to Talk about the 26th Victim of the Texas Church Massacre.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Sweden’s Sexual Assault Crisis Presents a Feminist Paradox.

UNEXPECTEDLY! The California Marijuana Tax Problem: Why Prices Could Increase 70% in 2018.

California will include a 15% levy on all cannabis sales in the state, including medical pot products, starting in January. Meanwhile, local governments are also adding taxes for sellers and growers that could result in a 70% increase in the price of a small bag of good quality marijuana in parts of the state.

Between state and local taxes, some buyers will see an effective tax as high as 45% on adult-use cannabis in California. Proponents of legalization have long pointed to the collection of state and local taxes on marijuana sales as a big benefit.

The new cannabis industry in the state has a projected value of $7 billion with the potential to collect $1 billion per year in tax revenue. But industry leaders in California claim that the high taxes give illicit vendors the upper hand.

“High tax rates raise prices in legal markets, reinforcing the price advantage of black markets,” the global credit ratings firm Fitch Ratings said in a report. “California’s black markets for cannabis were well established long before its voters legalized cannabis in November 2016 and are expected to dominate post-legalization production.”

Only California could legalize pot and still make black markets more attractive than ever.

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Crisis in Venezuelan hospitals — too many patients, too few beds.

Services are very limited in both public hospitals and private clinics, where shortages of supplies have reduced the number of beds available to little more than 25 percent of what the country needs, according to experts.

But finding a hospital bed is no guarantee that the patient will receive the required treatment because hospitals have less than 5 percent of the supplies and medicines needed to function normally, said Douglas Leon Natera, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation.

“Any Venezuelan who gets sick here in the country today runs the risk of entering a clinic only to have the relatives leave crying” because “there’s nothing” in many hospitals, Leon Natera told el Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview.

“We have barely 3 or 4 percent of the supplies and medicines [needed], which is really nothing,” he said. “And the showcase hospitals, which receive the most resources, may have only 10 to 12 percent.”

Pummeled by the collapse of the Chavista economic model and low oil prices, the government of President Nicolas Maduro has put strict limits on the importation of food, medicines and other basic goods.

Unexpectedly.

OHIO MAN UNEXPECTEDLY WORKING FLORIDA MAN’S TERRITORY: Feds Indict Ohio Man for Possession of Stolen Missile Warning System, Other Weapons.

UNEXPECTEDLY!  First Read of 3rd Quarter GDP at 3.0%, Beating 2.5% Expectation.

ONCE UPON A TIME YOU DRESSED SO FINE. THREW THE BUMS A DIME IN YOUR PRIME, DIDN’T YOU? Harvey Weinstein tried to buy Rolling Stone.

While recent reports said disgraced Weinstein landed a $4 million crisis mortgage on his $15 million Manhattan townhouse to fund his brewing legal battles — sources tell us that the money was actually arranged months before his scandal hit as he was putting together funds and a consortium to buy Rolling Stone.

But the Weinstein Rolling Stone bid was dropped once accusations against him started piling up after the bombshell pieces in the New York Times and New Yorker.

Considering Rolling Stone’s standards these days, that really is “unexpectedly.”

 

UNEXPECTEDLY: Progressive, “Fair Wage” Pizza Shop Closing Its Doors.

UNEXPECTEDLY! Bay Area hammered by loss of 4,700 jobs: Lack of affordable housing strangles hiring efforts. “I always thought that if I went into the tech industry, I could create a prosperous future for myself. But who wants to commute six hours a day? You should be able to afford a place to live near where you have to work.”

It’s weird how when you adopt a bunch of regulations limiting the supply of housing, the price goes up.

“UNEXPECTEDLY,” AFTER AN EIGHT YEAR ABSENCE, ASSASSINATION PORN IS BACK. NYT Reporter: Thumbs Up for ‘Trenchant Satire’ ‘To Kill the President’, Excuses Lefty Hate.

Michelle Malkin needs to update her Assassination Chic archives. Also, I eagerly await Paul Krugman denouncing his fellow Timesman for approving such eliminationist rhetoric.

WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HOLLYWOOD? “What Harvey Weinstein tells us about the liberal world,” according to Thomas Frank, the lefty author of the 2004 book What’s the Matter with Kansas?

Harvey Weinstein seemed to fit right in. This is a form of liberalism that routinely blends self-righteousness with upper-class entitlement. That makes its great pronouncements from Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons. That routinely understands the relationship between the common people and showbiz celebrities to be one of trust and intimacy.

Countless people who should have known better are proclaiming their surprise at Harvey Weinstein’s alleged abuses. But in truth, their blindness is even more sweeping than that. They are lost these days in a hall of moral mirrors, weeping tears of admiration for their own virtue and good taste.

“Unexpectedly,” Bill Clinton only receives a passing mention in the article, but read the whole thing anyhow.

OH: Doctor accused of bribing Menendez met with other politicians too.

A wealthy West Palm Beach eye doctor accused of bribing Sen. Bob Menendez wined and dined other politicians, including former Florida governor Charlie Crist, it emerged in Newark federal court on Tuesday.

Flor Melgen, the wife of Dr. Salomon Melgen, testified Tuesday about a weekend in October 2010 when Crist showed up at her house unexpectedly, ate dinner — consisting of Capital Grille takeout — and stayed the night.

He then handed Flor a $100 check for the cost of the meal and his stay.

“He knew that my husband was Bob’s [Menendez] friend and he was wondering if he might be with him,” Flor told the jury about the surprise visit.

The defense said the purpose of the testimony was to illustrate to the jury that Menendez, who flew Melgen’s private jet that same weekend, was in Florida for an official political function.

As such, the flight on Melgen’s private jet as well as a leg on a commercial flight Melgen paid for should have been reimbursed for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — not Menendez, according to Melgen’s lawyers.

The Garden State Democrat stands accused of accepting all-expense-paid trips and private jet flights from Melgen in exchange for political favors, including help with the doctor’s $8.9 million Medicare bill and in obtaining visas for the ophthalmologist’s young girlfriends.

Amazing how little coverage this trial is getting, isn’t it?

LOTS OF MATERIAL TO READ BETWEEN THE LINES OF THIS BBC ARTICLE ON WOODY ALLEN’S RESPONSE: “Harvey Weinstein: Woody Allen ‘sad’ for producer over sexual assault allegations.”

“The whole Harvey Weinstein thing is very sad for everybody involved,” he added. “Tragic for the poor women that were involved, sad for Harvey that [his] life is so messed up.

“There’s no winners in that, it’s just very, very sad and tragic for those poor women that had to go through that.”

Allen said he hoped the revelations, which emerged after an investigation by the New York Times, would lead to “some amelioration”, but said: “You also don’t want it to lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.

“But sure, you hope that something like this could be transformed into a benefit for people rather than just a sad or tragic situation.”

Among those who investigated Weinstein were Allen’s own son, Ronan Farrow, who spoke to 13 women who said the producer had sexually harassed or assaulted them.

Allen was apparently not asked about Farrow’s involvement by the BBC — “unexpectedly,” as they say in old media.

SIGNS LIBERALISM’S SLOW SUICIDE IS FINALLY COMPLETE:

The old “liberals” wanted to dispense with individual rights so they could pursue the fantasy of setting themselves up as benevolent, all-seeing planners who would protect us from harm and order our lives to achieve the “greatest good for the greatest number.” But they wanted to do this while still thinking of themselves as the good guys, as fighters against oppression, as defenders of liberty. That is the pretense being torn down today in the suicide of liberalism.

Read the whole thing.

Related: Yes, the Democratic Party’s Polarization Helps Explain Trump’s Rise: “Clearly, ours is a polarized age, with tribal consolidation happening at a breakneck pace.”

Or as John Podhoretz tweeted in January, as quoted in Glenn’s recent post on “How Ta-Nehisi Coates Gives Whiteness Power,” “Liberals spent 40 years disaggregating [the] U.S., until finally the largest cohort in the country chose to vote as though it were an ethnic group.”

Unexpectedly.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Leftist Anti-Gun Group Refuses to ‘Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste’ After Vegas Shooting.

UNEXPECTEDLY: After Week Of Worrying About Police Power, Liberals Now Wants Cops To Take Your Guns.

BECAUSE IT VIOLATES THE NARRATIVE. Sex change regret: Gender reversal surgery is on the rise, so why aren’t we talking about it?

Those wishing to reverse their gender reassignment, Prof Djordjevic says, have spoken to him about experiencing crippling levels of depression following their transition and in some cases even contemplated suicide. “It can be a real disaster to hear these stories,” says the 52-year-old.

And yet, in the main part, they are not being heard.

Unexpectedly.

OOPS: China’s booming electric vehicle market is about to run into a mountain of battery waste.

The average lifespan of a lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery, the dominant type in China’s electric vehicles, is around five years, according to Li Changdong, chairman of the Hunan-based Brunp group, China’s top electric car battery recycler in 2016 (link in Chinese). Most batteries installed on electric vehicles during the 2012 to 2014 period will be retired on a large scale (link in Chinese) around 2018, Li told the Beijing-based newspaper Economic Information Daily.

In 2020, nearly 250,000 metric tons (276,000 tons) of batteries, or 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries, are set to be retired—nearly 20 times those depleted in 2016, GaoGong Industry Institute, a Shenzhen-based electric car industry research firm, told Quartz.

The battery is the heart of the electric vehicle industry, and the country needs a well-established battery recycling system, Xin Guobin, a top industry and tech official, told a national forum for the battery-powered engine industry Tuesday (link in Chinese) (Sept. 26). But recycling these batteries isn’t easy, due to the sophisticated chemical procedures involved. If it’s not done properly the heavy metal contained in the battery can lead to contamination of soil and water.

Unexpectedly.

UNEXPECTEDLY: NFL ticket sales plummet 17.9%.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Pittsburgh Store Selling Steelers Gear Facing Boycott, Fan Anger (Video).

UNEXPECTEDLY: Sunday Night Football Ratings Down Again On Day Of Player Protests.

Related: Michelle Malkin on the Show Biz Meltdown: Bombs Away!

(Via SDA.)

WHAT HAPPENED?

Astonishingly, the 2016 Clinton campaign conducted no state polls in the final three weeks of the general election and relied primarily on data analytics to project turnout and the state vote. They paid little attention to qualitative focus groups or feedback from the field, and their brief daily analytics poll didn’t measure which candidate was defining the election or getting people engaged.

The models from the data analytics team led by Elan Kriegel got the Iowa and Michigan primaries badly wrong, with huge consequences for the race. Why were they not then fired? Campaign manager Robbie Mook and the analytics team argued, according to Shattered, that the Sanders vote grew “organically”—turnout was unexpectedly high and new registrants broke against Clinton. Why was that a surprise?

Campaign chair John Podesta wanted to fire Mook, but Clinton stood by him. She rightly admired previous campaigns in which big data and technology were big winners, yet in 2008 it was the candidate and his appeal more than the technical wizardry that pushed Obama over the top. David Axelrod told me that analytics adds a “great field-goal kicker”—no substitute for a strategy and compelling message.

* * * * * * *

 

Clinton and the campaign acted as if “demographics is destiny” and that a “rainbow coalition” was bound to govern. Yes, there is a growing “Rising American Electorate,” but Page Gardner and I wrote at the outset of this election, you must give people a compelling reason to vote and I have demonstrated for my entire career that a candidate must target white working-class voters too.

I’m sure if the campaign had gone with the “Because It’s Her Turn” slogan that would totally sold the deal.

“UNEXPECTEDLY,” FROM THE SAME PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT YOU THE OLD SEGREGATION SIGNS: New Segregation Signs Pop Up in Leftist Establishments.

UNEXPECTEDLY: The NFL Is Seriously Concerned With Empty Stadiums.

Here’s the thing, the NFL’s plans for relocating teams have been hilariously ham-fisted. Moving the 49ers to Santa Clara, 45 minutes from San Francisco was a moronic decision. Levi’s Stadium is also positioned so roughly 70 percent of the stadium bakes in the sun with no chance of shade.

Meanwhile, the Rams might actually have decent attendance once they move into their new stadium, but that’s a huge gamble. Until then, they’ll likely be dealing with sparse crowds at the Coliseum for the next three seasons. It’s terrible optics for the NFL to have empty stadiums and absolutely no atmosphere for games.

And we haven’t even gotten to the Los Angeles Chargers…

Read the whole thing.

(Via NewsAlert.)

UPDATE: ‘Tough start’ for NFL season — ratings down 13% in Week 1.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Tagging fake news on Facebook doesn’t work, study says.

UNEXPECTEDLY: The Inconvenient Truth About Obamacare’s Premium Spiral.

The biggest reason for Obamacare’s rate hikes? Two of its most popular provisions, guaranteed issue and community rating. These are the technical terms for Obamacare’s ban on insurance companies denying coverage or charging people who are sick more.

The McKinsey report found that in Georgia, these mandates added between 44 and 52 percent to premiums. In Ohio, they were responsible for 41 to 50 percent of the hikes — and in Pennsylvania, as much as 62 percent. In Tennessee, guaranteed issue and community rating accounted for between 73 and 76 percent of premium increases.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. A study by Milliman, a consultancy, in 2013 predicted that Obamacare’s guaranteed issue and community rating rules would sharply increase premiums.

If you’re going to charge younger, healthier people more like older, sicker people, and force insurers to sell “insurance” to people who are already sick, then premiums are going to go WAY up — which many of us warned back in 2009, 2010.

DEMOCRACY DIES WITH DOXXING: The New York Times explores “How ‘Doxxing’ Became a Mainstream Tool in the Culture Wars,” and “unexpectedly” fails to mention the time it doxxed Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in 2014, and CNN’s threatening to doxx an anonymous anti-CNN gif maker this past Fourth of July.

A BEATING IN BERKELEY: “As white supremacists go, Joey Gibson makes for a lousy one. For starters, he’s half Japanese. ‘I don’t feel like I’m Caucasian at all,’ he says. Not to be a stickler for the rules, but this kind of talk could get you sent to Master Race remedial school…Joey believed that a person should be able to attend the political rally of his choice in America, or to wear a MAGA hat in a place like Portland, Ore., without worrying about getting hit in the face.”

Peaceful, easygoing, free speech-oriented Berkeley “unexpectedly” had other plans. Read the whole thing.

 

UNEXPECTEDLY? Migrant crisis: Italy lurches to the right as tolerance wears thin.

As cowering locals filmed Catania’s first ever interracial street fighting on their phones, Mr Salice, 54, climbed into his white van and drove it towards the Senegalese, then reversed before careering into a stall, scattering those who had avoided being run over.

His subsequent claim that he was trying to get his van to safety did not convince Tidiane Diamanka, a Senegalese hawker. “He was trying to hit people — this was an act of terrorism,” he said.

The battle on July 19, which police are investigating, was a turning point for Catania. Italian traders in this port of 300,000 people in the shadow of Mount Etna used to help African hawkers to dodge the police. Now, after the arrival of more than 600,000 migrants in Italy in the past four years, locals are increasingly saying basta — enough. And not just in Catania.

The summer has been peppered with reports of violence and hostility to migrants as Italians adjust to the likelihood that many tens of thousands of the newcomers will be staying permanently. The country’s tolerance is waning, its politics being reshaped. The anti-establishment and increasingly migrant-hostile Five Star Movement is well placed to win next year’s parliamentary elections.

Interesting report, and with serious longterm implications for Europe.

THE SCIENCE IS UNSETTLED: “Richard Florida, one of the most influential thinkers about cities in postwar America, wants you to know that he got almost everything about cities wrong…His observations quickly formed the basis of a set of breezy technical solutions. If decaying cities wanted to survive, they had to open cool bars, shabby-chic coffee shops, and art venues that attract young, educated, and tolerant residents. Eventually, the mysterious alchemy of the creative economy would build a new and prosperous urban core. Today, even Florida recognizes that he was wrong. The rise of the creative class in places like New York, London, and San Francisco created economic growth only for the already rich, displacing the poor and working classes. The problems that once plagued inner cities have moved to the suburbs.”

Unexpectedly.

(Via SDA.)

LATE-STAGE SOCIALISM: Venezuela’s Maduro Regime Steps Up Crackdown on Dissidents.

The raid came just as a so-called truth commission established by the constituyente announced investigations into Julio Borges, president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, and Freddy Guevara, the assembly’s vice president, claiming that they promoted violent anti-government protests that have left more than 100 dead.

The campaign of repression is already well advanced. The Venezuelan chapter of Transparency International says that 40 of 77 opposition mayors have been threatened or punished by the government since 2013, with some removed and jailed, some having their powers curtailed and some barred from leaving the country.

“This is an atrocity,” said Ramon Muchacho, the former mayor of the Chacao district in Caracas, an opposition hotbed, who has fled to Miami. “The truth commission is little more than a firing squad.”

“Unexpectedly” now feels far too flip for stories coming out of Venezuela.

UNEXPECTEDLY. Disaster: Philly’s Soda Tax Has Produced Miserable Results.

UNEXPECTEDLY: A fashion company tried to ‘reclaim’ the swastika. It didn’t go well:

A design studio that tried to “reclaim” the swastika by selling shirts emblazoned with rainbow versions of the Nazi symbol has pulled its products after weeks of backlash, including from a national anti-Semitism group.

KA Design first pushed out its idea for “The New Swastika” in a July 12 Facebook video that reviewed the swastika’s long history.

For thousands of years, the video noted, the swastika had been used in numerous cultures to symbolize peace, love, luck, infinity and life.

“but one day Nazism,” text in the video noted, in one of the clip’s many capitalization-challenged semi-non sequiturs. “they stigmatized the Swastika forever. they won / they limited our freedom / or maybe not? the Swastika is coming back. . . . introducing the new Swastika.”

The video then showed an array of swastikas set against a rainbow background and the words “PEACE,” “LOVE” and “ZEN.”

“Wear the freedom,” the video declared, closing with the design studio’s motto: “Questioning Boundaries.”

Get one step closer to the dystopia predicted in Woody Allen’s Sleeper.

THE ATLANTIC ON HOW SILICON VALLEY TOOK OVER JOURNALISM. The piece is written by Franklin Foer, who describes how Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, bought the New Republic and promptly began the Buzzfeed-ification of that once august center-left magazine:

My master was Chartbeat, a site that provides writers, editors, and their bosses with a real-time accounting of web traffic, showing the flickering readership of each and every article. Chartbeat and its competitors have taken hold at virtually every magazine, newspaper, and blog. With these meters, no piece has sufficient traffic—it can always be improved with a better headline, a better approach to social media, a better subject, a better argument. Like a manager standing over the assembly line with a stopwatch, Chartbeat and its ilk now hover over the newsroom.

This is a dangerous turn. Journalism may never have been as public-spirited an enterprise as editors and writers liked to think it was. Yet the myth mattered. It pushed journalism to challenge power; it made journalists loath to bend to the whims of their audience; it provided a crucial sense of detachment. The new generation of media giants has no patience for the old ethos of detachment. It’s not that these companies don’t have aspirations toward journalistic greatness. BuzzFeed, Vice, and the Huffington Post invest in excellent reporting and employ first-rate journalists—and they have produced some of the most memorable pieces of investigative journalism in this century. But the pursuit of audience is their central mission. They have allowed the endless feedback loop of the web to shape their editorial sensibility, to determine their editorial investments.

“Unexpectedly,” the Atlantic’s own lust for clickbait isn’t mentioned the piece: CTL-F “Andrew Sullivan,” brings zero results. At the beginning of September of 2008, Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard wrote a post at his Galley Slaves blog titled “The Atlantic Becomes a Laughingstock,” that neatly foreshadows what Foer wrote for the Atlantic’s September 2017 issue on TNR:

What’s caught my attention here, then is The Atlantic. I am, and always have been, an enormous booster for the Old Media, and smarty-pants general-interest magazines in particular. What’s so notable in this whole affair isn’t the tarring of Palin but the fact that The Atlantic Monthly is the vehicle for the irresponsible spreading of smears about Palin and speculation so inane that it can’t be counted, by any reasonable measure, as analysis. (Here, I’m thinking of Sullivan’s claim that he thought it possible both Palin and McCain would relinquish their nominations.)

If Andrew Sullivan were to have written everything he wrote this week at his own website, I wouldn’t have said a word about it. The real scandal here isn’t Sullivan: It’s what The Atlantic has become by publishing him.

As for Sullivan’s page views, I sincerely hope that David Bradley isn’t making his editorial decisions based solely on eyeballs and dollars. Were that so, you could simply give The Atlantic‘s pages over to Perez Hilton or Slashdot or Matt Drudge or any other number of content formats. But the point of The Atlantic, like other great journals, is to be something different–to be a stage in the world of ideas, even if it’s not the most profitable thing.

I find the prospect of The Atlantic devolving into some version of Free Republic or Daily Kos to be immensely worrisome. Hopefully David Bradley will do something to put his house in order. Soon.

Let’s give Foer the exit quote: “Journalism has performed so admirably in the aftermath of Trump’s victory that it has grown harder to see the profession’s underlying rot.”

I question both halves of that premise, especially the first.

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDUCATION APOCALYPSE: Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark public schools failed miserably — here’s where it went wrong.

Unexpectedly.

(Via SDA.)

UNEXPECTEDLY: Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles Employees Arrested For Creating False IDs for Illegals.

THE ATLANTIC ON WHY AMERICANS GET CONNED AGAIN AND AGAIN:

For decades, Donald Trump has been compared to the legendary showman P.T. Barnum. Trump himself has publicly embraced being likened to a man described by historians as “vulgar, childish, surely just a little crooked.” His willingness to invoke that set of values—quite different from the Horatio Alger-style “luck and pluck” that serve as an unofficial national ethos—may be what his supporters are praising when they say he “tells it like it is.”

* * * * * * * *

Fraud is a phenomenon that knows no borders, but American exceptionalism, as Balleisen shows, includes a special vulnerability to fraudsters and con artists. As he points out, “Many of the world’s most expensive and ambitious frauds have occurred in America” because “openness to innovation has always meant openness to creative deception.” The country’s lionization of entrepreneurs and inventors creates tempting opportunities for those trafficking in highly implausible scenarios. It has made the U.S. home to genuine innovators, from Thomas Edison to Oprah Winfrey, but it has also facilitated the far-reaching deceptions and empty promises perpetrated by people like Bernie Madoff on Wall Street and Elizabeth Holmes in Silicon Valley. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was the largest known financial fraud in history, and Holmes’s biotech start-up Theranos faces multiple lawsuits and federal investigations after its products didn’t work as claimed. (Holmes and the company deny any wrongdoing.)

Misrepresentations are usually made possible by two factors: their complexity and their proponents’ social craftiness. Madoff and Holmes used both of these to their advantage.

So did another conman working on an even bigger scale – and “unexpectedly,” he’s not mentioned at all in the above article.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Germany’s Refugee-Driven Terror Problem Out of Control with Dozen Incidents since 2016.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Debbie Wasserman Schultz Avoiding Reporters Since Awan Arrest.

C’mon Debbie — tell the world how you had been “myzled” by Awan! (Bumped).

UNEXPECTEDLY. Twitter Fails to Grow Its Audience, Again: Monthly active users in the U.S. fell, as did ad revenue.

Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Twitter Posts 10th Straight Quarter of Lower Revenue.”

But these things tend to happen when you go full-on SJW, and begin to ban controversial users – you know, the ones who generate clicks and links by being provocative. Or as Steve wrote a month ago, “I miss the old Twitter, too, before the company discouraged honest give-and-take by going Full SJW.”

(Via Small Dead Animals, which links to the above Bloomberg article under the headline “#TweetsUp.”)

Heh, indeed.™

JOURNALISM IS ABOUT COVERING IMPORTANT STORIES. WITH A PILLOW, UNTIL THEY STOP MOVING: Networks Cover Up Wasserman Schultz’s Shady IT Staffer Being Arrested, Fired.

Just think of broadcast news as Democrat operatives with Chyrons, and it all makes sense.

Meanwhile, Nick Confessore‏ of the New York Times calls the story “remarkable,” Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post describes it as “Wild,”’ and curiously, neither seems very upset that both of their papers missed it.

Unexpectedly, as they say in the DNC-MSM.

(Classical reference in headline.)

Related: Scott Johnson of Power Line on “The Awan connection.”

IT’LL BE INTERESTING TO SEE IF THIS EFFECT HOLDS UP, AND IF IT HAS ANY OTHER ANTI-AGING IMPACT: Cancer Patients’ Gray Hair Darkened While on New Drugs.

Cancer patients’ gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads. The AP reports chemotherapy is notorious for making hair fall out, but the 14 patients involved were all being treated with new immunotherapy drugs that work differently and have different side effects. A Spanish study suggests that may include restoring hair pigment, at least in patients with lung cancer. With the first patient, “we thought it could be an isolated case,” said Dr. Noelia Rivera. But she said the research team found the same thing when they asked other patients for photos from before treatment.

Let’s hope this turns into something big.

UNEXPECTEDLY!: The Obama-Ayatollah Nuclear Collusion Fraud isn’t working.

OK, The National Interest article is titled “The Iran Nuclear Deal Isn’t Working,” but I think my title is more accurate.

RELATED: Not so unexpectedly. (I’m so old I remember 2015.)

UNEXPECTEDLY: Study Finds Massive Drop in Israel Support … Among Jewish College Students.

Curiously, the one nation in the Middle East where they’re not tossing gays off tall buildings isn’t popular among the American far left, either.

UNEXPECTEDLY? New York restaurateur: we axed 500 employees because of higher minimum wage.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Best-Run States Are Low-Tax Republican, Worst-Run Are High-Tax Democratic, Study Finds.

There were several changes in the rankings from last year. Florida moved from sixth place to first, while Alaska dropped from first place last year to 17th this year, driven mainly by the fall in oil prices. Idaho moved into the top 10.

At the bottom of the heap, Louisiana and West Virginia both dropped down in the 10-worst list, while Hawaii greatly improved, going from 45th place last year 27th this year. Connecticut, Maine and New York also climbed out of the bottom 10 list. But New Jersey fell to dead last from last year’s 48th place.

The report also includes rankings for each individual measure of fiscal solvency, in addition to the overall ranking. Some states do well on some measures, and bad on others. New Jersey, for example, is last on long-run solvency and second to last on budget solvency, but ranks 24 on service-level solvency.

Nearly bankrupt Illinois is in the bottom in all but one of the five individual measures — service-level solvency.

The Mercatus report doesn’t include data on the states’ political leanings or tax burdens, but the implication is clear.

Great study — don’t get cocky.

UNEXPECTEDLY: Two years after the bailout, life in Greece has gotten more miserable.

The economy is stagnant, unemployment hovers around 25% and is twice as high for young adults, taxes are rising, and wages are falling. Half of Greek homeowners can’t make their mortgage payments and another quarter can’t afford their property taxes, according to the Bank of Greece.

“All these years, I’ve heard dozens of promises from the current and the previous governments on creating new jobs and bettering conditions in the country, but I never believed anything of what I heard,” said Nikos Theodoridis, 57, who became homeless during the economic crisis that began in 2007.

“Homelessness and the crisis are still here, despite all that politicians are saying,” said Theodoridis, who makes a paltry living hawking magazines on the street.

On July 5, 2015, voters soundly rejected the terms of a proposed bailout with international lenders because the plan demanded too much austerity. Yet, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza Party ignored the referendum results and signed a third bailout deal that would provide nearly $100 billion in loans the country desperately needed to avoid collapse.

Tsipras, whose party gained power on a pledge to resist further austerity requirements, reversed itself and adopted more budget and pension cuts. In June, he negotiated the latest payment of $9.7 billion.

Many Greeks now are resigned to living in poverty under the deal. “It’s our fault,” said Vasiliki Gova, 52, a cleaning woman who gained national attention by staging a two-year protest outside the Ministry of Finance where she had been laid off from her job. “People were looking for hope and put all their hopes on politicians. But no messiah will come save us.”

Greeks spent a lot of money they didn’t have, then the bill came due. Greece has been down this road before, but never so far. Belonging to the eurozone allowed them to borrow at the same low rate as thrifty Germans — like giving dad’s Platinum American Express to a reckless teenager. Needless to say, they ran up some big bills. Even worse, their attachment to the euro means that this time they can’t devalue their way out like they have in previous debt crises.

Another case of “bad luck,” I suppose.