“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Telegraph’s correspondents on the ground in Kiev - Roland Oliphant and David Blair - report 21 bodies laid out on a pavement, a number of which displayed single bullet wounds to the head.


  1. I wish them all the best of luck.

    From afar.

    Way, way, afar.

  2. The Dragunov rifle, firing the 7.62x54 cartridge could put a single round in a fella's head from 800 meters, with no rel problem.

    The reports I read indicated they were shot by snipers, during an attack on the government's security forces. Where the rebel forces proceeded to capture 67 of those policemen.

    All the reports seem to 'dovetail'.

    The French ar always ready to send their troops, to act as 'Peacekeepers', in Africa, they do not seem to be chomping at the bit to enter the fray in the Ukraine. Nor do the Brits, who advocate for military intervention in Syria.

    The Germans, who are one of the top ten global spenders on military capability, they are sitting on their hands.

    The US, well, just listen to the silence from J McCain on the violence in Thailand, Venezuela, Mexico and the Ukraine.


  3. Militants Attack Presidential Palace in Somalia

    MOGADISHU, Somalia — Multiple explosions and a firefight erupted near the presidential palace here in the Somalian capital on Friday, in a deadly militant attack on the heart of the government.

    “Terrorists tried to attack the presidential palace and the security forces foiled the attack,” Abdikarim Hussein Guled, the minister of the interior and national security, told state media. He called on the public to remain calm and promised to provide more information later.

    The United Nations’ top envoy to the country said in a message on Twitter that the Somalian president, Hassan Sheik Mohamud, had survived the attack on the palace, known as Villa Somalia. “President just called me to say he’s unharmed,” said Nicholas Kay, the United Nations’ special representative for Somalia. “Attack on Villa #Somalia had failed. Sadly some lives lost. I condemn strongly this terrorism.”

    Witnesses said a loud explosion was heard, followed by an exchange of gunfire and then a series of other explosions around Villa Somalia. Ambulances were on the scene collecting the wounded.

    Capt. Mohamed Hussein of the police told The Associated Press that the attack had begun with a car bomb, followed by militants attempting to shoot their way into the compound, where the president and the speaker of Parliament reside and have their offices.

    “Somali National Security Forces foiled cowardly attack outside Villa #Somalia,” said the African Union mission in Somalia, known as Amisom, in a Twitter message after the attack. “Senseless attack was directed on innocent civilians as Friday prayers were underway in Mosques.”

  4. In short, it counts.

    This is important news for two reasons: First, it instantly raises the "Off-Exchange" number from 124K to over 308K (oh, and that was only as of 1/31; it could be considerably higher now...the PR suggests perhaps 20K more direct enrollments will show up by 3/31).

    More significantly, however, compare the off-exchange enrollments with WA's exchange-based ones: Almost 2.2x as many people.

    Think about this for a minute. IF Washington State is in any way representative of the rest of the country--and I have no idea whether it is or not--that suggests that the total number of "Off-Exchange"/Direct enrollments in ACA-compliant healthcare policies could be as high as 7.7 Million nationally (up to 2.2x the 3.5 million exchange-based enrollments reported to date).

    Oh, and Washington State decided not to allow extensions of non-qualifying plans, so this isn't a bunch of "junk plans" being stretched out for a year.

    Now, I seriously doubt it's that high; I never imagined it would be any higher than 2-3 million or so, possibly equalling the exchange-based number at most. Regardless, we're definitely talking about at least a few million people.

    And no, unfortunately these enrollments don't count towards the CBO's "7 Million" (now "6 Million") projected exchange-based enrollment figure.

    HOWEVER, it does go a LONG way towards (and possibly completely) negating the "OMG!! 5 MILLION POLICIES CANCELLED!!!" attack point.

    Yes, that's right--millions of ACA-non-compliant policies were cancelled...and have simply been replaced, judging by the evidence, with millions of ACA-compliant policies...many (most?) of which were done directly via the insurance companies themselves.

    In short, it looks like we can finally stick a fork in the "5M Cancelled!!" meme; it's done.

    Fork Another One


  5. Genesis Carmona Dead: Venezuelan Beauty Queen Is Fifth Victim Of Political Unrest

    The 22-year-old student and beauty queen took part in the anti-government protests happening in Valencia, the capital of the northern state of Carabobo. Her death was also confirmed via the Miss Carabobo organization's official Facebook page.

    “We deeply lament to have to say that our Génesis Carmona has just passed away "

  6. Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders have signed an EU brokered agreement on ending the political crisis in the country.

    The Ukrainian opposition representatives included the leader of the UDAR political party, Vitaly Klitschko, the head of the Batkivshchyna opposition party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the leader of the nationalist Svoboda opposition party, Oleg Tyagnibok.

    The breakthrough agreement was witnessed by EU foreign ministers who brokered the deal, including Poland’s Radoslaw Sikorski and Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as well as Director at the Continental Europe Department of the French Foreign Ministry, Eric Fournier.

    On Friday, Yanukovich announced early presidential elections and the return to the constitution of 2004, which limits presidential powers and widens the parliament’s authority. Ukraine’s Parliament has already adopted a law restoring the constitution of 2004 with 386 MP’s voting in favor.

    Yanukovich also said a national unity government will be created.

    Steinmeier has confirmed that the signed deal includes these points. The EU foreign ministers have welcomed Ukraine’s agreement and called for an immediate end to violence.

    According to the conditions of the agreement, within 48 hours a law restoring the 2004 constitution is to be adopted and signed, after which in 10 days a national unity government is to be formed.

    The agreement also states that as soon as the new constitution is adopted, no later than September, the presidential election must be held until December.

    Yatsenyuk has confirmed the snap presidential election will be held between September and December.

    In addition, there will be an investigation into the “recent acts of violence” committed during the anti-government riots. Under the deal, no state of emergency will be imposed in the country, while the government will adopt an amnesty “covering the same range of illegal actions as the February-17 2014 law.”

    “Both parties will undertake serious efforts to normalize life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and unblocking streets, city parks and squares” the text of the agreement reads.

    The Ukrainian parliament voted on Friday in favor of an unconditional amnesty for all people detained, or who might face possible prosecution in the current unrest.

  7. The boycott of Israel reaches tipping point

    Ami Kaufman argues that, judging by the number and weight of businesses imposing various sanctions on Israel, and by Israeli reactions to them, the tipping point has been reached.

    This Economist piece from 8 February has an excellent summary of some of the latest developments, mainly the decision of Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, to blacklist Israel’s Bank Hapoalim due to its involvement in the funding of settlement construction; the decision of the Norwegian Ministry of Finance in January to exclude the Israeli firms Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus from its Government Pension Fund Global; and Dutch water company Vitens decision from December, which provides water to 5.4 million people in the Netherlands, to discontinue all joint ventures with Israel’s national water supplier Mekorot, in protest over the Israeli company’s operations in the West Bank.

    The Economist also quickly mentions the Sodastream-Scarlett Johansenn affair – which brought unprecedented scrutiny to the apartheid reality that exists in the West Bank. The Sodastream affair was one of the biggest smacks to the faces against the occupation in recent memory. I personally found my own Facebook feed full of many who were indeed aware of the occupation, but were extremely surprised to find that Israel and its businesses were using the good ol’ colonialist theme of “we’re good for the natives”.

    However, since the Economist piece was published, there have been some more developments – and more importantly, Israeli reaction showing real nervousness.

    According to Kaufman, “what has seemed to really agitate Israeli politicians was the decision by Germany’s Deutsche Bank to “flag” “morally questionable investment” on Monday [17 February]. Deutsche decided to include Hapoalim on a list of companies whose conduct is ethically questionable, possibly due to its activity in the settlements”.

    1. In case some readers are nervous about BDS and the hysterical claims that it is anti-Semitic, here is how respected Palestinian lawmaker, Dr Hanan Ashrawi, defines it:

      BDS is… a legal, moral and inclusive movement struggling against the discriminatory policies of a country that defines itself in religiously exclusive terms, and that seeks to deny Palestinians the most basic rights simply because we are not Jewish.

  8. From the "Economist"

    Israel’s politicians sound rattled by the campaign to isolate their country
    Feb 8th 2014 | JERUSALEM | From the print edition

    ONCE derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians.

    Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, is approaching the same. “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid.. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.”


    1. Hate to say ...
      ... I told you so

      But so did Moshe Dyan.

      Israel cannot afford to stand against the entire world and be denounced as the aggressor.
      Moshe Dayan

  9. Jimmy Fallon can suck my Giant Conservative Cock!

    1. The appearance should not shock him after looking at his face in the mirror all these years.

  10. KIEV, Ukraine – As protests roiled Ukraine's capital and exploded into violence, Yulia Tymoshenko's face, topped by her trademark diadem of blonde peasant braids, overlooked the street mayhem from posters — an oddly ghostly presence for a woman who made her name by being in the thick of opposition action.

    The posters, on display near the stage of the protesters' main camp and on the nearby city Christmas tree, were the only way Tymoshenko could be there. She's been imprisoned for more than two years serving a sentence widely regarded as an act of vengeance by her arch-foe, President Viktor Yanukovych.

    Now Tymoshenko may be just days from a return. Hours after Yanukovych and protest leaders signed a wide-ranging agreement Friday to resolve the country's political crisis, the parliament that once was in Yanukovych's pocket approved a measure decriminalizing the charge used to convict Tymoshenko, paving the way for her release.

    Freeing her would bring back one of the most polarizing figures in Ukraine's overheated political scene. She is variously admired as an icon of democracy and detested as a self-promoting manipulator with a shady past.


    2. Bring back Yekaterina Alexeevna!

  11. (CNN) -- Venezuela has revoked or denied press credentials for CNN journalists in the country, following the president's announcement he would expel CNN if it did not "rectify" its coverage of anti-government protests.

    "They want to show the world that there is a civil war in Venezuela," President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday in a televised speech.

    Anti-government protests have become a daily occurrence in the country, and clashes with security forces or pro-government supporters have resulted in at least eight deaths, officials said.

    What CNN is not showing, Maduro said, is "the people working, studying, building the homeland."

    "Enough war propaganda. I do not accept war propaganda against Venezuela. If they do not rectify things, get out of Venezuela, CNN, get out," Maduro said, to applause from his pro-government audience.

    "Fuera! Fuera!" people in the crowd shouted -- "Out! Out!"

    Hours later, government officials notified seven journalists for CNN International and CNN en Español that their press accreditation had been denied or revoked.

    CNN teams from outside Venezuela were told to book flights back to their home countries.

    Maduro described CNN's journalists with some of the same adjectives he uses for his political opponents.

    "A group of fascists with their aggressions want to take us away from peace," Maduro said. "They are not going to do that. And we are going to show them."

    1. All this time I thought I was sucking on a ripe cigar.

  12. Okay, Whassup?

    A little boycotting going on?

    The place does seem a little smarter. :)

  13. From the "luckier than a dog with two dicks" file:

    Nebraska Judge takes Obama off the Keystone Pipeline hotseat.

    1. .

      Sierra Club is also lobbying hard against the project. “President Obama vowed to reject the pipeline if the project would ‘significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.’ The facts are clear: Keystone XL fails President Obama’s climate test,” says the group’s petition drive. “But Big Oil won’t give up, so we can’t stop until we finish this. We need to flood the White House with emails telling President Obama to keep his pledge and reject Keystone XL.”



    2. No, he is a defender of private property rights, referencing the Judge in Nebraska.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I have read, Q, that the Keystone pipeline would provide the producers of energy, in the US, the opportunity to sell it for more than they are receiving now. In other words, it would cause prices for gasoline to rise, in the US.

      Now, I have not researched the issue, and would not stand behind the validity of that opinion, but it does make some sense, on the surface of it.

    5. How it could fail the climate test when the alternative is to ship it across the seas to be refined is beyond me, or put more simply, I'm calling BS, BS!

    6. .

      If you have read what I have written on the subject, rat, you would know I have no dog in the fight. As I recall, I put up a post on it just yesterday. There are plenty of reasons for not having it.

      My complaint is with the politics and the argument that the pipeline will make any difference at all as to how much carbon is put into the air. Even Obama's EPA doesn't argue it any more. It's a bullshit argument because any oil Canada does not ship through the US they will eventually end up shipping from their West Coast. There is too much money involved not to sell it.


    7. The capacity to transport the oil, easily, out of Canada at lower costs, would cause an increase in production, which would result in a subsequent increase in 'Greenhouse Gases".

      Not BS, but economic reality, without smoke or mirrors to obscure the view.
      Which is what you wanted, until it's not.

    8. .

      Lord, rat, think about it. It all comes from Canada. Whether its shipped from Canada or the US what difference does it make. You will still have the same amount of carbon produced with or without the pipeline.


    9. .

      And that's even if you accept the environmentalist argument that global warming is caused by carbon dioxide generation.


    10. Pipeline, most energy efficient, ships, less so, rail, even less, trucks, and so on.

      Carrying it on our backs would probably heat up and poison the Earth the most, since we exhale that most deadly of gases: CO2

    11. They should simply build refineries near the tar sands. Why does big oil resist that option?

    12. Man, if I could figure out a formula that could produce the elation that song evokes I'd be a...




      a happy man!

    13. Don't worry, that stuff will all get dug up - every last yard of it. And, most of it will end up at the refineries that are the best in the world at processing it (Houston, Port Arthur, etc.)

      And, it will get there by pipeline.

    14. .

      They should simply build refineries near the tar sands. Why does big oil resist that option?

      It's not 'just' big oil, its money, logistics, politics, and some have argued that Canada is too late, should have started doing it 20 years ago.


    15. They've been developing the tar sands for more than 20 years. Most of the money has been supplied by 'big oil' while governments have mostly provided a 'favorable' environment. Why ship all that sticky bitumen all those miles for refining when it could be refined right there and shipped as a high value product?

    16. .

      Here is an article I saw a while back that explains some of the problems.

      The US is better set up to handle it but we still suffer some of the logistics problems and such and we have been closing refineries on the East Coast because of costs.


    17. Thanks for the article quirk! From that article:

      "But to others, whether or not it’s worth building refineries in Canada is a matter of perspective. In interviews with The Huffington Post, several observers noted that these upgrades and expansions have tended to occur at refineries owned by the same U.S. companies that are developing Canada’s oil patch.
      "“Most of our oil industry is American-owned, and they decide to build our refining capacity elsewhere, rather than in Canada,” said Fred Wilson, assistant to the president at the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).

      “When they talk about what’s cost-effective and so on, they’re speaking from the perspective of their company, and not Canada or Canadians or Albertans," he said."

    18. The Amount of Refineries, Transportation, and infrastructure in general in place on the Gulf will never be replicated anywhere on the Continent, much less in Canada, nor is there any good economic or logistical reason to do so.

      Transporting Crude is a piece of cake compared to many refined products. Gasoline, for instance, is corrosive to pipelines, in addition to being explosive. Only a fairly small fraction of refined product will be consumed in Canada.

      I have no doubt the Huffpo piece casts more blame on BIG OIL than they deserve.

    19. .

      I have no doubt the Huffpo piece casts more blame on BIG OIL than they deserve


      If you have no doubt, why read it.

      You are a peach.


  14. 99.99% of Americans think that we're in a lot better shape, oil-wise, than we are; but, oil might end up being "tomorrow's problem" in a couple of weeks.

    We're almost surely going to drop below a trillion cuft of nat gas in storage in just a couple of weeks (probably 3,) and it's feasible that we could fall below the MOL (minimum operating level at some point.)

    It probably won't happen, but, oh, mama, it would be a holy mess if it did.

    1. ...all the result of prices being too low for too long.

      Damned Big Oil!

    2. You should than your lucky Non-God you have a premier who can think rather than an Obamacare style nutjob like MacGregor.


      "Premier Alison Redford made clear earlier this year that she intends to let market forces dictate future bitumen upgrading projects, calling the deal the province struck with North West Upgrading “a commitment made by the previous government.”


      But NWU’s MacGregor has a different outlook.

      Though he concedes that his project would be difficult without government involvement, he says the $700 million in equity NWU and CNR have spent so far is a testament to the fact that investors believe in the economics of the venture.

      “We believe we can make a lot of money doing this, and lots of other people do too, because they have supported us all along,” he said.

      When it comes to further expansions to Alberta’s refining industry, he tends to dismiss naysayers, maintaining that just as oil sands producers will find safer, greener ways to extract bitumen, others will figure out how to process it locally.

      Everybody is going to say all the reasons why you can’t do something, but Canadians don’t have a history of paying any attention to that stuff,” he said. “Our history is we go and do stuff.

      Duh, we do stuff! Come Hell, High-water, or bankruptcy!

    3. "You should THANK your lucky Non-God..."

    4. Man, that must be about the most environmentally costly source of energy in the World.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. .

    Oil companies are putting in the infrastructure, facilities and pipelines so that they will be able to try to support the growing worldwide demand for natural gas. Unfortunately for them (fortunately for us at least in terms of price) putting in that infrastructure takes time.

    Gas supply and prices in the US are affected by many factors but the price has been so low for so long the key factor is supply and demand. 96% of US production is used in the US. Logistics is another key factor. See the story below.

    Flaring $100 a million per month just at Bakken isn't peanuts.

    Some are suing to stop the waste.


  16. "Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet.

    Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet's greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse.

    To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to asoverburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space."

    1. STOP BIG TAR!


      Sadly, not gonna happen.

    2. Not that there are any other living things in, and supported by, those thousands of square miles of forests.

  17. Richard Branson has reiterated his plan to fly with his children on the inaugural flight of his long-planned commercial space operation, Virgin Galactic, despite the relatively untested nature of the technology and a departure date which has slipped repeatedly.

    "Everybody who signs up knows this is the birth of a new space programme and understands the risks that go with that," Branson said in an interview for Weekend magazine at Virgin Galactic's base in the Mojave desert north of Los Angeles. "But every person wants to go on the first flight."

    While insisting his plan is credible and the first flight, reaching 62 miles above the Earth, will take place later this year – he has previously promised it for this autumn – Branson admits how difficult it has been to overcome the exacting safety expectations of a commercial space operation.

    He said: "The biggest worry I had was re-entry. Nasa has lost about 3% of everyone who's gone into space, and re-entry has been their biggest problem.

    "For a government-owned company, you can just about get away with losing 3% of your clients. For a private company you can't really lose anybody. Nobody we met had anything but the conventional risky re-entry mechanism that Nasa had. We were waiting for someone to come up with one that was foolproof."

    Branson's planned spaceship is a scaled-up version of SpaceShipOne, designed by Burt Rutan, a maverick and now-retired aerospace engineer who, with funding from the Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, won the $10m X prize for the first private flight into space with a reusable spaceship.

    "Burt Rutan's idea was to turn a spaceship into a giant shuttlecock," Branson said. "And so the pilot could be sound asleep on re-entry and it didn't matter what angle it hit coming back into the Earth's atmosphere."

    Almost 700 people, including Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie, have paid between £125,000 and £155,000 to book a two-hour journey on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which would include a planned five minutes of weightlessness.

    However, despite Branson's regular insistence that the first six-passenger flight is imminent – he has confidently announced it for more or less every year from 2007 – the service has completed only three test flights with a peak altitude of little more than 13 miles. To achieve the necessary US Federal Aviation Administration licence, the craft will need several tests at its full speed and 62-mile height.

    The journalist and author Tom Bower, who has just published a biography of Branson, says he believes SpaceShipTwo's engine will need to be redesigned before it can achieve Branson's stated aims, making a full-blown space flight by autumn extremely unlikely.

    "The rocket still hasn't flown at the required speed and to the required height," Bower said. "The point about his rocket is it's very primitive. He's burning rubber with nitrous oxide, and it's never been done before for that size of rocket.

    "For the last 10 years he'd been trying to make it work for the extended rocket and it just isn't working. Where's the evidence he can make it work in the next six months?"

    Branson's boasts about Virgin Galactic had won his businesses huge amounts of publicity in the US, Bower added, but made him a hostage to its success: "That's the problem with Branson. He's always boasted and got away with saying things which don't happen. He said Virgin Cola would beat Coca-Cola. He said Virgin Atlantic would beat BA, Virgin America would beat Delta and United. His boasts are unhealthy."

  18. Burt Rutan is a Genius.

    Richard Branson is a Madman.