Tasty Capitalism: North Korea Wages War Against Choco Pies


Let’s face it: Kim Jong-un just wants all of Choco Pies for himself.

Some back story:

There’s a joint industrial complex between North and South Korea, where North Koreans — otherwise starving under communism — are employed by their capitalistic southern neighbors. At this complex, bosses have for years handed out chocolate and marshmallow treats called Choco Pies. The workers, who gladly take the treats home, have created a burgeoning black market in the North. In fact, reports say as many as 2.5 million are traded monthly.

But communism has a natural ideological opposition to all things fun, decent, and delicious. So authorities in North Korea have reportedly banned Choco Pies from the industrial complex. Instead, workers are supposed to get sausages and powdered coffee as treats. Because, you see, tasty capitalism is a threat to the hermit kingdom.

But North Korean officials soon were reported to be spreading anti-Choco Pie propaganda. One rumor: “South Korean authorities have added weird substances,” to the pies, the Daily NK reported. The Choco Pies were planted by the South to “shake our national defense,” according to another. “They are spying and scheming. If the products from the ‘neighborhood downstairs’ are enjoyed unconditionally, the ideology of the people could wither at any moment.”

The cultural bi-products of capitalism have always posed a threat to oppressive governments that keep their people starving and miserable. It used to be products like Coca-Cola and blue jeans. Now, in North Korea at least, it’s Choco Pies. Capitalism. Tasty, tasty capitalism.

Former Government Employee Pension Fund Boss to Plead Guilty to Conspiracy

It’s not just any public employee pension fund. It’s Calpers, California’s giant system and the largest in the United States. The former boss will plead guilty in a federal conspiracy case.

In March 2013, former California Public Employee Retirement System CEO Fred Buenrostro was indicted by a San Francisco grand jury and charged with conspiracy in connection with a scheme involving fraudulent documents related to a $3 billion investment by the retirement system in funds managed by Apollo Global Management.

While Buenrostro had proclaimed his innocence, his lawyer, William Portanova said his client had decided to cooperate with the prosecution against his co-defendant, Alfred Villalobos, a former member of the pension fund’s board…

The indictment says Villalobos and Buenrostro conspired to create a series of fraudulent investor disclosure letters sent to Apollo. The private equity company had hired Villalobos’ firm, ARVCO Capital Research LLC, to provide placement agent services to secure investment business at the pension fund.

The two men also made false statements to authorities investigating the disclosure letters. In 2008 and 2009, Apollo paid ARVCO approximately $14 million in fees related to the Calpers investments. Villalobos’ lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Buenrostro will enter his plea on July 11th.

Obama: I’ll just have to go around Congress on immigration

I’d ask where he finds the constitutional authority to do such a thing, but let’s be honest: Aside from use as a bathroom tissue substitute, that document has no place in Barack Obama’s Administration.

“I would greatly prefer Congress actually do something. I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing.,” Mr. Obama said Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “And in this situation the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for security, its bad for our economy, and its bad for our future.”

Funny story: “Serious problem” and “Congress chooses to do nothing” appear nowhere in the United States Constitution, nor does the idea that he only has to “prefer” the legislative branch act. The system doesn’t work on the principle that either you vote for Barack Obama’s agenda or he does it anyway.

To quote Allahpundit:

Exit question: Which article of the Constitution sets forth this principle? Quote: “I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue and Congress chooses to do nothing.” I believe that’s the “I get to do sh*t if Congress doesn’t” clause, no?

In fact, liberal analysts Jeffrey Toobin and Laurence Tribe are confused as to where he thinks he gets the power, too.

This has become a running issue. Even lawyers and judges who support Obama’s policy agenda are taken aback by his disregard for the Constitution. The Supreme Court just the other day unanimously rejected his unconstitutional appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Before that, the court had voted identically to terminate his actions on about a dozen occasions. That includes two justices Obama himself appointed.

The president is either incapable or unwilling to accept that there are in fact restrictions on his power. He is neither a dictator nor a monarch. Congress does not exist to rubber-stamp his policy agenda. If Congress chooses to not act on an issue, that’s Congress’s prerogative. He can lobby the legislative branch to act, he can convince the public to pressure the legislative branch to act, he can not pretend the legislative branch is non-existent and do whatever he wants.

Robert Downey Jr. Responds to Son’s Arrest

The “Iron Man” star has a past with addictions himself. It has to be disappointing to see his own son go through this. Interesting take:

Some fare well more than others, and unfortunately it seems as if Robert Downey Jr.’s son Indio hasn’t been doing too well lately. After the 20-year-old was arrested on drug charges Sunday, his famous father — who dealt with his own drug demons in the past — is speaking out:

“Unfortunately, there’s a genetic component to addiction and Indio has likely inherited it. Also, there is a lot of family support and understanding, and we’re all determined to rally behind him and help him become the man he’s capable of being,” Robert Downey, Jr. said in a statement. “We’re grateful to the Sheriff’s Department for their intervention, and believe Indio can be another recovery success story instead of a cautionary tale.”

Downey, in contrast with many others who came before him, doesn’t seem to be making excuses for his son nor is he blaming authorities for some bullcrap reason. Personal responsibility and confronting the issue rather than excusing it. A novel idea.

Israel Launches Airstrikes After Teens Murdered

Following the discovery yesterday of the bodies of three Israeli teens kidnapped last month by Islamist militants, Israel launched airstrikes against 34 targets in the Gaza Strip overnight. Earlier, rockets had also been fired into Israeli territory from Gaza.

According to CNN, the West Bank homes of two prime suspects in the murders were destroyed by the Israelis overnight. A report from ABC News says a man connected with Hamas was shot and killed when he threw a grenade at forces carrying out an arrest raid.

Hamas has denied involvement in the kidnapping and murder of the teenagers. Another Islamic militant group calling itself Ansar as-Dawla al-Islamiya has claimed responsibility, but the validity of its claim, first reported by a Palestinian news agency, could not be confirmed.

CASH COW: “Transformers” is Box Office Hit, Of Course

It’s a summer movie directed by Michael Bay and featuring giant robots with lots of explosions. It was never going to be anything but a financial success.

The franchise that enrages critics and enraptures fans did it again this weekend, pummeling the competition on its way to a decisive No. 1.

Transformers: Age of Extinction morphed into $100 million, according to studio estimates from box-office trackers Rentrak.

The debut met most analysts’ stratospheric projections and underscores Michael Bay’s canny measure of public appetite. Like the previous three Transformers films, Extinction was excoriated by critics. And again, moviegoers didn’t care.

Yep. You can talk about artistic quality all you want, but sometimes people just wanna see giant robots causing massive explosions on a hot summer day. Moviegoers aren’t always looking for the deepest plot and most meaningful themes.

Sonny Bunch totally called it:

On the one hand, Transformers: Age of Extinction is barely coherent, narratively disastrous, and oppressively long. On the other: OPTIMUS PRIME RIDING A DINOSAUR ROBOT WHILE SWINGING A GIANT SWORD!…

One could spend all day breaking down the narrative idiocy of this film—the subplot with the CIA and the military-industrial complex and globalization that’s represented by the film’s final set-piece taking place in a Chinese factory where American arms are to be made requires a dissertation-length study. But that’s not really the point of this picture, or of any of the Transformers pictures. We come to these movies to see things blow up real good.

And blow up they do! For an unrelenting 165 minutes, we are treated to the finest chaos cinema Michael Bay has to offer. Coherence is at a minimum and explosions are at a maximum as robots punch and launch missiles at each other and change into Lamborghinis and Chevys and helicopters and, eventually, T-Rexes and Triceratopses and Two-Headed Pterodactyls. And there are space ships! And a new mineral called “Transformium”! (Seriously.) And PRAW! And SCRAASHH! And PSSHEWWW!

Naturally, it doesn’t matter what I say. This film will gross somewhere between $1.2 and $1.4 billion worldwide. Because people like to PRAW! And SCRASHH! And PSSHEWWW! Who am I to judge?

Exactly. While a deep, high-quality artistic film is appreciated, there will always be room in the hearts of theater patrons for big explosions and giant freaking robots saving the world.

Let’s Review: How are incumbents doing overall this year?

Actually really well.

People talk about throwing the bums out, but voters keep sending the same bunch back in.

More than halfway through the party primaries, 293 House and Senate members have completed their quests for renomination.

The score: Incumbents 291, challengers 2.

Granted, Eric Cantor’s recent loss was a shock — but it was a shock for precisely that reason. So rarely is a high-ranking lawmaker defeated that it shook the political establishment. Since then, most incumbents have succeeded in their renomination battles.

Why? A few explanations. The most obvious is the incumbent advantage in terms of fundraising and high-profile sales pitches. But there’s also this:

But those rare exciting races that draw national attention are misleading. Most of the House candidates, about 60 percent so far, didn’t have a soul running against them. Only a few faced a challenger who posed a real threat. No senator has been defeated yet.

That’s depressing. Even if you like the guy you have now, it’s a sad state of affairs when not a single district resident decides to challenge his power. That doesn’t seem to be a sign of a healthy democracy.

Then there’s this:

What about November, when Republicans and Democrats face off in the general election?

It looks to be a dramatic midterm, all right, with Republicans pushing to seize control of the Senate. More incumbents will be vulnerable in the general election than the primaries. Still, the vast majority of sitting lawmakers are snug in their seats.

Over the past five decades, voters have routinely returned 9 of 10 incumbent candidates to the House. Senate races are a bit less predictable, but usually more than 80 percent of incumbents win.

Indeed, even in 2010 we saw 85% of incumbents reelected. That’s because dissatisfaction with Congress in general really means little in terms of reelection numbers. People are very often angry at the legislative body as a whole…but like their own guy. Of course, you can only vote for your guy. I don’t get a say in San Francisco’s election of Nancy Pelosi. I vote for my guy, San Francisco votes for her, and nothing changes.

Israel Announces Support for Kurdish Independence

From Barak Ravid:

BREAKING: Netanyahu: We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it


Would Russia send forces to Iraq?

I don’t think you would have to work hard to convince Russia to send forces into a major oil-producing country. The bigger challenge would be convincing Russia to end its occupation of a major oil-producing country.

Moscow isn’t taking kindly to jihadists gaining ground in Iraq and seems to be considering flexing its new interventionist muscle.

Damascus (AFP) – Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in Damascus on Saturday that his country “will not remain passive” as jihadists push an offensive in Syria’s neighbour Iraq.

“Russia will not remain passive to the attempts by some groups to spread terrorism in the region,” Ryabkov told journalists after meeting with President Bashar al-Assad…

Ryabkov, whose country is Assad’s main backer, did not elaborate on what steps Russia might take.

Odds are Russia support would be limited to sending special forces, money, and weapons to Iraq. But who knows what Vladimir Putin would do. We’re talking about a man who just stole a chunk of a neighboring country and really paid no price for his actions.

Here’s something I don’t want to see: After losing so many young American men in pursuit of liberating and democratizing Iraq, Russia sends in forces and uses its occupation to benefit from Iraq’s oil resources. I don’t foresee it happening at this point, but Moscow does appear to be talking tough.

Oh Good: Major Automaker Recalls Another 450,000 Vehicles

Three more recalls from General Motors, in fact. On top of a stop-sale order and another recall of the Chevy Cruze. It’s getting ridiculous.

Earlier this week GM stopped the sale of 2013 and 2014 Cruze sedans while it tracked down which ones got a potentially faulty driver-side airbag inflator that could explode and send metal bits flying — then last night recalled 29,019 of them in the U.S. and 4,066 in Canada.

On Friday GM announced three more recalls for a total of more than 450,000 vehicles worldwide. The company now has issued 48 recalls for more than 20 million vehicles this year in the wake of the recall of 2.6 million smalls cars in February and March for a deadly iginition switch defect…

The problem is that the transfer case in the trucks may electronically switch itself into neutral without action by the driver, according to GM. If it happens on the road the wheels lose power. If the truck is stopped or parked and brakes are not applied or the parking brake is off the truck could roll away.

The other recalls deal with a faulty windshield wiper and bad rear shock absorbers.