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Sign “O” the Times

October 22nd, 2014 - 6:02 am

DRUDGE

War on women, yo:

Women have moved in the GOP’s direction since September. In last month’s AP-GfK poll, 47 percent of female likely voters said they favored a Democratic-controlled Congress while 40 percent wanted the Republicans to capture control. In the new poll, the two parties are about even among women, 44 percent prefer the Republicans, 42 percent the Democrats.

This is just one poll of course, so we can’t read too much into it — although the overall numbers are even worse, if perhaps not as shocking:

Among all adults, 38 percent say they’d like the Democrats to wind up in control of Congress, to 36 percent for the Republicans. But the GOP holds a significant lead among those most likely to cast ballots: 47 percent of these voters favor a Republican controlled-Congress, 39 percent a Democratic one. That’s a shift in the GOP’s favor since an AP-GfK poll in late September, when the two parties ran about evenly among likely voters.

Democrats don’t win ties, not in the midterms. Even a small edge for the GOP can result in big wins, as we saw from the polls leading up to 2010.

But what I find most interesting is how much voters seem to be preferring this GOP. The GOP in 2014 is not the party of Reagan. Hell, it’s not even the party of Gingrich. This is a party in turmoil, and yet the Democrats have been so soiled by President Obama’s non-performance that Americans are telling pollsters, “Hell yeah, we want the Republicans.”

Imagine what the Republicans could do at a time like this, if they spent less time alienating the grassroots and more effort winning over independents and vacillating Democrats.

On second thought, don’t — the contrast with reality is too depressing.

The Whittle Triple

October 22nd, 2014 - 5:09 am

Bill has the Trifecta Triple this week and… I’ll let him explain.

The End of the Tablet?

October 21st, 2014 - 2:45 pm

Tim_Cook_with_iPad

Apple’s results conference call on Monday revealed another record-breaking quarter with record-breaking iPhone and Mac sales, but iPad sales were down for the third straight quarter, and down Q2Q from a a year ago. Steve Jobs famously predicted that PCs were like trucks, tablets were like cars, and most people really only needed a car. Pros, he said, would keep using trucks for the heavy lifting, but the PC era was supposed to be over.

Microsoft can’t get anywhere with the Surface, and judging by app sales and web usage stats, the vast majority of el cheapo Android tablets go unused and unloved.

So is the tablet era over before it ever began?

Hard to say. iPad still generates huge profits, back to third behind Mac sales, with tens of millions sold each year. And the company is now taking a radical (for Apple) approach to the tablet market.

Previously, Apple sold only the new model of the full-size iPad, plus last year’s model at a discount and at a single memory tier. They then added the iPad mini to the lineup. A year later when the new iPad mini was introduced, the old model continued to sell, again at a discount and again at a single memory tier. That reduced shopping confusion for consumers and helped Apple keep their SKU count low. (“Steve hates SKUs,” I once joked.) Under the Old Regime, tablet prices started at $299 for last year’s iPad mini with minimal memory, and topped out at $929 for a maxed-out 128GB iPad Air.

Now things have changed. A lot.

The two-year-old original iPad mini is still for sale, now with two memory tiers to choose from, with the starting price reduced even further. Last year’s mini (with Retina Display) is also still on sale, at the usual $100 discount, and also with two memory tiers. The new iPad mini is at the usual price, and with the usual three memory tiers — but the top two tiers offer twice as much memory as before.

The iPad Air has gotten a similar treatment. Last year’s model? Two tiers, $100 off. This year’s model? Three tiers, with the top two tiers offering twice as much memory as before.

That’s a lot more choice than Apple usually offers in its consumer range.

The buy-in price for an iPad is now just $249 for a 16GB iPad mini. That’s $50 less than Apple has ever charged to let you into their ecosystem. But the top-end price for a new-generation 128GB iPad Air has dropped from $929 to $829. The product range has expanded from four two five, but the pricing scheme has both dropped and compressed. So prices are down, value is up, and the product range has increased. As a shareholder, I’m also pleased that Apple has managed to do all that in a way which should protect its enviable profit margins.

Is it enough to boost sales again, or at least forestall further declines?

That’s the Big Unanswerable, but Apple’s new strategy shows they are nowhere close to giving up on the product category they redefined from Microsoft’s original vision of “Windows-with-a-stylus” to “the touch computer for anybody.”

Great find from Daniel Halper:

“We are completely out of ideas,” reads the opening of an email from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

After President Clinton emailed you this morning to ask for help, we really thought we would be in a better place.But we aren’t. The Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, and the other Republican outside groups are spending millions against us. It’s the biggest spending spree of any midterm election EVER. So big — it doesn’t even look like President Clinton’s email can dig us out of this hole.There is still time, though. Things are rough, but we’re not ready to accept defeat. If we can bring in 5O,OOO donations before tomorrow’s ad buy deadline, we can get back on track. Will you answer President Clinton’s call-to-action today?

Next the DCCC suggests a $5 donation.

I wouldn’t say they’re completely out of ideas, although “give me your money” is hardly a new idea.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

October 21st, 2014 - 12:33 pm

kaiser

Unpopular law remains unpopular:

Why didn’t increasing insurance coverage for millions of people make the law more popular? One hypothesis: Most of the people who got coverage were always in the supporter camp, and those who oppose Obamacare are mostly people who don’t have much to gain from it (i.e., they already have coverage through employers or Medicare). And there are such places as Kentucky, where the law broadly succeeded yet remains unpopular with voters, including some who benefited from it.

That Means It’s Working™

More seriously, I need to reiterate a point I’ve made here a couple times before.

Despite both legally mandating and subsidizing insurance coverage, ♡bamaCare!!! enrolled only about 7 million of the nation’s 40-plus million who were previously uninsured — minus an unknown number who lost their plans due to ♡bamaCare!!!, then purchased ACA-approved plans on the exchanges. That’s a huge miss. The law did successfully expand Medicaid coverage to millions more, but all that accomplished was to increase the scope and expense of the welfare state. Medicaid expansion did nothing, zilch, nada to increase private coverage or to reduce expenses to the taxpayer.

That’s a lousy winner-to-loser ratio, which explains ♡bamaCare!!!’s lousy poll numbers.

A Low-Tech Lynching [UPDATED, BUMPED]

October 21st, 2014 - 12:10 pm

LYNCHING

This flyer — including a well-known photo of an actual lynching — purports to say what will happen to President Obama in the Senate if Kay Hagan isn’t reelected to that oh-so-august body.

Distasteful? Yes.

A big fat lie? Certainly.

Will it drive Democrats to the polls? Very possibly.

Of those three points, only the last one counts. It’s vile and despicable, but these things work.

Republicans must remember this.

I’ve said for years that there’s only one safe way to drive in Colorado, home to some of the most poorly-trained drivers and some of the work conditions. What you’re about to read is far from failsafe, and it requires a high degree of concentration, but my method does work.

Constantly scan the traffic to keep your situational awareness elevated — even a momentary lapse could cost you a bent fender or a totaled car or worse. Quickly imagine the most bone-headedly stupid thing each car, motorcycle, pedestrian, or Subaru Outback* could possibly do. Form a contingency maneuver for each stupid thing they might do, sorted in a probability/danger matrix. Now just watch as some dumbass does exactly one of the dumbass things on your matrix. Adjust your driving accordingly.

In politics, Republicans face a very similar situation when dealing with Democrats. Scan every single Democrat around you, and in an election year you’d better check in on those “independent” groups with the nice-sounding names. If he or she is your opponent, hire someone, or several someones, to check on them 24/7. Actually, make that 25/8 — you can’t be too sure.

Now imagine the meanest, biggest, boldest, stupidest, most disgusting lie they might tell. Keep in mind that the lie doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to serve to elevate their voter turnout, suppress yours, or just muddy the waters. You must develop a preemptive plan for dealing with it, ready to go at a moment’s notice. Better yet, develop a preemptive plan which actually preempts their lies.

There’s just one problem.

Whatever you imagined, I’m sure you didn’t think up that lynching flyer — and that’s where Republicans, as adept and as able liars as any reputable politician, fall short. There are places most Republicans fear to tread, where Democrats rush in.

They play hardball. But as one wise man once said, punch them back twice as hard.

MORE

*I love Subarus. One of the most fun-to-drive cars I’ve ever owned was a then-new ’93 Impreza hatch. I’d zip up to Denver on I-25 doing 95MPH or better (this was before the traffic got too dense) the whole way, even through the twisties, thanks to all-wheel-drive and that nice little four-banger 1.8 boxer engine.

That said, most Subaru Outbacks are now purchased by the same Safety Nazis who used to buy all the Volvo 240 wagons and practically park them in the passing lane at a relentless 13MPH under the speed limit.

I love Subarus. I like wagons. But I can’t remember the last time I was behind a Subaru Outback wagon that wasn’t pissing me off.

(H/T to Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Reader™ “Sigivald” for reminding me to do the Outback rant.)

Required Reading

October 21st, 2014 - 11:25 am

As the election approaches, share Quin Hillyer’s thoughts with your friends:

With repeated support from Senate Democrats, Obama has gutted American defenses and radically undermined our diplomatic standing. The “reset” with Russia lies in ruins in Crimea and Ukraine. Libya is a disaster area. A “jayvee team” beheads Western journalists and aid workers, lays waste to entire villages in Syria and Iraq, destroys Christian holy sites, and even threatens Baghdad. Al-Qaeda affiliates gain ground in numerous African and Gulf states. Afghanistan totters on the brink. Obama’s Middle East “peace process” resulted in a Hamas uprising. Huge majorities of Israelis feel abandoned by the current administration. Iran is closer than ever to deliverable nuclear weapons. China increasingly rattles its saber internationally while destroying decades of republican government in Hong Kong. Allied leaders are furious that we spied on them. South American nations are increasingly distant from the United States.

Nowhere — repeat, nowhere — do U.S. interests appear to be in stronger position now than when Obama took office.

Domestically, Obama’s managerial state has managed only to make life more unmanageable. Abroad, his bowing to foreign leaders has only bowed the “arc of history” in the wrong direction. And every single Senate Democrat has kowtowed, at every turn, to every one of his major actions.

RINOs are herd animals and can be led, but a Donk will always vote like an ass.

President Who?

October 21st, 2014 - 10:21 am

193326_5_

Thomas Lifson reports on a curious pandemic sweeping the nation — Obamanesia:

Buyer’s remorse for twice electing Barack Obama is taking hold. The first stage of grief is denial, after all, according to Kubler-Ross. USA Today has just conducted some revealing polls in six states with competitive Senate races:

Now USA TODAY/Suffolk University polls in a half-dozen states with key Senate races underscore just how much times and political fortunes have changed for the president. In five of the six states, the percentage of likely voters who say they voted for Obama in 2012 has dipped from the actual results.

Of those who say they did vote for him, as many as one in seven say they regret it.

But even more interesting than those honest people expressing regret are those less forthright people who simply don’t remember:

In 2012, Obama carried three of the states surveyed by USA TODAY and Suffolk University’s Political Research Center with more than 50% of the vote. But now just 47% of likely voters in Iowa, 46% in Colorado and 48% in Michigan say they voted for him.

Of the six states, only in Kansas did the percentage who remember voting for Obama match the actual election returns, at 38%. His standing slid 5 points in North Carolina and 2 in Arkansas.

Of course, it says something about our political class that I can only barely remember casting my votes in 2008 and 2012 for Bob Barr and Mitt Romney, respectively.

Trifecta Extra

October 21st, 2014 - 9:15 am

EXTRA

Things got weird.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Research

October 21st, 2014 - 8:10 am

DISEASE

Oy:

The White House has halted research examining how diseases like influenza, MRSA, and SARS can be more easily transmitted among animals, citing safety concerns. The US will not fund any new research and is encouraging those with existing research to pause their experiments.

There were apparently biosafety “incidents” at federally-funded research centers. As a result, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, is launching “a deliberative process” to asses risks associated with this type of research.

In August, a CDC researcher contaminated samples while rushing to a meeting. And in June, the CDC left anthrax samples unlocked and used expired disinfectant on them. It’s not clear from the White House statement if these were the incidents being referred to. A call to Becky Fried, a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wasn’t immediately returned.

I question the timing.

Kurds Fleeing Kobani?

October 21st, 2014 - 6:02 am

I can’t verify the photo or the tweet but sure would appreciate any help doing so.

Officially Phishing Fishy Business

October 21st, 2014 - 5:05 am

Is China attempting to phish iCloud users’ passwords? And note that I said “China,” as in the government, and not “Chinese hackers.” That’s what GreatFire claims:

According to the report, the government is using the institutional firewall to redirect traffic directed at iCloud.com to a fake page that resembles the iCloud.com interface almost perfectly.

Like other phishing attacks, this page is pretending to be Apple’s portal but instead intercepts entered usernames and passwords for other means. Although some browsers in China are set up to warn users about these kind of man-in-the-middle attacks, many don’t and (assumedly) many citizens disregard the warnings as the site appears quite genuine otherwise.

If true, the implications for Apple vis-a-vis Chinese relations are huge.

To say the least. I can think of any number of reasons why a Chinese citizen would want to keep the content of his texts and the history of his browsing safe from Beijing’s prying eyes.

ISIL Making Big Push into Kurdistan

October 20th, 2014 - 3:15 pm

It’s been a god news/bad news day for the Kurds, who face multiple ISIL attacks far from Kobani:

The deadliest of the attacks targeted Mosul Dam, a hugely important location.

First, an ISIS-commandeered military truck loaded with explosives targeted a Peshmerga checkpoint along the security belt circling the dam, killing six Peshmerga security forces and injuring seven others critically, according to Peshmerga forces spokesman Said Mamazeen.

At almost the same time, ISIS militants launched an attack on the Nineveh Valley near the dam, which was repelled by Peshmerga forces using European and American weapons, the spokesman said.

Another Kurdish military official, who asked not to be named for protocol and security reasons, said that despite the attacks, it would be difficult for ISIS to gain control of the dam because of the large numbers of Peshmerga forces in the area.

You might recall that ISIL took the dam last summer, but were pushed back by Peshmerga and Coalition air strikes. I fear they’ll blow the thing if they manage to take it a second time.

Sign “O” the Times

October 20th, 2014 - 2:36 pm

HEASDLINES

I took Juan Williams and Manu Raju and put the headlines together, because together they tell the whole story.

Laying Out the Welcome Prayer Mat

October 20th, 2014 - 1:29 pm

Jihadis leave Denmark to wage jihad in Syria. Jihadis return to Denmark to… receive free counseling and a jobs program? Yep:

In other countries, Talha — one of hundreds of young jihadists from the West who has fought in Syria and Iraq — might be barred from return or thrown in jail. But in Denmark, a country that has spawned more foreign fighters per capita than almost anywhere else, the port city of Aarhus is taking a novel approach by rolling out a welcome mat.

In Denmark, not one returned fighter has been locked up. Instead, taking the view that discrimination at home is as criminal as Islamic State recruiting, officials here are providing free psychological counseling while finding returnees jobs and spots in schools and universities. Officials credit a new effort to reach out to a radical mosque with stanching the flow of recruits.

If Western Civilization ever falls, this story should be inscribed on its tomb.

The Numbers Game

October 20th, 2014 - 12:12 pm

usgs_line.php

As a longtime proponent of cutting government spending, and a reluctant-at-best GOP voter, I couldn’t wait to dig into the latest from Sally Kohn, detailing the GOP’s “anti-tax austerity” and “bash and slash” cuts to Washington DC.

I must admit I was a little hesitant, because I couldn’t remember any actual, you know, austerity under George W. Bush, what with those deficits of his that were so large they were unpatriotic even. And I was hard-pressed to think of any slashes to government spending, even with the GOP in charge of the House.

Nevertheless, I dug right in and was shocked to see the numbers Kohn had dug up.

[crickets chirping]

OK, so Kohn didn’t provide any numbers per se, just a collection of mean things various Republicans, including Ronald Reagan who hasn’t even been a president for a very long time, have said about Washington, DC.

The numbers I have here show that government spending rose under Bush, then found a new and even higher plateau under Obama.

But I’m sure the slashing and the austerity must be in there somewhere.

I’ll contact Kohn for an addendum to her piece.

[crickets chirping]

Headline of the Day

October 20th, 2014 - 11:19 am

BUH BYE

Drudge has been running this one all day, so I’m sure you’ve already seen it. Normally I’d file this one under “Sign ‘O’ the Times,” but Bill Whittle called dibs on the topic for Trifecta and I want to keep my powder dry until we shoot tomorrow.

And anyway what really caught my eye was the first part of headline.

Obama makes rare campaign trail appearance…

I hasten to unnecessarily add, in addition to the emphasis, a reminder that this is an election year.

The man who loves to talk. The man who loves the adoration of the crowds. The man who loves to let the crowds project their hopes and desires onto his blank slate.

That slate is no longer blank, is it?

“How Republicans Could Blow It”

October 20th, 2014 - 10:22 am

File this one under Insty’s famous “Don’t get cocky” header:

In the campaign’s home stretch, a “red” battlefield has emerged. It’s smaller: just Georgia, Kansas and South Dakota. Republicans forgot to play defense here, and now polling in all three states is volatile. If they let these states slip away, Republicans would only be able to take the Senate by coming from behind in one more “purple” state—New Hampshire or North Carolina—or if independent winners in Kansas and South Dakota decide to caucus in Washington with Republican senators.

You can understand why Republicans didn’t anticipate a “red” battlefield to protect. Georgia, Kansas, and South Dakota are perceived as so conservative that President Obama never competed in them. The first two have Senate seats already occupied by Republicans. While South Dakota’s seat is held by a retiring right-leaning Democrat, the Republican nominee was a two-term governor who left office with broad support, and the first-time Democratic candidate seeking to replace him, Rick Weiland, may be the most liberal of any 2014 challenger in the country.

So what happened? Each state has its own unique set of circumstances, but they speak to a discomfort with far right conservatism and distrust of incumbency.

Anti-incumbent fever typically hurts the party in power, which would be the Democrats in Harry Reid’s systemically corrupt and useless Senate.

However…

In a midterm election, anti-incumbancy hurts the Democrats by suppressing their already-low midterm turnout. But it also hurts the GOP by getting GOP voters and candidates to do, and I’m putting this as gently as I can, all kinds of crazy s***.

So far this year we’ve seen fratricidal primary races, complete with frivolous lawsuits, the national GOP waging war on its own grassroots in Kansas, having to spend major resources in Kansas to correct that oops, Republican voters flirting with neo-sorta-Democrats, and a mess in South Dakota almost too bizarre to describe. Add all that to two or three lackluster candidates in what should have been cakewalk elections, and it becomes impossible to say for sure what will happen on election day.

News You Can Use

October 20th, 2014 - 9:46 am

Whoops:

One is a building with bars. The other is a building with a bar. A very drunk woman apparently had trouble telling them apart and ended up in a southwestern Michigan jail cell.

The Van Buren County sheriff’s department says a 39-year-old woman mistook the Van Buren County jail for the bar where she was trying to pick up her boyfriend.

The department says Deputy Robert Miersma spotted the Hartford-area woman backing into the jail parking lot in Paw Paw about 2 a.m. Sunday and noticed she smelled of alcohol and appeared intoxicated.

I hate it when that happens.

Turnaround Turks

October 20th, 2014 - 8:29 am

A general view of the Syrian town of Kobani

Some good news in the fight against ISIL:

Turkey said on Monday it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce fellow Kurds in the Syrian border town of Kobani, while the United States air-dropped arms for the first time to help the defenders resist an Islamic State assault.

Washington said the arms had been supplied by Iraqi Kurdish authorities and had been dropped near Kobani, which came under Islamic State attack in September and is now besieged to the east, west and south, and bordered to the north by Turkey.

Turkey has stationed tanks on hills overlooking Kobani but has refused to help the Kurdish militias on the ground without striking a broader deal with its NATO allies on intervening in the Syrian civil war, saying action should also be taken against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

I’ve been joking for years that we just ought to give everything between Egypt and Iran, minus Israel, back to the Turks. But these days I’m only half-joking.

Caliphs Gotta Caliphate

October 20th, 2014 - 7:20 am

And we get to help them! Apparently we’re having some difficulty keeping our humanitarian aid out of the hands of ISIL, despite all that careful vetting the Administration promised us:

Aid convoys have to pay off ISIS emirs (leaders) for the convoys to enter the eastern Syrian extremist strongholds of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, providing yet another income stream for ISIS militants, who are funding themselves from oil smuggling, extortion and the sale of whatever they can loot, including rare antiquities from museums and archaeological sites.

“The convoys have to be approved by ISIS and you have to pay them: the bribes are disguised and itemized as transportation costs,” says an aid coordinator who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition he not be identified in this article. The kickbacks are either paid by foreign or local non-governmental organizations tasked with distributing the aid, or by the Turkish or Syrian transportation companies contracted to deliver it.

And there are fears the aid itself isn’t carefully monitored enough, with some sold off on the black market or used by ISIS to win hearts and minds by feeding its fighters and its subjects. At a minimum the aid means ISIS doesn’t have to divert cash from its war budget to help feed the local population or the displaced persons, allowing it to focus its resources exclusively on fighters and war making, say critics of the aid.

After more than a year of warnings where Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s failed “red line” would lead, all I have left is a medley going on in my head of Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree” and Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You.”

Pre-Emptive Surrender

October 20th, 2014 - 6:14 am

SURRENDER

Flexibility:

President Obama is prepared to act unilaterally and suspend sanctions on Iran in order to help resolve nuclear talks by a self-imposed November 24 deadline, according to a report.

A senior White House official says, while the president lacks the power to lift the sanctions, he can and intends to suspend them in order to help negotiate away Iran’s power to build nuclear arms.

‘We wouldn’t seek congressional legislation in any comprehensive agreement for years,’ the official told the New York Times.

This is a direct result, unintentional or not, of our reliance on Iran to help contain ISIL.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

October 20th, 2014 - 5:15 am

I hate to kick off a brand new week this way, but this one comes courtesy of the Gray Lady and shouldn’t be missed:

Patricia Wanderlich got insurance through the Affordable Care Act this year, and with good reason: She suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2011, spending weeks in a hospital intensive care unit, and has a second, smaller aneurysm that needs monitoring.

But her new plan has a $6,000 annual deductible, meaning that Ms. Wanderlich, who works part time at a landscaping company outside Chicago, has to pay for most of her medical services up to that amount. She is skipping this year’s brain scan and hoping for the best.

“To spend thousands of dollars just making sure it hasn’t grown?” said Ms. Wanderlich, 61. “I don’t have that money.”

There are three silver linings to this story:

• She and her family are saving much more than $2,500 a year.

• ♡bamaCare!!!’s own author says we shouldn’t live past 75 anyway, so she won’t be missing out on much.

• Who needs death panels when patients self-deport themselves out of the hospital?

All of that, of course, Means It’s Working™.

Friday Night Videos

October 17th, 2014 - 10:54 pm

Not sure what happened to last week’s FNV — other than it seems to have been eaten whole by the WordPress Gods (or *ahem* user error) and by the time someone alerted me to it, it was too late to repost. But I’m going to save that one for later because this week we need something different.

Going into the final midterm stretch requires something bouncy and brainless. Of course I have an iTunes playlist devoted to music which is nothing but. And you can probably guess that there’s a lot of chart-friendly disco on my B&B playlist, because popular music rarely gets more bouncy and brainless than disco, with the possible exception of Charo’s guest appearances on The Love Boat.

So let’s begin our disco roundup this week with Leo Sayer doing his best Frankie Valli in the unrelentingly bouncy and unmercifully catchy and mercifully short, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”

Leo and the pretty backup singers and the band are giving it all they got, but watch as the audience just stands there without feeling like dancing at all. I was too young to have watched The Midnight Special regularly, or to have remembered much of the few I did see. So I don’t know if just standing there is what the audience usually did, or if they really weren’t into the song.

Either way, I still get a kick out of it in the car, where I can’t dance at all.

ADDENDUM: Charo seems like a lovely person, who for all I know has an IQ in the Wile E. Coyote Supergeeeeeenius range. What I do know for sure is that I spent nearly half of my preteen years staring at her shorts.

How Liberal or Conservative Is Your Name?

October 17th, 2014 - 1:30 pm

STEVE

Fun! Pointless, but fun.

First Ebola Nurse “Doing Really Well”

October 17th, 2014 - 12:00 pm

At last, good news:

Nina Pham, saying “I’m doing really well,” left Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in an ambulance for a chartered small jet waiting at the city’s Love Field. The plane departed at 7:09 p.m. CT and arrived at an airport at Frederick, Md., less than three hours later.

Pham walked off the plane with assistance while wearing a protective suit. She climbed into an ambulance for transport to the National Institutes of Health’s state-of-the-art facility in Bethesda, Md.

Fellow health-care workers lined her path out of the Dallas hospital, cheering and waving signs expressing love and support for their colleague.

Let’s hope this scare serves as a wakeup call, even if the current administration hits the snooze alarm for the next two years.

Required Reading

October 17th, 2014 - 10:25 am

How, the Atlantic asks, did Stalin become Stalin?

The article’s subhead reveals what even amateur students of history have long known. It reads, “Russian archives reveal that he was no madman, but a very smart and implacably rational ideologue.”

Anne Applebaum has done a job here which I can only describe as “typically damn good,” as I’ve long been a fan of her work. It’s good stuff; read it.

The only thing I could possibly add is my own wonderment that anyone still has any wonderment about supposed “madmen” achieving murderous pinnacles of power. Of course Stalin was an “implacably rational ideologue.” So was his stepfather, Lenin. So was their German cousin, Hitler. And their southeast Asian protege, Pol Pot. And Stalin’s peninsular nephew, Kim-il Sung.

I could go on, but I trust you got the idea years before I started typing these words.

Demented madmen rarely — ever? — achieve heights of power. We might call them, the Stalins and the Lenins and the Hitlers, “demented.” We might wish they were madman.

But no. They were implacably rational. They were ideologues. And they had the tools of all-powerful states at their disposal.

And that is why our Founders saw fit to cobble the State, so that implacably rational ideologues might never grab ahold of all-powerful levers.

The Sound and “The Fury”

October 17th, 2014 - 9:12 am

Three wildly different critiques of Brad Pitt’s new WWII movie, and what might be Scott Ott’s biggest, bestest finish ever.

And I don’t say that last part lightly. Not one bit.

The Yosemite Mini Review

October 17th, 2014 - 8:20 am

YOSEMITE

Here it is: John Siracusa’s bathysphere-deep review of OS X Yosemite. For rabid Mac lovers, skip my mini review and delve into all 25 pages of his. As always, he’s amazing.

My initial impression is twofold, the new features and the new look. Everything feels snappier, or at least as snappy as before. The new “Handoff” feature, allowing me to pick up my work seamlessly as I move from Mac to iPhone to iPad and back throughout the day — this is Mac crack, is what it is. The Spotlight search tool is now out of its upper-right-corner ghetto and is a fully-integrated experience. Moving search to front-and-center is long overdo, but it was worth the wait. I can’t say more yet, because I haven’t really had a chance to dig into Yosemite yet. For that stuff, go see Siracusa.

I love the new look, other than a few minor quibbles. That new Share button for instance looks just as ill-conceived and badly-proportioned in iOS as it has for the last year in OSX. Feh. And the Safari menu bar… it’s cohesive, but the Extensions buttons should be slightly smaller than the URL bar, for differentiation and ease of navigation. I’m also no fan of truncated URLs in the URL bar, but that’s the direction every major browser is taking. It doesn’t make much difference to people who just browse, but for those of us who live and work and practically breathe in our web browsers, it hides information we need to see at a glance. We can only hope it’s a short-lived trend.

Calendar got whacked, repeatedly, by the same Ugly Stick they used on the iOS version. There’s nothing wrong with the function, and there’s plenty right, too. But it’s just so eye-bleeding ugly that this might be when I finally upgrade to the much-beloved Fantastical.

And that’s about it for complaints.

My worries about transporting the iOS7/8 look to OS X were ill-founded. What could often seem busy and crowded on my tiny iPhone screen looks big, bold, clean, and most of all fresh on a 24″ screen. I get the feeling that the new look was designed with desktop screens and with the bigger iPhone 6-series screens in mind.

The new dock and its app icons are so clear and easy to read, that I was able to comfortably shrink it to a significant degree on my 24″ desktop display, freeing up valuable real estate. The same was not true on the 13″ display on my laptop.

I plan on writing up my industry-wide observations about the do’s and don’ts of translucencies at a later date.

Quibbles and minor complaint aside though, in the end I have to tell you that the new bells & whistles, and the low, low price of $0 make Yosemite an irresistible upgrade.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ring my new bells and blow my new whistles a bit more.

UPDATE: Digging through Safari’s settings, I discovered you can force it to reveal full URLs in the URL bar. That removes my only functional complaint about the new version of the browser.

Thought for the Day

October 17th, 2014 - 7:07 am