That view is as close as I’m going to get to the news for one long and awesome weekend.
That view is as close as I’m going to get to the news for one long and awesome weekend.
The next big player in the Drone Wars? Japan:
For decades Japan has been the world’s playground for design innovation. But now it may become ground zero for the future of something far more hostile: military drones.
The country has positioned itself as one of the unlikely players in the escalating global race for military drones, a move that’s controversial both at home and abroad.
Controversial? Sure, given Japan’s history and Article 9 of its constitution. Unlikely? Not really. Drones play on Japan’s strengths in aerospace and miniaturization, while sidestepping her major manpower weakness. I once had a daydream of a future Japan, barely populated by septuagenarians and up, protected by fully automated swarms of lightning fast and extremely deadly robots and missiles. Think of a retirement home in a dangerous neighborhood, defended by The Matrix.
Isn’t that the way Japan is already going?
Some stories are so weird you just can’t make them up. Take, for instance, the saga of a pine tree planted in honor or late Beatles member George Harrison near the famed Griffith Observatory in 2004.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the tree died as a result of an insect infestation. The culprit? Bark beetles and ladybug beetles that infested the tree, which had grown to more than 10 feet tall as of last year.
The tree was quietly planted a decade ago following Harrison’s death in 2001 as a tribute to the guitarist/singer spending his final days in Los Angeles and Harrison’s love of gardening.
I had no idea he loved to garden — or what else to do with this strange little story.
Once again our homeland is under attack. Missiles from Gaza are flying on our southern cities, and again the civilians are in the front line.
We are shifting our efforts to the south making sure the soldiers know that even though the media might say one thing, they have lots of support and love from all over the world.
Hundreds of pies and other treats are going out to the soldiers, and once again per request we are adding the option to send care packages with toiletries to the soldiers in the field.
Thank you for your support and you for sharing our project with you friends.
Soon as I click Publish on this post, I’m going to grab my Visa and have a couple pies sent out. You might want to, too.
I don’t usually gush over these Trifecta segments, but Bill’s this week is quite good.
Aaron Blake for WaPo:
Americans appear prepared to deal with their historic unhappiness using perhaps the least-productive response: Staying home.
A new study shows that Americans are on-track to set a new low for turnout in a midterm election, and a record number of states could set their own new records for lowest percentage of eligible citizens casting ballots.
The question of Senate control might come down to the percentage of ineligible citizens casting ballots.
So of course I have Google News Alerts set for my real name and for my nom me de blog. And while I am the world’s only living VodkaPundit, I’m not the only Stephen Green sometimes making the news. To wit:
Every month, the Kansas City School Board pays the bill for Superintendent Stephen Green’s district credit card.
Through a public records request, KCTV5 News dug through the transactions to find the card swiped at high-end restaurants for meals with administrators, school board members, consultants and community leaders, along with other questionable transactions.
In just three meals at the Bristol restaurant in the Power and Light District, Green’s card was used to pay the tab for himself and his cabinet staff to dine on lobster, swordfish and filet mignon. The bills totaled $624.65.
Green defends the transactions.
KCTV5 reviewed receipts for nearly two years of transactions to see the district card used at high-end restaurants in Kansas City including Brio, Classic Cup, Capital Grill and Houston’s. But hands down the most meals paid for with taxpayer dollars were spent at Bristol, which is a short walk from the district’s downtown headquarters.
“The crazy thing to me is you have 23 visits to Bristol, with over $2,000 in charges,” said James V. Shuls, director of education policy at the Show-Me Institute in St. Louis. “A ton of other restaurants people are going to and it seems like nobody is really checking these things.”
I hope KC residents remember this guy, next time the district wants to raise property taxes to pay off his Amex.
Changyuraptor is the largest four-winged, feathered dinosaur found yet:
The meat-eating creature, called Changyuraptor yangi, had exceptionally long tail feathers, the longest feathers of any dinosaur, at one foot in length (30 cm). It had feather-covered forelimbs akin to wings as well as legs covered in feathers in a way that gave the appearance of a second set of wings.
Changyuraptor is not considered a bird but rather a very bird-like dinosaur. It illustrates that it is not always easy to tell what is and is not a bird. It measured a bit more than 4 feet long (1.3 meters) and weighed roughly 9 pounds (4 kg).
“Animals like Changyuraptor were probably not engaged in powered flight like modern birds. However, Changyuraptor and dinosaurs like it could flap their wings and certainly had large feathered surfaces on both their forelimbs and hind limbs,” Turner said.
“So this does raise the possibility they could glide or ‘fly’ in a primitive sort of way. The way I like to think of it is: if you pushed them out of a tree, they’d fall pretty slowly,” Turner added.
If you want to try pushing the large meat-eating dinosaur out of a tree, be my guest.
It’s easy to determine the winners and losers of any government scheme — just follow the money:
The winners of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion are able-bodied, working-age adults; almost all of whom (82%) have no children to support, nearly half of whom (45%) do not work at all and many of whom (35%) with a record of run-ins with the criminal justice system. The losers when it comes to ObamaCare expansion are the vulnerable people Medicaid was created to protect—low-income kids, poor moms, the elderly, the blind and the disabled.
“Nothing is fair or compassionate about how ObamaCare expansion treats the truly vulnerable patients relying on Medicaid to survive,” explained FGA Director of Research Jonathan Ingram. “ObamaCare fast-tracks the Medicaid expansion population of working-age, able-bodied childless adults to the front of the line while it cuts the Medicaid safety net out from under the patients who need it most.”
The federal government has promised states that expand Medicaid eligibility under ObamaCare to pay the full cost of the expansion through 2016 then ratchet its share down to 90% by 2020. This funding promise is only made for the Medicaid expansion population. There is no change in federal funding for currently-eligible patients, which stands today at an average 57%. Put simply, Medicaid expansion states will receive substantially more federal funding for working-age, able-bodied childless adults than they will for truly vulnerable patients.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the childless, able-bodied unemployed tend to be a Democrat constituency. Besides, breadwinning parents are probably just bitter clingers, anyway.
Longtime “Universal Basic Income” supporter (and self-avowed right-winger) Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry has changed his mind about the UBI. Because science:
It just so happens that the UBI is one of the very few, if not the only, domains of social science policy where we have exactly that: extensive, long-term, repeated RFTs, which are the gold standard of evidence in social science.
As RFT expert Jim Manzi writes, these experiments “tested a wide variety of program variants among the urban and rural poor, in better and worse macroeconomic periods, and in geographies from New Jersey to Seattle”; more than 30 experiments were done in the U.S. from the ’60s to the ’90s and there was another set of experiments done in Canada in the ’90s. The universal basic income is one of the few areas of social policy where we can say with some confidence “Science says…”
And science says the UBI doesn’t work.
As Manzi writes, one of the few consistent findings across all these experiments is simply this: The only type of welfare policy that reliably gets people who can work into work is a welfare policy with work requirements.
The best anti-poverty program is an unbridled and growing economy, where everyone who wants to work, can find work.
And the ones who don’t want to work? I find it hard to get excited over any potential program to lavish them with my tax dollars.
The headline pretty much says it all, but here’s more:
Pat Bowlen, the Denver Broncos owner who won two Super Bowls and oversaw one of the NFL’s most consistently competitive franchises, is giving up control of the team after acknowledging to The Denver Post that he has Alzheimer’s disease.
“As many in the Denver community and around the National Football League have speculated, my husband, Pat, has very bravely and quietly battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years,” Annabel Bowlen said in a statement to the Post. “He has elected to keep his condition private because he has strongly believed, and often said, ‘It’s not about me.’
“Pat has always wanted the focus to be solely on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner. My family is deeply saddened that Pat’s health no longer allows him to oversee the Broncos, which has led to this public acknowledgment of such a personal health condition.”
Thoughts and prayers for Bowlen and his family. That’s a terrible disease, perhaps most terrible for those who have to witness it.
Israeli forces injured and captured a 16-year-old fighter in a Gaza tunnel:
The teenager was captured after emerging from a tunnel dug from Gaza into southern Israel along with several other terrorists. In the pre-dawn attack, two groups of Hamas terrorists emerged from two tunnel exits, one inside the Israeli border near Kibbutz Nir Am, and the other near Erez, also on Israeli territory, several kilometers northeast of the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun.
It is unclear which squad the teen belonged to.
A second Hamas terrorist is also in an Israeli hospital, Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital, the report says.
The report adds that IDF soldiers being treated in Israeli hospitals for injuries sustained while fighting in Gaza said they encountered 13- and 14-year-old Palestinian children running at them wearing explosives-laden suicide-bomber belts.
I’ve said before that one of the many reasons using nuclear weapons on Japan was the right thing to do, is that it spared our Army and Marines from having to shoot and kill the young girls being trained to kill them with sharpened spears — better a single aircrew drop a single bomb and rip the core out of an enemy city, than to turn thousands of our fighting men into killers of schoolgirls.
The Israelis of course don’t “enjoy” that kind of swift end to their fighting, and Hamas is even more ruthless with its own youth than Japan’s military government.
(HT, Evan Pokroy in Israel.)
Gee, what could have made things so bad in Gaza that Hamas just had to start launching missiles from behind human shields? For that let’s go to the NYT:
Hamas had been struggling. The turmoil in the region meant it lost one of its main sponsors, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whom it broke with over his brutal fight against a Sunni Muslim-led insurgency, and weakened its alliance with Iran. It lost support in Egypt when the Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted and replaced with a military-backed government hostile to Hamas.
Unemployment in Gaza is around 50 percent, having risen steeply since Israel pulled out its troops and settlers in 2005 and severely tightened border restrictions.
Hamas appeared powerless to end the near-blockade of its border by Israel and more recently Egypt. It could not even pay its 40,000 government workers their salaries.
Israel pulled out its settlements — some forcefully — to gain peace. When none came, Israel sealed the border. Hamas was so brutal (not to mention corrupt) that Egypt sealed its side of the border. Hamas keeps its people in a permanent state of poverty on purpose, because resentful people will do things like make themselves human shields for missile launchers.
You’d think that might be news. But no. It’s all the fault of the Egyptian military and those damn Jews.
Big honor for Billy Joel, set to become only the sixth recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Details:
“Billy Joel is a storyteller of the highest order,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billlington said in a statement.
“There is an intimacy to his song writing that bridges the gap between the listener and the worlds he shares through music.”
Joel, whose career has spanned 50 years, is one of the most popular recording artists and has had 33 top-40 hits. His multiple Grammy wins include song and album of the year in 1978 for “Just the Way You Are.”
I’m an unabashed fan of Joel’s, the overplayed (and overwritten) “Piano Man” aside. The five slick studio albums — and one intriguing concert album — he put out between 1977 and 1983 showed that video had not yet killed the radio star.
After ’83 things were… not so good.
An Innocent Man was an instant classic. But we had to wait two long years until ’85 for the inevitable Greatest Hits collection, and its pair of underwhelming new singles tacked on at the end like an embarrassing afterthought. He still generated a couple hits from 1986′s The Bridge, which was so godawful he fired longtime producer Phil Ramone, then teamed up with Foreigner’s Mick Jones for Storm Front in 1989 with mixed results. His last album of new popular music, River of Dreams, was released 21 years ago. I gave it a full listen for the first time in years, and while it’s far from his best material, it’s aged better than the previous two albums. Sadly, it’s been a long time since I even gave up waiting for a new album.
His pre-Stranger albums were all fine, but definitely the work of a talented singer-songwriter who was still finding his voice.
But the middle period from 1977 to 1983… wow.
While the album covers all read “Billy Joel,” they might as well have had “The Billy Joel Band” printed on them. The band’s lineup during this period, touring and studio, was remarkably static. Liberty DeVitto on drums (has there ever been a better name for a drummer? Other than the Muppets’ Animal, I mean), Doug Stegmeyer on bass guitar, Richie Cannata on sax, and a small rotation of acoustic and electric guitar players, including Steve Khan, Hugh McKracken, and Russell Javors. And of course Joel on piano and keys. The biggest change in the lineup came in 1983, when Cannata was unceremoniously replaced by Mark Rivera. I heard a rumor years ago that Cannata was fired due to a drug problem, but can’t confirm that.
The albums were all solid creations, each with a sound all its own.
The Stranger was just a fine collection of pop ballads and twisted love songs, with a little rock’n'roll on the side. It’s one of those you can still listen to front to back, even though it’s been decades since we had to flip any vinyl. His followup, 1978′s jazz-infused 52nd Street, is so slickly produced that it’s easy to forget it’s actually a concept album, written from the point of view of a struggling young New York City musician. In 1980 Joel went pure New Wave with Glass Houses, the title of which was a rebuke to critics who considered him to be just a balladeer. That was followed in ’81 by a very unusual concert album, Songs In The Attic — a collection of songs he loved to perform but which had never been hits. The next year we got The Nylon Curtain, combining Beatlesque sounds with Talking Heads-like Cold War neuroses. Then his magnum opus, An Innocent Man, a tribute to the rock’n'roll of the late ’50s and early ’60s, with a sound that was still pure Billy Joel.
That’s a fine body of work for any writer of popular music, and Joel deeply deserves this award.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Mesopotamia:
Using its own version of “soft” and “hard” power, the militants of Islamic State are crushing resistance across northern Iraq so successfully that their promise to march on Baghdad may no longer be unrealistic bravado.
While conventional states try to win hearts and minds abroad before necessarily resorting to military force, the militant group is also achieving its aims by psychological means – backed up by a reputation for extreme violence.
The Islamic State, which in June captured a vast stretch of territory in the north including the largest city Mosul, used this strategy when its fighters met armed resistance from the town of al-Alam for 13 days running.
They kidnapped 30 local families and rang up the town’s most influential citizens with a simple message about the hostages: “You know their destiny if you don’t let us take over the town.”
Within hours, tribesmen and local leaders caved in to save the families.
If Baghdad falls, that’s probably pretty much it for Iraq, even if the IS/Caliphate doesn’t last.
Here’s the latest from the world of cybertracking your web browser:
A new, extremely persistent type of online tracking is shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.com.
First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.
YouPorn quickly turned around and announced they they were “completely unaware that AddThis contained a tracking software that had the potential to jeopardize the privacy of our users,” and that they’d stopped using it. No such announcement came from the White House.
Pornographers 1, Washington 0.
The CBO has a dire warning about the rapid rise in publicly-held federal debt, reported here by Gene Epstein:
Based on its “extended baseline” scenario, which assumes no change in laws, the CBO foresees the debt soaring above 100% by the late 2030s and rising rapidly from there. Based on its “extended alternative fiscal scenario,” which essentially consists of informed judgments on how the budgetary situation is likely to play out in the real world of politics, the agency’s projections are far more dire: The debt-to-GDP ratio would rise above 180% by the late 2030s and continue climbing from there.
Either way, in the CBO’s understated language, the “debt would be on an upward path, relative to the size of the economy, a trend that could not be sustained indefinitely.” That unsustainable upward path is fraught with risks. And while it is generally true that long-term forecasts are not worth betting on, this one is too plausible to ignore. The next dozen years will be the relative calm before the storm because the retiring baby boomers have yet to reach critical mass. This year, they will range in age from 50 to 68; 12 years from now, the range will be 62 to 80. Combine that with slow expansion of the working-age population, and the grim demographics are virtually baked in the cake.
Washington collected more in revenue that ever before last year, yet the deficit was nearly 50% bigger than George W. Bush’s worst non-TARP year. I don’t include TARP because that was a one-time expenditure, most of which has since been paid back, partly masking the true size of Obama’s first-term deficits. Bush’s worst non-TARP year was also the most expensive year of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — one of which is over, and the other is winding down.
So why the big deficits today? We’re expanding the welfare state (personal and corporate) on credit, which unlike spending on wars or TARP, never ends.
Well, right up until the financial collapse and/or hyperinflation.
His charm offensive, that is, reported by National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher:
Rand Paul, who has said he knew only a single Jewish family growing up in small-town Texas, has even found his own rabbi (one he shares with Rush Limbaugh) to help him navigate the cultural divide.
“Clearly, he is making a concerted effort and a sincere effort to really build relationships,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the influential Republican Jewish Coalition, a political group that aims to represent Jewish interests within the GOP.
The charm offensive has two goals at its core. The first is to try to establish Paul in the foreign policy mainstream of Republicanism, particularly on the signal issue of Israel, which is of key importance to both Jewish voters and evangelical Christians. The second is to win over, or at the least neutralize, the moneyed class of hawkish Israel defenders—free-spending billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer chief among them—who Paul’s advisers know represent among the most significant impediments to his becoming the party’s next standard-bearer.
Paul has two handicaps going into the GOP nomination process. The first is his dad. If, as I’ve written before, Ron Paul isn’t actually a Jew-hater and a racist, he certainly doesn’t make it easy to defend him against those charges. The second is Rand’s libertarian tendency to want to talk shop (political philosophy) with anybody willing to engage in an intellectual discussion. That’s great fun for college students of all ages, but makes for easily-manipulated sound bytes when taken out of context. Paul the Younger had an early stumble doing just that when he first ran for Senate.
Since then, however, Paul has taken seriously the very serious business of running for President. He’s kept the shop talk private, and is now putting some comfortable distance between himself and his father on foreign policy generally, and with this Jewish outreach specifically.
He still looks like a longshot candidate to me, but he’s showing enough political savvy to shorten those odds.
David Harsanyi thinks Elizabeth Warren is overrated:
Still, it seems to me that a lot of people are overestimating the appeal, uniqueness and popularity of Warren. Those who believe she has crossover appeal are fooling themselves. What’s most enticing about Warren right now is the perception of her, not the reality.
Once you get past the impassioned sermons, and they can be quite entertaining, the most striking aspect of Warren’s big-message progressivism — the driving principles are laid out in the much-discussed “11 commandments” speech — is how small and ordinary it all is. For starter, while Warren’s critique of capitalism might resonate, most of her agenda items look like everyone else’s agenda items. She might offer Americans more “commandments” than God, but many of her directives can found on the “issues” page of any middling Democratic candidate’s website.
I’m going to disagree a bit with Harsanyi on Warren. Yes, Warren is overrated — and you should read his whole column to learn just why. But the fact that most-if-not-all of her positions are identical to “any middling Democratic candidate” isn’t one of those reasons. I’d argue instead that it’s an indication of just how far to the left the Democrats have moved. A Jack Kennedy, a Lloyd Bentsen, probably even Al Gore v1.0, has little place in today’s party.
The fact the a mediocrity like Warren is the progressive Left’s rising “young” star just proves that the movement has grown just as stale as it has grown powerful.
The headline isn’t quite accurate because Colorado was never really red. Our politics have always tended towards hardcore conservative Republicans and deeply weird (Richard Lamm, Gary Hart) Democrats. And the occasional outlier, too — Colorado voters went for Ross Perot by a bigger margin than any other state. Twice. But the GOP has been in Circular Firing Squad Mode for nearly a decade, and our state Democrats have undergone a major shift to the left. So with all that in mind, read this RCP report on our off-year election:
The election will also be a test of lessons learned by the party, locally and nationally. The GOP was dealt a blow in Colorado four years ago by Ken Buck, whose series of incendiary gaffes cost the party a Senate seat in one of the most favorable climates for a pickup. Republicans believe they have avoided that risk this year with Cory Gardner, a young and charismatic congressman from the conservative 4th Congressional District whose entrance into the race cleared the GOP field.
There’s a lot riding on him. While Republicans don’t necessarily have to win Colorado to take control of the U.S. Senate, a victory there is viewed as integral to the party’s hopes in 2016.
Wadhams said that if Republicans don’t win the Senate seat, or at least the gubernatorial race, “in a year like this, with a tired, beleaguered incumbent, when the issues are with us … my question is — and I’ve lived in Colorado all my life — when are we going to be able to win again?”
Good question. I might have an answer for you in November.
In a potentially crippling blow to Obamacare, a top federal appeals court Tuesday said that billions of dollars worth of government subsidies that helped nearly 5 million people buy insurance on HealthCare.gov are illegal.
A judicial panel in a 2-1 ruling said such subsidies can be granted only to those people who bought insurance in an Obamacare exchange run by an individual state or the District of Columbia — not on the federally run exchange HealthCare.gov.
The decision threatens to unleash a cascade of effects that could seriously compromise Obamacare’s goals of compelling people to get health insurance, and helping them afford it.
I bet Nancy is wishing she’d read it first.
More seriously, the Supremes are likely to uphold the lower court’s decision, and probably by a better than 5-4 margin.
There’s an app for various Russian surface-to-air missile launchers:
After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Hungarian amateur surface-to-air missile community—yes, there is a community for this—got access to detailed documentation on how to operate the country’s various, decommissioned Soviet-made SAMs. The sleuths also got into contact with some of the out-of-work operators and came close enough to photograph the instrument panels.
Put it all together, the result is a free simulator—known as SAM Simulator—that is a close approximation of the real thing. There’s no Buk missile launcher. But the 2K11 Krug is available. Both the Buk and the Krug use semi-active radar homing missiles.
These things were designed to be used by young conscripts, straight off the collective farm.
I’d have gone with something like “Despite Losses, Hamas Still Supports Launching Rockets at Cities,” but that’s just me.
It’s easy for someone in your home to interrupt your Chromecast stream and play something of their own, but you can always retake control… right? Well, don’t count on it. Analyst Dan Petro has built the Rickmote Controller, a proof-of-concept device that hijacks Google’s media stick to play everyone’s favorite Rick Astley video (and theoretically, any media) on loop. The Raspberry Pi-based box simply floods the Chromecast with WiFi disconnection requests, kicking the adapter into its setup mode; after that, it’s easy for the Rickmote to make its own connection and deliver non-stop ’80s pop.
If elected, I will ask Congress to institute the death penalty for this offense against good taste.