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The War for Mobile Payments: Ready, Fire, Aim!

March 2nd, 2015 - 2:15 pm

Spain Wireless Show Flagship Phones

First there was PayPal, which wasn’t really mobile at all, but did allow small merchants the ability to take credit card swipe payments at a nice discount. Then there was Google Wallet, which never really took off. Last fall, Apple Pay was the first easy-to-use and secure mobile payments option — but only in the US, only with certain banks, only with merchants with NFC readers, and only for owners of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple Pay is accepted by more and more banks and merchants, but is still limited to the most recent iPhones (and next month, to Apple Watch wearers).

But if you think all that is disjointed, just wait until you see the news from the last two days.

Samsung announced yesterday its own Apple Pay rival called — no shocker here from our South Korean copycat friends — Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay (initially available on the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge) will rely on the company’s purchase of mobile payment system maker LoopPay, which is a bit more convoluted and less secure than Apple’s method. Rather than a secure and anonymous code generated unique to each transaction, Loop Pay “broadcasts” your credit card number — in the clear, mind you — to the merchant’s card swiper. That’s fine and dandy for merchants who won’t quite yet have to upgrade their hardware, but it might prove a tough pill to swallow for consumers.

Samsung’s smartphones of course run Google’s Android operating system, so the South Korean giant might find competition right there on their own phones. That’s right: Google is set to announce yet another mobile payment system, perhaps to be called Android Pay. Phandroid reports:

Google’s Sundar Pichai spoke at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this morning about the company’s plans for mobile payments in the future. This comes at a time where Apple and now Samsung have thrown their hats into the arena with exciting platforms of their own.

Google Wallet in the now slightly pales in comparison to those guys, but Android Pay will hopefully look to change that. The first thing to know is that Android Pay won’t actually replace Google Wallet.

So Android Pay won’t replace Google Wallet, even though Google Wallet never really caught out outside a dedicated core of users. Instead, Android Pay will perhaps be another layer on top of Google Wallet, while also sitting alongside it on your phone. I’d suggest keeping it (or both of them) on a separate app page from Samsung’s offering, just to try and reduce the confusion level.

On the other hand, Android Pay might necessarily elevate the confusion level, if this Yahoo report is correct:

Google has been attempting to get consumers to ditch their cards and use a smartphone to pay for goods in physical stores since the start of the decade with its Google Wallet app. However, what makes Android Pay different is that it will be a feature that any app developer will be able to integrate into their titles for automatic wireless payment support.

In other words, developers may gain the ability to stuff your virtual wallet with more crap than already collects in your real-world wallet.

It’s unwise to simply dismiss any Google project before it has a chance to get off the ground, and certainly before it has even been demoed. But neither Android Wallet nor Samsung Pay look like the kinds of mobile payment solutions consumers are clamoring for, certainly not at this stage of their development.

That Would Be Illogical — But Awesome

March 2nd, 2015 - 1:15 pm

A worthwhile Canadian initiative, yes?

(Although the result looks more like Sarak to me.)

AIPAC Breaks with Administration

March 2nd, 2015 - 12:04 pm

Benjamin Netanyahu

This was a long time coming — too long — but here it is:

Those who are not students of the history of U.S./Israel relations may not understand the significance of yesterday’s action. As an organization AIPAC never publicly criticizes a sitting administration or administration policy. They go out of their way to appear non-partisan, not leaning to one party or another. This is as it should be as opposed to organizations such as the Jewish Federation, the ADL, the Reform Movement and the Conservative Movement which seem to regularly worship the golden calf of progressive politics.

But yesterday the leadership of the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. publicly broke from the White House over the issue of Iran policy

That’s Jeff Dunetz at Yid With Lid, and here’s the WSJ story he linked to:

AIPAC’s efforts to shape the Iran deal through the Congress is being driven by what the organization believes has been President Barack Obama’s wariness of using both financial pressure and the threat of military force to challenge Tehran
(…) AIPAC’s leadership on Sunday was already challenging the White House’s position. “We shouldn’t be afraid of Iran leaving the table,” Mr. Kohr said.

He also aggressively pushed back against the White House’s argument in recent months that no deal with Iran would lead to war. “That’s a false choice…that’s meant to silence the critics,” Mr. Kohr said. “And we won’t be silenced.”

This is a big deal, and it signals AIPAC’s permission, for lack of a better word, for American Jews to stop being so stupidly Democratic all of the time.

Texas Crackdown

March 2nd, 2015 - 11:44 am

Feds raid, fingerprint, seize cell phones at political event:

Members of the Republic of Texas, a secession movement dedicated to restoring Texas as an independent constitutional republic, had gathered Feb. 14 in a Bryan, Texas, meeting hall along with public onlookers. They were debating issues of currency, international relations and celebrating the birthday of one of their oldest members. The group, which describes itself as “congenial and unimposing,” maintains a small working government, including official currency, congress and courts.

According to “Minutes into the meeting a man among the onlookers stood and moved to open the hall door, letting in an armed and armored force of the Bryan Police Department, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office, agents of the Texas district attorney, the Texas Rangers and the FBI.

“In the end, at least 20 officers corralled, searched and fingerprinted all 60 meeting attendees, before seizing all cellphones and recording equipment in a Valentine’s Day 2015 raid on the Texas separatist group.”

“We had no idea what was going on,” said John Jarnecke, president of the Republic of Texas. “We knew of nothing that would warrant such an action.”

Intimidation, much?

I’ve heard of groups like Republic of Texas, and really they’re just more pointed versions of the Tea Party. Present their members with a choice of “Would you rather secede or see Washington restored to its constitutional limits,” and I bet you 99% of them would choose the latter every time. Secession talk to them is a way of making the case plain of just how important constitutional rule is. They certainly aren’t spearheading any actual secession movement, and even if they were, they’re so small and so powerless that the proper response from the Feds ought to be bemused tolerance.

Besides, these people are Americans, and Americans have the right to say and believe in whatever political cause they support — without being fingerprinted and having their personal possessions confiscated by the jealous god of progressive government.

So why the crackdown? Washington knows in its corrupt, greedy heart that it is losing legitimacy with great big swathes of the American public — and with many people DC has already lost it. Which leaves Washington with little more than thuggish displays of intimidation, because that’s what thuggish governments do.

No Book for You!

March 2nd, 2015 - 10:30 am

Sometimes the little stories tell you everything you need to know about the political health of a nation, and this is one of those.



The Westboro Baptist Church had announced plans to picket the funeral of Leonard Nimoy, but now the hate-filled church has been thwarted by funeral planners.

Nimoy died this week, prompting an outpouring of support from across the country, including President Obama. But his death also drew an angry response from the Westboro Baptist Church, the church famous for its anti-gay protests. The group often targets funerals, both of celebrities and of soldiers killed overseas, showing up with signs filled with anti-gay slurs. It had promised to be on site when Nimoy was laid to rest.

But now the Westboro Baptist Church has announced it will not be protesting at Leonard Nimoy’s funeral after planners decided to make the memorial private. The church announced the decision early Sunday on one of its official Twitter handles.

I don’t know and don’t care what Westboro’s beef is with Leonard Nimoy. But I do know that the First Amendment recognizes our right to petition the government to redress out grievances — not to make a nuisance of ourselves at private affairs like funerals.

What is wrong with us that we let them get away with this crap?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

March 2nd, 2015 - 8:39 am

Determining the legality of federal-exchange subsidies rests with SCOTUS, but there’s a catch:

But King v. Burwell could upend the president’s plans. That’s the case, now on the Supreme Court’s docket, contesting the legality of subsidy payments to people in states that chose not to build their own Obamacare insurance exchanges. A decision against the government’s provision of the subsidies would undermine the law in the 37 affected states and, in the process, disrupt insurance for millions of people who signed up for coverage on the assumption that the subsidies would be available to them.

The blame for the mess that would surely ensue should rightfully fall on the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress. Congressional Democrats wrote the statute on their own, and the administration has enforced it. If the Court rules that the statute was written carelessly and enforced lawlessly, Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves.

Authors James Carpetta Yuval Levin are being far too kind — the Democrats will do nothing of the kind. Already they’ve telegraphed their game plan which — surprise! — blame it all on Republics.

Never you mind that a law written by Democrats, signed by Democrats, and enacted by Democrats was designed at its very core with a stick (the states had to set up their own exchanges to get the subsidies) so flimsy that 37 states said “No thanks.” Instead, the Democrats will blame the Republican justices for gutting the law, and blame the GOP Congress for not fixing the law. “A simple fix,” they’ll say oh-so-reasonably.

The idea is twofold. First, to salvage their craptaculently written law. The second is more subtle and probably more effective politically. If the GOP doesn’t “fix” what the Democrats broke, it becomes an effective campaign issue because the evil GOP is taking away the coverage the Democrats so generously provided, and corpses of old people and babies will stack up on America’s streets. Alternately, Republican lawmakers will vote to restore the subsidies, retroactively becoming complicit in the creation of ♡bamaCare!!!. Not one Republican voted for the law in 2010, but how many of them will vote to save it in 2015?

And just how great of a wedge issue is that for the Democrats, splitting the GOP from their anti-♡bamaCare!!! base — especially with the Complicit Media helping the Democrats do their dirty work.

It’s a trap, of course, and the GOP should stick to their guns and offer complete repeal & replace bills. That would set up a monster, and potentially winnable fight with the White House. On the other hand, falling into the trap would be tantamount to party suicide.

I make no guesses which road the Grand Old Party will follow, but I did double up on this month’s Tito’s ration just in case.

The Future of War is Now

March 2nd, 2015 - 7:28 am


The infographic above does a gorgeous job of making plain Russia’s sometimes difficult-to-quantify hybrid warfare against Ukraine.

Over at Jane’s, Reuben F Johnson uses that chart and some cold analysis to determine that Russia’s newfangled operational art “is working” to keep Ukraine destabilized:

Overall, the Ukrainian military continues to be severely disadvantaged by not being equipped with a list of the items that are becoming well known to those watching the current situation in eastern Ukraine: secure communications systems; anti-tank guided weapons with tandem warheads; counter-battery radars; UAVs for both reconnaissance and strike missions; and the ability to stream multiple intelligence sources into centralised command centres to get inside the ‘decision loop’ of the Russian-backed forces.

As I’ve noted before, the beauty of Putin’s warmaking is that he can dial it up or down on the X or Y axis virtually at will, which serves to keep NATO divided and confused, while giving himself a working combination of political cover and military gain.

This is the Operational Art of War brought fully into the 21st Century, allowing a much weaker actor (Russia) to leverage its few strengths against a much stronger potential opponent (NATO) to get what he wants (Ukraine) without a full-scale war.

This is what President Look At Me Looking At Me derided with “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion.” But we know who is really living in the 21st Century and who is stuck in the past.

Taking Tikrit

March 2nd, 2015 - 6:06 am


And now for some (hopefully) good news:

KIRKUK: Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded militant positions in and around Tikrit on Monday in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group’s main strongholds.

Government forces have been working their way north in recent months, notching up key victories against IS but Tikrit, which has resisted them several times, is their toughest target yet.

Building on recent successes, commanders voiced hope that the broadest operation since IS overran swathes of the country last June would be a step towards the liberation of Mosul, the militants’ main hub in Iraq.

“Security forces are advancing on three main fronts towards Tikrit, Ad-Dawr (to the south) and Al-Alam (to the north),” a senior army officer on the ground told AFP by telephone.

The operation began in early morning after being announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi the previous evening.

New Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is far less sectarian than Nouri al-Maliki was, and has brought back many Sunni officers Maliki had previously sacked for the crime of being Sunni. So the Iraqi Army will probably perform much better now than it did last year in Mosul, where an entire division more or less quit the field before the “might” of ISIS thugs.

The real prize remains Mosul however.

Trifecta Twofer

March 2nd, 2015 - 5:16 am


Did something a little different this week — Trifecta Book Club. I had two recommendations — one old, one new — and Bill and Scott of course had stuff I hadn’t heard of, and purchased immediately for all that free reading time I enjoyed in Washington.

All but the very last part is true.

And Trifecta Extra comes with extra bacon*, and who says no to extra bacon?

Friday Night Videos

February 27th, 2015 - 10:24 pm

It’s another “I Apologize for Nothing!” edition of FNV.

Ah, Gino Vannelli — Canadian master of cheesy light rock and body hair. He’s easy to make fun of, and even SCTV took a shot at him in a “Lee Iacocca’s Rock Concert” sketch with Eugene Levy playing Vannelli. Every time he turned around or the camera angle changed during his performance of “I Just Wanna Stop,” Levy was, werewolf transformation style, covered with more and more body and facial hair. It’s starts at about the 4:50 mark in this YouTube clip. Snark aside though, Vannelli sold a ton of records and cut a few single which haven’t aged too badly.

Tonight’s pick, “Wild Horses,” was Vannelli’s penultimate single to chart in the US, and for whatever reason it really caught my ear during senior year at Missouri Military Academy. I had this cheap boombox for playing tapes and picking up the local radio stations in Mexico, Missouri, and it was my policy when listening to the radio to have a scratch tape ready to go. “Record” and “Pause” were pressed at all times, so when I heard a new song I liked, I would just release the pause button and record it straight off the radio in crystal clear FM-radio-to-crap-cassette quality. This one was a minor hit, and I was lucky enough to have had a scratch tape ready to go the second — and final — I ever heard it on the air.

The tape got lost in the sands of time, but somehow this one popped up in my suggestions on the iTunes Store while I was searching for some other bit of high school-era pop-fluff — and you know what? It’s still all right. Oh, you can hear the producer throwing every single mid-’80s studio trick at it, trying to generate a big hit, but the lyric has some lovely imagery and the music somehow fits Vannelli’s Disco Shirt Chest Hair delivery.

This one’s a keeper.

News You Can Use

February 27th, 2015 - 5:30 am


An animal wonder from Down Under:

A schoolboy from rural Victoria returned home yesterday to find a furry carjacker behind the wheel of the family Land Rover.

Sam Box, 15, told he had just gotten off the bus after school when he found the koala “trying to drive”.

He quickly snapped photos showing the koala sitting in the driver’s seat with its paws on the steering wheel.

Toonces could not be reached for comment.

Make Your Heart Happy: Give it Bacon

February 26th, 2015 - 10:17 am

I really thought I was going to get real blogging done this morning, but CPAC is, as always, the black hole of timesucks. That, and wee bit of a hangover.

In that spirit, enjoy Scott Ott hosting the ultimate feel-good Trifecta segment ever.

Hillary’s Hypocrisy: Now 28% Off

February 25th, 2015 - 10:45 am

Wanted: Porn Inspectors

February 25th, 2015 - 9:15 am

So this is a thing which I found on the internet:

The occupation of a porn inspector, almost exclusive to China, exists only in official agencies and private internet companies. An inspector’s job is to view tens of thousands of online images, videos and messages that may contain lewd content and “filter” them by deleting them or rating them into categories.

The job is rather well-paid by China’s standards. The hourly pay of an average inspector is 50 yuan (US$8) and a part-time inspector can earn more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,600) per month.

If my 17-year-old self had it to do all over again, I feel certain he’d study Mandarin.

News You Can Use

February 25th, 2015 - 8:03 am

Florida Tribe Threatens Rick Scott: Let Us Build A Casino Or We Start Growing Pot

That might be my favorite headline of the year so far. Here’s the story:

The Poarch Creek Band of native Americans told Florida Governor Rick Scott that if the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate refused to allow the tribe to operate a casino on land it owns in Escambia County, it would endeavor to grow and distribute marijuana on the land in accordance with the regulations that the federal government has imposed on states that have legalized the trade.

The chairwoman of the Poarch tribal council, Stephanie Bryan, told the Associated Press that the tribe is “entitled to negotiate a compact with the state.”

If the state rejects the deal, the tribe is within its rights to sue to use the land to grow marijuana, as this past December the Department of Justice stated that tribes can grow and distribute marijuana on their sovereign land — even if the state in which that land is situated has not legalized marijuana.

It’s a sucker deal for Scott, because if he agrees there wouldn’t seem to be anything stopping the Poarch Creek Band from growing marijuana after they build their new casino.

Held for Ransom

February 25th, 2015 - 6:41 am


The Law of Unintended Consequences even applies to prisoner swaps:

The Obama administration’s swap of five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay for accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl may have doomed any hope Kayla Mueller’s family had for working out a deal with ISIS, the murdered aid worker’s family said in an interview.

Carl Mueller told NBC in an interview that aired Monday that he and his wife thought they could win his daughter’s freedom with a $6.2 million ransom payment, although he acknowledged the Arizona family faced a daunting task in raising that much money. But when the White House agreed last year to trade Bergdahl, who had been held for five years by the Taliban and Haqqani network, the family believes the price for their daughter went up.

We paid a heavy price to bring home one traitor, and it seems we’re still paying it.

Review: iPad Air 2

February 25th, 2015 - 5:29 am
iPad Air 2 vs MacBook Air

iPad Air 2 vs MacBook Air

The time had come after three years and three generations to ditch the old iPad with Retina Display (“iPad 3″) for an all-new iPad Air 2. So how does it stack up against Cupertino’s previous offering, and against the competition? Let’s take a look.

The first thing I noticed is what wasn’t there: Size and weight. It’s thinner than my iPhone 5S. It’s much thinner than an iPad 1 or 3. It’s almost 20% thinner than last year’s impossibly thin iPad Air. It’s as close to not being there as a computer can be and still be there. It’s little enough to make you think Apple has hit the wall on how thin and light a tablet can be — and that soon they’ll have to surprise us with an all-new form factor.

Even when covered on all sides by Apple’s leather Smart Cover (more on that shortly), the Air 2 is still significantly thinner and lighter than a first-generation iPad, and still much lighter than the iPad 3. Both older iPads (with the added weight of a cellular antenna) come in at about 1.5 pounds, but the Air 2 (also with cellular) is a mere 0.98 pounds. The difference is real in your hands, too — mine never get tired of holding the iPad Air 2, which is the first time I’ve ever said that about a full-size tablet. If you want to understand why iPad owners tend to develop such emotional attachments to their devices, try holding an Air 2 and feel how a full-size multicore HD touch computer disappears to little more than the screen.

The weight savings is thanks in large part to a much smaller battery. The iPad 3 has a 42.5-watt-hour battery inside, with commensurate size and weight. The Air 2 battery isn’t much more than half that, at 27.3-watt-hours. Another nifty benefit is that the new iPad charges much, much more quickly on the same standard 12-watt charger.

Both units promise (and deliver) about 10 hours of web surfing and video watching, or nine if you’re using a cellular connection instead of WiFi. You may wonder then if the iPad Air 2 sacrifices speed in order to get equal battery time on a much smaller battery.


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On the Eve of CPAC…

February 24th, 2015 - 4:23 pm

…is it time to boycott CPAC?

That’s what Rick Moran says, and I agree:

It’s been announced that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will present the “Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award” to Duck Dynasty character Phil Robertson. Robertson’s comments about gays and blacks were almost universally condemned for their bigotry, their insensitivity, and their outright ignorance.

Certainly, Robertson has the right under the first amendment to prove to the world what an ignoramus he is. But CPAC honoring this country clown for being shockingly uninformed is the last straw for me.

I didn’t know Andrew Breitbart well, but I knew him well enough to be reasonably sure he wouldn’t want his name attached to an award for a bigot like Robertson. There’s a difference, one Breitbart understood, between fighting for an idiot’s right to speak his tiny mind, and giving him a prestigious award for it.

Further down though is where we get to the meat of Moran’s troubles with the ACU specifically, and with trends in modern conservatism more generally:

I find myself in a similar position to Josh Barro, a center-right columnist who believes that conservatism isn’t defined by a set of mostly immutable principles, but rather by those who call themselves “conservative.” The right — like the left — has a series of litmus tests by which your conservatism or liberalism is judged. In other words, your position on issues defines whether you are conservative or not, rather than the principles that undergird the assumptions upon which one’s position on the issues is based defining your fealty to conservative philosophy.

It’s a backasswards way of judging who or what is conservative and I’ve never adhered to it.

Conservatism — classical liberalism, really — is not a defined set of conclusions, with orthodoxy be determined by litmus test. (Burn her, she’s a witch!) Conservatism is supposed to represent a way of thinking, specifically about how best to preserve the liberties first won by white, male Americans in 1783, and expanding those liberties to all Americans.

In that sense then, only conservatives (and libertarians) can be truly pluralistic, because we’re the only ones in favor of the broad set of liberties which allow for the true pluralism represented by “the pursuit of happiness.”

And yet those of us who have reached different conclusions on certain issues, or whose mere existence offends, find ourselves unwelcome in any official capacity at “conservatism’s” biggest annual event. How bad is it? ACU has reportedly gotten parsimonious with blogger press credentials, and from what I’ve seen and heard, there seems to be a bias against more libertarian-minded bloggers. (AFP has been waging a smart new media campaign for May’s RightOnline event, publicly inviting writers whom the ACU has shunned.)

I write these words as I prepare to pack my bags, yes, for CPAC — my first visit there in six years. The 2009 event was a drab affair, a funeral procession following Barack Obama’s swearing in and the passage of the do-nothing stimulus act. Around that same time, one of the very first Tea Party rallies, a small affair of just 70 or 80 people, was held in Denver. I thought then that CPAC was the past, and that the Tea Party was the future. The Tea didn’t turn out as strong as I’d hoped, but I can’t help thinking I was at least half right.

So I’m attending in a non-attending capacity — there to share cocktails & conversation with friends and colleagues, to catch up on old stories and new ideas. We’re the kind of friends who might disagree on a few issues, but who can still find company and comradeship in our defense of this beautifully American thing called “liberty and justice for all.”

You can find me in the lobby bar.

That’s a Feature, Not a Bug

February 24th, 2015 - 1:37 pm


Another day, another IRS scandal:

Identity thieves may be defrauding the Internal Revenue Service by much more than the nearly $6 billion the federal tax agency claims to have lost through holes in its security policy in 2013.

That’s because the IRS presented an unreliable estimate of how much it had lost to identity fraud — a rationale based on calculations with no supporting documentation — as a precise measure of its losses, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

The tools the IRS uses to prevent identity fraud from happening in the first place are also full of holes, the watchdog found. For example, the agency requires filers to use a personal identification number to file their taxes online.

But the accountability office discovered “identity thieves can easily find the information needed” to gain someone else’s number by searching public records, “allowing them to bypass some, if not all, of IRS’s current automatic checks.”

But your medical records the IRS now holds? Totally secure, bro.

Auditing the Fed sounds nice, but might be practically impossible — do we really wants 535 members of Congress “helping” to determine monetary policy. But how about auditing the IRS?


Bugging Out

February 24th, 2015 - 12:15 pm

Ash Carter, Viet Luong

Moving is expensive and time-consuming. Moving out of a war zone is worse. StrategyPage details our costly exit from Afghanistan:

Serious planning for the withdrawal began in 2011 and ended up costing nearly $30 billion. The United States had the biggest job because they had most of the bases (500), vehicles (nearly 25,000) and shipping containers (over 60,000) to deal with. Many of the bases were turned over to the Afghans although facilities the Afghans could not use had to be destroyed, especially bases, lest the Taliban or drug gangs take them over. Some heavy equipment that the Afghans did not need (or could not use), like the older MRAPs, were destroyed (disassembled) in Afghanistan.

Originally the plan was to move 60 percent of the cargo containers out via roads through Pakistan to the port of Karachi where it would move by sea back to the United States and other NATO countries. That proved more difficult than expected because Afghans and Pakistanis saw this as a splendid opportunity to make money. Rather than pay more bribes to get the trucks to Karachi, a lot more of the stuff was moved out via air freight. Some was flown to the Persian Gulf where it was transferred to ships for the long voyage home. That was more expensive than paying more bribes but was seen as a better way to go as the cash goes to Western air freight companies and not some tribal outlaws.

Moving is said to be the third most stressful event a person can go through, just behind losing a loved one, and divorce — which amount to nearly the same thing.

Now multiply that by thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars and untold tons of equipment.

Child Jihadis

February 24th, 2015 - 11:38 am


A new video released by ISIS on Sunday purportedly shows the terror group training children, who can be seen standing in formation, chanting, praying and participating in physical exercises.

Alex Kassirer, of global security firm and NBC News consultant Flashpoint Intelligence, said the video features Al Farouk training camp for “cubs,” or children, located in Raqqa, Syria. It is not clear when or under what circumstances the children were videotaped.

An instructor in the video indicated that among the group of about 80 youth are foreign children — possibly the children of foreign fighters who have joined the Sunni extremists’ ranks, according to Flashpoint.

I maintain what I’ve said from the start of ISIL — that the group is much more likely to burn out than to achieve its goal of establishing a real Caliphate throughout the Middle East. It’s just too cruel, too murderous, and made too many enemies to have a great chance of surviving.

What will go on, perhaps for generations, is the poison it has injected into Araby’s veins, which were never healthy to begin with.


The story of New York City’s new “microapartments” made me think of Dorothy Parker’s quip about her small apartment. Anyway, here’s the deal:

Intended to create affordable housing for singles in New York City, those promised prefabricated affordable units are finally being assembled in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and will be unveiled this spring in Manhattan’s Kips Bay, according to The New York Times.

The city’s first “micro” building will have 55 rental apartments, all ranging from 260- to 360-square-feet with big windows, ample storage space, and Juliet balconies.

260- to 360-square feet doesn’t actually sound that small — I once lived in a studio no bigger than that in San Francisco. But here’s the kicker:

The building will begin rising up in 335 East 27th Street, in Kips Bay with apartments renting for $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

At those prices, young renters are going to have to crowd in there, two or three or more people all splitting the rent — and the limited living space. The rendering (above) makes a microapartment look like a decent space for three or more people, but where are the beds? What we’re shown doesn’t even have room for a convertible sleeper like the one I had in my SanFran studio.

Overcrowded, overpriced, and over the East River — it’s the Progressive Dream.

Sign “O” the Times

February 24th, 2015 - 9:11 am

The countdown clock has been running a long time on this “bubblecovery,” and maybe it’s about to run out:

With homebuilder sentiment slipping,blamed on the weather (despite improvement in the Northeast), Architecture billings down, and lumber prices down, it should not be totally surprising that existing home sales collapsed in January (-4.9% against expectations of -1.8% to a worse than expected 4.82 million SAAR). This is the lowest existing home sales since April. Oh – and before the talking heads blame the weather – the biggest drop in home sales was in The West (with its warm, dry, sunny home-buying climate). Considering that existing home sales most recent peak in 2014 failed to take out the previous government-sponsored peak in 2013 and remains 30% or more below the 2005 peak, and claims that the housing recovery is in tact are greatly exaggerated.

If the housing bubble pops (again), I don’t know how the equities bubbles doesn’t pop (again), no matter how much liquidity the Fed pumps into a system which is already filled to the gills with liquidity.

Keep your fingers crossed a bunch of people (me included) are wrong about the nature of this “recovery,” because none of us really want to go through 2007-08 again.

I mean, look what it brought us last time.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 24th, 2015 - 8:47 am


What to make of this:

Obamacare-loving California led the nation in embracing the health-care law, and in enrolling its citizens for 2014 coverage.

This year, however, sign-ups for private health plans in California, New York and other states that opted to build and run their own insurance markets has stagnated. Yet in more conservative parts of the country that declined to participate and where enrollment is run by the federal government, sign-ups have surged.

My gut says that Red Staters tend to be more law-abiding, and will do what is mandated even if they don’t like it.

Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

February 24th, 2015 - 7:35 am

Uber and Lyft drivers have filed two separate lawsuits in San Francisco federal court to force their employers to grant them full employee status:

A ruling on full employee status for Uber and Lyft drivers could have wide-ranging implications for the collaborative consumption movement. The new economic model has been able to maximize start-ups’ growth through a largely freelance workforce with few traditional, full-time benefits and lower costs for new businesses.

Beyond full employee status, the plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement for expenses including gasoline and car maintenance costs, which they would normally receive if they had employee standing in California. Drivers for both companies currently are classified as freelancers, and drivers cover such costs themselves.

Plaintiff attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, partner at Boston-based Lichten & Liss-Riordan, said both companies are profiting “massively” from what she describes as a worker misclassification.

As a general rule, it’s rarely a good idea for the courts to get involved in employer-employee relationships, unless there’s actual fraud or coercion going on. It’s probably an even worse idea in emerging industries, where all players are still feeling their way around the new business model and new relationships.

As a happy Uber customer, I’d hate to see their new business model strangled in the crib by one of the most “progressive” courts in the country.

The Future of Testing Is on Your Phone

February 24th, 2015 - 6:23 am

A $34 smartphone dongle provides a lab-grade blood test for STDs, including HIV.

Nightclubs should keep a couple dozen of these behind the bar and in the restrooms.

We’re Saved

February 24th, 2015 - 5:13 am


Jon Gabriel explains the State Department image you see above:

Chafing under criticism that they aren’t taking the threat from ISIS seriously, the State Department has launched an initiative to bring the barbarian terrorists to heel. Foregoing crude tactics like the threat of force or aggressive diplomacy, the Obama Administration has returned to what it knows best. They have created a logo.

Jon says its “seven fonts and eight colors” offends him as a graphic designer rather than as an American, but I find it downright creepy. Let me explain.

My community is a nice little suburb not too far from a couple of major metro areas — just like tens and tens of millions of other Americans. The “solution to violent extremism” does not begin in my community, or yours, unless we’re talking the violent extremism of people who hardly ever remember to bring their trash cans in on time*. And look at those happy little clip arts — an elementary school, a coffee shop, a park bench, a home, a computer, an office building — these are not the places where violent extremism is given birth, or at least not in this country.

So why has this inapt logo, aimed squarely at suburban and exurban America, emerged from our own foreign affairs department?

Remember this news item from just late last week:

A new intelligence assessment, circulated by the Department of Homeland Security this month and reviewed by CNN, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists and comes as the Obama administration holds a White House conference to focus efforts to fight violent extremism.

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.​

State’s happy little logo is the gentlest form of agitprop, reminding the Progressive Faithful that the real threat comes from America’s hundred million or so Bitter Clingers, and to make us suburb-dwellers feel guilty for horrible crimes we haven’t committed and never will commit.

Because if it wasn’t clear before, it’s certainly clear now that it doesn’t matter if you’re a churchgoer in flyover country or a jihadi patrolling the streets of Mosul, the Obama White House thinks it’s just one group of Bitter Clingers after another.

The difference is, you’re the threat the Administration takes seriously.

*Sorry. That would be me.

Thought for the Day

February 23rd, 2015 - 4:50 pm

The Veto Era Begins

February 23rd, 2015 - 2:34 pm

Keystone-enabling legislation will travel to the President’s desk this week, where it will die by the Obama’s pen:

The expected Keystone veto, the third and most significant of Mr. Obama’s six years in office, would most likely be followed by presidential vetoes of bills that could emerge to make changes in the Affordable Care Act, impose new sanctions on Iran and roll back child nutrition standards, among others.

For Mr. Obama, his Cross Townsend black roller-ball pen will become an extension of his second-term strategy to act alone in the face of Republican opposition and safeguard his legislative record.

“It’s a new period of his administration,” said James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington. “He will use the veto to protect his past record and not allow things he disagrees with to go forward.”

This is good news. One of the GOP Congress’s jobs is to pin Obama (and the Democrats) firmly in place, by sending him lots of popular legislation to veto.