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The Most Brutal Anti-Obama Ad of the Year?

July 28th, 2014 - 2:53 pm

Left unsaid? Tennant is a Democrat.

And Now Amazon Stumbles, Stock Tumbles

July 28th, 2014 - 1:21 pm

Uh-oh:

Jeff Bezos is testing the patience of investors after Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) missed analysts’ estimates for a second straight quarter, sending the shares tumbling almost 10 percent.

The world’s largest online retailer yesterday reported a second-quarter loss of $126 million, more than double what was predicted, even as sales climbed 23 percent to $19.3 billion. Expenses jumped 24 percent to $19.4 billion.

As a consumer, I love what Amazon does. It’s the first place I go to buy almost everything except for lunch. But investors have been absolutely insane to run up its stock price they way they up, with incredible and unjustifiable P/E ratios. A ten percent drop? That ought to be just the beginning for a company whose expected turn to profits, as John Gruber wrote last year, will probably turn out to be a will o’ the wisp.

Samsung Stumbles

July 28th, 2014 - 12:02 pm

TIZEN

The South Korean electronics giant had planned to debut its new smartphone running the company’s home-brewed Tizen operating system in Russia, but the debut has been postponed indefinitely:

It didn’t give any details about what precisely needed to be defined or how long the delay would be, but the reference to the ‘Tizen ecosystem’ hinted at fresh concerns over the availability of apps and related services that are needed to make the product sell.

Such concerns were, in part, behind the decisions of network operators NTT DoCoMo and France’s Orange SA to pull out of promotional campaigns launching the Tizen phone.

Samsung has already launched Tizen-driven smartwatches and cameras, but is desperate to extend it to smartphones in order to gain more control over the end-user experience in its most important products. Its license agreement with Google GOOG restricts its freedom to make more than cosmetic changes to the Android system.

Copying somebody else’s hardware to run somebody else’s software and buying up marketshare is easy. Creating your own ecosystem to protect yourself from even cheaper copycats and bossy software providers is hard.

Taking Ukraine

July 28th, 2014 - 11:38 am

I’ll remind you of Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s July 18 statement:

I think it’s important for us to recognize that this outrageous event underscores that it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine. For months we’ve supported a pathway to peace, and the Ukrainian government has reached out to all Ukrainians, put forward a peace plan and lived up to a cease-fire, despite repeated violations by the separatists, violations that took the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and personnel.

Moreover, time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to de-escalate the situation.

This is wishful thinking bearing no relationship to reality. That statement is as unserious as a clown wearing a squirting flower, played by Rip Taylor breathing helium. Looking at the map above, why on Earth would Putin have any interest at all in “de-escalating the situation?” Furthermore, it is Putin himself who is escalating the situation — because it’s working for him.

It’s been ten days since that statement, and nothing — not one thing — Obama called for, wished for, or demanded has come to pass. “Petulant impotence,” indeed.

Taking Baghdad

July 28th, 2014 - 10:18 am

I don’t know who wrote the headline to Jamie Dettmer’s column in The Daily Beast, but they ignorant of history and/or didn’t bother read the dang column. It reads, “The ISIS Caliphate’s Coming Blitz of Baghdad,” even though Dettmer correctly states no further down that the second graf that IS/Caliphate won’t take Baghdad in a blitz. “Blitz” is lightning warfare designed to mass mobile forces at a point of decision away from cities, where fighting bogs down immediately.

Hitler’s Wehrmacht marched into Paris unopposed, after destroying the Allied position in the countryside. This is basic history.

Anyway — enough of the Beast’s ignorant headline writer and on to Dettmer and the 21st Century-style siege of Baghdad:

Until recently, Islamic militant action around Baghdad appeared sporadic, uncoordinated, and lacking a clear strategic purpose. But analysts at the US-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War, who have been plotting the locations and types of attacks in the recent flurry of blasts buffeting the Iraqi capital, have noted a clear pattern developing. They say it suggests the Islamic State is building up to something big and is no longer just focused on consolidating its grip and developing governance in the lands it now controls.

The institute’s analysts predict the caliphate may be readying for an onslaught, possibly timed for the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday or during the Eid holiday celebrations this week. The aim would not be to seize Iraq’s capital, which has a very large Shia population with every incentive to fight to the death against an organization that slaughters Shia prisoner en masse. The purpose of the Islamic State offensive would be to sow mayhem and to keep Iraq’s state apparatus from recovering from its stunning defeats in June, when it lost control of Mosul, the second largest city in the country.

If IS/Caliphate takes Baghdad, it will be years or maybe decades before the city is governable again. Minus a very nasty religious cleansing, that is.

Required Reading

July 28th, 2014 - 9:51 am

There’s a devastating piece today from WaPo’s Fred Hiatt on “the effects of disengagement” under Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom. A small selection:

For Obama the tumult in Egypt and elsewhere was a distraction, not a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The West responded timidly and inconsistently, and the moment was lost.

For Russia, Obama offered Putin a “reset” strategy of improved relations. But when it became clear that Putin wasn’t interested — that he wanted to re-create a Russian empire while blocking the achievement of a Europe whole and free — the West again had no strategic response. Obama could have bolstered a unified Europe with military, diplomatic and trade measures. Instead, as Putin wrecked democracy in Russia, annexed Crimea and fomented war in Ukraine, Obama and his European counterparts were reactive and divided.

In Iraq and Syria, Obama’s predictions proved wrong. Without the 15,000 or so troops that U.S. generals hoped to station in Iraq for training and counterterrorism, the United States had no leverage as Iraq’s armed forces devolved into sectarian militias. When challenged by al-Qaeda, the army and the state itself quickly shattered.

Without Western backing, the moderate rebels in Syria are in retreat.

Somebody with some sense in this White House needs to draw a red line behind Obama, beyond which he cannot disengage.

There is somebody left at 1600 with that much — er, that little — sense, right?

Right?

The key to our troubles might be in the word “disengaged.” It isn’t only that our policy has been one, as Hiatt says, “cautious, modulated retreat.” It’s also that Obama himself now seems disengaged from the job of presidenting. I can’t remember the last time he made a foreign policy statement having any discernible relationship with actual facts on the ground. He makes assertions, he blames others, he raises funds, he vacations.

Nice work if you can get it, but I dread to think of the mess his successor will inherit.

Near Miss

July 28th, 2014 - 8:39 am

STORM

It’s the sci-fi disaster scenario that didn’t happen — but barely:

A fascinating NASA presentation suggests that in July 2012 Earth was one week away from being struck by a massive solar storm that would have had devastating effects.

NASA’s own Science News describes this event as being “perilous.” Indeed, as perilous as “an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century.”

There are plenty of people here on Earth who are already machinating to send us back to the 18th century. Clearly, there’s something alluring about olden times.

In this case, however, it’s the coronal mass ejection that’s captivating minds. This solar storm “tore through Earth orbit in 2012,” says Science News. “Fortunately Earth wasn’t there.”

I just got back from three days in the woods, with no gadgets, no electricity, no nothin’. It’s fun to get away from all the glowing screens we spend so much of our modern lives staring into, but it’s also a lot of work. I had myself, my two boys, and my young niece to take care of, which meant that by the time I’d finished cleaning up from breakfast, it was nearly time to start on lunch. The afternoons were wet, the nights were cold. At the end of the day I was too tired to even bother with the Kindle I’d brought along. Last night before bed I liberated one of Melissa’s prescription-strength Ibuprofens, just to make sure my woodland collection of aches and pains wouldn’t keep me up. There were extra batteries for a couple of LED lanterns and various flashlights — but if those wore out, then what? Well, civilization was about 45 minutes away by way of an occasionally questionable gravel road.

And if something turned off the lights in town, too?

“Getting away from it all” presumes having something to get away from — and something to get back to, too.

I’ll take modern life, thanks.

News You Can Use

July 28th, 2014 - 7:31 am

PUNCH

Um:

A street performer dressed as Spider-Man in New York City’s Times Square was arrested after punching a police officer who scolded him for demanding more money from a couple he had posed with for a picture, police said on Sunday.

The Saturday afternoon incident began when Junior Bishop, 25, was overheard by a police officer refusing a $1 bill from a woman with whom he’d taken a picture, insisting instead on a larger denomination, a police spokeswoman said.

After the police officer told Bishop he could only accept tips but not demand money, the Brooklyn resident began yelling at him, police say. When the officer told him he was under arrest, Bishop punched him in the face, police said.

You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

July 28th, 2014 - 6:17 am

Ouch:

Eighteen percent of Americans, or fewer than one in five, say they or someone in their family is better off because of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new poll by CNN. Nearly twice that number, 35 percent, say they or someone in their family is worse off. A larger group, 46 percent, say they are about the same after Obamacare as before.

In nearly all demographic categories — age, income, education, etc. — more people say they are worse off because of Obamacare than say they are better off.

♡bamaCare!!!’s supporters — and this study shows you can find some! — always point to this sick person who got insured despite their preexisting condition, or to that family who got covered at a rate they could afford thanks to the law’s subsidies.

Well, if a law churning that many dollars around can’t produce at least a few winners, then the government is even more incompetent than I think it is.

But the political test of a new government program — not the constitutional test, moral test, or anything other than politics — is if it creates enough winners to add to your coalition, without producing so many losers that your coalition suffers a net loss. Otherwise, the other side is going to gain enough support to alter or abolish that new program.

With that in mind, let’s go back to Byron York:

The CNN numbers are basically consistent with other surveys. The most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, for example, found that 18 percent said that they or their family were better off because of Obamacare, while 26 percent said they were worse off and 53 percent reported no difference.

Kaiser has been consistently in favor of ♡bamaCare!!! for years, and still found numbers roughly in line with CNN’s. But even if we take Kaiser’s more generous assessment, 26% is nearly 50% more losers than winners — which is a real problem for Democrats, especially when you remember that other polls show that anti-♡bamaCare!!! sentiment is much stronger than pro-♡bamaCare!!! sentiment. In other words, not only are their many more losers than winners, but the losers are much more motivated to do something about it.

And those 53% of Americans in the “no difference” column? Just wait until the law really starts to take effect. If current trends continue, they’re likely to become Angry Losers by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Those are potential millions of voters with one very serious pocketbook issue in need of addressing by some political party or other which didn’t foist this law on our country.

You Don’t Know Jack

July 28th, 2014 - 5:12 am

Gone Campin’

July 25th, 2014 - 6:36 am

PIKE

That view is as close as I’m going to get to the news for one long and awesome weekend.

Back Monday.

Thought for the Day

July 24th, 2014 - 3:05 pm

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

July 24th, 2014 - 1:27 pm

MR ROBOTO

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?

Beetles Kill Beatles Tree

July 24th, 2014 - 1:18 pm

GEORGE

Um:

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.

A Worthy Slice for a Worthy Cause

July 24th, 2014 - 12:40 pm

PizzaLogo2

PizzaIDF:

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.

Evil in the Name of Good

July 24th, 2014 - 11:30 am

I don’t usually gush over these Trifecta segments, but Bill’s this week is quite good.

POLL: We’re Gonna Keep Our Lousy Congress

July 24th, 2014 - 10:06 am

ABSTAIN

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.

Flipping the Semi-Bird

July 24th, 2014 - 7:31 am

Changyuraptor

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.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

July 24th, 2014 - 6:23 am

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.

The Science of Poverty

July 24th, 2014 - 5:31 am

POVERTY

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.

One Man, One Vote

July 23rd, 2014 - 2:15 pm

ALONIE

Because that’s how things are done in a constitutional republic with strict separation of powers.

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.

That’s Why They Call it Terrorism

July 23rd, 2014 - 12:22 pm

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.)

Headline of the Day

July 23rd, 2014 - 11:22 am

HEADER

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.

JOEL

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.

Caliphs Gotta Caliphate

July 23rd, 2014 - 9:12 am

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.

Cold War Redux?

July 23rd, 2014 - 8:18 am

Some of this Trifecta segment is a rehash of Monday’s Feinstein post, but I just had to get input from Scott Ott and Bill Whittle.

And we lured in a pro-Russian troll on the PJTV page, if you’d like to help me feed him.

Thought for the Day

July 23rd, 2014 - 7:04 am

Don’t Track Me, Bro

July 23rd, 2014 - 6:38 am

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.