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Cliff Notes for Dummies

September 23rd, 2014 - 2:19 pm

BURKE

Another Democrat caught plagiarizing:

Sections of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s veterans and rural communities plans appear to copy text directly from a variety of sources.

The sources include, but are not limited to, academic journals and reports, and a local newspaper column.

In other instances, the sources are linked in plan’s footnotes, though Burke’s plan makes little effort to indicate that not just the source, but the words themselves were taken from the sources.

BuzzFeed News reported Friday that large portions of Burke’s jobs plan for Wisconsin were copied directly from the plans of four Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.

Forward.

Thought for the Day

September 23rd, 2014 - 1:18 pm

Now You Don’t See Me, Now You Do

September 23rd, 2014 - 12:17 pm

Will radar technology advances render stealth jets obsolete, as one Russian military expert claims? Probably not, but it does add another element to a constantly-changing equation. Joe Trevithick has the story:

It’s not for no reason that the U.S. Navy is taking its time acquiring stealth fighters, and is instead focusing on building more and better EA-18G electronic-warfare jets that can jam enemy radars instead of avoiding them.

Likewise, consider Washington’s renewed interest in extremely long-range, fast-flying hypersonic weapons. These super-fast weapons could help make up for the decreasing effectiveness of stealth. An attacking warplane wouldn’t need to fly so close to enemy radars if it could simply attack from long range with a weapon that’s really, really hard to intercept.

Even aging and portly B-52 bombers—which are anything but stealthy—could lob hypersonic projectiles at targets from hundreds or thousands of miles away. The speedy missiles could zip right through enemy defenses.

In theory. In reality, the Americans—as well as everyone else—have struggled to get hypersonics to work. Just like it’s hard getting stealth to work. And just like better sensors also require intensive development and investment over many decades.

Perhaps most importantly, Moore’s Law—the idea that computing power doubles every two years or so—has never been repealed, so to speak. The fact is, stealth like any advanced technology was always bound to face challenges from any number of other technologies, particularly those that hinge on improvements in computer processing.

But future plane designs will still incorporate stealth features, even if those features don’t represent a major advantage. Stealth might not be a panacea, but having no stealth at all just might be aerial suicide. New sensors work even better again non-stealthy jets than they do against stealthy ones. [Emphasis in original]

I’m reminded of what almost killed Volvo as a make of automobile. While most carmakers sold models based on horsepower and performance, or luxury and status, and later gas mileage and economy. Volvo took a different tack, selling cars to consumers concerned about safety. “Boring but safe” was for years Volvo’s brand.

But then seatbelts were mandated, followed by airbags. And a host of other safety features like crumple zones and anti-lock brakes became standard features on just about every car made. “Safe” became the lowest common denominator of every new car sold, leaving Volvo with nothing but “boring.” The brand nearly died as a result.

Stealth is now the “safety” of modern jet fighters, and increasingly of bombers, too — you’ve got to have it just to have a chance at all. What’s telling is how difficult it’s proving for anyone but American aerospace companies to develop fully-stealthy fighters. China is trying with the Chengdu J-20, but development is slow going. Further hindering the effort might be that China still doesn’t even have a fully homegrown fourth-generation fighter, much less a stealthy fifth-gen. Russia has upgraded their aging fourth-gen designs with much-improved avionics and some stealth-type features, but also has floundered trying to develop a true fifth-gen fighter. The Europeans and the Brits are kinda-sorta trying, but their tiny defense budgets probably can’t handle the strain.

But stealth-defeating radars and missiles are a helluva lot easier to develop than fleets of fighter aircraft. And even if they don’t totally obsolete our F-22s and F-35s, advanced detection certainly complicates things for us.

So we’d best find the money to stay a step ahead of the game, or risk going where not even Volvo has gone before.

Shut Up and Take My Tax Money

September 23rd, 2014 - 11:16 am

After school I’ll show this to my eight-year-old and tell him that I used to have one of those back in the ’80s.

Support Our Tokes

September 23rd, 2014 - 10:15 am

Vets in Colorado Springs will have the chance to get free pot this Saturday, courtesy of Operation Grow4Vets:

The organization’s goal is to help veterans suffering from emotional and physical pain. They hosted their largest-ever cannabis giveaway event in Denver Saturday. KDVR reported about 500 people–mostly veterans–attended that event.

Each veteran at Saturday’s event got $200 worth of cannabis products for free, according to KDVR. The bag included a week’s supply of tincture, a cannabis chocolate, and eight marijuana seeds to grow.

I’d rather see MDMA legalized for this kind of purpose, as its been shown time and again to have real and lasting benefits to helping people cope with PTSD.

Don’t Buy Alibaba

September 23rd, 2014 - 9:14 am

ALIBABA

Shawn Tully ran the numbers, and if you weren’t one of the insiders buying shares at the IPO price, then you’re screwed:

It’s unlikely that Alibaba will pay a dividend anytime soon. So all of our gains will need to come in the form of stock appreciation. Using those metrics, Alibaba will need to grow its market cap from $231 billion to $777 billion by 2024. Keep in mind that the market currently awards only one company on the planet a valuation over $600 billion, and that’s Apple.

To get us there, how much will Alibaba need to earn? In the four quarters ended June 30, Alibaba posted net earnings of $4.9 billion. If its P/E (price-to-earnings) multiple of 47 falls to 20 over those 10 years—and 20 is still a premium P/E—it will need to show $39 billion in net earnings. That means earnings must grow by well over 20% a year. Other than government-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, only one superstar makes that kind of money: once again, it’s Apple. To put this challenge in perspective, consider that Microsoft earned $22 billion in 2013.

Repeat after me: There is no bubble.

Finish What Ya (Never) Started

September 23rd, 2014 - 8:13 am

NAGATA

I don’t want to belabor the Vietnam analogies any more than they have been already, but you do need to read this Daily Beast report from Josh Rogin and Eli Lake on President Obama, his Syria point man General Michael Nagata, and our upcoming mini-Vietnam:

There are skeptics both inside and outside the government who doubt Obama’s new plan to arm the Syrian rebels can work. First of all, the administration has said for years that the moderate opposition can’t be a reliable partner for the United States in Syria. Only last month, Obama said that the rag-tag bunch of “former doctors, farmers, and pharmacists” could never win their civil war and the whole idea that arming them earlier would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.”

Then Obama made a complete reversal, announced that portions of the Free Syrian Army were now vetted enough to help the U.S. fight against ISIS, and called on Congress to vote to give him authority train and arm them. Congress went along, but only after hearing from Nagata, who briefed both House and Senate members and staffers in classified settings and told them how he would get it done. Those briefed said they were impressed by the General but remained concerned Obama’s plan was fatally flawed.

Any takers on my bet that the next thing to come out of Syria will be just as bad as ISIL?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 23rd, 2014 - 7:12 am

The latest numbers from Public Opinion Strategies don’t look good for the Democrats:

The poll found that likely voters in battleground districts who consider Obamacare to be the “most important” issue in the upcoming election oppose it by the overwhelming tally of 70 to 30 percent (see slide 9). Likely voters who consider Obamacare to be a “very important” issue (but not the “most important” one) oppose it by more than 2 to 1 — 67 to 32 percent. Those who consider it to be “somewhat important” somewhat like it — but still oppose it by 51 to 47 percent. And those who consider it to be “not at all important” love it — favoring it by 70 to 17 percent.

That Means It’s Working™.

On a slightly more serious note, ♡bamaCare!!! seems to be one of those laws where the more people know about it, the more they hate it. Except of course for the Apologist Wing in the mainstream media, who just can’t seem to get their rosy promises to square with people’s real-world experiences.

Sign “O” the Times

September 23rd, 2014 - 6:11 am

POOR HOUSE

Robert Samuelson warns that the next economic surprise is a longterm one:

[Economist Robert] Gordon, a respected Northwestern University scholar, contends that mainstream economic growth predictions are wildly optimistic. His own calculations are more restrained. By 2024, he reckons, the economy’s annual output (gross domestic product) will be nearly $2 trillion lower — almost 10 percent — than projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Government debt will be 87 percent of GDP in 2024 instead of the CBO’s estimate of 78 percent. Disappointing output will also pressure the Federal Reserve to move earlier against inflation by tightening credit, he says.

The gist of Gordon’s argument is that the nation’s productive capacity — what economists call “the supply side” — will expand only slowly. It won’t keep up with the stronger consumer demand embodied in other forecasts. As a result, inflationary pressures will be higher and GDP lower. The “economy is on a collision course between demand-side optimism and supply-side pessimism,” he writes in a study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Combine that projection of low growth with yesterday’s Scary-Ass Chart showing who has been benefitting from our economic growth, and together they detail the end of the American middle class.

At last, the Progressive dream made real.

Lois Lerner is Sorry Not Sorry

September 23rd, 2014 - 5:18 am

Lois Lerner

Politico has the story:

Lois Lerner is toxic — and she knows it. But she refuses to recede into anonymity or beg for forgiveness for her role in the IRS tea party-targeting scandal.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Lerner said in her first press interview since the scandal broke 16 months ago. “I’m proud of my career and the job I did for this country.”

Left undefined is “job.”

What job did she do, for whom did she really do it, and why won’t she tell Congress what it was?

And Now for Something Completely Unscripted

September 22nd, 2014 - 3:20 pm

EXTRA

Once again, go behind the scenes — between the segments, actually — of Trifecta on this week’s Extra.

Sign “O” the Times

September 22nd, 2014 - 2:17 pm

Things are not good at DHS:

Over the past four years, employees have left DHS at a rate nearly twice as fast as the federal government overall, and the trend is accelerating, according to a review of a federal database.

The departures are a result of what employees widely describe as a dysfunctional work environment, abysmal morale and the lure of private security companies paying top dollar that have proliferated in Washington since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The creepiness of “Homeland Security” aside (see VodkaPundit circa 2002), I see this story as yet another sign of executive incompetence by a White House far more skilled at agitating than administrating.

I would also like to emphasize that the story headline states that the problems at DHS make it more difficult for the agency to deal with “evolving threats,” and our threats lately are nothing if rapidly evolving.

Thought for the Day

September 22nd, 2014 - 1:13 pm

This got a fair amount of play by people who didn’t seem to know it was a joke — but I assure you, I was on the sofa watching the Broncos game, and not in New York eavesdropping on idiot anticapitalist murderous stinky hippies.

Required Reading

September 22nd, 2014 - 12:09 pm

Ralph-Peters-Remapped-Middle-East

Ross Douthat looks at Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s mess of an IS/Caliphate strategy and concludes:

The trouble with containment is that it would leave the Islamic State in control of a great deal of territory (with more beheading videos, no doubt) for months and years to come. Hence the administration’s pivot to Syria; hence the strategic dream palace that is our arm-the-rebels strategy.

The cold reality, though, is that defeating ISIS outright in Syria will take something more substantial than dropping a few bombs in support of a few U.S.-trained moderates. Either the American military will have to intervene in force (including with substantial ground troops) or we’ll have to ally, in a very un-American display of machtpolitik, with Bashar al-Assad. Both options may have supporters within the Republican Party. Many hawks seem ready to send in ground forces, and John McCain has explicitly argued that we should be willing to go to war with both Assad and the Islamists at once. From Rand Paul, meanwhile, you hear what sounds like a version of the ally-with-Assad approach, albeit couched in somewhat ambiguous terms.

Read the whole thing.

Pretty much everybody has lost their minds on this one. The President wants to put together a Coalition of the Willing, consisting of some very bad actors who will probably turn out to be just as bad as the current crop of bad actors. Parts of the GOP have gone from insisting that we should never arm Islamists in Syria to demanding that we arm Islamists in Syria. We’ve gone from wanting Iran to giving up its nukes to giving away all of our leverage in getting them to do so, and possibly giving them Iraq, to boot. And Assad is now our best frenemy, even though we’ll almost certainly be arming his actual enemies. The only good to come out of this mess is a growing axis between the Gulf States and Egypt, which might prove capable of thwarting IS/Caliphate and Iran — except that we seem determined to ignore the new alliance when we aren’t working actively against it.

This, at long last, is the Middle East tar baby Osama bin Laden hoped we’d get ourselves stuck to.

And since we seem to be stuck in a ’70s timewarp, only worse, who wants to join me for a four martini lunch?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 22nd, 2014 - 11:22 am

FAIL

Details:

The breach involved an inadvertent transfer of personal data from computers controlled by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to servers at Optum/QSSI, the lead contractor building the infrastructure for the healthcare.gov infrastructure.

Andrew Slavitt was the leader of UnitedHealth Optum/QSSI, the legacy of his original firm Ingenix, which he sold to UnitedHealth, at the time of the breach, so it is interesting that Slavitt is now the principal deputy administrator at CMS—and the man tasked by President Barack Obama to fix the healthcare.gov debacle.

Officials at Health and Human Services, the parent agency of CMS, the office inside the department with overall supervision of the federal healthcare exchanges, state-based marketplaces and enrollment, as well as, the Federal Data Services data hub, changed procedures for handling personal information, but did not report the incident to Congress because in their thinking it was not a external attack or break-in.

Word of the security breach in the late spring is bubbling up just as Congress is reacting news of a successful hacker attack in July, disclose just after Labor Day.

The hacker installed malicious software inside the system and the breach went undetected for two months.

What President Obama fails to understand is that a president actually gains political capital by working with Congress, instead of stonewalls, lies, and omissions.

He’ll leave the White House more politically exhausted than Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush combined.

Brave New Targeting

September 22nd, 2014 - 10:10 am

Take a minute to watch this new ad from Americans for Shared Prosperity.

I went into it with high hopes, and it’s certainly a good effort. But it feels like a swing and a miss. Maybe it’s too long — 20-to-30 second spots usually work best. Maybe it doesn’t hit all the issues it should, or hits some of the wrong ones. Or maybe as a middle age male I’m just not the target audience.

Ladies (and gents), what’s your impression? A solid effort, or does it come up short — and what would you do to improve the messaging?

Don’t get me wrong; I think this is a good ad and I’d want to see many more like it.

News You Can Use

September 22nd, 2014 - 9:10 am

NINJAS

I’m going to go ahead and guess this story has the quickest news-item-to-porn-flick turnaround time since “Drill, baby, drill.”

Required Viewing

September 22nd, 2014 - 8:23 am

I can’t understand why somebody as annoying and vacuous as RFK Jr doesn’t already have his own show on MSNBC.

Scary-Ass Chart of the Day

September 22nd, 2014 - 7:37 am

SCARY

That’s a NY Times chart, annotated for you by Tyler Durden. You’ll notice that the lines diverge not long after the Fed began its permanent policy of cheap money.

I realize correlation is not causation, but at some point we really ought to try something else.

Brave New Party

September 22nd, 2014 - 6:19 am

HAL 9000

Speaking of introductions, Kimberly Strassel would like you to meet the man who might just trump the Democrats’ tech advantage in targeting voters:

Mr. [Azarias] Reda, Ethiopian by birth, American by choice, was recruited by the RNC in November as its chief data officer. He and the nearly 50 data scientists and engineers he has recruited to an in-house tech incubator—Para Bellum Labs—are a mind-blowing sight at RNC headquarters. Hipsters in T-shirts and jeans wade through besuited politicians toward a digital room that sports rows of computers and dry-erase walls.

This room is where I met Mr. Reda last week and pointed out that Democrats are already ridiculing the Republicans’ big-data effort, claiming that there’s no way the GOP can catch the Obama turnout machine. The comment causes the otherwise serious young engineer to break out in a mischievous grin. “I don’t want to catch up to a presidential campaign from 2012,” he says, making 2012 sound like so last century. “What we’re doing here is what a tech startup would do in 2014. Data science has traveled a lot in just the past few years.”

The RNC line is that it intends to leapfrog Democrats in the technology of turnout, and a lot is riding on the claim.

Strassel reminds us that the GOP had been ahead in the technological arms race as recently as 2004 — and I’d remind you that their advantage actually dates back to the mid-’60s. Perhaps the biggest hurdle the Republicans face in regaining the advantage is that the Donks have Silicon Valley in their back pocket. Well, they think they do; actually it’s the other way around.

I get the feeling however that Silicon Valley’s attachment is one of convenience rather than conviction, so good luck to Azarias Reda.

Meet the al Qaeda Turncoat

September 22nd, 2014 - 5:15 am

MORTEN STORM

You’ll be meeting him again and again and again if you haven’t already:

[Morten] Storm’s biggest claim to fame, besides de-radicalizing himself, is that he was so valued by senior al Qaeda officials that he set one up with a European wife. Count on this story getting more air time on CNN, decent book sales, and giving us even more reasons to wonder what the CIA is really up to when recruiting misfits like Storm in the first place. But then again, it does give top CNN terrorism analysts, contributors, and producers something to chew on other than defending president Obama’s controversial and increasingly unpopular foreign policy (or lack of one).

Read the whole thing — it looks like he’s the new It Boy for… something.

Friday Night Videos

September 19th, 2014 - 10:09 pm

It’s hard to believe it, but when I looked up the Climax Blues Band for this week’s FNV, it turns out these guys are still playing. A different lineup, of course — they’ve been through several since 1968 — but CBB is extant.

“Couldn’t Get It Right” is one of those mid-’70s AM radio hits I toted around day camp with me, blaring with as much volume as I could squeeze out of an avocado green handset radio. It didn’t help that I liked to take the 9V battery out a couple times a day and let the contacts tingle my tongue.

Also managed to find this Top of the Pops appearance, from so long ago that bands still played their music instead of just lip syncing their Autotuned “vocals.”

Fun band with some serious longevity to is credit, thanks in no small part to this nifty little single.

You Say You Want a Devolution?

September 19th, 2014 - 1:24 pm

th

Scottish independence might be a dead issue, but British Devolution Fever is spreading to the darnedest places.

Israel Puts Kibosh on Ukraine Drone Deal

September 19th, 2014 - 1:17 pm

Eitan

Israel’s foreign ministry nixed a planned sale of Eitan drones to Ukraine due to possible pressure from Russia:

The report added that Russia has blocked arms sales to Iran and Syria recently, and said Israel was concerned a drone sale to Ukraine would anger Moscow, and could provoke it to sell more arms to Syria and Iran, the Jewish state’s arch-enemy.

The broadcaster said a Ukrainian delegation had visited Israel with a view to acquiring military hardware including drones to use against pro-Russian separatists.

It was not reported when the visit took place or when the decision to turn down the request was taken.

A Defense Ministry spokesman refused to comment on the report.

The Eitan is an recon drone and carries no weapons.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 19th, 2014 - 12:28 pm

Or maybe it’s a win. In either case, the architect of ♡bamaCare!!! thinks you should die by age 75, which seems like the kind of thing you might want to know.

Sighing the Seven Seas

September 19th, 2014 - 11:21 am

sb1sip9i

Our Navy isn’t exactly shipshape, reports StrategyPage:

The U.S. Navy recently ran an opinion survey which confirmed that morale was low and getting worse, with a growing number of experienced sailors eager to get out of the navy. The most common gripe was the length of time spent at sea and the belief that those long voyages to distant waters were going to get longer. There was also growing disillusionment with navy leadership. Sailors saw senior officers more concerned with political correctness and “zero tolerance” than with legitimate complaints of sailors and junior officers. Some 42 percent of respondents said their last deployment (aboard a ship and away from home) was seven months or longer. Nearly half the sailors expect their next deployment to be even longer. Nor surprisingly only 21 percent of sailors were satisfied with the amount of time they spent at sea. When asked about morale only 42 percent felt it was good or better. A major reason for low morale is the growing talk in Congress for reducing pay and benefits. In particular many sailors feared the long-standing custom of retirement (at half pay) after twenty years’ service was in danger. Most (63 percent) were certain they could get a good job if they left the navy. Worse, nearly half the respondents did not want to get promoted because of the growing amount of paperwork and petty rules that had to be enforced.

What we’ve allowed to become of our Navy — thanks to progressive politics, a broken procurement system, and too few ships — is one of the most frightening longterm dangers this country faces.

Scottish Leader Quits

September 19th, 2014 - 10:18 am

Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond has decided to take the high road:

Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister and leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, announced his resignation from both posts, effective in November.

Salmond said he was proud of the campaign for independence, and that now was the time to hold the UK leadership to its promises of shifting more autonomy to Scotland.

“We now have the opportunity to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the ‘vow’ that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland,” he said in a statement. “This places Scotland in a very strong position.”

Salmond may say whatever he wants, but the facts are that Scotland is in a weaker position vis-à-vis Westminster than it was on Wednesday, and that nobody keeps their job after losing a high-turnout election by ten points.

ALSO: I just turned in this week’s column, looking at yesterday’s vote and the future of Great Britain. I’ll post a link as soon as it goes live on the PJM home page.

Sign “O” the Times

September 19th, 2014 - 9:16 am

The IBD editors didn’t like what they heard from the Fed:

As the Fed hinted in its biannual policy forecast, the famously dynamic U.S. economy is looking rather undynamic these days. The Fed lowered its forecasts for economic growth next year considerably, from a range of 3% to 3.2% just two months ago to 2.6% to 3% now.

When officials have to scramble to lower their forecasts to catch up with reality, it’s rarely a good thing. That’s certainly the case here.

And yet, while most of the Fed board’s members continue to forecast an end to the Fed’s 0% interest rate policy sometime next year, this latest forecast raises some doubts about that.

The Fed’s Open Market Committee said in a statement that “it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after the asset purchase ends.”

Sound like the Fed’s going to hold on to the zero-rate policy as long as it can out of fear increases will sink the economy? It sure did to us.

We can’t afford much more of this cheap money.

News You Can Use

September 19th, 2014 - 7:36 am

CRASH

So this is a thing that happened:

A car full of teenagers crashed in Idaho after one of its passengers lit the driver’s armpit hair on fire as a joke.

All five were injured after their Ford Bronco flipped early Sunday outside Boise.

Tristan Myers, 18, was driving when his front-seat passenger, a 16-year-old boy, set Mr. Myers’ armpit hair on fire with a lighter, a local NBC affiliate reported.

I like a good armpit-setting-on-fire gag as much as the next guy, but know you’re not supposed to do that in a car, right?