There’s music lined up for all of Christmas day, but let’s settle in for a long winter’s nap with Dino.
If you absolutely, positively have to have some politics today — here you go.
If not, come back on Friday and this will still be here.
I don’t plan on doing anything more ambitious today than making (and helping to drain) a pitcher of Bloody Marys, stuffing myself with assorted gourmet treats, and peeling small children off of large wrapped boxes.
There might even be napping.
If Louis Armstrong had been born white, 30 years later, and grown up to be a punk rock drag queen…
…wait, we already have a Buster Poindexter!
While perhaps a coincidence, the failure of the country’s computer connections began only hours after President Obama declared Friday that the United States would launch a “proportional response” to what he termed an act of “cybervandalism” against Sony Pictures.
Over the weekend, as North Korean officials demanded a “joint investigation” into the Sony attacks and denied culpability — an assertion the United States rejected — Internet service began to get wobbly. By early Monday, the Internet went as dark as one of those satellite photographs showing the impoverished country by night.
Experts who monitor the health of the global Internet called it one of the worst North Korean network failures in years.
We talked about this very thing taping the week’s Trifecta segments yesterday, and part of my answer was that if I were President, I’d very quietly give our hackers the Go order.
If President Obama has done just that, my hat is off to him.
Forget ISIS — Iran has a much more immediate problem:
According to Iranian media, and the talk on the street, Iran is winning the conflict with the rest of the world over their nuclear program. The sanctions are being reduced and the next round of talks on the Iranian nuclear program are seven months away. The countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the Great Britain and the United States) handling the anti-nuclear negotiations with Iran cannot agree on a strategy and are unable to get stronger sanctions imposed. But all this is an empty victory for Iran because what hurts Iran the most is the plunging price of oil. It’s down by half (from $110 to $55 a barrel) since 2013. Iran had long depended on $100 a barrel oil for their budget planning. That was recently cut to $70 and some officials admit that planners are now looking at what will happen if it gets down to $40. Such an event would be disastrous and every Iranian would feel the loss personally. Nearly half the government income comes from oil (which normally accounts for 25 percent of GDP). Iran is looking at serious (over ten percent) GDP shrinkage if low oil prices continue.
God bless the Saudis and American frackers.
Presented without comment, other than howls of pained laughter.
Merry Christmas, suckers:
In an ongoing effort to keep Obamacare numbers elevated, CMS has embarked on the next step of its government takeover of healthcare.
It seems CMS is taking a page from Jonathan Gruber’s book; rather than allowing the “stupid” masses to make a decision on their own health plan, CMS has proposed a new rule that includes an overly reaching provision allowing CMS to re-enroll anyone who has not made the annual trek back to healthcare.gov in a cheaper plan of CMS’ choosing.
That’s right, the government will choose your plan, perhaps limit access to your doctor, and ultimately make the decision on what is “best” for you.
Not to worry, just like Lady Justice, who wears a blindfold when determining guilt or innocence, CMS will use a blindfold to pick your plan. The agency will select your plan without knowing your medical history. They will do so without knowing if you are currently undergoing treatment or working with a specific doctor. They will do so without knowing your financial status. Despite the fact that the millions of people who already enrolled chose the plan that they believed was best for them.
With every new government program, the avenues for individual choice and action become narrower. Eventually the only signposts will read “ONE WAY” and “DEAD END.”
How low can oil go? Further:
OPEC met on Nov. 27 and declined to cut production despite a slide in prices, marking a shift in strategy towards defending market share rather than supporting prices.
“As a policy for OPEC, and I convinced OPEC of this, even Mr al-Badri (the OPEC Secretary General) is now convinced, it is not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut their production, whatever the price is,” Naimi was quoted by MEES as saying.
“Whether it goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant,” he said.
I used to drive a ’77 Mercedes SL which got 10 in the city and 14 on the highway — when I wasn’t goosing it up over 100 when the lanes were clear. Right now I’m thinking seriously about buying another one just like it.
Bill Bonner explains the fix we’re in:
US GDP is reported to be $18 trillion a year – with $3.5 trillion coming from US federal government spending. Add state and local government spending, and the total rises to more than $6 trillion.
This means that the private sector – the part that pays the bills – is only $12 trillion. Total debt – government, corporate and personal – in the US is now $58 trillion (misreported yesterday as $59 trillion… but what’s a trillion dollars between friends?). That’s nearly five times the real economy that supports it.
And it helps explain why it is so hard to “grow your way out” of debt. Assuming an annual interest rate of 2%, even if you could contain debt increases to 3% of GDP a year, the productive part of the economy would have to grow at 5% just to stay even. No developed economy in the world is growing that fast.
To our national shame, I believe the Obama Administration is the first in which our debt grew faster than GDP during every growth year.
All the right people are offended by Orlando’s newest tourist attraction, and I couldn’t be happier about it:
A new Orlando-area tourist attraction has opened up to add to the long list of other theme parks. But it’s unlike anything you’ll fins at Disney World, Universal Studiosm or Sea World. It’s called Machine Gun America.
It allows participants to fire live ammunition from fully automatic weapons.
“Everybody has something they always wanted to try,” General Manager Bruce Nierenberg told local CBS affiliate WTSP Channel 10 News. “This would be on people’s bucket list to try it and have a new experience.”
If you think that’s awesome — which it is — wait until you get to this next part:
Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of the 13,000 square foot facility being planted within the Mecca of Florida’s family-friendly theme parks.
“You’ve got Holy Land right there in Orlando. You’ve got Disney World, and Epcot,” said Lucia Kay McBath, a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, “All places for family fun where they should feel protected.”
But it would appear that McBath is among the minority. The station is running a poll where it asks participants “Do you think it’s okay to allow kids as young as 13 to handle high-powered machine guns?”
Over 76% voted “Yes.”
I love this country.
Elizabeth Barber reports for Time:
Jürgen Todenhöfer, the first Western journalist to be granted access to territories controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), has returned with a warning: the terrorist group is “much stronger and much more dangerous” than its adversaries understand.
The veteran German writer and journalist is back in his home state after traveling through ISIS territories, just months after the extremist group began killing captive foreign workers and journalists. In Todenhöfer’s first interviews about the trip with German-language media, translated by the U.K. Independent, he presents ISIS as having achieved its namesake goal: an Islamic State — or rather, a collection of claimed lands hewed together by an audacious, baffling zealotry that will challenge efforts to beat the group.
“Boots on the ground,” that Obama era anathema, would have these guys routed in weeks.
“Baby It’s Cold Outside” isn’t a song about date rape. It’s a cleverly told musical version of the age-old dance of seduction, where both dancers know exactly what they’re doing along the way to an almost predetermined (and happy!) ending. “Hook up culture” doesn’t teach those dance steps, which leads to lots of confusion and the occasional tragedy.
But enough of that — enjoy yourself some Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban.
Der Spiegel reports on Germany’s anti-Muslim wave:
What is going on in Germany, the world’s second most popular destination for immigrants? Has the open-mindedness for which Germans had long been praised now ended? Are we seeing a return of the vague fear of being overwhelmed by immigrants that Germany experienced in the 1990s, when a hostel for asylum seekers was burned down? How large is the new right-wing movement, and will it remain limited to Dresden, or is it spreading nationwide?
So far, protests held under the PEGIDA label in under cities — like Kassel and Würzburg — have attracted only a few hundred people at a time. In fact, some of the protests attracted significantly larger numbers of counter-demonstrators. And while thousands of “patriotic Europeans” aim to take to the streets in Dresden again in the coming days, their counterparts in Germany’s western states are taking a Christmas break. PEGIDA supporters are waiting until after the holidays to return to the streets in cities like Cologne, Düsseldorf and Unna.
Still, many Germans share the protestors’ views, according to a current SPIEGEL poll. Some 34 percent of citizens agreed with the PEGIDA protestors that Germany is becoming increasingly Islamicized.
“Tolerance” is hardly the word I’d use for Germany’s attitude — then or now — towards Muslim immigrants.
During Germany’s postwar Wirtschaftswunder, the country didn’t have enough workers to produce all the goods demanded by its newly-prosperous consumers and export industries. So Germany brought in millions of Gastarbeiter, or guest workers, mostly from Turkey. Back in 1984, I saw some of the Muslim areas in Cologne and West Berlin firsthand — and trust me, those slums were not the result of happy multiculti tolerance. The Turks were shoved into bad areas and assimilation with ethnic Germans was never on the menu.
So I’d argue that today’s protests aren’t some sudden U-turn in German-Gastarbeiter relations, but instead are a natural consequence of Germany’s decades-long refusal to assimilate its permanent “guests.”
There’s a lesson there, if only we’d bother to (re)learn it.
In the money sweepstakes, Bush is out to an early lead. Sitting in for me on my show Friday, “Hot Air”‘s Ed Morrissey asked “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd about the race for big donors now on between Bush and New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
“I think Christie’s going to be on the losing end of this,” Todd told Morrissey.
“I mean, look, Jeb Bush basically is the number one fundraiser, right now, will end up being the number one big fundraiser in Texas, the number one big fundraiser in Florida, the number one big fundraiser in California, and he might end up being the number one guy even in Wall Street in New York, because remember, a sitting governor has to be careful who he raises money from on Wall Street,” Todd added. “It’s a big, it’s a little bit of an arcane issue, but there’s a lot of issues there with sitting governors when it comes to raising Wall Street money.”
Bush is a former governor who hasn’t run a race since 2002, and he may already be sewing up the money for 2016? The GOP is finally developing a deep bench, and one candidate of moderate distinction, but with a an old family name, threatens to suck up all the oxygen.
That’s not America as I understand it.
This isn’t quite Captain Picard’s replicator, but it’s close:
The “Foodini,” as it’s called, isn’t too different from a regular 3D printer, but instead of printing with plastics, it deploys edible ingredients squeezed out of stainless steel capsules: “It’s the same technology,” says Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Natural Machines, “but with plastics there’s just one melting point, whereas with food it’s different temperatures, consistencies and textures. Also, gravity works a little bit against us, as food doesn’t hold the shape as well as plastic.”
The Barcelona-based startup behind the machine says it’s the only one of its kind capable of printing a wide range of dishes, from sweet to savory.
“In essence, this is a mini food manufacturing plant shrunk down to the size of an oven,” Kucsma said, pointing out that at least in the initial stage the printer will be targeted mostly at professional kitchen users, with a consumer version to follow, at a projected retail price of around $1,000.
If you need me, I’ll be standing over my charcoal grill with a couple of ribeyes cut from an actual cow.
Exhibit #1,000,006 in why nothing good ever came from hiding in the closet:
An American pastor from Indiana, who leads a church that preaches same-sex marriage is “sinful”, has been arrested after he allegedly grabbed and squeezed a man’s genitals before requesting oral sex.
Gaylard Williams, 59, who leads the Praise Cathedral Church of God in Seymour, southern Indiana, was arrested and charged with battery and appeared in court last week, WLKY reports.
Williams allegedly approached a 27-year-old man in his car at Cypress Lake in Indiana. The man said that when he rolled down his window to speak to Williams, the pastor grabbed and squeezed his genitals, and then requested oral sex.
This next line is the clincher:
Police found gay porn in Williams’ car, who denied it was his and claimed he was returning it to the owner.
Andrew Scott Cooper says that relief you feel at the gas pump is due to the ongoing Saudi-Iranian rivalry:
There’s no doubt that shale has eroded Saudi Arabia’s “swing power” as the world’s largest oil producer. But thanks to their pumping capacity, reserves, and stockpiles, the Saudis are still more than capable of crashing the oil markets — and willing to do so. In September 2014, they did just that, boosting oil production by half a percent (to 9.6 million barrels per day) in markets already brimming with cheap crude and, a few days later, offering increased discounts to major Asian customers; global prices quickly fell nearly 30 percent. As in 1977, the Saudis instigated this flood for political reasons: Whether foreign analysts believe it or not, oil markets remain important venues in the Saudi-Iranian struggle for supremacy over the Persian Gulf.
The last time the Saudis played ball this hard with Tehran, it helped to bring down the Shah. We had — and blew — a similar opportunity against the mullahs in 2009, but it’s becoming clear that the White House blew that opportunity on purpose.
Which has to make you wonder if the Saudis won’t flood the market even longer this time around. It’s obvious we aren’t going to help them deal with Iran, so maybe they’ll keep up enough pressure to do what we won’t.
Kevin Williamson nabs today’s top spot with his year-end wrap:
If 2014 had a grand theme, it was testicular absence.
In science fiction, corporations are deathless juggernauts imposing their will on governments and galaxies, but in the real world Sony, one of the most powerful business entities in the world, got cowed into submission by the release of some embarrassing e-mails and threats from hackers acting on behalf of the Evil Kingdom of the Hermit Midgets. Hollywood is forever congratulating itself on its courage for banging on, e.g., the American suburban bourgeoisie, because bourgeois American suburbanites don’t generally resolve disagreements by sawing off heads. But let Kim Jung-un take offense at your dopey Seth Rogen movie and Sony is suddenly a wounded kitten.
You think the Weyland-Yutani Corporation would put up with that nonsense?
Read the whole thing.
Benny Avni takes you behind the scenes of the maneuvers going on that the UN between the Palestinian Authority and the US State Department:
Presidents of both parties have long understood that Israel can’t get a fair shake at the United Nations, that Washington alone must steer any international attempts at peacemaking with the Palestinians.
Past UN ambassadors — John Negroponte, John Bolton, Richard Holbrooke — have publicly expressed red lines regarding Israel-related resolutions. Violate these lines, and America would use its veto.
But our current UN ambassador, Samantha Power, has yet to speak publicly about the various ideas for resolutions — even though these could change the entire Israeli-Palestinian political landscape. And Kerry is now negotiating proposed UN texts as if it were a vital world issue.
This is not the behavior of a superpower. It’s the tactic of minor players whose only power derives from being UN members (or, here, a “UN observer” with too many fans).
Kerry may think that by showing good faith, he’ll get the Palestinians to back off. They won’t: They’ll only demand deeper UN involvement in their dealings with Israel.
Do you get the feeling the American people are being set up by the White House for an unprecedented sellout of Israel?
Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, [Director of BBC Television] Danny Cohen said the past year had been the most difficult for him as a Jew living in the United Kingdom.
“I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually. Because you feel it. I’ve felt it in a way I’ve never felt before actually,” he said in a conversation with Channel 2’s anchor Yonit Levi.
Cohen went on: “And you’ve seen the number of attacks rise. You’ve seen murders in France. You’ve seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually. And having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe.”
Cohen made the comments as one of the international television and comedy professionals participating in a two-day conference at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on the ability of comedy to drive forward social change.
Last month, Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who is also Jewish, decried the rise of anti-Semitism in Great Britain and called for “a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism in the UK.”
Miliband is going to find that a “zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism” simply won’t square with Britain’s touchy-feely multiculturalism. This “New Britain” which turned a blind eye to the mass rape of 1,400 girls by Muslim men in Rotherham is morally and legally ill-equipped to deal with the brutal reality of a sizable fraction of its immigrant community.
The news from New York keeps getting worse:
The gunman who fatally ambushed two police officers in their squad car had a long criminal record, a hatred for police and the government, and an apparent history of mental instability that included an attempt to hang himself a year ago, authorities said.
Moments before opening fire, Ismaaiyl Brinsley approached people on the street in Brooklyn, He also asked if they had any gang affiliation and asked them to follow him on Instagram, then told them, “Watch what I’m going to do,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.
Brinsley reminds me of Jared Lee Loughner, another deeply disturbed individual who used politics (or perhaps in Brinsley’s case, religion) as an excuse to act out his murderous fantasies. The important difference between these two men isn’t in their actions or their supposed politics or in the color of their skin — but in the political climates of their home states.
What happened in Arizona in 2011 led to a brief and failed attempt by the Left to try and pin Loughner down as a typical right winger. Life in Arizona returned quickly to normal. New York City won’t be so lucky, because Brinsley’s grisly double murder is bringing that city’s political and cultural divisions into sharp relief. Jazz Shaw explains:
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. It is time for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to resign. Yesterday’s assassination of two of New York City’s finest was only the latest and most devastating brush stroke on a canvas which has been coming into focus for months. When you are the mayor of a city you have many responsibilities, but one of the most vital (in terms of maintaining a functional societal structure) is the mandate to enforce the laws and maintain social order. It is the same for mayors everywhere, as well as governors and presidents. But currently, the state of relations between City Hall and the New York Police Department has devolved to the point of complete dysfunction, and criminals are well aware of this state of affairs. The fault for the creation of this toxic atmosphere is essentially found solely at the feet of Mayor de Blasio.
So caustic is the current state of relations between the Mayor’s office and the police that a shocking and dismaying scene took place in the wake of the horrific assassinations. When de Blasio arrived at the hospital yesterday, the uniformed officers literally turned their backs to him as he walked by. And this was at a moment when, in more normal times, they should have been rallying to the leadership of the executive.
Brinsley was a madman who acted alone, but the aftermath is the bitter fruit of the Left’s divide-and-conquer politics. Now I hope I’m wrong about this, but my friend Jazz is nuts if he thinks for one minute that de Blasio will do the right thing and give up power — and Jazz isn’t nuts.
New York City is getting the government it asked for, but I’ll never believe this is the government anyone deserves.
It might not even be arguable that the greatest achievement ever in American popular music is Ella Fitzgerald’s Songbook series. The concept was simple: One album (sometimes a double album) dedicated to one great American songwriter, or songwriting team. The music for each album would have a single band with a single conductor-arranger. That way a consistent sound was achieved throughout, with the focus being on Ella’s interpretation of the lyrics. The execution was flawless, of course — we’re talking Ella here.
Turns out she can make a Christmas record pretty good, too.
Taking a personal day to catch up on shopping & wrapping.
Tony Bennett released his first collection of Christmas songs, Snowfall, way back in 1968. It’s so good he gave Lou Rawls competition for Snazziest Christmas Collection Ever — but I might not have ever heard of it had he not re-released it 20 years ago. There was one additional track, Tony’s performance of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” with the Ralph Sharon Trio on the old Jon Stewart Show. That live track is a favorite of mine, but since I played that one last years, let’s go back to ’68 and some of my favorite things with Tony and arranger-conductor Robert Farnon.
Never been able to find out which band was playing, so my guess is that it’s just a bunch of session guys. But like most session players, these guys are good. Tony’s voice was still at its peak, too.
So that’s plenty of breezy holiday goodness for you on this one.