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A Better Boomer?

April 24th, 2015 - 2:14 pm
(Image courtesy Jane's)

(Image courtesy Jane’s)

Uh-oh:

In a 15 April testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of US Pacific Command (PACOM), said China has three Type 094 (Jin-class) submarines in service already and may have eight in service by the end of the decade.

“The Jin-class submarine carries the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile [SLBM] with a range capable of reaching the US and will give China its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent. Nuclear deterrence patrols will likely commence this year,” he said.

Adm Locklear’s comments mark an increase over previous US intelligence community estimates. In 2007 the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) estimated that up to five Type 094 SSBNs could be built, while the 2008 annual Pentagon report to US Congress on China’s military stated that up to five Type 094s could be built by 2010.

The real question isn’t the number of boats, but if the boats are any good. Russia built about a jillion nuclear- and diesel-powered subs, most of which were about as stealth as my nine-year-old hopped up on Halloween candy and with an air horn in each hand. The Chinese missile subs are so unreliable and so loud, our own Navy isn’t sure if they’ve engage in even one deterrence patrol in all these years.

I’m not worried — yet.

PAK Man Fever

April 24th, 2015 - 1:49 pm
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Russia’s attempt to build a fifth-generation fighter jet is running into serious problems, and that has their Indian partners up in arms:

In late March Russia finally admitted that they were having serious problems with their new “5th generation” T-50 (or PAK-FA) stealth fighter. The admission came in the form of a decision to cut the number of production T-50s to be built by the end of the decade from 52 to 12. Russia already has five development models of the T-50 flying, although one was damaged in a fire. The Russian announcement did not cover specific reasons for the change. But Indian Air Force officials have been criticizing the progress of the T-50 program for over a year. This aircraft is the Russian answer to the U.S. F-22 and according to the Indians, who have contributed $300 million (so far) to development of the T-50, they are entitled by the 2007 agreement with Russian to have access to technical details. The Russians were accused to refusing to provide development updates as often and in as much detail the Indians expected. The Indians know from experience that when the Russians clam up about a military project it is usually because the news is bad and the Russians would rather not share.

Stealth is like selling safety as a feature in an automobile — it used to be something only one or two brands focused on, but now safety is just as standard as the steering wheel or doors. In other words, you’ve got to have it in order to compete.

And the Russians don’t have it.

Kerry in a Pants Suit

April 24th, 2015 - 12:18 pm

Ouch.

I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster regarding Hillary Clinton since the email scandal first broke. When it did, and the seriousness of her breaches became obvious, and watching her tired attempt to deal with it — it felt like she was toast.

But she soldiered on and appeared to recover.

Then I watched her “launch” her “campaign.” One uninspired video, followed by stops at “more intimate venues” signaled a candidate who wasn’t really interested in campaigning, and a public which wasn’t really interested in the candidate.

But she soldiered on and appeared to recover.

This week has seen revelations about her foundation’s taxes, about a deal to let Russia control a good chunk of our uranium production — and sell some of it to Iran, and more.

Will she soldier on and recover?

I don’t know, but the hits do keep on coming, don’t they?

Required Reading

April 24th, 2015 - 11:07 am

Ralph Peters:

Hundreds of drone strikes so far this year, from Syria to Pakistan. Hundreds of dead terrorists, many of high rank. Thousands of lives saved. And what makes headlines?

Two Western hostages killed in an otherwise successful drone attack.

Sorry, folks. That’s war. And warfare will never be dainty or fully precise. We should be awed by the accuracy of our weaponry and the unprecedented reduction in the loss of innocent lives.

Instead, we bitch because military operations — humanity’s most complex and fraught endeavor — aren’t perfect.

Read the whole thing.

Peters adds an important reminder, “We may regret the loss of an American and an Italian aid worker, but they’d voluntarily placed themselves in danger.” That’s exactly right, and gets forgotten in the urge to point fingers at the Administration. I’d remind you that unless the Pentagon or the White House was somehow lax in its efforts to ID the targets, the President was exactly right to order the kill.

Obama’s Drone War is no substitute for a concerted effort to kill some seriously bad guys who are in serious need of some killing, but it’s a nice addition.

Now if we only had that concerted effort…

Pump, Baby, Pump!

April 24th, 2015 - 9:37 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Someday, I hope to live in a world where the perfectly groomed and dressed attendant at the full-service gas station pays me a small fee for allowing him to fill my tank with the excess gasoline which the station simply must get rid of. While the attendant goes about the business of crediting my account and filling the tank, a statuesque masseuse straight out of a Helmut Newton photoshoot comes by to spend a few quality minutes on my neck and shoulders.

The margaritas, I should add, are fabulous. The station’s bartender strains the fresh lime juice and uses exactly seven Alaskan glacier ice cubes, just the way I like.

After he’s done his job, the attendant thanks me for my business, adds a small tip to my fee, and reminds me that when I return in a week or two, the free tapas bar should finally be open.

That world may be one small step closer to reality:

Saudi Arabia has a response to the global surplus of oil: Raise output to near-record levels and then pump even more.

The world’s biggest oil exporter, having abandoned last year its role of keeping global markets in balance, now has incentive to maximize output and undermine rival producers by using its reserve capacity, according to Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG. Just meeting its own domestic demand this summer will require a lot more fuel, others estimate.

The increase — a snub to fellow OPEC members calling on the kingdom to cut production — will heighten tensions when the organization meets in June. Oil plunged to a six-year low near $45 a barrel in January, six weeks after the Saudis overcame opposition within the group to keep up output despite surging U.S. shale supplies.

If you’d like to play the World’s Smallest Violin for OPEC, the corner gas station has a Stradivarius available for loan to customers just like you.

That’s the headline to an …unusual… New York Magazine takedown by Jonathan Chait. It’s unusual because first you have things like these four bullet points, which if you’re on Team Clinton have got to hurt:

•The New York Times has a report about the State Department’s decision to approve the sale of Uranium mines to a Russian company that donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, and that a Russian investment bank promoting the deal paid Bill $500,000 for a speech in Moscow.

•The Washington Post reports that Bill Clinton has received $26 million in speaking fees from entities that also donated to the Clinton Global Initiative.

•The Washington Examiner reports, “Twenty-two of the 37 corporations nominated for a prestigious State Department award — and six of the eight ultimate winners — while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State were also donors to the Clinton family foundation.”

•And Reuters reports, “Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors.”

But the lead-in offers the Clintons something of a way out:

All sorts of unproven worst-case-scenario questions float around the web of connections between Bill’s private work, Hillary Clinton’s public role as secretary of State, the Clintons’ quasi-public charity, and Hillary’s noncompliant email system. But the best-case scenario is bad enough: The Clintons have been disorganized and greedy.

“Unproven worst-case scenarios” is the kind of line James Carville would be field-testing on MSNBC before going on one of the big networks people actually watch. And Chait might think he’s being evenhanded or something, but when I read “disorganized and greedy” I do not think “presidential timber.”

Then Chait writes that the Clintons public-private role (privately raising gobs of money from foreign governments while Hillary was in charge of the nation’s foreign relations) was a “difficult situation to navigate.”

Really? How about not taking the money? No? Apparently this doesn’t occur to the Clintons or to Chait, who goes out of his way to blame the mess on others:

And yet the Clintons paid little to no attention to this problem. Nicholas Confessore described their operation as “a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest.

If the Clintons had only paid more attention, they could have cleaned the mess right up? Is that what Chait is trying to say here? What a ridiculous assertion. The operation was set up explicitly to use the couple’s power and influence to shake down anybody with a fat paycheck, which is precisely what they did.

And now the Clintons are using the Audacity of Corruption to distract the easily distracted — like Chait — in the little details, so that they’ll miss the one big obvious fact: Hillary Clinton belongs in jail.

In this photo released by an official website of the Iranian Supreme Leader office, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Erdogan is visiting Iran despite tensions with Tehran over the crisis in Yemen, where airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition are targeting Iran-backed Shiite rebels who have taken over much of the country. (AP Photo/ Office of Iranian Supreme Leader)

In this photo released by an official website of the Iranian Supreme Leader office, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. Erdogan is visiting Iran despite tensions with Tehran over the crisis in Yemen, where airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition are targeting Iran-backed Shiite rebels who have taken over much of the country. (AP Photo/ Office of Iranian Supreme Leader)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has pistol-whipped the military, encouraged Islamic extremists, worried his NATO allies, seems pretty comfortable with the idea of a nuclear Iran — and now this:

According to the figures released by the Turkish Statistics Agency (TUIK) last week, the official unemployment rate has climbed to 11.3%, with women taking the heaviest blow. The rate translates to 3,259,000 jobless people, including 2,117,000 men and 1,142,000 women.

The TUIK figures, however, ignore a crucial factor that makes unemployment look lower than it actually is: the hopeless. People who have lost hope of finding a job and stopped looking for one are not factored in. Their number has reached 2,535,000, which, added to TUIK’s official figure, brings the total number of jobless to 5,794,000.

Sound familiar?

Land Spreading Out So Far and Wide…

April 24th, 2015 - 6:28 am

Dude, You’re Shooting a Dell

April 24th, 2015 - 5:10 am
(Image courtesy The Smoking Gun)

(Image courtesy The Smoking Gun)

I present this story under the assumption that it didn’t come straight from Apple’s PR department:

A Colorado man says he has no regrets after unloading eight rounds into his dysfunctional Dell desktop, though he faces a fine for doing so.

“I just had it,” Lucas Hinch, 38, told The Smoking Gun (via Ars Technica). Apparently the PC had thrown up one too many blue screens of death in recent months, so Hinch took it into an alley, loaded up a 9mm Hi-Point pistol that he’d purchased on Craiglist, and let the bullets fly.

“It was glorious,” Hinch told the Los Angeles Times. “Angels sung on high.”

Hinch admitted that the murder was “premeditated, oh, definitely,” and that he’d made sure there was nothing behind the desktop, and nothing from which the rounds could ricochet. The deed went down behind Hinch’s home, where he and his girlfriend also run a homeopathic herb store.

Despite his precautions, Colorado Springs police issued Hinch a citation for discharging a firearm within city limits.

Back when a 500MHz Pentium III was still a screaming machine, I owned a Dell. While I was never — OK, almost never — tempted to pump eight bullets into it, it was the source of the strangest tech support solution I ever heard.

Once on a reboot, the system powered down and refused to power back up. It was, as Dickens wrote, dead as a doornail — assuming that doornail was a thirty pound desktop tower priced at $2999 in 1998 dollars, and hooked up to a then state-of-the-art 19″ Sony Trinitron monitor. To have that thing bricked (nailed?) had me seriously cheesed off.

I tried everything I knew to try before finally calling Dell’s tech support line.

The tech guy tried walking me through the usual — “Have you tried turning it off and then on again?” — but I interrupted and walked him through all the steps I’d already taken. Tech guy said something like, “Good, then I know what this is and we can skip right to the weird part.”

The weird part — and he assured me a couple of times that he wasn’t pranking me — was Dell’s documented method for unbricking their XPS PIII 500.

“What I want you to do,” he finally told me, “is switch off your power strip and swap the tower and the monitor power cords.”

“You want me to unplug the power cord from the back of the monitor and plug it into the back of the tower, and take the cord from the back of the tower and plug it into the monitor.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“What if I just unplug them both and plug them back in where they go?”

“Then you’ll still have a bricked computer.”

“But if I swap the identical power cords, it will work?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

So I did. And it worked. My computer was unbricked.

And then I asked the tech guy how the hell swapping identical power cords made any difference.

“Nobody knows. We just know it works.”

And it’s significantly cheaper than eight bullets at today’s prices.

UPDATE: I should have added one more thing. Several more times over the lifetime of that Dell, the same issue occurred where the machine powered down on a reboot and refused to power back up. Each time, I dutifully swapped the power cords, and each time it sprang right back to life.

Weird.

An Army of One Going “Pew-Pew”

April 23rd, 2015 - 3:34 pm

James E. Burke wants to fit his “Pulser” electricity guns onto the M4 rifles already carried by our troops:

The military, too, has been experimenting with so-called energy weapons for decades, including lasers. “Most of these are vehicle-towed and require a huge power system,” Burke noted. “The antennas are sometimes seven feet.” The Burke Pulser, meanwhile, fits into an M4 rifle like a standard suppressor. Burke estimates that the cost to mass-produce them would be less than $1,000 each.

What do you do with an energy gun? You don’t shoot people. The gun is intended for use against electronics, potentially giving dismounted soldiers an edge against the ever-wider range electronic and cyber threats that they might face on patrol:Bluetooth-enabled improvised explosive devices, consumer drones modified to be more deadly, and the like.

The Army is currently testing the Pulser against an assortment of devices, a 555 timer, a bipolar junction transistor and a yellow light emitting diode, or LED, combined into a single target. “All these things pretty much generalize all the common electronics you’ll find in a circuit board,” Burke said.“What we’re going to do is fire at it. If the LED light stops blinking, it was defeated and if smoke comes up, it was destroyed.”

I scoured YouTube for a video, but there’s nothing — yet.

Will keep you posted.

Pentagon Lying About ISIS?

April 23rd, 2015 - 2:01 pm

MAP

Tim Mak has the story, and the above map:

Pushing ISIS back is clearly a good step. But the information from the Pentagon is, at best, misleading and incomplete, experts in the region and people on the ground tell The Daily Beast. They said the map misinforms the public about how effective the U.S.-led effort to beat back ISIS has actually been. The map released by the Pentagon excludes inconvenient facts in some parts, and obscures them in others.

The Pentagon’s map assessing the so-called Islamic State’s strength has only two categories: territory held by ISIS currently, and territory lost by ISIS since coalition airstrikes began in August 2014. The category that would illustrate American setbacks—where ISIS has actually gained territory since the coalition effort began—is not included.

I’m shocked, shocked to find that dishonesty is going on in this Administration.

Of course it could just be that nobody is really certain what the hell the situation on the ground is — and I’m not certain whether ignorance or dishonesty would be preferable in this case.

Turkey Season

April 23rd, 2015 - 12:41 pm

I suppose this was inevitable:

Ankara has recently moved to diminish Turkey’s military dependence on the West, including last month inaugurating rocket testing and a radar technologies facilities. Both are part of Turkey’s effort to boost a fast-growing arms export industry that also is supplying its own forces with locally built tanks, warships, drones, missiles and—by the republic’s centenary in 2023—a jet fighter.

Ankara has also rejected bids by its NATO allies for a missile-defense system in favor of a Chinese-built one that one these partners say is incompatible with their technology and threatens intelligence cooperation.

“Turkey is recasting itself as a nonaligned country in its rhetoric, which is making NATO very uncomfortable,” said a Western official in Brussels. “Turkey’s stance will be an issue for years to come, not only if the Chinese missile deal happens, but also because of its politics.”

Turkey’s membership in NATO is becoming meaningless, a process which started a dozen years ago when they refused passage for our troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Anyway, we’re no longer the strong horse in Mideast power politics, and Russia, China, and Iran will pick up whatever is left — and I guess we can hope and pray or whatever that our confused allies manage to defend themselves.

Thought for the Day

April 23rd, 2015 - 11:45 am

News You Can Use

April 23rd, 2015 - 10:45 am
(Image courtesy IBT)

(Image courtesy IBT)

Um:

A halal sex shop that will sell “Islamically approved” adult products exclusively to Muslims will be opened in the Saudi city of Mecca.

According to a report published in Alyaoum24, an Arabic news portal, the shops will “strictly cater to Muslim customers in Mecca” and are being opened after due consultation with Saudi clerics, who have approved it as ‘halal’.

Abdelaziz Aouragh, who is the owner of a Dutch halal sex shop called El Asira, will open the halal sex shop in Mecca. El Asira is famous for its sensual oils.

I plan on opening a shop next door selling t-shirts that read, “My husband went on hadj and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

Those Taxing Clintons

April 23rd, 2015 - 9:30 am
"As your President, I can promise I'll never run out of other people's money." (AP photo)

“As your President, I can promise I’ll never run out of other people’s money.”
(AP photo)

Are you ready for the next round of Clinton Fatigue? No? Well, here it comes anyway, in the form of yet another “distraction” I’m sure we’ll soon be asked to “move on” from so that the Clinton’s can get back to doing “the peoples’ business,” which apparently involves underhanded tax stuff:

Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors.

The foundation and its list of donors have been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. Republican critics say the foundation makes Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, vulnerable to undue influence. Her campaign team calls these claims “absurd conspiracy theories.”

The charities’ errors generally take the form of under-reporting or over-reporting, by millions of dollars, donations from foreign governments, or in other instances omitting to break out government donations entirely when reporting revenue, the charities confirmed to Reuters.

The errors, which have not been previously reported, appear on the form 990s that all non-profit organizations must file annually with the Internal Revenue Service to maintain their tax-exempt status. A charity must show copies of the forms to anyone who wants to see them to understand how the charity raises and spends money.

Seems legit.

The Moscow-Clinton Connection

April 23rd, 2015 - 8:44 am
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, holds a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, holds a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

The damning NYT headline says, “Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company.” But that’s not the half of it.

Read:

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

Hillary Clinton belongs in jail — with Bill in the cell next to hers.

UPDATE: Sean Davis put it as succinctly as is possible.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

April 23rd, 2015 - 7:25 am

The Law of Unintended Consequences is at it again:

President Barack Obama’s health care law has had a surprising side effect: In some states, it appears to be enticing more Americans to apply for food stamps, even as the economy improves.

New, streamlined application systems built for the health care overhaul are making it easier for people to enroll in government benefit programs, including insurance coverage and food stamps.

In most affected states, the enrollment increases were not huge, ranging from 1 percent to 6 percent over two years, according to an Associated Press analysis. The sole exception was Nevada, where enrollment shot up 14 percent.

The enrollment is climbing as Republicans try to cut the costs of the food program and at a time when food-stamp usage would normally be expected to decline. Eligibility rules have not changed.

“Spreadin’ the wealth around a little” always seems to amount to a lot more than a little.

McDonald’s Is Doomed

April 23rd, 2015 - 6:00 am
"Would you like arugula with that?" (AP photo)

“Would you like arugula with that?”
(AP photo)

You probably saw the story yesterday that McDonald’s had yet another rough quarter, with sales down globally yet again. I didn’t think it was worth blogging again after reading this part, but please indulge me before we get to the good stuff:

Shares of the fast-food company were up almost 5 percent in early trading. At midday, they remained 3 percent higher at $97.70 as investors shrugged off declines in quarterly earnings and sales.

McDonald’s global sales at restaurants open at least 13 months fell a worse-than-expected 2.3 percent in the first quarter, and the company warned of another drop in April.

Net income tumbled 32.6 percent to $811.5 million, and revenue was down 11 percent at $5.96 billion.

No biggie — Wall Street had already priced in another bad quarter, but maintaining confidence that new CEO Steve Easterbrook is busy working on a turnaround plan.

That was certainly my position (I’m not a shareholder) on the matter. Easterbrook would, I assumed, pare down the menu, maybe improve the beef, and (please! please! please!) put the beef tallow back into their formerly world-class french fries. “Wait and see” seemed to be the prudent thing to do before blogging one more time about McDonald’s.

But I can tell you right now: McDonald’s is almost certainly doomed. Or at the very least, Easterbrook is the wrong guy to head up the burger chain — any burger chain, for that matter.

To understand why I’ve come to this conclusion, read the very next line from the story:

Easterbrook plans to unveil his plan for turning McDonald’s into a “modern, progressive burger company” on May 4.

Now maybe I should withhold judgement until I see this plan next week. Maybe a bold headline like “McDonald’s Is Doomed” is just the kind of baseless clickbait fear-mongering I try to resist indulging in.

But a progressive burger company? Really?

Pages: 1 2 | 70 Comments»

Je Suis Gary

April 23rd, 2015 - 5:05 am

Amazon Delivers — Right to Your Trunk

April 22nd, 2015 - 2:29 pm

I finally quit making mix tapes — and started making mix CDs — around the turn of the century, when my car was broken into and years worth of irreplaceable tapes were stolen. Before I’d noticed the theft, I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened the car door. We human beings can sense when strangers have been in our space, little cues we pick up on subconsciously that all is not how we left it.

That’s the story I thought of when reading this Engadget item about an Amazon pilot program in Germany:

Tired of having to stay home (or ship to the office) just to collect your online orders? If you live in Germany and drive the right car, you might not have to. In an expansion of what Volvo tried last year, Amazon is teaming up with Audi and DHL for a trial that delivers Amazon Prime purchases directly to connected Audi cars in the Munich area. All you have to do is provide the rough location of your car during the delivery window — after that, the DHL courier gets temporary access to the trunk of your vehicle to drop off your packages. Suffice it to say that this could be more than a little handy if you’re busy working or visiting family.

I’m not sure the added convenience would be enough to overcome the Ooginess Factor of strangers getting into my car, even if it is only the trunk.

How about you?

Pages: 1 2 | 6 Comments»

The Truth About the IRS

April 22nd, 2015 - 1:16 pm
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

It’s worse than you think:

While facing budget cuts, the IRS nevertheless prioritized worker bonuses, union activity and the implementation of President Obama’s health care law over assisting taxpayers during tax season, according to a new report released Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The findings, in a Republican-led report, were released ahead of a subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The IRS has faced congressional budget cuts of $1.2 billion since 2010, and has faced criticism in recent years over the targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status and reports of wasteful spending. The new report said the cuts were intended to “force the IRS to manage its resources more effectively and immediately stop inappropriate activities.”

However, while cuts were made in part to focus the agency on customer service, the report asserted that “spending decisions entirely under the IRS’s control led to 16 million fewer taxpayers receiving IRS assistance this filing season.”

The IRS is effectively holding us hostage in order to get more of our money, and awarding themselves bonuses for the effort expended on screwing us.

It’s past time for a good, old-fashioned tax revolt — but how do we withhold that which the IRS pre-withholds for us?

Touré vs the Taxman

April 22nd, 2015 - 12:43 pm

The-Kinks-Sunny-Afternoon--120896

Whoops:

Touré Neblett, co-host of MSNBC’s The Cycle, owes more than $59,000 in taxes, according to public records reviewed by National Review.

In September 2013, New York issued a state tax warrant to Neblett and his wife, Rita Nakouzi, for $46,862.68. Six months later, the state issued an additional warrant to the couple for $12,849.87.

In January 2014, Neblett tweeted, “Regressive taxation & tax-avoidance & union crushing & the financial corruption of legislation has fueled inequality more than hard work.” In 2012, he also criticized Republican politicians, saying they were “all afraid to vote for a modest tax increase of people who can totally afford it.”

Taxes, as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, are for people who don’t have their own TV show.

Chart of Doom

That’s not my headline — it’s in quotes because I lifted it directly from WaPo’s Wonkblog.

And isn’t it telling?

Anyway, here’s what Matt O’Brien had to say about those economists who have finally woken up to the reality the rest of the country has been living with during this “recovery” we keep hearing so much about:

Now if you add it all up, this shadow unemployment means our jobs hole is more than three times as big as it looks. That, at least, is what economists Danny Blanchflower and Andrew Levin found when they looked at how low the unemployment rate is versus how low we think it could go, how high the participation rate is versus how high we think it could go, and how many people can only find part-time jobs. That first part tells us how much further unemployment itself could fall, the second how many discouraged workers could come back, and the last how many people would work more if they could. In other words, it shows us the gap between how many full-time jobs we have and how many full-time jobs we need. The result, as you can see above, is that instead of being a million full-time jobs short, like the unemployment rate says we are, we’re about 3.5 million short.

So it’s no surprise that workers still aren’t getting raises. Even though it looks unemployment is low enough that they should have more bargaining power, shadow unemployment is high enough that they don’t.

Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ have known all this for years, and so has anybody who’s been looking for work.

And so has anybody who finally gave up looking — and they number in the millions.

So are we supposed to sneer at economists Danny Blanchflower and Andrew Levin for taking so long to recognize the obvious? Are we supposed to cheer them for giving a solid number to the truth the Administration has been hiding for so long? And speaking of so long, what took?

Reading this thing, it’s OK to feel frustrated, relieved, and impatient, all in equal measure.

Mixed Signals on the Red Sea

April 22nd, 2015 - 10:30 am

USS Theodore Roosevelt

The setup is a simple one. There’s an Iranian flotilla heading towards the Red Sea, possibly carrying illicit weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen. We have an aircraft carrier battle group totally coincidentally in the area. The message however is a confused one:

Pentagon sources confirmed to Fox News that the USS Theodore Roosevelt is tracking the Iranian convoy, and also launching F/A-18 Hornets to conduct “manned reconnaissance” of the estimated nine Iranian ships.

Those ships are suspected of carrying weapons to rebel fighters in Yemen.

But State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf insisted Tuesday that the U.S. ships were “only” there to “ensure the shipping lanes remain open and safe” — and “not to do anything in terms of those Iranian ships.”

She blasted “misreporting” that asserted U.S. ships were prepared to intercept Iranian vessels.

“That is blatantly untrue — so this discreet movement of U.S. assets is for a discreet purpose,” Harf said.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also said Tuesday that the ships are in the region primarily to “protect the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”

Earnest got this one exactly right — protecting freedom of navigation and commerce is the Navy’s primary mission, and that has always been our official line when talking about situations like this one. And everybody knows exactly what we mean.

Harf meanwhile, with a political IQ in the short-sleeve weather range and no higher, goes blabbing on and on, denying this and trying to define that, and making it look like Amateur Hour at State.

She has zero business discussing this or any other military matter.

(AP image)

(AP image)

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you:

Over the weekend, an unofficial Google blog highlighted a new feature that the Internet giant had quietly rolled out to let people download their entire Google search histories.

To find everything they’ve ever searched for, users should go to Google Web History, click the gear icon and click “Download.”
“Create an archive of your search history data,” the Web company promises.

In a few moments, it sends an email with downloadable cache of data about people’s past searches.

The archive won’t work for people who have altered their privacy settings, and only records searches that occurred while logged in to Google, such as through Gmail.

People swear by the convenience and platform-flexibility of Google Mail and Google Docs, but giving Google all of that data just isn’t worth it.

Tank You Very Much

April 22nd, 2015 - 8:18 am
(From "Russia Beyond the Headlines")

(From “Russia Beyond the Headlines”)

I’d never heard of Russia Beyond the Headlines before today, but they have the first look at the T-14 Armata, Russia’s new main battle tank.

This isn’t a full reveal, but as we discussed here two weeks ago, it is a turretless design for a reduced visual profile and improved crew protection.

Here’s more from RBTH:

The Russian Defense Ministry has published inaugural photographs of prospective military hardware to be commissioned in the upcoming years. The ministry has promised to demonstrate the hardware in the parade dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the victory in WWII.

Information about the prospective vehicles and their photos were posted on the official website in the section devoted to the V-Day parade. They include a photograph of the T-14 main battle tank and the armored personnel carrier built on an integrated heavy tracked platform Armata.

Both types will be represented by ten vehicles each in a mechanized column of the May 9 V-Day parade in Moscow.

“The tank mounted on the Armata platform will be the main battle tank of the Russian Ground Forces boasting brand new performance characteristics and a new ammunition feed system,” says a caption under the photo.

As to the armored personnel carrier mounted on the same platform, “this unified heavy tracked platform has completely new performance characteristics, a new ammunition feed system, and separated crew and ammunition compartments,” it said.

This year’s May Day parade promises to be a big one, with the 70th anniversary of victory in WWII, and the ongoing fighting in Ukraine. It’s nothing but pure propaganda, and frankly it seems to be working with the Russian people.

Thought for the Day

April 22nd, 2015 - 7:39 am

Required Reading [LINK FIXED!]

April 22nd, 2015 - 6:17 am

Good lord — Roger Simon has an open letter to President Barack Obama from Dr. Mahmoud Moradkhani, the nephew of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Roger calls is “extraordinary,” but it might need an even more superlative superlative.

Read:

I have a deep understanding and insight of the habits, morals and true indentions of this regime and I find it necessary to let you and the world know that the true evil of the Islamic regime of Iran is far more damaging and dangerous to be resolved by just signing an agreement.

People who have always lied, deceived and believe in Taqiya**, people whose main goal is supremacy and domination over others can never be trusted.

Instead they should be confronted with the very basic principles that have led to their criminality

and

•To put an end on breaching of human rights violations; in other words, an end to Qisas***, random executions, discrimination, suppression of dissent, media repression, religious and ideological hegemony.

Devolving power to the people and the abolition of restrictive laws, such as mandatory supervision in elections.

•Giving freedom to religious minorities and repealing laws limiting the choice of thought and religion.

•Non-interfere policy toward governments of countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

•Cancelling the assassination orders of dissidents in the world that have resulted in the killing of journalists, writers and even cartoonists.

I believe that any agreement or concession that is not associated with these basic conditions in reality will only be assisting this regime in achieving its indecent goals.

The possible disaster following this kind of hesitation will be similar to the historical mistake made prior to the Second World War.

Read the whole extraordinary thing.

Buried Alive at Sea

April 22nd, 2015 - 5:27 am

Life In Wartime (Crimean Mix)

April 21st, 2015 - 2:45 pm
(Map courtesy of Google.)

(Map courtesy of Google.)

All your base are belong to Russia:

Since the March 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia, many things have changed on the peninsula. The first thing Russia has done after this action was to break the abovementioned treaty, lifting all limits on Russian presence in Crimea, and effectively take over the local Ukrainian law enforcement and military forces stationed on the peninsula.

All the Ukrainian military and law enforcement personnel was given three options – join equivalent Russian forces while keeping their rank, retire, or leave Crimea and continue to serve Ukraine. Only about 3,000 of 19,000 of the Ukrainian security personnel took the third option. Many of the soldiers and police in Crimea were ethnic Russians and didn’t mind the change. For the ethnic Ukrainians leaving Crimea would constitute hardship, as it would involve moving their whole families, and losing their real estate in Crimea. Overall, between 70% and 80% of the security personnel took the first option and switched their allegiance to Russia.

At first Russia announced it would return the captured equipment, supplies, and vehicles to Ukraine, and has returned some of it. However that process stopped on 15th April, and some of the unreturned equipment was given to the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine instead. That did not include any naval vessels and 43 of 72 Ukrainian ships were returned to Ukraine. Even though most Ukrainian security personnel remained the organizations they belonged to were usually disbanded or reorganized.

Crimea is well and truly annexed in a way Ukraine may never be.

The article above, quoted from StrategyPage, got me to thinking about peacetime life in Ukraine — not even this (mostly) low-level fighting can continue indefinitely. Eventually, changes will be made to the map, either de jure or de facto, and peace will return.

Or maybe that should be “something like peace will return.”

The eastern parts of Ukraine which Moscow craves are only mostly ethnic-Russian, and in some cases only partly so. What worked so quickly and thoroughly in Crimea, which is overwhelmingly Russian, might not work so well in the other parts of Ukraine which is far less Russified.

Without an extensive ethnic cleansing campaign, there’s a good chance that ethnic Ukrainians will continue to resist, even if brought formally under Moscow’s rule. And Vlad Putin does not want to ethnically cleanse any region of Slavs, when his goal is to bring more and more Slavs under his rule.

But if they don’t want his rule?

Then you have the former Yugoslavia writ large, only without any major outside powers able to come in to enforce a peace.

What Putin has unleashed he may never be able to contain again.