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At Ease

September 18th, 2014 - 1:18 pm


Welcome home, soldier:

It was the emotional moment these soldiers had dreamed of for nine months in Afghanistan: to finally be dismissed so they could see their families.

But as they dutifully waited in line to receive orders, three-year-old Cooper Waldvogel took charge.

Ignoring the strict military protocol, he ran up to the troops – into the arms of his mom Kathryn, a member of the National Guard.

The line of uniformed officers from Chisholm, Minnesota, tried desperately to keep straight faces as the touching display reduced many to tearful smiles and laughter.

You didn’t have to be there to get “reduced” like that.

News You Can Use

September 18th, 2014 - 12:51 pm


Gentlemen, it’s party time, Italian style:

An official Vatican car with diplomatic licence plates has been found riddled with several kilos of cocaine and cannabis in the French Alps, according to local reports.

The car belongs to an Argentine cardinal, 91-year-old Jorge Maria Mejia, who is also emeritus librarian at the Holy See. Mejia retired in 2003 and is confined to bed following an heart attack. Pope Francis visited Mejia just two days after being elected.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, the cardinal’s personal secretary entrusted two Italian men, aged 31 and 41, with taking the car for its annual checkup.

“Officer, we didn’t know that stuff was back there — we borrowed this car from a 91-year-old cardinal,” has got to be the worst excuse ever.

Open the iPod Bay Door, HAL

September 18th, 2014 - 11:43 am


I’m sorry, Dave, Apple can’t do that:

Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.

The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that prevents the company — or anyone but the device’s owner — from gaining access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers.

It will be difficult for Google and Microsoft not to follow suit, which is good news for consumers everywhere.

NATO without Scotland?

September 18th, 2014 - 10:37 am

Sub Base Holy Loch, Scotland 12

Dan Mahaffee looks at the security complications of an independent Scotland:

The political leaders of the Scottish independence movement, the Scottish National Party (SNP), have a checkered history in terms of NATO participation. It wasn’t until 2012 that the SNP finally voted to ditch the anti-NATO element of its platform, and there is still significant opposition to NATO among the SNP grassroots. Should an independent Scotland seek NATO membership, it would have to reconcile its demands for nuclear disarmament with NATO agreements to deploy nuclear weapons.

One must ask whether an independent Scotland would be a security contributor or a free rider within the alliance structure. In facing a resurgent Russia, Scotland is geographically vital for intercepting Russian aircraft, ships, and submarines entering the North Atlantic. Even with conservative estimates of Scottish defense spending, it is likely that their defense capacity would be similar to smaller Nordic countries. Already, we have seen how Russian aircraft repeatedly challenge the airspace of the countries of the Baltics and Scandinavia countries — and the United Kingdom itself — would Scotland require an extension of already stretched NATO resources for its air policing as well?

I suspect Scotland wouldn’t have the money to contribute much to NATO, even if it did become an active member of the alliance.

Ask Not for Whom Politico Tolls…

September 18th, 2014 - 9:36 am

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

So this is the picture Politico chose to run above a very unflattering story about Debbie Wassermann-Schultz is losing support of Democrats.

And judging by the picture Politico chose to run, she most certainly has.

Let the Vetting Begin or Whatevs

September 18th, 2014 - 8:32 am

Purple Mountains Majesty

September 18th, 2014 - 7:47 am


Colorado never really was a red state, as I’ve argued here many times before, so it was never really the GOP’s to lose. We’ve always been a purple state. But the last few years Colorado really has looked like a blue state, with the Republicans in disarray (to put it mildly) and the Democrats in Denver doing everything they can to cement themselves in place.

But a rightward breeze may be blowing:

The latest Quinnipiac University Poll finds Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper trailing his opponent, former GOP congressman Bob Beauprez, by 10 points.

“Pundits were predicting that Gov. Hickenlooper faced a close race for re-election,” said Tim Malloy, an assistant poll director. “Instead, he’s got a mad dash to make up a double-digit deficit.” To be fair, other polls have shown the race closer, including an NBC News/Marist poll that found Beauprez with a four-point lead.

Hickenlooper’s troubles include his signing a controversial package of gun-control measures that led to the recall of two Democratic state senators and a general sense that, as a former mayor of Denver, he has ignored or downplayed the concerns of more rural voters.

Worse, Hickenlooper betrayed the suburban voters who are the ones who really put him into power. Denver and Boulder were always his, and the rural areas never would be. But he convinced enough suburban voters that he’d govern the state the way he governed Denver — as a business-friendly, reasonably centrist Democrat in the Bill Clinton mold.

That is not how he’s acted as governor, and I hope my fellow Coloradans kick him out on his lying ass.

Rocky Mountain Jihad

September 18th, 2014 - 6:13 am


You read that right. Michelle Malkin has the story:

Last week, 19-year-old Shannon Conley of Arvada (a Denver suburb once known as the “Celery Capital of the World”) pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Conley, a militant Muslim convert, plotted to aid al-Qaida and its affiliates. According to the federal criminal complaint filed in April, she planned to use her military training with the U.S. Army Explorers “to go overseas to wage jihad” and “to train Islamic jihadi fighters in U.S. military tactics.” A certified nurse’s aide, she also told investigators she would use her medical training to aid jihadi fighters.

Over the Internet, Conley met an ISIS-affiliated Tunisian Muslim based in Syria. She was headed there on April 8 when the feds arrested her at Denver International Airport. Her luggage contained jihad propaganda, materials on administering first aid on the battlefield, and CDs and DVDs bearing the name of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Colorado-educated jihadi counselor to the 9/11 hijackers and Fort Hood gunman Nidal Hasan.

Conley’s not the first Colorado woman to go jihad.

Read the whole thing.

To Upgrade or not to Upgrade?

September 18th, 2014 - 5:02 am


That is the question for iPhone 4S owners, and opinions differ on whether it can properly handle the load of iOS 8:

So yes, it’s entirely possible for you to download the brand new iOS on your brand-old iPhone. And by doing so you’ll get a lot of goodies like more keyboard options (finally) and fun widgets. Ars ultimately concludes that it’s a trade-off you should go ahead and make.

But to us, cramming that shiny new software into the 4S’s cozy yet slightly musty house is a tight fit that will leave phone and user alike groaning. New features like widgets and alternate keyboards are nice, but not at the cost of so much screen space and speed.

Another report shows however that the increased load times aren’t exactly intolerable, with the worst offender (Safari) jumping from 1.25 seconds to 2.16 seconds. The other apps tested measured increases of just small fractions of a second — and the inevitable 8.01 or 8.1 update might tweak those times down a bit.

My boys, ages 4 and 8, are plenty happy running iOS 7 on Melissa and my old 4S phones, but I’m curious to see how well the new iOS really does work. It’s a risk though, since you can’t roll back to the previous version.

So I’m going to be a naughty dad and install iOS 8 on the younger boy’s phone and hope he doesn’t notice if it sucks. He doesn’t use it much, anyway, preferring the big screen on my ancient iPad 1. I’ll report the results back to you in the next few days.

Eastern Ukraine to Get Local Autonomy

September 17th, 2014 - 2:10 pm

A big political concession from Kyiv in the ongoing Ukrainian Mess:

Ukraine sought to draw a line under its confrontation with Moscow by ratifying a landmark trade-and-political deal with the European Union and approving limited autonomy for territories now controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

But with full implementation of the EU deal postponed under Russian pressure, and the rebels insisting on independence, the developments illustrated Kiev’s weakened position—almost a year after Moscow began flexing its muscle to keep the ex-Soviet republic in its orbit.

Rivals of Mr. Poroshenko’s party assailed the autonomy law as caving to Moscow by effectively ceding control to the rebels. Separatist leaders said they would stick to their demands for full independence but stopped short of denouncing the law outright, meaning the conflict could fester for years.

The Kremlin didn’t comment on the Ukrainian parliament’s actions Tuesday.

The Kremlin doesn’t have to say squat after a win like that one.

I should add that it wasn’t that many weeks ago that the Russian rebels looked practically beaten, but Putin had tested the waters sufficiently to know that the NATO barracuda had no bite.

Given Putin’s appetites and Kyiv’s mismanagement, the disintegration of Ukraine was probably inevitable. That it is leading to NATO’s discredit is our own doing.

Which leads us to our next war item:

The Russian government has announced it will “protect” Russian speakers abroad, specifically mentioning the Russian-speaking population of the Baltics. This is not the first time Russia has hinted that it would involve itself in the affairs of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.

Konstantin Dolgov, Russia’s foreign ministry chief monitor of human rights overseas, warned of Russia’s potential involvement while in Latvia’s capital of Riga for the Regional Conference of Russian Compatriots, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

Lithuania is about 6% Russian speaking, while Latvia and Estonia are about 25% each. All three are NATO members contiguous to Russian territory.

The headline above was the header to an email I received today from my dear friend, occasional drinking buddy, and award-winning science fiction author Sarah Hoyt. So of course I clicked her link and of course I read her stuff and of course it was awesome.

I won’t try to find a perfect excerpt to tease you with, because what Sarah has written is a perfect and indivisible whole. But I can tell you two things before you click over.

Sarah Hoyt is angry. You’ll like her when she’s angry.

P.S. Her comments section is already hopping. You might want to hop in yourself.

Required Reading

September 17th, 2014 - 12:46 pm

Jay Caruso says the GOP needs Ted Cruz:

The Republican Party brand is in the toilet right now and Ted Cruz is a perfect scapegoat for Republican politicians, consultants and staffers who don’t want to look in the mirror and realize that they’ve been making a mess of the party since 2006. Physician, heal thyself!

Ted Cruz does have a strong personality, yes. Is that such a bad thing? In 2012, the GOP nominee was Mitt Romney, who by contrast makes The Tin Man look as smooth and cool as Dean Martin. How in the hell did that work out? 2008 was a long shot regardless because of the political climate but when your nominee (John McCain) inspires more jokes about him resembling The Crypt Keeper instead of votes, you’ve got a problem.

And amazingly, there are many of the people running around pulling their hair out over Ted Cruz who want Mitt Romney to run again in 2016!

Read the whole thing.

I’m in favor of most anyone or anything able to shake up the moribund Grand Old “Party,” despite the occasional misstep — which indicate at least you’re taking an occasional risk.

Sony Posts Another Massive Loss

September 17th, 2014 - 11:59 am


With its bread & butter TV business now the domain of commodity LCD screens and Apple & Samsung owning all the profits in mobile, it’s tough going for the once-mighty tech conglomerate:

The struggling smartphone maker has written off the entire value of the goodwill associated with its mobile business.

Goodwill covers intangible assets such as a business’s reputation, and is the difference between what a company would be bought for and the value of tangible assets such as stock, factories and cash reserves.

The writedown more than quadruples the net loss Sony forecasts for the year to March 31. It now expects a net loss of ¥230 billion (US$2.15 billion) for the year instead of the ¥50 billion loss forecast in May.

Sony said it would book a ¥180 billion impairment charge in its second quarter for the entire value of goodwill in its Mobile Communications Segment.

Those big writedowns are “paper” losses, but they still represent the premium Sony paid to buy out Ericsson’s share of their mobile partnership. That’s nearly peanuts compared to the $9,000,000,000 loss Google took on Moto, but Google can afford such losses so long as it’s still making gobs of money from its core banner ad business.

Sony, after posting six annual losses in the last seven years, can’t.

Mo’ Money Mo’ Money Mo’ Money

September 17th, 2014 - 10:51 am

Wall Street is still trying to read the tea leaves, bird entrails, Flock of Seagulls hair, or whatever behind future Fed policy:

The phrase that investors will be alert for is “considerable time.” The presence or absence of those two words is viewed as key to the Fed’s timetable for a change in its key short-term rate. The Fed has kept that rate at a record low since December 2008.

Since March, the Fed has said it expects to keep this rate near zero for a “considerable time” after it stops buying Treasurys and mortgage bonds. The bond purchases have been intended to keep long-term rates down to support the economy.

But the purchases are set to end in November. So the Fed may soon want to use some phrasing other than “considerable time” to signify when it might start raising rates. It could sub out that phrase in this week’s statement. Or it could wait until its next meeting in October.

ZIRP today, ZIRP tomorrow, ZIRP forever!

Shut Up and Take My Money

September 17th, 2014 - 9:40 am


WKRP in Cincinnati was one of my favorite shows growing up, but it never got a proper VHS release, much less DVD or Blu-Ray. The reason was the music rights, and the popular music of the time was integral to the show. WKRP was shot on video, which at the time was the cheaper medium for acquiring music rights — but they also expired more quickly. The result was that in order to make the show available for sale to consumers, the producers would have to pay a lot of money to a lot of bands.

The result was butchered episodes using generic music instead of the real thing.

A new DVD box set popped up in my Amazon recommendations for pre-order not long ago, but the official description didn’t settle my only question: Would it have the original music?

Now we have an answer:

On Oct. 28, Shout! Factory will release the first complete series-spanning WKRP DVD set, with its original soundtrack gloriously restored. (Orders through the Shout! Factory site get early delivery on Sept. 23.) The 13-disc set will include not only new bonus features (including a 2014 panel discussion with members of the cast and crew), but actual songs by a staggeringly broad range of artists including Captain Beefheart, Elvis Costello, the Rolling Stones, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, the Sir Douglas Quintet, and Huey Lewis & the News. Somewhere in sitcom heaven Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap are exchanging cool ’70s-hipster handshakes.

All right my children. This is WKRP in Cincinnati with more music and Les Nessman.

AND ANOTHER THING: There’s no “Mary Ann or Ginger” debate between Jennifer and Bailey. It’s Bailey, all the way.

Scottish Independence Is a Riot

September 17th, 2014 - 8:34 am

Scotland’s police organization says all is well in the run-up to tomorrow’s historic vote:

The Scottish Police Federation said some reports in the media had given the “preposterous” impression of impending “societal disintegration”.

The federation said this was completely untrue and the debate had been “robust but overwhelmingly good-natured”.

It also called for “level heads” and “respect” before Thursday’s vote.

That last bit seems unnecessary if they aren’t expecting at least a little trouble.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 17th, 2014 - 7:28 am



The Obama administration announced Monday it will cut off tax subsidies to about 360,000 people if they do not offer proof of their income in the next two weeks.

Officials will send final notices this week to individuals who signed up for ObamaCare with income levels that didn’t match government records. The announcement marks the administration’s first move to tackle the politically charged issue of income verification, which has remained a key GOP argument against the healthcare reform law.

Those who don’t confirm their income levels could lose their tax credit and face higher premiums and higher deductibles.

For people who thought dealing with their health insurance company was a nightmare, wait until they find themselves in the tender clutches of the IRS.

Sign “O” the Times

September 17th, 2014 - 6:23 am

There are two serious deepthink dead-tree monthly foreign policy magazines. The first is Foreign Policy, which is written by and read by people of the most serious credentials and, by and large, the most establishment thinking. The second is The National Interest, which is written by and read by right-wing wackos and their Neanderthal hangers-on.

If I exaggerate, it isn’t by much.

So with that in mind, read:

The problem is that in seeking to sidestep the pitfalls that plagued Bush, Obama has inadvertently created his own. Yet unlike Bush, whose flaw-riddled first-term foreign policy was followed by important and not fully appreciated second-term course corrections, Obama seems steadfast in his resistance both to learning from his past errors and to managing his team so that future errors are prevented. It is hard to think of a recent president who has grown so little in office.

As a result, for all its native confidence and fundamental optimism, the United States remains shaken and unsteady more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks. Many of its problems have only grown dangerously worse: Its relative influence has declined; the terrorism threat has evolved and spread; and U.S. alliances are superannuated, ineffective shadows of their former selves. Compounding this is such gross dysfunction in Washington that, on most issues, the president is presumed to be blocked by Congress even before he has had the opportunity to make a move.

The jab at the GOP House feels misplaced, especially as author David Rothkopf seems to have conflated the House with the entire Congress — the Senate half of which is held by Harry Reid’s hyperpartisan Democrat caucus. But let’s chalk that up as a perfunctory nod to Rothkopf’s readership at Foreign Policy magazine. You expect this kind of thing from The National Interest; but from FP it’s an illuminating article for just one reason.

This piece reads as nothing other than the foreign policy establishment washing its hands of Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom.

Welcome to the club. What took you so long?

The Great Unraveling

September 17th, 2014 - 5:02 am

Shut Up and Take My Money

September 16th, 2014 - 2:44 pm

This is just alpha footage from the upcoming Cities: Skylines from Paradox, but it looks like it’s going to be what EA’s dismal SimCity reboot should have been.

A Worthy Cause

September 16th, 2014 - 1:25 pm


I love love love love love this:

The Returning Soldier Initiative matches the experience and training of our returning military veterans with the nose of a search and rescue dog. SAR dog teams volunteer in your community to save lives. Together with Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States our returning soldiers are given prospective search dogs that are then trained to look for lost and missing people. Many of our returning veterans are former military dog handlers that are wanting to continue to work with dogs as they transition back into civilian life. These special men and women still want to find a way to serve our communities.

We need your help to fund the launch of this project. Crowdsourcing works when many give as little as $30. Help us put a puppy in the hands of a soldier, help us train them to find missing people and help us support our soldiers as they come home.

I’m kicking in just as soon as I’m done writing this post, and I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

If you need a reminder about how important programs like this are, check out this 2012 piece about a wounded Marine and his dog.

Twenty-Two Trillion and Nothing On

September 16th, 2014 - 12:09 pm



But today the Census will almost certainly proclaim that around 14 percent of Americans are still poor. The present poverty rate is almost exactly the same as it was in 1967 a few years after the War on Poverty started. Census data actually shows that poverty has gotten worse over the last 40 years.

How is this possible? How can the taxpayers spend $22 trillion on welfare while poverty gets worse?

That’s Heritage’s Robert Rector in The Daily Signal, detailing how much we’ve spent since LBJ launched the War on Poverty 50 years ago, and how little we have to show for it. For some of the explanation, let’s go back to Rector:

Census counts a family as poor if its income falls below specified thresholds. But in counting family “income,” Census ignores nearly the entire $943 billion welfare state.

For most Americans, the word “poverty” means significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter and clothing. But only a small portion of the more than 40 million people labelled as poor by Census fit that description.

The media frequently associate the idea of poverty with being homeless. But less than two percent of the poor are homeless. Only one in ten live in mobile homes. The typical house or apartment of the poor is in good repair and uncrowded; it is actually larger than the average dwelling of non-poor French, Germans or English.

The other part of the explanation lies in Rector’s chart, reprinted above.

You’ll notice that before 1964, the US economy was waging its own War on Poverty — and winning. Once the anti-market insanity of the New Deal ended with Roosevelt’s last breath, and the wartime economy had the chance to recover to peacetime conditions, poverty was rapidly decreasing.

Then Washington took over, and the decline turned into a flatline.

It’s almost as though LBJ’s War on Poverty was just a $22,000,000,000,000 vote-buying scheme and permanent paycheck racket for otherwise unemployable do-gooders.

Far from the “colossal flop” Rector calls it, the War has resulted in a stunning and ongoing victory.

Gentlemen, Start Your Profit Engines

September 16th, 2014 - 11:52 am



“Demand for the new iPhones exceeds the initial pre-order supply and while a significant amount will be delivered to customers beginning on Friday and throughout September, many iPhone pre-orders are scheduled to be delivered in October,” the company added.

On Monday, Apple said it had received a record 4-million pre-orders of the iPhone 6 in the first 24 hours, exceeding expectations in what the company described as an “incredible” response.

One report estimates Apple is on track to sell a record 60 million iPhone 6 models in the December quarter for yet another sales record for any phonemaker.

I won’t be joining the party, however. There’s still a year left on my perfectly fine iPhone 5S, and the bigger phones just aren’t my thing. Judging by sales though, people love big phones.

A Noose Made of Filament

September 16th, 2014 - 10:34 am


The growing list of sanctions against Russia, because of Russian efforts to annex parts of neighbor Ukraine, have hit the Russian arms industry particularly hard because new Russian weapons depend on Western suppliers for some of the high tech components needed. China is taking advantage of this by pointing out that China has become a major producer of high end electronic and mechanical components and can probably replace Western suppliers now unavailable because of the sanctions.

China gets richer, Russia gets weapons, we lose business, and Ukraine remains screwed.

Sanctions are a deeply unserious way to prevent or stop a war.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 16th, 2014 - 9:34 am


I’m embarrassed. So, so embarrassed. I cleaned the sticky notes off my monitor as I try to do every few months, but forgot to replace the “♡bamaCare!!! Fail” sticker, which is why you haven’t seen one of these in the last few days. But don’t worry — there’s been plenty of fail during my brief absence, and to make it up to you, today I have a double.

The first comes to you from that progressive haven on the Left Coast, a little place I like to call “What’s Left of California.” This is a juicy one, too:

One of the most expensive and contentious initiative campaigns in California this year pits progressive Democrats against the state’s ObamaCare exchange. The progressives want to give the state insurance commissioner veto power over health-insurance rates while the exchange backers want to prevent ObamaCare from imploding.

State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones decided to go to voters after unsuccessfully lobbying the legislature to give him authority to reject health insurance rate hikes. Backing him are progressive groups and San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who say consumers need more protection from money-grubbing health-insurance companies.

Assisting insurers in their fight against the initiative, Proposition 45, are regulators for the state exchange Covered California. “It’s going to end up hurting Californians, hurting consumers, increasing costs,” declared Democratic exchange board member Susan Kennedy at a meeting last month. “And it will damage health-care reform, perhaps permanently, perhaps fatally, in California and I think perhaps nationally.”

You really should read the whole thing. The blue-on-blue battle to divide up the spoils is really just heating up, so keep your eye open for any news on Prop 45. The Democrats are stuck between a rock (the promise of lower insurance rates) and a hard place (the promise of tons of goodies), neither of which they can deliver. But they might just blow up what’s left of the state over who gets stuck with what.


And now the not-so-fun item. Jim Angle reports — surprise! — that businesses are cutting jobs due to ♡bamaCare!!!:

Health economist John Goodman noted that “three Federal Reserve Banks in Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta have surveyed the folks in their area and roughly one fifth of the employers are saying they cut back on employment.

“Roughly one fifth are saying they’re moving from full time to part time,” Goodman added. “More than one in ten are saying they’re doing more outsourcing – all this because of the new health care reform.”

Doug Holtz-Eakin, former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, said “for the smaller employers — those that have between 20 and 49 employees — you get a negative impact on jobs, you get a negative impact on wages in those jobs. What this means for small business as a whole is over $22 billion of earnings gone for their workers and 350,000 jobs.”

There are not enough I-Told-You-So’s in the world to cover the abomination the Democrats foisted on us four years ago.

Required Reading

September 16th, 2014 - 8:31 am

Mark Thiessen asks you to pity General Lloyd Austin:

In 2010, Gen. Austin advised President Obama against withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq, recommending that the president instead leave 24,000 U.S. troops (down from 45,000) to secure the military gains made in the surge and prevent a terrorist resurgence. Had Obama listened to Austin’s counsel, the rise of the Islamic State could have been stopped.

But Obama rejected Austin’s advice and enthusiastically withdrew all U.S. all forces from the country, boasting that he was finally bringing an end to “the long war in Iraq.”

Now the “long war in Iraq” is back. And because Obama has not learned from his past mistakes, it is likely to get even longer.

But I had been assured that Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom was the President who ends wars.

Anyway, do read the whole thing and try not to weep.

Today Ukraine, Tomorrow Estonia?

September 16th, 2014 - 7:17 am


Carnegie’s Judy Dempsey says the West could lose on three different fronts against Vladimir Putin’s Russia:

First, there is a conflict over the sovereignty of Ukraine, which has been compromised by Russian military support for rebels in the east of the country and by the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea.

Second, Russia and the West are engaged in a communications war that the EU is unlikely to win unless there is a sea change in confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s well-oiled machinery of propaganda.

And third, the security of the Baltic states is at stake. There, EU and NATO leaders are still unprepared to deal with any trouble that Russia could engineer.

Mostly, the West just doesn’t have the will to put up much real resistance. Do you honestly think the political machine which planted the War on Women meme during a GOP primary debate a year before the election doesn’t have the means to deal with Putin’s crude media antics? Or that the NATO air forces couldn’t wipe out any armored column they were told to? Or that we couldn’t simply buy out Russia, with an economy smaller than Brazil’s and just as fragile?

Yes here we are, just 25 years after the Soviet Union called it quits and allowed the Warsaw Pact to dissolve, that NATO risks being blown apart by Russian adventurism.

Just a few years ago it was impossible to imagine such a thing.


September 16th, 2014 - 6:05 am


German investors are feeling shakier than they have in months, thanks to Russian sanctions, a weak economy, and now the specter of Scottish independence:

The closely watched confidence index calculated by the ZEW economic institute fell by 1.7 points to 6.9 points in September, although the fall was smaller than the consensus forecast of a drop to 5.

ZEW President Professor Clemens Fuest said: “The economic climate is still characterized by great uncertainty. The risk of a sanction spiral with Russia continues to exist and economic activity in the Eurozone remains disappointing.

“Last but not least, it is difficult to assess potential consequences of Scottish independence.”

The worst case scenario is if Scotland does vote to leave, then 20 years from now Europe has a Venezuela-on-the-North-Sea, and Rump UK rebuilds Hadrian’s Wall.

I’m exaggerating about Venezuela and kidding about the wall — but reality sometimes has a way of outdoing my little jokes.

News You Can Use

September 16th, 2014 - 5:04 am

Robot Cheetah sounds like maybe it’s an animated TV show for grownups, but no:

A lot of robots in development are able to perform amazing feats in a laboratory setting when they’ve got plenty of tethers and cables keeping them perpetually powered and safe. The real test of their capabilities is when they’re forced to explore and interact in a real-world environment, like the robot cheetah that researchers at MIT are developing, which recently took its first untethered steps outside.

The developers admit the current version is limited to 10MPH, but that they aren’t far off from developing a high-speed robot cheetah.

I smell a Hollywood blockbuster.


September 15th, 2014 - 4:03 pm

Apple’s HealthKit — coming this week to iOS 8 for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and next year to Apple Watch — is becoming much more than a simple fitness tracker:

Stanford University Hospital doctors said they are working with Apple to let physicians track blood sugar levels for children with diabetes. Duke University is developing a pilot to track blood pressure, weight and other measurements for patients with cancer or heart disease.

The goal is to improve the accuracy and speed of reporting data, which often is done by phone and fax now. Potentially doctors would be able to warn patients of an impending problem. The pilot programs will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Apple last week mentioned the trials in a news release announcing the latest version of its operating system for phones and tablets, iOS 8, but this is the first time any details have been made public. Apple declined to comment for this article.

Apple almost never comments. The company’s former PR chief, Katie Cotton, elevated not saying anything to an art form. But that’s another story.

Mu question after reading this story is, just how many sensors are they packing into Apple Watch, and what do they plan to pack into future iterations?