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“Because sometimes you have to bitchslap the New York Times”

September 17th, 2014 - 1:15 pm

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

BETAMAX

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

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

TAXMAN

Whoops:

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

DOG STORY

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

rectorchart

Sigh:

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

Wow:

“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

StrategyPage:

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

DOCTOR OBAMA

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.

Fun!

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

NATO

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.

Eurosqueeze

September 16th, 2014 - 6:05 am

HADRIANS WALL

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.

iMedicine

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?

Good Riddance?

September 15th, 2014 - 2:49 pm

BUHBYE

This one comes courtesy of Matt Welch:

“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get [female recipients] Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations,” Pearce said, according to the Phoenix New Times. “Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”

Pearce said “people out there [who] need help” should get it from “family, church, and community,” not the government.

According to the Washington Post, Pearce said the comments were “written by someone else” and said he “failed to attribute them to the author.”

“This was a mistake,” Pearce said. “This mistake has been taken by the media and the left and used to hurt our Republican candidates.”

Maybe Pearce was just sloppy, maybe he meant what he said — who knows? But Welch adds:

Far too many self-professed limited-government conservatives exhibit the same tic as either Pearce or his unnamed plagiarism victim. Yes, please get the government out of people’s health decisions…as long as those people aren’t receiving any welfare. And if they are? Random drug tests, dietary restrictions on food stamps, and now sterilizations. (Keen observers will note that such intrusive morals-testing is never applied to recipients of corporate welfare.)

More Republicans seem to be moving away from corporate giveaways, to a place where principled Republicans and conservatives have always been. The real proof of course won’t come until they’re back in power and have it in their power to give away the goodies once more. Candidate Obama ran against the ExIm Bank; President Obama positively loves playing Uncle Sugar to corporate interests.

Power corrupts. Absolute power is just fabulous.

News You Can Use

September 15th, 2014 - 1:31 pm

SELF HELP

I know it’s possible to die from overwork, but not like this:

A marathon masturbator in China died after he donated his seed to a sperm bank four times in just 10 days.

Zheng Gang was found slumped over and unconscious in a private booth at the Wuhan University facility in Hubei Province after staff noticed he hadn’t come out in two hours, The Daily Mail reports.

When the medics broke down the door, they discovered the 23-year-old lying on the floor and immediately tried to resuscitate him. Doctors ultimately pronounced him dead of a heart attack.

I believe Mr. Gang qualifies for a Darwin Award only if the hospital first destroys all of his donated samples.

PPR Drops GOP Odds

September 15th, 2014 - 11:36 am

Not by much, but it isn’t a trend you want to see continuing into the November home stretch:

The latest Practical Politicking Report (PPR) places the odds of a Republican senate in the next Congress at 74%, down 4% from a month ago. The probability of an eight-seat pickup now stands at 57%, down 5% from August.

Several rating changes and the addition of Kansas to the “states in play” list were responsible for the small decrease. Overall the likelihood of the GOP controlling both chambers in the 114th Congress continues to be favorable.

The upheaval in Kansas, with Democrat Chad Taylor dropping out of the race, had an obvious impact on the current PPR, but it may also be a short-lived anomaly that passes quickly. From a mathematical viewpoint the race is rated Leans Republican now but from a fundamental perspective it is more likely that Pat Roberts reasserts his strength soon.

Kentucky moved from Leans Republican to Likely Republican, and we are confident that Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, will win reelection.

Louisiana moved from a Toss-Up to Leans Republican, though the Pelican State remains a difficult one to handicap. The new rating considers the likelihood of a runoff election in December (anticipating that none of the three principle candidates garner 50% of the vote on November 4) and the outcome of the runoff, in a head-to-head battle between incumbent Mary Landrieu and challenger Bill Cassidy.

Landrieu shouldn’t stand a chance, but there’s a war on women, yo.

Tom Dougherty has (nearly) written off Monica Wehby in Oregon, which is a real shame because she’s exactly the kind of candidate the GOP needs more of in the future, especially as the Democrats continue to hone their techno-divide-and-conquor methods.

But don’t forget that what follows “divide and conquer” is “unite and rule.”

Thought for the Day

September 15th, 2014 - 10:07 am

Groundskeeper Willie Votes Aye

September 15th, 2014 - 9:44 am

I’m pretty sure this is a false-flag cartoon from the pro-Union side.

Cozying Up to the Mullahs

September 15th, 2014 - 8:35 am

ALLIES

Who ya gonna call? Tehran:

To destroy the threat embodied in ISIL requires approaching the task as one of counter-revolution. ISIL, after all, is at its core only about 30,000 fighters, tops; what has made them the group force that could take over much of two countries with a total population of more than 50 million people is that they are supported by millions as the vanguard of a revolutionary movement for justice. That support ranges from military recruits from former supporters of other rebel groups who are joining ISIL to financial support from conservative co-religionists in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states to the quiet support of tens of millions of Syrian and Iraqi Sunnis.

How could such a barbarous and brutal group as ISIL, as Obama described it Wednesday, earn the support of those millions? By promising to protect and avenge them against the Assad regime in Syria, which has slaughtered their children and gassed their relatives and fellow townspeople and tribesmen; and against the Shiite regime in Iraq, which has stolen their jobs and destroyed their livelihoods, contemptuously dashing the hopes and careers of Sunni Arabs in that country.

Goldstone concludes:

The new regime of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appears sincerely interested in negotiating limits on its nuclear program in order to obtain relief from international sanctions. Iran is now also deeply reliant on U.S. help to sustain a stable and friendly Iraq next door. And ISIL is a mortal threat to both U.S. interests and to Iran. Rarely have U.S. and Iranian interests aligned so cleanly.

US airpower will be used to cement Tehran’s influence over Iraq, just as our inaction helped to cement Tehran’s influence in Syria.

You may draw your own conclusions.

Report: Clintonistas Hid Benghazi Files

September 15th, 2014 - 7:30 am

Sharyl Attkisson (of course) as the story:

As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the first time Maxwell has publicly come forward with the story.

At the time, Maxwell was a leader in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), which was charged with collecting emails and documents relevant to the Benghazi probe.

Read the whole report — the only this story is missing is Sandy Berger’s smoking pants.

Caliphs Gotta Caliphate

September 15th, 2014 - 6:15 am

HOLLANDE

How bad are things in the Middle East? Two stories ought to wake up even the most complacent. First up, from Britain’s Sky News:

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is at the summit – spearheaded by French President Francois Hollande and Iraqi President Fuad Masum in Paris this morning – bringing together 30 countries to co-ordinate a response to the IS threat.

The countries agreed to “support the Iraqi government by any means necessary – including military assistance”.

Mr Hollande opened the summit warning: “The terrorist threat is global and the response must be global. The cowardly murder of David Haines is a terrifying example of what is going on… There is no time to lose.”

In the postwar period France hasn’t been shy about using commandos to settle matters quickly and viciously in their former African colonies, but they dang near broke their air force in the Libya campaign three years ago. If Hollande is willing to risk that again over the IS/Caliphate, then you know it’s bad.

Now this from the Times:

Several Arab countries have offered to launch air strikes against Islamic State (Isil) militants in Iraq and Syria, a senior US government official has revealed.

The official, a State Department spokesperson travelling with Secretary of State, John Kerry, who is attempting to build a coalition to destroy Isil, said that the offers are being discussed.

We had a preview of just such cooperation last month, when the Egyptian and UAE air forces got together to bomb Islamist targets in (what used to be) Libya.

Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom left a couple of big messes in the Middle East, and somebody has to clean them up — but it’s going to be a long and expensive effort, giving China and Russia more room to wiggle into the spaces we once filled.

The Next Sino-Japense War?

September 15th, 2014 - 5:14 am

Sino-Japanese-War

There seems to be some popular sentiment for just that, but with the role of the attacker reversed:

China and Japan are heading towards military conflict, according to a majority of Chinese surveyed on ties between the Asian powers in a Sino-Japanese poll.

The Genron/China Daily survey found that 53 per cent of Chinese respondents – and 29 per cent of the Japanese polled – expect their nations to go to war. The poll was released ahead of the second anniversary of Japan’s move to nationalise some of the contested Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Of course, popular sentiment doesn’t carry the same weight in a single-party state that it does in a popular democracy. On the other hand, Beijing has been whipping up nationalist sentiment to distract from the heavy-handedness of single-party rule — and these things do have a way of sliding out of control. And the whole point of having a single-party state is staying in power no matter what.

Beijing’s ruling class may someday decide that war, war is better than vote, vote.

Friday Night Videos

September 12th, 2014 - 10:32 pm

Maybe no song better represents the early ’80s than Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science.” I mean, what else can you say about synth-heavy little Brit-pop ditty from a tech wizard one-hit wonder with a video so timely and amusing it even features an audio-visual cocaine reference?

Nope. There’s nothing else to say about that.