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Trifecta Twofer

March 2nd, 2015 - 5:16 am

BOOK CLUB

Did something a little different this week — Trifecta Book Club. I had two recommendations — one old, one new — and Bill and Scott of course had stuff I hadn’t heard of, and purchased immediately for all that free reading time I enjoyed in Washington.

All but the very last part is true.

And Trifecta Extra comes with extra bacon*, and who says no to extra bacon?
(more…)

Friday Night Videos

February 27th, 2015 - 10:24 pm

It’s another “I Apologize for Nothing!” edition of FNV.

Ah, Gino Vannelli — Canadian master of cheesy light rock and body hair. He’s easy to make fun of, and even SCTV took a shot at him in a “Lee Iacocca’s Rock Concert” sketch with Eugene Levy playing Vannelli. Every time he turned around or the camera angle changed during his performance of “I Just Wanna Stop,” Levy was, werewolf transformation style, covered with more and more body and facial hair. It’s starts at about the 4:50 mark in this YouTube clip. Snark aside though, Vannelli sold a ton of records and cut a few single which haven’t aged too badly.

Tonight’s pick, “Wild Horses,” was Vannelli’s penultimate single to chart in the US, and for whatever reason it really caught my ear during senior year at Missouri Military Academy. I had this cheap boombox for playing tapes and picking up the local radio stations in Mexico, Missouri, and it was my policy when listening to the radio to have a scratch tape ready to go. “Record” and “Pause” were pressed at all times, so when I heard a new song I liked, I would just release the pause button and record it straight off the radio in crystal clear FM-radio-to-crap-cassette quality. This one was a minor hit, and I was lucky enough to have had a scratch tape ready to go the second — and final — I ever heard it on the air.

The tape got lost in the sands of time, but somehow this one popped up in my suggestions on the iTunes Store while I was searching for some other bit of high school-era pop-fluff — and you know what? It’s still all right. Oh, you can hear the producer throwing every single mid-’80s studio trick at it, trying to generate a big hit, but the lyric has some lovely imagery and the music somehow fits Vannelli’s Disco Shirt Chest Hair delivery.

This one’s a keeper.

News You Can Use

February 27th, 2015 - 5:30 am

KOALA

An animal wonder from Down Under:

A schoolboy from rural Victoria returned home yesterday to find a furry carjacker behind the wheel of the family Land Rover.

Sam Box, 15, told 9news.com.au he had just gotten off the bus after school when he found the koala “trying to drive”.

He quickly snapped photos showing the koala sitting in the driver’s seat with its paws on the steering wheel.

Toonces could not be reached for comment.

Make Your Heart Happy: Give it Bacon

February 26th, 2015 - 10:17 am

I really thought I was going to get real blogging done this morning, but CPAC is, as always, the black hole of timesucks. That, and wee bit of a hangover.

In that spirit, enjoy Scott Ott hosting the ultimate feel-good Trifecta segment ever.

Hillary’s Hypocrisy: Now 28% Off

February 25th, 2015 - 10:45 am

Wanted: Porn Inspectors

February 25th, 2015 - 9:15 am

So this is a thing which I found on the internet:

The occupation of a porn inspector, almost exclusive to China, exists only in official agencies and private internet companies. An inspector’s job is to view tens of thousands of online images, videos and messages that may contain lewd content and “filter” them by deleting them or rating them into categories.

The job is rather well-paid by China’s standards. The hourly pay of an average inspector is 50 yuan (US$8) and a part-time inspector can earn more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,600) per month.

If my 17-year-old self had it to do all over again, I feel certain he’d study Mandarin.

News You Can Use

February 25th, 2015 - 8:03 am

Florida Tribe Threatens Rick Scott: Let Us Build A Casino Or We Start Growing Pot

That might be my favorite headline of the year so far. Here’s the story:

The Poarch Creek Band of native Americans told Florida Governor Rick Scott that if the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate refused to allow the tribe to operate a casino on land it owns in Escambia County, it would endeavor to grow and distribute marijuana on the land in accordance with the regulations that the federal government has imposed on states that have legalized the trade.

The chairwoman of the Poarch tribal council, Stephanie Bryan, told the Associated Press that the tribe is “entitled to negotiate a compact with the state.”

If the state rejects the deal, the tribe is within its rights to sue to use the land to grow marijuana, as this past December the Department of Justice stated that tribes can grow and distribute marijuana on their sovereign land — even if the state in which that land is situated has not legalized marijuana.

It’s a sucker deal for Scott, because if he agrees there wouldn’t seem to be anything stopping the Poarch Creek Band from growing marijuana after they build their new casino.

Held for Ransom

February 25th, 2015 - 6:41 am
Source: WhiteHouse.gov

Source: WhiteHouse.gov

The Law of Unintended Consequences even applies to prisoner swaps:

The Obama administration’s swap of five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay for accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl may have doomed any hope Kayla Mueller’s family had for working out a deal with ISIS, the murdered aid worker’s family said in an interview.

Carl Mueller told NBC in an interview that aired Monday that he and his wife thought they could win his daughter’s freedom with a $6.2 million ransom payment, although he acknowledged the Arizona family faced a daunting task in raising that much money. But when the White House agreed last year to trade Bergdahl, who had been held for five years by the Taliban and Haqqani network, the family believes the price for their daughter went up.

We paid a heavy price to bring home one traitor, and it seems we’re still paying it.

Review: iPad Air 2

February 25th, 2015 - 5:29 am
iPad Air 2 vs MacBook Air

iPad Air 2 vs MacBook Air

The time had come after three years and three generations to ditch the old iPad with Retina Display (“iPad 3″) for an all-new iPad Air 2. So how does it stack up against Cupertino’s previous offering, and against the competition? Let’s take a look.

The first thing I noticed is what wasn’t there: Size and weight. It’s thinner than my iPhone 5S. It’s much thinner than an iPad 1 or 3. It’s almost 20% thinner than last year’s impossibly thin iPad Air. It’s as close to not being there as a computer can be and still be there. It’s little enough to make you think Apple has hit the wall on how thin and light a tablet can be — and that soon they’ll have to surprise us with an all-new form factor.

Even when covered on all sides by Apple’s leather Smart Cover (more on that shortly), the Air 2 is still significantly thinner and lighter than a first-generation iPad, and still much lighter than the iPad 3. Both older iPads (with the added weight of a cellular antenna) come in at about 1.5 pounds, but the Air 2 (also with cellular) is a mere 0.98 pounds. The difference is real in your hands, too — mine never get tired of holding the iPad Air 2, which is the first time I’ve ever said that about a full-size tablet. If you want to understand why iPad owners tend to develop such emotional attachments to their devices, try holding an Air 2 and feel how a full-size multicore HD touch computer disappears to little more than the screen.

The weight savings is thanks in large part to a much smaller battery. The iPad 3 has a 42.5-watt-hour battery inside, with commensurate size and weight. The Air 2 battery isn’t much more than half that, at 27.3-watt-hours. Another nifty benefit is that the new iPad charges much, much more quickly on the same standard 12-watt charger.

Both units promise (and deliver) about 10 hours of web surfing and video watching, or nine if you’re using a cellular connection instead of WiFi. You may wonder then if the iPad Air 2 sacrifices speed in order to get equal battery time on a much smaller battery.

Hardly.

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On the Eve of CPAC…

February 24th, 2015 - 4:23 pm

…is it time to boycott CPAC?

That’s what Rick Moran says, and I agree:

It’s been announced that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will present the “Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award” to Duck Dynasty character Phil Robertson. Robertson’s comments about gays and blacks were almost universally condemned for their bigotry, their insensitivity, and their outright ignorance.

Certainly, Robertson has the right under the first amendment to prove to the world what an ignoramus he is. But CPAC honoring this country clown for being shockingly uninformed is the last straw for me.

I didn’t know Andrew Breitbart well, but I knew him well enough to be reasonably sure he wouldn’t want his name attached to an award for a bigot like Robertson. There’s a difference, one Breitbart understood, between fighting for an idiot’s right to speak his tiny mind, and giving him a prestigious award for it.

Further down though is where we get to the meat of Moran’s troubles with the ACU specifically, and with trends in modern conservatism more generally:

I find myself in a similar position to Josh Barro, a center-right columnist who believes that conservatism isn’t defined by a set of mostly immutable principles, but rather by those who call themselves “conservative.” The right — like the left — has a series of litmus tests by which your conservatism or liberalism is judged. In other words, your position on issues defines whether you are conservative or not, rather than the principles that undergird the assumptions upon which one’s position on the issues is based defining your fealty to conservative philosophy.

It’s a backasswards way of judging who or what is conservative and I’ve never adhered to it.

Conservatism — classical liberalism, really — is not a defined set of conclusions, with orthodoxy be determined by litmus test. (Burn her, she’s a witch!) Conservatism is supposed to represent a way of thinking, specifically about how best to preserve the liberties first won by white, male Americans in 1783, and expanding those liberties to all Americans.

In that sense then, only conservatives (and libertarians) can be truly pluralistic, because we’re the only ones in favor of the broad set of liberties which allow for the true pluralism represented by “the pursuit of happiness.”

And yet those of us who have reached different conclusions on certain issues, or whose mere existence offends, find ourselves unwelcome in any official capacity at “conservatism’s” biggest annual event. How bad is it? ACU has reportedly gotten parsimonious with blogger press credentials, and from what I’ve seen and heard, there seems to be a bias against more libertarian-minded bloggers. (AFP has been waging a smart new media campaign for May’s RightOnline event, publicly inviting writers whom the ACU has shunned.)

I write these words as I prepare to pack my bags, yes, for CPAC — my first visit there in six years. The 2009 event was a drab affair, a funeral procession following Barack Obama’s swearing in and the passage of the do-nothing stimulus act. Around that same time, one of the very first Tea Party rallies, a small affair of just 70 or 80 people, was held in Denver. I thought then that CPAC was the past, and that the Tea Party was the future. The Tea didn’t turn out as strong as I’d hoped, but I can’t help thinking I was at least half right.

So I’m attending in a non-attending capacity — there to share cocktails & conversation with friends and colleagues, to catch up on old stories and new ideas. We’re the kind of friends who might disagree on a few issues, but who can still find company and comradeship in our defense of this beautifully American thing called “liberty and justice for all.”

You can find me in the lobby bar.

That’s a Feature, Not a Bug

February 24th, 2015 - 1:37 pm

IRS

Another day, another IRS scandal:

Identity thieves may be defrauding the Internal Revenue Service by much more than the nearly $6 billion the federal tax agency claims to have lost through holes in its security policy in 2013.

That’s because the IRS presented an unreliable estimate of how much it had lost to identity fraud — a rationale based on calculations with no supporting documentation — as a precise measure of its losses, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

The tools the IRS uses to prevent identity fraud from happening in the first place are also full of holes, the watchdog found. For example, the agency requires filers to use a personal identification number to file their taxes online.

But the accountability office discovered “identity thieves can easily find the information needed” to gain someone else’s number by searching public records, “allowing them to bypass some, if not all, of IRS’s current automatic checks.”

But your medical records the IRS now holds? Totally secure, bro.

Auditing the Fed sounds nice, but might be practically impossible — do we really wants 535 members of Congress “helping” to determine monetary policy. But how about auditing the IRS?

Permanently.

Bugging Out

February 24th, 2015 - 12:15 pm

Ash Carter, Viet Luong

Moving is expensive and time-consuming. Moving out of a war zone is worse. StrategyPage details our costly exit from Afghanistan:

Serious planning for the withdrawal began in 2011 and ended up costing nearly $30 billion. The United States had the biggest job because they had most of the bases (500), vehicles (nearly 25,000) and shipping containers (over 60,000) to deal with. Many of the bases were turned over to the Afghans although facilities the Afghans could not use had to be destroyed, especially bases, lest the Taliban or drug gangs take them over. Some heavy equipment that the Afghans did not need (or could not use), like the older MRAPs, were destroyed (disassembled) in Afghanistan.

Originally the plan was to move 60 percent of the cargo containers out via roads through Pakistan to the port of Karachi where it would move by sea back to the United States and other NATO countries. That proved more difficult than expected because Afghans and Pakistanis saw this as a splendid opportunity to make money. Rather than pay more bribes to get the trucks to Karachi, a lot more of the stuff was moved out via air freight. Some was flown to the Persian Gulf where it was transferred to ships for the long voyage home. That was more expensive than paying more bribes but was seen as a better way to go as the cash goes to Western air freight companies and not some tribal outlaws.

Moving is said to be the third most stressful event a person can go through, just behind losing a loved one, and divorce — which amount to nearly the same thing.

Now multiply that by thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars and untold tons of equipment.

Child Jihadis

February 24th, 2015 - 11:38 am

Ugh:

A new video released by ISIS on Sunday purportedly shows the terror group training children, who can be seen standing in formation, chanting, praying and participating in physical exercises.

Alex Kassirer, of global security firm and NBC News consultant Flashpoint Intelligence, said the video features Al Farouk training camp for “cubs,” or children, located in Raqqa, Syria. It is not clear when or under what circumstances the children were videotaped.

An instructor in the video indicated that among the group of about 80 youth are foreign children — possibly the children of foreign fighters who have joined the Sunni extremists’ ranks, according to Flashpoint.

I maintain what I’ve said from the start of ISIL — that the group is much more likely to burn out than to achieve its goal of establishing a real Caliphate throughout the Middle East. It’s just too cruel, too murderous, and made too many enemies to have a great chance of surviving.

What will go on, perhaps for generations, is the poison it has injected into Araby’s veins, which were never healthy to begin with.

MICRO

The story of New York City’s new “microapartments” made me think of Dorothy Parker’s quip about her small apartment. Anyway, here’s the deal:

Intended to create affordable housing for singles in New York City, those promised prefabricated affordable units are finally being assembled in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and will be unveiled this spring in Manhattan’s Kips Bay, according to The New York Times.

The city’s first “micro” building will have 55 rental apartments, all ranging from 260- to 360-square-feet with big windows, ample storage space, and Juliet balconies.

260- to 360-square feet doesn’t actually sound that small — I once lived in a studio no bigger than that in San Francisco. But here’s the kicker:

The building will begin rising up in 335 East 27th Street, in Kips Bay with apartments renting for $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

At those prices, young renters are going to have to crowd in there, two or three or more people all splitting the rent — and the limited living space. The rendering (above) makes a microapartment look like a decent space for three or more people, but where are the beds? What we’re shown doesn’t even have room for a convertible sleeper like the one I had in my SanFran studio.

Overcrowded, overpriced, and over the East River — it’s the Progressive Dream.

Sign “O” the Times

February 24th, 2015 - 9:11 am

The countdown clock has been running a long time on this “bubblecovery,” and maybe it’s about to run out:

With homebuilder sentiment slipping,blamed on the weather (despite improvement in the Northeast), Architecture billings down, and lumber prices down, it should not be totally surprising that existing home sales collapsed in January (-4.9% against expectations of -1.8% to a worse than expected 4.82 million SAAR). This is the lowest existing home sales since April. Oh – and before the talking heads blame the weather – the biggest drop in home sales was in The West (with its warm, dry, sunny home-buying climate). Considering that existing home sales most recent peak in 2014 failed to take out the previous government-sponsored peak in 2013 and remains 30% or more below the 2005 peak, and claims that the housing recovery is in tact are greatly exaggerated.

If the housing bubble pops (again), I don’t know how the equities bubbles doesn’t pop (again), no matter how much liquidity the Fed pumps into a system which is already filled to the gills with liquidity.

Keep your fingers crossed a bunch of people (me included) are wrong about the nature of this “recovery,” because none of us really want to go through 2007-08 again.

I mean, look what it brought us last time.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 24th, 2015 - 8:47 am

SAG

What to make of this:

Obamacare-loving California led the nation in embracing the health-care law, and in enrolling its citizens for 2014 coverage.

This year, however, sign-ups for private health plans in California, New York and other states that opted to build and run their own insurance markets has stagnated. Yet in more conservative parts of the country that declined to participate and where enrollment is run by the federal government, sign-ups have surged.

My gut says that Red Staters tend to be more law-abiding, and will do what is mandated even if they don’t like it.

Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

February 24th, 2015 - 7:35 am

Uber and Lyft drivers have filed two separate lawsuits in San Francisco federal court to force their employers to grant them full employee status:

A ruling on full employee status for Uber and Lyft drivers could have wide-ranging implications for the collaborative consumption movement. The new economic model has been able to maximize start-ups’ growth through a largely freelance workforce with few traditional, full-time benefits and lower costs for new businesses.

Beyond full employee status, the plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement for expenses including gasoline and car maintenance costs, which they would normally receive if they had employee standing in California. Drivers for both companies currently are classified as freelancers, and drivers cover such costs themselves.

Plaintiff attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, partner at Boston-based Lichten & Liss-Riordan, said both companies are profiting “massively” from what she describes as a worker misclassification.

As a general rule, it’s rarely a good idea for the courts to get involved in employer-employee relationships, unless there’s actual fraud or coercion going on. It’s probably an even worse idea in emerging industries, where all players are still feeling their way around the new business model and new relationships.

As a happy Uber customer, I’d hate to see their new business model strangled in the crib by one of the most “progressive” courts in the country.

The Future of Testing Is on Your Phone

February 24th, 2015 - 6:23 am

A $34 smartphone dongle provides a lab-grade blood test for STDs, including HIV.

Nightclubs should keep a couple dozen of these behind the bar and in the restrooms.

We’re Saved

February 24th, 2015 - 5:13 am

SAVED

Jon Gabriel explains the State Department image you see above:

Chafing under criticism that they aren’t taking the threat from ISIS seriously, the State Department has launched an initiative to bring the barbarian terrorists to heel. Foregoing crude tactics like the threat of force or aggressive diplomacy, the Obama Administration has returned to what it knows best. They have created a logo.

Jon says its “seven fonts and eight colors” offends him as a graphic designer rather than as an American, but I find it downright creepy. Let me explain.

My community is a nice little suburb not too far from a couple of major metro areas — just like tens and tens of millions of other Americans. The “solution to violent extremism” does not begin in my community, or yours, unless we’re talking the violent extremism of people who hardly ever remember to bring their trash cans in on time*. And look at those happy little clip arts — an elementary school, a coffee shop, a park bench, a home, a computer, an office building — these are not the places where violent extremism is given birth, or at least not in this country.

So why has this inapt logo, aimed squarely at suburban and exurban America, emerged from our own foreign affairs department?

Remember this news item from just late last week:

A new intelligence assessment, circulated by the Department of Homeland Security this month and reviewed by CNN, focuses on the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists and comes as the Obama administration holds a White House conference to focus efforts to fight violent extremism.

Some federal and local law enforcement groups view the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups as equal to — and in some cases greater than — the threat from foreign Islamic terror groups, such as ISIS, that garner more public attention.​

State’s happy little logo is the gentlest form of agitprop, reminding the Progressive Faithful that the real threat comes from America’s hundred million or so Bitter Clingers, and to make us suburb-dwellers feel guilty for horrible crimes we haven’t committed and never will commit.

Because if it wasn’t clear before, it’s certainly clear now that it doesn’t matter if you’re a churchgoer in flyover country or a jihadi patrolling the streets of Mosul, the Obama White House thinks it’s just one group of Bitter Clingers after another.

The difference is, you’re the threat the Administration takes seriously.

*Sorry. That would be me.

Thought for the Day

February 23rd, 2015 - 4:50 pm

The Veto Era Begins

February 23rd, 2015 - 2:34 pm

Keystone-enabling legislation will travel to the President’s desk this week, where it will die by the Obama’s pen:

The expected Keystone veto, the third and most significant of Mr. Obama’s six years in office, would most likely be followed by presidential vetoes of bills that could emerge to make changes in the Affordable Care Act, impose new sanctions on Iran and roll back child nutrition standards, among others.

For Mr. Obama, his Cross Townsend black roller-ball pen will become an extension of his second-term strategy to act alone in the face of Republican opposition and safeguard his legislative record.

“It’s a new period of his administration,” said James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington. “He will use the veto to protect his past record and not allow things he disagrees with to go forward.”

This is good news. One of the GOP Congress’s jobs is to pin Obama (and the Democrats) firmly in place, by sending him lots of popular legislation to veto.

And the Wiener Is…

February 23rd, 2015 - 1:28 pm

This year’s Oscar-nominee goodie bags were filled with the usual assortment of high-end goodies, trips, and vouchers. But you’ll never believe which item had the highest price tag:

The most highly valued item in this year’s bag, according to the press release from Distinctive Assets, the bag’s creator, is a $20,000 gift certificate to have Enigma Life founder Olessia Kantor fly out to meet with each nominee “to discuss their 2015 horoscope, analyze dreams and teach them mind control techniques.”

You’d be hard pressed to prove to me that our modern American celebrity class is any more vapidly self-indulgent than any other throughout history, but it sure feels like they must be.

Required Reading

February 23rd, 2015 - 12:47 pm

Senate Republicans have Jazz Shaw in a well-deserved tizzy over DHS funding:

If I could offer up a plaintive question to both Lindsey Graham and John McCain… why do you hate us? This was why we fought and won the election of 2014. You have all the tools you need to accomplish a significant goal which is desired by the very people who kept you in your lofty positions of power. And we’re really not asking you to do much of anything… just let the Democrats destroy themselves and enjoy some popcorn while they do so.

I’m very close to losing faith entirely. These guys have victory in their grasp and they are about to turn tail and let it slip away. In the process, they will hand a massive victory and election talking point to the people who the voters rejected last November. They could simply show up for work every day for the rest of the week, sit on their hands while saying nothing (unless the Democrats agree to a vote) and the job would be done. But apparently this is too much to ask of the Senate GOP.

Read the whole thing, which uses one issue to deftly encapsulate everything wrong with the GOP Senate.

I would add only that Jazz maybe forgot to note that “sitting on their hands while saying nothing” is outside McCain’s and Graham’s core competency, which is sitting in front of cameras while saying everything.

Bullets & Bourbon

February 23rd, 2015 - 11:25 am

B&B

I like to think of Bullets & Bourbon as “CPAC for the rest of us.” Tomorrow I’ll have more on what’s wrong with CPAC, but for now, feast your travel agent’s eyes on this:

Join Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit and one of America’s foremost Second Amendment Scholars, Dana Loesch, author of Hands off My Gun as well as Steve Green, Ed Morrissey, Mark (Rip) Rippetoe, Roger Simon, Helen Smith and Kevin Williamson for a weekend dedicated to the Second Amendment.

In addition to scintillating seminars we will exercise our 2nd Amendment rights at a luxurious hunting and shooting retreat. Rough Creek Lodge not only has world-class hunting and shooting opportunities, but a wide range of other activities available to our guests.

Because of a very low speaker to guest ratio (1:9), guests will have the opportunity to schmooze, eat, drink, ride ATVs, go zip lining, shoot model rockets, use the golf driving range, hunt and shoot with our speakers.

“Epic” is not too big a word for the fun to be had at this thing. I’m still working on my angle, but at this early stage I’m planning on proving Tom Lehrer wrong when he concluded, with weary resignation, that “freedom of pleasure” is not constitutionally protected.

We’ve got Glenn Reynolds, Dr. Helen, Mark Rippetoe, Roger L. Simon, Dana Loesch, Ed Morrissey, and Kevin Williamson.

We’ve got the bullets and bourbon. They’ve got “take cover in place” and Michelle Obama’s school lunches. So whose side are you on, anyway?

And it’s never too soon to register.

Under Siege

February 23rd, 2015 - 10:04 am

Bibi Netanyahu recently briefed his cabinet on the third front being opened by Iran against the Jewish State:

“Alongside Iran’s direct guidance of Hezbollah’s actions in the north and Hamas’s in the south, Iran is trying also to develop a third front on the Golan Heights via the thousands of Hezbollah fighters who are in southern Syria and over which Iran holds direct command,” he said.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said his ministers were to be briefed on “the security challenges developing around us, first and foremost Iran’s attempt to increase its foothold on Israel’s borders even as it works to arm itself with nuclear weapons.”

Iran, despite being supposedly “isolated” by sanctions, continues to tighten its grip over growing portions of the Middle East.

But we ain’t seen nothin’ yet, because this next item may prove to be Obama’s longest-lasting legacy:

The United States and Iran are working on a two-phase deal that clamps down on Tehran’s nuclear program for at least a decade before providing it leeway over the remainder of the agreement to slowly ramp up activities that could be used to make weapons.

Officials from some of the six-power talks with Iran said details still needed to be agreed on, with U.S. and Iranian negotiators meeting Monday for the third straight day ahead of an end-of-March deadline for a framework agreement. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined the negotiations after arriving Sunday.

Hello, Iranian bomb. Goodbye, Israel.

See the Good & Plenty Inherent in the System

February 23rd, 2015 - 9:28 am

EXTRA

These Trifecta Extra segments are getting more and more surreal.

Another ISIL Snuff Film in the Making

February 23rd, 2015 - 8:20 am

CNN

While Obama dithers with his NCAA brackets, Peshmerga burns:

ISIS has released a new propaganda video showing what appears to be Kurdish Peshmerga fighters paraded down Iraqi streets in cages.

The video features a man saying the Peshmerga soldiers were captured by ISIS.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video. But it shows at least 21 men in orange outfits hauled in the cages atop the beds of pickup trucks.

A man with a microphone bearing the ISIS logo interviews some of the captives, who say they are Peshmerga soldiers. Most of those interviewed say they are from Kirkuk. The prisoners, under duress, call on their fellow Peshmerga soldiers to give up their fight against ISIS.

I’m kidding of course about Obama dithering — he has those brackets nailed.

What Is Hillary Clinton’s Brand?

February 23rd, 2015 - 7:31 am

WY

Weyland-Yutani has the famous WY logo. Even more recognizable is the Communist Party’s hammer and sickle. And everyone knows the timeless silhouette of Darth Vader’s cape and helmet. But what image best represents Hillary Clinton for 2016? The Washington Post reports:

Clinton and her image-makers are sketching ways to refresh the well-established brand for tomorrow’s marketplace. In their mission to present voters with a winning picture of the likely candidate, no detail is too big or too small — from her economic opportunity agenda to the design of the “H” in her future campaign logo.

“It’s exactly the same as selling an iPhone or a soft drink or a cereal,” said Peter Sealey, a longtime corporate marketing strategist. “She needs to use everything a brand has: a dominant color, a logo, a symbol. . . . The symbol of a Mercedes is a three-pointed star. The symbol of Coca-Cola is the contour bottle. The symbol of McDonald’s is the golden arches. What is Clinton’s symbol?”

If it wouldn’t be too forward, I would humbly suggest a hen pecking at other people’s money.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 23rd, 2015 - 6:13 am

Buried in Friday’s news dump is this stinker:

Today, the Obama administration announced that it sent out about 800,000 bad tax statements. The specific tax statement is form 1095-A, which is issued to those who purchased health care coverage through the Marketplace. The form 1095-A includes information about health care premiums paid and is used to calculate, among other things, your premium health care credit.

Here’s where things went awry this filing season. Some forms 1095-A included the monthly premium amount of the second lowest cost Silver plan for 2015 instead of 2014. Yes, you and I know that while it’s 2015, we’re filing our 2014 tax forms – but somehow that got lost at Healthcare.gov. Those folks reported amounts for the wrong year which is why the form needs to be corrected. You’ll see the potentially incorrect amount on Part III, Column B of form 1095-A.

If your form is incorrect, you’ll get a call and an email from the Marketplace. There will also be a message in your Marketplace account on HealthCare.gov. When your corrected form is ready, you’ll similarly be notified.

Here’s the bad news (as if that’s not bad enough already): those corrected forms should be available by early March, not in the next day or so.

Considering how few people are actually insured through the mandate-exchanges, it’s remarkable how many people are getting SNAFU’d like this. Or not remarkable, considering the jokers in charge of implementing them.

And fast on the heels of that story comes another one very much like it:

The deadline for so-called Obamacare in 2015 has been extended to Sunday, Feb. 22, for people who say they attempted to get signed up but were slowed down by busy call centers or technical issues on HealthCare.gov.

“We know many of you worked hard to enroll in a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace,” read an announcement Tuesday on the federal Department of Health and Human Services website. “Despite your best efforts, you may not have been able to complete your application and select a plan.”

The “glitch” was in — surprise! — the income reporting system, which means that extension or not, even more people are likely to get caught next year having to return all or part of their subsidy to the IRS.

I wonder what kind of cognitive dissonance is suffered by those who can read stories like this one, yet remain in favor of the FCC’s 322-page Top Secret plan to let the federal government run the internet.

No Way to Run a War

February 23rd, 2015 - 5:03 am

MIDDLE EAST

On Thursday, CENTOM proudly announced its secret war plan to help 20,000-25,000 Iraqi troops retake Mosul from ISIL. By Friday, the Pentagon proudly leaked that maybe April was a tad optimistic:

I really doubt it is going to happen that soon,” said one military officer who, like several others, served in Iraq between 2003-2011 and spoke on condition of anonymity. “And if it does, it will take months.”

The largely Shiite troops of the Iraqi army are unlikely to risk their lives to win back a Sunni dominated city, several U.S. military officers told The Daily Beast on Friday. Indeed, when ISIS stormed the city last June, Iraqi forces walked away, leading the U.S. and 60 other nations to form a coalition against the terror group.

The Wiggleroom Administration hasn’t put ISIL on notice, but more like on double-secret probation.

No, the old Animal House reference doesn’t quite fit, does it?

I’m sitting here trying to think of a better metaphor or pop culture reference, but nothing quite seems to fit. Graham Chapman’s overstuffed Army colonel from Monty Python? No — you get the idea that despite all the bombast, he could still whip his men into fighting shape. The absurdities of the War Room in Dr. Strangelove? That doesn’t work either, because those madmen, fools, and incompetents were bringing about the end of the world out of the public eye.

What we have is a president counseling “strategic patience” against a foe which has gone from “the jayvee” to a regional power (and an international purveyor of religiously themed snuff films) in less than 18 months. Rather than go in whole hog and killing off ISIL immediately (which would not be terribly difficult), Obama is squandering away the last of our stature and standing.

Months of airstrikes against ISIL has led to… its further expansion. “Strategic patience” has cost the north of Iraq. “Working with our allies” means castigating the Egyptians for trying to halt ISIL from expanding further in Libya, and it means withholding targeting data from Jordan as it attempts to avenge the murder-by-immolation of one of its Air Force pilots. But don’t you worry, folks — Obama is going to retake Mosul in April. Or perhaps in August. Whenever.

But don’t be too hard on the president, he’s just spitballing here.

Yes, that’s it — he’s spitballing. There’s no concerted effort to actually accomplish anything, because other than ridiculous, idle chatter about “jobs,” Obama still doesn’t have a concept for how to wage this war. He’s tried decimation-by-drone, but that has hardly kept al Qaeda “on the run.” He’s tried an air campaign, but never really committed to it. He’s sent troops into Iraq to train what’s left of the Iraqi Army, but not to fight alongside it. He’s forged a coalition of some 60 countries, but won’t lead them and sometimes actively works (as with Egypt and Jordan) against them.

In this atmosphere, a tiny Somalia-based al Qaeda offshoot feels strong enough to make threats against the Mall of America, which our own people are treating seriously enough to advise Americans to be “particularly careful” when shopping there:

“If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they’ve got to be particularly careful,” the official, Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, said on CNN.

“There will be enhanced security there,” Mr. Johnson said, “but public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important, and it’s the environment we’re in, frankly.”

The environment we’re in? When al Qaeda struck on 9/11/2001, they did so secretly, taking advantage of holes in our immigration system and of bad practices in our domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Today’s jihadis go on TV to scare the pants off us, just to see what happens — and, hell, who knows, maybe even actually blow up a mall. We’ve reached a point now where a jihadi operating out of war-torn Mosul may have more reason to feel safe and secure than a winter sale shopper in suburban Minneapolis. Well, at least until April. Or perhaps August. Whenever.

What foreign policy question does grab the president’s attention? Afghanistan:

The United States is considering slowing a planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to ensure that “progress sticks” after more than a decade of war, new Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during an unannounced visit to Kabul on Saturday.

After six years of fruitless effort to rebuild a country that never was, Obama sticks to his dogma that Afghanistan is “the right war.” A war for… what, exactly? ISIL knows what it is fighting for: Control of the Middle East and its oil riches, and the establishment of a caliphate for waging global jihad. Those goals might seem a bit …lofty… for a few tens of thousands of thugs armed with little more than trucks and AK-47s, but at least they have goals, a mission, direction. Say what you will about al-Baghdadi personally, but you have to admit he makes the trains blow up on time.

We spend a lot of time questioning Obama’s lackadaisical methods, but the real question is: What does he hope to achieve? Why stick around in Afghanistan? Why dither in Iraq? Why stand down in Syria? Why turn his back on Egypt and Jordan? Why place so much trust in talks with Iran? Why all the public fuss over Bibi Netanyahu? In the Middle East, what’s Obama’s goal, his mission, direction?

Obama’s goal is…

His mission is…

Does anyone dare to say?

Nah. Let’s just blame Republicans for calling him unpatriotic or for questioning his Christian faith.