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You Say You Want a Devolution?

September 19th, 2014 - 1:24 pm

th

Scottish independence might be a dead issue, but British Devolution Fever is spreading to the darnedest places.

Israel Puts Kibosh on Ukraine Drone Deal

September 19th, 2014 - 1:17 pm

Eitan

Israel’s foreign ministry nixed a planned sale of Eitan drones to Ukraine due to possible pressure from Russia:

The report added that Russia has blocked arms sales to Iran and Syria recently, and said Israel was concerned a drone sale to Ukraine would anger Moscow, and could provoke it to sell more arms to Syria and Iran, the Jewish state’s arch-enemy.

The broadcaster said a Ukrainian delegation had visited Israel with a view to acquiring military hardware including drones to use against pro-Russian separatists.

It was not reported when the visit took place or when the decision to turn down the request was taken.

A Defense Ministry spokesman refused to comment on the report.

The Eitan is an recon drone and carries no weapons.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 19th, 2014 - 12:28 pm

Or maybe it’s a win. In either case, the architect of ♡bamaCare!!! thinks you should die by age 75, which seems like the kind of thing you might want to know.

Sighing the Seven Seas

September 19th, 2014 - 11:21 am

sb1sip9i

Our Navy isn’t exactly shipshape, reports StrategyPage:

The U.S. Navy recently ran an opinion survey which confirmed that morale was low and getting worse, with a growing number of experienced sailors eager to get out of the navy. The most common gripe was the length of time spent at sea and the belief that those long voyages to distant waters were going to get longer. There was also growing disillusionment with navy leadership. Sailors saw senior officers more concerned with political correctness and “zero tolerance” than with legitimate complaints of sailors and junior officers. Some 42 percent of respondents said their last deployment (aboard a ship and away from home) was seven months or longer. Nearly half the sailors expect their next deployment to be even longer. Nor surprisingly only 21 percent of sailors were satisfied with the amount of time they spent at sea. When asked about morale only 42 percent felt it was good or better. A major reason for low morale is the growing talk in Congress for reducing pay and benefits. In particular many sailors feared the long-standing custom of retirement (at half pay) after twenty years’ service was in danger. Most (63 percent) were certain they could get a good job if they left the navy. Worse, nearly half the respondents did not want to get promoted because of the growing amount of paperwork and petty rules that had to be enforced.

What we’ve allowed to become of our Navy — thanks to progressive politics, a broken procurement system, and too few ships — is one of the most frightening longterm dangers this country faces.

Scottish Leader Quits

September 19th, 2014 - 10:18 am

Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond has decided to take the high road:

Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister and leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, announced his resignation from both posts, effective in November.

Salmond said he was proud of the campaign for independence, and that now was the time to hold the UK leadership to its promises of shifting more autonomy to Scotland.

“We now have the opportunity to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the ‘vow’ that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland,” he said in a statement. “This places Scotland in a very strong position.”

Salmond may say whatever he wants, but the facts are that Scotland is in a weaker position vis-à-vis Westminster than it was on Wednesday, and that nobody keeps their job after losing a high-turnout election by ten points.

ALSO: I just turned in this week’s column, looking at yesterday’s vote and the future of Great Britain. I’ll post a link as soon as it goes live on the PJM home page.

Sign “O” the Times

September 19th, 2014 - 9:16 am

The IBD editors didn’t like what they heard from the Fed:

As the Fed hinted in its biannual policy forecast, the famously dynamic U.S. economy is looking rather undynamic these days. The Fed lowered its forecasts for economic growth next year considerably, from a range of 3% to 3.2% just two months ago to 2.6% to 3% now.

When officials have to scramble to lower their forecasts to catch up with reality, it’s rarely a good thing. That’s certainly the case here.

And yet, while most of the Fed board’s members continue to forecast an end to the Fed’s 0% interest rate policy sometime next year, this latest forecast raises some doubts about that.

The Fed’s Open Market Committee said in a statement that “it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after the asset purchase ends.”

Sound like the Fed’s going to hold on to the zero-rate policy as long as it can out of fear increases will sink the economy? It sure did to us.

We can’t afford much more of this cheap money.

News You Can Use

September 19th, 2014 - 7:36 am

CRASH

So this is a thing that happened:

A car full of teenagers crashed in Idaho after one of its passengers lit the driver’s armpit hair on fire as a joke.

All five were injured after their Ford Bronco flipped early Sunday outside Boise.

Tristan Myers, 18, was driving when his front-seat passenger, a 16-year-old boy, set Mr. Myers’ armpit hair on fire with a lighter, a local NBC affiliate reported.

I like a good armpit-setting-on-fire gag as much as the next guy, but know you’re not supposed to do that in a car, right?

“With Jews We Lose”

September 19th, 2014 - 6:32 am

RANSDELL

Oy:

A man with a history in the white supremacist movement has reportedly posted a series of anti-Semitic campaign signs throughout northern Kentucky as part of his write-in bid to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).

Television station WLWT reported on Tuesday that the signs, which read “With Jews We Lose,” are part of Robert Ransdell’s longshot candidacy.

Ransdell spoke with WLWT and seemed optimistic about his campaign.

“Online we have had a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “Like I said we’re going to find out what kind of feedback we get once we go out and take it to the people here in the state of Kentucky.”

Ransdell also shared his views on race with the television station.

“I believe that there is no such thing as racial equality,” Ransdell said. “You see that in our cities everyday.”

I predict McConnell will be just fine.

Don’t Crash for Me, Argentina

September 19th, 2014 - 5:12 am

Evita_12

Is the Argentine economy poised for a crash? Is it ever not? Here’s the latest:

Axel Kicillof, the country’s Economy Minister, responded to the rate on an Argentine radio program. He blamed a group of hedge fund holdout creditors suing the country for over $1.3 billion of sovereign debt.

He said the rate was all part of their plan to speculate the country into ruin, and dismissed the size of the underground market.

“This attack on our money was all a part of the vultures’ plan,” said Kicillof. “The United States representative spoke of default, and that wasn’t casual… The dolar blue is a small market that is illegal… It’s easy for it move quickly… There are no economic reasons for the dollar to equal 15 pesos [15 dolar blue]. This is simply an attempt to generate panic. Do not be alarmed…”

Argentina was ruled in default of its debt in July after it defied a U.S. court order and refused to pay a group of hedge fund creditors.

That, however, is only a small part of Argentina’s problems. The “economic reasons” for the underground peso’s historic jump that Kicillof dismissed are very, very real. And the dolar blue market rate is no tiny market in the country. Regular Argentines use it every day, underground blue dolar exchanges aren’t hard to find, and it’s estimated that $10 million U.S. dollars are exchanged on the black market daily.

Argentina’s politicians and crony capitalists will only get out of the way of economic growth until there’s enough to steal.

Crash, recover, loot, repeat.

At Ease

September 18th, 2014 - 1:18 pm

AT EASE

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

PARTY ON

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

LOCKED DOWN

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

HICK

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

Shannon_Conley-Colorado-terrorist-ISIS

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

JUMP

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

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.