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Spyware Creator Jailed

September 30th, 2014 - 7:25 am


Creepy stuff:

A Pakistani man has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for allegedly conspiring to advertise and sell StealthGenie, a spyware application (app) that could monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection. This marks the first-ever criminal case concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life – all without the victim’s knowledge. The Criminal Division is committed to cracking down on those who seek to profit from technology designed and used to commit brazen invasions of individual privacy.”

And when I say “creepy stuff,” I don’t just mean StealthGenie — although it’s certainly enough to make your skin crawl. I’m going to have to do some reading and thinking on this one, but my gut reaction is to ask if authoring or advertising software really be a criminal offense?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 30th, 2014 - 6:14 am

Get ready for another Fall Classic of confusion and anger:

Individuals who signed up on for insurance and subsidies to lower their coverage costs were asked on their applications to estimate 2014 income and citizenship information. That information was checked against their 2012 tax return. In some cases, the data didn’t match.

The Obama administration has told more than 300,000 individuals who obtained coverage through the federal health exchange that they may lose some or all of their subsidies if they don’t provide additional income information by Tuesday.

Another 115,000 people may lose coverage under the ACA on Tuesday because they didn’t provide requested documents verifying their citizenship or immigration status by a Sept. 5 federal deadline.

If you like the plan we told you that you must buy, you can keep it.

Big Brown is Watching You

September 30th, 2014 - 5:19 am

You might need to visit a notary public these days before you can get to second base at UCLA, but maybe that will change once Jerry Brown’s Eye in the Sky starts recording everything with or without a warrant:

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have required the police to obtain search warrants to surveil the public with unmanned drones.

Brown, a Democrat facing re-election in November, sided with law enforcement and said the legislation simply granted Californians privacy rights that went too far beyond existing guarantees. Sunday’s veto comes as the small drones are becoming increasingly popular with business, hobbyists, and law enforcement.

“This bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances,” the governor said in his veto message (PDF). “There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill’s exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution.”

Please take not of Brown’s mindset, that the Bill of Rights isn’t a ceiling stopping government power from growing, but a floor beneath which your legal protections do not extend. It goes without saying that Brown and his ilk have the necessary skills and desires to chip away at that floor.

BlackBerry: The Endgame

September 29th, 2014 - 2:19 pm

That’s what Jean-Louis Gassée is calling it, although it’s certainly been long in coming:

It wasn’t until 2010 that RIM acquired QNX, a “Unix-ish” operating system that was first shipped in 1982 by Quantum Software Systems, founded by two Waterloo University students. Why did Lazaridis’ company take three years to act on the sharp, accurate recognition of its software problem? Three years were lost in attempts to tweak the old software engine, and in fights between Keyboard Forever! traditionalists and would-be adopters of a touch interface.

Adapting BlackBerry’s applications to QNX was more complicated than just fitting a new software engine into RIM’s product line. To start with, QNX didn’t have the thick layer of frameworks developers depend on to write their applications. These frameworks, which make up most of the 700 megabytes Lazaridis saw in the iPhone’s software engine, had to be rebuilt on top of a system that was well-respected in the real-time automotive, medical, and entertainment segment, but that was ill-suited for “normal” use.

To complicate things, the company had to struggle with its legacy, with existing applications and services. Which ones do we update for the new OS? which ones need to be rewritten from scratch? …and which ones do we drop entirely?

In reality, RIM was much more than three years behind iOS (and, later, Android). Depending on whom we listen to, the 2007 iPhone didn’t just didn’t stand on a modern (if incomplete) OS, it stood on 3 to 5 years of development, of trial and error.

BlackBerry had lost the software battle before it could even be fought.

The reason BlackBerry fell so far behind is that they failed back in 2003-04 — when iPhone development began in earnest — to imagine what could be done with the faster processors and bigger screens they had to know were coming. They seemed to think that a great email client and a crappy web browser were all anybody would want on their phones. By the time the iPhone came out, it may have already been too late. Worse, the company then spent years battling over which direction to take — keyboards or touchscreens, QNX or BlackBerry 100. In fact, BlackBerry still hasn’t figured out which direction to go — but the rest of us know exactly which way.

Counterclockwise, down the drain.

Going Bam-Bam on Pebbles Prices

September 29th, 2014 - 1:41 pm


Pebble smartwatches on sale (temporally?) for just $100. I wouldn’t be surprised if that became the permanent “sale” price, if Android Wear begins taking over the bottom end of the nascent market and Apple takes over the top. But at that price, I might just pick up one to replace the el cheapos I keep in a drawer for beach vacation.

Of course what I’m really waiting for Apple to introduce a line of dive watches…

War on Women

September 29th, 2014 - 12:12 pm

This one for Mitch McConnell is quite a bit slicker than last week’s ad from ASP.


No Sex, Please — We’re Californians

September 29th, 2014 - 11:17 am

I’m with Dave Barry that Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said” is one of the worst songs ever written. But I’ll go a step further and argue that the real shame of it is that it started off so promising. The first verse is not a bad piece of writing at all. Read:

L.A.’s fine, the sun shines most the time
And the feeling is “laid back”
Palm trees grow and rents are low
But you know I keep thinkin’ about
Making my way back

Early ’70s California was, not to put too fine a point on it, a great place to get laid. I can vouch the same was true in the late ’80s and early ’90s, too.

But no longer. Not today. Not with the Junior Anti-Sex League running the joint. Amy Miller has the facts on California’s “affirmative consent” law, which just went into effect on Sunday:

Section 1 of the bill states that “the accused’s belief in affirmative consent” cannot have arisen “from the intoxication or recklessness of the accused.”

It also states that “it shall not be a valid excuse that the accused believed that the complainant affirmatively consented to the sexual activity if the accused knew or reasonably should have known that the complainant was unable to consent to the sexual activity under any of the following circumstances: (A) The complainant was asleep or unconscious; (B) The complainant was incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication, so that the complainant could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity.”

Coupled with the campus “kangaroo court” system currently in place at so many American universities — including California — this bill is a recipe for disaster.

Real talk: sex happens. Drunk, sloppy, reckless sex happens on college campuses and there’s not a bill in the world that can eliminate the oft-depressing reality of “the morning after.”

This bill not only assumes a drunk male is guilty of assault, but assumes a drunk female is incapable of consenting to sex, and does not define what it means to be “incapacitated.”

Now, by law, in a situation where a substantial amount of alcohol is involved, consent cannot exist, the aggressor is by default a rapist, and an even-willing partner is by default a victim.

Stanford could call offering my boys a free ride and I would forbid them from accepting it. What California has done is the ex post facto criminalization of normal, healthy human behavior. Because let’s be clear about this: It’s already rape-rape to have sex with somebody who drank enough to pass out, but getting to know someone a little better over cocktails and then deciding to make the beast with two backs is a tradition predating, so to speak, the written word.

And now it could make one or both of my sons into criminals.

Fill it to the RIM — with Fail

September 29th, 2014 - 10:30 am


What phone does the busy CEO who needs a serious on-the-go productivity tool carry? Not BlackBerry’s new Passport, according to Dan Seifert at The Verge:

No matter how much it tries to put the emphasis back on “doing work,” people do work with apps on their phones. Awkward dimensions and confusing interfaces aside, the Passport’s biggest failure is that it just doesn’t have what I need to get my job done. And it certainly can’t replace all of the other things I do with my smartphone, like play games and watch video.

That isn’t to say it won’t be right for some people — I’m sure there are a few people who would love a device like the Passport (perhaps Power Pros that have no interest in YouTube and don’t use any of Google’s services). Those people will put up with its shortcomings just to have a big screen and a hardware keyboard (however flawed it might be). The Passport is a shrine to everything BlackBerry has done over the last 15 years, but none of that is very relevant in today’s world. It’s apparently the best that BlackBerry can do, but that’s not enough.


The Passport was the company’s Hail Mary pass at relevance.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 29th, 2014 - 9:27 am


The Los Angeles Times has it covered today, so to speak:

Finding a doctor who takes Obamacare coverage could be just as frustrating for Californians in 2015 as the health-law expansion enters its second year.

The state’s largest health insurers are sticking with their often-criticized narrow networks of doctors, and in some cases they are cutting the number of physicians even more, according to a Times analysis of company data. And the state’s insurance exchange, Covered California, still has no comprehensive directory to help consumers match doctors with health plans.

This comes as insurers prepare to enroll hundreds of thousands of new patients this fall and get 1.2 million Californians to renew their policies under the Affordable Care Act.

I’d remind you about the difference between coverage and care, but reality is already doing such a fine job of it for me.

So instead I wrote a little one-act play. It goes like this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You have to pay for this piece of paper that says coverage on it.

REAL HUMAN AMERICAN: But I can’t afford it.

OBAMA: I’ll help you pay for it.

AMERICAN: Thanks! What’s it do?

OBAMA: You take it to your doctor and it pays for some of what he bills you.

AMERICAN: Very cool. How much of what he bills me?

OBAMA: Less than the old piece of paper you used to get from work.


[awkward silence]

What if the doctor I like doesn’t take this new piece of paper like he took my old piece of paper?

OBAMA: Remember when I killed Osama bin Laden?

Das Ende

One of Our Dictators Is Missing!

September 29th, 2014 - 8:20 am

kim jong un

Anyone seen Kim Jong-un?

The rumors intensified on Thursday with the North Korean leader’s absence from an important parliament meeting. Reuters reported that state-television broadcast images of his empty chair at the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s highest sovereign body, the first such powwow he has missed since coming to power three years ago.

The Wall Street Journal speculated on Friday that Kim might be suffering from gout, a disease caused primarily by an excessive intake of meat, sugar and alcohol. A South Korean official told the Journal that gout runs in the tyrannical clan, starting with Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994 at age 82. Kim also suffers from obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, he added.

Poor little guy — I can’t wait to see who we get next.

Stop or I’ll Surrender Again

September 29th, 2014 - 7:12 am


Genius protestors, dumb journalist:

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong have, perhaps unwittingly, united themselves with another protest movement some 8,000 miles away. Activists demanding free elections for the semi-autonomous territory have been holding their hands up in the air in a symbol of non-violent protest, a gesture many in the US recognize from recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri after an unarmed 18-year-old was shot to death by police.

Most Hong Kong protesters aren’t purposefully mimicking “hands up, don’t shoot,”as some have suggested. Instead, the gesture is a result of training and instructions from protest leaders, who have told demonstrators to raise their hands with palms forward to signal their peaceful intentions to police.

Asked about any link between the gesture and Ferguson, Icy Ng, a 22-year-old design student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University said, “I don’t think so. We have our hands up for showing both the police and media that we have no weapons in our hands.” Ng had not heard of the Ferguson protests.

No, writer Lily Kuo, of course the Hong Kong protestors aren’t emulating or thinking of Ferguson — they have bigger (and much more local) concerns than fanning the Democratic base in time for November. Honestly, this is just the stupidest story framing I’ve read in a long time. “Hands up” is a universal gesture, just like anyone anywhere could figure out what drawing a single finger across the throat means, even if by some chance they’d never seen it before.

That said, whoever came up with the idea of using Hands Up! as a peaceful protest gesture deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. During the Tiananmen crackdown, China was still a nobody on the world stage, and just beginning the process of opening up the economy. Today, Beijing’s thugs are like newly rich mobsters, desperate for the respect they think they’re owed.

A crackdown today, against protestors with their hands already up in the air…

…well, I’ll leave the results up to your imagination.

UPDATE: More from Sonny Bunch. Would you believe this idiotic Hong-Kong-as-Ferguson meme seems to have begun with Max Fisher at Vox?

Shills and hacks, tying any and everything into keeping the Senate blue.


A pair of whoppers over the weekend. The first was spotted by Eli Lake during President Obama’s 60 Minutes appearance:

But in an interview that aired Sunday evening, the president told 60 Minutes that the rise of the group now proclaiming itself a caliphate in territory between Syria and Iraq caught the U.S. intelligence community off guard. Obama specifically blamed James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence: “Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said.

Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” the former official said.

The President has a history of skipping his intelligence briefings, and of bullshitting — so who knows which it is in this case. (That last link is to a story dated September 12, 2012, which is more tragic irony than anyone needs this early in the morning.)

Now let’s move on to Andrew McCarthy and the truth about the so-called “Khorosan Group.”

You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan — the –Iranian–​Afghan border region — had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.

The “Khorosan Group” is al-Qaeda. It is simply a faction within the global terror network’s Syrian franchise, “Jabhat al-Nusra.” Its leader, Mushin al-Fadhli (believed to have been killed in this week’s U.S.-led air strikes), was an intimate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the emir of al-Qaeda who dispatched him to the jihad in Syria. Except that if you listen to administration officials long enough, you come away thinking that Zawahiri is not really al-Qaeda, either. Instead, he’s something the administration is at pains to call “core al-Qaeda.”

The White House is playing semantic games and passing the buck while the Middle East burns.

Final Stretch Flop Sweat

September 29th, 2014 - 5:01 am

I almost never link to either party’s official publications, although they can be useful for links to news reports I might not have found on my own. This once though I’m going to share something the NRSC published about Kay Hagan and the North Carolina Senate race:

Kay Hagan is running a purely negative campaign, yet is finding herself on the defensive. A new report showed that healthcare premiums in the Tar Heel State could rise by 30 to 60 percent over the coming years, despite Kay Hagan’s promises to the contrary. This followed reports that Hagan was absent from a hearing with top intelligence officials that focused on ISIL and had a fundraiser planned in New York City only hours after a classified hearing. Senator Hagan refuses to say whether or not she attended the hearing, despite requests to do so. Then a bombshell Politico story revealed that Hagan’s family “received nearly $390,000 in federal grants for energy projects and tax credits created by the 2009 stimulus law, according to public records and information provided by the company.” Yet her campaign openly denies that Senator Hagan profited from the stimulus – a direct falsehood. Hagan refuses to explain why her husband’s company received nine times the average worker’s yearly income from the Obama stimulus which she voted for. Despite repeatedly decrying outside money, Kay Hagan is the recipient of the most outside expenditures of any candidate this cycle.

As I write this, I’m just learning of a couple of gaffes from President Obama during last night’s 60 Minutes interview — including this turd gift wrapped for Republican candidates to use in their TV and radio ads.

There’s also a new poll out of Iowa showing Joni Ernst suddenly up six points against Bruce Braley. And of course, Friday’s news that Mark Udall looks to be in serious trouble right here in Colorado.

Is a GOP wave beginning to crest? I don’t know — there just isn’t enough data yet to draw any conclusions. But if the Democrats are going to hang on to the Senate, they have to win in states like Iowa and North Carolina, and they can’t have the President — who won reelection in 2012 largely because “he understands me!” — acting as out-of-touch as he did last night on a widely-watched national news program.

It’s a good vibe right now, but I’m not yet willing to call it anything more than a vibe.

Friday Night Videos

September 26th, 2014 - 10:43 pm

It looks like we’ve got one last great weekend before autumn really kicks in, so I’m going to turn this one up to 11, roll down all the windows, find a winding stretch of highway, and drive as fast as conditions allow — plus maybe a little extra.

As your attorney, I advise you to rent a very fast car with no top and do the same.

Can you dig it?

News You Can Use

September 26th, 2014 - 2:30 pm


Dear lord, but I hope you know you’re not supposed to do that. That’s doubly true in the case of snapping turtles.

Sandy Berger could not be reached for comment.

Welcome to a World without a Hyperpower

September 26th, 2014 - 1:12 pm

“Hyperpower” was the derisive French term for us after we won the Cold War and brought peace and stuff to the other half of Europe and a whole bunch of other places, because nobody can get snooty about greatness like the French. But I don’t think they’re using that word anymore, and I’m guessing neither would Robert N. Tracci:

The rise of the Islamic State, Hamas aggression against Israel, Russia’s revanchism in Eastern Europe and China’s territorial assertion in the Pacific have ended the most recent spell of U.S. isolationist delusion. Disparate in nature, these international crises share common features: exploitation of perceived U.S. weakness and repudiation of an international system that recognizes the territorial integrity of nation-states. Addressing these challenges must begin at home.

While President Obama promised to fundamentally change America, few realized his policies would fundamentally weaken it. Yet, the administration’s defense priorities and international retrenchment increasingly reflect a pre-Sept. 11, 2001 mindset.

All is proceeding exactly as Obama has foreseen.

On a slightly more serious note, I’d argue that the Administration has a pre-Revolutionary War mindset.

Purple Mountains Majesty

September 26th, 2014 - 11:51 am


Nate Silver sees trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with D and that stands for Dem:

This year, however, has been characterized by what Charlie Cook calls “head fakes.” Just 10 days ago, Democrats had been benefiting from a string of good polls in Colorado. Since then, the Democratic incumbent in Colorado, Sen. Mark Udall, has seen his situation worsen, with the past five polls showing a lead for Republican Cory Gardner instead.

Silver says the race may come down to last minute ad buys, and Udall has a significant money advantage. If the national GOP fails to show up in force, and Udall pulls out a squeaker, then they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves for losing a very winnable race.

Required Viewing

September 26th, 2014 - 10:20 am

Oh, Debbie.

Sign “O” the Times

September 26th, 2014 - 9:00 am

California’s recovery isn’t what it seems:

In the period from 1990 to 1996, California’s real gross domestic product grew by 8 percent, while between 2008 and 2013, its economy has only grown by 3 percent. Notable here is that in the 79 months after the July 1990 recession, California’s civilian non-institutionalized population grew by 5 percent, compared to 9 percent in the 79 months after the most recent recession. This combination of weak economic performance and stronger eligible working-age population growth means previously acceptable labor market growth isn’t adequate. A recovery that doesn’t provide enough jobs for the working population isn’t a true recovery. And that is where Sacramento’s comeback story falls apart.

Take away the high-paying tech sector around the San Francisco Bay Area, and about all California would be left with is winemaking, pot growing, and office buildings full of Hollywood types — which isn’t nearly enough to sustain a population of over 35 million.

Cowed Old Party?

September 26th, 2014 - 9:00 am

If I haven’t paid much attention to the House races this year, it’s because there doesn’t look to be a whole lot of movement there. But I did learn of a race yesterday where the NRCC could spend a little bit of money to get some real traction for a promising young candidate, Chris Day.

NY17 has been represented by the thoroughly unpleasant Democrat Nita Lowey, a 20 year incumbent. But thanks to redistricting, her district is no longer her district — many of the old neighborhoods are gone, and new ones with unfamiliar constituents have been added. She has refused to release her tax records, (Day’s are here), and has also declined several offers by Day to debate — reportedly blaming her staff. There might also be a question of simple competence, or at least her devotion to her district, as she failed to secure funds to continue to the project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. If anybody should have pull at the EPA, it’s a 20-year Democrat incumbent.

Day on the other hand is an expert in finance and an Army vet.

I’ve been told the NRCC hasn’t even bothered to cough up the money to canvass the reformed 17th district, so they don’t have the slightest idea who the voters are or how to appeal to them, but Day seems to be trying his best all on his own.

This is how a cowed party behaves — sticking to places where it knows it can win, avoiding fights on unfamiliar terrain, and preferring meek ignorance to taking the battle to the other side.

With barely six weeks to go, I don’t know if it’s too late for Day or not. But if you’re looking for a candidate to send a direct donation to, and bypass the NRCC completely, you could do worse.

Required Reading

September 26th, 2014 - 7:41 am

Tom Dougherty on the Tea Party:

In reality, either the Tea Party is considerably less conservative than the narrative suggests, or their influence has been wildly exaggerated. Many on the far right have suggested it was the Tea Party uprising that carried the GOP to a wave victory in 2010, giving them their majority in the House. Others suggest that despite subsequent failures to win elections, the Tea Party inspired a more staunch conservatism in those elected in 2010, and forced the Republican conference to the right. While the first point might have merit, the latter is simply not supported by evidence, namely the voting records of the Senate and House Republicans.

Looking at the voting scorecards, in the first year of every Congress since 2001, from The American Conservative Union (ACU), the GOP has moderated considerably in both chambers since 2009. In fact, the current Senate Republicans tie the lowest average rating in the last 12 years; and the current House Republicans have the lowest average in the last seven Congresses. Notably the trend is the same in both chambers despite different majorities, and the House average has dropped more than the Senate.

You’ll definitely want to read the whole thing, which is data driven and filled with handy charts and graphs. The lesson here though might not be that the Tea Party has been ineffective, or that it has been maligned, or perhaps both. The lesson might be that such a loud and dedicated constituency is enough to tip the balance to the Democrats on election day if they feel Congress has ignored their concerns.

Read on a bit further:

When we look at the above analyses, we have to wonder: Is the Tea Party actually a more realistic, grounded group of voters, represented by more moderate legislators, than the media narrative would have us think? It certainly could be. Has the colloquial use of the label, “Tea Party,” been overused and corrupted by what is actually a smaller subset of unyielding ideologues? Quite possibly it has. Are there a handful of opportunists who have hijacked the moniker for their own selfish purposes, while doing very little to influence the legislative process? As I’ve written before, there most assuredly are. Is it possible that a diverse and decentralized group of local and regional organizations simply cannot be arbitrarily unified under a single brand called the “Tea Party?” I think so.

In the sense that it’s like herding cats, the Tea Party and the libertarians seem to have a lot in common.

Sign “O” the Times

September 26th, 2014 - 6:08 am

William Galston explains why the “recovery” doesn’t feel like much of an actual recovery to most Americans:

This year’s report found that median household income was $51,939 in 2013, 8% lower than in 2007, the last year before the recession. Households in the middle of the income distribution earned about $4,500 less last year than they had six years earlier. No wonder 56% of Americans told the Pew Research Center that their incomes were falling behind the cost of living.

The Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances confirms these findings. Between 2010 and 2013, the Fed reports, median family income fell by 5%, even though average family income rose by 4%. This is, note the authors, “consistent with increasing income concentration during this period.”

Yes, I know household income isn’t always the best measure of actual wealth, but read on:

What’s going on? The Census report offers a clue. The median earnings for Americans working full-time year round haven’t changed much since 2007. But more than five years into the recovery, there are fewer such workers than before the recession. In 2007, 108.6 million Americans were working full time, year-round; in 2013 only 105.9 million were doing so. Although jobs are being created, too many of them are part-time to maintain growth in household incomes.

This is not by choice. About the same number of Americans were employed last month as in December 2007. But during that period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans working part time who wanted a full-time job jumped to 7.2 million from 4.6 million. Not only are hourly wages stagnating; America’s families want more hours of work than the economy is providing.

Household size is likely increasing, due to the college debt crisis and the full-time employment crisis. That means stagnant wages spread out over more people in the same household.

I’ll look for more numbers to confirm this, but in the meantime it certainly seems to jibe with what Americans have been telling pollsters.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 26th, 2014 - 5:12 am
But we had lab coats!

But we had lab coats!

California was supposed to be one of the few states to do better under the new system than under the old, less broken system. Nevertheless:

A new survey released late Tuesday found some 42 percent of state residents generally view the law favorably, while 46 percent harbor unfavorable opinions. Support is down somewhat since May, before a wave of targeted TV ads began in a handful of competitive congressional districts.

Democrats view the law positively while an overwhelming majority of Republicans (80 percent) see it unfavorably. Of the 1 in 5 Californians who say that they were aided by the law, 31 percent say that it allowed them or a family member to obtain or retain health care. Meanwhile, of the 1 in 5 who said they have been harmed by the law, more than half reported it led to higher costs while about 20 percent say it made it more difficult to get coverage.

That Means It’s Working™.

Going Up?

September 25th, 2014 - 2:10 pm


A Japanese firm wants to build a space elevator by 2050:

The elevator is being designed to take researchers 96,000 kilogram (km), or 59,652 miles, into space. Robotic cars would be used to carry humans and cargo to a new space station, and they would be powered by magnetic linear motors, which are used in Europe and Asia’s high-speed rail lines.

“The tensile strength is almost a hundred times stronger than steel cable so it’s possible,” Yoji Ishikawa, research and development manager at Obayashi, said in reference to the use of carbon nanotechnology. “Right now we can’t make the cable long enough. We can only make 3-centimeter-long nanotubes but we need much more.”

Last I’d read, nanotube lengths were measured in microns, so three centimeters is a big deal. And is there any cheaper way to get into space, even just on a drawing board somewhere?

Stripping Indiana Jones

September 25th, 2014 - 1:46 pm


Director Steven Soderbergh took Raiders of the Lost Ark and stripped it of color, dialog, and that famous John Williams score. Here’s why:

He posted the result on his experimental online marketplace, Extension 765. He begins his musing on the film by talking about staging, the way the elements of a scene are arranged. He writes, “I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount.”

The stripped-down “Raiders” invites viewers to concentrate on Spielberg’s staging, rather than Harrison Ford’s dialogue or the dramatic action music. Soderbergh replaced the original score with an unusual electronica soundtrack meant to “aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect.” Some viewers may find the new score a little off-putting, but you can always mute the thing and look purely at the visuals.

I’ve always thought the Nepalese bar sequence, when Indy first encounters Nazi Major Arnold Toht and rekindles his romance with Marion Ravenwood, was a perfectly staged small-set action sequence. Could it really be improved, or at least have my appreciation of it enhanced, by watching it stripped down?

There’s only one way to find out…

Required Reading

September 25th, 2014 - 12:19 pm


Charles C. W. Cooke:

Among the nations that have signed on to the attacks are Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates — all vital accomplices in the winning of hearts and minds. And yet, for all the cosmopolitanism, one crucial ally was conspicuously missing from the roster of the willing: the Congress of the United States.

Since he ordered military action in Libya in 2011, President Obama has argued as a matter of routine that Article II of the U.S. Constitution confers such considerable power upon the commander-in-chief that, in most instances at least, Congress’s role in foreign affairs is limited to that of advice bureau. The political ironies of this development are sufficiently rich to stand without much comment. (Imagine, if you will, trying to explain to an average voter in 2008 that by his second term the Democratic candidate for president would have adopted wholesale an interpretation of the Constitution that was championed by the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and John Yoo.) Less obvious, however, is what this means for America and her future. The bottom line: It’s not good.

Read the whole thing.

My initial reaction to the bombing campaign was that surely renewed action in Iraq must be covered by the existing use of force authorization from 2003. But that concerned the Saddam regime which is long since toppled. And the absence of a Status of Forces Agreement and the removal of all of our forces (minus vestigial embassy protection troops) would seem render the old authorization moot, and thus no longer operative.

Yet instead of going to Congress, Obama has gone again to the UN to explain his unilateral actions after the fact.

I’m not sure Cooke has it quite correct when he speaks of Obama’s “divine right.” The phrase I keep thinking of instead is l’état, c’est moi.

Thought for the Day

September 25th, 2014 - 11:35 am

Sam Stein for HuffPo:

The legislative branch adjourned its business at the end of last week to tend to elections. In doing so, it left unresolved the issue of authorizing the war that President Barack Obama would start days later. Congressional inaction didn’t upend the White House’s plans; the administration had already claimed it had legal authority to launch such strikes in Syria.

But by leaving town before the president started operations, lawmakers may have done serious harm to their own institution, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) argued in an interview with The Huffington Post. Not only had they diminished the standing of Congress with respect to the executive branch, they also may have given unintended consent to a Dick Cheney-like vision of presidential war powers.

Dick Cheney’s boss never launched a war without first rallying the American people, then rallying support from Congress.

Can Joe Biden’s boss say the same thing?

Obama versus the Generals: Part II

September 25th, 2014 - 9:02 am

News You Can Use

September 25th, 2014 - 8:13 am


You know you’re not supposed to… oh, who am I trying to fool?