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Friday Night Videos

September 12th, 2014 - 10:32 pm

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

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

Sign “O” the Times

September 12th, 2014 - 11:10 am

YAHOO

It’s just what the headline says:

The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications — a request the company believed was unconstitutional — according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program.

The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the NSA extensive access to records of online com­munications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.

It’s clear that NSA is out of control, and that since this story is from 2008, it’s a problem above and beyond partisan politics.

I’m not kidding when I say that the NSA needs to disbanded, and anyone currently there at GS-9 or above should be forbidden from working, directly or as a contractor, for its replacement agency.

Thought for the Day

September 12th, 2014 - 10:09 am

Size Matters

September 12th, 2014 - 9:19 am

Microaggression is the new bugaboo of tiny minds.

Required Reading

September 12th, 2014 - 8:34 am

Matthew Continetti calls the so-called Udall Amendment to repeal the First Amendment a “silent coup” to “hand America to liberal billionaires.” Hyperbole? Hardly:

Special interest money and super-wealthy individuals are two of the most prominent features of today’s bourgeois liberalism. The unions, the foundations, the colleges, the liberal-leaning or rent-seeking corporations, the residents of Manhattan and Silicon Valley and Beverly Hills and Ward 4, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Tom Steyer, Marc Lasry, Steve Mostyn, Michael Bloomberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chris Hughes—these groups, these men, they are not misshapen appendages of the Democratic Party. They are its innards. Its guts.

Indeed, one of the reasons that Reid scheduled a vote on a measure that was sure to be defeated was, in the first place, to curry favor with, and solicit checks from, rich donors to progressive causes who have a sentimental and moralistic aversion to money in politics. It is part of Reid’s plan to smear Republican candidates as instruments of the wealthy brothers Charles and David Koch, and thereby prevent a GOP takeover of the Senate.

From a financial standpoint, Reid’s strategy is working. His Senate Majority PAC, which does not disclose its donors, has run more advertisements than the Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, and has spent almost as much money.

I’ll have you note that it isn’t prissy Republicans attempting to repeal the First to shut down strip clubs. It’s powerful Democrats attempting to repeal the First to force you to sit down and shut up — forever.

Anyway, read the whole thing.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 12th, 2014 - 7:23 am

IT'S COOL

At his health care reform blog, Robert Laszewski notes that it’s been a “pretty quiet lately on the Obamcare front.” True enough — we muddled our way through the Healthcare.gov fiasco (the site still doesn’t have a functioning backend, which is like using your computer to run an abacus), and the American people are adapting themselves to the New Suckitude. All that’s about to change:

While the open-enrollment is now scheduled to begin until 11 days after the November election there will be plenty of renewal and cancellation letters going out in October––not the least will be more pre-Obamacare policies being cancelled this year now that their one-year extension is up––carriers aren’t necessarily allowing policies to be extended further.

Does this all sound confusing? Just wait until we approach the next open-enrollment with millions of people hearing about all of this complexity and having just four weeks to get their enrollment validated for January 1. The Obamacare anxiety index is going to be off the charts well before November 15th.

Add to all of this bigger deductibles for 2015 (those go up with cost trend as well as the rates) and more narrow networks as well as generally larger rate increases for the plans that got the most enrollment and there will be lots to talk about.

You’re gonna need a bigger drink.

The Chemical So Nice They Evolved it Twice

September 12th, 2014 - 6:18 am

THE PRECIOUS

Here’s your feel-good story of the day:

Coffee has a total of 23 NMT genes, which arose primarily via a series of gene duplication events. The collection of duplicated genes is distinct from the ones found in tea and cacao, two other caffeine-producing plants that are more closely related to each other. That suggests that these two lineages evolved the ability to give humans a jolt separately.

Coffee’s NMTs also exhibited evidence of positive evolutionary selection, indicating that caffeine biosynthesis may serve an adaptive purpose only in coffee. The function of its convergent evolution in the other drinks was not explored.

Obviously God, nature, the Universe or somebody wants us to be happy in the morning.

The science is settled, so go on and have another cup.

Looking Back at the Future

September 12th, 2014 - 5:16 am

Trifecta: It’s Part III of Bill Whittle’s weeklong 9/11 series, but this one looking back from 2027 is just for PJTV members.

And this week’s bonus segment looks at Ray Rice and domestic abuse.

Required Reading

September 11th, 2014 - 9:45 am

Jeff Shesol in The New Yorker:

This is the central irony of Obama’s speech—and, it must be said, of his approach. The caution that he has shown, the time that he has taken to reach a decision, are admirable and wise; the course of action that he has set out is, despite its increasing scope, narrowly targeted. (This is no war on terror or on radical Islam.) Even so, as he acknowledged last night, “we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves.” And there is, at this point, little to suggest that Iraqis can do much of anything for themselves but continue their slide into mutual mistrust and retributive violence. The security forces that Obama has now pledged to train, equip, and advise are seen, by many Sunnis, as a force of subjugation; Shiite militias, empowered by the previous Iraqi government and backed by Iran, have terrorized the population we intend to protect. The situation in Syria is less promising still. The anti-Assad rebels there have been unable to keep their weapons out of the hands of ISIS, which does raise the question: which side will be we arming?

Of the many, many World War III novels, the best was easily Ralph Peters’s Red Army. The stories of men at war were gripping. The fact that they were told entirely from the Soviet point of view turned the entire ’80s technothriller genre on its head. Brilliantly conceived stuff, and written by an author who never lets the weapons get in the way of telling all-too-human stories.

I bring this up because of a scene late in the book which applies to today’s madness in Iraq and Syria. The Soviets are having considerable success blitzing across the North German Plain and towards the Rhine, but risks remain for General Malinsky, CINC of First Western Front, where the bulk of the fighting (and all of the book’s action) takes place. The location of US Army’s VII Corps, the most powerful large formation in NATO or the Warsaw Pact, remains a mystery — and Malinsky’s left flank is badly exposed. Also, his intelligence unit has decrypted panicked talk in Bonn about giving permission for the release of NATO’s tactical nuclear arsenal.

Upon hearing that news, Malinsky doesn’t hesitate to give his next order, which I’ll paraphrase here.

“Bottle the NATO armies up in the cities of West Germany, and let them rattle their nuclear swords. They won’t dare launch when all of my retaliatory targets are mixed up with the civilian population in their precious cities.”

That’s cold.

In a sense though, that’s also what we’re doing with IS/Caliphate. If they move on the desert roads, as Spengler has correctly noted, our drones and warplanes will make quick work of them. IS/Caliphate won’t be able to move, but they will be bottled up nicely in the cities and towns of central Mesopotamia, mixed up with the civilian population — exactly where they want to be, and exactly where we dare not bomb them.

It takes boots on the ground to pull those weeds out of urban areas, which is precisely the thing President Ditherton Wiggleroom has ruled out from the start.

We’ll bomb, we’ll kill some bad guys, and I’m all for it. But hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of Syrians and Iraqis will remain prisoners of IS/Caliphate, and their own governments have shown little skill or appetite for freeing them.

Networks Pass on Bad Obama Polls

September 11th, 2014 - 8:21 am

From Newsbusters:

Tuesday evening marked a return to ignoring President Obama’s poll numbers for ABC News as its evening newscast, World News Tonight with David Muir, failed to report on the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll and its findings.

Between its morning and evening newscasts, ABC News refused to report on their poll, which found that just 43 percent of Americans say the President “is a strong leader,” which is the lowest since he became President. Meanwhile, 55 percent of Americans say that he is not “a strong leader,” which is a new career low for him in this poll.

Over on CBS, it continued to ignore these poor numbers as the CBS Evening News made no mention of them on its Tuesday evening newscast.

It’s almost as if some of these jokers believe we won’t know what we think until they tell us.

Sign “O” the Times

September 11th, 2014 - 7:48 am

NASR

You don’t really need to read any of Vali R. Nasr’s piece. You just have to keep in mind that in Year Six of this administration, people still feel the need to remind the President that a strategy might be a nice thing to have.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 11th, 2014 - 6:44 am

Oy:

In what sounds like a line of self-parody, the IRS commissioner said at a Wednesday hearing that his agency follows the law where possible.

“Wherever we can, we follow the law,” John Koskinen, a close friend of House Republicans and YouTube, told Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) in regard to a question about the IRS collecting ineligible Obamacare subsidies.

“I encourage you to follow the law in all instances,” Brady responded, unable to hold back laughter. “And I had so many things going through my mind at that point.”

Perhaps instead of filing my taxes next year, I could send Koskinen a charming handwritten note explaining that I pay may taxes whenever I can, but that this just isn’t a good time.

Tuesday the 11th: Part II

September 11th, 2014 - 5:19 am

Under Construction [UPDATED]

September 10th, 2014 - 5:27 pm

UPDATE: For my non-Twitter tweeps, here’s the collection in handy blog format, and open for your vicious, vicious comments.

We’re making some important tech changes behind the scenes here at PJMedia, which is the good news. The bad news is, our custom liveblog software is in… flux.

So no drunkblog tonight, but I will do the drunk wrap-up immediately following.

But fear not, intrepid fellow (and sister!) drinkers — follow me on Twitter where I will provide the blow-by-drunken-blow.

Dear Apple: Why a Watch?

September 10th, 2014 - 11:42 am

ATTAINABLE LUXURY

Smart comment from Hux on yesterday’s Apple Watch preview:

I’ll be honest, I don’t know where Apple is going with this. It’s not really cheap enough to be an impulse buy, like a Pebble or a Fuelband. But at the same time, it’s not really powerful enough to be a standalone product (and yes, I realize it’s more powerful than most smart watches). And I’m shocked, absolutely shocked, that you need the iPhone for it to work properly. Ever since the iPod Apple has gone out of its way to make sure that each product is a distinct device that can be used on its own. No need for a mac if you use iPhone, no any need to for iPhone if you use iPad. Certainly you get more out of them if used in tandem, but it’s not strictly speaking necessary. The Watch goes against all this and is essentially an iPhone accessory that’s even more expensive than the iPhone. So I don’t know what they’re endgame is with this.

Let me see if I can provide a satisfactory answer or two.

First of all, there’s money — always a good endgame for any business. If we assume a 1% uptake rate of 350,000,000 iPhone 5/5C/5S/6/6-Plus owners at an average selling price of $500 and a profit margin of 40%, that gives Apple 3.5 million unit sales in the first year and a profit of $700,000,000. Under a billion hardly seems worth the effort. Factor in R&D and Apple might not do much better than break even.

But both the 1% sell-through rate and the $500 average selling price seem conservative to me. And I suspect Apple’s profit margins will start at 40%, but climb quickly over 50% for the pricier models. The “Edition” line of 18k gold phones could prove lucrative even at modest volumes. It doesn’t take wild assumptions to get up to $3 billion in profit or even higher, just in the first year. And I don’t care how rich a company is, nobody sniffs at nine zeroes.

As for Hux’s complaints about the watch’s seemingly humble abilities, I’ll answer with just two things.

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“Global Warming Was Worth It”

September 10th, 2014 - 10:47 am

David Harsanyi:

In a piece in the Atlantic, adapted from his new book, “Sustainability: A History” (which I haven’t read), historian Jeremy Caradonna challenges prevailing notions regarding the Industrial Revolution. Was the explosion of industry and subsequent rise in productivity and technology good for humanity? Not if you believe there are too many people living way too long and emitting way too much carbon into the atmosphere. And this “ecological crisis” – the greatest threat to ever challenge mankind – has its roots in the Industrial Revolution.

So if, for some reason, you embrace a “narrative” that says the rise of laissez faire economics – and the resulting efficiency and technological advancements – were moral because they freed millions from poverty and made modern life possible, you’re not thinking clearly. If you cling to the narrative that prosperity creates economic stability which in turn creates an environment that makes political stability possible, you’re just being didactic.

For 50 years now at least, progressivism has been about casting one’s self-loathing with a wide enough net to cover all of humanity. That’s self-evident of any ideology wanting far fewer (if any) people in the world, most in suffering under state-mandated shivering destitution.

Required Reading

September 10th, 2014 - 9:18 am

Damn fine think-piece from Tom Dougherty on the “echo chamber” of intra-GOP warfare:

The average Republican, regardless of persuasion – moderate, moderate-conservative, conservative or ultra-conservative – is no longer willing to accept any viewpoint that is outside their own. If this attitude persists through 2016, mark my words, the GOP will suffer a stinging defeat of epic proportions.

If an out-of-control liberal agenda is what you want, then keep screaming into your own little echo chamber, and your wish will be the Democrats command in two years. But if a conservative and realistic program appeals to you, then become part of the solution and step toward, not away, from those with whom you do not see eye-to-eye.

Will everybody get everything they want? Of course not, but there is not now, nor has there ever been, a political utopia. Can every Republican, and Independent, get most of what they crave? They absolutely can, but only if the party makes a dramatic shift in approachability, and adopts a new willingness to compromise. Yes, compromise; without it we are doomed to failure.

The Tea Party enjoyed some great wins in 2010 and 2012, and this year marked something of a resurgence for the establishment GOP. But the point of party politics is to put that crap behind you after the primary, and line up behind the nominee — who was the choice of the voting majority of your fellow Republicans (or Democrats).

A RINO can be dragged, kicking and screaming if necessary, to vote for a good bill. Harry Reid on the other hand is an immovable object — of pure evil.

And in any case, Republicans will have an impossible case to make in 2016, that they can set the country’s affairs back in order, if they can’t even manage their party.

Will (Not) Work for Pot

September 10th, 2014 - 8:19 am

GOOD STUFF

You probably already saw yesterday’s Washington Times report that welfare recipients can use EBT cards to buy pot. If not, here’s the gist:

Welfare recipients can’t use their EBT cards at liquor stores but they can at marijuana dispensaries in states such as Colorado that have legalized pot, Sen. Jeff Sessions revealed Tuesday.

The Alabama Republican announced that he was drafting legislation to close the welfare-for-weed loophole after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to him that marijuana shops were not off limits to EBT cards, which replaced food stamps, or other federal benefits.

I know there’s a proper moral attitude of “They shouldn’t be allowed to use welfare money to buy [junk food/booze/cigarettes/pot/lap dances]!” But money being fungible, the most you can do is put up easily-scalable barriers to people doing what they will with other people’s money.

But leave it to Berkeley to take an uncomfortable situation and make it comically awful:

The Berkeley City Council has passed a law requiring medical marijuana dispensaries to distribute 2 percent of their stashes to people making less than $32,000 per year or $46,000 per family.

Under the new ordinance, which was approved unanimously this summer, only city residents will be eligible and they must have a prescription.

‘Basically, the city council wants to make sure that low-income, homeless, indigent folks have access to their medical marijuana, their medicine,” Councilman Darryl Moore told CBS San Francisco.

Everybody knows that in California, “medical marijuana” was just stealth legalization, so let’s not pretend this is about helping low-income grandma afford her glaucoma relief. This is just Berkeley being Berkeley, and if there’s a way they can glean a bit of smug moral superiority by giving away other people’s stuff, they will.

Remember 9/11

September 10th, 2014 - 7:05 am

Bill Whittle has the Trifecta Triple this week, and in Part I we look back at that perfect late summer morning when 3,000 American were murdered and the skyline of New York City was forever altered.

This is a good one.

TiVo Goes Big, Really Big

September 10th, 2014 - 6:12 am

TIVO MEGA

My second TiVo was the first model they produced capable of recording and capturing full 1080p video. It could store up to 30 or 40 hours worth, if memory serves, with a large-for-the-time 250gb hard drive. They’ve gone and topped that, if only very slightly:

The TiVo Mega, slated to ship early next year, will pack 24TB of hard disk space—eight times the storage on the TiVo Roamio Pro, the current top-of-the-line model. Put another way, that’s enough to stash more than three year’s worth of standard-definition television on one DVR.

That’s a little too late for recording that just-completed Simpsons marathon of every episode ever, but what can you do?

The cost of all this storage? The Mega’s exact price hasn’t been announced, but TiVo officials put the price tag around $5000. The super-sized DVR is expected to ship in the first half of 2015.

TiVo says it will store about 4,000 hours of HD video.

I put together a 6TB Drobo with an EyeTV unit plugged into a spare Mac to act as my DVR for significantly less. Still, it’s more work to maintain than TiVo, and I miss those green and red Thumbs-Up/Thumbs-Down buttons on that iconic and lovely TiVo remote control.

There’s a market for this product. It’s niche, but that niche will crave the Mega.

Thought for the Day

September 10th, 2014 - 5:10 am

Apple Watch Preview

September 9th, 2014 - 2:53 pm

Apple Watch

At long last we know what a wearable computer is supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to do, and how it’s supposed to work. That’s my takeaway from today’s introduction of the Apple Watch. That’s not hyperbole, either. Before a consumer buys a piece of technology, they must ask themselves two questions: Does it fulfill a need, and does it do so at a price I can afford? But for a watch, for wearable technology, there is a third question: Would I want to wear it?

Plenty of smartphone makers have gotten millions of Yeses from millions of consumers on the first two questions. Only Apple and Samsung have figured out how to earn those Yeses at a profit, but people generally know what they’ll get from a moderately priced Android or iOS device, and which prices are moderate.

To date, however, the answer to the third question has been a resounding, “Wear that — are you kidding me?”

Not Coming to a Wrist Near You

Galaxy Gear S: Not Coming to a Wrist Near You

The first problem a smartwatch maker has to solve is to make a watch which looks like a watch, and not like a smartphone with a strap on it. The latest from Samsung, the Gear S, is a great example of why consumers have rejected smartwatches. They look like something Dick Tracy would wear if he were dressing up for Halloween as Billy Idol. In terms of functionality, smartwatches have either done not very much, like the Pebble, or simply slapped a smaller Android UI onto a smaller screen. But first and foremost, they’re big and they’re ugly. People don’t even get to the ill-considered interfaces before rejecting them completely.

So has Apple given consumers something to embrace?

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Say, “Tase Me, Bro!”

September 9th, 2014 - 1:19 pm

True Story. Twentysomeodd years ago I knew a woman at Humboldt State University who, for an art class, had made an aluminum foil phallus of impressive size and glued plastic toy ants to it. So at least this isn’t that.

Otherwise though I think we can safely conclude that Western Civilization has run out of stuff to do.

Your Honor Guard in Hell

September 9th, 2014 - 12:10 pm

It never stops, as Noah Rothman reports:

The Lebanese government is not optimistic that the hostage crisis can be resolved before more blood is shed.

The Lebanese are no more accustomed to having their sons beheaded by the ISIS terrorists than are Americans. Anger is erupting in Lebanon over the actions of the Islamic State and, according to the Associated Press, some residents are taking their frustrations out on the millions of displaced Syrians in that country.

The message ought to be clear — never surrender to IS/Caliphate forces. There’s no option for local fighters other than to take as many with you as you can.

Spider-Woman Does Whatever a Spider-Man Can

September 9th, 2014 - 11:27 am

I don’t know how much interest you have in comic books, or what your personal or workplace tolerance level is for bad language, but I’m reasonably sure that most Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ love an epic takedown of lefty buttinskis.

So without further ado, you just go on ahead and press that play button.

Is That a Plus in Your Pocket?

September 9th, 2014 - 10:34 am

PLUS

I know we’re just an hour away from Apple’s big iPhone 6 reveal, but this story caught my jittery eye:

With Apple widely expected to introduce the “iPhone 6″ in two different screen sizes on Tuesday, a new rumor claims the 4.7-inch model will be given the basic moniker, while the larger 5.5-inch variant will allegedly be known as the “iPhone 6 Plus.”

No.

Please no.

“Plus,” with the early exception of the Apple II+, hearkens back to a very ugly time at Cupertino.

That aside, I do have one bold-but-baseless prediction for today’s event, because it’s hardly an Apple event without at least a trillion of those. But at least mine you haven’t seen anywhere before.

Apple’s free-with-contract model will keep the colorfully unapologetic plastic of last year’s iPhone 5C, because it’s less expensive to manufacture yet still sells like hotcakes. The new model might be sleeker or lighter, and should probably come in a new rainbow of colors to differentiate it at an easy glance from the 5C. Internally it should be identical to the iPhone 5S, Touch ID scanner and all. Unless, of course, Apple’s engineers have figured out how to shoehorn a slightly more powerful battery in there, like when the 4S got wrapped in shiny plastic and blessed with a bigger battery became the 5C.

The kicker? Apple should call the new model the iPhone 6C and go with a “6-6-6″ ad campaign for the three new models.

Haters would go nuts with that one.

ONE MORE THING: “iPhone 6C” sounds just enough like “iPhone Sexy” to cause even more trouble. I hope Cupertino pulls that trigger, but honestly doubt they will.

Anyway, if you’re interested in these thing, Engadget will almost certainly have one of the best liveblogs, and Apple is streaming this year’s event live in toto, too.

The Rich Get Richer and Richer and Richer

September 9th, 2014 - 9:37 am

Monopoly Man

Robert Frank has the numbers on where the money has gone since the Fed started making so much of it:

The Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finance found that only 48.8 percent of Americans held stock either directly or indirectly in 2012, the latest period measured. That’s the lowest level since 1995, when 40.5 percent of Americans held some form of stock. (Indirect ownership of stock includes stocks held in mutual funds, 401-K plans and other investment vehicles.)

The survey said only 14 percent of Americans own stocks directly—down from 21 percent in 2001.

Overall stock ownership (direct and indirect combined) is down only four points since the 2007 crash, to 49% from 53%. But I get two takeaways from those numbers. The first is that overall ownership is the 50% threshold, which is a level it didn’t cross until 2011. That’s after nearly two years of “recovery,” as you already know. I’d also argue that direct ownership is a better measure of a person’s faith in the overall economy, and in their ability to do something themselves about their own future. Naturally, you would expect that figure to be much lower than indirect ownership, because people generally are risk averse and few have the time, knowledge, or skills to manage their own portfolios.

So it might be telling that a year into the Dot Com Crash of 2000, a record percentage of Americans owned stocks directly. It takes no small amount of courage and faith in the future to hold when everyone around you is shrieking “SELL!” Yet more than one in five Americans were doing just that.

But getting back to September 9, 2014 — we have a Federal Reserve pumping more money at fewer people (who are reportedly heading for the lifeboats anyway), and scratching our heads wondering why so few people feel very good about this economy.

Details here from AFP:

The seven were arrested on Saturday after appearing in a video showing two men celebrating a marriage ceremony and exchanging rings surrounded by friends.

“Nine of the 16 participants were identified in an investigation and seven were arrested,” MENA reported, without specifying whether the two men at the centre of the ceremony were among those detained.

The seven were remanded in custody for up to four days, accused of “incitement to debauchery” and “publishing indecent images,” MENA said.

It’s important to remember that the military junta currently in charge of Egypt isn’t exactly our friend, or an exemplar of good governance. But it’s just as important to imagine what would have been been likely to happen to those men if President Obama’s preferred government, the Muslim Brotherhood, were still in charge of that country.

Bye Bye, Dick?

September 9th, 2014 - 7:05 am

Bruce Walker thinks Dick Durbin might be in deep doo-doo in Deep Blue Illinois:

The Chicago Sun Times, according to a poll released on September 1, shows that Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, may be in serious trouble in Illinois, a solidly blue state. The poll shows that Durbin is only seven points ahead of Republican Jim Oberweis. More troubling for Durbin, this establishment Democrat boss in a Democrat state polls only 47% of the vote, well below the 50% margin usually considered healthy for incumbents. Even worse for Durbin, the Libertarian candidate, Sharon Hansen, polls over 4% of the vote so that Durbin, if Oberweis woos those voters to his right, polls only two points behind Durbin.

Durbin’s problems are aggravated by a deep and wide malaise among Illinois Democrats. Governor Quinn is losing his battle for re-election, and the polls show increasingly that this race will likely become a Republican landslide. Quinn’s administration is generally considered a flop.

How bad is the Quinn administration? He’s hardly even expected to go to jail, which is almost unheard of for an Illinois governor.

My gut says Durbin wins. But what’s strange for this Totally We Swear Not a Wave Election the pundits keep telling us about, is that almost all of the tightening is in the “right” direction.

The Best Next Navy

September 9th, 2014 - 6:28 am

CVNBG

I spent way too much time yesterday reading this James Holmes report for The National Interest, on what the US Navy would look like if we rebuilt it from scratch. Not totally from scratch — strategic and operational needs must still compete with budgets, public will, and existing technologies in which we’re already heavily invested.

So with those constraints in mind, a new US Navy:

Run silent, run deep. If Congress has indeed capped U.S. maritime means more or less permanently, undersea warfare promises the biggest bang for limited bucks. Nuclear-powered submarines, or SSNs, constitute an enduring U.S. naval advantage. They can deny an adversary the use of the sea. If nothing else, then, submarines could impose a sort of mutual assured sea denial while naval commanders try to neutralize enemy shore-based forces by other means. Subs cannot command the sea, but they can clear it of hostile surface fleets. That’s a major contribution if also a negative one. SSNs, consequently, should have first claim on scarce shipbuilding dollars. But undersea combat need not involve all nukes, all the time. To proliferate subs while holding down costs, why not, say, buy Japanese? The U.S. Navy could purchase some Japanese Soryu-class diesel attack boats — acclaimed among the world’s best — and create a standing combined squadron in Japan. Naval officials should explore such options.

Demote the surface fleet. Traditional prestige platforms such as aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers would find themselves demoted in a rebooted U.S. Navy. Their capacity to spearhead the fight against a capable access denier — a power like China that fields a beatable navy but backs it up with a large shore-based arsenal — appears increasingly doubtful. Surface ships that have to await the outcome of the struggle for command? That sounds like Corbett’s definition of cruisers and the flotilla — large numbers of lightly armed combatants for policing relatively safe waters and projecting power ashore after the battle is won. Let’s act on his guidelines for platforms that exercise command. A mix of workhorse frigate- or corvette-like platforms for peacetime pursuits, combat platforms designed to operate in less threatening wartime theaters, and small missile craft for harrying access deniers in cramped Asian waters looks like the refounded U.S. Navy’s best bet. Naval leaders should fund the most capable, most numerous surface force they can — on a not-to-interfere basis with units that compete for maritime mastery.

Read the whole thing if you can spare the time; it’s fascinating stuff.

The need for the unequaled presence an aircraft carrier battle group provides won’t be going away in our lifetime. And the only way to provide that presence is with enough anti-missile destroyers, submarine hunters, and tenders to keep them supplied, afloat, and effective. I’m not sure what kind of amphibious capabilities we still need, given that another island-hopping campaign seems remote at best. And the V-22 Osprey changes in a very fundamental way what it means to assault a beach — why not go inland and grab an airfield first, then take the beach from behind, from land and well-supplied?

But the idea of using increased numbers of SSNs to perform the old sealane-control mission, safe from land-based antiship missiles…

…well, that’s just lovely.

Our Virginia-class boats can perform easily missions that were once difficult or dangerous for the Los Angeles-class subs they’re replacing. But we’re building too few of them to take on the role Holmes has envisioned.

Fewer destroyers and cruisers, more subs — is that a sane future for our fleet?