Thought for the Day

August 31st, 2015 - 4:52 pm

Scenes from a Detroit Courtroom

August 31st, 2015 - 2:05 pm

A horrible case with a sweet touch of real justice at its conclusion:

•Jasmine Gordon, 25, and her boyfriend Clifford Thomas, 34, were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 3-year-old Jamila

•On Friday, Jamila’s biological father Dwayne Smith was set to give a victim impact statement in Detroit, Michigan court

•Instead of addressing his daughter’s mother and her boyfriend, he punched Thomas from behind

•Sheriff’s deputies had to intervene to keep the two men apart

•Court later resumed and Gordon and Thomas were sentenced; the judge declined to hold Smith in contempt of court for the outburst

About that last bullet point, sometimes justice can still be blind.

You, Me, and B-3

August 31st, 2015 - 1:46 pm
(Rendering courtesy Northrop-Grumman)

(Rendering courtesy Northrop-Grumman)

Cost overruns already plague the Air Force’s top secret follow-on to the B-2 Spirit stealth heavy bomber:

The problem began last year, when the service told Congress the yet-to-be-built Long-Range Strike Bomber would cost $33.1 billion between 2015 and 2025. It recently updated the estimate (from 2016 to 2026) to $58.4 billion—a hike of $25.3 billion, or 76%.

That works out to a swing of $169 for each of the roughly 150 million Americans who file federal tax returns. But, the Air Force acknowledged last week, the latest cost estimate to develop and buy the aircraft over the coming decade is pegged at $41.7 billion. Apparently, the fledgling stealth bomber can elude fiscal reckoning as well as enemy radar.

An extra $169 over ten years to fund the latest and greatest and invisiblest bomber ever?

Can I just write a check right now?

Compared to most of the places my tax dollars go, this one’s a bargain.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

August 31st, 2015 - 12:38 pm

Politico just now noticed that the ♡bamaCare!!! Cadillac tax* “could wreck popular medical accounts.”

Since I’ve already used “no s***, Sherlock” once today, I’ll just quote you Politico’s belated take:

Flexible spending accounts, which allow people to save their own money tax free for everything from doctor’s co-pays to eyeglasses, may vanish in coming years as companies scramble to avoid the law’s 40 percent levy on pricey health care benefits.

“They’ll be one of the first things to go,” said Rich Stover, a health care actuary and principal at Buck Consultants, an employee benefits consulting firm. “It’s a death knell for them. If the Cadillac tax doesn’t change, FSAs will go away very quickly.”

That fact alone could dramatically alter the political equation surrounding Obamacare, potentially blindsiding middle-class voters who may be only vaguely aware of the Cadillac tax.

This comes from Politico’s Brian Faler, who presumably spent January 2009 through July 2015 in some kind of coma.

EXIT QUESTION: If middle class voters are only “vaguely aware” of a great big tax aimed right at their health insurance plan, where might a political news service — named, say, “Politico” — most fairly place the blame for such ignorance?

Just Gimme One More Hit of ZIRP, Man

August 31st, 2015 - 11:16 am

CNN’s Virginia Harrison boldly proclaims that the “world is still hooked on cheap money.”

Or as we used to say in high school back in the ’80s, “No s***, Sherlock?*”

Harrison comes close to desiring the crux of the problem, but never quite fleshes it out — perhaps to keep her readers from repeating that 1929 classic sporting event, the Wall Street Swan Dive. Here’s as close as she gets:

Central banks in Canada, India, Australia, and Norway have cut interest rates this year and most of those countries are expected to ease further. Rates in Switzerland have languished in negative territory since late last year. And policymakers in Europe and Japan are printing money as a tool to support growth.

The efforts illustrate cracks in the world economy. Five of the seven biggest economies are in cheap money mode, while the U.S. and the U.K. remain stuck in neutral — at least for now.

The U.S. was on track to raise rates as early as next month, but the problems plaguing China and rest of world may put that off. On Wednesday, president of the New York Federal Reserve William Dudley poured cold water on an imminent rate rise, though more clues could come this week when Fed policymakers gather for their annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Here’s the fleshier version.

Our economic problems are global, but the roots are strongest in just two places — Washington and Beijing.

The Fed (and previously Congress) pumps cheap money to keep the economy afloat, hoping for a mild bout of inflation to cure the “disease” of business hoarding cash instead of spending it, and to inflate away that other teensy problem called the national debt.

China pumps cheap money to keep the jobs machine working overtime, hoping to continue papering over decades of malinvestment, and to keep the export sector thriving. China also has the teensy problem of needing to create 15-20 million jobs each and every year, to prevent city-bound peasants from revolting against the regime.

The Fed keep trying to inflate, but China keeps exporting deflation to us in the form of cheap goods. Should the Fed raise rates here, like they keep threatening to do, the capital flight from China would create a credit crunch China can’t afford — which would likely bring down the global economy in yet another deflationary spiral.

Meanwhile, the Fed’s cheap money encourages speculative, bubble investing, and China’s cheap money encourages continued malinvestment and overproduction of export goods.

The two biggest economies in the world are run by drug pushers, and everybody’s an addict.


Iran Cheating Already?

August 31st, 2015 - 10:09 am

That didn’t take long:

A new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog — indicates Iran is in broad compliance with its nuclear commitments, but also notes with concern indications of construction activity at the Parchin military site, where Iran is suspected of having carried out covert nuclear-related activities in the past.

The document — part of the agency’s routine review of Iran’s program — states that the IAEA “has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment and probable construction materials.”

“In addition,” the report continues, “a small extension to an existing building appears to have been constructed.”

Critics of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran are likely to seize on this detail of the report.

Ya think?

But don’t believe those crazy critics for even a moment. Iran sent one of their top men — top men! — to check it out, and he swears everything is on the up-and-up.

Scenes from the Central Valley

August 31st, 2015 - 9:59 am


Maria Marquez, a 50-year-old widow, panicked when her shower abruptly ended in June 2014. They couldn’t afford to move, and who would buy a house without running water? Drilling her own new well would cost more than years of earnings from the food truck where she works.

Unlike Lozano, who rents his home, Marquez was eligible as a homeowner to get a tank installed for washing and flushing, to be filled each Monday by a county truck, as well as bottled water for drinking and cooking through California’s $3.7 billion drought relief program, which includes $38 million for drinking water and tanks.

“It’s our home,” said her daughter Judy Munoz, 26. “She doesn’t want to leave it behind.”

California is John Steinbeck novel — again.

REPORT: ISIS “Growing Like Crazy”

August 31st, 2015 - 8:44 am

Free Beacon has the story via NBC News:

Despite recent developments with Turkey allowing the U.S. to conduct strikes from their bases, the radical Islamic caliphate is showing strong resistance, and their numbers continue to multiply.

“To quote one U.S. official, ISIS’s international branches are growing like crazy,” Engel said on Meet the Press. “ISIS has spread rapidly across north and west Africa, Arabia, Afghanistan, even into the far east. ISIS has expanded far more quickly and extensively than al Qaeda ever did.”

Engel noted the struggles of training the Iraqi army, training Syrian rebels and the inability of air strikes to make a significant dent in IS numbers.

Obama originally referred to the group as the “JV team” and downplayed their threat to Americans.

I’ll just leave things be with that last line.

Venezuela Passes the Buck to Colombia

August 31st, 2015 - 7:20 am

StrategyPage reports on the deteriorating situation down south:

The economic collapse in Venezuela and the inability of the government there to do anything about it has led to Venezuela blaming Colombia and closing a major border crossing in northeast Colombia. Ambassadors have been recalled and Venezuela is expelling thousands of Colombians who live on the Venezuelan side of the border. Over 7,000 Colombians have left since the expulsion order on the 21st. Venezuela also blames its record high murder rate (and most other crime) on Colombian gangs, even though most of this crime occurs far from the border where there are few Colombians and most of the perpetrators who are caught turn out to be Venezuelans.

The reality is different. There is lots of legal trade across the border, much of it involving food. Most of the trade is from Colombia to Venezuela. The primary legal items coming into Colombia from Venezuela are industrial products (steel, iron, chemical products and petroleum products). This trade has been declining because of the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and the shortage of foreign currency to pay for imports. The food is desperately needed, mainly because of the illegal export of subsidized food to Colombia. Closing the border will slow down (because the main roads can no longer be used) but not disappear. It is too lucrative for the smuggling gangs and corrupt Venezuelan officials who make it work.

The further any economic activity is driven underground, the less efficient trade becomes and costs and prices are forced ever higher.

This is something Venezuela is going to have to relearn the hard way, in an economy already teetering on the edge of hyperinflation.

Bring Back the Battleship?

August 31st, 2015 - 6:29 am

It’s a question we’ve been asking now and then, probably since Montana-class super-battleship contraction was abandoned during WWII, in favor of more aircraft carriers. Still, the issue remains ripe as we continue to look for ways to add more firepower and survivability to our shrinking Navy.

Robert Farley puts it this way in The National Interest:

With the advent of the age of airpower (and missile power), size no longer dramatically increased lethality for surface warships. At the same time, a proliferation of threats made ensuring survivability more difficult. The huge battleships of the Second World War could not survive concerted air and submarine attack, and could not punch back at sufficient range to justify their main armament. Except for aircraft carriers, where lethality still increased with size, naval architecture took a turn for the petite. The chief surface ships of the U.S. Navy (USN) today displace less than a quarter that of the battleships of World War II.

But what about a big ship with a 20th Century-style 16-ince cold-rolled hull, for a ship bristling with 21st Century active and passive defenses? That’s where the discussion heats up:

The biggest reason to build big ships may be the promise of electricity generation. The most interesting innovations in naval technology involve sensors, unmanned technology, lasers, and railguns, most of which are power intensive. Larger ships can generate more power, increasing not only their lethality (rail guns, sensors) but also their survivability (anti-missile lasers, defensive sensor technologies, close-defense systems). The missile magazines that large ships can carry although them to draw together these elements and lethality and survivability better than their smaller counterparts.

What about a true successor to the classic battleship, designed to both deal out and absorb punishment? Advances in materials design have certainly increased the ability of other military systems (most notably the tank) to survive punishment, and a serious effort to create an armored ship would undoubtedly result in a well-protected vessel. The problem is that passive systems need to protect a ship from a wide range of different attacks, including cruise missiles, torpedoes, ballistic missiles, and long-range guns. Keeping a ship well-protected from these threats, all of which it could anticipate facing in an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) situation, would likely prove cost-prohibitive.

There’s also the issue of shipbuilding capacity, which is able to cope with our current, lackadaisical procurement rate, but lacks the trained workers or facilities for much more.

But we do still have four perfectly good Iowa-class hulls. We brought them back into service for a brief time during the ’80s and early ’90s, modernized with Harpoon missiles, advanced radar, and all the current goodies.

Why not bring them back once more — only more thoroughly modernized? As I think we’ve discussed here before, it wouldn’t be easy or cheap, but it might be doable.

Remove the armored deck and take out the insides, including those big diesels. Drop in three or four of the Navy’s tiny, long-lived A1B reactors from the Ford-class CVNs, then replace the armored deck and festoon it with AEGIS radar sets and enough fricken laser beams to melt the Moon.

I’m not sure I’m kidding about this, either.

Pentagon Won’t Target ISIS Training Camps

August 31st, 2015 - 5:15 am

ISIS camps produce about 1,000 new trained fighters each month, but we aren’t bombing them for fear of collateral damage:

The camps are spread throughout Islamic State-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria and are off limits in the U.S.-led international bombing campaign because of concerns about collateral damage, said officials familiar with planning and execution of the yearlong bombing campaign.

Additionally, the IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) camps have been so successful that Islamic State leaders are considering expanding the camps to Libya and Yemen. Both states have become largely ungoverned areas in recent years.

The failure to target the training camps with U.S. and allied airstrikes is raising questions among some defense and intelligence officials about the commitment of President Obama and his senior aides to the current anti-IS strategy of degrading and ultimately destroying the terror group.

“If we know the location of these camps, and the president wants to destroy ISIS, why are the camps still functioning?” one official critical of the policy asked.

It’s better to judge a person by their actions rather than by their words.

Now I don’t actually believe President Obama is pro-ISIS — that would fly in the face of six years of him behaving objectively in Iran’s favor. But I do think he’d rather let Iraq sink into further chaos than risk even a little bad press for causing any collateral damage near the camps — and he knows he won’t take any blame for the targeted damage those fighters will cause once their training is complete.

There’s also a more out-there case to be made that the chaos in Iraq fits in with Obama’s (Jarrett’s?) broader ambitions for Iran. Defeating ISIS is going to take boots on the ground, and already some of those boots belong to Iranian soldiers. Who’s to say that they ever leave, and effectively* annex much of the Shi’ite provinces of Iraq to Shi’ite Iran?

It wouldn’t be easy. Co-religionisists aside, there’s still the age-old ethnic hatred between Persians and Arabs. But an Iran flush with $150,000,000,000 and trade deals flooding in from Europe, Russia, and China might just be able to pull it off.

An enlarged, enriched, emboldened, and nuclear-armed Iran might prove to be Obama’s truly lasting foreign policy legacy.

I’m Addicted to Trump

August 29th, 2015 - 11:13 am

Bolivian marching powder no more. (Shutterstock photo)

Bolivian marching powder no more.
(Shutterstock photo)

When the US Drug Enforcement Agency was unceremoniously told to get the heck out of Bolivia, the usual hand wringers wrung their hands over another big loss in the Drug War. But now there’s this:

After the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was kicked out of Bolivia, the country was able to drastically reduce the amount of coca (cocaine) produced within its borders. According to data released by the United Nations, cocaine production in the country declined by 11% in the past year, marking the fourth year in a row of steady decrease.

It was just seven years ago that the DEA left Bolivia — and only three years after that, progress was finally made. The strategy employed by the Bolivian government may be a surprise to many prohibitionists because it did not involve any strong-arm police state tactics. Instead, they worked to find alternative crops for farmers to grow that would actually make them more money.

Read the whole thing.

You can’t fight drugs with strong-arm prohibition tactics, any more than they worked against alcohol in the 1920s.

Imagine what we could do here if we kicked the DEA out of this country.

You Had One Job, Jeb

August 29th, 2015 - 6:51 am
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaks to supporters at a town hall meeting, Friday, Aug. 28 2015 in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Jason Hirschfeld)

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaks to supporters at a town hall meeting, Friday, Aug. 28 2015 in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Jason Hirschfeld)

No matter what might happen in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, there was one early primary Jeb Bush was going to easily win: The money primary.


Three top Jeb Bush fundraisers abruptly parted ways with his presidential campaign on Friday, amid internal personality conflicts and questions about the strength of his candidacy, POLITICO has learned.

There are different versions of what transpired. The Florida-based fundraising consultants — Kris Money, Trey McCarley, and Debbie Alexander — have said that they voluntarily quit the campaign and were still working with Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise Super PAC. Others said the three, who worked under the same contract, were let go because they were no longer needed for the current phase of the campaign.

Politico’s source inside the Bush campaign said “personality conflicts” were to blame and that “they were glad to go.”

Regardless, you don’t usually read these stories coming out of well-oiled, winning campaigns.

Friday Night Videos

August 28th, 2015 - 10:14 pm

Summer of Covers does the walk of shame!

I’d always enjoyed Juice Newton’s “Angel Of The Morning” as nothing more than a bittersweet love song. Or perhaps some of my enjoyment was a result of Helsinki Syndrome — the song went to Number One in 1982, part of a time I spent listening to a lot of Top 40 radio. And by “a lot” I mean I’m not sure I ever turned it off, except to watch NBC’s original Friday Night Videos after Carson signed off for the night.

It wasn’t until more recently that I realized that the “bittersweet love song” was actually about a one night stand followed by the inevitable walk of shame:

There’ll be no strings to bind your hands
Not if my love can’t bind your heart
There’s no need to take a stand
For it was I who chose to start

I see no need to take me home
I’m old enough to face the dawn

And Juice always seemed like such a nice girl — I kid, I kid.

What I didn’t realize until this week was that “Angel” wasn’t originally a Juice Newton song at all. Written by Chip Taylor, Evie Sands was the first to record it in 1967, but it wouldn’t generate a hit single until Merrilee Rush took a stab at it the following year. Between then and Newton’s ’82 record, it looks like at least half a dozen artists made covers of their own — and so I’m not sure exactly how I managed to miss it completely during my musical coming-of-age during the ’70s.

Chalk it up to bad luck, because it really is a lovely song.

I never owned a copy, so after a number of years it became just another one of those songs I used to listen to sometimes — still a pleasure, but a half-forgotten one. Then Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders) performed it at Central Perk in a cameo appearance of the second season of Friends. The performance was great, her little scene opposite Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe was charming, and so I went out bought what I thought were “both” versions of “Angel.” This of course was back in the day when we went out to buy music.

Tonight you get Chrissie Hynde’s cover of a cover of a cover of a cover. But my mission this weekend is to locate and download the others before I half-forget the song again.

Because walk or not, that would be the real shame.

Thought for the Day

August 28th, 2015 - 4:06 pm


An FBI “A-team” is leading the “extremely serious” investigation into Hillary Clinton’s server and the focus includes a provision of the law pertaining to “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,” an intelligence source told Fox News.

The section of the Espionage Act is known as 18 US Code 793.

A separate source, who also was not authorized to speak on the record, said the FBI will further determine whether Clinton should have known, based on the quality and detail of the material, that emails passing through her server contained classified information regardless of the markings. The campaign’s standard defense and that of Clinton is that she “never sent nor received any email that was marked classified” at the time.

…Stuff… just got real.

The Real Vester Flanagan

August 28th, 2015 - 1:17 pm

It’s official: Vester Flanagan/Bryce Williams wasn’t just nuts — he was incompetent, too:

Vester Flanagan’s appalling track record as a reporter brought to light in court papers relating to his bid to sue WDBJ for wrongful termination

•Flanagan scored 1 out of 5 in series of categories in performance review and was told his reports were confusing and ‘lean on facts’

•One document called him ‘the human tape recorder’ for never challenging press releases or interviewees

•Flanagan told the judge he wanted a jury made up solely of African American women, and FBI and Department of Justice investigations

•Case was dismissed after CBS affiliate in Moneta, VA, issued detailed rebuttal

•Also revealed: Flanagan threw cat feces at neighbors, had a large sex toy trove, drove like a maniac and covered his fridge with photos of himself

The real question is, What did white people do to make him this way?

Here’s a clue about exactly which comments made by Alison Parker that Flanagan perceived at racist:

“One was something about ‘swinging’ by some place; the other was out in the ‘field,’ ” said the Jan. 21 report by assistant news director Greg Baldwin, which refers to Parker as Alison Bailey (her middle name).

Parker was never disciplined over the remarks, but Flanagan never forgot them.

Hours after gunning her and Adam Ward down during their broadcast Wednesday, Flanagan revealed in tweets that the comments were still fresh in his mind.

“Alison made racist comments,” Flanagan posted while he was on the run from cops.

“They hired her after that??” he wrote.

But colleagues said that it was all in Flanagan’s head and that Parker was as far from racist as they come.

I think it’s fair to conclude that our current culture of Everything Is Racist helped at least in some small way to turn Flanagan into a murderer.

Google Bypassing New Apple Security?

August 28th, 2015 - 12:22 pm

This report isn’t as nefarious as it looks at first:

Google on Thursday informed developers of a five-line bit of code crafted to sidestep Apple’s upcoming App Transport Security encryption feature in iOS 9 by creating HTTPS exceptions, which could in some cases block mobile ads from appearing.

The workaround was published to Google’s official Ads Developer Blog in a post titled “Handling App Transport Security in iOS 9,” a reference to Apple’s upcoming privacy tool.

Apple’s ATS standard is built into iOS 9 to restrict insecure and potentially nefarious code served via HTTP from infiltrating the operating system. Developers whose apps are not yet ATS-compliant could see their mobile ads blocked as a result of this tightened security, which in turn poses a threat to Google’s money-making ad business.

You would be excused for thinking, as I did initially, that Apple had tightened security for the benefit of consumers, but that Google had then sidestepped it for the benefit of shady advertisers.

The truth isn’t quite so clear cut.

Google’s “exploit” is in fact baked into iOS 9 for advertisers who are slow to update to the new security protocol. And Google has explained that the fix is “short term” and a “last resort.”

Still, you have to wonder that unless a hard time limit is announced, where’s the incentive for advertisers to upgrade their encryption?

Hating Hillary from the Beyond!

August 28th, 2015 - 11:41 am
(Poster courtesy Empire Pictures)

(Poster courtesy Empire Pictures)

Hot item straight out of one of Hillary Clinton’s several “home” states:

An Arkansas man has requested in his obituary that loved ones do not vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, making him at least the third individual to do so since Clinton launched her campaign in April.

The obituary for Richard Buckman of Beebe, Ark., reads, “In lieu of flowers, please do not vote for Hillary,” mirroring text that was included in a recent obituary for a deceased New Jersey woman.

Buckman died on Aug. 22 at the age of 75, three days after news broke that the obituary for 63-year-old Elaine Fyrdrych of Gloucester Township, N.J., advised funeral goers, “Elaine requests, ‘In lieu of flowers, please do not vote for Hillary Clinton.’”

Excuse me a moment while I go update my will.

FWIW: Jeffrey Combs & Barbara Crampton (From Beyond and of course Re-Animator) are my all-time favorite screen couple.

Hillary Does Not Have the Votes

August 28th, 2015 - 11:06 am


No she doesn’t.

Here’s the strategy as outlined by Mark Halperin and Jennifer Epstein:

At the Democratic National Committee meeting in Minneapolis, where she will speak Friday, senior Clinton campaign officials are claiming that she has already secured one-fifth of the pledges needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination. They come from current and former elected officials, committee officeholders, and other party dignitaries.

The campaign says that Clinton currently has about 130 superdelegates publicly backing her, but a person familiar with recent conversations in Minneapolis said that officials are telling supporters and the undecided in the last few days that private commitments increase that number to more than 440—about 20 percent of the number of delegates she would need to secure the nomination.

This is smoke and mirrors, meant to convince any fence-sitting opponents (cough, Joe, cough) to stay right there up on that fence.

GOP strategist Rick Wilson didn’t actually reply with, “Oh, reeeeeeeeealy?” But he might have been thinking it when he sent out this tweet:

So what did he find in just “10 seconds” of Googling.

First up, Hillary’s problem:

In a relatively short amount of time, Clinton has gone from being the inevitable winner to being the underdog to being a dead woman walking.

She needs superdelegates to win the nomination, but what is her argument to superdelegates?

Can she promise them she will win a majority of the pledged delegates that voters have chosen in primaries and caucuses? No.

Can she promise them she can take the lead in the popular vote? No.

Can she promise them she can win a majority of the primary and caucus states? No.

That was Politico’s Roger Simon (not my former boss Roger L. Simon) writing in 2008! Nothing has changed since then, including the blueprint for beating her:

The insurgent strategy [Senator Barack Obama's] group devised instead was to virtually cede the most important battlegrounds of the Democratic nomination fight to Clinton, using precision targeting to minimize her delegate hauls, while going all out to crush her in states where Democratic candidates rarely ventured.

The result may have lacked the glamour of a sweep, but last night, with the delegates he picked up in Montana and South Dakota and a flood of superdelegate endorsements, Obama sealed one of the biggest upsets in U.S. political history and became the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to wrest his party’s nomination from the candidate of the party establishment. The surprise was how well his strategy held up — and how little resistance it met.

Fact: Hillary doesn’t caucus well. And without the human touch of, say, a Joe Biden or a Bernie Sanders, how well can Hillary really do with superdelegates? Another story from 2008 offers a clue:

“Sen. Clinton had this humility about her, this vulnerability, this realness,” said Larson, a Democratic National Committee member from Minnesota. “I thought, ‘I really like her.’”

But then came Sen. Barack Obama’s winning streak. He won in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington and the Virgin Islands. He picked up Maine. He swept Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Obama peeled off 12 wins in a row, and Larson found herself swept up in the excitement.

“‘I have to endorse Barack,’” she recalls thinking. “‘I know I do.’”

The only question you really need an answer to is, What’s the new Barack?

Required Reading

August 28th, 2015 - 10:10 am
Water lines run across a row of New Orleans Regional Transit Authority buses, flooded after Hurricane Katrina, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005, as they sit in a parking lot in the Mid City section of New Orleans. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Water lines run across a row of New Orleans Regional Transit Authority buses, flooded after Hurricane Katrina, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005, as they sit in a parking lot in the Mid City section of New Orleans. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Michael Brown (Full disclosure: a lunch buddy of mine) says “here’s what really happened” while he was running Federal Emergency Management during Hurricane Katrina:

As the storm neared New Orleans, all I could do—and did do even before the federalization debate got underway—was go on television, radio and any media outlet my press team could find—and encourage people to “literally get your butts out of New Orleans before the storm hits.”

Prior to Katrina making landfall, I asked then-National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield to forcefully explain on a secure video conference call with Blanco and Nagin the catastrophe they were potentially facing if they failed to evacuate at least two or three days prior to landfall. When that didn’t work, I called President Bush at the ranch and implored him to call Mayor Nagin and encourage him to evacuate his city. The president called; the mayor dallied.

Nagin finally asked people to evacuate on Sunday morning for a storm that hit his city sometime after midnight that night. By that point, Amtrak had left the city with rail cars sans passengers. Airlines had evacuated Louis Armstrong International Airport with planes sans travelers. And school buses sat in their lots, soon to be flooded and ruined. The mayor’s incompetence cost lives.

While I was urging people to leave New Orleans, Mayor Nagin announced a “shelter of last resort,” the New Orleans Superdome. In other words, despite calls to evacuate, if you choose not to evacuate, or are now unable to evacuate because you lack transportation, run to the Superdome.

I was livid.

Read the whole thing.

Unfortunately Michael didn’t choose to repeat a tale he once told me in person, concerning a civil rights “leaders” actions during Katrina, which were so shameful that you’d never believe it. Except of course that you’d totally believe it because you know what a horrible person this “leader” is. But I digress, and that’s Michael’s story to tell, should he ever decide to.

But this Politico report goes a long way towards correcting a public record long and desperately in need of correction.

Democrats Go on Record Against Hillary

August 28th, 2015 - 9:12 am
Eh? (AP photo)

(AP photo)

The latest on Clinton’s email troubles is from the NYT, and it features a couple of big names — who also happen to be Hillary supporters:

Many Democrats worry that this newly contrite tone is too little and too late to quell questions, and that it may not last — given that her responses up to now have been so varied, and her irritation with the issue so thinly veiled.

“They’ve handled the email issue poorly, maybe atrociously, certainly horribly,” said Edward G. Rendell, a former governor of Pennsylvania and a supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. “The campaign has been incredibly tone-deaf, not seeing this as a more serious issue. She should have turned over the email server at the start, because they should have known they’d be forced to give it up. But at this point, there’s nothing they can do to kill the issue — they’re left just playing defense.”

Rosalind Wyman, a veteran Democratic national committeewoman from California who is also a Clinton supporter, said Mrs. Clinton had not shown enough urgency in battling questions about her judgment, and complained that the campaign’s responses to the controversy — and the federal inquiries that have followed — were becoming only more muddled.

“The only thing Hillary can do, I think, is get out there in front of reporters and take five hours of questions — if that’s what it takes — until people understand her, at least, and hopefully believe her,” Ms. Wyman said.

Hopefully believe her? That may very well be wishful thinking at this point, even if Queen Hillary did deign to submit herself to the tender mercies of public scrutiny.

More interesting is that Rendell was willing to go on the record with such a blasting critique of his longtime ally. The story’s undercurrent is that if even Rendell is willing to say that Clinton has handled the crisis “poorly, maybe atrociously, certainly horribly,” then maybe she isn’t fit to be president — opening the door for Rendell and other major supporters to shift their allegiance.

Planned Parenthood Videos Deceptively Edited?

August 28th, 2015 - 8:44 am

The New York Daily News reports on the latest claim:

Planned Parenthood on Thursday provided congressional leaders findings from a private research company that asserts the so-called secretly recorded footage was manipulated and can’t be used as evidence.

“A thorough review of these videos in consultation with qualified experts found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict,” the 10-page analysis said.

Planned Parenthood has denied the validity of the videos, saying they were “heavily edited” and falsely portrays the health care group’s work.

Statements were spliced together at least 42 times to appear like seamless conversations, the analysis found. Two of the videos were each missing 30-minute chunks of footage.

CMP’s “undisclosed edits and cuts distort the meaning of the encounters the videos purport to document,” the analysis said.

It was conducted by Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research and corporate intelligence company, and its co-founder Glenn Simpson, a former investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal, according to The New York Times.

I looked into Fusion GPS, and the company’s public website is nothing more than this:


Information on co-founder Glenn Simpson is equally hard to come by. I searched the WSJ’s archives for his byline, but the search function doesn’t go back far enough — only four years. So what his biases might be I have no idea.

This takes us back to an item from earlier this month:

Last week, Massachusetts’ Attorney General Maura Healey became the latest in what’s sure to be a long list of state attorneys general to conclude the same thing. Specifically, Healy concluded,

“Over the past week, my office has conducted a thorough review and found that Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts’ health care centers are fully compliant with state and federal laws regarding the disposition of fetal tissue. Although donation of fetal tissue is permissible under state and federal law, PPLM does not have a tissue donation program. There is no evidence that PPLM is involved in any way in the buying or selling of tissue. As such, our review is complete.”

Sure, Massachusetts is a leftward-leaning state, but Indiana is very much not. Back on July 16, Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., launched an investigation of Planned Parenthood following the release of what was obviously a doctored and misleading video. The probe focused on facilities in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville, and this past week the Indiana Department of Health reported it was “unable to find any non-compliance with state regulations. Therefore, no deficiencies were cited.”

At this point, CMP really ought to turn over the source tapes to a third party agreed to by them and by Planned Parenthood.

Netflix Dumping Antivirus

August 28th, 2015 - 7:31 am


Anti-virus has been the first line of defence for many firms over the last quarter of a century. Generally speaking, AV relies on malware signatures and behavioural analysis to uncover threats to people’s PCs and smartphones. But in the last 10 years, research has indicated AV is rarely successful in detecting smart malware. In 2014, Lastline Labs discovered only 51 per cent of AV scanners were able to detect new malware samples.

Despite its shortcomings, many are still required to keep hold of their AV product because they’re required to by compliance laws, in particular PCI DSS, the regulation covering payment card protections. There’s also the argument that AV is necessary to pick up the “background noise”, as Quocirca analyst Bob Tarzey describes it. “Despite more and more targeted attacks, random viruses are still rife and traditional AV is still good at dealing with these,” he claims. Major players, including Symantec SYMC +0.00% and Kaspersky, continue to make significant sums, even if results aren’t stellar.

But it’s now possible to dump anti-virus altogether, and Netflix is about to prove it. The firm has found a vendor that covers those compliance demands in the form of SentinelOne. As SentinelOne CEO Tomer Weingarten told me, his firm was given third-party certification from the independent AV-TEST Institute, validating it can do just what anti-virus does in terms of protecting against known threats, whilst providing “an additional new layer of advanced threat protection”.

Netflix moves more bits than just about anybody — certainly in the consumer space. If they’re willing to trust their data protection to something new, then it might just be time to get rid of the old.

Beating Stealth

August 28th, 2015 - 6:14 am
Suddenly visible? (Shutterstock photo)

Suddenly visible?
(Shutterstock photo)

China and Russia are counting on UAVs with low-frequency radar to defeat the stealth technology built into America’s fifth-generation fighter jets:

While at the MAKS show in Moscow this week, Flight Global spoke with Vladimir Mikheev, the first deputy chief executive officer of the electronic systems producer KRET, about a new UAV being shown at the show, which KRET is a subcontractor on. During the interview, Mikheev said the new (thus far, unnamed UAV) is similar to China’s Divine Eagle in that it uses low frequency radars to detect low-observable stealth aircraft like the F-35, F-22 and B-2 bomber. Most stealth aircraft are created to evade high-frequency radar systems.

The Russian UAV goes a step further by integrating a sophisticated electronic warfare suite onto the aircraft. According to Flight Global, “Mikheev says KRET is providing a deeply-integrated electronic warfare system that not only provides a protective electromagnetic sphere around the aircraft to counter air-to-air missiles, but also cloaks it from radars.” Thus, if true, Russia’s new UAV would be able to detect America’s stealth aircraft without itself being detected. That could be a deadly combination.

It’s one thing to put enough low-frequency waves in the air to beat low- observability materials and designs. But this is the first I’ve heard of a “protective electromagnetic sphere” as a sort of cloaking device for a drone. And then there’s the question that if a Russian UAV can have that, why can’t an F-22?

Frankly though it all sounds a bit sci-fi — anyone care to educate me on this one?

Tipping Point for Tipping

August 28th, 2015 - 5:01 am

Thought for the Day

August 27th, 2015 - 4:15 pm


August 27th, 2015 - 2:52 pm
Looking very presidential, my man. (AP photo)

Looking very presidential, my man.
(AP photo)

David Lightman has the latest on the Will He/Won’t He epic:

The vice president spoke to DNC members Wednesday in a 40-minute conference call. Asked about a presidential bid, Biden said he was trying to gauge “whether or not there is the emotional fuel at this time to run,” according to two people familiar with the call.

“If I were to announce to run, I have to be able to commit to all of you that I would be able to give it my whole heart and my whole soul, and right now, both are pretty well banged up,” CNN reported Biden as saying. Biden’s son, Beau, died earlier this year.

The conference call was arranged ostensibly so that Biden could discuss the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal. It also proved a reminder of his role as a key Obama lieutenant, and showcased his expertise on a complex national security issue.

I’m not being cynical — or at least not too cynical — when I remind you that “both are pretty well banged up” is exactly the kind of thing a candidate might say before entering a race, in order to make their decision seem more momentous or even heroic.

That said, Biden did lose his son to cancer, and I have no doubt, none, zero, that his heart and soul are hurting in terrible ways.

All that aside, I find myself in a very strange condition. My brain says there’s only a 20% chance Biden jumps in, but my guts would be shocked if he didn’t.

How about you — are you another sufferer of Brain-Gut Dichotomy?

Drone Killing Laser Gun

August 27th, 2015 - 2:04 pm
(Image courtesy Lucasfilm)

(Image courtesy Lucasfilm)

Not that it’s any big deal or anything, but Boeing just demonstrated a fricken laser gun capable of taking down drones:

Boeing on Wednesday demonstrated a two-kilowatt laser shooting at stationary targets and successfully igniting them. If the targets had been drones in flight, they would have gone down.

Boeing said the military has access to lasers with 10 kilowatts of power.

Laser systems could easily be used to destroy any UAV threats, and could be mounted at the edges of airports or forward operating bases, DeYoung said.

But wait — it gets better:

What’s more, the systems are becoming compact enough to be mounted onto a Jeep or truck for deployment down range.

I hope by “down range” they mean “mounted on the hood of Steve’s truck so he can clear the left lane all up and down I-25 until people finally get the damn message that those ‘Keep Right Except to Pass’ signs are there for a reason.”

Because that’s what “down range” means to me.

Apple Watch Bust — or Boom? [UPDATED]

August 27th, 2015 - 12:55 pm
What happens in Vegas... (Image courtesy of Apple)

What happens in Vegas…
(Image courtesy of Apple)

Wall Street analysts have by-and-large all declared the Apple Watch to be a flop (despite any hard sales data one way or the other), but Best Buy doesn’t seem to see it that way:

“Demand for Apple Watch has been so strong in the stores and online,” Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly told Wall Street analysts on a conference call. The retailer expects to be selling the device, which hit the market in June, at all of its 1,050 big-box stores by the end of September, he added. Initially, Best Buy had planned to have watches in 300 stores by the holiday season. (It started selling the watches in early August.) Apple did not provide specific sales numbers for the watch in its second-quarter earnings last month, but Best Buy’s comments provide more evidence of the device’s success.

It’s been a fool’s game to make any predictions about how well or how poorly Apple Watch is selling. Tim Cook said a year ago Apple wouldn’t be releasing sales figures for the device, or at least not yet. The stated reason is that wearables are a new product category, with a slew of SKUs, and that releasing hard sales numbers to the public — including competitors like Samsung — would give away a competitive advantage. So there’s a good reason for Apple to keep its product mix a closely-held secret. Or maybe the thing is a big flop and Cook doesn’t want to have to admit it. In the absence of sales figures it’s impossible to say.

Here in the Colorado exurbs I’ve only seen two others in the wild, and the only one I see regularly is the one on my wrist. Although I saw them all over in Las Vegas, typically the most expensive* stainless steel in Space Black model. But Vegas is Vegas, and you really shouldn’t make any generalization from what you see there.

In the absence of data then you can either trust the Wall Street analysts who don’t have any skin in the game, or take note of the big moves being made by the CEO who’s been performing a near-miraculous turnaround at the nation’s largest electronic retailer.

I’m still withholding judgement, but there’s no way to read Joly’s action as bad news for Apple.

UPDATE: It just now occurred to me to check Best Buy’s website to see exactly how they’re selling the Watch, and two things stand out. The first is that they aren’t selling any model more expensive than the $699 stainless steel with Milanese loop SKU. The second is that Best Buy is selling exactly at Apple’s MSRP.

So the discount retailer isn’t offering any discounts — another good sign for Apple.