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Monthly Archives: December 2011

From the transcript:

K: Okay and one last thing why won’t you come out about the truth about 9/11?

Paul: Because I can’t handle the controversy, I have the IMF the Federal Reserve to deal with, the IRS to deal with because no because I just have more-too many things on my plate. Because I just have too much to do.

He’s still playing footsie with Truthers. Hey, what the hell — they give him money.

UPDATE: Still playing footsie with racists, too.

The weak defense I wrote of him in 2008 I would never write today.

Why Can’t You Just Get It Through Your Head?

December 20th, 2011 - 8:29 am

It’s official: Greece is very nearly a failed state.

The Things I Do for You People

December 19th, 2011 - 4:52 pm

Hair of the Dog: Watch Robert Reich and Barney Frank do a laughable job of defending Big Government, Nikki Haley says yes to Mitt and no to Veep, and Newt Gingrich has yet another fascinating new theory of government.

Bonus: I take a shot of tequila at 10AM in front of a live camera.

Really.

That’ll Be the Day I Go Back to Annandale

December 19th, 2011 - 3:31 pm

Former San Francisco Mayor and California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown:

If the Occupy people really want to make a point about the 1 percent, then lay off Oakland and go for the real money down in Silicon Valley.

The folks who work on the docks in Oakland or drive the trucks in and out of the port are all part of the 99 percent. They take our goods from all over the state and export them.

The only thing those cats down at Apple are exporting are our jobs. Then they have the nerve to ask for tax breaks, and Washington obliges.

There is no golden goose that any California politician wouldn’t gleefully hang, draw, and quarter for the sake of fifteen more minutes of power.

From Charm to Smarm

December 19th, 2011 - 2:01 pm

Trifecta: Alec Baldwin — good actor, bad man. Primed to play Al Gore in the inevitable biopic?

Want.

December 19th, 2011 - 1:40 pm

Via PJTV’s lovely and talented Alexis Garcia — on whom I just now got a big crush — comes this.

It tasks me and I shall have it.

SAAB Story

December 19th, 2011 - 1:13 pm

Who killed the Swedish car? Our good friends at Government Motors:

But as so often happens in the capital-intensive auto business, the dreamers fail. On Monday, Muller finally threw in the towel after an exhaustive hunt for financing to keep the company going. In reality, Saab died last spring when the company stopped producing cars in Sweden and couldn’t meet its payroll. Sporadic cash infusions from the Swedish government and various Chinese investors had extended Saab’s life artificially, but now, finally, it will be liquidated.

Ironically, it was GM that finally forced Muller to end his resuscitation bid. The U.S. carmaker (which had been licensing technology to Saab) still owned preferred shares in Saab, thus giving it a say in any potential change of control. Muller had a last-ditch plan to sell Saab to a Chinese contract manufacturer, Youngman, for about $130 million. But GM, which is the leading manufacturer in China through its joint venture with China’s SAIC, objected, saying it couldn’t support a deal that would create a new competitor in China (especially one using GM’s intellectual property, although it’s not entirely clear how much GM technology would have been in Saab’s next products, including the 9-5 sport wagon, 9-3 compact and 9-1 subcompact).

GM’s decision to end its licensing and contract manufacturing relationship with Saab, and refusal to back the Youngman buyout, was the final nail in the coffin.

Then again, SAAB’s fate was probably sealed when GM purchased the company in 1989. The General had too many marques and too little market share to justify the takeover, even back then. From there, things got worse, and the funky little carmaker became just another rebadged GM Whatever.

Such a shame.

Required Viewing

December 19th, 2011 - 12:13 pm
YouTube Preview Image

The Taiwanese animators are moving fast this week.

Compare and Contrast

December 19th, 2011 - 11:49 am

House: Passed a year-long, paid-for, payroll tax holiday.

Senate: Choked on anything longer than two months.

President Obama ought to run against that do-nothing Senate.

UPDATE: Experts say the two-month extension isn’t logistically doable.

Kim Jong-il: Checking Up Before Checking Out

December 19th, 2011 - 10:26 am

Kim Jong-il Looking at Things: A blog.

UPDATE: What’s interesting is that every picture is identical, in that there is nothing to see — no people, no activity, no nothing — outside of the Dear Leader, his entourage, and his immediate focus.

Every. Single. Picture.

I’ve written quite a bit about North Korea over the years, but let’s start off this morning with Michael Mazza and seven scenarios for the DPRK’s immediate future:

1. Kim Jong-un, Jong-il’s youngest son, steps quickly and easily into his father’s shoes. All goes swimmingly.

2. Kim Jong-il adviser Jang Song-taek acts as regent to the younger Kim and rules effectively while Jong-un continues to hone his chops in Pyongyang.

3. North Korea launches artillery attacks against the South.

4. North Korea tests a nuclear device.

5. Factional in-fighting will prevent any individual or group from exercising effective control.

6. Kim Jong-il’s death was not natural as reported. Kim Jong-un and other members of the Kim family may be next on the hit-list.

7. The additional uncertainty caused by Kim’s death drives segments of an already hungry, malnourished population over the edge. North Koreans head for the Chinese border in droves.

Left out: Another strongman could emerge to replace the Kim dynasty and hold the country together. Probably from the Army, certainly with Stalinesque purges.

Kim Jong Young-un is only 28. We think. We know he was promoted to general recently, and started wearing big boy pants. What has he been doing? Wielding power behind-the-scenes and forging alliances and shooting random ministers to ensure a smooth transition (and keeping) of power?

Again, we just don’t know.

But there certainly doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that. What there is evidence of, is that the Party is losing control in the provinces abutting China. And that corruption has grown much worse, since the Party is low on goodies to hand out to loyal members. Smuggling — goods and humans — is the only thing keeping things going, but even that’s not enough.

So let’s take a look at the scenarios.

Number 1 is what everybody in the Party wants. It’s also almost certainly impossible.

Number 6 strikes me as the least likely. Kim Jong-il had been dying for a very long time. His death was neither sudden nor surprising, so why kill him now, when his presence is the only thing ensuring that your clique remains in power? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but not likely.

Number 4 is a variation on Number 3, and we have to file them both under “anything can happen.” I don’t expect a real shooting war with the South, as that would be a 100% guarantee that the North ceases to exist.

Number 2 is what the Party would accept. Dynasty assured, reliable regent in place. Surely this is what they’ll work for. However, this one might be obviated by Number 5. The economy will continue to slide, forcing the various cliques and circles to fight over a shrinking pie.

So Number 5 would make Number 7 almost inevitable.

Which brings us to my addition, Number 8: Chinese paratroopers in Pyongyang. And pretty much everywhere else, too.

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“What knockers!”

December 17th, 2011 - 7:46 am

Chuck Todd gets caught giving the single finger salute, Michelle Obama decorates for the holidays with her usual restraint, and Barack Obama rates himself as at least the fourth bestest president evah — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!

Bonus: Learn the shocking truth behind that missing stealth drone.

Christopher Hitchens: RIP

December 16th, 2011 - 8:05 am

“Eloquent” is such an easy word, you feel like you need to coin something special just for Christopher Hitchens. It would have to combine “eloquent” with “erudite” and “deliberate” and “devastating” and “shocking” and “unflinching” and “élan” and “delightful,” all twirled up together into an irreducible whole. I suppose “Hitch” would do, only now that he’s gone we have no one to apply it to.

Years ago, I watched my best friend wage a losing war with cancer. Hitchens’ essays on his own fight were somehow more illuminating, more intimate than my actually having been there all those years ago. He wrote his essays without ever sounding maudlin, yet without false hope or cheap cheer. Hitchens wrote about his own dying process the same way he wrote about everything else: perfectly “Hitch.”

I didn’t know the man, never so much as bumped into him by chance at some conference or meeting or watering hole. I would have liked to. As something of convivial drinker myself, I like to think we’d have been able to hit it off, if only for a few hours. Anything longer than that, and I fear I’d stop being interesting to him. And that’s OK: What an unforgettable experience that would have been, if only for me.

Hitchens lived big, thought big, wrote big, drank big, and smoked big — which was, of course, his eventual undoing. We watched him fight and die, just as big and as publicly as he did anything else, and we knew this coming. Looking at all the columns and remembrances and blogs this morning, you can tell many people had their obits in the can weeks or months ago, awaiting this day to fill in the proper dates and add a few final thoughts or details.

I didn’t do that. I couldn’t do that. Because while I know he’s gone, I don’t yet miss him. There are still works of his I haven’t read. For as long as I want it to, there will always be new Hitchens available to me, in the way I knew him best: On the printed page. He left, as the late Steve Jobs used to say, “a dent in the universe.”

The English-speaking world lost two of its most daring thinkers in the last few months, men brought down by their own bad habits. I suppose there’s a lesson in there. I don’t suppose we’ll learn it any time soon.

Like Hitchens, I don’t believe in an afterlife. I hope we’re both wrong. And if there is a heaven big enough to squeeze in Hitch, it had better have a smoking section.

If doesn’t, it soon will.

What, He Was Going to Run on His Record?

December 15th, 2011 - 3:16 pm

Trifecta: Here it comes — the nastiest presidential campaign in American history.

Third Look: Rick Perry

December 15th, 2011 - 1:12 pm

Ed Morrissey, reporting on Iowa:

Which candidate, then, can fill what looks to be an opening to the right of Gingrich and Romney? At the moment, that candidate may be Rick Perry. In the Insider Advantage and ARG polls, Perry has more than doubled his support in the last couple of weeks, going from 5 percent to 13 percent in both. The Texas governor has launched a “saturation” ad buy in Iowa, spending over a million dollars in the three markets over the next couple of weeks on radio and TV spots. After a disastrous series of debates, Perry has suddenly become pretty good in the format, if not great. He got the better of Mitt Romney in Des Moines on Saturday, and stayed energetic and focused throughout the event.

It’s good to see Perry showing some strength. I headlined this post with “Third Look,” because of something George Will wrote a week or two ago. Dismissing Newt and Mitt, Will argued that GOP voters should given Huntsman and Perry “a second look.”

Well, I’d given Perry a good look at governor of Texas, and saw a lot to like. I took a second look at him when he launched his campaign, and what we all saw mostly made us cringe. His debate performances were especially awful, not least because he tended to fade after the first 90 minutes, making the last half hour even more painful. And, yes, such a thing was possible.

But Ed’s right. Perry was strong last weekend, and stayed that way right up until the end. If he can do it again tonight — I’ll be drunkblogging, of course — then Iowa might not be the end of Perry.

Kill It, Kill It with Fire!

December 15th, 2011 - 12:18 pm

Microsoft is finally giving IE 6 the axe — WinXP, Win7 users will automatically receive updates to IE 8 and IE 9, respectively. That is, provided they have auto-updates turned on, which most do.

Webmasters everywhere sigh with relief.

Program Note

December 15th, 2011 - 8:22 am

Against medical advice, I will drunkblog tonight’s GOP debate. Tune in to the PJMedia homepage at 8:45PM Eastern/5:45PM Pacific for all the gory fun.

Required Reading

December 14th, 2011 - 4:12 pm

I loved this Teller story (of Penn & Teller) by Richard Abowitz. I also love magic. Maybe if you don’t love magic you won’t love this story. But read it anyway:

This is going to be a story about a ball and a string — and Teller.

After Penn walks offstage, Teller, hoop in hand, slowly coaxes the ball to life and makes it do his bidding. Over the course of the trick the ball goes from indifferent to awakening to willing playmate. Though the narrative has Teller getting the ball to jump through his hoop, the ball’s most singularly beautiful moment is when it attains a perfect balance on the edge of the hoop. Audience applause achieved, the ball turns mischievous and follows Teller across the stage as if in need of more play. Teller tries to treat the ball with affection as he sits on a bench, gently petting it. But the increasingly aggressive ball finally chases the magician off stage: A little red ball brought to life and then pursuing its creator, a Frankenstein’s monster. It is all very magical, or would be if Penn had not told you there was a thread involved.

This trick, by the way, is called “The Red Ball,” for no more complicated reason than that the ball is red. The string, obviously, you don’t see from the audience. The audience member examining the ball never notices the thread either. The hoop and bench used for the trick go unmentioned in the title. But unlike the string you can see those onstage. And, like the ball, an audience member gets to examine the hoop to see that it is unrigged. Now that I think about it, no one examines the bench.

I am not sure that matters because, after all, we’ve been told about the thread. But there is a caveat: I have to take Penn and Teller’s word that there is a string.

H/T, Gruber.

Hitler Reacts to GOP Primary

December 14th, 2011 - 3:19 pm

Heh. But file this one under “inevitable.”

Developers Love iOS, Question Android

December 14th, 2011 - 2:56 pm

I’ve said for a about a year now that “Google makes Android, but Apple makes money.” And even as Android continues to gobble up marketshare, that remains true — even for app developers. For every dollar developers make selling to iOS users, they make a paltry 24¢ from Android.

That might explain this chart, showing that iOS remains the go-to market — up, Apple v. Google from last year. Way up.

I think this comes back to a story from last month. iOS users constitute over 61% of all mobile web traffic, despite not being even a plurality of smartphone users.

iOS users browse the web, by nearly two-to-one. iOS users spend money on apps, by more than four-to-one.

Why?

My gut tells me this: The majority — maybe even the vast majority — of Android users didn’t really want a smartphone. They wanted a nice touchscreen phone, and they didn’t want to pay a lot of money for one. Nothing wrong with that. Different customers have different needs and desires. But it does make a difference in the several-and-fractured Android app marketplaces. The quality isn’t always (or even often?) there:

But the thing that really damned Android for me in the long run was this general feeling that I had moved into a technological ghetto. The apps in the Android market were almost uniformly cheap and low-quality. Visually the OS seems like a patchwork of scavenged design ideas—I call it the “dorm-room furniture aesthetic.”

Cost-conscience consumers who never had much interest in a smartphone-qua-smartphone aren’t going to give developers much reason to produce quality apps. And security concerns can’t help much, either. All phones carry privacy issues, every single one. If you expect a privacy law or some incoherent “right” to do anything more for you than you can, simply by closing the blinds and keeping your mouth shut, you’re going to be disappointed.

I think there’s a market — and a large one — waiting for something newish. Something far more than a feature phone, but with more built-in features than an iPhone. Because app stores aren’t for everybody, I think we’ve seen. Something smart, feature-riffic, and well-made, but still discountable at a profit.

I think that niche could be filled by Windows Phone 7 on Nokia. Pretty much everything a not-quite-smartphone user needs is built-in by Microsoft. The app store is curated, small, and features high-quality apps. The user interface is sharp and intuitive. On the marketing side, Nokia knows a thing or three about selling phones on the cheap, everywhere in the world.

Don’t get me wrong: Windows Phone 7 is a fully-fledged smartphone. But it’s also a better and safer “in-betweener” than Android.

Can they exploit this market? So far, the answer is no. But Microsoft is making some smart moves in terms of personnel and in marketing. Maybe they’ll get there.

No More Fun in the Sun

December 14th, 2011 - 12:39 pm

This will end well:

Bargain holidays for Westerners looking to get a bit of sunshine and a drink by the pool in the winter could be a thing of the past on Egypt’s Red Sea coast.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which won success in the first round of parliamentary elections last month, is set on turning Egypt into a ‘sin-free’ holiday resort.

But the end of sun worshippers flying to resorts like Sharm el-Sheikh could spell disaster for an economy that has already been battered by this year’s political unrest.

As our own Spengler has noted, Egypt imports half of its calories, which must be paid for with foreign reserves, which must be earned… somehow.

Welcome to Somalia del Med.

Trifecta: Vladimir Putin — scared shirtless?

Christiane Out, George Back, Jake Stiffed

December 14th, 2011 - 8:25 am

It’s official: Christiane Amanpour is out as host of This Week. That’s the good news. The other bit is… just more of the same.

Quite literally. George Stephanopoulos is returning to his old seat to resume hosting duties on January 8. So you’ll forgive me if my happy dance is a little subdued.

I can understand why Stephanopoulos wants back. The old Clinton hand was always a strange fit on GMA. He never seemed very comfortable in the role of genial morning host, trying to be taken Sunday-morning-seriously doing weekday-morning fluff. Did George think he was going to reinvent weekday morning news? Well, he didn’t.

Amanpour evidently thought she could reinvent the Sunday public affairs shows. But we’ve already gone into some detail about that, and I’d really rather not re-rehash her last 16 months of ick.

But what about Jake Tapper? He was a competent and confident host during his brief tenure, as Amanpour worked behind the scenes to rejigger the opening credits, the theme music, the format, and the guest roster. Tapper has been reporting from the White House and the campaign trails for years now. He has the experience. He has the Rolodex. Shouldn’t Jake have gotten the job? I felt so two years ago, and I feel the same way today.

There are only two reasonable objections I can imagine. One, Jake’s ratings were lower than Stephanopoulos’. Then again, audiences take time to warm up to new faces, and everybody knew Jake was temporary fill-in. Why tune in and get attached to someone who will be gone in a few weeks? Tapper never had the chance to build an audience, and viewers were never given a reason to invest in him. And that’s a shame.

The other objection is: Tapper is just too young for such a hefty job. Jake is almost exactly my age, 43 next spring. That’s not a whole lot of seasoning for the show that was once the gold standard for Sunday mornings. But Stephanopoulos took the job in 2002 — at about 41 years of age. But Stephanopoulos was an old Clinton hand. And Tapper never was.

Which is apparently enough to make all the difference in the world.

Embrace / Distance / Outlaw

December 13th, 2011 - 2:50 pm

Trifecta: Charlotte is going to crack down on the Occupy movement — just to make for a prettier re-coronation of President Obama at the Democratic National Convention.

But will they get a repeat of 1968, anyway?

The Smartest Thing You’ll Read All Day

December 13th, 2011 - 2:06 pm

Will Collier: Gallup and Ray LaHood achieve synchronicity.

OVERHEARD: Trump Celebrity Debate has been cancelled.

Kudos to the various GOP candidates who said No to The Donald.

And Now, a Brief Message

December 13th, 2011 - 10:49 am

You stay classy, David Axelrod! Talking Newt:

At briefing for reporters, Chicagoan says of the Georgian: “The higher a monkey climbs on the pole the more you can see his butt.”

AND: Doesn’t forget to sneak in a Romney tweak: “Generally his practice has been to bet other people’s money, not his own.”

I wonder what Axelrod’s money guy thinks about that last bit. Oh, never mind — I’m sure he’ll gladly keep it zipped for The Cause.

I’m not going to miss Chicago politics, will you?

And the winners are…

December 13th, 2011 - 10:33 am

The tablet war is over. Apple and Amazon won. Too early to tell, you say? Not when the others are abandoning the battlefield already:

Traditional PC makers are said to not be paying much attention to the tablet market controlled by Apple and now Amazon, and are instead pinning their hopes on thin-and-light Ultrabooks to improve gross margins.

Of course, PC makers haven’t been able to compete with Apple’s MacBook air on materials, or on price without a $100 subsidy from chipmaker Intel.

It’s the Return of Jake Tapper?

December 12th, 2011 - 5:16 pm

It’s all about Mitt’s big bet, Newt’s big surge, and Amanpour’s big exit on this week’s Hair of the Dog.

Bonus: ABC’s Jon Karl wields the shiv. You don’t want to mess with this guy.

So That Happened.

December 12th, 2011 - 2:08 pm

Michele Obama and 300,265 other people broke the world record for jumping jacks.

We’re saved.