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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Required Viewing

January 16th, 2012 - 7:23 am
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Almost 50 years later, still one of the greatest moments in American history.

Hey, Somebody Turned the Lights Off!

January 14th, 2012 - 8:08 am

It’s another all-star lineup with a cast of thousands! We have Jesse Ventura, the SEAL who decked Jesse Ventura, Chris Christie getting dirty with a heckler, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton doing their best Tina Turner, Al Sharpton playing the race card, Dan Rather telling the truth (!!!), and the first-ever video of that star-studded White House Halloween party — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!

Friday Night Videos

January 13th, 2012 - 9:49 pm
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David Bowie’s title track from Paul Schrader’s wickedly over-the-top 1982 remake of Cat People. Big budget, big names, cheap thrills. I love this record and I love this movie.

Giving Google the Single Finger Salute

January 13th, 2012 - 10:47 am

Gizmodo‘s Mat Honan explains why he ditched Google for Bing:

Google changed the way search works this week. It deeply integrated Google+ into search results. It’s ostensibly meant to deliver more personalized results. But it pulls those personalized results largely from Google services—Google+, Picasa, YouTube. Search for a restaurant, and instead of its Yelp page, the top result might be someone you know discussing it on Google Plus. Over at SearchEngineland, Danny Sullivan has compiled a series of damning examples of the ways Google’s new interface promotes Plus over relevancy. Long story short: It’s a huge step backwards.

And:

But I didn’t switch for political reasons, or as an act of protest. I don’t care if Google hurts Twitter or Facebook—or even Friendster for that matter. Boo-hoo. I only care if it hurts me. And this does. Google broke itself.

I switched to Bing months ago, for privacy reasons. I don’t have any accounts associated with Microsoft or Yahoo, and I never give them any personal information — not even email. That’s probably about as close to “private” as you’ll ever get on the web. Privacy isn’t a right, because it’s not something you can do. It’s merely a nice commodity you can struggle to keep a tiny bit of to yourself. That’s not easy in the digital age.

Anyway.

I noticed immediately that Bing was more like Google than Google had been since they started messing with their front end. Now, Google is messing with the back end — your search results — too.

Bing is better.

Taxing Our Noses to Spite Our Faces

January 13th, 2012 - 8:58 am

Just seen on Instapundit:

Apple may have enough cash on hand to make Scrooge McDuck’s money vault look like a kiddie pool by comparison, but according to SeekingAlpha, most of that cash is effectively trapped overseas. US$54 billion of Apple’s overall $82 billion in cash is in offshore accounts, and Apple cannot repatriate that money to the States unless it wants to pay a huge 35 percent corporate tax on it.

If Apple attempted to bring that money into the States, right off the bat through the magic of taxes that $54 billion would transform into $35.1 billion, with the other $18.9 billion disappearing down the federal money hole. With that much cash at stake, it’s no wonder that Apple hasn’t been in any hurry to repatriate its huge foreign cash reserves.

Apple — which doesn’t often buy other companies — just purchased outright a custom-Flash memory designer. In Israel.

Coincidence?

The Stupid Party Wastes Another Opportunity

January 13th, 2012 - 8:33 am

You’ve probably seen the Gallup headline already, “Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S.” But dig into the story a bit and the numbers get interesting:

Of registered Republicans, 71% call themselves “conservative” or “very conservative.” That says to me — at least at the grassroots — this is a party very much in tune with itself. The leadership doesn’t always reflect this. Although part of that is due to the lack of depth of the GOP bench, thanks to huge (and well-deserved) losses in 2006 and 2008.

But let’s look at the Democrats. 38% of the party is made up of self-described moderates, but an virtually equal number 39% — says that they’re “liberal” or “very liberal.” That’s a party with a serious fissure, waiting to be exploited. And considering just how liberal the party leadership is, should make the job even easier. Honestly, the Democratic party today is ripe for a political civil war.

So what’s the GOP doing to help push the Democrats along to a rupture, or even just to peel away some of those moderates? Dunno. Can’t tell that they’re doing anything at all.

I’m Slowly Becoming Reconciled Myself

January 12th, 2012 - 12:34 pm

These are the only metrics you need to know from New Hampshire:

More important, Romney was the first choice of tea party supporters (winning 41 percent of their votes) and self-described evangelical or born-again Christians (31 percent). And he carried every ideological band on the GOP spectrum, including 29 percent of those who called themselves “very conservative.”

New Hampshire is just one state, of course. But if more generally the Tea Party, the Evangelicals, and the “very conservative” have made peace with Romney, then he’s the nominee. And all those “I’l l never vote for Romney!” vows probably won’t amount to much more than Alec Baldwin’s promise to leave the country.

Only the Truth is Funny

January 12th, 2012 - 12:28 pm

John Dickerson on the unfunny GOP field:

A remarkable fact about the 2012 Republican presidential campaign is that it is not funny. Republican candidates give speech after speech and draw only a handful of chuckles, and the occasional wry smile. This makes for boring politics, but it also makes for bad politics. People want to like politicians they vote for and a smile helps with that. Laughter is also an effective tool for undermining your opponents and spreading your message with voters.

So here’s a presidential rib-tickler for you:

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Somebody is laughing all the way to an unheated field office in Barrow, Alaska.

Higher Education Bubble Prediction

January 12th, 2012 - 10:09 am

A little something at Instapundit caught my eye a few minutes ago, and set one of my few remaining wheels in motion. The headline reads, “The Value Gap: Americans Increasingly Question The Cost Of Going To College.” But the story says:

“The annual price tag for a college credential has risen about three times as fast as inflation, and there is no sign that it’s slowing down. In the last decade alone, tuition rates at public colleges and universities, which enroll about 80 percent of American students, rose by an average of 5.6 percentage points above inflation every year. . . . College presidents seem tone-deaf to those concerns. In a companion survey conducted with The Chronicle, three-fourths of college leaders said the system was providing a good or excellent value.”

Students increasingly see college as an expensive endeavor unlikely to bring rewards commensurate to its costs. Administrators think everything is just fine. Why the gap?

Two words: Easy credit.

As long as government guarantees free money to warm bodies, of course the deans will stay happy. But what happens when the warm bodies stop showing up? Well, here’s where it gets counter-intuitive: Tuition hikes will accelerate even faster than the current three-time-higher-than inflation. Gotta keep the money coming in. Gotta pay for that new stadium, even if it is half-empty. Gotta pay those outrageous salaries for all those unneeded administrators. Gotta keep the ivy looking just so.

Look, some degrees are inherently useful and will generate large salaries in most any economy. I’m thinking mostly here of engineering and practical sciences. These poor kids will have to pay up to get the sheepskins they need. And admins, used to riding the easy credit gravy train, will be happy to charge them all the traffic will bear — and then some. Meanwhile, we’ll be seeing far fewer 27-year-old baristas with advanced literature degrees.

Until, of course, the universities start charging even more than an aerospace engineering degree is worth, at which point the bubble pops. Although the 27-year-old barista with the advanced literature degree will probably be permanently consigned to the dustbin of history.

What Do You Call a Verbal Typo?

January 12th, 2012 - 8:06 am

Trifecta: Meghan McCain and the “emoticon of privacy.”

You either saw this clip and know how much fun we’re having with it, or you haven’t seen it and you must. Either way, that’s a click thru, my friends.

Posted Without (Much) Comment

January 11th, 2012 - 1:33 pm

Goodness.

Happy Birthday

January 11th, 2012 - 12:00 pm

The Daily Caller turns two today. If I’m doing my math right, that’s one year each for Mickey Kaus and Jim Treacher.

I kid — but having the two of them in one stop is an awfully nice convenience.

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

January 11th, 2012 - 11:02 am

Here’s the story you’re least likely to care about today:

Human rights groups plan protests worldwide on Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, organizers said.

Demonstrators in Washington including Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights will rally at the White House and then march to the Capitol and Supreme Court, an Amnesty International spokeswoman said. Several hundred protesters are expected.

Silly protestors. Don’t they know we closed Gitmo almost three years ago? I distinctly remember that lot.

But Camelot Still Wasn’t Really Camelot

January 11th, 2012 - 10:39 am

Trifecta: It’s an Alice in Wonderland world inside the White House — literally.

Salud Youlself, Pal!

January 10th, 2012 - 4:59 pm

And now, a few words from the indispensable Will Collier, my one-time partner in crime around these parts.

Which reminds me, we have got to get together for drinks again, and soonish.

It’s a Madhouse — A Madhouse!

January 10th, 2012 - 2:36 pm

Trifecta: Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Jon Huntsman all reveal their latest disdain for capitalism — on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

You don’t stop Mitt Romney by acting like Barack Obama, fellas. This one is going to bite us all on our asses.

Browncoats, I Swear…

January 10th, 2012 - 1:06 pm

I know what I’m spending the rest of the day practicing: Firefly‘s 15 best Chinese curses (and how to say them).

Ten years ago almost this very moment, VodkaPundit was born with this inaugural post:

It is the VodkaPundit’s view that the best commentary comes after a lovely adult beverage or three. Just enough, in his grandfather’s wise words, to “loosen the lips and sharpen the wits.” Thus, you’ll find most new postings after 5pm.

The VodkaPundit is squirreled away in his Rocky Mountain hideaway, imbibing the news in safety and secrecy. Just so you know, he’ll be attacking things from the Decadence Caucus of the Heinlein Wing of the small-L libertarian perspective.

And a special thanks to Home Depot, without whom the new office dry bar would still be just a dream.

How long ago is ten years in blog time? A few weeks before launching VodkaPundit, I told the then-VodkaFiancée, “After the holidays, I’m going to start a blog.” And she said, “A what?”

A hobby turned into a job — so now the postings begin much earlier in the day. Part of that job involves sitting in front of a high-definition video camera, operated in real time from a studio in Los Angeles. That was unthinkable in 2002, when I was using an achingly slow dial-up connection and the notoriously unreliable BlogSpot.

People once known only virtually have become real friends, and some of those friends have become coworkers. But the song remains the same: Covering the absurd in American politics, and the delightful in American life.

And I’m going to keep doing it until somebody makes me stop.

Win One Like the Gipper

January 10th, 2012 - 9:34 am

William McGurn, in today’s WSJ:

Today we remember the Gipper as a popular and beloved American figure. That’s not the way he was presented to the American public when he was running against Jimmy Carter in 1980. Back then, Mr. Reagan was cast as a divisive, Neanderthal warmonger itching to push the nuclear button.

President Carter played to this image. A “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” after the single presidential debate that year noted that Mr. Carter had used the word “dangerous” six times. Another observer added that the president had also called Reagan “heartless,” “insensitive,” “misleading,” “disturbing” and “irresponsible.”

Mr. Reagan didn’t let it get to him. When Mr. Carter implied Mr. Reagan was against Medicare because he opposed all efforts to help provide decent health care for American citizens, Mr. Reagan smiled and shook his head. Then he issued four devastating words that have now entered the political lexicon: “There you go again.”

The Republican nominee is going to need a lot of those moments — not just one — to overcome the media and political obstacles about to be thrown in his way.

Good cheer, good humor, and warm generosity even in the face of unnatural adversity. That’s how to beat the Media-Government Complex.

Aiko Could Not Be Reached for Comment

January 10th, 2012 - 9:06 am

I suppose having robot politicians enjoys the novelty of never having been tried before:

Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro said Monday that a “robot” would be better in the White House than President Barack Obama — or any of the Republicans candidates in the 2012 election race.

“Is it not obvious that the worst of all is the absence in the White House of a robot capable of governing the United States and preventing a war that would end the life of our species?” Castro, 85, wrote in one of the “reflections” he often publishes in Cuba’s state-controlled media.”

For once in my life, I find myself agreeing with Fidel Castro.

Hair of the Dog: Stephanopoulos is back at This Week, Wasserman-Schultz has already broken her New Year’s resolution to get a new talking point, David Axelrod questions Mitt’s patriotism — and I grow a ZZ Top beard. For America.

BONUS: See Rick Santorum flash a gang sign.

Welcome to the Club, Boys

January 9th, 2012 - 3:27 pm

I don’t suppose I mind the company of ColorofChange.org, but I exposed Pat Buchanan as a “Nazi apologist troglodyte” more than half a decade ago.

Sunshine State Shining on Mitt?

January 9th, 2012 - 2:26 pm

I first noticed during one of my many debate drunkblogs, that Mitt Romney was positioning himself with retirees and Jewish voters to make Florida his post-South Carolina-apocalypse firewall. No sense in digging up the link, because I know we’ve talked about since then.

Anyway, Nate Silver has taken the latest Florida poll data and put it together like so:

Tea Party, you’ve got South Carolina and Florida (and the next 22 days) to stop Romney. After that, I suggest you bite the bullet and hold your noses and fall into line and any other appropriate metaphor.

Bill Daley is out as President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff. The amazing thing is, he lasted as long as he did — a few days shy of a one year. Just en months into his star-crossed office, the Wall Street Journal reported that

Mr. Daley’s core responsibilities are shifting, following White House missteps in the debt-ceiling fight and in its relations with Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

On Monday, Mr. Daley turned over day-to-day management of the West Wing to Pete Rouse, a veteran aide to President Obama, according to several people familiar with the matter. It is unusual for a White House chief of staff to relinquish part of the job.

And it might be no coincidence that Obama has performed better politically and in the polls since Daley’s demotion-in-everything-but-name. Really, all that was left to do was to allow a respectful length of time to pass before handing him his coat and hat and showing him the door.

There’s a good reason for that, too. This is a White House running on something like chaos theory, only without the underlying order. Jacob Lew comes in as Obama’s third CoC, a first-erm record only matched by George H W Bush’s disorderly White House.

And let’s think about Obama’s third choice: Jacob Lew? The budget director? The guy who took “tax and spend” and turned it into “spend and demonize the opposition?” This is the guy to bring order to the court?

No, it’s pure politics, and Chicago hardball at that. If you thought 2011 was ugly, with battles over taxes and debt ceilings, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Daley had to go because he was a squish. Lew had to come in, because somebody has got to smack the Republicans around while the President tries to campaign towards the left-left-left, tacking rightward from the left-left-left-left-left.

But I wasn’t really expecting anything else. Were you?

The iPhone was revealed five years ago today, although it would be another six months before it was made available to the public. That’s a very unApple way to do things. Typically, the company keeps its cards very close to its vest, right up until a product is ready to ship, or very nearly ready. In this case, Apple apparently figured the months-long FCC approval process was going to lead to leaks anyway. So why not tell everybody exactly what was up, then make them wait for it?

At the time of the big reveal, RIM was caught flat-footed:

The BlackBerry maker is now known to have held multiple all-hands meetings on January 10 that year, a day after the iPhone was on stage, and to have made outlandish claims about its features. Apple was effectively accused of lying as it was supposedly impossible that a device could have such a large touchscreen but still get a usable lifespan away from a power outlet.

The iPhone “couldn’t do what [Apple was] demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life.”

Word is, the folks in Redmond thought the same thing at the time.

So here we are five years later, and pretty much every smartphone looks and works like an iPhone. The only significant changes to the original iPhone were the additions of GPS and the App Store. The former is a very nice convenience. The latter changed the way we use our phones, buy our software, and think about computing. iOS has gotten some lovely upgrades over the years, but nothing to really compare with the two biggies I just mentioned.

No, the iPhone screen hasn’t gotten any bigger or smaller. Nor is it likely to. If Apple thought a bigger (or smaller) screen worked better, then that would be the size they’d make. (Same goes for the 9.7″ screen on the iPad.) The form factor has hardly changed at all. In fact, the iPhone 4 and 4S aren’t merely indistinguishable, they look more like the iPhone 1 than the iPhone 3 & 3GS did. Materials determine the form, and for the moment, there’s nothing better out there than machined aluminum and Gorilla glass. When that changes, so will the phone.

In other words, Apple scored a home-run in its first at-bat in an industry filled with entrenched incumbents — who spent the next two years trying to copy Apple’s success. And they did it by copying Apple’s… everything else. Today, there is a report that by 2013, each Android phone sold could earn Apple $10 bucks a pop, due to copyright infringements and licensing fees.

As I’ve said before: Google makes Android, but Apple makes money.

The unanswerable question is: What comes next?

Apple believes — I won’t say “at its core” — in demolishing its own platforms. Steve Jobs famously said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” Apple introduced the iPhone at a time when iPods accounted for nearly half the company’s profits. And yet, iPhone included “the world’s best iPod” on it — for free. Just another feature of the phone. iPod sales have been in decline almost since. Meanwhile, Microsoft was launching the ill-fated Zune to compete with the iPod, while Apple was destroying the iPod from within.

So what does come next? How will Apple upend — I won’t say “its own applecart” — the iPhone? It hardly seems possible, but the platform is five years old now. That’s how old the iPod was when the iPhone was revealed.

Something tells me change is coming yet again, sooner rather than later. I don’t know exactly when. I certainly don’t know what. But I fully expect to be amazed and delighted by the magic of something insanely great.

Sleep Tight

January 8th, 2012 - 12:38 pm

What’s next for Greece:

UBS, which has been issuing ever gloomier forecasts over the past few months, with the sole intent of getting someone to bail out the European financial system, which despite the current stay of execution is increasingly more brittle (because solvency crises only get worse with time, never better), has just come out with its magnum opus. In a report released overnight, the firm’s Global Rates Team has just jumped the shark, with a prediction that things in Europe are literally about to implode: “we anticipate that the crisis will deteriorate further than the stressed levels of late November. We do not believe that Greek PSI will take place in a “voluntary” fashion but instead expect coercive restructuring of Greek debt either before or soon after the March redemption, triggering CDS contracts.

I’m not sure which part is scarier: “implode” or “coercive restructuring.”

Makin’ Whoopi, sharing the cancer, giving the President a credit check, the head wound of the week, and a photoshop that will send chills up your spine and an anti-thrill down your leg — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!

Bonus: KHAAAAAAAAAN!

Friday Night Videos

January 6th, 2012 - 9:27 pm
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For the smooth geek inside us all.

Gradually, Then Suddenly

January 6th, 2012 - 2:33 pm

The holiday season didn’t do much for one big box retailer:

Best Buy on Friday reported weaker than expected revenue for the five weeks ended December 31st, 2011. The company noted $8.4 billion in revenue, which was flat compared to the same period last year but included a comparable store sales decline of 1.2%. The company’s international segment generated $1.9 billion in revenue, a 1.7% decrease and a 4.3% drop off in store sales. Its domestic segment generated $6.5 billion in revenue, which was up 0.4% from the same period last year but it also represented a 0.4% drop in store sales.

I don’t know whether the bad numbers were due to the weak economy, or because Best Buy has entered its death spiral.

Also, I highly recommend you click that last link. Larry Downes has written an interesting and highly readable critique of what’s wrong with Best Buy.

Shorter David Brooks: “I’m a chump.”

Slightly longer David Brooks: “I’m a chump and a totally failed you in my primary responsibility to not be a chump so you should never read or listen to me again.”

What’s this “again” business, David?