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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Required Reading

June 30th, 2013 - 4:37 pm

You really ought not to miss Patrick Poole’s liveblog of the protests in Egypt, which the BBC calls the largest “political event in the history of mankind.”

Maybe at some point even the US networks will provide the coverage the protestors deserve.


This Isn’t Funny — Anymore

June 30th, 2013 - 2:32 pm

Keeping an Eye on Things

June 30th, 2013 - 1:13 pm

Scandal du jour:

The European Union has demanded that the United States explain a report in a German magazine that Washington is spying on the group, using unusually strong language to confront its closest trading partner over its alleged surveillance activities.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said on Sunday the EU contacted U.S. authorities in Washington and Brussels about a report in Der Spiegel magazine that the U.S. secret service had tapped EU offices in Washington, Brussels and at the United Nations.

The French are getting into it, too. This could turn into a clusterstuff of a diplomatic mess.

But my first reaction to this story was, Of course we’re spying on our allies. It’s what nations do. Although when you spy on your friends, it’s better to think of it as “Just keeping an eye on things.” They do it to you, too.

The question is whether the Administration has engaged in the gentlemanly amount of “Keeping an eye on things,” allowed by unwritten agreement, or if it’s risen to a sinister level. But my guts tells me we’ll see a gentlemanly amount of diplomatic protest, followed by gentlemanly apologies, followed by a swift return to gentlemanly business as usual.

Gotta keep an eye on things, after all.

Meanwhile in Egypt

June 30th, 2013 - 12:32 pm

Here we go again:

Demonstrations are being reported across the country

•In Alexandria, the second-biggest city, thousands of protesters gathered for a march to the central Sidi Gaber area, BBC Arabic’s Rami Gabr reports

•A big stage has been erected in the main square of the Suez Canal city of Port Said, and protesters are checking the identities of those going in and out of the square, BBC Arabic’s Attia Nabil reports

•Rallies are also expected in Suez, Monofia and Sharqiya – the birthplace of President Morsi.

Windows in the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo were reinforced with sandbags ahead of the protests.

The protestors might just bring down Morsi — who knows? Although I doubt President Obama will throw his Muslim Brotherhood buddy under the bus like he did Mubarak. Egypt’s best-case isn’t very good, where a new military clique takes over from the Muslim Brotherhood which took over from the old military clique.

But can the protest genie be put back in the bottle? Is status quo ante Morsi possible? Or will Egypt become even more ungovernable, with constant battles between Islamists and more secular elements of society?

Posted without Comment

June 30th, 2013 - 8:44 am

Obama Scan

Hat tip, Ed Lambert.

Friday Night Videos

June 28th, 2013 - 10:04 pm

It’s a quickie this week — just The Dead Milkmen at their drunken best.

RIM Exiting Tablet Biz

June 28th, 2013 - 1:03 pm

That’s what it looks like:

RIM’s PlayBook, an attempt at securing a foothold in the popular tablet category largely dominated by Apple Inc.’s iPad, won’t be upgraded to support its BlackBerry 10 operating system, the company’s CEO Thorsten Heins said during a conference call Friday morning.

“We were looking at solutions that could move the BlackBerry 10 experience to Playbook, but unfortunately, I’m not satisfied with the level of performance and user experience and I made the difficult decision to stop these efforts and focus on our core hardware portfolio,” said Mr. Heins.

In other words, the Playbook’s hardware isn’t up to the demands of BB10, which has been out for months. Meanwhile, an iPad 2 from the same year will run Apple’s upcoming iOS 7 just fine.

You get what you pay for, and BlackBerry’s heavily-discounted tablets just aren’t worth it.

Massive Magpul Mag Mugging

June 28th, 2013 - 11:28 am

Magpul Industries is the Erie, Colorado magazine manufacturer being chased out of Colorado by our restrictive new gun laws. But they’re not leaving without giving Governor Hickenlooper and the Democrat Assembly one final middle-finger salute:

The ammunition magazine manufacturer will take part in the “A Farewell to Arms” festival in Infinity Park in Glendale on Saturday.

On July 1, the law — which limits bans gun magazines to hold no more than 15 rounds and was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in March — goes into effect.

The first 1,500 attendees who are at least 18 years old will get a magazine, the company’s Web page said. The event is hosted by the nonprofit Free Colorado, which advocates for the rights of gun owners, according to its website.

I’m going to try to get up there for the big event, but Dana Loesch and Kelly Maher will be there for sure.

Pardon the Language

June 28th, 2013 - 9:53 am


But in the case of Windows 8.1, it’s well-deserved.

Vile Progs Gotta Be Vile

June 28th, 2013 - 6:45 am

Rick Perry praises opponent, gets savaged by lefties.

You can’t make this stuff up. Sadly, you don’t have to.

A Match Made at Gunpoint

June 28th, 2013 - 5:17 am

Trifecta: ObamaCare and… the NFL? Really? Why?

Yesterday’s Future

June 27th, 2013 - 3:08 pm


I’d seen most of these photos before of the Mustang-That-Almost-Was (hat tip, Glenn). But I’d never read the fully story of how Ford created, and then abandoned, its all-aluminum, mid-engined pony car of the future.

Click over for the pictures, but stay for the article.

Apple’s New Ad is a Minus

June 27th, 2013 - 12:35 pm

Consumers just aren’t that into the whole “Designed by Apple in California” thing:

According to data from Ace Metrix, a consulting firm that analyzes the effectiveness of TV commercials through surveys, Apple’s new ad scores just 489 points on its scoring system, far below previous Apple campaigns.

The industry average is 543 points, and other Apple commercials have received in excess of 700 points. So what’s the problem with the new ads?

“Apple was never a company that bragged about itself,” Edward Boches, a professor of advertising at Boston University, told Bloomberg. “In a manifesto ad, it’s hard not to come across as self indulgent. And even though it suggests the wonderful things Apple products can do, the ad lacks joy.”

Around the time Steve Jobs died, some smart Apple observer (I wish I could locate the link) came up with a way to try and determine if the company was losing its footing. His caution? If Apple started running ads about Apple. “We’re Apple. We’re awesome. We’re Apple.” Loser companies tell you how great they are. Winners show you the product.

60084-525-393When Jobs came back to Apple in 1996-97, he made it a 100% product-focused company. And that is what it’s remained, even if increasingly the products are digital services rather than slick hardware. That focus has always been most visible in the company’s advertising, which is the product, the whole product, and nothing but the product.

“This is the iWidget. This is how awesome it is. This is the iWidget.”

Set it to a bouncy pop tune and you’re done — deceptively simple, chillingly effective.

The product was always front and center, with little mention of the company at all other than the iconic logo. The furthest Apple got away from that was in its famous “Get a Mac” ads, in which the Macintosh (and also the PC) were played by likable actors. We never saw a Mac in action, but we still got the idea: Mac was cool, relaxed, easier to use.

That’s still very product-centric.

Oh, and the ads were “Get a Mac,” not “Get an Apple Mac.” That’s an important distinction to make here.

Now here we have Apple’s “Blah blah blah we’re a cool company ad,” and all I can think is, No wonder consumers are rejecting it. Don’t show us the cool company; show us the cool product. The product makes the company cool, not the other way around. Jobs once said that “marketing is about values,” and from Apple’s marketing we know that the company values making good product above anything else.

The only time I can remember Apple thinking different about its ads was the famous “Think different” ad from ’97, but that was a special circumstance. Jobs had just returned, the Jobsian products didn’t exist yet, and the company had just nearly gone spectacularly broke. Jobs had even been forced to make peace with, and take money from, arch-nemesis Bill Gates. People then needed to be reminded that the Apple they remembered might still exist, and Think Different reminded us of exactly that. “Here’s to the crazy ones… ” it began.

It still rings.

But 2013 is not 1997. Nobody anywhere needs to be reminded about the behemoth that is Apple, Inc.

Here’s the new spot. Judge for yourself.

Is there anything in there to make you think different? It certainly didn’t do anything for me.

So is my forgotten Apple pundit right? Does this one ad herald the end of its fantabulous run? I think it heralds the end of Apple’s fantabulous run of near-flawless TV ads, that’s for sure. The spot is merely self-indulgent, and not in a good way like adding an extra finger of scotch to your rocks glass. I’d be worried — much more worried — if this spot had aired and Apple hadn’t just introduced iOS 7, OS X Mavericks, and the all-new Mac Pro. And talk about new directions: The company made almost zero performance bumps in the new MacBook Airs, concentrating instead on providing battery life that puts 10-hour tablets to shame.

No, product-wise, this company is still firing on all cylinders. When Phil Schiller was done demoing the Mac Pro at WWDC a couple weeks ago, he joked, “Can’t innovate, my ass,” and a well-deserved cheer went up from the crowd. And from me watching here at my desk.

Apple goofed with a single ad, and it’s a mistake I hope they don’t repeat. The product is still there; it just needs to be brought back to front and center where even the crazy ones can see it.

Even Paranoiacs Have Enemies

June 27th, 2013 - 12:24 pm

Edward Snowden insisted his visitors in Hong Kong put their cell phones in the fridge:

Why a refrigerator? The answer does not, as some might assume, have anything to do with temperature. In fact, it does not matter particularly if the refrigerator was plugged in. It is the materials that make up refrigerator walls that could potentially turn them into anti-eavesdropping devices.

“What you want to do is block the radio signals which could be used to transmit voice data, and block the audio altogether,” Adam Harvey, a designer specializing in countersurveillance products explained. Refrigerators made from metal with thick insulation could potentially do both, he says, regardless of whether it is mild or icy within.

On the data-transmission front, thick metal walls can create a sort of electromagnetic barrier, which enables the device to function as something known as a Faraday cage. A true Faraday cage is a space where radio waves cannot pass and therefore data cannot be transmitted. Although not all fridges function this way, those constructed with more metal have the potential to serve this purpose.

Another household object that functions similarly, Mr. Harvey has learned through his research into cellphone data transmission, is a stainless steel martini shaker.

“It’s a perfect Faraday cage – it will block all radio signals unless you decide you need to pour yourself a martini,” he said.

Put. The cocktail shaker. DOWN.

New Habitable “Super-Earth” Found

June 27th, 2013 - 11:02 am

And in a solar system already thought to host two others. Details:

The authors tested whether a system with planets in these apparent orbits would be stable, and it appears that it would be, provided none of the planets were much above their potential minimum masses. That would make most of them super-Earths, with the lone exception being an Earth-sized body.

Based on the brightness of GJ 667C, it’s possible to calculate where the potential habitable zone would reside around the star. On the inner edge of the zone, enough water enters the atmosphere that it reaches altitudes where the incoming stellar radiation can dissociate it, allowing the hydrogen to escape into space. GJ 667Cc is right at this boundary, but its high mass means that it might be able to retain water in the atmosphere despite the heat. GJ 667Cf is squarely within the habitable zone, while GJ 667Ce is further out, but still close enough that a healthy dose of greenhouse gasses like methane and carbon dioxide would warm it enough to keep water liquid.

All of these assumptions are based on the presence of an atmosphere and a reflectivity similar to that of Earth’s.

Those are some mighty big ifs.

The China Syndrome

June 27th, 2013 - 8:03 am

Will China’s economy meltdown sooner rather than later? An interesting bit of speculation from “China’s most successful doomsayer” over at Zero Hedge:

Though far from perfect, a lot of what he said here rings true, but the interesting insight is that he forecasts that the incoming regime will want to take its lumps early, in 2013, so as to minimize blame (“it was the old crew’s fault”) and maximize praise for subsequent recovery.

Read the whole thing. It comes down to real estate prices, which Beijing has been trying to cool down, but which are still in need of a major correction.

A Fine Mess

June 27th, 2013 - 6:40 am

Trifecta: Part III of the Amnesty Mess — what should the GOP do to win Latino voters, or should they do anything at all?

That’s not good.

One of the giants of the second half of the 20th Century.

News You Can Use

June 27th, 2013 - 5:23 am

Worried about accidentally 3D printing a gun? New software will prevent it.

First of all: No, duh. And I can’t believe that apparently we’re going to have to expand range safety instruction to include a lesson about how every 3D printer is loaded.

Look, there is nothing about firearms that should ever happen on accident, and it’s nannystate anti-gun nuts who make such education too limited or too difficult to obtain.

First Looks

June 26th, 2013 - 5:28 pm

If you want an in-depth preview of OS X Mavericks, The Bearded One certainly has that for you. He’s been using it as his primary OS since WWDC a couple weeks ago, so he’s speaking from real experience.

Apple is always doing little things like this to make users smile.

I Would Certainly Hope So

June 26th, 2013 - 3:22 pm

Log Cabin Republicans: “We’re not done yet.

Facebook Phone Sells Out!

June 26th, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Of course, I think HTC quit making them and AT&T had to cut the price to 99¢, but still — they sold out! Worst part? AT&T compared the experience to Motorola’s ill-fated ROKR/iTunes phone from 2005.

That thing stunk more than a microwave full of monkey poo, and apparently so did Facebook’s effort to take over your phone.

Get Off That Ledge!

June 26th, 2013 - 12:46 pm

Sarah Hoyt, who grew up during Portugal’s big troubles in the ’70, on “how to learn to stop worrying and shrug off amnesty.” I like this bit:

I will concede that the amnesty bill passing, (and our betters DO seem to be determined to shove it down our throats) will hasten a collapse but it says nothing on what will come after. And the collapse I’ve known is coming for at least two years, the only question being now or later, hard or soft landing. Passing the amnesty will prejudice it towards near term and hard landing. Is that worse than long term and soft? I don’t know. My friend Bill Reader thinks it would be best short term and hard – that the disruption will be shorter and what’s coming better – but I’m a wussy. On the other hand, his arguments have long sounded convincing to me. I just prefer long and soft because I’ve experienced it before and know coping strategies.

I’ve always jumped in with both feet and pulled off the band-aid in one big motion, so I lean more towards a short and hard landing. I think — think — that in America’s case, it’s more likely to lead to a Renaissance than the long and soft landing.

Bye-Bye, DOMA, Bye-Bye

June 26th, 2013 - 9:37 am

Did anyone else notice that the Supreme Court just knocked down a goodly-sized portion of Bill Clinton’s legal legacy?

Fancy that:

The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.

The other was a technical legal ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court’s declaration that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation’s most populous state in about a month.

The high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.

The only part I have any real trouble with is covered in that first graf — marriage shouldn’t come with any tax, health, or government pension benefits. It simply isn’t the government’s business to lavish things on people for being married.

What’s interesting is the non-idealogical split of the 5-4 vote. There aren’t many issues where the winning team consists of Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia. It’s disappointing (but not entirely surprising) not to see Clarence Thomas in there making it 6-3.

The best part is Roberts’ ringing defense of federalism regarding California’s Prop 8. He wrote, “We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit.” Exactly right. Although I suspect Ginsburg and Kagan found themselves siding with Roberts out of a conviction favoring gay marriage, rather than a conviction that there are any real limits to what Washington may tell the states to do. It’s a good guess that’s one reason Roberts wrote the decision himself.

A SCOTUS win is a SCOTUS win, but a well-reasoned SCOTUS win is a thing of beauty and healthful to the Republic. But I’ll give my Twitter self the last word on this one.


CORRECTION: I’ll give the last word to the President instead.


Where Do We Go from Here?

June 26th, 2013 - 8:04 am

Trifecta: Part II of our special three-part series on immigration reform.

Windows 8.1 Interface Preview

June 26th, 2013 - 6:41 am

Ars Technica has one for you. Mostly what I notice is that they’ve managed to make the interface slightly uglier, by tacking on new visual clues for functions that MS hid in Windows 8 in a mistaken effort to make their mouse-and-cursor desktop OS touch-friendly.

And if you think that last sentence was a mess, you should take a look at the new Windows. I ain’t got nothin’ on that mess.

Alternate Headline: SWIPE ME!

Obama is in the Doldrums

June 26th, 2013 - 5:12 am

I’m not making this up. That’s what Politico is reporting as straight news, or at least as a thing Politico reports as straight news. Here’s the dope:

But in a damning appraisal, a wide variety of congressional Democrats and presidential scholars said in interviews that there is another decisive factor behind Obama’s current paralysis: his own failure to use the traditional tools of the presidency to exert his will.

Obama does not instill fear — one of the customary instruments of presidential power. Five years of experience, say lawmakers of both parties, have demonstrated that there is not a huge political or personal cost to be paid for crossing the president.

He might not instill fear, but he sure causes a lot of it. I mean, I have kids and I’d kind of like for them to have futures.

Incidentally, you think maybe Obama’s executive inexperience shouldn’t come as some kind of second-term big shock, since he was elected President without any executive effing experience? How about some soul searching on that, Politico?

How Would You Start Fresh?

June 25th, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Trifecta: It’s Part I of our three-part special on immigration, and today we focus on Blank Sheet/Fresh Start Immigration Policy.

Blind Link of the Week

June 25th, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Imagine how the Europans feel.