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Monthly Archives: June 2013

B-Listers Lining Up for ObamaCare

June 25th, 2013 - 3:47 pm

No, not to get on it, silly — but to convince you, humble mandate-ee, of the wonders of its goodness:

The White House is working to recruit Hollywood celebrities to help promote ObamaCare, a top celebrity political adviser told The Hill.

Trevor Neilson, a veteran of the Clinton White House, said he’s in talks with the Obama administration and that his clients are “looking at ways to be involved.”

Neilson represents Eva Longoria, John Legend and many other stars as president of Global Philanthropy Group.

Jacque Cousteau and James Cameron together, armed with an unlimited budget and the very latest submersible robotic vessels would be unable to plumb the depths of my disinterest in what any of these valueless “celebs” have to say about anything.

But it does give one the feeling that the fix is in — and has been for a very long time.

Who’s Playing Whom?

June 25th, 2013 - 2:02 pm

Mark Thiessen: The Taliban is playing Obama.

All I can say is, Hey Achmed, get in line — it’s Putin’s turn.

I wish I were kidding with this stuff, but I guess it needs a more serious treatment. So let’s go back to Thiessen here:

The Taliban has once again promised, in a statement announcing the opening of its new political office in Qatar, that it “does not wish to harm other countries from its soil and neither will it allow others use Afghan soil to pose a threat to the security of other nations.”

Don’t believe a word of it.

Taliban leaders are not interested in sharing power. Their goal is to get the United States out of the way so they can take over Afghanistan.

So why are the Taliban negotiating? Simple. It knows that Barack Obama wants to leave Afghanistan and close Guantanamo Bay — and they want to help him do both.

Of course, Thiessen might be subtly mistaken here. Maybe the Taliban isn’t playing Obama, because he knows he’s being played. But closing Gitmo wins back some of his lost capital with the Vile Prog Wing of his party, and getting out of Afghanistan frees up money for blowing on more stimulus spending. And it just looks bad to cut ten or twelve combat brigades out of an Army we’re still using.

Is Obama getting played? What difference, at this point, does it make? He’s getting what he wants: A free hand to gut the military and boost domestic spending.

But what’s this about Putin? Let’s go to Commentary’s Peter Wehner:

The Syrian debacle comes in the aftermath of Obama scrapping in 2009 a missile-defense system the Poles and the Czech Republic had agreed to house despite Russian threats, as a way to pacify Putin. (“The U.S. reversal is likely to please Russia, which had fiercely opposed the plans,” CNN reported at the time.)

Add to that Putin’s support for Iran’s nuclear ambitions and his crackdown at home. (The Washington Post writes that in “an attempt to suppress swelling protests against his rigged reelection and the massively corrupt autocracy he presides over, Mr. Putin has launched what both Russian and Western human rights groups describe as the most intense and pervasive campaign of political repression since the downfall of the Soviet Union.”). Taken all together, you can see that the Obama “reset”–which at the dawn of the Obama administration was described as a “win-win” strategy for both nations–has been a rout for the Russians.

With the Snowden situation, Vladimir Putin seems intent not only defying America but embarrassing her. It turns out that an irresolute amateur like Barack Obama was the best thing that the brutal but determined Putin could have hoped for.

Obama is expert at playing against weak-willed legislatures like the GOP caucus on Capitol Hill. But Putin is expert at playing against weak-willed executives like Obama.

Another Smart Move by Microsoft

June 25th, 2013 - 12:24 pm

Yes, that’s two in two weeks. Here’s the latest:

Microsoft Corp will offer its console and computer games for Apple Inc’s iPhone and other smartphone platforms this fiscal year, through a tie-up with Japanese smartphone game maker Klab Inc, the Nikkei said on Monday.

Through a licensing deal, Klab will bring Microsoft’s Xbox and Windows-based computer games to the iPhone and smartphones using Google Inc’s Android operating system, according to the Nikkei.

As I’ve strangely felt the need to remind them over the last few months, Microsoft is a software company. And with iOS and Android there are hundreds of millions, maybe more than a billion, of software platforms bereft of Microsoft software. Which, for a software company, seems… odd.

I suppose the problem is, Microsoft came to dominance in the ’90s and a platform company. But in mobile, they don’t own any platforms. OK, technically with Windows Phone and Surface RT they own two mobile platforms — the problem is that consumers don’t own them. They seemed to think they could buy their way into platform dominance in mobile, but a confused effort has prevented that from happening. Also, with Apple owning most of the profits and Android owning most of the low end, there just isn’t much room for a Microsoft platform.

But selling software, starting with Age of Empires?

Microsoft is great at that, and they’ll be a welcome new developer to both platforms.

POSSIBLY RELATED: Barnes & Noble is getting out of the business of making their own Nook tablets, as a way to stem their losses. I know very happy Nook owners, just not many Nook owners. They’ll license the platform to third-party OEMs.

Gag Me with a Spoon

June 25th, 2013 - 9:54 am

Look for the Union Label

So this is already a thing. No, I won’t link it.

Sony, Disney Give Asia What it Wants

June 25th, 2013 - 7:50 am

I should very excited about this story, but I’m not. We’ll get to the why not in just a moment:

In a bid to limit movie piracy in Asia, Disney and Sony have quietly begun testing a bold new on-demand service in South Korea which offers movies to rent while they are still playing in theaters. As noted by the Wall Street Journal, the two companies are the first US studios to provide consumers anywhere with the option to buy a ticket to see a movie or watch it in their own home using their cable, internet, or satellite-TV subscription. Django Unchained, Wreck-it Ralph, and Brave had all been made available as part of the trial.

These are 2012 movies here in the States, but I’m assuming based on the story they’re in current release overseas.

But why make this a piracy-fighting move? Why not just …I dunno… give audiences what they want? Increasingly, that’s to watch movies in the comfort of our own homes, with a picture quality better than many movie theaters of just ten or 15 years ago.

I’m still counting on Hollywood to screw this one up, however.

Do you know why Blu-Ray has failed to take the place of DVD in lining Hollywood’s pockets? Because Blu-Ray sucks. The picture quality is outstanding. And the sound is an audiophile’s dream. But the discs are so locked down that they’re a total pain in the bottom to actually use. Loaded with FBI warnings we can’t skip, menus that can take forever to load, and years-old previews you’re forced to watch again and again. And — oh, yeah — most of the movies are crap.

So we rent from Red Box or stream from Netflix or download from iTunes. Or we just pirate the stuff.

Because as nice as it sounds to be able to stream a current summer blockbuster release like Melting Flying Zombies vs The Buxom Flamethrower Pirates, I’m pretty sure Hollywood would fill it up with all the same, lame stuff they cram onto shiny new Blu-Ray discs.

The Biggest Storm in the Solar System

June 25th, 2013 - 6:31 am

PIA12826_modest

Wow. If not, this massive hurricane on Saturn has got to be a contender. Full details at Ars Technica.

ObamaCare 2: Electric Boogaloo

June 25th, 2013 - 5:09 am

Guy Benson: Senate Immigration Bill Packed With Kickbacks, Waivers, “Stimulus” Spending.

Will it fix our broken immigration system? I doubt it. But at least it will have enough pork to get passed — and isn’t “doing something” the important thing?

Where’s Snowden?

June 24th, 2013 - 3:16 pm

Bloomberg’s Elizabeth Dwoskin says it’s probably a good idea for Eric Snowden to ixnay on the Ussiaray if he doesn’t want a one-way ticket back to Dulles:

The big question now is whether the Russians will hand over Snowden. Washington has become closer with Moscow ever since a Chechen national bombed the Boston marathon. After the attacks, Russian President Vladmir Putin’s spokesman told reporters that law-enforcement cooperation between the two countries had reached new levels. On the plus side for Snowden, Russia has no extradition treaty with the U.S. and a history of harboring American fugitives during the Cold War, such as spy suspect and former CIA agent Edward Lee Howard. Russian authorities also told the Washington Post that as long as Snowden is in a secure transit zone in the airport, he’s not technically on Russian soil—and so they don’t have the authority to detain him. But Russia hasn’t harbored U.S fugitives in decades: Since 2002, in fact, Russia has extradited three fugitives to the U.S., according to the U.S. Marshall’s Service (via an extraditions map put together by Slate).

I added the emphasis because it was one of those little technical details that allowed Hong Kong to let Snowden free to travel. China pushed hard at Obama, likely to no ill effect. So will Russia follow suit and look just as tough, or will they try and keep our cooperation at those “new levels?”

Your guess is as good as mine.

UPDATE: I wrote this before seeing that Snowden is apparently in Havana already. Or somewhere, but certainly no longer in Moscow. Unless he is.

Tweaking Obama is a game the whole world can play!

The Turkish Solution

June 24th, 2013 - 2:14 pm

Three weeks ago I wrote about the “Arab Spring, Turkish Style.” The short version is, Kemal Ataturk’s secular army had an extra-constitutional role to depose corrupt or Islamist governments, clean up the mess, then restore civilian rule. But that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had emasculated the Army to protect his creeping Islamism.

So are you ready for the Turkish Spring, Arab Style? It might be coming to a Nile River near you:

Egypt’s military on Sunday gave the nation’s Islamist rulers and their opponents a week to reach an understanding before planned June 30 opposition protests aimed at forcing out the president, in a toughly worded warning that it will intervene to stop the nation from entering a “dark tunnel.”

The powerful military also gave a thinly veiled warning to President Mohammed Morsi’s hard-line backers that it will step in if the mostly secular and liberal protesters, who have vowed to be peaceful, are attacked during the planned demonstrations.

If the Army has the guts to depose Morsi (I assume it has the tanks; I mean ability; I mean tanks), it would effectively reverse Egypt’s ill-named Arab Spring and restore the status quo ante Morsi. Which would, and you’ll pardon me if I point out the blindingly obvious, be just one more IQ point deducted from President Obama’s “smart diplomacy.”

And that number has already gone from “Idiot Savant” down to “Drooling Moron.”

After getting fired from Food Network for using the n-word a lot, Deen failed to appear for a Today show hit on Friday:

After Deen didn’t show for Friday’s “Today” telecast — “Paula Deen was scheduled to do an interview with us this morning, live in our studio, but we just found out, she’s a no-show,” host Matt Lauer was forced to ad-lib on air — she opted for a half-baked video apology to her fans instead.

“I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong I have done. I want to learn and grow from this,” Deen said in the 45-second video posted on YouTube. “Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable.”

It took 66 years to figure out you’re not supposed to call people the n-word?

Preemptive Retreat

June 24th, 2013 - 11:44 am

Long-but-worth-your-while article on Obama’s “great bug-out” from the Middle East over at the Weekly Standard. Here’s the graf that caught my eye:

Assessing Bush’s Middle East strategy in light of the overall regional balance of power also casts Iran questions in a different light. While there was no moderation of the revolutionary bent of the Islamic Republic or halt to its drive to acquire nuclear weapons, the strong U.S. positions in Iraq and Afghanistan did much to contain Iranian mischief-making and posed a credible threat to Iran’s nuclear facilities; in Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki’s bold “Knight’s Charge” operation in early 2008 defeated a gaggle of Iran-friendly Shia militias in the southern city of Basra, militias including Moktada al-Sadr’s Jaish al Mahdi. At the time​—​meaning in the context of the perceived successes of the U.S. “surge”​—​it appeared that Maliki might be an independent leader with a bit of a nationalist streak willing to take on Iranian proxies.

Often forgotten or overlooked is that Saddam’s regime was a dead end. Neither of his sons were competent enough (although they certainly seemed sadistic enough) to carry on his Stalinesque rule. When Saddam died, from causes natural or not, there was going to be a power vacuum. And the Iranians were sure to take advantage.

We deposed Saddam ourselves, and filled that vacuum, too. Incompetently at first, then with a surer hand after the Surge. Saddam was gone and the Iranians were out. In a region of the world where we’re more used to lose-lose, this was a nice (if expensive and too-long-in-coming) win-win.

Obama threw that away to concentrate of Afghanistan’s worthless mountain wastelands.

Any Good Italian Near Olympus Mons?

June 24th, 2013 - 10:30 am

Ever wanted to spend a couple months in a tiny and remote geodesic dome with a bunch of strangers and a few supplies to try and figure out how people would eat on Mars? Yeah, me neither. Thankfully are few hearty souls are willing to endure:

The crew of six terranauts, selected from a pool of seven hundred applicants, alternate between two days of prepackaged meals and two days of dome home cooking; chef duties are executed in pairs. The pantry has been stocked with ingredients like flax seeds, sourdough starter, anchovies, egg-white crystals, dried hijiki seaweed, and canned Spam—a nod to local cuisine, as well as Pacific U.S. military history. While the crew completed cooking classes at Cornell prior to entering the habitat, no member has professional culinary experience. They are relying on a cookbook and a mission-support group, which is available for twelve hours a day to hunt down online recipes and answer operational questions. (There is, however, a twenty-minute time delay between the dome and the support group, to simulate the communication gap with Mars.)

As always, water is the real problem, which is one reason for the experiment.

(Via Charlie Martin’s Twitter feed, which is always full of linky goodness.)

Thought for the Day

June 24th, 2013 - 8:01 am

Democrats are in the business of buying votes. Republicans are in the business of alienating voters. The latter would be the far less expensive proposition if it didn’t result in so much of the former.

Et Tu, Marco?

June 24th, 2013 - 6:45 am

Watching the Gang of Eight shenanigans makes me think Marco Rubio should read more Jonah Goldberg. Specifically, his famous governing philosophy for conservatives: “Don’t just do something — stand there!” Yes, we have a problem with illegal immigration. No, just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean you’re doing something good.

And what is Rubio thinking? Instead of going to the proper committees and holding hearings and calling witnesses and all the things we used to cal “lawmaking,” he’s dealing directly with the loathsome Chuck Schumer. And frankly, Schumer is much better at this kind of thing than a first-term Senator with fewer years on him than even I have.

So we have yet another monstrosity of a bill which nobody has read, and even if they had read they’d have no way of understanding without a dozen lawyers — preferably honest lawyers — from two or three different federal departments.

Again.

We went through this with ObamaCare. We went through this with Dodd-Frank. We know where this kind of thing goes. But at least in those two cases, the GOP didn’t have renegade senators leading the effort to jam comprehensive bullcrap through to the President’s desk.

You expect this kind of thing from McCain and Graham, who have long represented Washington rather than their home states.

But Rubio? I thought he was different. I had thought he was in the same class as Mike Lee or Ted Cruz or Rand Paul.

I was wrong. And Rubio won’t live this betrayal down, not in a lifetime of politicking.

Background Checks for Ammo Purchases?

June 24th, 2013 - 5:17 am

Trifecta: California goes c-c-c-c-c-crazy for control!

Required Reading

June 23rd, 2013 - 7:29 am

Krauthammer on President Obama’s strategic blunders in the Middle East:

Obama has thus been forced back into the very vacuum he created — but at a distinct disadvantage. We are now scrambling to put together some kind of presence in Jordan as a defensive counterweight to the Iran-Hezbollah-Russia bloc.

The tragedy is that we once had a counterweight and Obama threw it away. Obama still thinks the total evacuation of Iraq is a foreign policy triumph. In fact, his inability — unwillingness? — to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have left behind a small but powerful residual force in Iraq is precisely what compels him today to re-create in Jordan a pale facsimile of that regional presence.

Whatever the wisdom of the Iraq war in the first place, when Obama came to office in January 2009 the war was won. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been routed. Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite government had taken down the Sadr Shiite extremists from Basra all the way north to Baghdad. Casualties were at a wartime low; the civil war essentially over.

We had a golden opportunity to reap the rewards of this too-bloody war by establishing a strategic relationship with an Iraq that was still under American sway. Iraqi airspace, for example, was under U.S. control as we prepared to advise and rebuild Iraq’s nonexistent air force.

With our evacuation, however, Iraqi airspace today effectively belongs to Iran — over which it is flying weapons, troops and advisers to turn the tide in Syria. The U.S. air bases, the vast military equipment, the intelligence sources available in Iraq were all abandoned. Gratis. Now we’re trying to hold the line in Jordan.

I’m not sure where Krauthammer stands on forceful intervention in Syria, but I suspect he’s much more hawkish than I am. The chaos there serves us just fine. A Russo-Iranian client state does not.

The Sunni states may have to realign towards towards Russia to protect themselves from the Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran Axis, while the North African Arab states continue their devolution into chaos and extremism. It would be, as it always is in the Middle East, a complicated game of Moscow trying to manage two competing sets of frenemies, while we diddle around in… Jordan, really? That’s our big strategic interest?

I fear for Israel in this scenario.

Think Big

June 22nd, 2013 - 11:09 am

Maybe it’s the red-wine-and-Unisom hangover talking, but I think I’ve come up with a way to break the hunger strike and close Gitmo with just two words:

Foie. Gras.

That’s right: We force feed the detainees until their livers are plump and ripe and then sell them to Hannibal-loving gourmands.

It’s geeeeeeenius.

Foie gras geese

Orange jumpsuits cropped out of photo, but these are genuine Gitmo detainees.

News You Can Use

June 22nd, 2013 - 9:06 am

And what hath science wrought this week? Faster-than-light interplanetary travel? I don’t think so. A non-stick cooking surface that will never chip or scratch? We should be so lucky. But how about a robot bird? Here you go:

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a robot bird whose wings can flap independently of each other.

Called the “Robo Raven,” the breakthrough engineering technology allows the robot to achieve any desired motion and to perform aerobatic maneuvers.

Finally.

Best of all, robot cat will have somebody to play with.

Friday Night Videos

June 21st, 2013 - 10:34 pm

True story.

First semester, freshman year at Mizzou, fifth floor Hudson dorm. I stop by Mike & what’s-his-name’s room because they had a TV and I didn’t, and between the two of them a very nice collection of records they could play on a very nice stereo which I also didn’t have.

I’d just arrived and am standing there in the doorway when MTV played Terrence Trent D’Arby’s “If You Let Me Stay” as the Hip Clip. I stood there until it was over, left without having said a word, walked down to the record store and bought the whole album, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby. It might not have been “the most important album since Sgt. Pepper’s,” as D’Arby had boasted, but most of it was pretty darn good. This cut and “Wishing Well” have both held up nicely, and Michael Bublé just covered “Who’s Lovin’ You” on his recent new album.

In fact, I was going through the track listings before I played the new Bublé and said out loud, “‘Who’s Lovin’ You?’ The old TTD song? No way.” Didn’t think anyone but me still listened to that one.

So Bublé’s still a fan, too, it seems. Not bad for a half-crazy kid who went AWOL from the Army to go make some records.

Adobe Loves/Hates the Cloud

June 21st, 2013 - 2:31 pm

Adobe’s new Creative Cloud services has already been hacked. Here’s the story:

Many though that the Creative Cloud would mean an end to app piracy. Instead of just buying a version of Photoshop or another app, you subscribe to the suite, paying Adobe forever instead of just once. It’s like the cellphone carriers’ contracts, only for software, and the suite phones home to Adobe periodically to check that you’re keeping up with your payments.

The trouble is, Adobe has to let you download the actual app to run on your computer. And this app can be cracked.

The good news for Adobe is, CC has also brought in about 700,000 new paying customers.

HBO is Coming to Apple TV

June 21st, 2013 - 1:11 pm

Well, sort of:

Apple on Wednesday updated one of my favorite and most used products—Apple TV. In a software update released today, Apple added a number of new “channels” to the including including HBO GO and WatchESPN.

According to Apple HBO GO gives users unlimited access to HBO programming, including bonus features and special behind-the-scenes extras. You will need an HBO subscription through your television provider.

I have to go through my cable company? No, sorry — not gonna do it.

All of these Apple TV channel/app thingies should be stand-alone and available without having to go through a third party.

Malarky is Spanish for Biden

June 21st, 2013 - 11:51 am

Oh, Joe.

9,486 of them, according to Yahoo. See if you can count that high with this handy interactive feature.

James Gandolfini’s Legacy

June 21st, 2013 - 8:24 am

Here it is:

We had been told all our lives that we would not watch an ongoing series about such a man. A bruising, foul-mouthed giant with a dent in his forehead was the villain, not the protagonist. TV had always made compromises, always made sure that “flawed” heroes were ultimately redeemable and lovable.

Tony Soprano was not. And we loved him, often despite ourselves.

And his work on the show made possible Vic Mackey, Al Swearengen, Walter White, Don Draper and every complicated, riveting anti-hero (or worse) who followed him. “The Sopranos” was an enormous hit, and told the business that the old rules need no longer apply.

With one role he changed an industry for the better. That’s a helluva thing.

(H/T, Gruber.)

With Moderates Like These…

June 21st, 2013 - 7:11 am

Trifecta: Meet the new moderate President of Iran.

Microsoft Listens to Angry Customers

June 21st, 2013 - 6:50 am

Smart:

Microsoft has listened to the outcries of the gaming community and is rolling back a much-criticized requirement that its upcoming Xbox One gaming console be regularly connected to the Internet.

It has made clear that there will be no limitations on sharing games.

Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment business, said in a blog post Wednesday that an Internet connection will no longer be required to play games on the Xbox One after its initial setup, and users can share and play games like they have on the Xbox 360.

That should go a long way towards easing gamers’ worries about privacy and the used game market. But most buyers will neither know nor care either way.

Tweet of the Day

June 20th, 2013 - 5:56 pm

Hu's on First

Oh Fer Cryin’ Out Loud

June 20th, 2013 - 4:39 pm

Guns

A nation this irredeemably stupid cannot long survive.

Photo Essay

June 20th, 2013 - 3:30 pm

A lesson in manners for today’s American leaders — from George Washington.

Feet

Check out the rest at Pocket Full of Liberty.

An iPad in Every Pot

June 20th, 2013 - 2:04 pm

While Microsoft tries to bribe schools into buying remainder-bin Surface RTs, Apple just scored a $30 million deal to sell iPads to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

I’m sure Apple offered a nice educational discount — but nowhere near Microsoft’s flop-sweat price of $199.