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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Detroit Blues

July 31st, 2013 - 3:31 pm

Trifecta: Just because you’re broke is no reason to cancel a $444 million ice rink.

Wii U Still Pee-Yew

July 31st, 2013 - 3:09 pm

Ouch:

The Japanese videogame company reported that it sold just 160,000 units of the eight-month-old device worldwide in its April to June quarter, marking about 3.61 million sold to date. By comparison, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which was released in 2005, sold 140,000 units in just the U.S. during the month of June alone.

The poor showing was even eclipsed by the company’s original Wii–which first went on sale in 2006 yet sold 210,000 units in the latest quarter.

Will Nintendo DS sales be enough to sustain the company as a hardware concern, or will we soon be playing Mario Brother on our iPhones and Androids?

EADS, the European defense and airliner conglomerate, will now be known as “Airbus Group.”

I’m not sure there’s ever been a worse name for a weapons developer than Airbus Group.

I really didn’t want to write about today’s GDP report and revision, but I wouldn’t be much of an internet jerk pundit if I didn’t. Also I had Melissa hide all the razor blades and sleeping pills. So let’s get to the beef, or what there is of it. WSJ makes nice with the headline:

U.S. Economy Grows Faster Than Expected

Woo-hoo! Happy days are here again! Only not really, because the expectation was for a crap sandwich and what we got instead was a crap sandwich with a small Diet Coke. That is, until the Q2 revision comes in three months from now. But let’s get to the actual numbers:

The nation’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at an annualized 1.7% pace from April to June, beating expectations for a 0.9% increase. The second quarter reading follows a downwardly revised 1.1% for the first quarter of 2013.

Pretty gloomy stuff, since 1.7% is barely treading water. To recover from this “recovery,” we need 3% growth, but 4% would be even better — and there’s nothing not doable about 4% growth; we just have policies that are all wrong. But WSJ has plenty of spin for you:

Broad revisions to GDP figures also showed that the U.S. economy expanded at a stronger pace in 2012 than was previously thought. GDP last year expanded at a 2.8% pace versus a previous estimate of 2.2%, according to the revised figures released by the Commerce Department. The change comes as part of a comprehensive overhaul of gross domestic product data dating from 1929 through the first quarter of 2013.

Do you feel any richer because Commerce rejiggered the math? Yeah, me neither. Also left unsaid: 2.8% growth was “purchased” if you will, by borrowing a trillion dollars directly from our kids, and by the Fed conjuring up $85,000,000,000 every month to prop up the twin bubbles of housing and equities. If you don’t feel like doing the math, that’s two trillion in one form or another of stimulus just last year.

That’s two trillion out of a 16-trillion-dollar economy. In other words, we borrowed or printed more than 12% of last year’s GDP, just to generate sub-3% growth.

If you think that’s sustainable, there’s probably an administration job available to you.

Now That’s a Flop II: Electronic Boogaloo

July 31st, 2013 - 11:50 am

Jim Dalrymple has better figures than my back-of-the-envelope numbers from this morning:

Microsoft made $853 million in revenue from the Surface and sold an estimated 1.7 million devices in eight months, according to GeekWire. That’s less than the $900 write-off the company took on the Surface two weeks ago.

Let’s put this in perspective:

•Apple sold 3 million iPads in three days last November
•Apple sold 14.6 million iPads in the last quarter
•Apple sold 57 million iPads since Microsoft began selling the Surface

Sucks to be Microsoft.

The irony is it shouldn’t suck to be Microsoft. As I’ve been saying for a year or more, MS already has a perfectly good mobile OS in Windows Phone. All they had to do was rename it “Windows Mobile” or whatever, scale it up to the ten-inch form, and — presto! — an instant ecosystem for developers and consumers alike.

Instead, Ballmer insisted on Windows RT for tablet-y tablets, and Windows 8 for less tablet-y tablets, but neither was a truly touch-based OS. Meanwhile, Windows Phone remains the only child of a single parent, Nokia.

I realize Ballmer did what he thought was is necessary to protect the Windows/Office franchise from being cannibalized by tablets — but that battle was essentially lost on April 3, 2010.

Yet another bump in the road to taking Dell private:

A special board committee of Dell Inc. DELL -3.27% rejected a request from Michael Dell and Silver Lake to change the voting rules on their buyout offer in exchange for a ten-cent price boost to $13.75 a share.

Instead, the special committee of the company’s board charged with negotiating the buyout deal offered to change the so-called “record date” governing which shareholders can vote in exchange for the 10-cent per-share bump.

The record date is currently June 3, meaning shareholders as of that date can vote.

“A new record date would enable the many shareholders who bought their shares after June 3, 2013 to vote on the transaction while giving all shareholders more time to reflect on where their best interests lie in light of the improved offer,” the special committee said in its letter to Mr. Dell and Silver Lake’s Egon Durban.

Dell shares slid 2.3% to $12.57 in premarket trading.

On the other hand, if those shares keep sliding that buyout offer will start looking sweeter.

Or is that the method to the madness?

Weiner Out in the Cold, But Not Alone

July 31st, 2013 - 9:02 am

I meant to blog yesterday about that new poll showing Carlos Danger dropping from first to fourth among New York City Democrats, but got too busy with Trifecta on that same subject. So forget Weiner a moment and let’s look at the top three contenders:

According to Monday’s Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey of likely Democratic primary voters, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn leads the pack with 27%, followed by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, at 21%; former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, 20%; Mr. Weiner, 16%.

Of Quinn, de Blasio, and Thompson, I think I speak for most politically-aware Americans when I say, Who?

For a city like New York, you expect the likely Democratic contenders to have at least some nationwide fame, or at least notoriety. But this crew? A bunch of nobodies. Even New Yorkers must be yawning at the prospect of Mayor Quinn, the first Herzzoner.

Put that together with near-septegenarian Hillary Clinton as the frontrunner for president in 2016, and you’ll see just how shallow the Democrats’ bench is.

The problem is the same one the GOP faced in 2008. George W. Bush had, in Dick Cheney, a dead-end Veep — a guy who was never going to be President. The same is true for Joe Biden, although to be fair, Cheney never wanted the top job anyway.

Bush had an unpopular war, which hobbled GOP contenders at the state level, and no Veep to carry the party forward. Obama has a terrible economy, and only an aging Hillary to carry the party forward. That’s not to say Clinton can’t take the White House in 2016 — because she most certainly could. But what’s her platform? A “kinder, gentler” Obama? Undoing Obamanomics? “Fixing” ObamaCare? She’d likely limp And what kind of coattails would she have, when the Democrats don’t have any big names left even in New York?

She’d likely limp into office like George HW Bush in 1988 — with plenty of goodwill and a comfortable margin of victory, but without much to actually do.

Now That’s a Flop

July 31st, 2013 - 7:47 am

How badly did the Microsoft Surface flop? This badly:

According to the report, Microsoft’s total Surface revenue for all of fiscal 2013 amounted to just $853m. That’s nearly $50m less than the $900m charge Redmond took when it discounted its remaining Surface RT inventory by $150 per box.

And that’s not all. That $900m writedown was related to Surface RT only, but the $853m revenue figure includes sales of Surface RT and Surface Pro combined.[Emphasis in original.]

If we assume an average selling price of $600 — which may be low given that the $100 keyboard accessory really isn’t optional — then Redmond sold fewer than 1.5 million tablets, RT and Pro, since last year’s launch.

Apple sold twice that many iPads in just 80 days after launch in 2010. And that was their slowest-selling first-generation model.

Ballmer needs to call do-over and start from scratch.

The Unkindest Cut

July 31st, 2013 - 6:26 am

Trifecta: Democrats have it in for Weiner.

I keep the puns to a minimum on this one.

(Not really.)

News You Can Use

July 31st, 2013 - 5:07 am

IMG_0664_610x381

New Zealand man using 3D printer to build his own Aston Martin DB4 — you know, the one James Bond originally drove in Goldfinger. The insides will a Nissan Skyline, but the outside will be a fiberglass replica of the classic roadster.

Oops:

AnandTech was able to verify what a poster had reported on graphics website Beyond3D: Samsung was specifically enabling full speed GPU performance only when running specific benchmarks, and then reverting to slower 480MHz speeds when being used to play games or run other apps.

The site first confirmed that, in normal use, the Galaxy S 4′s Exynos 5 Octa was running at 480MHz, noting, “Samsung never publicly claimed max GPU frequencies for the Exynos 5 Octa (our information came from internal sources), so no harm no foul thus far.”

However, when running tests including GLBenchmark 2.5.1, AnTuTu and Quadrant, the device “triggers a GPU clock not available elsewhere: 532MHz.”

The CPU side behaved similarly when running benchmarks, but it used maximum performance modes available to other apps. “The 532MHz max GPU frequency on the other hand,” the report stated, “is only available to these specific benchmarks.”

It’ll rock those specific benchmark tests, then lose about 10% of its reported speed when running anything else.

Lame, Samsung.

ObamaCare Bites Congress

July 30th, 2013 - 3:21 pm

Boo-frigging-hoo:

Under a wrinkle that dates back to enactment of the law, members of Congress and thousands of their aides are required to get their coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.

But the law does not provide any obvious way for the federal government to continue paying its share of the premiums for the comprehensive coverage.

If the government cannot do so, it could mean an additional expense of $5,000 a year for individuals and $11,000 for families under some of the most popular plans.

Not surprisingly, that idea is unpopular on Capitol Hill.

“It’s a very serious concern,” said Representative Billy Long, a Missouri Republican who said staff members were “freaked out” at the prospect of paying the full cost of insurance out of their own pockets.

It’s difficult not to feel a little sorry for Long and his staffers. Obviously, he and they had nothing to do with ObamaCare’s passage. Still, you go to Washington and you should be taking your chances. But why is the NYT quoting a weeping Republican and not some Democrat who actually did vote for this epic clusterfudge?

But then there is this bit further down:

With the exchanges scheduled to open in just nine weeks, the Obama administration is struggling to come up with a creative interpretation of the health care law that would allow the federal government to kick in for insurance as private employers do, but so far an answer has proved elusive.

Why not just make shit up, like Obama did with delaying the employer mandate? It’s not like the MSM will call him on it.

“BlackBerry is not in trouble.”

July 30th, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Uh-huh:

BlackBerry India managing director Sunil Lalvani tells Sudhir Chowdhary that the company is working on products at various functionalities and price points to cater to the diverse set of audience here.

Excerpts:

Is BlackBerry in trouble again? Recent quarterly results have not been encouraging…

No, BlackBerry is not in trouble. I would be candid to admit that yes indeed, we have had one tough last year or little over the year. But if you analyse historically, there are two reasons to it. BlackBerry was one of the pioneers in the smartphone era with the revolutionary feature of having your e-mails on the move. But the entire mobile industry has evolved and it is evident by the huge influx of new smartphones in the market.

BlackBerry just flubbed its latest product launch, saw sales slip 17%, and posted a loss. Meanwhile, Android dominates smartphone marketshare while iPhone hoovers most of the profits.

What’s that leave BlackBerry?

H/T: BGR, but I won’t link them because they never link to their source material. That site’s about a legit a blog as I am an AA sponsor.

Manning Guilty of Lots, But Not Treason

July 30th, 2013 - 1:52 pm

Hot off the presses:

After a military trial that lasted nearly two months, a military judge has found Private Bradley Manning guilty of most of the counts that he faced, but not guilty of charges of “aiding the enemy,” the most serious of the remaining 12 charges he faced. However, the young soldier was convicted of espionage, theft and computer fraud charges.

As The Guardian reported from the courtroom: “The judge also accepted Manning’s version of several of the key dates in the WikiLeaks disclosures, and took off some of the edge from other less serious charges. But the overriding toughness of the verdict remains: the soldier was found guilty in their entirety of 17 out of the 22 counts against him, and of an amended version of four more.”

And Then There Were Eight

July 30th, 2013 - 1:42 pm

AGREED: Apple and Moto will drop a combined 14 patents from their Florida lawsuit, which if I’ve read correctly is more convoluted than a Saturday night get-together at Caligula’s place.

These patent suits have gotten tiresome, and don’t seem to settle anything other than just how broken our patent system is.

“HUD’s revolutionary rule change.”

July 30th, 2013 - 12:38 pm

Stanley Kurtz on Obama’s stealth War on Suburbia:

The new HUD rule is really about changing the way Americans live. It is part of a broader suite of initiatives designed to block suburban development, press Americans into hyper-dense cities, and force us out of our cars. Government-mandated ethnic and racial diversification plays a role in this scheme, yet the broader goal is forced “economic integration.” The ultimate vision is to make all neighborhoods more or less alike, turning traditional cities into ultra-dense Manhattans, while making suburbs look more like cities do now. In this centrally-planned utopia, steadily increasing numbers will live cheek-by-jowl in “stack and pack” high-rises close to public transportation, while automobiles fall into relative disuse.

Read the whole thing.

And the next GOP administration — assuming there ever is one — has got to roll this stuff back. No more “ratchet effect” for the vile progs and their vile plans. This is war, and they started it.

A Big Gulp for Liberty

July 30th, 2013 - 10:20 am

It’s not a huge deal, but a win is a win:

An appeals court today dealt another blow to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban, calling the controversial regulation “invalid” because it violates “the principle of separation of powers.”

Writing for the Appellate Division, Justice Renwick also criticized Bloomberg and the Health Department for proposing a ban with giant loopholes, which would exclude colas and energy drinks but allow milkshakes and fruit juices. Similarly businesses like delis and restaurants were prevented from hawking sugary beverages but 7-Elevean [sic] could still sell its signature Big Gulp.

The judicial panel said those inconsistencies go “beyond health concerns, in that it manipulates choices to try to change consumer norms.”

What the court failed to address is Bloomberg’s growing and incurable dumbassery, and the general anti-Americaness of trying to boss around soda sizes.

A Grand Bargain?

July 30th, 2013 - 7:45 am

We’ll get more details in the speech later today, but that’s what the preview looks like:

Hoping to break an impasse, President Barack Obama today will extend a new offer to congressional Republicans in which he would back an overhaul of the corporate tax system in exchange for a guarantee that a resulting one-time windfall be used to underwrite various job creation proposals.

Mr. Obama will lay out the plan in a speech he is to deliver in Chattanooga, Tenn., in a bid to win over Republican lawmakers who’ve opposed White House requests for new spending on roads and bridges and other projects aimed at boosting employment.

What we need is tax simplification across the board — not just cuts for business. And I suspect the Democrat side of the bargain is just more of the same shoveling tax dollars at Democrat interests we’ve seen the last few years. If that sort of thing created jobs, we wouldn’t have an employment problem at all.

The GOP would be smart instead to propose the Omnibus Do-Over Act of 2013, in which damn near everything enacted since 2001 is repealed. That’s eight years of Bush’s stuff to only five of Obama’s, and both sides would benefit from the resulting economic boom.

Planned Cannibal Jailed

July 30th, 2013 - 6:21 am

Creepiest story of the day:

The pedophile puppeteer who planned to kidnap, rape, murder and then eat toddlers was sentenced to 20-years today in Florida on pornography charges.

Ronald William Brown, 58, pleaded guilty to eight counts of possessing child pornography – including distressing images of dead children and children in bondage on his computer files at his home in Whispering Pines trailer park in Largo.

Court documents filed last week show that prosecutors requested U.S. District Court Judge James D. Whittemore to give Brown the maximum possible sentence of 30-years.

Brown first came to the attention of federal agents when they monitored online chats he entered into in which he discussed his desire to kidnap, kill and eat a boy at his church.

You know you’re not supposed to do that, right?

Congressmen Phil Roe (R-TN) and Tim Walberg (R-MN) in today’s Washington Examiner:

On July 23, 2013, we held a joint hearing in which we heard from a witness responsible for implementing this mandate for a large company that employs 10,000 people Jamie Richardson, a vice president with the White Castle restaurant chain.

White Castle has offered their employees health insurance since before the Great Depression, and Mr. Richardson testified that this law and the uncertainty it creates is harming his company’s employees, its ability to offer health insurance, and its capability to create jobs.

He said that White Castle’s growth was directly and negatively impacted by this law. Richardson said, “I would like to tell you we’ve continued to open more restaurants in more neighborhoods, providing more jobs, and serving more customers. I’d like to tell you that, but I can’t. In fact, White Castle’s growth has halted.”

Any law which prevents Belly Bombers from coming to Colorado must — must — be repealed.

Turning Microsoft Around — Again

July 29th, 2013 - 3:09 pm

Steve Ballmer, echoing Bill Gates’ famous internet memo of almost 20 years ago:

The results are in. Windows 8 hasn’t taken the market by storm. The Windows 8 tablets manufactured by our hardware partners are sitting in warehouses. We just took a $900M write-off on our RT tablets, now on fire-sale.

It doesn’t matter who actually proposed or implemented the failed strategy, I endorsed it. What matters most — the only thing that matters — is what we’re going to do now.

I have a plan. It’s conceptually simple but I won’t sugarcoat the situation. It will be extremely difficult to execute, particularly given the urgency.

First, I am tasking Terry Myerson, our EVP Operating Systems, with creating Windows Mobile 9, a tablet-capable version of Windows Phone 8 that will serve all of our mobile products. Until last week’s reorg, Terry was leading our Windows Phone group and is therefore ideally suited to the new task.

Qi Lu, EVP Applications and Services, will work with Tim to deliver a full, real Windows Mobile Office without the limitations imposed by RT. And, in keeping with our strategic need to spread Office everywhere and to provide the widest base for our on-line Office 365, Qi Lu will also produce Office versions for Android and iOS platforms.

Just kidding — that’s not Ballmer. Instead it’s Jean-Louis Gassée writing the memo Ballmer ought to write, if he wants a shot at making Microsoft relevant in mobile.

What’s interesting to me is, Gassée is echoing the advice I’ve been handing out for a year or so now: That Surface was going to flop, that MS is producing too many mobile operating systems, that Windows Phone ought to be scaled up to tablet size, and that desktop Windows ought to be left a desktop OS.

Whether or not Microsoft should actually build its own hardware is another matter. It’s one thing to manage a supply chain to build and distribute and sell 77 million Xbox 360s over the course of seven years; it’s quite another to build and distribute and sell 100 million phones or tablet each and every year. Nobody is better at operating at that scale than Tim Cook, and even he runs into problems with almost every single launch. I don’t know that Microsoft has anyone with that skill set.

But first, Microsoft needs a leader with something close to Gassée’s vision.

Anyone?

How (Not) to be Funny

July 29th, 2013 - 2:27 pm

It says right there on his bio that Dean Obeidallah is a “political comedian.” But can anyone find anything remotely funny in his, uh, comedic examination of why ObamaCare is failing with voters

Unless “because Republicans are mean and Obama is too nice to explain” is funny.

Um… is it?

I’d somehow missed Peggy Noonan sucking up to the IRS the other day — not that I’m too surprised by it or anything. Read:

In all the day-to-day of the IRS scandals I don’t think it’s been fully noticed that the overall reputation of the agency has suffered a collapse, the kind from which it can take a generation to recover fully. In the long term this will prove damaging to the national morale—what happens to a great nation when its people come to lack even rudimentary confidence in the decisions made by the revenue-gathering arm of its federal government?

Oh. Dear. The people have lost faith in the Federal government’s arguably nastiest agency. However shall the Republic survive? Please — this is what happens to your perspective when you spend your entire professional life inside the Washington bubble.

I doubt the American people have ever held the IRS in much esteem. It’s even a part of the American zeitgeist that the IRS is thought of with a combination mocking laughter and flop-sweating fear. I’d go further, and argue that it’s healthy for a free people to distrust their own tax collectors.

That’s especially true of the modern IRS, which has its own courts, its own SWAT team, virtual dictatorial power to garnish your wages, and will soon be in possession of all our medical records.

The day an agency like improves our “national morale” is the day America is over.

AND ANOTHER THING: Is “national morale” in this context just the creepiest phrase ever? It made me flash on Chick Morrison, the “national morale conditioner” in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

I’m Re-Back

July 29th, 2013 - 12:59 pm

A couple months ago one of the main power lines coming into the house shorted out. Figuring out what was wrong was the darnedest thing, because some lights worked, some didn’t. Some outlets worked, some didn’t. Some appliances worked, some didn’t. Sometimes a mess of things all in one room. Turns out, it depends on which line things connect to.

The same thing happened Thursday, literally minutes before I was supposed to leave on my camping trip. Melissa said she’d handle it, and that I should pack up the kids and go.

What I did notice this time — and it took seconds to figure out for the second go-around — was that it was all different this time around. The other low-power line had blown. So our electrician came out to find the break, and it turned out to have been the place they’d “fixed” the last time. The first guy had somehow managed to nick the new line as he was installing it, then the rains came and shorted it right back out.

The new guy sealed the heck out of the line. I also noticed how much faster the job gets done, when it’s done on their dime instead of mine.

What didn’t happen in a timely manner was telling me that they’d be shutting off the power.

Oops.

There I was in the middle of writing up something for The Tatler, when the lights went off and the UPS battery started beeping. My alternate internet connection — my iPad — I’d literally just plugged in to charge at all of 6% power.

So I was off the air until things got fixed. Which they are. And just in time for my Trifecta conference call.

I’ll be re-re-back after that.

They’re Coming for Your Lawn Mower

July 29th, 2013 - 6:31 am

Paul Krugman — surprise! — has joined the Left’s War on Suburbia:

Yet in one important respect booming Atlanta looks just like Detroit gone bust: both are places where the American dream seems to be dying, where the children of the poor have great difficulty climbing the economic ladder. In fact, upward social mobility — the extent to which children manage to achieve a higher socioeconomic status than their parents — is even lower in Atlanta than it is in Detroit. And it’s far lower in both cities than it is in, say, Boston or San Francisco, even though these cities have much slower growth than Atlanta.

So what’s the matter with Atlanta? A new study suggests that the city may just be too spread out, so that job opportunities are literally out of reach for people stranded in the wrong neighborhoods. Sprawl may be killing Horatio Alger.

It’s a real theme on the left. The suburbs destroy the environment, the suburbs destroy community, the suburbs destroy upward mobility…

Of course, it’s all a sham. Middle class values are easy to learn, and not that hard to practice. Graduate high school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids — and in that order. Of course, the Blue big cities have destroyed their schools, ObamaCare has stunted the starter job market, progressivism shuns marriage, the bubble has put homeownership out of reach, and welfare has allowed babies to make babies for generations now.

But it’s somehow all the fault of suburbia.

Riiiiiiiiight.

Fact is, the suburbs are the closest thing we have left to the farms and ranches of old, where every home is a castle.

Better to squeeze people back into the cities the Democrats ruined, where they can be more effectively controlled.

Backdoor Bailout

July 29th, 2013 - 5:17 am

Here’s what’s next for Detroit’s pensioners:

As Detroit enters the federal bankruptcy process, the city is proposing a controversial plan for paring some of the $5.7 billion it owes in retiree health costs: pushing many of those too young to qualify for Medicare out of city-run coverage and into the new insurance markets that will soon be operating under the Obama health care law.

Officials say the plan would be part of a broader effort to save Detroit tens of millions of dollars in health costs each year, a major element in a restructuring package that must be approved by a bankruptcy judge. It is being watched closely by municipal leaders around the nation, many of whom complain of mounting, unsustainable prices for the health care promised to retired city workers.

The exchanges, of course, are subsidized by either the Federal income taxes you pay, or (perhaps more likely) by the debt Washington is forcing on our kids. So in a sense, Detroit is indeed receiving a Federal bailout. Also notice that bit in the last line, where the move is “being watched closely by municipal leaders around the nation.”

Lots of broke Blue cities out there, folks.

Gone Campin’

July 25th, 2013 - 5:08 am

Back Monday.

Taiwanese Animators Take on Carlos Danger

July 24th, 2013 - 2:27 pm

Ted Cruz: Defund ObamaCare

July 24th, 2013 - 11:41 am

He’s by no means a perfect candidate, but he’s pretty darn good.

Required Reading

July 24th, 2013 - 10:12 am

Salena Zito, reporting from one of the Civil War’s most contested battlefields:

From the beginning, our country’s history has been one of divisional strife, particularly in our politics. The only thing that seems to change is what the argument is about.

Yeah. That. Now go read the whole thing.