The usually tight-lipped tech giant had this to say to All Things D:
Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone. Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. We care deeply about our customers’ privacy and security. Our team is continuously working to make our products even more secure, and we make it easy for customers to keep their software up to date with the latest advancements. Whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple’s industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers. We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.
It’s not just Apple, of course, although by dint of size their name always makes the headlines. What’s new is this situation where American companies are actively and publicly working against our national intelligence establishment — and that most Americans (including yours truly) think that’s a good thing.
Gives one hope that Washington can actually be rolled back.
Given the growing Chinese aggression in the Western Pacific, Japan has raised defense spending 2.8 percent for 2014 (to $46.8 billion) and, just in time for Christmas, released a list of priorities for the new, improved and larger defense budget. The Chinese were not pleased with this list as it emphasized dealing with the Chinese threat and saying so publically is considered bad manners in East Asia.
The Japanese plans involve improving reconnaissance around disputed (between China and Japan) islands and ocean areas that China is claiming control over. The Japanese also speak of improving their ability to move air, land and naval forces quickly to counter any Chinese surprises. The Japanese planning document goes into some detail about how civilian and military resources would be mobilized for this, along with help from allied nations.
This is all very upsetting for the Chinese who hate the Japanese for eighty years of humiliation inflicted on China until 1945.
A couple things I’d like to add.
If China is upset, tough. Japan was quite happy under the US defense umbrella, but China is getting more aggressive as the US is getting more confused and passive — which is exactly what Beijing wanted. They don’t like the results? That’s their problem.
The other problem is Article 9 of Japan’s constitution, which reads:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Japan has always skirted A9 by calling their armed forces “Self-Defense Forces.” While it’s difficult to square A9 with any kind of armed forces, it’s impossible to square it with their navy’s — ahem, Maritime Self-Defense Force — new baby aircraft carrier, not to mention facing off against China in disputed territory.
I wonder if the first half of 1914 felt anything like this.
Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said the ruling AK Party had in the past survived military coup plots and attempts in the courts to outlaw it. It would not now yield to a corruption investigation that he said targeted the government but was already damaging the national economy.
“These latest formations in the judiciary and the police, we can’t call it a coup, but a mini coup attempt. This is what interests foreign investors,” he told broadcaster CNBC-e, echoing suggestions by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of a foreign interest in the crisis.
“Maybe the clearest indicator of this was the fall in share prices,” added Babacan, who is in charge of the economy.
The fact that Turkey has placed one man “in charge” of the economy is the nutshell version of everything they’re doing wrong.
This one is a month old, but my wife just found it and… well, it’s a nice way to close out an ugly year:
Some of man’s best friends are playing an innovative role in the VA Palo Alto Men’s Trauma Recovery Program as four-legged therapy for veterans finding their way through the darkness of post-traumatic stress disorder, thanks to Paws for Purple Hearts. The dogs are so perceptive they even will awaken vets from nightmares.
But there’s also a dual purpose to the program. Some of the veterans who come to the VA’s Menlo Park campus from around the country for military-related PTSD treatment are helping train the canines to become service dogs for physically disabled vets.
“It’s a reward knowing where Jason will go because there are guys far worse off than I am,” said Navarro, a Southern California native who lives in Tennessee.
Read the whole thing, and I’m not kidding about the hankies.
Megan McArdle says the individual mandate — the “tax” which underpins the law — is politically vulnerable:
To see why, consider a fictional middle-class family. Call them the Petersons. Mom, Dad, two swell kids. Dad has his own landscaping business, and Mom works part time as a massage therapist. Together, they pulled in $90,000 in family income in 2013, and that’s about what they expect to get in 2014, so that’s what they put into the system when they go to buy health insurance. They’re pleasantly surprised to find that they can get a Silver plan for $688 a month. That’s a lot of money, to be sure, but it comes with a substantial subsidy and they’re happy to get it.
Over the year, Mom picks up another regular massage client, and Dad gets a few more landscaping jobs than he had last year, and at the end of the year, good news: Their family income is now $95,000! The recession is over for this family.
Or is it just beginning? When their family income passed $94,000, the Petersons moved from just under 400 percent of the federal poverty line to just over. Which means that they no longer qualify for subsidies on their health insurance, and the Internal Revenue Service would like that $8,500 back, please.
I’ve written before that ObamaCare’s un-phased subsidies put an effective cap on middle class income, a point from which families simply can’t afford any additional income. Stay put, comrades — you’ve gone as far we feel you should.
That’s no accident. That’s wealthy Democrats closing the door behind them. This law, this “benefit,” might be the most sinister tool ever concocted for protecting the haves from competition from the have-nots.
More, in case the headline didn’t convey the full thrust of the story:
When police arrived at a building on the corner of S.W. 15th Ave. and S.W. Yamhill on Saturday, they found a naked man standing on the ledge, cutting himself and threatening to jump.
Sergeant Drake Hull who was one of the first officers on the scene, said the man was occasionally tripping and barely coherent as he walked on a 24-inch ledge.
An officer trained in crisis-intervention began talking to the man, who said he was hungry. Police then procured French fries and a turkey and bacon sandwich from the nearby Hotel deLuxe. The man apparently wasn’t overwhelmed when presented with the sandwich.
Hull said, “I think at one point he said he wanted a cheeseburger, but beggars can’t be choosers.” Police were eventually able to convince the would-be jumper to walk away from the ledge and eat.
I’d have held out for some Lion’s Choice.
The main terror threat to the Winter Games might not actually be at the Winter Games:
Russia is promising extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of athletes and spectators at the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. But as two deadly bombings in southern Russia have made clear, protecting people as they travel to the games could pose a much tougher challenge.
Suicide bombers on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 killed more than 30 people at a train station and on a trolley in the southern Russian city of Volgograd. “The attack demonstrates the militants’ capability to strike at soft targets such as transport infrastructure,” says Matthew Clements, a security expert at IHS (IHS) in London. Although Russian authorities may be able to protect Sochi itself, “there is a greater risk to transport targets around cities in southern Russia, and even Moscow itself.”
Sochi is on the lovely Black Sea coast, but other than that it’s in the middle of pretty much nowhere. Stavropol is nearly half a day away by train, Sebastopol and Volgograd even farther. And being in the Caucasus, many of the locals aren’t exactly known for their strict lawfulness. You’d really want to fly in, but it’s not like Sochi hosts a major international airport capable of handling thousands of athletes, thousands more coaches and support staff, plus jillions of media and attendees.
Wikipedia says about $3 billion has been spent on upgrading the region’s tourist and transport infrastructure, but it’s a safe guess that a big chunk of that wound up greasing palms rather than paving roads.
This is going to be a real nail-biter getting everybody in and out of there without getting blown up.
All the way down to the late 19th Century:
The annual report from the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also found that deaths in the line of duty generally fell by 8 percent and were the fewest since 1959.
According to the report, 111 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide this past year, compared to 121 in 2012.
Forty-six officers were killed in traffic related accidents, and 33 were killed by firearms.
The number of firearms deaths fell 33 percent in 2013 and was the lowest since 1887.
Quick, we’d better ban something.
Ah, yes, back in November Obama reminded us that we could buy Obamacare “the old-fashioned way — offline, either over the phone or in person. … You can talk to somebody directly and they can walk you through the application process.” So of course Obama went to the D.C. exchange, spoke to someone directly and walked through the application process himself, right? Nope. Obama was too busy enjoying the beaches of Waikiki. Aides back in Washington did it for him. Because most of us have aides who can fill out the paperwork and navigate the nightmare of Obamacare for us.
Number one polled reason why people voted to reelected Professor Wiggleroom in 2012? “Because he understands people like me.”
The lower-than-hoped-for enrollment numbers on the federal exchanges are due to Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.) argued on Monday. Norton blamed a “negative propaganda campaign” by Republicans that confused Americans into thinking that the law was no longer in effect.
“There are millions of people out there who think it was repealed, so there was no way to break through that very easily,” she told MSNBC. Norton also pointed out that the “debacle of a website” made matters worse because it “seemed to confirm that [the law] must have been repealed, or should have been repealed.”
In a sense, Norton is right. ObamaCare was never repealed, but it’s fair to say that its enactment has been somewhat… selective. It exists in a sort of lawless limbo where the Administration decides by whim or fiat which parts of the law to enforce and when.
So if Americans think the law has been repealed, well, they aren’t entirely wrong. The fact that we have the Executive branch acting in such an imperial manner would have had our Founders reaching for their muskets. It’s no exaggeration to say that, because King George tried to get away with less than this Administration has asserted are its rights and powers.
Or as Norton herself put it, “When that fine is going to kick in, you’re going to see people trotting to sign on like you’ve never seen it before.”
Cattle, meet prod.
Must-read stuff on China from StrategyPage. It’s an unsigned piece, so I have to guess it’s by Jim Dunnigan — but that’s just a guess. Here’s the gist:
The Chinese campaign of conquering real, or imagined, nearby “lost territories” by winning many little victories in battles none of the victims is willing to go to war over continues. This campaign is quite active in the South China Sea, North Korea and along the Indian border. China has, in the last few years, taken control of sizable chunks of India and large swaths of the South China Sea one tiny piece at a time. The victims are organizing, but have yet to come up with a workable defense against the Chinese tactics. Despite growing resistance by the victims, and their ally the United States, China keeps pushing and keeps making progress. Nothing any of the victims has done so far has stopped the Chinese, who apparently believe that ultimate victory is theirs because their opponents are too disorganized or intimidated to put up any effective resistance. Nevertheless, it is a risky game and there are constant minor crises that could go awry and become major problems.
We’ve discussed at length China’s similarity to Wilhelmine and Nazi Germany — the biggest bully on the block, but the other kids are collectively stronger. So far, Beijing has shown a lot more patience than Wilhelm II, and has far more modest goals than Hitler. Will their “salami tactics” get them what they want, without a major war? So long as China keeps taking small slices, that depends on two things:
• American willingness to act as ringleader of the nations along China’s rim.
• East Asia’s trust in America’s power.
As recently as just a year or two ago, I would have said both items were no-brainers. Now I’m not so sure.
What’s the big deal, you might rightly ask. We all make mistakes, and that was way back in 2008 — a more innocent time. Avik Roy explains:
On November 4, Jacobson rated as “Pants on Fire” the President’s new claim that “what we said was, you can keep [your plan] if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.” Both pieces were edited by Angie Drobnic Holan, who had initially granted PolitiFact’s seal of approval to Senator Obama’s 2008 promise. Holan delivered the coup de grâce, declaring as PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” the “keep your plan” promise.
“The promise was impossible to keep,” says Holan in her December piece. Now she tells us!
It’s always about providing a big enough fig leaf to get the legislation passed.
My first reaction to that headline can be best summed up as, “Wait — what?”
The longer version goes like this. I thought the F-35C was supposed to replace the Navy’s air fleet of Hornets and Super Hornets. And that since we were unlikely to ever buy enough pricy F-35Cs to do the job, that the Navy would turn to drones — a nice compliment to the increased automation on board the new ships we also won’t buy enough of. So what’s this artist’s rendering of a manned stealth fighter?
From the report:
The new aircraft and its associated “family of systems” would be expected to become operational around 2035.
“We’re doing study work right now to neck down what it is that we’re going to spend our money on in the analysis of alternatives,” Rear Adm. Mike Manazir told USNI News on Dec. 20.
“But at the beginning of fiscal year ’15, we will start that analysis of alternatives, which will then start the acquisition process to get an airplane in 2030.”
The Navy does not yet know what kind of aircraft the F/A-XX will be, but the service is working on defining exactly what capabilities it will need when the Super Hornet fleet starts to exhaust their 9,000-hour airframe lives around 2035.
“Right now our effort is take the F/A-18E/F off and list everything you lose,” Manazir said. “Now, how do you service that?”
2035? It’ll be a drone.
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman revealed the Saudi gift on Lebanese national television Sunday, calling it the largest aid package ever to the country’s defense bodies. The Saudi pledge compares with Lebanon’s 2012 defense budget, which the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute put at $1.7 billion.
Lebanon would use the Saudi grant to buy “newer and more modern weapons,” from France, said Mr. Sleiman, an independent who has become increasingly critical of Hezbollah. It followed what he called “decades of unsuccessful efforts” to build a credible Lebanese national defense force.
What Lebanon needs even more than $3,000,000,000 is a real sense of nationhood, or at least unity to a cause, which is something Hezbollah does possess.
New York City is going to war against smoking — fake smoking. Unbelievable:
On Thursday, the New York City Council made room in its legislative agenda — it was also busy commissioning a study on polystyrene foam — to pass by a vote of 43–8 (that lopsided majority an indicator of idiocy afoot) a measure that will, once Mayor Bloomberg signs it (oh, he will) shortly prohibit the vaping (that’s the word) of e-cigarettes anyplace where smoking is now banned in Gotham, bars, restaurants, offices, parks, the beach, you name it. Technically speaking, the ban will take effect as an amendment to the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act. That e-cigarettes do not emit any smoke was an irrelevance.
That’s Andrew Stuttaford at NRO, and he has quite the lengthy report. What it boils down to is this: There’s zero evidence that e-cigarets hurt anybody or have much more than a non-zero chance of causing cancer. So they must be outlawed… why?
If I had to guess, for NYC’s pushy progs, it’s just a matter of reflex.
The good news, I suppose, is that if you like the Bay State plan, you really will be able to keep the Bay State plan.
Tried to take a few minutes to rest after spending the whole day prepping for Number One Son’s eighth birthday party, but then this hit my inbox:
Twice ‘Cancelled’ in IA: We learn today that 16,000 Iowans who had endured the trials of online Obamacare enrollment at Healthcare.gov, and thought they had coverage starting January 1, were told Friday night that they must re-apply on the Iowa healthcare site. On Dec 27. It’s very doubtful that these Iowans – who thought they were already covered starting Jan 1 – will be able to re-apply on the Iowa exchange in time.
Especially since the Iowa healthcare site is down for apparently scheduled maintenance the day after the announcement. A call Saturday to the toll-free number mentioned in the KCCI story linked above was met with an automated attendant stating that the DHS offices are closed.
Click that second link and, sure enough, Iowa’s site is scheduled to be down until 7PM Central Saturday evening. But isn’t that when most people do their health insurance shopping?
Sunday probably isn’t a big day either, what with all those gun-toting bitter clingers going to their churches and whatnot. So they’d better be ready for a rush on Monday, because Tuesday is party day.
And Wednesday… what a hangover.
If Eric Clapton had a creative low point, it was 1983′s “I’ve Got A Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart.” Check out this chorus:
I get off on ’57 Chevys;
I get off on screaming guitar.
Like the way it hits me every time it hits me.
I’ve got a rock and roll, I’ve got a rock and roll heart.
You like ’57s Chevys? Well good for you! Makes you wonder why he didn’t pen an ode to pepperoni on pizzas, or maybe puppies — you know, really take a stand. It’s almost as if he were begging to still be liked. Clapton? Begging? That’s just wrong.
I shouldn’t be so mean; Clapton is God, after all. But he did spend most of the ’80s in Adult Contemporary Hell, most likely confused — like many rock gods entering midlife — by what he was supposed to do next.
But by the end of the decade he found his footing again, with 1989′s Journeyman.
The album title alone was something of an apology, a statement of “I still have a lot to learn.” Even the track listing reads like a mea culpa for the previous decade. “Pretending,” “Anything for Your Love,” “”Bad Love,” “Running on Faith,” and so on until finishing with “Before You Accuse Me.” The starter track was penned by rock legend Jerry Lynn Williams. Clapton also went to Ray Charles, Leiber & Stoller, Cecil & Linda Womack, and Robert Cray — a fine collection of R&B, early rock, and straight-up blues.
Tonight’s selection was radio favorite “Bad Love,” cowritten with Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. Phil Collins played drums for the track, too, which stayed Number One on Billboard’s chart for three weeks. It starts in slow, drawing you in with the keys and bass, then Clapton’s wailing guitar kind of sneaks in at you from underneath. It’s a helluva thing, so enjoy this live performance from 1990. It’s certainly not his best work, but it’s a solid effort — a enjoyable tune with a catchy hook and some fine guitar work. Apology accepted.
Oh, and if Journeyman was Clapton’s apology for the ’80s, then 1994′s From The Cradle was the makeup sex. But that’s a story for another day.
One patient was severely depressed and needed medication and a referral to a psychiatrist. Another was having trouble breathing from asthma that requires inhalers. A third had a faded rash on her arm that she was ready to call a spider bite until she showed me a two-day-old iPhone photo. It was the angry red rash of Lyme disease. Each problem had an effective treatment but each visit took over half an hour to carefully complete.
The appointments were gratifying, in an old-fashioned way. Patients still have the expectation that their doctor will be patient and listen carefully, but one by one doctors and patients are awakening from that comforting vision of the past to the rushed, restricted world of the ObamaCare future. Thanks to that eye-opening week without my office manager, when I ran hours behind, I was forced to forfeit the vision I had of myself as an old country doctor practicing in a big city.
For me and many of my colleagues, the real practice of medicine is supposed to involve an intimate encounter with each patient and a diagnosis of illness leading to a potential cure. In the future, however, a diagnosis of Lyme disease or the severity of a patient’s depression may be missed because showing the photo or taking an extensive mental-health history doesn’t fit squarely into the 10-minute visit authorized by insurance, along with mandatory computer documentation, insurance verifications and appointment scheduling.
These problems predate ObamaCare, but the new law brings more regulations and low-quality insurance at a time when we are already struggling to comply with the electronic health-record mandate.
Quality care will be further restricted to the elite. And if that wasn’t the intention (cough, cough), it is always the result of collectivist schemes.
“Now please go away,” says Mark Spitznagel. More:
One hundred years ago, on Dec. 23, 1913, the Federal Reserve Act was signed into law, giving the United States exactly what it didn’t need: a central bank. Americans had gone without one since the 1836 expiration of the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, which Andrew Jackson famously refused to renew. Not to be a party pooper, but as this dubious centennial is observed, we should ask ourselves: Has the Fed been friend or foe to growth and prosperity?
Economists Selgin, Lastrapes and White analyzed the Fed’s record and found that even focusing on the post-World War II era, it is not clear that the Fed has provided more economic stability compared with the pre-Fed regime that was characterized by the National Banking system. The authors concluded that “the need for a systematic exploration of alternatives to the established monetary system is as pressing today as it was a century ago.”
In other sectors, we don’t normally defer to a committee of a dozen experts to set prices. Yet this is what the Fed does with its “open market committee” that routinely sets a target for the “federal funds rate” as well as other objectives. If we all agree that central planning and price-fixing don’t work for computers and oil, why would we expect it to bring us stability in money and banking?
The Fed’s original mission was price stability, and the dollar has lost something like 98% of it purchasing power since 1913. In the 1970s, the Fed was given a second task, to keep unemployment low — and there’s nothing funny to say about that.
Japan faces similar problems with its central bank:
Japan’s inflation accelerated to the fastest pace since 2008 last month, bringing the rate closer to policy makers’ target while threatening to erode household spending power unless employers boost wages.
Prices excluding fresh food rose 1.2 percent from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said today in Tokyo, more than a median forecast of 1.1 percent in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. A separate report showed industrial output rose 0.1 percent from October, less than forecast, in a risk for projections of an acceleration in economic growth this quarter.
Eroding wealth to force people to spend money to force businesses to inflate wages to reinflate an economic bubble is considered “success.” We’ve been trying the same thing here, with mixed results, since 2001.
Fact is, during the century before the Fed’s creation, the US dollar enjoyed a modest deflation, rewarding savings and non-speculative investment. Per capita income and our population both grew phenomenally — an explosion of wealth and creativity unparalleled in human history.
Not everything we’ve endured since is the Fed’s fault, but ending that century-long failure wouldn’t be a bad place to start repairing the damage.
Sorry for the misleading headline — the NBC News story I’m linking to doesn’t actually blame George Bush for anything, near as I can tell. But it does warn that 2014 will be a nasty year for politics… because REPUBLICANS! No, really:
It was the gift that kept on giving: The disastrous roll-out of the health-insurance exchanges provided daily fodder for Republican opponents of Obamacare. And the dire state of U.S. health care, coupled with a headlong rush by people to get health insurance, gave Democrats ample opportunity to say “we told you so.”
So once it’s January 2014 and people can start having their new insurance and all the deadlines have passed, can we relax and talk about something other than health reform?
Not a chance, say experts. They predict 2014 will be, if anything, worse than 2013.
“It will be an election year, and the GOP has pledged to make the Affordable Care Act one of its top issues. So yes, I think we can expect even more politics,” says Sabrina Corlette, senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.
“Scary thought, I know.”
Who caused the rollout disaster? Dunno!
Who created the dire state of millions losing their doctors, plans, affordable copays, etc? It’s a mystery!
Why the headlong rush? Beats me!
But everything must be BECAUSE REPUBLICANS because a fictional Democrat was given the opportunity to say “We told you so” right there in the lede.
The holidays might be only half over, but that doesn’t mean there’s any time for ObamaCare to rest. Reason’s Ira Stoll recently tried to buy insurance like he’s mandated to do:
The Massachusetts Web site did eventually begin to function well enough for me to compare plans and find one that would work best for me. I stuck it in the shopping cart the way you would with a purchase at L.L. Bean or any other online shopping site.
Instead of a credit-card check-out, though, I found myself in a kind of tax-return hell. The annual pre-April 15 encounter with the IRS is bad enough, but the idea that one should be required to go through the whole thing before buying some health insurance is downright obnoxious. The website wouldn’t accept a hyphenated last name. It had strong opinions about abortion (“How many people are in your family? Include unborn child(ren) if someone is pregnant.”)
Finally, about two-and-a-half hours in, I got an error message that said “a connection to the server has failed. (status=503).”
This is after things got better.