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Stripping Indiana Jones

September 25th, 2014 - 1:46 pm


Director Steven Soderbergh took Raiders of the Lost Ark and stripped it of color, dialog, and that famous John Williams score. Here’s why:

He posted the result on his experimental online marketplace, Extension 765. He begins his musing on the film by talking about staging, the way the elements of a scene are arranged. He writes, “I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount.”

The stripped-down “Raiders” invites viewers to concentrate on Spielberg’s staging, rather than Harrison Ford’s dialogue or the dramatic action music. Soderbergh replaced the original score with an unusual electronica soundtrack meant to “aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect.” Some viewers may find the new score a little off-putting, but you can always mute the thing and look purely at the visuals.

I’ve always thought the Nepalese bar sequence, when Indy first encounters Nazi Major Arnold Toht and rekindles his romance with Marion Ravenwood, was a perfectly staged small-set action sequence. Could it really be improved, or at least have my appreciation of it enhanced, by watching it stripped down?

There’s only one way to find out…

Required Reading

September 25th, 2014 - 12:19 pm


Charles C. W. Cooke:

Among the nations that have signed on to the attacks are Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates — all vital accomplices in the winning of hearts and minds. And yet, for all the cosmopolitanism, one crucial ally was conspicuously missing from the roster of the willing: the Congress of the United States.

Since he ordered military action in Libya in 2011, President Obama has argued as a matter of routine that Article II of the U.S. Constitution confers such considerable power upon the commander-in-chief that, in most instances at least, Congress’s role in foreign affairs is limited to that of advice bureau. The political ironies of this development are sufficiently rich to stand without much comment. (Imagine, if you will, trying to explain to an average voter in 2008 that by his second term the Democratic candidate for president would have adopted wholesale an interpretation of the Constitution that was championed by the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and John Yoo.) Less obvious, however, is what this means for America and her future. The bottom line: It’s not good.

Read the whole thing.

My initial reaction to the bombing campaign was that surely renewed action in Iraq must be covered by the existing use of force authorization from 2003. But that concerned the Saddam regime which is long since toppled. And the absence of a Status of Forces Agreement and the removal of all of our forces (minus vestigial embassy protection troops) would seem render the old authorization moot, and thus no longer operative.

Yet instead of going to Congress, Obama has gone again to the UN to explain his unilateral actions after the fact.

I’m not sure Cooke has it quite correct when he speaks of Obama’s “divine right.” The phrase I keep thinking of instead is l’état, c’est moi.

Thought for the Day

September 25th, 2014 - 11:35 am

Sam Stein for HuffPo:

The legislative branch adjourned its business at the end of last week to tend to elections. In doing so, it left unresolved the issue of authorizing the war that President Barack Obama would start days later. Congressional inaction didn’t upend the White House’s plans; the administration had already claimed it had legal authority to launch such strikes in Syria.

But by leaving town before the president started operations, lawmakers may have done serious harm to their own institution, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) argued in an interview with The Huffington Post. Not only had they diminished the standing of Congress with respect to the executive branch, they also may have given unintended consent to a Dick Cheney-like vision of presidential war powers.

Dick Cheney’s boss never launched a war without first rallying the American people, then rallying support from Congress.

Can Joe Biden’s boss say the same thing?

Obama versus the Generals: Part II

September 25th, 2014 - 9:02 am

News You Can Use

September 25th, 2014 - 8:13 am


You know you’re not supposed to… oh, who am I trying to fool?

Wargaming the Senate

September 25th, 2014 - 7:28 am


You can probably guess the topic of this week’s column, now up on the PJM home page.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 25th, 2014 - 6:23 am


I’m all out of “if you like your plan you can keep it” jokes, and anyway this isn’t funny:

Now here is what is really strange and it is explained superbly by Bob Graboyes, a health economist with the Mercatus Center, in this video. There are gaps between the corridors. And if your plan happens to fall within one of the gaps, it is no longer a valid plan.

Suppose you are in a Bronze plan with an actuarial value of 58%. Then, a year from now, because of price changes, technology changes, or some other kind of change, your plan suddenly covers 60% of expected expenses. That’s good for you, right? Wrong. Because your plan no longer fits into one of the metallic corridors, it’s no longer a valid plan – despite the fact that it has become a better plan!

Now let’s suppose you have a really good plan – a plan that pays 98% of expected health care costs. Given the large number of Democrat’s who believe that health insurance should pay almost every medical bill, you would think that the law passed by a Democratic Congress without a single Republican vote would strongly encourage such a plan. If you’re inclined to think that, you are mistaken, however.

Any plan that pays more than 92% of expected health care costs for the average enrollee is illegal under ♡bamaCare!!!.

The clusterfudge has only just begun.

Eight on Four

September 25th, 2014 - 5:10 am


As promised, I installed iOS 8 on an older iOS device to see if it bogged down, lost functionality, or just became a pain to use. Actually, I installed it on two devices — an iPhone 4s and a first-gen iPad with Retina Display. Both devices use an Apple A5 processor, except that the iPad’s is up-armored with a better graphic coprocessor.

I didn’t do any sort of extensive testing, deciding instead it would be more useful just to mess around with them like I would in normal day-to-day use for most of a week.

The short version? Go ahead and upgrade your iPhone 4S. Mine (my four-year-old’s, really) runs just fine. If load times take longer, they didn’t take noticeably longer. Nate still plays Angry Birds just fine.

Results were less clear on that old iPad, however.

iOS 8 feels like it’s ramped up multitouch sensitivity, which in and of itself is no bad thing. And the touchscreen doesn’t have any problems handling the increased sensitivity. But the display itself does sometimes have trouble keeping up — on occasion I get very un-iOS-like hesitations, instead of the instantaneous reactions I’m used to getting. As a result, I sometimes try the same action twice, only to have initiated a second action instead.

It’s not a huge deal, and I don’t know for sure if iOS 8 really does increase touch sensitivity. But that’s how it feels, and the A5X CPU is just a little too old and slow to pump 2 million pixels as quickly as iOS 8 demands.

If that’s a concern to you, don’t upgrade — and I’ll post on this again when the inevitable 8.1 release comes out.

Thought for the Day

September 24th, 2014 - 3:44 pm

Worst States to Do Business In

September 24th, 2014 - 1:13 pm


See any shockers? Me neither. Although Wisconsin has a fighting chance to get of that list if Scott Walker proves able to detangle more of the Deep State.

It Depends on What the Meaning of ISIS Is

September 24th, 2014 - 12:08 pm



The morning after the President Obama announced the United States had hit ISIS strongholds in Syria, Bill Clinton said the United States will be engaged in the conflict “as long as somebody’s trying to have total control, particularly if it’s ISIS.”

The former president, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual conference in New York, emphasized that there was no need for a U.S. “land war.”

“We don’t need to be there on the ground,” Clinton said, but predicted the administration would pursue “an extended involvement with airpower and with providing intelligence and other institutional support to the people who are fighting ISIS and trying to create a more inclusive set of governments in the Middle East.”

I’m out of practice parsing Clintonisms. Would somebody please tell me what the hell he just said?


September 24th, 2014 - 11:18 am
Come and get your love.

Come and get your love.

On the off chance you thought it was impossible to think any less of George Stephanopoulos:

It’s called The Suitsy. Inventor Jesse Herzog showed off his masterpiece on ABC.

ABC’s Robin Roberts said, “He calls it a business suit onesie hybrid.”

“I was at work and I was just thinking ‘I need a way to look professional, but feel like I’m in my pajamas at the same time,’” Herzog explained.

George Stephanopoulos seemed impressed: “That was awesome.”

Anyone caught wearing one of these deserves to be hung up in the ultimate atomic wedgie.

War On and/or By Women Update

September 24th, 2014 - 10:33 am


Public schools aren’t usually so well known for their large endowments.

Beats So Lonely

September 24th, 2014 - 9:51 am
The Three Billion Dollar Men

The Three Billion Dollar Men

The writing was on the wall last week when Apple failed to make mention of Beats Music at the iPhone 6/iOS 8 reveal last week, but now it’s official that the service is no more:

Considering Apple’s penchant for simple, unified brands, and how it despises fragmentation, shutting down Beats Music makes a lot of sense. Running a second music service in parallel with iTunes that forces people to learn a whole new interface might have confused customers. Beats Music’s CEO Ian Rogers was also put in charge of iTunes Radio, meaning he’s already splitting his time rather than just focusing on Beats Music.

Shutting down Beats Music also meshes with reports that the Beats acquisition was mostly about getting Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre’s talent on board, and picking up the headphone business, not about streaming music. Having Beats as a side brand in music accessories flows naturally, but seems clumsy when it comes to software. We’ve contacted Apple with a request for comment on its plans for Beat Music.

Apple I’m sure will decline to comment. What really remains to be seen is if Dre and Iovine and Rogers can turn iTunes Radio into a hit, or if Apple blew $3,000,000,000 on its biggest-ever buyout.

Sign “O” the Times

September 24th, 2014 - 8:27 am


Here are the fruits of incentivizing massive college debts, keeping young adults on mom & dad’s health insurance, and inflating housing prices:

Last week, an annual Census Bureau survey showed that the U.S. added just 476,000 households in the year ended in March, compared with an average of 1.3 million in each of the prior two years.

The Census releases a separate quarterly survey that also provides household formation figures, though economists say the annual survey is a better gauge of household formation. The quarterly survey has also shown weak household formation—around 650,000 new households—for the same period measured by the annual survey that runs from March to March.

Either way, for the most recent year, both surveys “show disturbingly slow growth,” said Thomas Lawler, an independent housing economist in Leesburg, Va.

And yet the GOP has pretty much given up on marketing to these poor kids who aren’t really kids anymore.

Obama versus the Generals

September 24th, 2014 - 7:10 am

It’s Part I of my weeklong Trifecta series on the battle between the White House and the Pentagon over sending ground troops to Iraq — and right or wrong, what other presidents did during similar fights.

News You Can Use

September 24th, 2014 - 6:15 am


The best Florida Woman story of the decade turns out to probably be a fake, so to speak.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 24th, 2014 - 5:18 am


An Alaska plastic surgeon is closing down his practice after 38 years, blaming ♡bamaCare!!!, Medicaid, and Medicare for his decision:

“It is an unsustainable system,” Dr. Wennen wrote to his customers in a letter obtained by The Daily Caller. “I am personally writing off upwards of three quarters of a million dollars annually in free/uncompensated care.”

“My reasons for closing down the office are simply economic,” Wennen wrote. “The governmental agencies that are supplying ‘medical insurance’ to the elderly, the disadvantaged, the indigent and the sick, injured, or disabled have placed an unrealistically low value of worth on physician’s services.”

“Within the last month, Fairbanks has lost three other much respected physicians for the same or similar reasons,” Dr. Wennen wrote. ”I am not the first and certainly will not be the last of the exodus of physicians from active practice because of all of this.”

After nearly 40 years, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dr. Wennen hadn’t been considering retiring for a while already, but that doesn’t mean his experience in dealing with government medicine isn’t indicative of something else we may be about to endure.

Medicine has long attracted some of the best and brightest, thanks to high pay based on real benefits to their patients resulting from rare and difficult skills.

What kind of person will be attracted to the medical field in the future, when the pay is lower and the results are worse?

Cliff Notes for Dummies

September 23rd, 2014 - 2:19 pm


Another Democrat caught plagiarizing:

Sections of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s veterans and rural communities plans appear to copy text directly from a variety of sources.

The sources include, but are not limited to, academic journals and reports, and a local newspaper column.

In other instances, the sources are linked in plan’s footnotes, though Burke’s plan makes little effort to indicate that not just the source, but the words themselves were taken from the sources.

BuzzFeed News reported Friday that large portions of Burke’s jobs plan for Wisconsin were copied directly from the plans of four Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.


Thought for the Day

September 23rd, 2014 - 1:18 pm

Now You Don’t See Me, Now You Do

September 23rd, 2014 - 12:17 pm

Will radar technology advances render stealth jets obsolete, as one Russian military expert claims? Probably not, but it does add another element to a constantly-changing equation. Joe Trevithick has the story:

It’s not for no reason that the U.S. Navy is taking its time acquiring stealth fighters, and is instead focusing on building more and better EA-18G electronic-warfare jets that can jam enemy radars instead of avoiding them.

Likewise, consider Washington’s renewed interest in extremely long-range, fast-flying hypersonic weapons. These super-fast weapons could help make up for the decreasing effectiveness of stealth. An attacking warplane wouldn’t need to fly so close to enemy radars if it could simply attack from long range with a weapon that’s really, really hard to intercept.

Even aging and portly B-52 bombers—which are anything but stealthy—could lob hypersonic projectiles at targets from hundreds or thousands of miles away. The speedy missiles could zip right through enemy defenses.

In theory. In reality, the Americans—as well as everyone else—have struggled to get hypersonics to work. Just like it’s hard getting stealth to work. And just like better sensors also require intensive development and investment over many decades.

Perhaps most importantly, Moore’s Law—the idea that computing power doubles every two years or so—has never been repealed, so to speak. The fact is, stealth like any advanced technology was always bound to face challenges from any number of other technologies, particularly those that hinge on improvements in computer processing.

But future plane designs will still incorporate stealth features, even if those features don’t represent a major advantage. Stealth might not be a panacea, but having no stealth at all just might be aerial suicide. New sensors work even better again non-stealthy jets than they do against stealthy ones. [Emphasis in original]

I’m reminded of what almost killed Volvo as a make of automobile. While most carmakers sold models based on horsepower and performance, or luxury and status, and later gas mileage and economy. Volvo took a different tack, selling cars to consumers concerned about safety. “Boring but safe” was for years Volvo’s brand.

But then seatbelts were mandated, followed by airbags. And a host of other safety features like crumple zones and anti-lock brakes became standard features on just about every car made. “Safe” became the lowest common denominator of every new car sold, leaving Volvo with nothing but “boring.” The brand nearly died as a result.

Stealth is now the “safety” of modern jet fighters, and increasingly of bombers, too — you’ve got to have it just to have a chance at all. What’s telling is how difficult it’s proving for anyone but American aerospace companies to develop fully-stealthy fighters. China is trying with the Chengdu J-20, but development is slow going. Further hindering the effort might be that China still doesn’t even have a fully homegrown fourth-generation fighter, much less a stealthy fifth-gen. Russia has upgraded their aging fourth-gen designs with much-improved avionics and some stealth-type features, but also has floundered trying to develop a true fifth-gen fighter. The Europeans and the Brits are kinda-sorta trying, but their tiny defense budgets probably can’t handle the strain.

But stealth-defeating radars and missiles are a helluva lot easier to develop than fleets of fighter aircraft. And even if they don’t totally obsolete our F-22s and F-35s, advanced detection certainly complicates things for us.

So we’d best find the money to stay a step ahead of the game, or risk going where not even Volvo has gone before.

Shut Up and Take My Tax Money

September 23rd, 2014 - 11:16 am

After school I’ll show this to my eight-year-old and tell him that I used to have one of those back in the ’80s.

Support Our Tokes

September 23rd, 2014 - 10:15 am

Vets in Colorado Springs will have the chance to get free pot this Saturday, courtesy of Operation Grow4Vets:

The organization’s goal is to help veterans suffering from emotional and physical pain. They hosted their largest-ever cannabis giveaway event in Denver Saturday. KDVR reported about 500 people–mostly veterans–attended that event.

Each veteran at Saturday’s event got $200 worth of cannabis products for free, according to KDVR. The bag included a week’s supply of tincture, a cannabis chocolate, and eight marijuana seeds to grow.

I’d rather see MDMA legalized for this kind of purpose, as its been shown time and again to have real and lasting benefits to helping people cope with PTSD.

Don’t Buy Alibaba

September 23rd, 2014 - 9:14 am


Shawn Tully ran the numbers, and if you weren’t one of the insiders buying shares at the IPO price, then you’re screwed:

It’s unlikely that Alibaba will pay a dividend anytime soon. So all of our gains will need to come in the form of stock appreciation. Using those metrics, Alibaba will need to grow its market cap from $231 billion to $777 billion by 2024. Keep in mind that the market currently awards only one company on the planet a valuation over $600 billion, and that’s Apple.

To get us there, how much will Alibaba need to earn? In the four quarters ended June 30, Alibaba posted net earnings of $4.9 billion. If its P/E (price-to-earnings) multiple of 47 falls to 20 over those 10 years—and 20 is still a premium P/E—it will need to show $39 billion in net earnings. That means earnings must grow by well over 20% a year. Other than government-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, only one superstar makes that kind of money: once again, it’s Apple. To put this challenge in perspective, consider that Microsoft earned $22 billion in 2013.

Repeat after me: There is no bubble.

Finish What Ya (Never) Started

September 23rd, 2014 - 8:13 am


I don’t want to belabor the Vietnam analogies any more than they have been already, but you do need to read this Daily Beast report from Josh Rogin and Eli Lake on President Obama, his Syria point man General Michael Nagata, and our upcoming mini-Vietnam:

There are skeptics both inside and outside the government who doubt Obama’s new plan to arm the Syrian rebels can work. First of all, the administration has said for years that the moderate opposition can’t be a reliable partner for the United States in Syria. Only last month, Obama said that the rag-tag bunch of “former doctors, farmers, and pharmacists” could never win their civil war and the whole idea that arming them earlier would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.”

Then Obama made a complete reversal, announced that portions of the Free Syrian Army were now vetted enough to help the U.S. fight against ISIS, and called on Congress to vote to give him authority train and arm them. Congress went along, but only after hearing from Nagata, who briefed both House and Senate members and staffers in classified settings and told them how he would get it done. Those briefed said they were impressed by the General but remained concerned Obama’s plan was fatally flawed.

Any takers on my bet that the next thing to come out of Syria will be just as bad as ISIL?

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 23rd, 2014 - 7:12 am

The latest numbers from Public Opinion Strategies don’t look good for the Democrats:

The poll found that likely voters in battleground districts who consider Obamacare to be the “most important” issue in the upcoming election oppose it by the overwhelming tally of 70 to 30 percent (see slide 9). Likely voters who consider Obamacare to be a “very important” issue (but not the “most important” one) oppose it by more than 2 to 1 — 67 to 32 percent. Those who consider it to be “somewhat important” somewhat like it — but still oppose it by 51 to 47 percent. And those who consider it to be “not at all important” love it — favoring it by 70 to 17 percent.

That Means It’s Working™.

On a slightly more serious note, ♡bamaCare!!! seems to be one of those laws where the more people know about it, the more they hate it. Except of course for the Apologist Wing in the mainstream media, who just can’t seem to get their rosy promises to square with people’s real-world experiences.

Sign “O” the Times

September 23rd, 2014 - 6:11 am


Robert Samuelson warns that the next economic surprise is a longterm one:

[Economist Robert] Gordon, a respected Northwestern University scholar, contends that mainstream economic growth predictions are wildly optimistic. His own calculations are more restrained. By 2024, he reckons, the economy’s annual output (gross domestic product) will be nearly $2 trillion lower — almost 10 percent — than projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Government debt will be 87 percent of GDP in 2024 instead of the CBO’s estimate of 78 percent. Disappointing output will also pressure the Federal Reserve to move earlier against inflation by tightening credit, he says.

The gist of Gordon’s argument is that the nation’s productive capacity — what economists call “the supply side” — will expand only slowly. It won’t keep up with the stronger consumer demand embodied in other forecasts. As a result, inflationary pressures will be higher and GDP lower. The “economy is on a collision course between demand-side optimism and supply-side pessimism,” he writes in a study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Combine that projection of low growth with yesterday’s Scary-Ass Chart showing who has been benefitting from our economic growth, and together they detail the end of the American middle class.

At last, the Progressive dream made real.

Lois Lerner is Sorry Not Sorry

September 23rd, 2014 - 5:18 am

Lois Lerner

Politico has the story:

Lois Lerner is toxic — and she knows it. But she refuses to recede into anonymity or beg for forgiveness for her role in the IRS tea party-targeting scandal.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Lerner said in her first press interview since the scandal broke 16 months ago. “I’m proud of my career and the job I did for this country.”

Left undefined is “job.”

What job did she do, for whom did she really do it, and why won’t she tell Congress what it was?

And Now for Something Completely Unscripted

September 22nd, 2014 - 3:20 pm


Once again, go behind the scenes — between the segments, actually — of Trifecta on this week’s Extra.