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Turnaround Turks

October 20th, 2014 - 8:29 am

A general view of the Syrian town of Kobani

Some good news in the fight against ISIL:

Turkey said on Monday it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce fellow Kurds in the Syrian border town of Kobani, while the United States air-dropped arms for the first time to help the defenders resist an Islamic State assault.

Washington said the arms had been supplied by Iraqi Kurdish authorities and had been dropped near Kobani, which came under Islamic State attack in September and is now besieged to the east, west and south, and bordered to the north by Turkey.

Turkey has stationed tanks on hills overlooking Kobani but has refused to help the Kurdish militias on the ground without striking a broader deal with its NATO allies on intervening in the Syrian civil war, saying action should also be taken against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

I’ve been joking for years that we just ought to give everything between Egypt and Iran, minus Israel, back to the Turks. But these days I’m only half-joking.

Caliphs Gotta Caliphate

October 20th, 2014 - 7:20 am

And we get to help them! Apparently we’re having some difficulty keeping our humanitarian aid out of the hands of ISIL, despite all that careful vetting the Administration promised us:

Aid convoys have to pay off ISIS emirs (leaders) for the convoys to enter the eastern Syrian extremist strongholds of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, providing yet another income stream for ISIS militants, who are funding themselves from oil smuggling, extortion and the sale of whatever they can loot, including rare antiquities from museums and archaeological sites.

“The convoys have to be approved by ISIS and you have to pay them: the bribes are disguised and itemized as transportation costs,” says an aid coordinator who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition he not be identified in this article. The kickbacks are either paid by foreign or local non-governmental organizations tasked with distributing the aid, or by the Turkish or Syrian transportation companies contracted to deliver it.

And there are fears the aid itself isn’t carefully monitored enough, with some sold off on the black market or used by ISIS to win hearts and minds by feeding its fighters and its subjects. At a minimum the aid means ISIS doesn’t have to divert cash from its war budget to help feed the local population or the displaced persons, allowing it to focus its resources exclusively on fighters and war making, say critics of the aid.

After more than a year of warnings where Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s failed “red line” would lead, all I have left is a medley going on in my head of Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree” and Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You.”

Pre-Emptive Surrender

October 20th, 2014 - 6:14 am

SURRENDER

Flexibility:

President Obama is prepared to act unilaterally and suspend sanctions on Iran in order to help resolve nuclear talks by a self-imposed November 24 deadline, according to a report.

A senior White House official says, while the president lacks the power to lift the sanctions, he can and intends to suspend them in order to help negotiate away Iran’s power to build nuclear arms.

‘We wouldn’t seek congressional legislation in any comprehensive agreement for years,’ the official told the New York Times.

This is a direct result, unintentional or not, of our reliance on Iran to help contain ISIL.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

October 20th, 2014 - 5:15 am

I hate to kick off a brand new week this way, but this one comes courtesy of the Gray Lady and shouldn’t be missed:

Patricia Wanderlich got insurance through the Affordable Care Act this year, and with good reason: She suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2011, spending weeks in a hospital intensive care unit, and has a second, smaller aneurysm that needs monitoring.

But her new plan has a $6,000 annual deductible, meaning that Ms. Wanderlich, who works part time at a landscaping company outside Chicago, has to pay for most of her medical services up to that amount. She is skipping this year’s brain scan and hoping for the best.

“To spend thousands of dollars just making sure it hasn’t grown?” said Ms. Wanderlich, 61. “I don’t have that money.”

There are three silver linings to this story:

• She and her family are saving much more than $2,500 a year.

• ♡bamaCare!!!’s own author says we shouldn’t live past 75 anyway, so she won’t be missing out on much.

• Who needs death panels when patients self-deport themselves out of the hospital?

All of that, of course, Means It’s Working™.

Friday Night Videos

October 17th, 2014 - 10:54 pm

Not sure what happened to last week’s FNV — other than it seems to have been eaten whole by the WordPress Gods (or *ahem* user error) and by the time someone alerted me to it, it was too late to repost. But I’m going to save that one for later because this week we need something different.

Going into the final midterm stretch requires something bouncy and brainless. Of course I have an iTunes playlist devoted to music which is nothing but. And you can probably guess that there’s a lot of chart-friendly disco on my B&B playlist, because popular music rarely gets more bouncy and brainless than disco, with the possible exception of Charo’s guest appearances on The Love Boat.

So let’s begin our disco roundup this week with Leo Sayer doing his best Frankie Valli in the unrelentingly bouncy and unmercifully catchy and mercifully short, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.”

Leo and the pretty backup singers and the band are giving it all they got, but watch as the audience just stands there without feeling like dancing at all. I was too young to have watched The Midnight Special regularly, or to have remembered much of the few I did see. So I don’t know if just standing there is what the audience usually did, or if they really weren’t into the song.

Either way, I still get a kick out of it in the car, where I can’t dance at all.

ADDENDUM: Charo seems like a lovely person, who for all I know has an IQ in the Wile E. Coyote Supergeeeeeenius range. What I do know for sure is that I spent nearly half of my preteen years staring at her shorts.

How Liberal or Conservative Is Your Name?

October 17th, 2014 - 1:30 pm

STEVE

Fun! Pointless, but fun.

First Ebola Nurse “Doing Really Well”

October 17th, 2014 - 12:00 pm

At last, good news:

Nina Pham, saying “I’m doing really well,” left Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in an ambulance for a chartered small jet waiting at the city’s Love Field. The plane departed at 7:09 p.m. CT and arrived at an airport at Frederick, Md., less than three hours later.

Pham walked off the plane with assistance while wearing a protective suit. She climbed into an ambulance for transport to the National Institutes of Health’s state-of-the-art facility in Bethesda, Md.

Fellow health-care workers lined her path out of the Dallas hospital, cheering and waving signs expressing love and support for their colleague.

Let’s hope this scare serves as a wakeup call, even if the current administration hits the snooze alarm for the next two years.

Required Reading

October 17th, 2014 - 10:25 am

How, the Atlantic asks, did Stalin become Stalin?

The article’s subhead reveals what even amateur students of history have long known. It reads, “Russian archives reveal that he was no madman, but a very smart and implacably rational ideologue.”

Anne Applebaum has done a job here which I can only describe as “typically damn good,” as I’ve long been a fan of her work. It’s good stuff; read it.

The only thing I could possibly add is my own wonderment that anyone still has any wonderment about supposed “madmen” achieving murderous pinnacles of power. Of course Stalin was an “implacably rational ideologue.” So was his stepfather, Lenin. So was their German cousin, Hitler. And their southeast Asian protege, Pol Pot. And Stalin’s peninsular nephew, Kim-il Sung.

I could go on, but I trust you got the idea years before I started typing these words.

Demented madmen rarely — ever? — achieve heights of power. We might call them, the Stalins and the Lenins and the Hitlers, “demented.” We might wish they were madman.

But no. They were implacably rational. They were ideologues. And they had the tools of all-powerful states at their disposal.

And that is why our Founders saw fit to cobble the State, so that implacably rational ideologues might never grab ahold of all-powerful levers.

The Sound and “The Fury”

October 17th, 2014 - 9:12 am

Three wildly different critiques of Brad Pitt’s new WWII movie, and what might be Scott Ott’s biggest, bestest finish ever.

And I don’t say that last part lightly. Not one bit.

The Yosemite Mini Review

October 17th, 2014 - 8:20 am

YOSEMITE

Here it is: John Siracusa’s bathysphere-deep review of OS X Yosemite. For rabid Mac lovers, skip my mini review and delve into all 25 pages of his. As always, he’s amazing.

My initial impression is twofold, the new features and the new look. Everything feels snappier, or at least as snappy as before. The new “Handoff” feature, allowing me to pick up my work seamlessly as I move from Mac to iPhone to iPad and back throughout the day — this is Mac crack, is what it is. The Spotlight search tool is now out of its upper-right-corner ghetto and is a fully-integrated experience. Moving search to front-and-center is long overdo, but it was worth the wait. I can’t say more yet, because I haven’t really had a chance to dig into Yosemite yet. For that stuff, go see Siracusa.

I love the new look, other than a few minor quibbles. That new Share button for instance looks just as ill-conceived and badly-proportioned in iOS as it has for the last year in OSX. Feh. And the Safari menu bar… it’s cohesive, but the Extensions buttons should be slightly smaller than the URL bar, for differentiation and ease of navigation. I’m also no fan of truncated URLs in the URL bar, but that’s the direction every major browser is taking. It doesn’t make much difference to people who just browse, but for those of us who live and work and practically breathe in our web browsers, it hides information we need to see at a glance. We can only hope it’s a short-lived trend.

Calendar got whacked, repeatedly, by the same Ugly Stick they used on the iOS version. There’s nothing wrong with the function, and there’s plenty right, too. But it’s just so eye-bleeding ugly that this might be when I finally upgrade to the much-beloved Fantastical.

And that’s about it for complaints.

My worries about transporting the iOS7/8 look to OS X were ill-founded. What could often seem busy and crowded on my tiny iPhone screen looks big, bold, clean, and most of all fresh on a 24″ screen. I get the feeling that the new look was designed with desktop screens and with the bigger iPhone 6-series screens in mind.

The new dock and its app icons are so clear and easy to read, that I was able to comfortably shrink it to a significant degree on my 24″ desktop display, freeing up valuable real estate. The same was not true on the 13″ display on my laptop.

I plan on writing up my industry-wide observations about the do’s and don’ts of translucencies at a later date.

Quibbles and minor complaint aside though, in the end I have to tell you that the new bells & whistles, and the low, low price of $0 make Yosemite an irresistible upgrade.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ring my new bells and blow my new whistles a bit more.

UPDATE: Digging through Safari’s settings, I discovered you can force it to reveal full URLs in the URL bar. That removes my only functional complaint about the new version of the browser.

Thought for the Day

October 17th, 2014 - 7:07 am

Required Viewing

October 17th, 2014 - 6:41 am

Politics in Colorado is a better thing thanks to Kelly Maher’s pure awesomeness. Watch her do her thing in this short clip, demolishing Betsy Markey’s new attack ad.

Sign “O” the Times

October 17th, 2014 - 5:22 am

REJECT

Dayum:

Many black voters in the St. Louis area say they will be taking out their aggression at the ballot box this November over the handling of the Michael Brown shooting — by voting against the Democratic Party that they have long supported.

“Just because they’ve got the D next to their name, that don’t mean nothing,” Darren Seals, 27, of Ferguson, told The Washington Post.

He vowed to vote for a white Republican even though he’s never before participated in a local election. He said he’s angry things haven’t improved for the black community since President Obama took office.

“The world is watching us right now. It’s time to send a message of our power,” he told The Post.

I’d just like to remind Darren Seals that he’s always had to power — but surrendered it to the temporary comforts of one-party rule.

It’s time to take it back.

Americans Love a Loser

October 16th, 2014 - 2:00 pm

Michael Dukakis, Kitty Dukakis

Life imitates the Onion:

Calling them the only things remotely worthwhile about next month’s elections, the American public confirmed Wednesday that the dozens of bitter concession speeches to be given by losing candidates are the sole aspect of the upcoming midterms they are looking forward to. “Honestly, all that matters is that I get to watch some defeated politician stiffly read some remarks and offer a totally disingenuous congratulations to the victor,” said Des Moines, IA, resident Lindsey Abbot, one of the millions of American voters whose only consolation on election night will reportedly be finding out who will lose their composure as they apologize for letting down their supporters. “I mean, the election would be a total waste of time if not for that moment when the candidate has to go out on stage and tell all the people who worked so hard for him that he failed and that their shared dream is suddenly gone. I really don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t look ahead to a bunch of people half-heartedly chanting their candidate’s name to make him feel better.” Abbot added that she could probably put up with elections every single year if it meant getting to watch a candidate’s wife force a smile over his shoulder.

The more bitter the more better.

The Bleeding Edge

October 16th, 2014 - 12:41 pm

Ebola panic” at TV news divisions? Not quite:

Infected NBC News freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo has been quarantined and is receiving treatment at Nebraska Medical Center, one of four hospitals in the U.S. with biocontainment units and the specialty training to care for Ebola patients. And while Mukpo is improving, Dr. Nancy Snyderman — NBC News’ chief medical editor, who worked briefly with Mukpo in Liberia — recently made headlines for breaking a voluntary quarantine to go on a take-out food run near her home in Princeton, New Jersey. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams read a prepared statement from Snyderman apologizing for the lapse on the Oct. 13 broadcast. But the infection of a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who was treating Liberian Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who died Oct. 8, has spurred a new wave of panic.

ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, an infectious disease specialist and the acting director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the similarly sensationalized swine flu outbreak in 2009, tells THR that he understands the widespread fear. “But the big misconception about Ebola is that there’s risk to people in America. And that’s just not the case.”

I don’t expect an Outbreak scenario. Nobody is going to have to nuke Dallas. Hemorrhagic fevers are so nasty that outbreaks burn themselves out before they can become pandemics. The only reason so many have died in Africa is the tragic irony that the part of the world least able to cope with an outbreak is also the part of the world the virus calls home.

Wait — did I say “tragic irony”? That sounds more like a tragic necessity; a virus will always make its home in the best possible host.

For all those reasons, ebola just isn’t something I spend much time worrying about.

But an American has died. Here, in America. And it seems likely more Americans may die. Here, in America. They’ll die from a non-native disease, which is fairly easy to contain, in a country with most of the world’s advanced medical facilities, and almost endless resources to throw at the problem.

The problem then is political. We have a White House in denial, or perhaps just not very interested in dealing with such a trifling matter of actual governance when there’s an election on. Our Centers for Disease Control spends more and more of its limited resources studying lesbian obesity or why people still laugh at Seinfeld, rather than controlling disease. We live in a new Progressive Age when politics trumps policy.

Thomas Eric Duncan didn’t die because of racism. He died because he did a noble, foolish thing, and contracted a disease which kills over half of its victims. Two Texas nurses contracted the disease because Washington foolishly continued — continues! — to allow flights in from ebola-infected countries. And because the CDC and their own hospitals failed in their primary tasks of following established containment protocols. Commonsense measures like quarantine and proper hospital protocols have been ditched in favor of deadly PC soft-think.

That’s what worries me, and should worry you.

You Have to Read it to Believe It

October 16th, 2014 - 11:54 am

hqdefault

Cornell decided to control the local deer population via tubal ligation.

The rest is, as you might expect, a farce of unintended consequences.

Required Viewing

October 16th, 2014 - 10:35 am

More like this, GOP — in Spanish and in English.

No voter and no vote should be out of reach.

(H/T, Jim G.)

Wargaming the Senate

October 16th, 2014 - 9:22 am

RCP
This week’s column is up on the PJM home page, and this time of year I really shouldn’t have to tell you what it’s about.

We Are the Hashtag Army

October 16th, 2014 - 8:54 am

Obama finally lets our military off the chain — to fight climate change.

Very Best of Hands (Con’t)

October 16th, 2014 - 8:47 am

EXPOSED

Details:

The City of Dallas said they have no idea where the 75 health care workers who were potentially exposed to the Ebola virus live. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has not provided a list of their workers and their residences to the city.

“We have no idea where they live,” said Dallas Public Information Officer Sena Syed to a group of reporters gathered outside the apartment complex of the second hospital worker who has now contracted Ebola. “The hospital has not provided us with any information where any of the other hospital workers live.

And apparently the CDC has no idea what modes of public transportation they might be taking.

Good News/Bad News

October 16th, 2014 - 7:33 am

WOO HOO

The Federal deficit is under $500,000,000,000 for the first time since Senator Obama voted for TARP and President Bush signed it. That’s what passes for good news.

The bad news is that the deficit remains larger than any of Bush’s non-TARP years — with record federal revenues. Under Bush’s last and worst year of spending, this year’s tax receipts would have allowed Washington to just about break even.

In other words, $450,000,000,000 — Bush’s worst non-TARP deficit — looks to be about as good as it ever gets for Obama.

Sign “O” the Times

October 16th, 2014 - 5:14 am

Another day, another Democrat candidate who won’t say if she voted for Obama.

If you guessed “Michelle Nunn,” treat yourself to a cookie.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

October 15th, 2014 - 2:32 pm

If you didn’t see this one coming, you might be a Democrat:

A report out today from the Republican staff of the Senate Budget Committee highlights a critical point about Obamacare: The law’s negative effect on labor markets helps explain why it will increase deficits by $131 billion over the next 10 years. This finding stands in stark contrast to Democrats’ repeated assertions that the law will reduce the deficit.

The public dialogue on Obamacare has thus far largely focused on how the law affects premiums and limits access to certain health insurance plans or doctors. While these side-effects are troublesome, it is perhaps more significant that Obamacare has had — and will continue to have — a substantial impact on labor markets, jobs and the budget picture.

So the law might be a giant bag of hurt, but it’s a ruinously expensive giant bag of hurt.

Thought for the Day

October 15th, 2014 - 1:27 pm

Required Viewing

October 15th, 2014 - 12:20 pm

So apparently the easiest way to get covered under the Medicaid expansion is to be an ex-con.

Say what you will, but at least the Democrats know their constituents.

Sign “O” the Times

October 15th, 2014 - 11:01 am

POWERMAX

Online Apple retailer PowerMax is using political corruption as a marketing tool.

Geeeeeeeenius. And indicative.

(This isn’t an ad or an endorsement — just something which showed up in my inbox I thought you’d enjoy.)

kobane

Good lord:

Refugees in Suruc, Turkey, have told how relatives and neighbours were beheaded by Isil militants, while another spoke of how he had seen “hundreds” of decapitated corpses in the besieged town.

The UN Syria envoy has warned that the hundreds still trapped in Kobane will be “massacred” by militants if the town falls, while only a small corridor remains open for people to flee.

More than 200,000 have already escaped across the border to Turkey but up to 700 remain inside the town.

Our allies in Ankara are pretty much siding with ISIL along their southern border as a hedge against Turkey’s Kurdish “problem.”

Revolting actions by ISIL are neatly matched by Turkey’s revolting inaction.

Required Reading

October 15th, 2014 - 9:22 am

C.J. Chivers for the New York Times:

It was August 2008 near Taji, Iraq. They had just exploded a stack of old Iraqi artillery shells buried beside a murky lake. The blast, part of an effort to destroy munitions that could be used in makeshift bombs, uncovered more shells.

Two technicians assigned to dispose of munitions stepped into the hole. Lake water seeped in. One of them, Specialist Andrew T. Goldman, noticed a pungent odor, something, he said, he had never smelled before.

He lifted a shell. Oily paste oozed from a crack. “That doesn’t look like pond water,” said his team leader, Staff Sgt. Eric J. Duling.

The specialist swabbed the shell with chemical detection paper. It turned red — indicating sulfur mustard, the chemical warfare agent designed to burn a victim’s airway, skin and eyes.

All three men recall an awkward pause. Then Sergeant Duling gave an order: “Get the hell out.”

Five years after President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq, these soldiers had entered an expansive but largely secret chapter of America’s long and bitter involvement in Iraq.

Read the whole thing.

I’m seriously considering printing out a hardcopy and keeping it with me at all times.

FBI —> Your Smartphone <— Snowden

October 15th, 2014 - 8:19 am

Your Trifecta gang takes on Apple, Google, Facebook, the FBI, and Edward Snowden all in just 6.5 minutes.

Because we’re just that damn good.

New Blogs

October 15th, 2014 - 7:27 am

What’s not to like about Guns and Curves? First article I read there was last month’s “I Was Afraid Of Guns: At 39, I Grew Up” by looooongtime blog-reader-turned-blogger Rachel Mullen. I know it’s from September, but it’s new to me and a timeless topic:

Convinced that I would accidentally shoot myself, I never touched a gun until I was 39 years old. (I feel like I just stepped out of the closet by admitting that publicly!)

In 2011 I found myself in a situation where I needed to protect myself. At first I just wanted to learn how disarm somebody with a gun in the event that I ever was in a situation that warranted it. But, after handling a gun for the first time, I realized that it wasn’t something to be afraid of, but rather something to be respected.

The gun wasn’t going to discharge just because I held it or even looked at it. It would fire when I told it to fire, when I squeezed the trigger.

Of course it is such a simple thing to understand, but with so much focus in the media and education that guns are dangerous and scary, many people lack confidence in using a firearm or become fearful by merely seeing one.

I bought into that scenario.

It’s a great tale, well told. Read the whole thing.