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REMAIN CALM ALL IS WELL

February 17th, 2015 - 10:05 am

International Problem: ISIS is expanding its war to establish a global Caliphate into Libya.

White House Solution: Don’t fight back in Libya.

True story:

The United States does not support Egyptian and Emirati airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya because the U.S. believes the crisis in Libya must be resolved politically and without outside interference, a Department of Defense spokesman said Tuesday.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) carrying out airstrikes in Libya was different from U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant forces in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told a briefing, because the U.S. was acting in Iraq, in a “very targeted” manner, at the request of its government.

Let’s think about these two paragraphs separately.

The first one reveals the Administration’s thinking on Libya, which hasn’t changed one bit since its mistaken and failed war effort to somehow save that country by leading from behind in the effort to depose Ghaddafy. Libya is now a failed state, with various parts of the country ruled (or rather misruled) by various factions, each at war with the others. Would-Be President Clinton and our NATO friends turned Libya into Somalia-on-the-Med. Libya isn’t a country any longer; it’s an empty spot on the map where other countries aren’t. The solution to Libya’s problem, goes the White House’s thinking, must be political — even though no polity called “Libya” actually exists. Libya is all over but the shooting, if you’ll allow me to misuse the idiom.

Now to the second graf, which illustrates exactly why the Look At Me Looking At Me Administration keeps getting caught flat-footed by a foreign policy which is, and must be, essentially reactive. ISIS, like al Qaeda before it, thrives on chaos — and there’s plenty of that to be had there courtesy of Team Obama. ISIS moves in, and the closest thing this White House takes to an actual action, is to send a Pentagon spokesman out in front of the cameras to berate the Egyptians and the Emirates for taking some small action to defend themselves from the growing threat. To top it off, Kirby’s statement included an oh-so-Obama little lecture about how real smart grownup countries wage war — with targeting and permission.

Well.

Who the hell in Libya is going to give permission, if that country no longer exists? What the hell did the Egyptians bomb, if not targets?

Faced with a real threat, Obama did what he always does: Retreat to wishful thinking about the way the world ought to work, while giving grating little self-important lectures to the leaders who are making the hard decisions and doing the difficult things this White House won’t or can’t do.

Yesterday the White House even had the gall to send out State Department Spokesmodel Marie Harf to spew this crap on national TV:

HARF: Well, I think there’s a few stages here. Right now what we’re doing is trying to take their leaders and their fighters off the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. That’s really where they flourish.

MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?

HARF: We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether.

ISIS needs a jobs program — that’s actual thinking going on right now in our actual State Department. You should click that last link to Powerline and watch the video. Reading Harf’s statement actually makes it sound slightly less dumb than watching her say it out loud, assuming that’s possible.

It isn’t that ISIS is strong. It’s that our President speaks loudly, carries a small stick, and prefers lecturing our friends over fighting our enemies.

“We cannot kill our way out of this war,” said no one who has ever, or will ever, win a war.

The Phony War

February 17th, 2015 - 9:46 am

SUMMIT

Just a couple of hours ago I asked what President Look At Me Looking At Me was doing while The Religious Movement Which We Dare Not Speak Its Name expands its reach from Libya to Afghanistan — and now we know:

The United States, the president said during his State of the Union address last month, is “assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed.”

The White House for months has touted plans for a summit to tackle the global causes, preventions and defenses against extremists operating alone and together; under the guise of religious zealotry, or not; for political aims, or not; tolerated or backed by nation states, or not; both in the United States and abroad.

If that suggests this week’s event devoted to “best practices” lacks urgency or even a tight focus – it will feature multiple sub-topics, loads of speeches, venues at the White House and the State Department, and representatives from five dozen countries.

Venues. That’ll show those violent extremists of no particular religion.

RIP: Commercial Televison

February 17th, 2015 - 8:35 am

Jeff Macke reports that the ad model which from the beginning has sustained broadcast television is dead:

Commercials started with a 10-second spot for Bulova watches during a baseball game in 1941. The death blow came yesterday during PepsiCo’s (PEP) conference call when CEO Indra Nooyi said her company’s ad budget would stay at 5.9% of revenues but be “reallocated.” A Pepsi spokesperson tells Yahoo Finance that means “realloacted to consumer facing activities.” I read that to mean moving ads off television and into other formats.

5.9% of PepsiCo’s 2014 revenues works out to roughly $3.9 billion. They’re the company that brought us Katy Perry and Left Shark, for God’s sake. Sports was the last great hope for ads and one of its biggest backers is drawing the line. There’s nothing in Indra Nooyi’s history to suggest she’s bluffing.

But don’t take PepsiCo’s word for it. Omnicom Media (OMC) which positions some $50 billion worth of ads a year for not just Pepsi but Apple (AAPL), McDonald’s (MCD) and Starbucks (SBUX) advised its clients to shift 25% of their budgets away from TV last year.

I don’t think TV ads’ effectiveness ever matched their broad reach — not even close. But before the internet allowed for real targeting, it was the best anyone could figure out how to do. But that’s an expensive way to reach just a few customers. I suspect we’ll eventually see far fewer ad dollars being spent overall, but targeted much more effectively.

That will put the squeeze on absolutely every content provider who can’t generate enough of an audience to self-finance with paid subscribers.

ISIS on the Move

February 17th, 2015 - 7:18 am

The Islamic State was born in Syria and exploded into Iraq, helping to wreck both countries in the process. Now it claims adherents in Libya with enough local power to draw in the Egyptian Air Force, and perhaps Afghanistan as well. Jim Michaels has more for USA Today:

Monday, Egypt launched an airstrike against Islamic State targets in neighboring Libya after the terrorist group posted a video of militants beheading a group of Egyptian Christians.

This month, U.S. forces killed a former Taliban leader in southern Afghanistan who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State weeks earlier. The Pentagon said the group’s presence in Afghanistan was nascent but demonstrated its global aspirations.

Signs of the Islamic State have emerged throughout the Middle East. Some extremists in the Sinai, where militants battle the Egyptian government, have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. Groups affiliated with the militant organization have popped up in Algeria and Tunisia.

I’ve been arguing for months — a year? — now that any group as brutal and bloody-minded as ISIS is likely to burn itself out as it creates more and more enemies. I’ve also argued that left unchecked for too long, that the burnout process might include a regional war across the Middle East, drawing in all the major regional players.

Now here we are six weeks or so into the New Year, with the fight against ISIS having spread from the Levant, to Mesopotamia, the Libya, and now perhaps Afghanistan — while President Look At Me Looking At Me does… what, exactly?

He’s ordered enough air strikes to look good on TV, but obviously not enough to halt ISIS, much less turn them back. And he’s foresworn the use of ground troops which are absolutely necessary to win back ground.

The President who “ends wars” looks increasingly likely to leave the entire Middle East fighting its biggest war since the end of Ottoman times.

Can Hillary Win?

February 17th, 2015 - 6:13 am

While I’ve long since steeled myself for President Hillary, Alex Roarty argues she’s not a sure thing for 2016:

The best-known forecasting tool of the bunch—and one that plainly spells out Clinton’s looming trouble—is Abramowitz’s “Time for Change” model. He first built it before George H.W. Bush’s 1988 election, and he has used it to predict the winner of the popular vote in the seven White House races since. (The model predicted that Al Gore would win the presidency in 2000, when he became the first person since Grover Cleveland to earn the majority of the popular vote nationally but lose the Electoral College.)

The model uses just three variables to determine the winner: the incumbent’s approval rating, economic growth in the second quarter of the election year, and the number of terms the candidate’s party has held the White House. Official forecasts aren’t made until the summer before the presidential election. But reasonable estimates rooted in current political and economic conditions demonstrate Clinton’s vulnerability.

Consider this scenario: President Obama retains equal levels of approval and disapproval, better than he has had most of his second term; and gross domestic product growth in the second quarter of 2016 holds at 2.4 percent, the same as last year’s rate of growth. Under this scenario, the “Time for Change” model projects that Clinton will secure just 48.7 percent of the popular vote.

In other words, she loses.

There’s more — read the whole thing.

I’d feel a lot better about this model if the GOP had a scrappy candidate capable of winning the other 51.3%.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 17th, 2015 - 5:01 am

When I saw a Bloomberg ♡bamaCare!!! headline which read, “Out of Pocket, Out of Control,” I figured it must have been written by Megan McArdle or one of their other more conservative or libertarian-leaning columnists.

But not this time — this one is from The Editors themselves.

Read:

In the past five years, the average price to see a primary care doctor has risen 20 percent. For a specialist it’s gone up 29 percent, and for outpatient surgery it’s up 43 percent. And that’s just for employer-sponsored insurance; on average, those covered through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges face even higher expenses.

No wonder 22 percent of people now say the cost of getting care has led them to delay treatment for a serious condition. That’s the highest percentage since Gallup started asking in 2001. Another poll found that as many as 16 million adults with chronic conditions have avoided the doctor because of out-of-pocket costs.

The wisdom of copayments also relies on the notion that consumers understand the incentives the payments are supposed to impose. Yet almost two-thirds of Americans don’t know what costs they face for using an emergency room or a walk-in clinic, a recent survey found.

When copayments grow too big and confusing to be effective cost controls, they merely shift an ever-greater share of insurance costs away from premiums. And this undermines the basic purpose of insurance, which is to spread the risk of unforeseen costs across populations and over time — among not just the minority who need care, but also everyone covered by the plan. Unlike premiums, out-of-pocket payments concentrate spending on the few who get sick.

How about that: A welfare program for the rich & healthy.

Thought for the Day

February 16th, 2015 - 1:20 pm

I can’t believe this is an actual trending hashtag, but welcome to Advanced Social Media Astroturfing 401.

News You Can Use

February 16th, 2015 - 12:47 pm

Not that I’m complaining, but I’m never on these flights:

A Ryanair flight to Dublin was forced to make an emergency landing in Denmark on Tuesday after a drunken man stripped semi-naked and began punching the cabin walls.

The man who was on the flight from Riga to Dublin, Ireland had to be restrained by fellow passengers after the cabin crew became worried about his strange behaviour.

Is taking off your shirt next to the airplane bathroom and doing your best King Kong imitation really so strange?

And if so, do you really want to be normal?

FBI Director Implies All Cops Are Racist

February 16th, 2015 - 10:50 am

That’s the headline from this Jeff Dunetz piece for MRC TV. And here’s the beef:

FBI Director James Comey summoned up his inner Al Sharpton during a speech at Georgetown University Thursday as he opined that not only are all police officers inherently racist, but also that, because America is a “majority white society,” we are helpless to control our “latent biases” which is why (of course) government must step in and design a system to control our unconscious hatred.

Comey went on to accuse all cops, Caucasian or minority, who patrol areas “where most street crime is committed by young blacks” of also having an unconscious bias against blacks.

Let us stipulate for the moment that Director Comey is exactly right, and that as a “majority white society” we, and our police, really are unable to control our “latent biases” against blacks and other minorities.

Is the solution then more police enforcing more, and more tangled, laws? Or would a better solution be to repeal many of the laws which the police currently use, according to the Director, to oppress minority-Americans?

Victimless crimes, and a whole lot of Blue State gun statues, unjustly create thousands of “criminals of color” each and every year. Isn’t it time to revisit them?

Meet the New Emir…

February 16th, 2015 - 8:37 am

Fresh off their bloody incursion into Cameroon, Boko Haram has attacked a village across the other border in Chad:

Boko Haram fighters attacked a village in Chad on Friday, the first known lethal attack in that country by the Nigerian militant group, which killed several people including a local chief according to residents and security forces.

Dozens of militants arrived by motorised canoe at the fishing village on the shores of Lake Chad early in the morning, setting houses ablaze and attacking a police station.

“They came on board three pirogues and succeeded in killing about ten people before being pushed back by the army,” said a resident of the village of Ngouboua, about 20 km (12 miles) east of the Nigerian border, to which thousands of Nigerian refugees had fled in early January after an attack on the town of Baga.

Militants from the Sunni jihadist group, based in northern Nigeria less than 100 kilometres from the Chadian capital, have stepped up cross-border attacks in recent weeks in their campaign to carve out an Islamist emirate around the Lake Chad area which borders Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Obviously we need a bigger hashtag.

Happy Presidents Day

February 16th, 2015 - 7:37 am

COOLIDGE

Lovely artwork from Kristina Ribali.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 16th, 2015 - 5:14 am

Tami Luhby reports on “the nasty surprise” ♡bamaCare!!! mandate-customer Janice Riddle just received:

The Los Angeles resident had applied for Obamacare in late 2013, when she was unemployed. She qualified for a hefty subsidy of $470 a month, leaving her with a monthly premium of $1 for the cheapest plan available.

Riddle landed a job in early 2014 at a life insurance agency, but since her new employer didn’t offer health benefits, she kept her Obamacare plan. However, she didn’t update her income with the California exchange, which she acknowledges was her mistake.

Now, she has to pay back the entire subsidy, which is forcing her to dip into her savings.

“I was blindsided that the subsidy has to be paid back,” said Riddle, adding she didn’t even use the coverage, which she had until she qualified for Medicare in October. “I’m in shock…but I have no choice. Do I want to argue with the IRS or the Obama administration?”

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, comrade — and yes, it would be unwise to argue with either the IRS or the Obama administration.

News You Can Use

February 15th, 2015 - 8:26 am

It’s turning into Florida Man Weekend between yesterday’s McDonalds story and now this:

Gainesville Police arrested a local man early Thursday after they found a bag of weed in his butt and a bag of crack in his mouth.

At about 12:30 a.m., officers stopped Winfred Alphonso McAllister Jr., 23, on Northeast 23rd Avenue and Northeast Second Street after police saw his red Mitsubishi Galant swerve into the left turn-only lane and back into his original lane twice, according to a police report.

Officers smelled marijuana around the car, but McAllister told police the scent was left over from when he smoked earlier. He said he did not have any with him.

When McAllister stepped out of the car, an officer could still smell something. He searched McAllister and found a bag of weed inside his butt, according to the report.

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

50 Shades of Lego

February 14th, 2015 - 11:12 am

With a very grateful tip of the hat to Debby Witt.

Florida Man Wines & Dines

February 14th, 2015 - 10:14 am
Would you like pommes frites with that?

Would you like pommes frites with that?

Need to supersize your love together? Spend tonight at this Tampa McDonalds:

The Golden Arches at 6717 N Dale Mabry Highway is offering sweethearts an opportunity to “create your own McMemories” this Valentine’s Day. Think about it, a McFlurry with a side order of love.

One of the 53 Caspers Co. McDonald’s franchises in the Tampa Bay area, this location will be transformed on Friday into a sit-down restaurant, complete with LED candles, tabletop flowers and counter employees retrained as waiters offering table service and refills. They are accepting phone reservations, the first 10 of which will receive complimentary roses.

I’m lovin’ it.

Friday Night Videos

February 13th, 2015 - 10:40 pm

In honor of Sophie B. Hawkins expecting her second child at age 50, here’s “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” off of her debut album, Tongues and Tails. This one played a big part during some late nights back in my wilder days, and I dare say the song has held up just as well as Sophie has.

Congrats!

Sign “O” the Times

February 13th, 2015 - 1:33 pm

So what do you not get when you fill a room with some of the Smartest People in the World™? A nine followed by sixteen zeroes:

When Group of 20 finance ministers this week urged the Federal Reserve to “minimize negative spillovers” from potential interest-rate increases, they omitted a key figure: $9 trillion.

That’s the amount owed in dollars by non-bank borrowers outside the U.S., up 50 percent since the financial crisis, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Should the Fed raise interest rates as anticipated this year for the first time since 2006, higher borrowing costs for companies and governments, along with a stronger greenback, may add risks to an already-weak global recovery.

The dollar debt is just one example of how the Fed’s tightening would ripple through the world economy.

Despite what Paul Krugman has told you for years, and in strict accordance with a lot of things I’ve been saying since 2007, it is not an easy matter for an $18,000,000,000,000 economy to unwind from years of ZIRP and quantitative easing.

The bills for years of decadent profligacy must eventually be paid, and already they’re stamped “Overdue.”

Scott Walker: College Unedumacated

February 13th, 2015 - 12:12 pm

We really have come to a place where the progressive left judges a person, not on the content of their character or on the significance of their achievements, but by the piece of sheepskin purchased from a progressive university.

UPDATE:

Just so we have that clear.

Are You in Compliance, Comrade?

February 13th, 2015 - 11:46 am

COMPLIANCE

I apologize for hitting you with an extra ad, but the banner you see above appeared right here on the VodkaPundit home page today, and for all I know is still up there in the top right corner of your browser tab.

The reason I draw your attention to it is that “proactive compliance” is the kind of phrase typical of a little bureaucrat with vast power lording it over his serfs, and has no business being a part of the vocabulary of a free people.

Taking a Break from the Bad News [FIXED, BUMPED]

February 13th, 2015 - 10:43 am

What a stolen pizza can tell us about human nature.

I’m kinda proud of this one.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

February 13th, 2015 - 10:28 am

-1x-1

Christopher Flavelle confirms what millions of unhappy customers already know — ♡bamaCare!!! costs a fortune:

It’s not surprising that out-of-pocket payments, also called cost-sharing charges, are higher for lower-cost plans. It is surprising just how high those payments are, even for middle-tier exchange plans, and also how high they are compared with the average plans that workers get through their companies.

Start with annual deductibles. For bronze plans in 2015, they’re enormous — $5,372, or about five times what the average person with employer-based individual coverage faced last year. More important, and potentially worrisome for the law’s defenders: Average deductibles for silver plans (the most popular type of exchange coverage) are about three times as high as on employer plans. Even gold plans have slightly higher average deductibles.

The out-of-pocket maximums aren’t much better, with the Bronze and Silver plans both more than double what those with employer-based insurance pay, and Gold at a 50% premium.

Remember, the idea of the exchanges is to eventually get everybody off of employer-based insurance and into the ♡bamaCare!!!-approved plans.

Employer-based insurance was an unintended consequence of WWII wage controls, and never a good idea. But mandating captive buyers into overpriced plans which include pre-natal care for male gay couples and psychotherapy for Scientologists is a worse idea — and a totally intended consequence of ♡bamaCare!!!.

Apology Accepted, Captain Needa

February 13th, 2015 - 9:42 am

Sorry, but I ain’t buying it:

Pressured by Congress, the IRS said Wednesday it is changing its policies and apologizing for seizing banks accounts from otherwise law-abiding business owners simply because they structured bank transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements.

Their alleged crime: routinely making bank deposits of less than $10,000. That allowed the business owners to avoid reporting requirements designed to catch drug dealers and money launderers.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress that the IRS is changing policies to prevent the seizures, as long as the money came from legal means.

“To anyone who is not treated fairly under the code, I apologize,” Koskinen told the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. “Taxpayers have to be comfortable that they will be treated fairly.”

Let us speak frankly: Koskinen’s apology is bullshit, because now that President Look at Me Looking at Me has fully weaponized the IRS, it is legally and politically impossible to rein in that agency — and its powers are effectively unlimited.

The only solution is to repeal the Income Tax Amendment, nullify every law associated with it, fire every IRS employee, and destroy every IRS building with fire. From there we can move to either a Fair Tax or to a flat tax collected by the states and remanded to Washington based on good behavior.

If I’ve left anything out, please let me know.

News You Can Use

February 13th, 2015 - 8:31 am

50 SHADES

Firefighters don’t just put out fires. They rescue cats from tall trees, they give safety lessons to school children, and sometimes they use hydraulic cutting equipment to remove penis rings.

They expect to be doing more along the lines of that last item following the release of 50 Shades of Grey to movie screens:

Firefighters today warned the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey film could cause a spike in callouts from over-zealous lovers having bondage mishaps.

The London Fire Brigade said it is called at least once every day to “compromising” situations – including stubborn penis rings and a man with his genitals stuck in a vacuum cleaner.

In one instance in November last year the brigade was called by doctors to King’s College Hospital to help remove two steel rings which had been stuck on his penis for three days.

Firefighters were eventually able to remove them using hydraulic cutting equipment after the unfortunate incident.

You know you’re not supposed to…

…actually, knock yourself out and enjoy all the kinky thrills you like. But you might want to try not involving the local fire department.

Required Reading

February 13th, 2015 - 7:23 am

Seth Mandel writes that “we have to talk about Obama’s ignorance,” although some days it feels like that’s all we’ve been talking about for the last six or seven years. That old ennui aside, Mandel has brought together a lot of the President’s Greatest Misses into one column. Here’s the one which concerns us most today:

It is not my intention to run down a list of all Obama’s flubs. Everybody makes mistakes, and any politician whose words are as scrutinized as the president’s is going to have their share of slip-ups. Yes, Obama is a clumsy public speaker; but that’s not the problem, nor is it worth spending much time on.

The problem is that Obama tends to make mistakes that stem from a worldview often at odds with reality. Russia is a good example. Does it matter that Obama doesn’t know the basics of Vladimir Putin’s biography and the transition of post-Soviet state security? Yes, it does, because Obama’s habit of misreading Putin has been at the center of his administration’s failed Russia policy. And it matters with regard not only to Russia but to his broader foreign policy because Obama has a habit of not listening to anyone not named Jarrett. Obama appointed among the most qualified American ambassadors ever to represent the U.S. abroad in sending Michael McFaul to Moscow. But with or without McFaul, Obama let his own naïveté guide him.

We won’t really have a post-racial country until we can have an frank discussion about the real and lasting harm Valerie Jarrett has done to it.

Regulate THIS!

February 13th, 2015 - 5:25 am

If this post seems late, it’s because I sat on the story for nearly a week, watching certain websites for reactions.

With that, here’s what GOP FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai had to say about the Commission’s plan for net neutrality:

“President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works,” Pai said. “The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband… These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.”

In his initial cursory overview of the plan, the commissioner said it would hinder broadband investment, slow network speed and expansion, limit outgrowth to rural areas of the country and reduce Internet service provider (ISP) competition.

“The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market,” Pai said. “As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get.”

You might dismiss Pai’s statement because he’s a partisan. On the other hand, the tech sites I frequent, which are mostly in favor of net neutrality, have mostly been silent about this particular proposal. I’m thinking especially now of Daring Fireball’s John Gruber (whom I respect deeply on most tech subjects), whose support of Net Neutrality borders on holier-than-thou, but who hasn’t written a single word about what the FCC has up its sleeve.

Maybe the deafening silence is because we haven’t actually seen the proposal yet — but certainly we know enough to say something by now. So my gut feeling is that nobody actually likes this thing, everybody knows just how bad it will be, but few are willing to cross Dear Leader.

I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see what happens — or doesn’t happen — after the FCC goes public.

Thought for the Day

February 12th, 2015 - 3:37 pm

BUDDIES

President Look at Me Looking at Me is still hanging out with known terrorists — and I’m not talking about the Iran negotiations. Read:

On Aug. 30, 2014, MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner and former White House chef Sam Kass got married at a private wedding north of New York City. It was widely reported at the time that President Obama, a longtime friend of the groom, attended the ceremony with his family. There were two other notable guests, however, whose attendance has been successfully kept secret: Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the former campus radicals whose loose association with the Obama family over the years has inspired countless Fox News fever-dreams and led to Sarah Palin’s famous accusation that Obama “pal[s] around with terrorists.”

We recently heard that Ayers and Dohrn, both former leaders of the Weather Underground, the militant left-wing group best known for bombing empty government buildings in the 1970s, were also present for the Wagner-Kass celebration at the Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant and event space in Pocantico Hills, New York.

While the fact that Obama was literally partying with former advocates of violent struggle against the U.S. government will no doubt be taken by his critics as further evidence that he hates America, the most interesting thing about the wedding is the shocking proof it offers that—at long last!—Obama truly no longer gives a fuck about keeping up political appearances.

It’s after the election, and he has the “flexibility” he always wanted.

Keep that in mind on every issue.

Samsung Steps in it Again

February 12th, 2015 - 1:28 pm

I don’t mean to keep picking on the South Korean electronics giant, but this story is filled with ouch:

Thought you could watch that video on your local hard drive without ads? Think again: A number of owners of Samsung’s smart TVs are reporting this week that their TV sets started to interrupt their movie viewing with Pepsi ads, which seem to be dynamically inserted into third-party content.

“Every movie I play 20-30 minutes in it plays the pepsi ad, no audio but crisp clear ad. It has happened on 6 movies today,” a user reported on Reddit, where a number of others were struggling with the same problem.

Reports for the unwelcome ad interruption first surfaced on a Subreddit dedicated to Plex, the media center app that is available on a variety of connected devices, including Samsung smart TVs. Plex users typically use the app to stream local content from their computer or a network-attached storage drive to their TV, which is why many were very surprised to see an online video ad being inserted into their videos.

Putting ads into movies you own? Yep:

It looks like the ad insertion was accidentally turned on by default for apps that it wasn’t actually meant for, but the faux pas points to a bigger issue: Device makers like Samsung have long tried to figure out how to monetize their platforms and generate additional revenue in a time where margins on hardware are slim at best.

Back in the ’60s when color TV was introduced, Sony almost went broke by refusing to put out a color model. The reason for that was Sony founder Akio Morita didn’t want to sell a “me-too” color TV. The company’s B&W sets were the best money could buy, and he was going to make damn sure the same was true when the company finally put out color sets.

The result was the innovative Trinitron color tube, which went on to define the best color screens money could buy — for the next 35 or more years.

Today, everybody is using pretty much the exact same LCD screens, printed in massive sheets by inexpensive Asian suppliers. That’s sucked all the profit out of the big screen market, which is why TV makers are instead competing on how many software functions they can cram into your set.

Of course, none of these manufacturers know squat about good software or what might actually be a smart way to make TVs “smart,” and so consumers are stuck paying more for a lot of crap they mostly don’t use, and which barely works when they try.

Ideally, a TV set should be a dumb screen like it always was, and consumers would each add the “smart” their own way — through the set-top box of their choice. But then companies like Samsung are stuck selling zero-margin dumb screens, and they don’t like that.

If TV makers really want to earn fatter profits on smarter hardware, then they’d better get a whole let better at writing software. To date however, they show zero talent for it.
(more…)

Vice President Butt Buddy

February 12th, 2015 - 12:24 pm

So this is a thing that just happened.

The Ukraine peace deal doesn’t look too bad on paper:

Guns would fall silent, heavy weapons would pull back from the front and Ukraine would trade broad autonomy for the east to get back control of its Russian border by the end of 2015 under a peace deal hammered out Thursday in all-night negotiations between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.

“Jaw-jaw being better than war-war,” of course but this deal gives Putin most of he wanted — Ukraine cedes much of its national sovereignty to Russian-majority enclaves in the east. What does Kyiv get in exchange? Less:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said there was no agreement on autonomy or federalization for eastern Ukraine, a longtime demand of Russia, which wants that to maintain its leverage over Ukraine and prevent its neighbor from ever joining NATO.

The deal, however, requires the Ukrainian parliament to give wide powers to the eastern regions as a condition for restoring Ukraine’s full control over its border with Russia — a provision certain to trigger heated debate in Kiev.

Uncertainty remained even on the cease-fire, as Putin admitted he and Poroshenko disagreed on the situation at the government-held town of Debaltseve.

It will be nice if, even temporarily, you have fewer people dying in Ukraine. Mostly what you have here in this agreement though is enough ambiguity to drive an armored maneuver brigade through.

Literally.

Putin will be back for more.