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Baratheon vs Stark vs Targaryen vs Pirates

March 11th, 2015 - 12:47 pm

Game of Thrones exhibition at the O2 arena

There’s a right way and a wrong way to reduce digital piracy. Here’s the right way:

“In an unprecedented move, Game of Thrones will premiere in over 170 countries and territories across the globe simultaneously with HBO’s U.S. airing on Sunday, April 12 at 9:00pm ET,” HBO announced via press release. “The entire fifth season of the Emmy-, Golden Globe- and Peabody-winning series will be simulcast to HBO branded networks and broadcast partners across the world, creating a global television event week after week throughout the season’s 10-episode run.”

No more having to choose between waiting for the show in your market or pirating it, now everyone will be watching, and talking about, Game of Thrones at the same time, although the time zones will likely mean you’ll want to avoid social media a few hours in both directions if you’re sensitive to spoilers.

I’m always a year behind Game of Thrones, preferring to buy each season when it (finally) comes to the iTunes Store. It’s either that or deal with Comcast’s BS about adding and then deleting HBO — and like the former Secretary of State, I like to opt for convenience.

But HBO Now is coming to Apple TV next month as a standalone, á la carte purchase, which has me thinking that I might want to binge-watch the rest of Season 4 before April 12 comes around.

Hillary’s Fate

March 11th, 2015 - 11:12 am
NY: Hillary Clinton Press Conference At UN

(AP Photo)

Hillary Clinton’s press conference was an attempt to “put this all behind us,” as all such press conferences are. But that stratagem works only when you give the press and the wags some other bone to gnaw on — which was the purpose behind Clinton’s opening salvo at the 47 GOP senators and their letter to Tehran.

Although I believe the GOP senators showed poor political judgement, they did nothing illegal or unethical. And so Hillary’s attack simply wasn’t a big enough bone.

The next step is to simply ignore the story until it fades, which, absent any damning emails (those were all vetted and deleted for sure), is a pretty safe bet. But now there’s this:

The Associated Press filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the State Department to force the release of email correspondence and government documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

The legal action comes after repeated requests filed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act have gone unfulfilled. They include one request AP made five years ago and others pending since the summer of 2013.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes a day after Clinton broke her silence about her use of a private email account while secretary of state. The FOIA requests and lawsuit seek materials related to her public and private calendars, correspondence involving longtime aides likely to play key roles in her expected campaign for president, and Clinton-related emails about the Osama bin Laden raid and National Security Agency surveillance practices.

“After careful deliberation and exhausting our other options, The Associated Press is taking the necessary legal steps to gain access to these important documents, which will shed light on actions by the State Department and former Secretary Clinton, a presumptive 2016 presidential candidate, during some of the most significant issues of our time,” said Karen Kaiser, AP’s general counsel.

This is a very big deal. State can fight the AP and try to protect the former Secretary — and draw the lawsuit out for months. Or State can surrender and say “here’s all we’ve got.”

The trouble is that Hillary’s server is privately owned, and that Clinton has deleted anything incriminating and or/juicy. So State can fight — and keep the story in the headlines for months. Or State can surrender — but they don’t actually have anything worth surrendering. Either way, the burning paper bag full of dogpoop ends up on Hillary’s doorstep.

It’s difficult to see how she fully recovers from this. But it’s easy to imagine how she might be mortally wounded by it. And, as noted earlier today, Clinton has no one to blame but herself.

We have here a modern tale of hubris worthy of the ancient Greeks.

Related: Ed Driscoll on Hillary in the Bunker.

Same Porn Star, Different Democrat

March 11th, 2015 - 10:01 am

Sydney Leathers

Hot on the stiletto heels of her sexcapades with Anthony Weiner, Sydney Leathers has struck again:

State Rep. Justin Moed, a Democrat representing downtown Indianapolis, the state’s largest city and its capital, posted graphic sexual texts to Leathers on Twitter using the handle “Bitch Boy” and sent her gifts including a “Fetish Fantasy Series Pink Leash & Collar.”

Moed apologized on Tuesday in a statement to the Indianapolis Daily Star.

“I am truly sorry I have hurt the ones I love most with my poor judgment. I am committed to rebuilding trust with my family and my community. This is a private matter and I ask for it to be treated as such. I apologize to my constituents and to everyone I have let down,” Moed said.

Leathers confirmed to FOX411 that Rep. Moed is indeed the one who has been sexting her. “Yet it’s true,” she said.

I think all politicians should be addressed as “Bitch Boy.”

News You Can Use

March 11th, 2015 - 9:40 am

CHEATER

Meanwhile, just north of Casa Verde:

Fire crews in Arvada responding to reports of an explosion early Tuesday morning arrived to find a home engulfed in flames and the phrase “My wife is a cheater” scrawled across its exterior.

Arvada police say they have arrested a man on suspicion of arson in connection with the blaze and said an investigation indicates the fire was set intentionally.

The man was identified Tuesday afternoon as 31-year-old William Lindauer. Police said he was one of the residents of the house.

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

Any of it.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

The NYT has been — for reasons I’ll get to later this week — been harsh in its reporting on Hillary Clinton’s self-inflicted email woes. And Frank Bruni is no exception. Here’s a little something from his latest:

Behind her forced smile, which was practically cemented in place, she seemed put out by all the skepticism and all the questions. She shouldn’t be. This latest Clinton controversy is not the work or fault of Republican enemies or a ruthless, unappeasable press corps. It’s her doing.

She made a choice when she stepped into the secretary of state’s job that was bound to be second-guessed if it ever came to light, as everything eventually does. And when it did, she was silent about it for a week, letting suspicions fester.

She was on the spit Tuesday because she placed herself there.

The thing is, accusations of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” aside, all of the Clintons’ many troubles have been self-inflicted. Bill had so many women on the side that his team coined the phrase “bimbo eruptions.” And that’s back when he was still just a small-state governor. As for Hillary? Nobody forced her to engage in shady options trading, fire the White House travel office and fill it with cronies, take her public health care commission deeply private, play Tammy Wynette to her serially cheating husband, set up her own private email server, or any of the rest.

Bill and Hill do this crap to themselves and to each other — and that in a nutshell is why they both always seem so “put out by all the skepticism.”

Required Reading

March 11th, 2015 - 7:25 am

Michael Totten says it’s time to let Iraq die:

The Kurds will be happy to go and will likely declare independence if the United States finally ceases championing “the territorial integrity of Iraq.” Washington should drop the phrase and at least quietly back the only true allies it has over there, and guarantee their safety from the Turks or anyone else who finds Kurdish independence inconvenient.

A free Kurdish state would be as reliable an American ally as Israel. It might also embolden the Kurds of Syria to declare their own state. Both could function as permanent buffers—and perhaps even beachheads—against the likes of ISIS, Assad, or any other bad actors whom we haven’t yet heard of in this region filled with aspirants.

Free Kurdistan should have been the price of Turkish intransigence during the lead-up to the Iraq War in early 2003 — just one of many times George W Bush’s “little bit pregnant” actions failed to match his cowboy rhetoric. We owe this to the Kurds who, bless them, still seem to believe in America.

Do please read Totten’s whole piece, which is about a lot more than just Kurdistan.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

March 11th, 2015 - 6:12 am

Cover Oregon, that state’s deeply troubled ♡bamaCare!!! marketplace is now an ex-exchange:

Cover Oregon was plagued by problems almost from its onset. No Oregonian was ever able to enroll online in a private plan under the Affordable Care Act because the state exchange never had a functioning website, forcing insurance seekers to file paper applications.

In April, state officials voted unanimously to switch over to the federal health insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov., citing the high cost of trying to fix the problematic state marketplace. The Oregon exchange had cost the state $248 million.

Additional controversy erupted in August when Oracle Corp., which was hired to create the exchange, sued the state agency in charge. The company alleged a breach of contract and accused then-Gov. John Kitzhaber of attempting to “vilify the company in the media.”

A quarter of a billion dollars to build a website which never once worked for just one person. Remember when ♡bamaCare!!! was going to save us billions by eliminating “waste and fraud?”

Seriously — you can Google that; it was a real thing Obama said.

Can You Hear Me Now?

March 11th, 2015 - 5:11 am

Ouch

March 10th, 2015 - 2:10 pm

That Hillary Show

March 10th, 2015 - 1:50 pm
New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Did you watch? I did, and it was awful. A full parsing will have to await a transcript, but let me tell you what I think I saw.

I saw a politician with such a sense of entitlement, that shrugging off major security concerns with “I thought it would be easier” to have just one email account for her yoga chat and matters of state. And she bristled at every question, except for a couple of softballs. The worst question of the lot went to the woman who asked “What have you learned?”

My favorite part was probably Clinton’s longest answer, which was a disjointed series of run-on sentences buried inside of sets of incomplete sentences, riddled with copouts, catchphrases, and buzzwords. I hope the transcriber does it justice, because it was howlingly bad.

To give you a feel for how it went down inside the Beltway, here’s a little something from Dana Milbank.

Got that? The problem with Hillary deleting all those emails, according to Milbank, is that she deleted all the exculpatory evidence which surely must have been buried on that server, somewhere. And because, I suppose, of Clinton’s tiny little lapse of judgement, now Evil Republicans can’t be made to let the issue go.

That’s just Milbank’s first attempted spin. Maybe he’ll do better tomorrow or Thursday.

But however the facts get spun, there’s no spinning away Clinton’s brittle, defensive, and ultimately cowardly performance — she quickly cut off questions and retreated down the hall as soon as things began to heat up.

Would that she exited the public stage entirely with such ruthless haste.

Related: Ed Driscoll on Hillary’s Checkers Speech.

Hill Climber

March 10th, 2015 - 10:13 am
Sony Pictures announces reboot of "Mars Needs Women."

Sony Pictures announces reboot of “Mars Needs Women.”

Nice column today on Hillary Clinton from Ashe Schow, but this Nate Cohn quote stands out the most:

“Her ratings started out high as first lady in 1993, as is often the case with that role, but dropped to the mid-40s when she pursued health reform. Her ratings surged during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but returned to the mid-40s once she ran for Senate, and remained there through her 2008 presidential campaign,” Cohn wrote. “Her ratings recovered again after she withdrew from the 2008 race and was no longer active in day-to-day politics.”

Hillary is great at politics — except when it comes to actual politicking. And I’m not being facetious, either.

Need someone to put together insanely complicated legislation? She’s your gal. Need someone to sell it to nervous congresscritters? Not so much. Need someone to make a scandal go away by any means fair or foul (but almost entirely foul)? Keep Hillary on speed dial. Need someone who can win a primary campaign against a first-term Senator with no accomplishments worth mentioning? You’d better call on someone else.

Americans like Hillary a lot better in the abstract, which is why her ratings go up when we don’t see the real thing so much.

Who are we arming in Syria? Pretty much anyone who pinky swears they aren’t ISIS, it seems:

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, was interviewed by Council on Foreign Relations last week on Global Intelligence Challenges. During a Q&A session, Clapper suggested that when it comes to training and equipping moderate rebels in Syria, the definition of ‘moderate’ has evolved so that nowadays it really means “anyone who is not affiliated with ISIL”.

If you watch the video instead of just reading the transcript, you’ll notice Clapper using air quotes several times when he says the word ‘moderate’. He even says at one point “whatever that means“, referring to the term ‘moderate’.

Video at the link.

Collapsing Arches

March 10th, 2015 - 7:30 am

Moon over McDonalds

McDonalds same-store sales were down 4% in the US last quarter, but that’s just the start of a global trend including a whopping 29% decrease in Japan. Here’s the rest:

Overall, global comparable sales fell 1.7%. The Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa again was weak, with sales down 4.4%, as recent news in Japan about foreign items in food continued to keep customers away. Europe was brighter, standing as the only major region with a positive number. There, same-store sales were up 0.7%.

The report was the first of its type under new CEO Steve Easterbrook. However, he started his new position only on March 1, and it will be some time before he’s viewed as truly owning the monthly reports. His first week did include attending a gathering with franchisees and major news on a planned change around the chicken McDonald’s sells, but the latest data make clear the challenges in front of the world’s largest publicly traded restaurant operator.

Tell the vegetarians — hardly McD’s core market — to sod off and put the beef tallow back in the fries.

Problem solved.

Thought for the Day

March 10th, 2015 - 6:20 am

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

March 10th, 2015 - 5:07 am

The good news is that ♡bamaCare!!! subsidies — i.e., putting middle class families on the dole — are expected to cost less than estimated just two months ago:

The cost of administering the Affordable Care Act over the next decade will be $142 billion less than expected just two months ago, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report issued Monday. The CBO says that Obamacare will result in a net cost of $1.21 trillion over the period 2016 to 2025, down from its January estimate of $1.35 trillion.

A big part of that savings comes from young people refusing to buy insurance, which may explain at least part of the bad news:

Obamacare exchange customers could see a significant spike in their premiums over the next few years as insurers face pressures from both the government and the marketplace, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday in a new analysis finding Obamacare is both cheaper and less comprehensive than predicted.

How long will subsidy costs remain low* if premiums spike? The political pressure for Congress to “do something!” will likely become unbearable.
(more…)

EDITION

That pretty little number up there is Apple’s most expensive Edition model, topping the charts at $17,000 per. Availability will be “limited” as will be outlets at which to buy it. You won’t be hitting the Apple Store at your local mall to try on one of those babies.

The Sport line starts at $349 as promised and tops out at $399. The only differentiation is the 38mm versus 42mm sizes — all colors and bands cost the same. The bands are so easy to switch out, I expect many buyers will be happy to spend another $49 each for extras in various colors to suit their moods. The buy-in might look steep, but this is easily the best smartwatch made right now, and I don’t expect it to obsolesce any time soon. It’s also a safe bet that, like iPhones and iPads, there will be a lot of kids getting some very nice hand-me-downs as their parents upgrade. Casa Verde has a perfectly-functional iPhone 1 and an iPhone 3GS floating around here somewhere, which might still be getting use if we hadn’t run out of people to use them.

That said, I don’t know if the Sport will be another “line up at the Apple Store weeks in advance” item at launch — but it’s easy and safe to predict that Apple will sell oodles of them.

The stainless steel Watch line is where the pricing gets really interesting, and also quite competitive.

LOOP

Pricing starts at $549 for the smaller model with a rubber Sport band, and tops out at $1099 for the larger model with the link bracelet. I fell in love at first sight with the Milanese Loop bracelet back in September, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s one of the less-expensive upgrades at $649-$699. (On all but Edition 18k gold models, the price difference is always $50 between the 38mm and 42mm sizes.) Since Watch is “the” Apple Watch, I’d expected a broader range of prices, starting at $649 or so and topping out around $1500 — and I suspect even those prices wouldn’t have scared off many prospective buyers.

Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Reader™ and watch collector Mr Lion commented, “The stainless pricing is spot on. A grand for a gadgety daily wear is perfect,” and I think he’s spot on with that comment. It’s not easy to find any stainless steel watch for $999 with a link bracelet as nice as the one Apple Watch has. Throw in all the smartwatch features and it becomes a no-brainer. I’d wager it’s going to be the upper-middle-class accessory item in the next 12-18 months.

About those Edition prices…

When you buy a gold Rolex, you aren’t just paying for the gold — you’re also paying for the intricate and hand-tooled mechanisms inside, which with proper care will last more than a lifetime. But an Apple Watch — whether Sport or Watch or Edition — is still just an Apple Watch with electronic guts which will be obsolete in five years or so. In other words, when you buy an Edition watch, you’re really just paying more for the gold. Some buyers will find that’s worth their money, but I don’t know if that will prove to be as many buyers as Apple expects. On the other hand, if the company really is moving into fashion, it might serve them well to have a very, very select clientele of Edition buyers.

We’ll know for sure if Edition flopped if prices come down, or if the line quietly disappears from Apple’s selection.

When Apple previewed their new watch last fall, I wrote:

Steve Jobs liked to say that Apple stood at the intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts. That’s a fine place to stand, but that corner might have seen as much development, if I may belabor the analogy, as it’s going to get for a while. You have a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone — we’re running out of places to put computers. Which is why everyone has expected “wearables” to be the Next Big Thing for a couple of years now, ever since the smartphone and tablet markets started closing in on their saturation points.

It’s time then for Apple, or for somebody, to set up shop at a new crossroads — the intersection of Technology and Style.

After seeing today’s demo and the prices, all I would add now is that Apple has set up a very big and profitable shop at those crossroads.

ISIS Cracking?

March 9th, 2015 - 1:54 pm

Mideast Iraq Islamic State

What’s been long predicted on this page might finally be coming to pass:

The Islamic State ­appears to be starting to fray from within, as dissent, defections and setbacks on the battlefield sap the group’s strength and erode its aura of invincibility among those living under its despotic rule.

Reports of rising tensions between foreign and local fighters, aggressive and increasingly unsuccessful attempts to recruit local citizens for the front lines, and a growing incidence of guerrilla attacks against Islamic State targets suggest the militants are struggling to sustain their carefully cultivated image as a fearsome fighting force drawing Muslims together under the umbrella of a utopian Islamic state.

That Liz Sly writing for WaPo. She goes on to report:

Meanwhile, territorial losses in northern Syria and elsewhere in Iraq are contributing to the sense that the group that stunned the world with its triumphant sweep through Iraq and Syria last summer is now not only on the defensive but also struggling to find a coherent strategy to confront the multiple forces ranged against it.

Of course, a US Army Brigade Combat Team or two, prepositioned in Iraq under a proper Status of Forces Agreement, would have made quick work of ISIS a year ago.

Suicidal Veterans: A VA Laff Riot

March 9th, 2015 - 12:32 pm

Good lord:

A VA medical center manager appears to mock the mental-health problems of returning combat veterans in an e-mail to her employees.

The e-mail contains photographs of a toy Christmas elf posing as a patient in what appears to be the hospital’s transitional clinic for returning veterans. In one photograph, the elf pleads for Xanax. In another photo, he hangs himself with an electrical cord.

The woman who sent the e-mail is Robin Paul, a licensed social worker who manages the Seamless Transition Integrated Care Clinic at Roudebush Veteran Affairs Medical Center here. The clinic provides returning veterans with transition assistance, including mental- health and readjustment services.

Paul has apologized, and remains on the staff. The reports also notes that she “received a $2,000 performance bonus in 2013.”

Teach social workers not to hate.

Pure nonsense from pure progressive Massachusetts:

Massachusetts’ ban on the private possession of stun guns—an “electrical weapon” under the statute—does not violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, the state’s top court has ruled.

The decision says (PDF) that the US Constitution’s framers never envisioned the modern stun-gun device, first patented in 1972. The top court said stun guns are not suitable for military use, and that it did not matter whether state lawmakers have approved the possession of handguns outside the home.

Nevertheless, we note that stun guns deliver a charge of up to 50,000 volts. They are designed to incapacitate a target by causing disabling pain, uncontrolled muscular contractions, and general disruption of the central nervous system…. It is difficult to detect clear signs of use and misuse of stun guns, unlike handguns. Stun guns can deliver repeated or prolonged shocks without leaving marks. …The Legislature rationally could ban their use in the interest of public health, safety, or welfare. Removing from public access devices that can incapacitate, injure, or kill a person by disrupting the central nervous system with minimal detection is a classic legislative basis supporting rationality. It is immaterial that the Legislature has not banned weapons that are more lethal. Mathematical precision by the Legislature is not constitutionally required.

The court, ruling in the case of a Massachusetts woman caught with stun gun, said the stun gun is a “thoroughly modern invention” not protected by the Second Amendment, although handguns are protected.

This same sort of “reasoning” gave the FCC control of the airwaves despite the First Amendment, and now is giving it control of the internet, too.

It’s funny how these liberal courts can read so narrowly our individual rights under the Constitution, and read so broadly government powers under that exact same document.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

March 9th, 2015 - 10:28 am

BROKE

Despite some (ahem) questionable funding mechanisms, Ohio’s Medicaid expansion is running out of other people’s money:

Ohio’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion will continue until at least July, despite burning through $2.56 billion in federal funding four months early.

Unless enrollment drops abruptly, Medicaid expansion will be more than $1 billion over budget by the end of Ohio’s current fiscal year June 30. The expansion’s 492,121 January enrollment was 34 percent higher than state projections for July.

Even with the federal government reimbursing Ohio for all of the program’s benefit costs, how can the Ohio Department of Medicaid continue the Obamacare expansion without legislative approval?

ODM does not need a new Obamacare expansion appropriation because the agency “has broad authority under Ohio law to operate the Medicaid program,” Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee director Susan Ackerman told Ohio Watchdog via email.

“We don’t need no stinkin’ legislative approval” is as good a summation as any of the zeitgeist of the Age of Obama.

Sign “O” the Times

March 9th, 2015 - 9:49 am

Notre Dame Hesburgh

Ouch:

Thought the Soviet Union was anti-American? Try today’s Russia.

After a year in which furious rhetoric has been pumped across Russian airwaves, anger toward the United States is at its worst since opinion polls began tracking it. From ordinary street vendors all the way up to the Kremlin, a wave of anti-U.S. bile has swept the country, surpassing any time since the Stalin era, observers say.

The indignation peaked after the assassination of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, as conspiracy theories started to swirl — just a few hours after he was killed — that his death was a CIA plot to discredit Russia.

Under a President like Jimmy Carter of course, the Russians still had an adversary worthy of their respect.

Quelling the A-10 Firestorm

March 9th, 2015 - 8:36 am

A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog"

The Air Force has a big job on its hands, trying to defend the unpopular move to mothball its A-10 fleet:

In an unprecedented move, top Air Force leaders last week convened a “Close Air Support Summit” at the Pentagon with senior officials from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard Bureau and Special Operations Command.

For the Air Force, one of the takeaway messages from the summit was that it needs to explain more clearly how it will support ground troops if the A-10 is taken out of service. Another is that it has to consider the possibility that it might need a new strike aircraft to fill the gap between the A-10 and its intended replacement, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

In a briefing with reporters March 6, on the final day of the summit, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle said the central aim of the week-long gathering was to “assess the current state of close-air support and work with the Joint Staff, Special Operations Command and sister services to gain enhanced understanding of mission requirements against the backdrop of fiscal and operational challenges.”

Carlisle insisted that the summit was not about A-10 politics or damage control.

You can take that last line with a grain of salt so big, a 30mm depleted uranium shell couldn’t penetrate it.

Congress wants to look good by intervening to save the aging A-10 fleet, but those airframes are old and getting older. That makes them more expensive and more dangerous to fly. The Air Force wants to look good by showing off the sexy & stealthy F-35, but that jet will simply never be as good a ground-pounder at the Warthog.

If Congress and the Air Force were serious, they’d announce an effort to replace the A-10 — and they could do it on the cheap.

The Russians have managed one — just one — all-new fighter airframe since the Su-27 more than three decades ago. That new airframe is the T-50, and it’s still under development with only five prototypes built so far. And yet the Russians have managed to keep building more and more modern jets by improving on existing models like the Su-27 and the MiG-29. The Su-35 is highly evolved enough to put up a good fight against anything but our F-22 Raptor.

We could do something similar with the A-10. Instead of building an all-new (and probably gold-plated) ground-pounder from scratch, the Air Force and Congress could put up the funding for a new and improved attack plane, evolved from the A-10 platform.

It’s a proven system, and we’d save billion in development and production costs — and the troops would get the air support they need.

Gutsy Call

March 9th, 2015 - 7:08 am

BACK

The online Apple Store is down in preparation for this morning’s big Apple Watch event. When it comes back up later today, I’d wager that the Store’s Watch configuration tool becomes Apple’s most-heavily “window shopped” configurator ever — especially if the price for the 18k gold Edition line hits or tops $5000 as is widely expected.

Required Reading

March 9th, 2015 - 6:16 am

Clinton Global Initiative University in Coral Gables, Florida, America - 07 Mar 2015

Ron Fournier sometimes gets a story he can’t spin against the Republicans, and when he does I like to link the heck out of it to encourage further good behavior. And his work here on Hillary and the Clinton Foundation is devastating:

Under fire, Bill Clinton said his namesake charity has “done a lot more good than harm”—hardly a ringing endorsement. One of his longest-serving advisers, a person who had worked directly for the foundation, told me the “longtime whispers of pay-to-play are going to become shouts.”

This person, a Clinton loyalist and credible source, has no evidence of wrongdoing but said the media’s suspicions are warranted. “The emails are a related but secondary scandal,” the source said. “Follow the foundation money.”

Is the foundation clean? Is it corrupt? Or is the truth in the muddy middle, where we so often find the Clintons? Due to the fact that Hillary Clinton chose to skirt federal regulations and house her State Department emails on an off-the-books server, even the most loyal Democrat can’t honestly answer those questions without an independent vetting of her electronic correspondence.

Without those emails, we may never be able to follow the money. Could that be why she hasn’t coughed up the server?

Read the whole thing, of course.

But before you click over to National Journal, check out Jazz Shaw’s take on Emailgate:

Trey Gowdy was on Face the Nation and, to his credit, Bob Schieffer asked him if there were any gaps in the emails that Hillary had turned over during previous phases of the investigation. Gowdy said there were huge gaps, including the period of time when she was heading to the region and was caught in a photo wearing sunglasses and typing away on her Blackberry. Where is that email? It’s a great question, but there’s a big problem on the horizon. If that email is gone forever then all we’re ever going to have is a question. If you can’t show the juicy bits of what it is that’s actually gone missing, the story stays in the realm of wonkdom and you can just about hear the viewers grabbing their remotes and clicking back over to Sports Center.

The whole point of the server is that it’s politically easier to apologize for gaps than it is to explain away whatever the hell she was up to — which seems likely to have involved lining her family’s deep pockets. And God only knows what else. These are the Clintons, after all. They could somehow manage to break seventeen laws adopting a stray cat.

Politically then, the point for the GOP becomes this.

Absent any devastating emails, the question becomes one of character — leaving it all in the voters hands. So the GOP must ask the question, again and again, what kind of person do you want running the country? Hillary has been in the public spotlight for a quarter century, but she’s covered her tracks so well that we still don’t know really what kind of person she is. Is that, Mr and Mrs Voter, the person you want in the White House?

The emails aren’t going to bring her down. Questions of character might.

Extra, Extra

March 9th, 2015 - 5:15 am

EXTRA

On this week’s Trifecta Extra, go behind the scenes for the most radical and entertaining and bloody idea for reforming Congress. And we take on A Tale of Two Caliphates in this week’s Wildcard edition.

The Return of the Album

March 7th, 2015 - 8:24 am

PLAYLIST

Remember when you used to listen to albums? If you were anything like me — and I was hardly unique — you’d go to the record store, spend an hour or more going through the stacks, agonizing over your selection. Finally, you’d pick out one or two, plunk down your lawnmowing money, take them home, and then…

…maybe you’ve forgotten this next part. I know I had almost forgotten, it seems so long ago.

Anyway, you’d take your new album home, call up some friends and invite them over, and then you’d all sit down and listen to the album.

Listen. To an album. All the way through. And then you’d talk about what you heard, and where the band had gone with it, and what you thought they might do next.

And then maybe you’d put on another album and listen to it, too.

Those were great days, but more likely than not, the communal part of sitting down and listening to an album is gone forever. Maybe kids these days still have time for that, but we grownups just can’t manage, can we?

But I do miss listening to albums, and our song-centric software and devices don’t exactly encourage or even enable you to bring back the habit. Sure, you can select an album, but on your iPod or your smartphone or whatever, that album is still just a collection of singles, and acts as such. Ever tried listening to Dark Side Of The Moon as a playlist? On the off chance you remembered to turn off the Shuffle so the song order isn’t messed up, your player will still likely mess up the way the songs blend into one another. CDs introduced this problem, and MP3 players compounded it.

And I really do miss listening to albums — or at least I used to, until last month when I embarked on The Great Albums Project.

It’s simple, really. Take your favorite albums (they don’t actually have to be great, just great to you) and re-rip them using the process I’m about to tell you. I use iTunes, but pretty much every music management application out there offers similar settings.

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Friday Night Videos

March 6th, 2015 - 10:17 pm

Ray Charles recorded one of the great concept albums of all time, 1960′s The Genius Hits The Road, a collection of 12 songs about different places and states around the nation. How good is it? It might seem impossible for a postwar R&B artist to improve on a Depression-era movie musical ditty written for Bing Crosby and Shirley Ross — but one of these Friday nights I’ll play Ray’s version of “Blue Hawaii” and you’ll say, “Bing who?” (Yes, Elvis too.)

TGHTR was a massive seller and an instant classic, and I’m pretty sure it has stayed in print more or less continuously these last 55 years. There was just one problem: It wasn’t finished yet.

Two years after Ray’s album came out, country/rock singer-songwriter Tony Joe White wrote a little number which went nowhere for him, but you might have heard of “Rainy Night In Georgia” anyway. That song finally got the commercial success it deserved when Brook Benton recorded it in 1970, launching his comeback. But Benton’s recording, like TGHTR was missing something.

It was missing Ray Charles, who made his own record of it in 1972.

Benton’s recording is quite good, but it’s also safe. His ‘Rainy Night” is pleasant and smooth, but sounds pretty much exactly like every other radio-friendly R&B number of the late ’60s and early ’70s. What Ray did with his bluesy, meandering vocal was to put himself right there in that boxcar, “with just a little half pint” to drown his sorrows — and he takes you along for the ride. That line about the “half pint” was part of Ray’s addition to the lyric, an extended finish as his character slips into an alcohol- and Sterno-induced sleep. His performance there is so convincing, you’d believe Ray got himself messed up just to sing it — except that his keyboards remain rock solid right until the end. Gripping performance as a vocalist and as an instrumentalist.

I’ve always wondered who the woman was in the photograph he lays on his chest as he prepares to pass out. The love of his life who left him because of his drinking? The daughter who died of some horrible illness? It had to be something awful for him to end up drinking Sterno in a boxcar. But as Tom Waits said about the time he spent on LA’s skid row to research one of his songs, “Every guy down there… everyone I spoke to, a woman put him there.” So I don’t suppose it matters if the woman in “Rainy Night” was a wife, a lover, or something else.

This all ties together because when Rhino Records re-released The Genius Hits The Road in 1997, they included seven bonus tracks of similar material Ray had record after 1960. The selections included “Hit The Road Jack,” “Sentimental Journey,” and of course “Rainy Night In Georgia.”

And so after more than a quarter of a century, one of the greatest concept albums of all time became even greatest-er.

Koenigsegg Regera

Koenigsegg has done it again with the Regera:

Like their previous 1,000-horsepower-plus supercar spectacles, the SSC and the Agera, they have created another insanely-powerful car. The Koenigsegg Regera has been built to churn out a phenomenal amount of power – 1,500-horsepower, to be exact.

Unbeknownst to those attending the show, the new Regera is a hybrid. Like the Ferrari LaFerrari and the McLaren P1, the Koenigsegg Regera utilizes a normal gasoline-powered, twin-turbo V8 engine with an electric motor. Though, the Regera has three electric motors instead of one. The V8 engine has an output of 1,000-horsepower and the plug-in electric drive system adds another 500-horsepower for the combined output of 1,500-horsepower. When combined, under full throttle, the herculean amount of power will thrust the Koenigsegg Regera, all 3,131 pounds of it, from a standstill to 250-mph in less than 20 seconds. To stress the monumental achievement this is, the car will reach Mach 0.33 in less than one-third of one minute.

Only 80 will be made.

Thought for the Day

March 6th, 2015 - 12:33 pm

The Fix Is In

March 6th, 2015 - 11:12 am
The Once and Current Speaker?

The Once and Current Speaker?

If you’d ever doubted that there’s really only one party in Washington — the Insider Party — then doubt no more:

Tea Party Republicans contemplating a bid to oust Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) shouldn’t count on Democrats to help them unseat the Speaker.

And without their support, there is no chance to topple Boehner in this Congress.

A number of right-wing Republicans, long wary of Boehner’s commitment to GOP efforts attacking President Obama’s policy priorities, have openly considered a coup in an attempt to transfer the gavel into more conservative hands.
But Democrats from across an ideological spectrum say they’d rather see Boehner remain atop the House than replace him with a more conservative Speaker who would almost certainly be less willing to reach across the aisle in search of compromise.

I would have phrased that last bit more along the lines of a new Speaker being “actually willing to pursue a conservative agenda,” but maybe that’s just me.