Tim Cook in the Driver’s Seat?

September 22nd, 2015 - 1:08 pm

GM exec Bob Lutz on the rumored Apple Car (video at link):

Apple has no experience. There’s no reason to assume Apple will do a better job than General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota or Hyundai. I think this is going to be a gigantic money pit.

Now I have no inside information on Apple’s plans for a car, what it might look like, how it might perform, or anything. The company is notoriously secretive, so I only know what I read in the Journal — and I haven’t trusted the Journal’s reporting on Apple in a long time.

But I do remember this gem from 2006:

Responding to questions from New York Times correspondent John Markoff at a Churchill Club breakfast gathering Thursday morning, [Palm CEO Ed] Colligan laughed off the idea that any company — including the wildly popular Apple Computer — could easily win customers in the finicky smart-phone sector.

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

Remember Palm?

Nancy Pelosi in the Driver’s Seat

September 22nd, 2015 - 12:38 pm
Look on her work, ye mighty, and despair!'

Look on her work, ye mighty, and despair!

Watch as the House Minority Leader and former Speaker deals herself back into a position of power:

Pelosi’s strength stems from Boehner’s weakness: Hobbled by internal GOP divisions, and facing rebellious conservatives who would like to oust him from the speakership, Boehner cannot rally enough votes from his party to approve a spending bill. To pass a bill that would keep government agencies and departments running after Sept. 30, he will almost certainly have to rely on Democratic votes that Pelosi controls.

Boehner and his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), badly want to avoid another politically damaging shutdown like the 16-day episode two years ago. Government officials say that fight cost taxpayers an extra $24 billion to shut down government programs and then reopen them. Polls show that voters blamed the GOP for the stalemate, hurting the party’s standing with the public.

But conservative Republicans say they will not vote for any spending bill unless Congress blocks federal grant money for Planned Parenthood. They say they are outraged over videos of the organization’s officials discussing the use of tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research. Some of those conservatives also see an opportunity to further weaken Boehner and build the case for removing him.

The issue at hand is defunding Planned Parenthood, which puts the GOP in a tough position — no matter who serves as GOP Speaker.

The public by wide margins wants PP defunded. Also by wide margins, the public doesn’t want to another shutdown. And by wide margins, the public will pin the blame for a shutdown on the GOP.

That puts John Boehner in an uncomfortable position, and Pelosi in the driver’s seat.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 22nd, 2015 - 11:54 am
He hadn't thought of that. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

He hadn’t thought of that.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

An “obscure Obamacare provision” could allow a future Republican president effectively gut the law:

The provision allows the executive branch to waive big chunks of the law for a state that chooses a different approach to expanding health coverage. It was designed to allow progressive states to go further than Obamacare. Vermont, for instance, wanted to create a single-payer plan.

But the tool could turn out to be an important lever for Republicans, especially if they control the White House. In theory at least, a Republican president, working with Republican governors, could use it to toss the much-reviled individual and employer mandates, health insurance exchanges, subsidies that certain people receive to afford their health plans, and mandates for what benefits are covered.

“Our hope is that we can get flexibility with the Obama administration,” said Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, whose state is considering pursuing such a waiver. “But if we can’t get the flexibility that we want, we believe that a Republican administration would be a lot more flexible. We think we’d have a lot more common ground.”

Live by executive order, die by executive order.

I see no reason why a GOP President should be any less selective about enforcing or enacting all the provisions of the Totally Settled Law of the Land™ than President Obama has been.

Defining Fiorina

September 22nd, 2015 - 10:33 am
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Robert Bidinotto has previously taken on critics of Carly Fiorina’s tenure at HP — but now is taking on a few other anti-Fiorina memes.

Here are two:

Here, however, I want to take on a few other criticisms—then end by comparing Fiorina to the rest of the Republican field, on the basis of the criteria that I think matter most.

“Fiorina praised and supported Hillary in 2008″

That’s a claim of somebody posting on Facebook this morning, who said there was even a videotape to prove it. I watched that tape. (You can too: It was a campaign video for John McCain—not Hillary. He had enlisted Carly to try to appeal to Democratic women voters who were disappointed that Hillary—whom they dreamed of being the first female president—had just lost the nomination to Obama. So, she made a “soft pitch” to them in the video, talking in general terms about how Hillary was a strong leader and an inspiration and role model for many women—but that now, they should “take a look at John McCain,” rather than support Obama. In other words, she was just trying to win over Democratic women with a bit of salesmanship. She certainly was not “supporting Hillary in ’08.”

“Carly gave a speech praising Islamic culture”

I read the transcript of her 2001 speech ( It was a talk to a business audience about corporate culture and the role of leadership. At its end, she used the history of Islam’s “golden age” era to illustrate the point. About that history, she was saying nothing more than what has been acknowledged by most historians.

Read the whole thing.

On the negative side, there’s this from Olivia Nuzzi:

Like Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, the private equity firm at which he oversaw the dismantling of numerous companies purchased by Bain, Fiorina’s record at Hewlett-Packard was notable for the number of workers fired on her watch. Romney’s Republican primary opponents, as well as the Obama campaign, attacked Romney’s record at Bain so aggressively that by the end of the 2012 campaign some people were using Bain as a verb: to destroy a wealthy candidate’s public image by attacking their business record.

Fiorina is about to get Bained. And if history is any guide, it’s an assault she may not be able to withstand.

Even worse (although perhaps not politically as damaging) was Fiorina’s strong-arm decision to pay top dollar to buy out Compaq — just as the bottom was falling out of Windows PC profits. That decision left HP with not one but two struggling PC divisions.

What Nuzzi fails to remember however is that Romney was the worst counterpuncher in American politics since Mike Dukakis — is Fiorina made of sterner stuff?

I think so, but selling a jobs cutter in this economy won’t be easy.

News You Can Use

September 22nd, 2015 - 9:45 am

Terrorists, do please try this at home.

Obama’s Trifecta of Fail

September 22nd, 2015 - 8:09 am
(Still courtesy Paramount Pictures.)

(Still courtesy Paramount Pictures.)

Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef dig deeper into what ought to be the worst (and certainly most dangerous) scandal of the Obama White House — the politicalization of Middle East intel:

The Obama administration is now considering modifying the Syrian train-and-equip program, while the White House attempts to portray the president as having always been skeptical of it.

Meanwhile, Pentagon investigators are examining the back-and-forth between the intelligence bosses at CENTCOM and the analysts, which created a paper trail. Favorable reports had fewer comments written on them, and requests that were more critical showed heavy questioning, the two officials said.

The altering of intelligence led to reports that overstated the damage that U.S. strikes had on specific ISIS targets. For instance, strikes on oil refineries and equipment were said to have done more damage to the group’s financing of operations through illicit oil sales than the analysts believed. Also, strikes on military equipment were said to have set back the group’s ability to wage combat operations, when the analysts believed that wasn’t always the case.

The altered reports made ISIS seem financially weakened and less capable of launching attacks, the analysts allege.[Emphasis added]

Please note that the Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s new strategy is to sell himself as a critical skeptic of his own strategy.

It gets worse, as one whistleblower’s story is reported by Sarah Westwood:

Reports about terror activity in Iraq have been “grossly thrown to the side” by officials in U.S. Central Command since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, according to a former Army official with the command, in an attempt to paint a rosy picture of the coalition’s efforts in the Middle East.

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class William Kotel told the Washington Examiner that he was pushed out of his position after raising concerns about “missing pieces” in reports for Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East. He had attempted to include in his official reports information about an Iraqi target that had allegedly stolen U.S. money from the Central Bank of Iraq. But the intelligence was stripped from his final report at the behest of his superiors, he said.

Kotel, who was noncommissioned officer in charge of the Joint Targets Enterprise, said warnings about imminent terror attacks in Iraq were required to be routed through a maze of Pentagon channels, a process that could take weeks, instead of communicated directly with military units in harm’s way.

He said the policy of substituting economic or environmental information for terror-related intelligence in reports was never made explicit by Central Command’s leadership, but that he and his colleagues had “implied orders” not to report facts on the ground in Iraq.

“Implied orders” reminds me of Willie Cicci’s “buffers” from The Godfather Part II.

The Obama White House has the ethics of Nixon, the strength of Carter, and the war fighting acumen of Johnson.

That’s the Trifecta of Fail.

FBI to State: Drop Dead!

September 22nd, 2015 - 7:24 am
(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Well, maybe the Fibbies weren’t quite so forceful, but still:

The FBI has declined to give the State Department any kind of progress report on its efforts to recover documents from Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

In fact, the FBI declines even to tell the State Department what it has already admitted publicly — that it’s doing an investigation.

“At this time, consistent with long-standing Department of Justice and FBI policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation, nor are we in a position to provide additional information at this time,” the FBI told the State Department in a letter dated today, according to a court filing in one of the email FOIA cases.

The thrill of the Sword of Damocles isn’t how high it dangles but is instead the timing of its fall.

Putin’s Not-So-Secret War III

September 22nd, 2015 - 6:06 am
The man with a plan. (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The man with a plan.
(Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The Russo-Iranian Axis grows stronger by the day, it seems. Here’s the latest courtesy of WSJ:

Russia and Iran have stepped up coordination inside Syria as they move to safeguard President Bashar al-Assad’s control over his coastal stronghold, according to officials in the U.S. and Middle East, creating a new complication for Washington’s diplomatic goals.

Senior Russian and Iranian diplomats, generals and strategists have held a string of high-level talks in Moscow in recent months to discuss Mr. Assad’s defense and the Kremlin’s military buildup in Syria, according to these officials.

This included a secret visit in late July by the commander of Iran’s elite overseas military unit, the Qods Force. Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani directs Tehran’s military and intelligence support for the Assad regime and is one of the most powerful leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also visited Moscow last month to discuss Syria and other issues with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Those visits “all come within the framework of this coordination,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told state media last week. “There is deep coordination on all levels between us and Moscow, and between us and Tehran, and I can say to whomever wants…they can join too.”

But Putin isn’t devoting all of his attention to the Levant — not by a longshot. Moscow’s other new forward operating base will open for business soon in Belarus:

Russian defense officials have said the base would be used to station Su-27 fighters. Russia already has some fighter aircraft in Belarus but this would be the first full-scale base there since Soviet times.

Russia has scaled back its military presence abroad, closing bases in distant Cold War allies such as Cuba and Vietnam.

However, a naval base at Tartus in Syria has recently become the focus of world attention as Russia has boosted its troop presence there in a move seen as bolstering its diplomatic influence in the region.

Russia already has military bases in ex-Soviet neighbors Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, which like Belarus are also members of a Eurasian Economic Union that Putin sees as the embryo of a new geopolitical bloc.

Last year Russia annexed the Ukrainian province of Crimea, partly due to fears it would be pushed out of its large naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

The creation of a base in Belarus may also be a signal to the West that Russia will not tolerate intrusion in its traditional sphere of influence.

It’s also a signal to the Baltic States (and perhaps Poland) that Russia means to reassert Soviet-scale dominance over the Near Abroad.

NATO’s response, such as it is, has been to play Red-on-Blue wargames in the Baltic — and losing:

In June 2014, a month after he had left his force-planning job at the Pentagon, the Air Force asked Ochmanek for advice on Russia’s neighborhood ahead of Obama’s September visit to Tallinn, Estonia. At the same time, the Army had approached another of Ochmanek’s colleagues at Rand, and the two teamed up to run a thought exercise called a “table top,” a sort of war game between two teams: the red team (Russia) and the blue team (NATO). The scenario was similar to the one that played out in Crimea and eastern Ukraine: increasing Russian political pressure on Estonia and Latvia (two NATO countries that share borders with Russia and have sizable Russian-speaking minorities), followed by the appearance of provocateurs, demonstrations, and the seizure of government buildings. “Our question was: Would NATO be able to defend those countries?” Ochmanek recalls.

The results were dispiriting. Given the recent reductions in the defense budgets of NATO member countries and American pullback from the region, Ochmanek says the blue team was outnumbered 2-to-1 in terms of manpower, even if all the U.S. and NATO troops stationed in Europe were dispatched to the Baltics — including the 82nd Airborne, which is supposed to be ready to go on 24 hours’ notice and is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“We just don’t have those forces in Europe,” Ochmanek explains. Then there’s the fact that the Russians have the world’s best surface-to-air missiles and are not afraid to use heavy artillery.

Is NATO a house of cards, ready to fall at the first gust of wind from the east?

Sign “O” the Times

September 22nd, 2015 - 5:14 am

Hungary is sending in the Army to combat Middle East immigrants:

“They are overrunning us. They’re not just banging on the door, they’re breaking the door down on top of us,” the right-wing Orban told lawmakers.

“Our borders are in danger, our way of life built on respect for the law, Hungary and the whole of Europe is in danger,” the 52-year-old said in Budapest.

“Europe hasn’t just left its doors open but has sent open invitation… Europe is rich but weak, this is the worst combination, Europe needs to be stronger to defend its borders.”

The new legislation, passed with a two-thirds majority, allows the army to take part in border controls, to restrict personal liberties and to use weapons as long as no loss of life ensues.

Given the nature of Hungary’s current political leadership, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if “no loss of life” was given with a wink and a nod and a tacit implication not to get caught or to make it too obvious.

Just more bitter fruit grown in the soil of inaction.

Thought for the Day

September 21st, 2015 - 4:35 pm

And Then There Were 15…

September 21st, 2015 - 2:21 pm


No story yet, but the Drudge headline says it all.

There’s also no surprise — Walker again failed to catch fire at least week’s debate, and his poll numbers have been a slow, steady decline, down to about zero in some states.

Walker should have hired a real campaign advisor, along the lines that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. But it’s also true that the two most successful governors in decades — Perry on the economy and jobs, Walker on good governance and hitting the vile progs where it hurts — have been the two earliest casualties of this Shakespeare tragedy/farce of a nomination process.

GOP voters are fools for not having given these two accomplished men so much as a decent first look, and it bodes ill for the direction of the party.

Et Tu, WaPo?

September 21st, 2015 - 1:41 pm
(Screencap of WaPo report.)

(Screencap of WaPo report.)

I took a screencap of John Wagner’s Washington Post story to help give you a feel for how the paper is currently reporting on the Dem’s horserace — which wasn’t supposed to be a horserace at all. And I’d remind you that the superleftwing New York Times has typically been much harder on Hillary Clinton (she’s not progressive enough, you know) than the inside-the-Beltway Washington Post has been.

Now read how Wagner lays in:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders drew an estimated 3,000 people to a boisterous rally here Sunday night at the University of New Hampshire, about five times as many people as Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton attracted to an event two days ago at the same campus.

“You may not know this, but what you’re part of tonight is the largest turnout for any presidential candidate in New Hampshire,” Sanders said at the outset of his rally, referring to the 2016 cycle.

Many of the audience members in the university’s fieldhouse were college students, a group Sanders said had a reputation for being apathetic. “It sounds to me like you are ready to transform America,” he said to loud applause.

Sounds like the real Hopenchange, doesn’t it?

As opposed to the very next bit, which sounds like the real excuse-mongering:

When Clinton appeared on campus here two days earlier, about 600 people came to see her at a forum about college affordability. About 300 people were seated in a room at the student union while nearly 300 watched from an overflow room during the event Friday morning, according to figures provided by Clinton’s campaign.

While Clinton’s event was open to the public, aides said that it was not meant to draw a rally-sized crowd and that Clinton was focused on holding a thoughtful discussion.

Soon the Clinton camp will be telling us that her next big event has been “moved to a more intimate venue.”

This can’t be the kind of story Clinton was hoping for from WaPo as she struggles to recover from a months-long series of campaign-killing revelations and missteps.

Bye-Bye, V-Dub

September 21st, 2015 - 12:12 pm
Tainted 'Dub (Press Association via AP Images)

Tainted ‘Dub
(Press Association via AP Images)

The Volkswagen Group — which includes Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, and Škoda in addition to Volkswagen — is in deep doo-doo:

Volkswagen AG lost almost a quarter of its market value after it admitted to cheating on U.S. air pollution tests for years, risking billions in potential fines and a backlash from consumers in the world’s second-biggest car market.

The shares plunged as much as 23 percent to 125.40 euros in Frankfurt, extending the stock’s slump for the year to 31 percent. The drop wiped out about 15.4 billion euros ($17.4 billion) in value.

The stock market tumble is bad, but doesn’t effect the company’s fundamentals. To explain just how deep the doo-doo goes, here’s “Autoextremist” Peter M. De Lorenzo:

Even when the hippie microbuses and old school Beetles faded from the scene, VW managed to survive in the U.S. market against increasingly tough competition by at least delivering a modicum of value and Germanic driving fun in a select group of vehicles (Golf, GTI, Jetta) that still matter, despite stumblebum marketing efforts and a piss-poor – and well-deserved – quality/reliability reputation that just won’t go away.

Well, that VW – good and bad – is now officially dead. It died on the afternoon of September 18th, when the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that VW engineers had intentionally jury-rigged their diesel-powered vehicles to the calculated degree that they “contained software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emissions test,” according to Cynthia Giles, an enforcement officer at the EPA. Basically, what VW engineers did is create software that electronically masked the true emissions level of its diesel-powered vehicles during the EPA test in order to pass it, but the real emissions of the vehicles were in fact nearly 40 times the level of pollutants allowed under clean-air rules.

This car company, which made its reputation with its “Think Small” charm and which continues to court the American consumer public with its “march-to-a-different-drummer” tone and its calculated, green-tinged, holier-than-thou persona, was caught red-handed by the EPA and exposed for what they really are: Manipulative gamers of the system who apparently would stop at nothing to sell the idea of “green” vehicles, even if those vehicles weren’t actually legal to sell in this country as presented.

When a company squanders its goodwill and its brand, it’s a difficult, time-consuming, and expensive effort to earn them back.

VW might be or less finished in the US market for a while to come.

A Bad Weekend for Computer Security

September 21st, 2015 - 11:20 am

You may have read that hackers finally found a way in to Apple’s iOS app store, infecting dozens of legitimate apps with malware with the potential to steal personal information and passwords. Here’s how they did it:

The hack exploited Chinese developers’ impatience, according to Palo Alto Networks. To write apps for Apple devices, developers have to use a tool kit called Xcode, but downloading the official version from Apple’s website can take a long time in China.

The hackers posted their infected version on a Chinese server, advertising faster downloads, the researchers said. Any app created or altered using the bogus Xcode would then itself become infected with the malware, they said.

The infected Xcode was hosted on Baidu Pan, a cloud service offered by Chinese search company Baidu Inc., according to multiple security researchers. Baidu removed the file shortly after being notified of its existence, Baidu spokesman Kaiser Kuo said Sunday.

The malware has been dubbed XcodeGhost by researchers at Alibaba Mobile Security, who were the first to document it extensively in a series of social-media posts starting Thursday.

And here is a complete list of infected apps. Most of these are Chinese and of no concern to you or me, but the popular web browser Mercury is on the list. I have that one, and it doesn’t appear to have been updated recently — which is bad news. I haven’t run it in months, which would seem to make me immune — but I’ve changed my passwords anyway.

On top of that, Google’s own security researchers have challenged a “key Android security talking point.” Ars Technica has that story:

Members of Google’s Project Zero vulnerability research team have challenged a key talking point surrounding the security of Google’s Android mobile operating system. To wit, a key exploit mitigation known as address space layout randomization does much less than the company’s overworked public relations people say in blocking attacks targeting critical weaknesses in Android’s stagefright media library.

As Ars reported beginning in July, a series of vulnerabilities in the libstagefright library made it possible for attackers to remotely execute malicious code on close to one billion Android phones. In the following seven weeks, Google has released updates that either lessen the severity of attacks or directly fix the underlying cause, although many users have yet to receive the fixes, and some probably never will.

Throughout the resulting media storm, Google PR people have repeatedly held up the assurance that the raft of stagefright vulnerabilities is difficult to exploit in practice on phones running recent Android versions. The reason, they said: address space layout randomization, which came to maturity in Android 4.1, neutralizes such attacks. Generally speaking, ASLR does nothing to fix a buffer overflow or similar software bug that causes the vulnerability in the first place.

Apple and Google both have some ‘splainin to do.

News You Can Use

September 21st, 2015 - 10:36 am
Don't trash this joint. (Shutterstock photo)

Don’t trash this joint.
(Shutterstock photo)

A Colorado homeless man has been given six months for dumping more than four tons of garbage in Uncompahgre National Forest outside of Telluride”

Benjamin Yoho, 41, maintained a massive heap of litter in the forest from October 2014 to April 2015, report officials.

With the help of 48 volunteers, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control airlifted over four tons of debris out of the forest by helicopter in May.

“This was no ordinary case of littering in the National Forest – this was full-scale trashing of the public lands and merited a term of incarceration,” Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement.

Yoho got six months, so at least he won’t be homeless for the winter.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 21st, 2015 - 9:41 am
(Chart courtesy Forbes)

(Chart courtesy Forbes)

Chris Conover has the numbers on just how badly ♡bamaCare!!! is underperforming:

The Census Bureau has finally released definitive statistics on the number of uninsured in 2014 and the news is not good for Obamacare (unless, of course, you have abysmally low expectations for government performance). The population-wide uninsured rate fell from 14.5% in calendar year 2013 to 11.7% in 2014. The total number of uninsured dropped from 45.2 million in 2013 to 36.7 million in 2014–a net of 8.5 million who gained coverage [1].

There are 2 things to note about this new number, which is far more definitive than the previous numbers put out by Urban Institute, RAND Corporation, Commonwealth Fund, Gallup or even the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS):

•The actual gain in coverage–8.5 million–is well below previously-released estimates of the reduction in the number of uninsured achieved in 2014
•It also is well below official government projections of how many uninsured would gain coverage under ♡bamaCare!!!.

Why is the figure so much more definitive? The Census Bureau figures released today that I’ve cited above come from the American Community Survey (ACS), which is based on a survey of about 3.5 million households (about 8.8 million people). In contrast, the NHIS surveys only 87,500 people and all the other surveys focus exclusively on adults, hence cannot provide an accurate population-wide estimate of changes in the number of uninsured.

Washington spending billions to pay Cadillac prices for catastrophic coverage for a few million people, while taking away doctors and coverage for millions more people who used to pay their own way.


Required Reading

September 21st, 2015 - 8:30 am

On occasion over the history of this blog, I’ve linked to stories about the abuse of children, particularly young boys used for sex, by elders in Afghanistan.

The New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein has woven all the threads together — cultural, social, political, military — into one must-read report.

A sample:

But the American policy of treating child sexual abuse as a cultural issue has often alienated the villages whose children are being preyed upon. The pitfalls of the policy emerged clearly as American Special Forces soldiers began to form Afghan Local Police militias to hold villages that American forces had retaken from the Taliban in 2010 and 2011.

By the summer of 2011, Captain Quinn and Sergeant Martland, both Green Berets on their second tour in northern Kunduz Province, began to receive dire complaints about the Afghan Local Police units they were training and supporting.

First, one of the militia commanders raped a 14- or 15-year-old girl whom he had spotted working in the fields. Captain Quinn informed the provincial police chief, who soon levied punishment. “He got one day in jail, and then she was forced to marry him,” Mr. Quinn said.

When he asked a superior officer what more he could do, he was told that he had done well to bring it up with local officials but that there was nothing else to be done. “We’re being praised for doing the right thing, and a guy just got away with raping a 14-year-old girl,” Mr. Quinn said.

Village elders grew more upset at the predatory behavior of American-backed commanders. After each incident, Captain Quinn would gather the Afghan commanders and lecture them on human rights.

Soon another commander absconded with his men’s wages. Mr. Quinn said he later heard the commander had spent the money on dancing boys. Another commander murdered his 12-year-old daughter in a so-called “honor killing” for having kissed a boy. “There were no repercussions,” Mr. Quinn recalled.

Read the whole thing.

I’d just add that we either get back into the business of of cultural imperialism, or we get out of Afghanistan. We’re winning no friends by protecting these pederasts, and we’re doing horrible things to our men and women in the field.

And — oh yeah — we’re protecting pederasts.

Isn’t protecting the locals from predators the very best of the US military’s many fine traditions?

Japan Parliament Approves Overseas Military Role

September 21st, 2015 - 7:17 am

This is a big deal, and is a virtual (and extra-constitutional) repeal of Article 9 of the country’s postwar constitution:

Japan’s neighbors reacted with concern after the country’s upper chamber of parliament approved measures Saturday removing some long-standing limits on overseas combat.

The legislation reinterprets Article 9 of Japan’s pacifist post-World War II Constitution. That section reads, in part, “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

Now, the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, or SDF, will be allowed to provide limited defense for its allies in conflicts abroad. The forces have traditionally been restricted to humanitarian roles.

And it wasn’t even close:

The 148-90 vote was the final hurdle for the measures, which will go into effect within roughly the next six months. The lower parliamentary chamber passed the legislation in July.

China’s Ministry of Defense accused Japan of clinging to a “Cold War mentality,” while media outlets noted the measures were passed a day after the 84th anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China.

You’d expect a Chinese official to say something exactly like that, which is of course exactly wrong.

Japan’s Cold War mentality was to keep military spending at or under 1% of GDP, and rely on the United States for protection outside the Home Islands. That was a pretty good deal for Tokyo, and it’s not the kind of arrangement a country gives up on a whim.

But China is a rising power, and America can’t be counted on like we used to be.

So what else is Japan to do?

Putin’s Not-So-Secret War II

September 21st, 2015 - 6:13 am

Two weeks ago LongTime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ learned that Russian Su-25 ground attack pilots reportedly were training up for missions against ISIS and rebel targets in Syria.


Satellite images prove Russian combat planes have eventually deployed to Syria.

The deployment, anticipated by an air bridge from Russia that involved several An-124 Condor airlifter flights (that we were able to track thanks to their Mode-S transponders) saw the aircraft arrive at al-Assad International Airport, near Latakia, the main Syrian port city, on Sept. 18.

As the satellite imagery shows, the aircraft were parked next to the threshold of runway 17L, on the northern side of the airport: this is quite interesting as the airbase has no hardened shelters and the aircraft are in the open air, exposing them to satellites and spyplanes, and making them a possible target to attacks from outside the airfield.

No Su-25s have been spotted yet, but the current inventory of Russian jets in Syria includes Su-30s, Mi-24 gunships, and Mi-17 Hip cargo helicopters.

Last I heard, ISIS doesn’t have an air force of its own. So it’s curious, isn’t it, that the only Russian jets deployed so far are air-superiority fighters rather than ground-pounders?

Biden Gets the Most Important Endorsement

September 21st, 2015 - 5:05 am
Heads up. (AP photo)

Heads up.
(AP photo)

I don’t know about Joe, but Jill is in:

Contrary to reports suggesting Vice President Joe Biden’s wife remains an obstacle to his potential presidential run, sources tell NBC News that Jill Biden is fully behind him for another bid.

Jill Biden, sources tell NBC’s Chuck Todd, is 100 percent on-board with a presidential run, despite reports indicating her hesitation is part of what’s keeping Biden from jumping into the race.

And that looks more likely by the day, as sources have indicated Biden’s been meeting with Democratic leaders during his travels around the nation over the past week to tell them he wants to do it and thinks there’s room for him to make a credible bid if he does.

This is the best and longest will they/won’t they since Sam & Diane.

Jake Brewer, RIP

September 20th, 2015 - 1:35 pm


In person, Mary Katharine Ham comes across the same way she does on TV — genuine, wholesome, and probably too good-natured a person to be in this business. And although she’s tough, too, she’s just lost her husband Jake Brewer in a charity cycling event accident. M.K. of course has one baby and another on the way.

I didn’t know Jake and I barely knew Mary Katharine beyond a few conventions, but her and her kids… this tragic loss…

There are no others words.

Her friend and co-author Guy Benson has launched a GoFundMe — the Jake Brewer Memorial Education Fund — for their children.

I’ve already chipped in, and I’m asking you to please give even just a little something if you can.

Friday Night Videos

September 18th, 2015 - 10:34 pm

This one is going out to a certain presidential candidate who seems to have stalled out in the prediction markets and topped out in the polls.

Thought for the Day

September 18th, 2015 - 4:20 pm

Required Reading

September 18th, 2015 - 1:13 pm

Syrian refugee Kassem Eid went to Washington to help last year. Here’s what he got:

Now, I was asking the officials to take simple steps, to do something, anything, that would protect the millions of civilians I had left behind from further starvation and slaughter. But as I pressed these officials for answers, their replies grew increasingly divorced from the Syrian conflict:

Why couldn’t there be military action to protect civilians? The reply: The U.S. is helping Syrians through humanitarian and nonlethal means. Me: Thanks for your generosity, but can Band-Aids take down a fighter jet as it bombs civilians? Them: President Bashar Assad’s air-defense systems are too strong for a no-fly zone. Me: Then how does Israel keep bombing the regime? Them: The U.S. wants to avoid a military solution. We also need to stabilize the whole region. Me: Assad’s barrel bombs and starvation sieges are driving extremism, I’ve seen it with my own eyes—you call that stabilizing the region?

In this meeting and in numerous other meetings with people familiar with Mr. Obama’s personal thinking—at the State Department, with Democrats in Congress, at the White House—we would eventually reach a moment of honesty when someone would say, in effect: President Obama does not wish to upset the Iranians.

But of course.

Obama’s policies have been objectively pro-Mullah since his first year in office.

Meanwhile, enjoy this golden oldie from two years ago.

The Truth About the Iran Deal

September 18th, 2015 - 12:37 pm

More, now from Constance Baroudos:

The JCPOA will also spark an arms race with Iran’s neighbors. Saudi Arabia wants to buy 600 new Patriot missile interceptors to support defense missions and promote stability. Many more Middle Eastern allies are expected to arm themselves in response to the Iran deal, likely with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense that shoots down short, medium, and intermediate ballistic missiles in their terminal phase. In the near future, the lack of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program may cause Tehran’s neighbors to develop their own nuclear arsenals to counter Iranian nuclear attacks, threats and blackmail.

Security concerns do not stop in the Middle East. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow and Tehran have ambitious plans for the development of Iranian nuclear power — Russia has helped Iran build and operate nuclear reactors for many years. Russian President Vladimir Putin also voiced expectations for the elimination of the Romanian and Polish sites of the European Phased Adaptive Approach now that Iran’s nuclear program is “regulated.” Russia’s aggressiveness such as its invasion of Ukraine and violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty demonstrates America must persist with the implementation of missile defenses regardless of Moscow’s desires.

After looking at details of the agreement, it is easy to understand why many members of Congress are enraged with the Iranian nuclear deal. America gave so much to Iran to reach a compromise while Iran gave so little in return.

Ah, but Iran gave us so much — a glorious foreign policy legacy for our Dear Leader.

The fact that other people will have to pay for it, years after he has left office, only makes it that much more glorious.

When Push Barely Comes to Shove

September 18th, 2015 - 11:40 am

I’ve taken harder hits from my five-year-old — when he was still my two-year old.

If you don’t know where the video is from, here’s the story:

Michigan consultant John Yob, who is working as national political director for presidential candidate Rand Paul, alleges that a strategist on the Marco Rubio campaign punched him in the face, although a source tells MLive the incident was personal, not political.

“Last night I went to a bar on Mackinac Island for the GOP Mackinac Conference,” Yob wrote early Friday morning on Facebook. “I ran into a guy named Rich Beeson, who frankly I didn’t even know who it was at first because he isn’t relevant in our political world.

“Anyway, he is Marco Rubio’s national campaign manager. He literally physically assaulted me by punching me in the face. The state police are looking for him. I have it on video, from multiple angles. This will play out in the national media in the next few hours.”

He called the police for what looks like nothing more than a short shoving match — without much shoving and a “hit” that wouldn’t register as much of a slap.

And he called the police for it.

If I were Rand Paul, I’d fire this guy out of embarrassment.

Taxing Bitcoin

September 18th, 2015 - 10:41 am

Bitcoin is a commodity:

So says the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which on Thursday announced it had filed and settled charges against a Bitcoin exchange for facilitating the trading of option contracts on its platform.

“In this order, the CFTC for the first time finds that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are properly defined as commodities,” according to the press release.

While market participants have long discussed whether Bitcoin could be defined as a commodity, and the CFTC has long pondered whether the cryptocurrency falls under its jurisdiction, the implications of this move are potentially numerous.

By this action, the CFTC asserts its authority to provide oversight of the trading of cryptocurrency futures and options, which will now be subject to the agency’s regulations. In the event of wrongdoing, such as futures manipulation, the CFTC will be able to bring charges against bad actors.

If a company wants to operate a trading platform for Bitcoin derivatives or futures, it will need to register as a swap execution facility or designated contract market, just like the CME Group. And Coinflip—the target of the CFTC action—is hardly the only company that provides a platform to trade Bitcoin derivatives or futures.

Good luck with that.

Let’s say you trade in bitcoin, the value of which fluctuates just like any other commodity.

Each bitcoin, or fraction of bitcoin, is just like any other. Like a bucket full of dimes, they don’t carry any serial numbers. But like a lineup of gallon gas jugs bought and filled up over time, each may have a different dollar value.

Let me try and clear that up further.

Let’s say you’re paid by your forward-thinking employer in bitcoin. Let’s say the first bitcoin he paid you at the beginning of the year your first month’s wages added up to 38 bitcoin — about $5,000.

Now in December you’re paid the same 38 bitcoin, but now the dollar value is $6,000. In between, the value fluctuated from as low as $4,000 to as high as $7,000.

Mostly those fluctuations didn’t bother you any, because you make most of your purchases from other bitcoin users. You take out a little each month in US dollars for things you can’t buy (yet) with bitcoin, or — and this is important — to pay your taxes.

If bitcoin is a commodity, did you take a loss or earn capital gains?


Throughout the year, some of your bitcoins lost dollar value during the time you held them, while others appreciated — just like those gallon jugs of gas.

But which ones did you spend? Which ones did you save? You could make the reasonable claim that you only spent the low-dollar-value bitcoin, and took big losses when they failed to appreciate. The IRS could make the equally reasonable claim that it was the other way around and you owe big capital gains.

But like that bucket full of dimes, there’s no way to tell one from the other.

So how does the IRS figure out how much you owe in taxes? Or how do you figure how much you can write off?

It’s a brave new world, and there might not be any good answers.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

September 18th, 2015 - 9:19 am

Slush funds aren’t gonna slush themselves, you know:

R&B helps uninsured people find affordable healthcare. It was given a $104,000 Affordable Care Act Navigator Grant for 2013-2014 to help people in Wisconsin explore their healthcare options under Obamacare.

It won the grant even though it was in Chapter 11 reorganization at the time. The company claims it informed HHS of its bankruptcy status, and was told that as long as it was able to get the Navigator licensing, its bankruptcy should not affect its eligibility for the grant.

The next year R&B won a $780,000 grant to provide Navigator services in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and North Carolina. Only $77,000 of the grant was to be used in North Carolina.

But within days of the announcement HHS withdrew the award, citing a “media firestorm” in North Carolina sparked by a News & Observer article about the grants.

The article quoted Adam Linker, a health policy analyst with the N.C. Justice Center, who said: “Whoever was reviewing the applications lost their mind temporarily. It’s just ridiculous when we have a well-known nonprofit that’s doing a great job with vulnerable populations in the mountains of North Carolina.”

One week later, the Mountain Projects of Waynesville, in western North Carolina, was given a grant of $304,000 to provide the same services. Mountain Projects had received a $360,000 grant the previous year, but had been passed over for funding in 2014.

“On information and belief, R&B’s grant award was pulled for political reasons, as all of the money that was awarded to other states was reallocated to North Carolina to a Democrat[ic] area during an election to a grant recipient with Democratic Party ties, who was previously passed over by the independent evaluators and who had been under congressional investigation during ACA Navigator Grant year 2013-2014 for its practices,” the complaint states.

That Means It’s Working™

Clinton Advisor Pretty Sure Clinton Unqualified

September 18th, 2015 - 8:08 am
Queen Cacklepants will wipe your server now. (AP photo)

Queen Cacklepants will wipe your server now.
(AP photo)

You have got to be kidding me:

Speaking on the threats posed by cyber attacks, Hillary Clinton’s top adviser for foreign policy said that a technical understanding of cyber security would be needed by the next president to deal with the “top item” issue, therefore disqualifying Clinton for the job.

Jake Sullivan, who was a part of Clinton’s State Department staff and now works as a foreign policy adviser for her campaign, said last week that setting the global rules with respect to cyber security would be a “top item” on the next president’s “to-do list.”

There’s rich, and then there’s triple creme brie melted over roasted bone marrow and served on a bed of melted caramel gelato, and then there’s this.

News You Can Use

September 18th, 2015 - 6:48 am
(Image courtesy Warner Bros.)

(Image courtesy Warner Bros.)

There has got to be an easier way to get some:

In a courtroom drama as confusing as it was compelling, a woman has been convicted of pretending to be a man and using a deep voice, a prosthetic penis and a blindfold to trick her female friend into having sex with her during a two-year relationship.

Gayle Newland, 25, persuaded her victim to wear a blindfold throughout the more than 100 hours they spent together during their relationship, which started online.

Her 25-year-old victim told Chester Crown Court that she had kept the blindfold on during about 10 sexual encounters. She remained blindfolded when the pair were sunbathing together and even when they “watched” a film at her flat. The deception, she said, only ended when she pulled off the blindfold while they were having sex to see her friend Gayle wearing a strap-on prosthetic penis.

Gayle exclaimed: “It’s not what you think.”

No, that pretty much has to be exactly what she was thinking, catching her boyfriend being a woman with a strap-on.

And I’m going to go right on the record and say that unless everybody has consented, you know you’re not supposed to do that, right?