Frank Underwood is many things: A husband. A politician. A duplicitous, machiavellian psychosexual deviant with a bloodlust for power. A purveyor of fine Carolinian barbecue. Opening just for him at 7:30AM is Freddy’s Ribs, a southern barbecue joint that we can surmise is serving ‘cue up in the style of Underwood’s hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina. Just in time for Father’s Day, here’s three different means by which to achieve that genuine Southern barbecue, even from the confines of a 4th-story walkup. Read the rest of this entry »
Nick Gillespie writes: A show that was once darkly great has descended into prosaic moralism. God save us from fictional pols who are serious about jobs programs.
Is anybody else kinda-sorta done with House of Cards? Not literally but figuratively. Season three is a real letdown, but not because the Netflix series is, in the words of one reviewer, too “bleak” or negative or dark.
“House of Cards is going softer than President Frank Underwood’s gut. The first two seasons were a palate-cleansing, tit-for-tat inversion of Aaron Sorkin’s cloyingly earnest West Wing, where even the bad guys tended to be good-hearted, if ideologically misguided.”
It’s the exact opposite: House of Cards is going softer than President Frank Underwood’s gut. The first two seasons were a palate-cleansing, tit-for-tat inversion of Aaron Sorkin’s cloyingly earnest West Wing, where even the bad guys tended to be good-hearted, if ideologically misguided.
But in just three seasons of House of Cards we’ve gone from Underwood (Kevin Spacey) not thinking twice about shoving under a train the unethical journalist he was fucking to a world where he actually takes seriously the idea of a federally funded jobs program that will—finally! seriously! emphatically!—end unemployment as we know it. He actually seems to earnestly want to do something for people and not simply because it will give him more power. Hell, at one point, he echoes FDR talking about how the “country needs bold, persistent experimentation” to turn the economy around and approaches his “America Works” program as something other than the shovel-ready malarkey the old Frank would have gleefully exulted.
Do we really want the characters in House of Cards to start developing consciences and to grow into moral actors? Please, the whole kick of the show is precisely that its universe is inhabited only by ethical gargoyles.
Even more disappointing is the devolution of First Lady Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) from a ruthless operator who puts Agrippina the Younger to shame into a latter-day Lady Macbeth filled with doubts about her and her husband’s patently unredeemable actions. “We’re murderers, Francis,” she says at one point in the new season—as if that’s a bad thing.
What’s going on here might be called the “Archie Bunker Effect,” and it’s no prettier than when All in the Family’s protagonist would belch loudly after chugging a beer while sitting in his favorite living room chair. When All in the Family started in the early 1970s, its protagonist was supposed to hold up a mirror to America and depict the petty and base racism, sexism, you-name-it-ism of the working class. Bless their hearts, Hollywood big shots such as creator Norman Lear just wanted to ennoble the little people.
“He actually seems to earnestly want to do something for people and not simply because it will give him more power. Hell, at one point, he echoes FDR talking about how the ‘country needs bold, persistent experimentation’ to turn the economy around and approaches his ‘America Works’ program as something other than the shovel-ready malarkey the old Frank would have gleefully exulted.”
“By giving bigotry a human face, Lear believed, his show could help liberate American TV viewers. He hoped that audiences would embrace Archie but reject his beliefs,” wrote The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum in an essay inspired by Saul Austerlitz’s 2014 book Sitcom. But as Nussbaum puts it, “‘A funny thing happened on the way to TV immortality: audiences liked Archie,’ Austerlitz writes. ‘Not in an ironic way, not in a so-racist-he’s-funny way; Archie was TV royalty because fans saw him as one of their own.’” Probably even worse for Norman Lear, in many ways the ultimate limousine liberal, was that the show’s resident liberal mouthpiece, Mike “Meathead” Stivic (brilliantly portrayed by Rob Reiner), was the show’s true laughingstock.
“We’re murderers, Francis,” Claire Underwood says at one point in the new season—as if that’s a bad thing.
But if there’s something more frustrating than fans misunderstanding a character and a show’s dynamics, it’s when producers do. All in the Family quickly became increasingly less funny and more preachy until it finally transmogrified into the godawful Archie Bunker’s Place. That last, comedy-free permutation was set at a bar Archie owned and operated. He still mangled the language (gynecologist became “groinacologist,” for instance) but Archie was now a standup guy who literally took in and cared for orphans.
“For all that, we are reminded time and again—and without irony—that leaders and policymakers are constantly balancing an impossible array of interests and tradeoffs.”
Similarly, the third season of House of Cards spends a hell of a lot of time humanizing the Underwoods and other characters. To be sure—spoiler alerts!—recovering alcoholic and chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is still capable of going on booze-and-sex benders and killing innocent people, but even he thinks twice before finally dispatching the prostitute Rachel, a loose thread whose existence threatens the president’s reelection. Read the rest of this entry »
SOMERVILLE, MA—Noting that he only needs to watch 26 full episodes of the political drama, local man Ben Atwell revealed Thursday that catching up on the previous two seasons of the Netflix show House Of Cards should be depressingly manageable. “I shouldn’t have any trouble getting through both seasons in the next few days,” said Atwell, who told reporters that he currently does not have any obligations in his life that might prevent him from maintaining a comfortable, extremely sad pace of watching six or seven of the hour-long episodes each day. Read the rest of this entry »
This isn’t really a spoiler, by this stage. It’s not new. But the interview with Kate Mara, about her character, Zoe, is definitely worth reading if you’re a House of Cards fan.
House of Cards: ‘Is it possible, then, that we’re watching a conservative show? Well, no. And also yes…’Posted: March 16, 2014
There’s a lot to chew on in House of Cards, and much has been written about it, but this one has the finest blend of humor and insight. For a primer on Andrew Klavan (besides his book) check out his YouTube videos on the P J Media channel.
For City Journal, Andrew Klavan writes: House of Cards, the Netflix series about a lethally unscrupulous Washington politician, is a wonderful show, but it does sometimes stretch the limits of credulity. I have no trouble believing that a Democratic congressman would push a reporter in front of a train, but the idea that anyone in the press would try to expose him for it is flat-out ridiculous. After all, Barack Obama has been pushing reporters under the bus for six years and nobody’s said a word. Ah, well. If the show gives leftist politicos nightmares about being held accountable for their actions by American journalists, they can simply keep repeating, “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.”
“…After all, Barack Obama has been pushing reporters under the bus for six years and nobody’s said a word.”
House of Cards does pose a more realistic threat to leftists, however: their 40-year monopoly on artistic political statements—and their tacit blacklist of anyone who tries to make opposing statements—may finally be coming to an end. House of Cards is not, as left-wing activist Randy Shaw wrote in a blithering and inattentive piece on Huffington Post, a “Republican fantasy world,” but it is not pure leftist cant, either. And that in itself makes it something of a New Thing on the show-business landscape.
“…the actual political maneuvers that move the story forward are ideologically muddy and unrealistic. Democrats seek serious entitlement reform, but Republicans are reluctant to go along. Really? Democrats circumvent teachers’ unions to reform education. Dream on!
Let’s set aside the bigger issues for a moment and consider one small scene in the third episode of the second season. Reporter Janine Skorsky—brought to vivid life by the perfectly cast Constance Zimmer—has left the Washington rat race to teach journalism at an unnamed college in Ithaca, New York.
We find her lecturing the class on how a media-manipulated narrative can outweigh the facts. Her example? In 1992, led by the New York Times, the left-wing media reported that President George H.W. Bush was surprised to see a barcode scanner in the checkout line at a grocery store. Read the rest of this entry »
“Mao is dead. And so is his China.” So says Vice President Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, to Xander Feng, the corrupt Chinese billionaire played by Terry Chen, in the newest season of “House of Cards,” the highly acclaimed Netflix political drama about the machinations of a ruthlessly ambitious American politician and his wife.
“I heard that some government officials are actually quite fond of the show,” said Mr. Zhang. “And that’s why we haven’t met with any trouble.”
It’s not often one hears a line this politically provocative on a Chinese state-regulated entertainment platform. But with more than 15 million total views on Sohu, one of China’s leading Internet portals, the latest episodes (and this line) have been played many times over since the much-anticipated release of the show’s second season last week.
The new season of “House of Cards” focuses on a host of issues that would typically be regarded as sensitive by the Chinese authorities: cyber-espionage, currency manipulation, tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea, and the extravagant and corrupt lifestyles enjoyed by the offspring of China’s revolutionary leaders.
Chinese Netizens Love the New Season of ‘House of Cards’ — Even Though it Makes Their Country Look TerriblePosted: February 18, 2014
David Wertime and Han Chen report: “Everyone in China who works on this level pays who they need to pay.” Mild spoiler alert: These are the words of the fictitious Xander Feng, an influential Chinese billionaire on the Netflix series House of Cards, a show that follows the machinations of U.S. Representative (and later Vice President) Frank Underwood to agglomerate power and crush whoever stands in his way. The phrase is also now viral on the Chinese Internet, which has proven surprisingly hospitable to the show’s second season, which debuted on Feb. 14. Despite having its arguably Sinophobic moments — in addition to Feng-as-villain, the show depicts a Stateside Chinese businessman hiring both male and female sex workers, and a U.S. casino laundering Chinese money to fund a Congressional SuperPAC — the show has Chinese social media users applauding what they believe is a largely accurate depiction of Chinese palace politics.
The attraction of House of Cards’ second season — which has already received over 9 million views in the first weekend compared to over 24 million for the first season, released March 2013 in China — appears two-fold. First and foremost, the show engages Communist Party corruption, elite infighting, and the often-outsized influence of the moneyed class with a directness that few domestic shows dare hazard. The colorul Feng, for example, alludes to scheming with members of the Chinese government to force a more liberal financial policy, not to mention bribing high officials outright. The result is a portrait of Chinese elite skullduggery convincing enough that one user wondered aloud in jest whether the show’s screenwriters had planted an undercover agent in party ranks.
Get ready for another lost weekend, another bout of binge-viewing, here it comes…
Stephen Miller TKOs Jim Acosta
Rich Lowry writes: When Donald Trump’s policy adviser Stephen Miller stepped to the podium of the White House briefing room on Wednesday to defend a plan for reducing levels of legal immigration, Jim Acosta of CNN was aghast and let everyone know it.
Put aside that Acosta believed it was his role as a reporter to argue one side of a hot-button political issue (this is how journalism works in 2017). The exchange illustrated how advocates of high levels of immigration are often the ones who—despite their self-image as the rational bulwark against runaway populism—rely on an ignorant emotionalism to make their case.
At issue is the bill sponsored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia to cut legal immigration by half. The legislation would scale back so-called chain migration—immigrants bringing relatives, who bring more relatives in turn—and institute a merit-based system for green cards based on the ability to speak English, educational attainment and job skills.
Offended by the idea of putting a priority on higher-skilled immigrants, Acosta wanted to know how such a policy would be consistent with the Statue of Liberty. When Miller pointed out that Lady Liberty was conceived as a symbol of … liberty and the famous Emma Lazarus poem added later, Acosta accused him of “national park revisionism”—even though Miller was correct.
Stephen Miller is living rent free in Acosta’s head. pic.twitter.com/WR2AMEmDGW
— Nick Short 🇺🇸 (@PoliticalShort) August 3, 2017
At the dedication of the statue in 1886, President Grover Cleveland declared that the statue’s “stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until Liberty enlightens the world.” His soaring oration did not include the admonition that so-called comprehensive immigration reform would henceforth be considered the only acceptable immigration policy for the United States.
Lazarus’ poem was added in a plaque in 1903. The words are not, as Acosta and so many others believe, emblazoned on the statue itself—the plaque is now displayed in an exhibition within the pedestal.
All of this might seem pedantic, but the underlying debate is over the legitimacy of reducing levels of immigration and whether it is appropriate to craft a policy mindful, above anything else, of the national interest. Miller clearly has the best of this argument.
One, making 21st policy in accord with late-19th century poetry makes no sense. We don’t ask, say, whether the naval appropriations bill is in keeping with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Building of the Ship” (“Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great!”)
Two, the cap on refugees in the Cotton-Perdue bill of 50,000 a year is in the ballpark of recent annual refugee numbers. We actually admitted fewer than this in the late-1970s and early-2000s, and the Statue of Liberty still stood … (more)
Source: POLITICO Magazine
CNN’s Jim Acosta claims victory in briefing beef with Stephen Miller: ‘He couldn’t take that kind of heat’
“I think what you saw unfold in the briefing room is that he [Miller] really just couldn’t take that kind of heat and exploded before our eyes,” Acosta said in an appearance on CNN Wednesday night, hours after the face-off.
Miller spoke to members of the White House press corps about a revised bill from Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas that would implement a merit-based point system for immigrants applying for legal permanent status. President Trump endorsed the immigration plan during a ceremony at the White House earlier Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »
Since October, the government has acted to slow outflows by tightening existing measures, such as approvals for foreign currency transfers, and has leant on banks to be stricter, making it harder for companies and individuals to change money and transfer money abroad.
SHANGHAI: Zhang Yuting lives and works in Shanghai, has only visited the United States once, and rarely needs to use foreign currency. But that hasn’t stopped the 29-year-old accountant from putting a slice of her bank savings into the greenback.
“Expectations of capital flight are clear. I might exchange more yuan early next year, as long as I’ve got money.”
She is not alone. In the first 11 months of 2016, official figures show that foreign currency bank deposits owned by Chinese households rose by almost 32 per cent, propelled by the yuan’s recent fall to eight-year lows against the dollar.
The rapid rise – almost four times the growth rate for total deposits in the yuan and other currencies as recorded in central bank data – comes at a time when the yuan is under intense pressure from capital outflows.
The outflows are partially a result of concerns that the yuan is going to weaken further as US interest rates rise, and because of lingering concerns about the health of the Chinese economy.
US President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to declare China a currency manipulator and to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports into the US, as well as tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea, have only added to the fears.
“Expectations of capital flight are clear,” said Zhang, who used her yuan savings to buy US$10,000 this year. “I might exchange more yuan early next year, as long as I’ve got money.”
Household foreign currency deposits in China are not huge compared to the money that companies, banks and wealthy individuals have been directing into foreign currency accounts and other assets offshore.
All up, households had US$118.72 billion of foreign money in their bank accounts at the end of November, while total foreign currency deposits were US$702.56 billion.
But the high growth rate in the household forex holdings are symbolic of a growing headache for the government as it struggles to counter the yuan’s weakness.
Since October, the government has acted to slow outflows by tightening existing measures, such as approvals for foreign currency transfers, and has leant on banks to be stricter, making it harder for companies and individuals to change money and transfer money abroad. Read the rest of this entry »
The White House Portrait of a Crumbling Terror Group is Contradicted by Documents Seized in the Bin Laden RaidPosted: March 5, 2015
How America Was Misled on al Qaeda’s Demise
Stephen Hayes and Tomas Joscelyn write: In the early-morning hours of May 2, 2011, a small team of American military and intelligence professionals landed inside the high white walls of a mysterious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The team’s mission, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, had two primary objectives: capture or kill Osama bin Laden and gather as much intelligence as possible about the al Qaeda leader and his network. A bullet to bin Laden’s head accomplished the first; the quick work of the Sensitive Site Exploitation team accomplished the second.
“The leadership down at Central Command wanted to know what were we learning from these documents. We were still facing a growing al Qaeda threat. And it was not just Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq. But we saw it growing in Yemen. We clearly saw it growing still in East Africa…The threat wasn’t going away, and we wanted to know: What can we learn from these documents?”
— Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
It was quite a haul: 10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives and a dozen cellphones. There were DVDs, audio and video tapes, data cards, reams of handwritten materials, newspapers and magazines. At a Pentagon briefing days after the raid, a senior military intelligence official described it as “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”
The United States had gotten its hands on al Qaeda’s playbook—its recent history, its current operations, its future plans. An interagency team led by the Central Intelligence Agency got the first look at the cache. They performed a hasty scrub—a “triage”—on a small sliver of the document collection, looking for actionable intelligence. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the team produced more than 400 separate reports based on information in the documents.
But it is what happened next that is truly stunning: nothing. The analysis of the materials—the “document exploitation,” in the parlance of intelligence professionals—came to an abrupt stop. According to five senior U.S. intelligence officials, the documents sat largely untouched for months—perhaps as long as a year.
In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending.
“At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden’s own words, that the opposite was true. Says Lt. Gen. Flynn: ‘By that time, they probably had grown by about—I’d say close to doubling by that time. And we knew that.’”
In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”
The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.
“This wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear. So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.”
It was a reassuring portrayal. It was also wrong. And those responsible for winning the war—as opposed to an election—couldn’t afford to engage in such dangerous self-delusion. Read the rest of this entry »
“Good evening to the great people of China. I am the 45th president of the United States, Frank J. Underwood. And tonight, I wanted to take a moment to say hello to all of you out there to wish you a happy Singles’ Day.”
On Tuesday, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba rang in China’s Singles’ Day online shopping holiday with a star-studded gala at Beijing’s Water Cube. The event included a video appearance by actor Kevin Spacey, who plays the scheming politician Frank Underwood in the hit U.S. TV series “House of Cards.” The show airs online in China and is a favorite of China’s anticorruption czar – and perhaps even its top leader.
“Good evening to the great people of China. I am the 45th president of the United States, Frank J. Underwood. And tonight, I wanted to take a moment to say hello to all of you out there to wish you a happy Singles’ Day,” Mr. Spacey says in character in the video, which shows him seated at a presidential desk….(read more)
Source: China Real Time Report – WSJ
Alyssa Norwin reports: Jon Hamm finally had his big Emmy Awards moment! The 44-year-old won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series, making it his first win at the show. And it was perfect timing, too, as this was Mad Men‘s last year of nomination eligibility since its series finale aired on May 17!
It’s about time!! Jon was so excited when it was announced he finally won an Emmy, that he didn’t even take the time to walk the long way up to the stage, and instead, opted to hop right on up from the front. But all jokes were cast aside when he got to the microphone, and emotionally and graciously accepted the honor, praising his fellow nominees in the process.
Jon has been nominated for this award every year since 2008, but has never taken home the trophy…until now! Read the rest of this entry »
Why Freddy’s Barbecue Couldn’t Really Exist
Johnny Fugitt writes: Between taking bites out of his political opponents, Frank Underwood, in the first two seasons of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” liked to visit a hole-in-the-wall barbecue joint called Freddy’s. Freddy’s BBQ is fictional and the show used a shack in Baltimore for the set.
DC tourists may be disappointed to learn they cannot sample Frank’s favorite ribs, but the most disappointing fact is not that Freddy’s is fictional. The sad truth is that Freddy’s could simply not exist in DC or in most major cities today.
While researching barbecue restaurants for my recently released book, The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America“ I visited 365 barbecue restaurants across 48 states. Many owners shared with me that their businesses are hampered by local environmental, safety, and health regulations
No Tasty Barbecue For You
In Houston, for example, Pizzitola’s Barbecue hangs its hat on being the only remaining Houston barbecue restaurant to cook with a traditional open pit. Pizzitola’s has been smoking barbecue this way for 50 years and was grandfathered into the local safety law banning their traditional method of smoking meat.
“The White Swan came under federal regulations and were required to use electric cookers rather than continuing to smoke as they had for generations.”
As newer barbecue restaurants popped up just outside city limits, Houston lost tax revenue and residents had to leave the city for great barbecue—everyone lost.
“Today, cities require restaurants to invest tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in safety hoods and equipment.”
It might seem unfair for Pizzitola’s to have such an exemption and, thus, an advantage over their competition, but it’s actually a blessing and a curse. If Pizzitola’s were to make any major changes to the restaurant—like adding a patio or dining-room space—they would lose their grandfathered-in status.
Pizzitola’s cannot adapt to compete with other restaurants because this risks losing the way they have been preparing barbecue for 50 years. Eventually this handicap will catch up to them.
No More Opportunities For the Little Guys
Although local regulations have done the most damage, federal regulations are also to blame. From the 1940s until 2009, The White Swan smoked traditional North Carolina pork over smoldering oak.
“It was a shame to see a historic, small town, family-run barbecue joint forced to serve cooked pork rather than traditional smoked barbecue simply to comply with federal food regulations.”
When they franchised in 2009 (and created a number of new jobs), The White Swan came under federal regulations and were required to use electric cookers rather than continuing to smoke as they had for generations. It was a shame to see a historic, small town, family-run barbecue joint forced to serve cooked pork rather than traditional smoked barbecue simply to comply with federal food regulations. Read the rest of this entry »
Popcorn Time’s BitTorrent-for-dummies approach has become the virtually undisputed future of video piracy
Netflix, but with far more content and none of those pesky monthly payments. Hollywood quickly intervened, pressuring Popcorn Time’s Argentinian developers to walk away from their creation. But anonymous coders soon relaunched the copyright-flouting software. Today, Popcorn Time is growing at a rate that has likely surpassed the original, and the people behind it say they’re working on changes designed to make the service virtually impervious to law enforcement.Popcorn Time was an instant hit when it launched just over a year ago: The video streaming service made BitTorrent piracy as easy as
“We’re like Google. scraping for new content all over the internet.”
— Popcorn Time’s anonymous developer, known here by the popcorn-box mascot name “Pochoclin”
As Popcorn Time celebrated the first anniversary of its rebirth, WIRED chatted via email and instant message with a software developer from Popcorn-Time.se, one of the most popular of several reincarnations of Popcorn Time. (The anonymous developer asked us to use Popcorn Time’s smiling popcorn-box mascot “Pochoclin” as his or her pseudonym.) Popcorn Time’s masked spokesperson says the streaming movie and TV app is flourishing—in defiance of many of the world’s most powerful copyright holders and EURid, the domain registrar that seized the original site’s web domain last year.
“After everything we went through, this will be our sweetest revenge.”
— Anonymous Popcorn Time spokesperson
Popcorn-Time.se, Pochoclin says, has millions of users and is growing at the mind-bending rate of 100,000 downloads per day. He or she also hinted that a forthcoming switch to a peer-to-peer architecture will make the service far harder for copyright cops to attack. “We’re at the threshold of one of the most exciting times since we started this project,” Pochoclin writes. “Making all our data available via p2p will mean that Popcorn Time will no longer rely on domains and centralized servers but only on its user base.”
“After everything we went through,” Pochoclin said, “this will be our sweetest revenge and our biggest victory.”
When Popcorn-Time.se started responding to WIRED’s questions in November, Pochoclin said the reborn project already had 4 million users. But it had taken a serious hit a few months earlier, when Brussels-based domain registrar EURid revoked its website domain, Time4Popcorn.eu. At its new Swedish domain, it’s only recently returned to that earlier adoption rate. (Pochoclin wouldn’t reveal the size of its current user base for fear of drawing more attention from law enforcement or copyright holders.) “[EURid’s domain seizure] was just a small setback … a small but painful kick to the balls,” the spokesperson says. “We’ve grown this project tremendously since we picked it up … The numbers just keep rising.”
For any other year-old startup, those numbers would seem ludicrous. But Popcorn Time is giving away Hollywood’s most valuable content for free, and making that piracy easier than ever. Download Popcorn Time’s app and in seconds you’re offered a slick menu of streaming TV shows and movies at least as easy to navigate as Netflix or Hulu—but with higher-quality video and hundreds of recent movies and TV shows paid services don’t offer. Read the rest of this entry »
“I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas, and I’m not sure where to begin. My guess is that Roy Price will regret this.”
“I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas, and I’m not sure where to begin. My guess is that [Amazon Studios Vice President] Roy Price will regret this,” Mr. Allen said in a news release about the project, which is still unnamed.
[An outbreak of mockery ensues at Twitter #WoodyAllenTVShowNames]
Amazon has commissioned a full season, with half-hour episodes available on its Prime Instant Video. The will be the first television project by Mr. Allen, who has worked on films such as “Annie Hall” and “Midnight in Paris.” He has won four Oscars.
On Sunday, Amazon’s “Transparent”—about a California family whose father comes out as transgender—took home two Golden Globes at the 72nd annual awards: best musical or comedy TV series, and best actor in a musical or comedy series for actor Jeffrey Tambor. This is the first Golden Globe win for an Amazon show. Read the rest of this entry »
For Reason.com, Meredith Bragg & Nick Gillespie assemble the worst of the worst, see the whole thing here. And don’t miss the best of the best list from earlier, we’ll include that in an upcoming post, because life is too short for bad TV.
A little while ago, we tallied up “The 5 Best Libertarian TV Shows.” South Park, Penn & Teller: Bullshit, The Wire, The Prisoner, House of Cards: They’re all there, along with your abuse in the comments for leaving out Firefly, Yes, Minister, King of the Hill, and all your other favorites.
Now it’s time to list the five TV shows that are the absolute worst from a libertarian perspective.
5. The Newsroom (2012-2014). To be fair, just about everyone hates this sanctimonious drama created by Aaron Sorkin, who also has the rosy-eyed White House valentine The West Wingin his oeuvre. Its third and final season premieres on HBO in November.
The Newsroom follows the on-air tantrums of Will McAvoy, a preening, self-righteous anchorman who can’t open his mouth without inveighing against capitalism, gun rights, or political speech with which he doesn’t agree. As played by Jeff Daniels, McAvoy is a lot like Ron Burgundy, but unintentionally funny. Read the rest of this entry »
In the current edition of John Nolte‘s Hollywood Playbook, this item caught my eye: Deadline‘s Mike Fleming Jr. and Variety‘s Peter Bart discuss the state of movies and whether or not films are dealing with a brain drain as talented writers and producers head over to television in the hopes of grabbing their own piece of this new Golden Age.
Bart thinks it is all cyclical. Fleming is edging towards despair.
Fleming: Because those series and 10 more like them are better than anything I see on a movie screen. For the 25 years I’ve covered it, film has always been the sexiest, most prestigious part of the business. … But now, it feels like the ecosystem has been damaged. The creative vision on the big films comes from executives who give creativity-stifling one-step screenwriter deals, with emphasis on reaching four quadrant audiences. Producers have been marginalized. Should the authorship of a picture belong to the studio exec? By contrast, some of the best series are generated by feature writers who couldn’t get hired after studios turned away from smart mid-budget dramas in favor of no-budget genre and high-priced tent poles. I remember Tony Gilroy telling me a couple years ago that movies like his superb Michael Clayton would go extinct, but there should be no funeral because all those writers who made them were flocking to TV and wait and see what happens. Man, was he right. Will the next generation growing up in this creative blight be inspired by mediocrity to dream about having the authority to reboot The Hangover?
First off, “Michael Clayton” sucked. And I don’t think the idea of a “Hangover” reboot will wait for another generation. In five years, “The Hangover” will return with the characters as dads, or something. Read the rest of this entry »
“Ideas don’t determine who’s right. Power determines who’s right. And I have the power, so I am right.”
The game will release on November 4, with the trailer slated for release Sunday, but had to be posted three days earlier after it was leaked online.
The character uncannily looks like Kevin Spacey and acts like his House of Cards character Francis Underwood. The character speaks like Underwood’s character and is seen giving a speech about democracy and power. Read the rest of this entry »
Peggy Noonan writes: Watching Season 2 of “House of Cards.” Not to be a scold or humorless, but do Washington politicians understand how they make themselves look when they embrace the show and become part of its promotion by spouting its famous lines?
“America sees Washington as the capital of vacant, empty souls, chattering among the pillars…”
Congressmen only work three days a week. Each shot must have taken two hours or so—the setup, the crew, the rehearsal, the learning the line. How do they have time for that? Why do they think it’s good for them?
“House of Cards” very famously does nothing to enhance Washington’s reputation. It reinforces the idea that the capital has no room for clean people. The earnest, the diligent, the idealistic, they have no place there. Why would powerful members of Congress align themselves with this message? Why do they become part of it? I guess they think they’re showing they’re in on the joke and hip to the culture. I guess they think they’re impressing people with their surprising groovelocity.
Or maybe they’re just stupid.
But it’s all vaguely decadent, no? Or maybe not vaguely. America sees Washington as the capital of vacant, empty souls, chattering among the pillars. Suggesting this perception is valid is helpful in what way?
Thomas Doherty writes: As the last episodes of Breaking Bad were counting down, AMC’s promo pop-ups kept badgering viewers to partake of something called “the two-screen experience.” Rather than sitting inert before a single 50-inch flat screen, you should log on to the show’s website and participate in real-time chats and interactive razzle-dazzle. Me, I kept thinking: Breaking Bad is the best show on television, a text well worth my undivided attention. What the heck do I want with distracting digital clutter? One screen is plenty.
Increasingly, though, that is a minority opinion. For many viewers, critics, and scholars, the second (and third, fourth, and fifth) screen is as good as the first. In some quarters, the decorative wraparound material—the term of art is “paratext”—is outshining the prize in the box. The irritating distractions have morphed into the main attractions.
MOVIES FOR TELEVISION AND MINI-SERIES
The nominees for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series for 2013 are (in alphabetical order):
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight (HBO)
Mr. Frears’s Directorial Team:
• Unit Production Managers: Scott Ferguson, Erica Kay
• First Assistant Director: Michael Steele
• Second Assistant Director: Nancy Herrmann
• Second Second Assistant Director: Ellen Parnett
This is Mr. Frears’s third DGA Award nomination. He was previously nominated in this category for Fail Safe in 2000 and for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for The Queen in 2006.
Mr. Mamet’s Directorial Team:
• Unit Production Manager: Lee R. Mayes
• First Assistant Director: Michael Hausman
• Second Assistant Director: Erica Fishman
• Second Second Assistant Director: Catherine Feeny
• Additional Second Second Assistant Director: Eddie Griffith
This is Mr. Mamet’s first DGA Award nomination.
The president’s TV-viewing tastes are utterly typical of the American educated class
Matthew Continetti writes: Imagine my surprise this week when my daily paper suddenly turned into a copy ofUS Weekly. With a turn of the page the New York Times became the sort of celebrity magazine that dispenses trivia in order to prove that a rich, famous, and powerful person is, at heart, just like us. The luminary was Barack Obama, whose taste in television was mined by correspondent Michael D. Shear for insights into the presidential character. Shear failed to provide any, but his article was riveting nonetheless. What at first glance might be dismissed as a piece of journalistic fluff, a beat-sweetener written for the slow news days between Christmas and New Year’s, is on close examination an exercise in social positioning, an assertion of class allegiance on the part of the president and the paper.
You remember Shear. He is the same reporter who, in an interview last summer, interrupted the president to say that he, too, was aware of Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam’s existence. In “Obama’s TV Picks — Anything Edgy, With Hints of Reality,” Shear reports that the president, whose “life in the Oval Office” is marked by “war, terrorism, economic struggle,” and “mass shootings,” has a taste, “in his few quiet moments,” not for situation comedy but for drama. He indulges this taste by watching copious amounts of television.
Obama, we learn, “seeks not to escape to the delicious back-stabbing of the ‘Real Housewives,’” nor to “the frivolity of the singing teens on ‘Glee,’” but to “shows like HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire,’” as well as to “the DVD box set of AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad,’” Mad Men, Homeland, The Wire, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, and SportsCenter. “Friends say Obama is also awaiting the new season of the Netflix show ‘House of Cards.’” The president has the same attitude toward spoilers that he has toward leaks. He is against them. They might interfere with his viewing. “The president is way behind” on Breaking Bad, Shear writes, “and frequently reminds those around him not to give anything away.”
Netflix stock soared in after-hours trading approximately 10% on news of the growth. In a move that could also be significant for Netflix’s stock, the streaming service also announced that it would accelerate its schedule of spending on original programming.
That brings Netflix’s domestic streaming audience to 31.9 million. Together with the addition of 1.44 million international subs, that brings Netflix’s global sub base to over 40 million. Read the rest of this entry »
Camille Paglia: “It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton is our party’s best chance”Posted: August 21, 2013
I can vividly remember the first time I read Camille Paglia. I was visiting New York with my mom during college and we happened across “Vamps and Tramps” at a bookstore near our hotel. Lying in neighboring twin beds, I read passages out loud to her. Explosive things like, “Patriarchy, routinely blamed for everything, produced the birth control pill, which did more to free contemporary women than feminism itself.” I didn’t always agree with Paglia, but I enjoyed her as a challenging provocateur.
I still have that copy of the book. There are asterisks in the margins, double-underlined sentences and circled paragraphs. Reading it was a satisfying rebellion against the line-toeing women’s studies classes I was taking at the time — and at a college with an infamously anti-porn professor, no less. Since then, I have moments of genuine outrage and fury over Paglia’s writing and public commentary (see: this, this and this, for examples of why) — but she is still compelling and occasionally brilliant. The truth is that many people still want to hear what she has to say — about everything from BDSM to Lady Gaga.
The paperback release last week of her book “Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars” — which Salon interviewed her about last year, and which is an example of Paglia at her intellectual best and an antidote to her birther moments — is a great excuse to check back in with the so-called bete noire of feminism. I spoke with Paglia by email about contemporary feminism, Anthony Weiner and the “end of men.”
Drew M. via Ace of Spades HQ
As one of the first, if not the first, people to say Let It Burn, I’m clearly thrilled with the growing chorus of voices joining the movement.
Like any movement, there are true believers and Let It Burn In Name Only (LIBINO) types. Since it’s never too early to purge a movement of its impure elements, let us lay out some key principles of Let It Burn.
1- America isn’t a conservative country anymore and hasn’t been for a while. Yes, you can point to lots of surveys that show people identify themselves as conservatives and they even say government should be doing fewer things.
The fact is, a conservative country doesn’t “accidentally” elect Barack Obama twice. It doesn’t continue to send Democrats to the Senate who voted for ObamaCare and force the GOP to run as the saviors of Medicare.
People want the ever expanding welfare state, they simply don’t want to have to pay for it. They are happy to pretend they can “ask the rich to pay a little more” (it won’t work) or to pile on debt for some generation to be born later to pay for it. What they are very clear about in their votes is…”don’t you dare touch my “free” stuff”.
One foundation of conservatism is to see the world as it is, imperfections and all, and not the way we wish it to be. Unless we can admit the reality of the country we are living in, Let It Burn makes no sense.
If you think we’re just one or two tactical moves and a great candidate away from political victory, you’re not in the Let It Burn camp.
2- Gabe and several commenters yesterday wondered, why isn’t Bob Corker’s “tax cuts now, entitlements later” idea consistent with Let It Burn?
The answer is simple: It’s a deliberate action is based on doing several things- raising taxes and then magically reforming entitlements.
Even if the GOP managed to “win” this standoff with Obama by generating more revenue through tax reform than hiking tax rates, who cares? We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.
“Let It Burn” is about inaction. There’s no point in trying do anything that avoids going over the fiscal cliff/sequestration. Remember, the deal that got us to this point was agreed to by House Republicans, Senate Democrats and signed by Obama. That’s as bi-partisan as it gets. I’ve heard from squishy low information voters, Obama and the media that “bi-partisan problem solving” is the Holy Grail of politics. Well, here it is.
Will it lead to massive disruptions? Yes. That’s the point. The current system is rigged against conservative. We should play no part in its perpetuation. If you can’t win the game, concede and start new one. That’s the heart of Let It Burn.
This isn’t some petty “I lost so I’m taking my ball and going home” tirade. This is what people want. It’s simply not sustainable. If we can’t stop them, we don’t have to continue to enable them either.
What Podhoretz should have done is challenge any Republican to argue against Kritol’s analysis. That can’t be done in a serious way.
We need to start disassociating conservatism from the GOP. We’ve tried it for 30 years. It hasn’t worked.
We’ve tried to save the country from the folly of expanding liberalism and the country said, “we don’t want to be saved”. Let It Burn just means letting them have what they want and rebuilding later.
After 2010 I had some hope that we might be able to turn this massive welfare state around. The full implementation of ObamaCare means that isn’t going to happen. At least not absent a total collapse of our fiscal house of cards.
Let It Burn isn’t an option, it’s an eventuality. The questions are will we be complicit in it any longer and do we want to delay it? I say no. Let the liberals own it. Very few things are made better by delaying the day of inevitable reckoning.
The sooner it burns, the sooner we can try and rebuild.
From 2004: A behind-the-scenes look back at the man himself—detached yet accessible, astute and prophetic, colorful and complex.
June 28, 2004 Issue: There they lie in their guttered drawers, projecting from the rosewood desk I had specially made for them: four yards of cards, each eight inches wide, five inches tall, most of them with his initials handwritten, headline style, in the top left-hand corner, from “rr’s birth zodiac—feb. 6, 1911” to “rr dies of pneumonia—june 5, 2004.” In between these two extremes, some eighteen thousand cards document whatever I was able to find out about thirty-four thousand of Ronald Reagan’s days. Which leaves sixteen thousand days unaccounted for. Lost leaves. “The leavings of a life,” as D. H. Lawrence might say.
“All the rhetorical arts—gesture, timing, comedy, pathos—were at his command.”
I once planned to show Reagan this card file, just to see him react as drawer after drawer rolled out yard by yard, green tabs demarcating his years, yellow tabs his careers, blue tabs his triumphs and disappointments. He could have looked down, as it were, on the topography of his biography, and seen the shoe salesman’s son moving from town to town across northern Illinois, in the teens of the last century; the adolescent achieving some sort of stability at Dixon High School in 1924; the Eureka College student and summer lifeguard through 1933; then, successively—each divider spaced farther from the next, as he grew in worldly importance—the Des Moines sportscaster and ardent New Dealer; the Hollywood film star; the cavalry officer and Air Corps adjutant; the postwar union leader and anti-Communist; the television host and corporate spokesman for General Electric; the governor of California, 1967-75; the twice-defeated, ultimately successful candidate for his party’s Presidential nomination; and, last, the septuagenarian statesman, so prodigiously carded that the nine tabs “1981” through “1989” stand isolated like stumps in snow.
He never visited my study, however, and on reflection I am glad he did not, because he might have been disturbed to see how far he had come in nearly eighty years, and how few more cards he was likely to generate after leaving the White House. Besides, I would have had to keep my forearm over a file more than a foot long, practically bristling with tabs descriptive of “rr the man.” Now that the man is no more, and subject to the soft focus of sentimental recall, a riffle through some of these tabs might help restore his image in all its color and complexity.
The first subsection deals with Ronald Reagan’s body. In 1988, at seventy-seven years of age, the President stood six feet one and weighed a hundred and ninety pounds, none of it flab. He boasted that any punch aimed at his abdomen would be jarringly repulsed. After a lifetime of working out with wheels and bars, he had broadened his chest to a formidably walled cavern forty-four inches in circumference. He was a natural athlete, with a peculiarly graceful Algonquin gait that brought him into rooms almost soundlessly. No matter how fast he moved (that big body could turn on a dime), he was always balanced.
One recalls how elegantly he choreographed Mikhail Gorbachev up the steps at the 1985 Geneva summit: an arabesque of dark blue flowing around awkward gray. Reagan loved to swim, ride, and foxtrot. (Doris Day remembers him as “the only man I ever knew who really liked to dance.”) Eleven weeks after nearly dying in the assassination attempt of 1981, he climbed onto the springboard at the Camp David swimming pool and threw a perfect half pike before anybody could protest.
Gorbachev once remarked on Reagan’s “balance” to me in an interview. But he used the Russian word ravnovesie in its wider sense, of psychological equilibrium. The President’s poised body and smooth yet inexorable motion telegraphed a larger force that came of a lifetime of no self-doubt (except for two years of despair in 1948-49, after Jane Wyman, his first wife, left him for boring her). Reagan redux did not care whom he bored, as long as nobody tried to stop him. His famous anecdotes, recounted with a speed and economy that were the verbal equivalent of balance, were persuasive on the first, and even the fourth, telling. But when you heard them for the fourteenth, or the fortieth, time, always with exactly the same inflections and chuckles and glances, you realized that he was a bore in the sense that a combine harvester is boring: its only purpose is to bear down upon and thresh whatever grain lies in its path. Reagan used homilies to harvest people.
He was always meticulously dressed in tailored suits and handmade shoes and boots. But he was neither a dandy nor a spendthrift. In 1976, he still stepped out in a pair of high-cut, big-tongued alligator pumps that predated the Cold War: “Do you realize what I paid for these thirty years ago?” His personal taste never advanced beyond the first affectations of the nouveau riche. Hence the Corum twenty-dollar-face wristwatch, the Countess Mara ties, the Glen checks too large or too pale, and a weekend tartan blazer that was, in Bertie Wooster’s phrase, “rather sudden, till you got used to it.” Yet Reagan avoided vulgarity, because he sported such things without self-consciousness. And he wore the plainer suits that rotated through his wardrobe just as unpretentiously. No man ever looked better in navy blue, or black tie.
On a card inscribed “alcohol”—his father’s cross—appears the comment of an old Hollywood friend: “Ronnie never had a booze problem, but once every coupla years, he wasn’t averse to a lot of drink. Its only effect was to make him more genial.” His face would flush after a mere half glass of Pinot Noir, giving rise to repeated rumors that he used rouge.
Actually, Reagan never required makeup, even when he was a movie actor. He didn’t sweat under hot lights: he basked in them. A young photographer who did a cover portrait of him in 1984 for Fortune told me, “When I walked into the Oval Office, I thought my career was made. He was just back from a long campaign swing, and looked terrible, all drained and lined. I hit him with every harsh spot I had, and etched out those wrinkles, figuring I’d do what Richard Avedon did to Dottie Parker. Know what? When my contacts came back from the darkroom, the old bastard looked like a million bucks. Taught me a real lesson. Ronald Reagan wasn’t just born for the camera. There’s something about him that film likes.”
Several of my cards itemize the President’s deafness. People who sat to his right imagined that they were privileged. In fact, he heard nothing on that side, having blown an eardrum during a shoot-out scene in one of his old movies. His left ear was not much better, so he relied increasingly on hearing aids, although their distortion pained him. One learned not to sneeze in his presence. When the room was crowded and voice levels rose, he would furtively switch off his sound box. I could tell from a slight frown in his gaze that he was lip-reading.
The quietness that insulated him was accentuated by severe myopia. As a boy, “Dutch” Reagan assumed that nature was a blur. Not until he put on his mother’s spectacles, around the age of thirteen, did he perceive the world in all its sharp-edged intricacy. He did not find it disorienting, as somebody who had been blind from birth might. Perhaps his later, Rothko-like preference for large, luminous policy blocks (as opposed to, say, Bill Clinton’s fly’s-eye view of government as a multifacetted montage, endlessly adjustable) derived from his unfocussed childhood.
Or perhaps the novelist Ray Bradbury, who also grew up four-eyed in small-town Illinois, has a more informed theory. “I often wonder whether or not you become myopic for a physical reason of not wanting to face the world,” Bradbury says in an oral history. Like Dutch, he competed with a popular, extrovert elder brother by “making happy things for myself and creating new images of the world for myself.” Reagan was not introverted, yet from infancy he had the same kind of “happy” self-centeredness that Bradbury speaks of, the same need to inhabit an imaginative construct in which outside reality was refracted, or reordered, to his liking. “I was completely surrounded by a wall of light,” Reagan wrote of his first venture onto a movie set. It was clear that the sensation was agreeable. Read the rest of this entry »
The biggest monthly rise in the foreign currency account deposits so far this year came in January when the annual $50,000 conversion quota was reset and individuals rushed to change yuan into dollars.
SHANGHAI – Winni Zhou and John Ruwitch report: Zhang Yuting lives and works in Shanghai, has only visited the United States once, and rarely needs to use foreign currency. But that hasn’t stopped the 29-year-old accountant from putting a slice of her bank savings into the greenback.
“Expectations of capital flight are clear. I might exchange more yuan early next year, as long as I’ve got money.”
— Zhang Yuting
She is not alone. In the first 11 months of 2016, official figures show that foreign currency bank deposits owned by Chinese households rose by almost 32 percent, propelled by the yuan’s recent fall to eight-year lows against the dollar.
“Banks under pressure to minimize outflows are also offering deals and giveaways for people who voluntarily convert their forex savings back into yuan. Bank of Communications is entering any customer who changes more than $1,000 into yuan the chance to be part of a lucky draw, with various prizes, such as portable printers.”
The rapid rise – almost four times the growth rate for total deposits in the yuan and other currencies as recorded in central bank data – comes at a time when the yuan is under intense pressure from capital outflows. The outflows are partially a result of concerns that the yuan is going to weaken further as U.S. interest rates rise, and because of lingering concerns about the health of the Chinese economy.
“The more you see people converting, reflected in foreign currency deposits in the banking segment, it means obviously there’s pressure on the local currency.”
— Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at ANZ
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to declare China a currency manipulator and to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports into the U.S., as well as tensions over Taiwan and the South China Sea, have only added to the fears.
“Regulators have a lot of control over what happens to those deposits, and they can control the rate of inflows into onshore FX deposits.”
“Expectations of capital flight are clear,” said Zhang, who used her yuan savings to buy $10,000 this year. “I might exchange more yuan early next year, as long as I’ve got money.”
Household foreign currency deposits in China are not huge compared to the money that companies, banks and wealthy individuals have been directing into foreign currency accounts and other assets offshore. All up, households had $118.72 billion of foreign money in their bank accounts at the end of November, while total foreign currency deposits were $702.56 billion.
But the high growth rate in the household forex holdings are symbolic of a growing headache for the government as it struggles to counter the yuan’s weakness.
Since October, the government has acted to slow outflows by tightening existing measures, such as approvals for foreign currency transfers, and has leant on banks to be stricter, making it harder for companies and individuals to change money and transfer money abroad.
More measures may be in the cards. Read the rest of this entry »
October 16, 2015, Dan Cadman writes: My colleague Nayla Rush has written a posting about the recent testimony of government witnesses at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the administration’s intent to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the dissolution of their country.
What is happening in Syria is heart-rending, but the key question posed at the hearing was: How safe can Americans feel about the vetting processes in place to screen applicants? The question is sobering, given the Islamist extremism that predominates in Syria, where the United States futilely spent half of a billion dollars trying to find enough “moderate” fighters to combat the Assad regime, only to give up in disgust when the last batch surrendered their weapons, munitions, and equipment to the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front in order to buy their way out of a jam.
The government witnesses (more like sacrificial lambs; none of them sit at the highest levels of agency or cabinet departments involved) did their best, obliged as they were to toe the White House party line on the issue, but frankly were unpersuasive and the assurances they gave rang hollow, as Rush has pointed out.
There are three critical ways in which our vetting procedures make us vulnerable:
“Flying under the radar”. As I have noted before, our vetting is heavily oriented toward electronic systems — databases with biographical information about known or suspected terrorists, sometimes with biometrics (fingerprints or photos). But what do you do if they aren’t known and have no fingerprints of record in any U.S. system? Why, then you look at the documents they present to you for clues.
What happens if they don’t have any documents to present? Media stories about the “migrant flood” are replete with articles about the hundreds of identity and travel documents discarded on the pathways these aliens are using in their trek toward Europe. The answer is that they will assume whatever identity and nationality they choose to provide to the refugee resettlement agencies responsible for developing, under UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) supervision, the queues of applicants our officers will be asked to vet.
Using bogus documents is easy and no disqualifier. Then there is the ease with which fraudulent documents are being procured throughout the migrant pathways into the heart of Europe right now — some of them legitimate, but altered to accommodate the new bearers; others excellent counterfeits. According to BBC News, they are being used with remarkable success to pass through border and airport checkpoints and are readily available, as one of their own undercover investigations revealed.
Although there is certainly some chance that such documents would be discovered by U.S. officers who have available to them an outstanding Forensic Document Laboratory (FDL), it may surprise readers that use of phony documents doesn’t make you ineligible for refugee or asylum status. This is something government officials don’t like to discuss in public forums such as the Judiciary Committee hearing, where they would have us think of the screening process as an impenetrable iron wall to national security threats.
The principle behind overlooking use of fake documents is firmly embedded in both international and domestic law, for the most noble of reasons. Think of Raoul Wallenberg, who saved many Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe by providing them Swedish passports without regard to their real nationality. Even so, the stakes for the American people are extraordinarily high if the individuals using those fake documents aren’t in fact refugees in distress, particularly since, according to the UNHCR, 68 percent of the nearly 600,000 who’ve made the journey as of October 2015 are adult males. Read the rest of this entry »
Ahmed Mohamad did not invent, nor build a clock. He took apart an existing clock, and transplanted the guts into a pencil box, and claimed it was his own creation.
“Is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, this was actually a hoax bomb? A silly prank that was taken the wrong way? That the media then ran with, and everyone else got carried away? Maybe there wasn’t even any racial or religious bias on the parts of the teachers and police.”
Without dating myself – fast forward a bunch of years, and I’m the same way. I’ve even picked up an engineering degree over the course of those years. I don’t have to only imagine how things work anymore, I have a pretty good understanding now.
When shopping for electronic devices, my first instinct is to see if there’s a way to build one myself (and, I frequently do!) When something of mine breaks, I don’t send it back, I take it as a personal challenge to get it working again.
If I fail, I still salvage useful parts – they might come in handy to fix something else later. This aspect of myself – being both methodical, and curious – hasn’t changed a bit over the years.
So, this story about a 14 year old boy in Texas that was arrested on suspicion of creating a bomb hoax (who, apparently just wanted to show off his latest electronics project to his teachers) that has blown up (no pun intended) all over the news and social media, caught my attention immediately.
“The shape and design is a dead give away. The large screen. The buttons on the front laid out horizontally would have been on a separate board – a large snooze button, four control buttons, and two switches to turn the alarm on and off, and choose two brightness levels.”
Not because of his race, or his religion, the seeming absurdity of the situation, the emotionally charged photo of a young boy in a NASA t-shirt being led off in hand cuffs, the hash tags, the presidential response… no, none of that. I’m an electronics geek. I was interested in the clock! I wanted to figure out what he had come up with.
“He again claims it was his ‘invention’ and that he ‘made’ the device…Here it is on Amazon, where it’s clearly labeled as being 8.25 inches wide. Our eBay seller also conveniently took a photo of the clock next to a ruler to show it’s scale – about 8 inches wide. The dimensions all line up perfectly.”
I found the highest resolution photograph of the clock I could. Instantly, I was disappointed. Somewhere in all of this – there has indeed been a hoax. Ahmed Mohamed didn’t invent his own alarm clock. He didn’t even build a clock. Now, before I go on and get accused of attacking a 14 year old kid who’s already been through enough, let me explain my purpose. I don’t want to just dissect the clock. I want to dissect our reaction as a society to the situation.
“I don’t want to just dissect the clock. I want to dissect our reaction as a society to the situation. Part of that is the knee-jerk responses we’re all so quick to make without facts.”
Part of that is the knee-jerk responses we’re all so quick to make without facts. So, before you scroll down and leave me angry comments, please continue to the end (or not – prove my point, and miss the point, entirely!)
For starters, one glance at the printed circuit board in the photo, and I knew we were looking at mid-to-late 1970s vintage electronics. Surely you’ve seen a modern circuit board, with metallic traces leading all over to the various components like an electronic spider’s web. You’ll notice right away the highly accurate spacing, straightness of the lines, consistency of the patterns. That’s because we design things on computers nowadays, and computers assist in routing these lines. Take a look at the board in Ahmed’s clock. It almost looks hand-drawn, right? That’s because it probably was. Computer aided design was in its infancy in the 70s. This is how simple, low cost items (like an alarm clock) were designed.
“Ahmed wasn’t accused of making a bomb – he was accused of making a look-alike, a hoax. And be honest with yourself, a big red digital display with a bunch of loose wires in a brief-case looking box is awful like a Hollywood-style representation of a bomb. Everyone jumped to play the race and religion cards and try and paint the teachers and police as idiots and bigots, but in my mind, they were probably acting responsibly and erring on the side of caution to protect the rest of their students, just in case.”
Today, even a budding beginner is going to get some computer aided assistance – in fact they’ll probably start there, learning by simulating designs before building them. You can even simulate or lay out a board with free apps on your phone or tablet. A modern hobbyist usually wouldn’t be bothered with the outdated design techniques. There’s also silk screening on the board. An “M” logo, “C-94” (probably, a part number – C might even stand for “clock”), and what looks like an American flag. More about that in a minute. Point for
now being, a hobbyist wouldn’t silk screen logos and part numbers on their home made creation. It’s pretty safe to say already we’re looking at ’70s tech, mass produced in a factory.
“Ahmed Mohamad did not invent, nor build a clock. He took apart an existing clock, and transplanted the guts into a pencil box, and claimed it was his own creation. It all seems really fishy to me.”
So I turned to eBay, searching for vintage alarm clocks. It only took a minute to locate Ahmed’s clock. See this eBay listing, up at the time of this writing. Amhed’s clock was invented, and built, by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidary. Catalog number 63 756.
The shape and design is a dead give away. The large screen. The buttons on the front laid out horizontally would have been on a separate board – a large snooze button, four control buttons, and two switches to turn the alarm on and off, and choose two brightness levels. A second board inside would have contained the actual “brains” of the unit. The clock features a 9v battery back-up, and a switch on the rear allows the owner to choose between 12 and 24 hour time. (Features like a battery back-up, and a 24 hour time selection seems awful superfluous for a hobby project, don’t you think?) Oh, and about that “M” logo on the circuit board mentioned above? Micronta.
For one last bit of confirmation, I located the pencil box Ahmed used for his project. During this video interview he again claims it was his “invention” and that he “made” the device – but the important thing at the moment, at 1:13, we see him showing the pencil box on his computer screen. Here it is on Amazon, where it’s clearly labeled as being 8.25 inches wide. Our eBay seller also conveniently took a photo of the clock next to a ruler to show it’s scale – about 8 inches wide. The dimensions all line up perfectly. Read the rest of this entry »
“Mad Men collectibles on offer include Joan’s emerald necklace, Stan Rizzo’s bongos; Bert Cooper’s tea set; plus a wide assortment of vintage barware, ashtrays, briefcases, luggage, lamps, carpets and period toys.”
Nearly 1,400 items from the Lionsgate-produced series will open for online bidding at ScreenBid, starting Friday, July 31, at 12 p.m. PT. Lots will begin closing Aug. 6.
In addition to the Coupe de Ville (bids start at $1,500), items on the block include Draper’s Brooks Brothers suits, sunglasses and business cards; wardrobe, office accessories and personal effects for every major character including Peggy Olsen, Pete Campbell, Roger Sterling, Betty Draper and Joan Harris; Megan Draper’s wedding ring; and Don Draper’s Manhattan penthouse furnishings. Read the rest of this entry »
Paul Sperry writes: A key part of President Obama’s legacy will be the fed’s unprecedented collection of sensitive data on Americans by race. The government is prying into our most personal information at the most local levels, all for the purpose of “racial and economic justice.”
“The FHFA will also pry into your personal assets and debts and whether you have any bankruptcies. The agency even wants to know the square footage and lot size of your home, as well as your interest rate.”
Unbeknown to most Americans, Obama’s racial bean counters are furiously mining data on their health, home loans, credit cards, places of work, neighborhoods, even how their kids are disciplined in school — all to document “inequalities” between minorities and whites.
“FHFA will share the info with Obama’s brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which acts more like a civil-rights agency, aggressively investigating lenders for racial bias.”
This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.
Big Brother Barack wants the databases operational before he leaves office, and much of the data in them will be posted online.
So civil-rights attorneys and urban activist groups will be able to exploit them to show patterns of “racial disparities” and “segregation,” even if no other evidence of discrimination exists.
The granddaddy of them all is the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing database, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development rolled out earlier this month to racially balance the nation, ZIP code by ZIP code. It will map every US neighborhood by four racial groups — white, Asian, black or African-American, and Hispanic/Latino — and publish “geospatial data” pinpointing racial imbalances.
The agency proposes using nonwhite populations of 50% or higher as the threshold for classifying segregated areas.
Federally funded cities deemed overly segregated will be pressured to change their zoning laws to allow construction of more subsidized housing in affluent areas in the suburbs, and relocate inner-city minorities to those predominantly white areas. HUD’s maps, which use dots to show the racial distribution or density in residential areas, will be used to select affordable-housing sites.
“The FHFA has offered no clear explanation as to why the government wants to sweep up so much sensitive information on Americans, other than stating it’s for ‘research’ and ‘policymaking.'”
HUD plans to drill down to an even more granular level, detailing the proximity of black residents to transportation sites, good schools, parks and even supermarkets. If the agency’s social engineers rule the distance between blacks and these suburban “amenities” is too far, municipalities must find ways to close the gap or forfeit federal grant money and face possible lawsuits for housing discrimination.
Civil-rights groups will have access to the agency’s sophisticated mapping software, and will participate in city plans to re-engineer neighborhoods under new community outreach requirements.
“By opening this data to everybody, everyone in a community can weigh in,” Obama said. “If you want affordable housing nearby, now you’ll have the data you need to make your case.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, headed by former Congressional Black Caucus leader Mel Watt, is building its own database for racially balancing home loans. The so-called National Mortgage Database Project will compile 16 years of lending data, broken down by race, and hold everything from individual credit scores and employment records.
Mortgage contracts won’t be the only financial records vacuumed up by the database. According to federal documents, the repository will include “all credit lines,” from credit cards to student loans to car loans — anything reported to credit bureaus. This is even more information than the IRS collects.
The FHFA will also pry into your personal assets and debts and whether you have any bankruptcies. The agency even wants to know the square footage and lot size of your home, as well as your interest rate. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago to Apply 9% ‘Netflix Tax’ for ‘the Privilege to Witness, View or Participate in Amusements that are Delivered Electronically’Posted: July 11, 2015
“The amusement tax applies to charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in an amusement.”
Netflix service in Chicago is about to get notably more expensive. On the hunt for new revenue, Chicago’s Department of Finance is applying two new rules that would impact companies like Netflix and Spotify. One covers “electronically delivered amusements” and another covers “nonpossessory computer leases”; together they form a unique and troubling new attempt by cities to tax any city resident that interacts with “the cloud. According to the Chicago Tribune, streaming service providers need to start collecting the tax starting September 1.
“This includes not only charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements in person but also charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements that are delivered electronically.”
The new tax is expected to net the city of Chicago an additional $12 million annually.
“The amusement tax applies to charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in an amusement,” states the city’s new ruling (pdf).
“This includes not only charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements in person but also charges paid for the privilege to witness, view or participate in amusements that are delivered electronically.” Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON— Gordon Lubold and Adam Entous report: The U.S. special-operations force that carried out a first-of-its-kind mission in Syria to capture the Islamic State finance chief and his wife over the weekend came away with a treasure trove of materials that could help in the attempt to pressure the extremist group.
“There are a lot of things that have to align to be able to execute some of these things. For a variety of reasons, we were not able to execute the operation.”
U.S. officials said that the Army Delta Force team that swooped down onto the site in eastern Syria in helicopters killed the Islamic State operative after a brief firefight and left with laptops, phones, documents and, likely, hard drives, DVDs, CDs and SIM cards.
“What our team gathered was substantial, but we won’t know until it’s exploited just how valuable it is.It could be very substantial.”
— Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the senior Democratic member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
The material could prove valuable in efforts to disrupt Islamic State’s ability to raise funds and may show why the Obama administration set aside its aversion to such operations to authorize the risky mission.
“What our team gathered was substantial, but we won’t know until it’s exploited just how valuable it is,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the senior Democratic member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who has been briefed on the operation. “It could be very substantial.”
The raid also sent a signal to extremists that they aren’t safe in Syria and to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the U.S. can operate in his country, said John McLaughlin, a former acting Central Intelligence Agency director.
“We’re going to conduct these types of operations whenever we can. This isn’t opening the door any more; the door is open, it has been open, and it will remain open if we have the opportunity.”
The group of about two dozen of the Army’s Delta Force commandos flew in late Friday in UH-60 Black Hawks and V-22 Ospreys to a residential compound in Al-Amr in eastern Syria intending to capture the Islamic State operative, Abu Sayyaf, and his wife, Umm Sayyaf, who is also thought to be a member of Islamic State. The couple apparently was holding a young Yazidi woman as a slave. Read the rest of this entry »