The John Batchelor Show

Monday 21 October 2013

Air Date: 
October 21, 2013

Photo, above: Yitzhak Pundak, who served as a senior officer during the 1948 War of Independence, is the first person to rise to the rank of Major General after having completed active service. This is a “unique and precedent-setting moment,” said Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz at the ceremony.

By the time most Israelis pass the age for mandatory reserve duty, they expect their personal dealings with the IDF to be long over. Not so for Yitzhak Pundak, who this week was awarded the rank of Major General at the age of 100. Only the Chief of Staff himself holds a higher rank.

Maj. Gen. Pundak commanded the southern front during the War of Independence. After the war, he commanded the Nahal Brigade, and in 1953 was appointed to command the Armored Corps. In 1971 Pundak was called back to military service by then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and was appointed Governor of the Gaza region at the rank of Brigadier General. [more]


Hour One

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 1, Block A:  Thomas Joscelyn, Long War Journal senior editor, in re:  Hassan Gul. Zarqawi. 

Spy Chief Distances Saudis from U.S.: Prince Bandar's Move Raises Tensions Over Policies in Syria, Iran and Egypt, by Ellen Knickmeyer

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington's policy in the region, participants in the meeting said.  Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud's move increases tensions in a growing dispute between the U.S. and one of its closest Arab allies over Syria, Iran and Egypt policies. It follows Saudi Arabia's surprise decision on Friday to renounce a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 1, Block B:  Jed Babbin, American Spectator, in re: Zombie Republicans.  Let the whole government stay closed down.

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 1, Block C:  Henry I Miller, M.D., Hoover &, in re: parts of the shutdown were successful:  the EPA identifies risks, spends huge amts of money to minimize them – to little use. Regulates so heavily it's notoriously non-cost-effective. 

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 1, Block D:  Lara M Brown, political analyst and author; Francis Rose, Federal News Radio, in re: Tech surge + best and brightest (cf: David Halberstam writing in the Times on reporting from Vietnam).  The ACA website is dysfunctional. Administration is reduced to giving out an 800 number – which also doesn’t work, and eventually directs you to the busted site.  Sigh. It has 100 million lines of code.  A member of a previous administrati0n issued a report in 2001 on how not to have a massive digital/website failure.  Six highly-placed federal contactors in digital: "These are not glitches. They're [structural and huge]."

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that only 41% approve of President Obama's handling of the health care law's implementation, versus 53% who disapprove." "But even despite this, only one third of Americans support repealing the law. A sizable bloc of those who oppose the law want it to continue, anyway."

Hour Two

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  John Fund, National Review Online, and David M Drucker, Washington Examiner Sr Congressional correspondent, in re: this website failure is massive.  As for the president's saying that he'll throw "the best and the brightest"  at it to solve it – one of the worst-possible strategies is to put too  any cooks in the kitchen.  You need one person to organize and supervise it – "a digital czar." The website doesn’t work; the 800 number given by the president also doesn’t work. Democrats up for re-election are deeply concerned.  "Why you exempt business from the mandates and not individuals?"   The fine is $99 or 1% of your income!   By delaying the individual mandate, [result would be much of the population's being out of compliance with the law] for more than a year.

Norah O’Donnell previewed Obama’s speech on Monday when he is expected to address the ACA’s “glitches.” She asked why the president was shifting tone from being dismissive of the problems in the health care reform law to displaying concern about them. “Because it’s far worse than a glitch,” Dickerson said. “It’s been a total Fiasco, as Senator [John] McCain said.”  “The problem here is that the administration to get into, sort of, a credibility depth spiral,” he continued. “There have always been charges from the right that the president’s health care promises didn’t turn out to be true. But then some of those charges turned out to have some merit.”  He listed a variety of problems with the program that are frustrating people. “The problem is that it’s one false promise after another, and that could be a big, big problem,” Dickerson said. Furthermore, Dickerson added, the website’s issues could endanger the program’s success if they prevent young people from signing up for insurance or if the duplicate information insurers are reporting they are receiving from the exchanges persists.

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 2, Block B: John Fund, National Review Online, and David M Drucker, Washington Examiner Sr Congressional correspondent, in re:

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  Kim Barker, ProPublica, in re:

Dark Money Operative Sees Hope for Meth House Documents Go Up in Smoke

In a sharply worded ruling, a federal judge in Montana said Tuesday that documents found inside a Colorado meth house pointing to possible election law violations will not be returned to the couple claiming that the papers were stolen from one of their cars.

Instead, the thousands of pages will remain with a federal grand jury in Montana investigating American Tradition Partnership, once known as Western Tradition Partnership.  WTP is one of the many so-called social welfare nonprofits that don't have to disclose their donors; often labeled "dark money" groups, they have spent more than $350 million on federal election ads in recent years.

As Frontline and ProPublica have reported, the documents in question point to possible illegal coordination between candidates and WTP, which since 2008 has worked to replace moderate Republicans with more conservative candidates in both Montana and Colorado. 

The couple --  conservative political consultant Christian LeFer, a former WTP official, and his wife, Allison LeFer, who helped run the couple's printing shop -- sued to recover the documents. But in his 34-page ruling, the U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy minced no words in rejecting their claim, inspiring Barker to compile the top quotations, including:   "Groundhog Day litigation, repeating the same case over and over again, amounts to little more than harassment."   "This politicized rhetoric has no place in proper pleading and appears to serve but one purpose: it grabbed headlines."  "The Complaint is not even like the curate's egg."   [more]

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Gordon Chang,, in re: Japan looks abroad for proposals to dismantle Fukushima nuclear plant   Japan is to solicit proposals from both domestic and overseas nuclear experts and firms on how best to dismantle Fukushima's ruined reactors, officials said. The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning would publicly seek ideas as early as this month, an institute official said. While it is not putting the entire decommissioning process out to tender, the body's move will be welcomed by the global community, which has long called for Japan to make better use of available expertise around the world. The institute, formed by nuclear-related firms and government-backed bodies in August to dismantle the broken reactors, would screen decommissioning proposals and take the results to the government, the official said. "We will set up a website in both Japanese and English to notify interested parties at home and abroad of our calls for decommissioning ideas, so we can offer more useful and practical proposals to the government," the official said. Japan's government has played an increasingly active role in the clean-up at Fukushima, where the March 2011 tsunami disabled cooling systems, sending reactors into meltdown. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which was effectively nationalised by a huge government cash injection to stop its bankruptcy, has come in for criticism over its handling of the disaster aftermath. There have been frequent mishaps, including leaks of radiation-contaminated water and a power outage caused by a rat. Tepco's own estimates suggest a full decommissioning could take up to four decades and that much of the trickier work has yet to be done - notably the removal of reactor cores that have probably melted.

Hour Three

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: Not going so well for Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and Pres Obama, with the Kingdom.  After years in which Bandar funded every request of Langley and the White House - from the Contras to Afghanistan to Syria to Vanuatu - only to have the White House betray Saudis in order to embrace Iran, what do we expect of Bandar and Riyadh?

Spy Chief Distances Saudis from U.S. - Prince Bandar's Move Raises Tensions Over Policies in Syria, Iran and Egypt    Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington's policy in the region, participants in the meeting said. Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud's move increases tensions in a growing dispute between the U.S. and one of its closest Arab allies over Syria, Iran and Egypt policies. It follows Saudi Arabia's surprise decision on Friday to renounce a seat on the United Nations Security Council.  Egyptians and Gulfies support Bandar in this.  This leaves Jordan, which won't take the abandoned Saudi position, or Qatar, which might.  Saudis sent people to Columbia to study diplomacy to be sure its move here was correct.   in Israel: 191 councilmanic electoral communities.  A newly-decoratd general in Israel: Yitzak Pundak, now 100 years old, defended Kibbutz Nitzanim in 1948; Egyptian Muslim Brothers captured some of ht fighters and beheaded them, parading the heads on spikes.  Israel was fighting with "pea-shooters" – was attacked by five Arab nations, the outcome was far from certain. 

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 3, Block B: Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, in re: Geneva: intend to convene a conference in November on Syrian war? Assad today "poured cold water" on he notion and suggested he'd run for re-election. Ergo, he thinks he's doing better in the war – which is true. 

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 3, Block C: Elizabeth Rosenthal, NYT, in re: Competition Is Meant to Keep Down Prescription Prices. It’s Not Working. The high price of medications for conditions like asthma contributes heavily to health care costs. Being able to afford prescription medications in the United States often requires top-notch insurance or plenty of disposable income, and time to hunt for deals.

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 3, Block D: Cora Currier, ProPublica, in re: In Big Win for Defense Industry, Obama Rolls Back Limits on Arms Exports 
Starting tomorrow, the U.S. will loosen controls over its military exports in a shift that human rights advocates say could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world's conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions.

Under the new system, tens of thousands of items will be shifted over from the State Department's purview to the Commerce Department, where they will be under more "flexible" controls -- representing a major victory for defense manufacturers who have long lobbied in favor of relaxing U.S. export rules.  The new system will allow military exports to be sent to almost any country in the world with minimal oversight, even to some countries subject to U.N. arms embargoes. In the current system, State Department officials scrutinize each proposed deal to make sure the receiving country isn't violating human rights and to determine the risk of shipments winding up with terrorists or another questionable group. Under the new system, Commerce will do interagency human rights reviews but only as a matter of policy, not law.  The administration has temporarily backed off from firearms and ammunition. "Any decision to loosen exports for firearms could have conflicted with the president's call for enhanced domestic gun control." ". . . Shifting firearms was also likely to be a lightning rod for arms control groups."

Hour Four

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 4, Block A: Dean Takahashi, VentureBeat, in re: How IBM’s Michelle Zhou figured out my personality from 200 tweets.  Michelle Zhou gave me a shock recently when she showed me a graph of my personality, based on a sampling of my tweets. The IBM researcher can make an educated guess about anyone’s personality based on looking at 200 tweets by that person.  The research at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., came from a new Accelerated Discovery Lab aimed at gaining insights from big data. Zhou can do this personality analysis in a disciplined and automated fashion, measuring 52 different personality traits for each subject. This “psycholinguistic” analysis could prove useful for companies that want to understand their customers in a more intimate way. But it also raises privacy issues and other concerns. We talked those over in a full conversation with Zhou. Here’s our edited transcript of that talk.

VentureBeat: How did you get started with this in the first place? [more]

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 4, Block B: Fred Coolidge, Psychology Today, in re: How to Think Like a Neandertal  The complex lives of pre-humans, and what it means to you.

What Did Neandertals Dream About? Did Neandertals have creative dreams and what may have happened to those dreams? As we noted in a previous blog, all primates (human and nonhuman) have at least these two characteristics of sleep: deep, heavy slow-wave sleep, which most often occurs at the beginning of a sleep period and REM sleep, which usually occurs towards the end of a sleep period. We also noted that the percentage of REM sleep tends to diminish phylogenetically as one goes back in time. Thus, modern humans average about 25% of their total sleep in REM. Chimpanzees, who share our most recent common ancestor 6-8 million years ago, have about 20% REM sleep. Monkeys, about 23 million years genetically distant, get about 5% to 15% REM. One implication of these percentages is that Neandertals must have had both slow-wave sleep and REM sleep. However, we also have hinted that their brains, although larger, were shaped differently. It would be almost pure speculation to state whether their larger, differently shaped brains exhibited more REM sleep, less REM sleep, or about the same as modern Homo sapiens.  We have also recently noted that there is archeological evidence suggesting that Neandertals may not have been as creative or innovative as the Homo sapiens who replaced them in Europe beginning about 40,000 years ago, Others believe that Neandertals were as creative as Homo sapiens, but that we just have just not yet found evidence. They often argue that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.’ We feel that continued absence of evidence – and archaeologists have been excavating Neandertal sites for well over one hundred years now – suggests that . . .  [more]

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 4, Block C: 1235A:  Dean Rohde, Reuters, in re: The sanity caucus  Our government has failed us — again. Given the debacle over the last 16 days, it’s hard to praise anyone in Washington. Or anything. The shutdown cost the United States $24 billion, according to Standard and Poor’s. Consumer confidence dropped by the largest amount since the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers. Our partisanship is undermining our international standing and slowing our economy.  Worst of all, it starts again in January. Unbowed by poll numbers that show their unpopularity, hard-line Tea Party conservatives are vowing to fight on. “If the American people continue to rise up,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) declared in the Senate Wednesday after the deal was announced to avoid default and reopen the government. “We’re going to stop the number one job killer in this country that is Obamacare.” We need to applaud the Republicans who stood up to Cruz this week: the so-called “sanity caucus.” A civil war is underway in the Republican Party. Democrats can vilify Cruz and the Tea Party all they want, but it is only fellow conservatives who can undermine their legitimacy in crimson states and congressional districts.  Here’s a cheat sheet for the post-shutdown Republican party: . . .  [more]

Monday   21 October  2013 / Hour 4, Block D: Joshua Green, Bloomberg, in re:  CRISIS IS THE NEW NORMAL   The shutdown wasn't an aberration, but the natural consequence of a decades-long shift in American politics   [more]

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Hour 1:  Eagle. Hatfields and McCoys.

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Hour 4: