Version 24.0
Posted September 5, 2014, 2:35 p.m.
1978 Jeep J10 'Honcho'

1978 Jeep J10 ‘Honcho’

Jeep is one of the greatest automotive brands in American history, and I am worried about it. The company has managed to survive against incredible odds, having been kicked-around between multiple owners and suffering bouts of incredible mismanagement, but they may now be on the verge of own self destruction . . . because they are losing their soul.

As the former owner of a 1978 Jeep J10 ‘Honcho’ pickup (see photo), I understand the ‘Jeep thing’ . . . and I know what would make me look at a Jeep the next time I’m in the market. But Jeep’s minders at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)—like its former minders at the U.S. federal government, Cerberus Capital Management, and Daimler-Chrysler—seem to be moving the brand squarely in the wrong direction.

The Problem

Jeeps are supposed to be rugged, reliable, go-anywhere vehicles. Their value is in their capabilities. They have carved out a loyal niche with the Wrangler (the modern version of the classic CJ’s), which is one of the only capable, compact off-roaders that you can buy anymore.

Today’s leaders at Jeep seem to want to broaden their market, and have branched out into building run-of-the-mill crossovers. This is a major strategic error. There is plenty of room for Jeep to grow, but it shouldn’t be trying to grow by fighting head-on against every other company in the automotive market. They need to grow by making compelling products and compelling arguments that nobody else will make. They need to build a niche and keep an impenetrable hold on it. It’s better to have ten-thousand dedicated, loyal customers who won’t even look at anybody else’s products than to have a hundred-thousand that are willing to consider you . . . as one option in a sea of fifty others.

I gave the Jeep Cherokee—a reasonably competitive mid-sized crossover—the dishonorable mention in my piece, The Ugliest Cars of the 2014 Model Year. This mention was not because it is especially ugly, although the front-end could use some work, but because it marks an unfortunate turn for Jeep. Sure, the Cherokee is a fine vehicle, and it is selling well. But there is more to Jeep’s long-term success than moving more cars off the lot. They need to align themselves to be able to continue moving cars off the lot for years and decades to come. As I wrote in the aforementioned piece: Read More…

Posted September 4, 2014, 3:18 p.m.
Last Updated September 4, 2014, 4:07 p.m.

Former Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) and his wife Maureen have been found guilty on corruption charges by a federal jury in Richmond, Virginia. During McDonnell’s 2010-2014 term in the governor’s mansion, the family received over $165,000 in gifts and loans from Johnnie Williams Sr., then-CEO of dietary supplement company Star Scientific. Governor McDonnell claimed that the gifts were not politically motivated, and that he considered Williams a friend. He also claimed that his wife Maureen arranged for many of the gifts and loans behind his back.

The controversy arose in 2013 as it became clear that the McDonnells had received gifts from Williams and had not reported them in financial disclosure reports. At the time, family members of Virginia elected officials were not required to disclose gifts that they had received. The Federal Bureau of Investigation began their own investigation, and the McDonnells were indicted on fourteen federal charges in January 2014, making Governor McDonnell the first Virginia governor to be charged with [and now convicted of] a crime while in office.

It initially appeared that the McDonnells were attempting to hide the gifts by receiving them in Maureen’s name, but evidence at trial suggested that Maureen was the driving force behind the scandal, and it remains unclear when the governor became fully aware of what was going on. Despite this, the federal jury found both Bob and Maureen guilty on most of the charges brought against them.

The McDonnells, as a couple, were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, six counts of obtaining property under color of official right, and making false statements to a financial institution. The governor was also charged with an additional count of making false statements to a financial institution, and Maureen was charged with one count of obstruction of justice.

Bob McDonnell was found guilty of eleven of the thirteen charges against him—each count of conspiracy, wire fraud, and obtaining property under color of official right. He was acquitted of two charges of making false statements to a financial institution. Maureen McDonnell was found guilty on nine of the thirteen charges against her—each count of conspiracy, two of the three counts of wire fraud, four of the six counts of obtaining property under color of official right, and obstruction of justice. She was acquitted of one charge of wire fraud, two charges of obtaining property under color of official right, and the charge of making false statements to a financial institution.

A sentencing hearing has been set for January 2015, and the McDonnells could face years or even decades in federal prison.

Posted September 1, 2014, 12:28 p.m.

As I have said many times before, I have the deepest respect for public safety officials—police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMT’s), and so on. Most of the people who choose to work in these fields are heroes. They are willing to risk their lives day-in and day-out to serve and protect the ‘regular folks’ in their communities . . . you know, people like me, who wouldn’t have the guts to do what they do.

They are, however, human beings . . . which means they make mistakes. Because of the nature of their work, sometimes those mistakes cost lives. There are times when police officers use deadly force, believing they or others are at serious risk of harm, and it turns out that the kid was wielding a toy gun or some other innocuous object. I understand these realities, and tend to defend law enforcement officers’ actions except when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing on their part.

But I also have little sympathy for those officers who abuse or overstep their authorities—and there are far too many of them. In my own very limited dealings with law enforcement, I have been the victim of [minor] police abuse two times. Once, Officer Graham Buck of the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) called my high school principal and told her that I was a dangerous anarchist (what?). Another time, Officer George Lopez (of the same department) verbally abused and threatened me because I misinterpreted his vague hand gestures. Neither Buck nor Lopez were formally reprimanded for their actions against me.

This lack of official response highlights the ‘good ol’ boys’ network—that strange brotherhood within the law enforcement community that leads even good cops to defend their peers at all costs, no matter how badly they have overstepped their authorities.

Another time, one of my neighbors yelled, “Asshole!” at a driver who decided to drive through a neighborhood block party. The driver abruptly stopped his car and confronted my neighbor. He was aggressive enough that, if I had done it, I probably would have been carted off to jail for disorderly conduct or assault. He was aggressive enough that I had my hand in my pocket, gripping a can of pepper-spray, worried that I was about to have to use it to protect myself and my neighbors. If I had been carrying a firearm at the time, I likely would have had my hand on it instead. Read More…

Posted August 25, 2014, 11:01 a.m.
No-Nonsense Weather

No-Nonsense Weather

Well, as you can see, Off on a Tangent kind of ground to a halt for a while there. There are a few reasons, but the big one is that most of the time I’ve been sitting in front of the computer I’ve been working on No-Nonsense Weather—the weather web application I mentioned back in June.

I’m happy to report that I (quietly) launched a publicly available beta (version 0.7.0) last week and solicited some of my friends to test it out. Between their testing and mine, I was able to identify a number of bugs and issues and resolve most of them. I made two small bug fix releases last week and the live version is now 0.7.2. In general, it is working great.

Now, having said that, it is still a beta. It still has some known issues, and probably a bunch of unknown issues too. Please don’t rely on it as your sole source of weather information (yet). But I hope you will give it a try and let me know what you think. You can use the ‘feedback’ link on the site to send your comments and bug reports, and if you’re technically inclined you can log in to the Intersanity bug tracker and file bugs yourself.

Right now, it only supports weather for locations in the United States. International support is in the plans for the next major beta release (not sure when yet).

You can find No-Nonsense Weather at

Posted July 17, 2014, 12:08 p.m.
Last Updated July 18, 2014, 12:15 p.m.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (cross-listed as KLM Flight 4103), a Boeing 777 carrying 298 passengers and crew, has been shot down over eastern Ukraine. There are no survivors. The plane was en-route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and was struck by a Russian-built Buk surface-to-air missile while flying at its 33,000 foot cruise altitude. It crashed thirty miles from the Russian border near the village of Hrabove. The crash site is in a contested region claimed by both Ukraine and the Donetsk People’s Republic, an independent state proclaimed by separatists in the region allied with Russia.

Leaders of the Ukrainian government, the Russian government, and the Donetsk separatists have all denied responsibility for the attack, but it now appears that the separatists—with or without Russian support—downed the plane. Separatists have shot down several Ukrainian cargo planes and fighters in recent weeks, and are also known to have obtained a Buk missile launcher following the capture of a military base in the region. Both Russia and Ukraine also operate Buk missile launchers. Around the same time that Flight 17 went down, separatists claimed to have shot down a cargo plane nearby, but that claim was quickly retracted when it became clear that a civilian airliner had been hit.

It has been reported that Donetsk officials have so-far refused to allow Ukraine or international investigators access to the crash site. There are also unconfirmed reports that the plane’s voice and data recorders will be transported to Moscow, Russia.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has prohibited U.S. airlines from flying through certain areas of Ukraine’s airspace since April due to concerns about violence and instability (FDC NOTAM 4/7667). The same FAA notice recommended that pilots exercise ‘extreme caution’ if they choose to fly elsewhere in Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia have been embroiled in a military crisis since Russian troops invaded and occupied the Crimean peninsula earlier this year. Russia has since annexed Crimea, but most of the international community does not recognize the legitimacy of the annexation. Fighting continues in other areas between separatists who desire to join with Russia and the Ukrainian military.

In March of this year, another Boeing 777 operated by Malaysia Airlines—Flight 370—disappeared shortly after departing from Kuala Lumpur en-route to Beijing, China. There were 239 passengers and crew aboard. That plane is presumed crashed in the Indian Ocean with all lives lost. Despite the most expansive search in history, no crash site or debris has yet been found.

There have been a number of airline shoot-down incidents in the past. In three notable incidents, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down by Soviet (Russian) forces in 1983, Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by the U.S. Navy in 1988, and Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 was shot down during a Ukrainian missile exercise in 2001.

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Posted in Articles, Reports


Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.