Jim Harbaugh fired by 49ers: NY Jets, Michigan, Raiders, Bears on deck

Jim Harbaugh was pre-fired by the 49ers before the season even began, and now it’s a matter of where he’ll land – and one of the major potential pieces of the puzzle has just been removed. The Dolphins say they’re keeping Joe Philbin for another year, eliminating the possibility of Harbaugh heading to Miami, where he’d have been a natural fit with fellow University of Michigan alum, owner Stephen Ross. That narrows his landing spots slightly, with the Oakland Raiders, the New York Jets, and of course Michigan being prime targets, and the Chicago Bears also being a possibility. Here we handicap the odds.

Michigan: 40%: This is the only college job which Jim Harbaugh would even consider taking at this point, but it’s also the lone college job he covets. He was a star QB for the Wolverines, the program is in disarray and has been for awhile, and he could cement his legend there by being the returning hero who saves the day. Still, he has yet to win a Super Bowl, and it’s at least a little difficult to see him leaving the NFL before he accomplishes that feat. So we’ll give the pro teams a collective sixty percent odds of landing him.

Oakland Raiders: 35%: There are numerous reasons why Jim Harbaugh might not want to head to the Raiders: their new owner Mark Davis seems like a dunce. Their roster is largely depleted. They may not even be playing in Oakland by 2016. But various reports have his wife preferring to remain on the west coast, and this is the only NFL head coaching job available in the pacific time zone. Also, rookie quarterback Derek Carr looks like he could be someone to build around. And unlike some other teams contemplating firing their coaches, the Raiders job is already open; Dennis Allen was fired months ago and Tony Sparano won’t be given the job permanently. So we’re giving the Raiders the best odds of landing Harbaugh of any pro team.

New York Jets: 15%: Rex Ryan is nearly a lock to get fired. But the Jets are nearly as devoid of talent as the Raiders, giving them little appeal to Harbaugh beyond the larger spotlight of coaching in New York City.

Chicago Bears: 9%: The only thing that could attract Harbaugh to Chicago would be his knack for trying to salvage damaged quarterbacks, and Jay Cutler certainly fits the description. But the whole thing seems unlikely, even if Marc Trestman is fired.

Miami Dolphins: 1%: Yes, Stephen Ross just announced that Joe Philbin will return in 2015. But the mercurial Dolphins owner’s decision making has been so incoherent when it comes to the head coaching position that he appeared to make his decision to keep Philbin based on the euphoria of a blocked punt, and a few years ago he tried to hire Jim Harbaugh while Sparano was still his coach. Little in Miami would surprise us, and that would include Ross changing his mind and going after Harbaugh after all, so we’re forced to give this a non-zero percentage. But the situation with the 49ers has deteriorated to the point that we’ll continue to pencil the odds of him remaining in San Francisco as zero.

iPod touch 6th generation: A8 chip fab, USPS adopts 5th gen for POS

The iPod touch 6th generation is still officially in the ether, with Apple having offered nary a peep about its next-gen MP3 player and having failed to update it in time for the holiday gift buying frenzy. That’s left would-be buyers scratching their heads wondering just when the release date is coming, and looking for clues across the board. The first comes in the form of the availability of Apple’s A8 chip. The second may come from, of all the unlikely sources, the USPS post office. Welcome to This Week in iPod touch 6.

For all its secrecy regarding the matter, Apple’s decision to hold back on the iPod touch 6th generation has been clear enough from the start: it knew that it would struggle to keep up with the overwhelming demand for larger screen iPhone 6 and Plus models from day one, and rather than siphoning off some of those components for a new iPod touch, it opted to put 100% of its efforts into the new iPhone and simply continue selling the old iPod touch 5th gen model in the mean time.

Chief among those shared components is the A8 chip, but the two could end up sharing additional components such as other internal circuitry as well as the 4.7 inch screen. To get a handle on when the “iPod 6″ will launch, keep an eye on iPhone 6 availability. After three months of week-plus shipping delays in the Apple Store online, the new iPhone has finally dropped to being available within a few days for most configurations.

That points to the A8 and other shared components coming close to being available in large enough quantity to spare, which means the iPod touch 6th generation could go into production as soon as next month. But there’s another factor here, and an odd one.

Stabley Times learned that at least some United States Postal Service locations have begun using the iPod touch as a handheld scanning device for checking out customers as recently at this month. That means USPS is making purchases of the iPod touch 5th generation model as we speak. Is this a matter of the post office knowing something that we don’t when it comes to the arrival of the iPod touch 6, or does USPS just not care about waiting for the new model?

After all, the 5th gen model works just fine as a point-of-sale device, and there’s no real need to wait for a larger screen model. Apple could even be selling the outgoing iPod touch models to the post office at a reduced rate to blow out remaining inventory in preparation for the 6th generation launch.

That’s all mere speculation. But with Apple remaining quiet on a product which by all rights should have launched back in September, speculation and an attempt at connecting some questionable dots is all we have to work with. As for whether you’re better off buying an iPod touch 5 now or waiting for the arrival of the iPod touch 6 release date in 2015, that remains a matter of how quickly you need it and what your individual needs are.

Can Obama pressure China to assassinate North Korea’s Kim Jong Un?

Kim Jong Un’s tantrum in reaction to a movie fictionally portraying his assassination could end up being a self fulfilling prophecy. The cyberattack by North Korea on an American movie studio, and the resulting fallout, have left President Obama with little choice but to respond. Such a move will need to come indirectly, as China would never allow the United States to take military action in its back yard for the same reason the U.S. would never allow the Chinese military to take action in North America. But behind the scenes, Obama is likely pressuring China to act – and that action could ultimately be of the fatal variety.

China’s refusal to allow outside intervention in North Korea means that Kim Jong Un is solely China’s responsibility. And while the Chinese government has shown little regard for civil or human rights and likely doesn’t care that the North Korean people are living in abject poverty, China is pragmatic enough to recognize Kim as a liability. After all, if a nuclear mishap did happen in Pyongyang, the Chinese would be more at risk from the fallout than the United States.

At the same time, even as its list of economic allies and trade partners continues to grow worldwide, communist China has few ideological allies remaining. Its great fear is that if Kim were to fall, the North Koreans would rise up against communism in the process. If China was confident it could assassinate Kim and turn North Korea into a solid trade partner while keeping it communist, it probably would have happened already. Despite growing pressure form the rest of the world to take action, China’s excuse to this point has been that while Kim has repeatedly made unseemly verbal threats against the West, he’s had neither the inclination nor the ability to act on it.

But that’s all changed with the cyberattack on Sony. It’s far from a military attack, and doesn’t necessarily qualify as state sponsored terrorism. But the fallout has arguably been even worse for Americans: because the hacking led to a movie being pulled from theaters, their freedom of speech has been undermined. Kim Jong Un is now deciding which movies to censor in the United States. And that means he’s crossed a line.

China can no longer make the argument that North Korea isn’t a real threat to the west or its way of life. That means Obama now has real leverage with which to pressure the Chinese government to neutralize Kim Jong Un by whatever means necessary. China can try privately threatening to cut off support for Kim, a move which would certainly result in the collapse of his government. But there is little to suggest that Kim is coherent enough to understand or care about such consequences.

That means China’s only remaining option may be to send in agents to assassinate Kim, and presumably set it up to appear to the North Korean people as if it were the result of an internal struggle. The rest of the world would know different, but few would care and even fewer would be in a position to protest. China would then attempt to set up a new puppet government with a leader who can be controlled. North Korea would still be communist. But its citizens, most of whom don’t even have electricity or access to proper food, would be much better off if not acceptably better off. Beijing would then have to hope that, as the North Korean citizens gain access to modern advances and outside knowledge of the freedom the West enjoys, they don’t wise up enough to eventually overthrow communism entirely.

Even as he’s wound down the two major wars he inherited in favor of diplomacy when possible, President Obama has shown a willingness to take out rogue leaders who have attacked the United States. He had Osama Bin Laden assassinated, and he helped the Libyans to take out Moammar Gadhafi in similar fashion.

Both of those men had taken the lives of American citizens in terrorist attacks. Kim Jong Un merely carried enough cyber mischief to get an American movie canceled. But it’s an easy argument to make that the North Korean people would be better off with anyone in charge other than him, and it would be easy to take him out without having to bulldoze the entire nation in a land war. As much as China values having a communist neighbor for political and ideological reasons, China likely values its increasingly profitable trade relations with the United States and the West even more greatly.

Kim has finally crossed the kind of line which opens the door for Obama to privately demand that China clean up the mess in its back yard; continued trade negotiations may hinge on it. In hindsight, “The Interview” movie could end up feeling less like a fictional comedy and more like a quasi-documentary, as well as perhaps the first instance of an international leader triggering his own assassination by protesting a joke about his assassination.