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Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle
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W: America’s Longest-Serving President

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

The catalog of the errors and failures of the administration of President George W. Bush is large and various.

In finance, it began with the modifications to the Community Reinvestment Act in 1993-95, which we now know had the effect of encouraging banks, along with the quasi-governmental Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to allow “innovative” mortgages that encouraged people to buy homes they could no longer afford when an economic downturn came. The effect of this was to encourage higher-risk lending, which led to “securitization” of the loans to spread risks. This securitization was a major contributor to the financial crisis of 2008.

In foreign affairs, it has been widely reported that the Bush administration slanted the intelligence about the possibility of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction programs. This led to the passing of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, in which it became the policy of the United States that Saddam Hussein’s government had to go.

Of course, no one can forget the events of September 11, 2001, but we do often forget the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. While concentrating on Iraq and the Balkans, the Bush administration failed to recognize the threat posed by al-Qaeda, and missed repeated opportunities to capture or kill al-Qaeda leadership, including in particular Usama bin Laden. As the buildup to war continued, powerful Republicans in the Senate — Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Hillary Clinton among them — pushed the government to act on the Iraq Liberation Act and take military action against Iraq.

More on the longest-serving president in American history on the next page...

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Mozilla Haz a BIG Sad — And Arithmetic Troubles

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

Okay, I was just figuring to follow up on “Mozilla Monday”. That looks bad enough for Mozilla.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 21.07.16

Looks like they had around 13,000 “sad faces” yesterday.

But then I noticed something: Here’s a screenshot of their 1-day totals for today. You will notice that they have around 23000 messages, and over in the left (in faint gray type dammit) they show 95% are sad.

(Just in passing, does this “sad face”/”happy face” thing seem just incredibly childish to anyone else?)

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 21.06.58

Yeah, you need to click it to read it.

Look where today’s figure is on the chart. Just over 7500. Now, I haven’t lived in Mountain View in a long time, but when I was last there, 22792×0.95 was 21652. I just checked by computing it via Google and that’s what I get now.

Isn’t that odd.

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Gallup: Uninsured Rate Up Since Obama Elected

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin


I’m sure there will be a bunch of self-congratulatory press releases and legacy media “news” reports on this Gallup poll.


If you move the goalposts far enough, you’re sure to score.

Gallup has a fairly honest headline: “In U.S., Uninsured Rate Lowest Since 2008″. But, hm, what happened in 2008? Let’s keep looking at the chart. The low was 14.4 percent, just before the financial crisis. Makes some sense, I’m sure a lot of people lost health insurance then. At the start of the Obama Administration, the rate was 15.6 percent; the peak was 18 percent — in roughly the third quarter of last year. Remember that, when people were objecting because they’d had their insurance canceled? Harry Reid said all those people were lying, but Gallup says different. In fact, 1 percentage point on this chart is, roughly, 3 million people. The change from Q1 to Q3 was about 2 percent — or roughly 6 million people who became uninsured.

Where have I heard that number before?

And now for the punchline: Since Obama was inaugurated in 20082009, the net change is from 15.4 percent uninsured to 15.6 percent. So the net effect has been that by the Gallup Survey the number of uninsured has improved in the last year, but gotten worse since Obama was inaugurated, and is 1.2 percent worse than under Bush.

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Firefox Haz a Sad

Monday, April 7th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 13.01.23So, it’s Mozilla Monday.

The chart above shows the feedback coming into Mozilla.  They basically start with a choice between a happy face and a sad face.

A lot of people — over 90 percent today — are picking the sad face.  As you can see, at noon pacific, they’re close to getting as many sad faces as they got over the weekend.

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Mozilla Clams Up

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

This morning, as website ConservativeIntel reported, Mozilla has been receiving a firestorm of negative feedback on the resignation by the CTO turned CEO, Brendan Eich.

This morning, I sent a query to the Mozilla press email, with these questions:

I’d like a comment from you on the overwhelming negative response to the Eich resignation now on the Firefox feedback page. (At my last look, it appears to be 95 percent “sad”.)

  • Will Mozilla reconsider accepting Mr Eich’s resignation?
  • Does Mozilla have any current statistics on the market share impact of Firefox uninstalls following the Eich resignation?
  • A number of people have now pointed out that Chairwoman Baker’s statement that “We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views” rings rather hollow in view of the Eich affair. Does Chairwoman Baker, or Mozilla as an organization, have any comment on the apparent contradiction? And does Mozilla as an organization intend to take any steps to ensure that this policy applies even to people who hold traditional religious beliefs or conservative political values?

A Mozilla spokesperson replied:

While we appreciate you reaching out, at this time, Mozilla is not doing any more interviews on the topic. For more information, you can reference Mozilla’s blog post from Mitchell on the topic: https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2014/04/03/brendan-eich-steps-down-as-mozilla-ceo/

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Purge The 7 Million

Friday, April 4th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

William Saletan has a compelling piece in Slate today:

More than 35,000 people gave money to the campaign for Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that declared, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” You can download the entire list, via the Los Angeles Times, as a compressed spreadsheet. (Click the link that says, “Download CSV.”) Each row lists the donor’s employer. If you organize the data by company, you can add up the total number of donors and dollars that came from people associated with that company.

The first thing you’ll notice, if you search for Eich, is that he’s the only Mozilla employee who gave to the campaign for Prop 8. His $1,000 was more than canceled out by three Mozilla employees who donated to the other side.

The next thing you’ll notice is that other companies, including other tech firms, substantially outscored Mozilla in pro-Prop 8 contributions attributed to their employees. That includes Adobe, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo, as well as Disney, DreamWorks, Gap, and Warner Bros.

Thirty-seven companies in the database are linked to more than 1,300 employees who gave nearly $1 million in combined contributions to the campaign for Prop 8. Twenty-five tech companies are linked to 435 employees who gave more than $300,000. Many of these employees gave $1,000 apiece, if not more. Some, like Eich, are probably senior executives.

Why do these bigots still have jobs? Let’s go get them.


But why stop there? According to Wikipedia, 7,001,084 people voted for Prop 8. Why do any of those people still have jobs? Shouldn’t they all be forced to resign? And why should they have the privilege of living in California at all? I say round them up and move them someplace where they won’t do any harm.

Oh, and let’s find every media figure, writer or actor or musician, who voted for Prop 8.  Surely they’re a special danger.  Someone should start an investigation — form a committee to investigate un-American activities like that, expose the malefactors, and make them identify anyone else they know who was involved.  Let’s make it clear that differing on these opinions is unacceptable. Like Eich, they should be blacklisted and never allowed to work again.

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Imprison the New Iranian UN Envoy

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

It’s the obvious solution, isn’t it? Wait for him to arrive, and then jail him. Along with as much of the Iranian UN delegation as we can catch.

It’s not like the Iranians haven’t already established the standard that diplomatic immunity doesn’t exist between the US and Iran.

We can release them the day a new Iranian government more to our liking is in power; after all, the Iranians apparently released our people when they figured out that Reagan wasn’t going to roll over like Carter did.

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Malay Mystery

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

One of our planes is missing.

That’s basically all we know for certain right now, but more than a week after losing contact with flight MH370, there are a lot of other suggestive bits of information. Unfortunately, a lot of it is, as usual, being reported by news readers who barely understand that you don’t want to keep the pointy end aimed at the ground for an extended time. Here’s some things we do know now.

The first indication of trouble was when the transponder stopped responding to radar. This is the point where newspeople are saying it “dropped off the radar,” so let’s get a little clarity here to start. A transponder is a device that transmits a response. In a plane, the transponder is receiving an interrogation and responding by transmitting a burst of data. The problem with “dropped off the radar” from the start is that all it indicated was that the transponder stopped transponding. Imagine for a second that you’re trying to find someone in the dark. If you have a flashlight, you can use the flashlight, and hopefully see them in the reflected light. This, in radar, is called a primary radar response. It’s a lot easier, though, if the person you’re looking for has a flashlight too, and can turn it on and wave back at you with it. This is what a transponder does, and it’s the major part of what’s called secondary surveillance radar.

When MH370 “dropped off the radar,” the transponder stopped responding. But transponders have an off switch. There are two independent transponders, so it isn’t probable just that it was just a transponder failure.

It didn’t disappear from primary radar, but primary radar is a lot harder to read. They now think that they might have tracked the plane as it turned back, did some vertical excursions, and headed off into the Indian Ocean.

Turning off the transponders didn’t stop all radio transmissions, however. There is an onboard flight telemetry system that kept transmitting for a long time, as much as seven hours. It’s very difficult to crash and have the telemetry transmissions keep going, so the combination is a pretty strong indication that the transponders turned off but the plane kept flying.

Unfortunately, Malaysia Airlines doesn’t pay for the service, so the only responses were pings saying “nothing to say.” But those pings are timestamped, and that means you can estimate the distance from the satellite to the aircraft by the time the signal arrives at the satellite. Now, PJ is ill-equipped to show a three-dimensional picture, so instead imagine a map. There’s one circle centered on the last known position, which is how far the plane could have flown in seven hours. There’s another circle centered on the satellite, which is all the places that are the estimated distance from the satellite. (Strictly, that’s the surface of a sphere, but we can discount the parts of the sphere that are underground.)

This, by the way, is how GPS works: your GPS receives very accurate time signals from several satellites and computes where all the circles intersect; that’s where you are.

The result is something that looks like this:


That line is actually fuzzy, because that distance to the satellite isn’t known as accurately as say a GPS signal would be, but the last transmission does mean the plane was somewhere near that circle when it stopped sending telemetry.

So, now is the part of Malay Mystery in which we speculate.

As far as I can see, there are about four possible explanations.

First, something happened that incapacitated the pilots, and the plane flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel. This has happened before, in the crash that killed Payne Stewart, although not on a commercial jetliner. The way it apparently happened in the Payne Stewart accident was decompression.

This is fairly unlikely just as an accident on a commercial jet because the pilots have oxygen masks immediately available — but more speculation is coming.

There is a story today that there was a “supergrass” — which is Brit for a highly-placed informant apparently — who described a plot for four or five people to take over a plane by blowing open the cabin door with a shoe bomb. So, let’s imagine that this is what happened. The door blows open, and cabin pressure is lost. The pilots, being a little bit distracted and busy, don’t get their masks on. Everyone passes out — and shortly dies at that altitude. The bodies rattling around in the cockpit cause the plane to make some uncontrolled maneuvers until the autopilot finally stabilizes. I explain the second possibility on the next page.

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Where Were Wendy Davis’s Voters?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 - by Charlie Martin

[Contributor Mark Stuertz passes this along:]

When Texas State Senator Wendy Davis shot onto the national scene with her famous filibuster against abortion restrictions, she instantly became a media sensation and a ruling class cultural icon. She was the leading edge of an inevitable paradigm shift that would transform Texas from red to blue.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box. The Wendy fetish among our national elites didn’t spread to the electorate. Davis garnered just 432,025 votes or 79.05 percent of a total 546,480 votes cast in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

That compares to Gregg Abbott’s haul of 1,219,831 votes or 91.50 percent of 1,333,010 total votes cast in the Republican primary. Abbott racked up nearly three times Davis’ vote total in a race that was generally considered a foregone conclusion. That translates to a statewide gubernatorial turnout of 4.01 percent for the Democrats, and 9.8 percent for the Republicans. So much for pink running shoes enthusiasm.

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AAU “Strongly Opposes” Israel Boycott

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Back on December 16th, the American Studies Association voted to endorse an “academic boycott” of Israel. Now the Association of American universities has responded:

The Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities strongly opposes a boycott of
Israeli academic institutions. Three U.S. scholarly organizations have now expressed support for such
a boycott. Any such boycott of academic institutions directly violates academic freedom, which is a
fundamental principle of AAU universities and of American higher education in general.

Academic freedom is the freedom of university faculty responsibly to produce and disseminate
knowledge through research, teaching, and service, without undue constraint. It is a principle that
should not be abridged by political considerations. American colleges and universities, as well as like
institutions elsewhere, must stand as the first line of defense against attacks on academic freedom.

Efforts to address political issues, or to address restrictions on academic freedom, should not
themselves infringe upon academic freedom. Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any
particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and
organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities violate academic freedom. The boycott
of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli
scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it. We urge American
scholars and scholars around the world who believe in academic freedom to oppose this and other such
academic boycotts.

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Obama Campaign Uses the N-Word

Monday, December 9th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

As Bryan just pointed out, it appears that today’s message from the Ministry of Truth’s MSNBC Division is that saying “Obamacare” is tantamount to saying the, well, you know.

Interestingly, not too long ago, the Obama campaign message was

“Let everyone know: ‘I like Obamacare,’” Messina writes. “What’s not to like? Obamacare means you won’t have to pay out of pocket for preventive care like cancer screenings and birth control, insurance companies can no longer drop people when they get sick or refuse coverage for “pre-existing conditions,” and women won’t have to pay more just for being women.”

Politico even includes a letter from Messina:

Happy birthday, Obamacare.

Here’s to two years of making the lives of millions of Americans better every single day.

If you’re tired of the other side throwing around that word like it’s an insult, then join me in sending a message that we’re proud of it.

Let everyone know: “I like Obamacare.”

What’s not to like? Obamacare means you won’t have to pay out of pocket for preventive care like cancer screenings and birth control, insurance companies can no longer drop people when they get sick or refuse coverage for “pre-existing conditions,” and women won’t have to pay more just for being women.

The bottom line is, the more people know about health care reform, the more they like it. So make sure your friends and family know that Obamacare is something to be proud of — and worth fighting for.

Say you like Obamacare today:


Thanks. We all did this.

- Messina

Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

So, if “Obamacare” = “n*gger”, it follows that Messina and all sorts of others have all been saying?

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Lenin Falls in Kiev (Video)

Sunday, December 8th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin


It’s an Instagram video. I don’t know how to embed it, so follow the link.

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Obama: Go ahead and ask what your nation can do for you….

Thursday, November 14th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin
YouTube Preview Image

I want a pony.

And ice cream.

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King Canute and the Tide

Thursday, November 14th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

King Canute (really Cnut but that’s too risky to type) is largely famous for this story:

with the greatest vigor he commanded that his chair should be set on the shore, when the tide began to rise. And then he spoke to the rising sea saying “You are part of my dominion, and the ground that I am seated upon is mine, nor has anyone disobeyed my orders with impunity. Therefore, I order you not to rise onto my land, nor to wet the clothes or body of your Lord”.

Of course, it turns out that his power is limited.

But the sea carried on rising as usual without any reverence for his person, and soaked his feet and legs.

Now, in the traditional story, it turns out that Canute was using this to demonstrate the limits of temporal power:

Then he moving away said: “All the inhabitants of the world should know that the power of kings is vain and trivial, and that none is worthy the name of king but He whose command the heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws”. Therefore King Cnut never afterwards placed the crown on his head, but above a picture of the Lord nailed to the cross, turning it forever into a means to praise God, the great king.

It’s just been reported that King Barack intends to announce today that all the insurance companies are now allowed to continue old “substandard” insurance plans. From the poll numbers, though, it looks like he’s already underwater.

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(Web) Laws are For the Little People

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Last night, we pointed out (via Todd Dunning and his co-worker Michael Simonson who I didn’t credit last night) that the Coveredca.com site has another problem. Ever heard of Section 508?

Here’s what the official HHS policy is:

Section 508 requires that, when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use EIT, (1) individuals with disabilities who are Federal employees have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities; and (2) individuals with disabilities who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal department or agency to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by such members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities (FAR 39.201 and 36 CFR 1194.1). Comparable access is not required if it would impose an undue burden on the agency.

Details of the rules and guidelines for compliance are here on the HHS site, but the tl;dr version is coveredca.gov doesn’t comply.

Of course, you might argue this is a state of California site, but it turns out that:

Although the law applies to all Federal agencies, state and local government is also impacted by the act. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, if the government entities receive Federal funding, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, generally require that State and local governments provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of their programs, services, or activities or would impose an undue burden.(Wikipedia, original source here.)

That just seems to go with the story the Washington Examiner reported last night that Healthcare.gov doesn’t actually comply with OMB’s guidance on when a privacy-critical system can be put on line. See, OMB says there can be no “interim” certifications.

Not, I guess, that is should surprise us they don’t comply with their own laws on this too.

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Covered CA Web Site Bug

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Okay, I’ve got to admit I almost hate to make fun of this; I’m sure these guys are living on Red Bull and vending machine Fritos trying to make all this stuff work.

But I’m going to anyway.

As pointed out by reader Todd Dunning (who says he’s been a reader for 6 years!) if you go to the Covered California “shop and compare” page, you get what is a nice looking page:

Screenshot 2013-10-30 20.22.50

Now, click the “HOME” link top left. What you should get is back to the home page:

Screenshot 2013-10-30 20.23.19

What you actually get is this:

Screenshot 2013-10-30 20.22.37

What you’re seeing there is a lump of Javascript code. Basically, what it does is load another lump of code there; I’ve looked at it, but frankly I’m not sure what that lump is supposed to do. But that’s really not important. What is important is that this is a link that would normally get clicked in any standard release quality assurance process; that bug would show up instantly.

As I say, I don’t want to make fun of the code too much, and on reading the code, it’s actually pretty good. But comments in the code suggest that this part, the rate calculator, was pushed out very quickly and really wasn’t tested or optimized. When it was pushed out, it wasn’t tested.

I wonder what else wasn’t tested?

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Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

The Daily Caller shoots and scores:

YouTube Preview Image

“Here’s a guarantee that I’ve made: If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance. if you’ve got a doctor that you like, you will be able to keep your doctor. Nobody is trying to change what works in the system. We are trying to change what doesn’t work.”

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A Rant on NSA Intercepts

Monday, October 28th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

There are sources of great wisdom in the media. For example, from Casablanca:

CAPTAIN RENAULT: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

This comes to mind — well, regularly, but this week it’s been most often the case when I hear about the current “scandal” over the discovery that the NSA has been monitoring communications from “friendly” heads of state. Well, here’s a not very great secret:

PALMERSTON: We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.

Of course we intercept communications with our allies, because we know that we have no permanent allies, and so do they. (And yes, they spy on us too, see for example Jonathan Pollard.) It is at best an open secret, and the truth is it’s not a secret at all; this whole drama is Captain Renault’s shock.

There’s another quote that often occurs to me when listening to the news:

NICK DANGER: Huh!? What kind of chump do you take me for?

ROCKY ROCCOCO: First class!

The only question in my mind, when we hear that President Obama didn’t know about the NSA intercepting “friendly” heads of state, is whether he’s the chump, or just thinks we are.

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Fact Checking Politifact

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Good old Politifact. When everyone else is seeing a train wreck, they can still find a way to complain about Marco Rubio noticing the train wreck.

Rubio mentioned the 300,000 people losing their current health insurance in Florida alone. Here’s Politifact’s response:

On Oct. 21, Kaiser Health News reported that health plans were sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage.

We found the news repeated by several news outlets and blogs, with headlines such as this one in the Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog: “Who’s to blame for the 300,000 policy purge? Florida Blue or Obamacare or both?”

In response to the news coverage, Florida Blue issued a statement:

“The Affordable Care Act mandates that all health insurance coverage packages provide 10 categories of essential health benefits. Because some plans offered by all insurers did not include all of these new services, they will no longer be available. Approximately 300,000 current Florida Blue members are enrolled in plans that will not meet these new benefit requirements.

“Florida Blue is proactively communicating to these members to help them understand how this transition affects them. Prior to their 2014 renewal date, each member will receive a letter that instructs them to contact Florida Blue to review their migration options. These new plans will offer members access to more comprehensive benefits in 2014.

“It is important to note that a person’s individual situation will be the key driver of what they will pay for coverage under the ACA. Subsidies will be available in the marketplace to lower the cost of coverage for eligible individuals, and the amount an individual will pay could vary significantly once his or her specific age, area in which they live, smoking status, family size, and income are factored in.”

The Miami Herald’s Public Insight Network obtained copies of letters received by Florida Blue consumers. The letters stated that due to the Affordable Care Act, the consumer’s particular plan “will be closed” and recommended another Florida Blue plan.

“To help ensure that you have continuous health care coverage, you’ll be enrolled in this health plan effective Jan. 1, 2014, unless we hear from you by Nov. 1, 2013.”

The letters stated that consumers could choose a different Florida Blue plan.

“We’ll help you find a plan that’s right for you,” the letter stated.

Now, the original Kaiser Health News article says:

Some receiving cancellations say it looks like their costs will go up, despite studies projecting that about half of all enrollees will get income-based subsidies.

Kris Malean, 56, lives outside Seattle, and has a health policy that costs $390 a month with a $2,500 deductible and a $10,000 in potential out-of-pocket costs for such things as doctor visits, drug costs or hospital care.

As a replacement, Regence BlueShield is offering her a plan for $79 more a month with a deductible twice as large as what she pays now, but which limits her potential out-of-pocket costs to $6,250 a year, including the deductible.

“My impression was …there would be a lot more choice, driving some of the rates down,” said Malean, who does not believe she is eligible for a subsidy.

Regence spokeswoman Rachelle Cunningham said the new plans offer consumers broader benefits, which “in many cases translate into higher costs.”

So, instead of losing their health insurance, they’re, um, losing their health insurance but being offered more expensive policies that have twice as big an annual deductible. I know in my case, my costs are going up, but I do get maternity benefits and free birth control pills — but I have to pay more for my diabetic supplies.


(Update: brain fade caused me to exchange Cruz for Rubio. Fixed it.)

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He Told You So (Healthcare.gov Edition)

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Joshua Sharf passes along this note:

This morning, the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce held hearings on the launchpad explosion that has been the Obamacare website, inviting representatives of the major contracting firms to testify.

What emerged was a confirmation of the picture that we painted here at PJMedia.

The HHS entity responsible for Healthcare.gov, the Office of Information Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, acted as its own integration team, the people responsible for putting all of the disparate parts of the system together.

As was mentioned a few times, contractors are responsible for “unit testing,” making sure that their individual pieces work as required by contract and by system specifications. The integration team is responsible for making sure that those pieces fit the needs of the entire system, and work and play well together.

In this case, CMS, acting as its own integration team, began full-scale, integration testing only two weeks prior to the launch of the system, a process that would have required months to do properly. This, rather than delay the launch.

In addition, somewhere at CMS or above, the decision was made to prevent visitors from shopping without having to register. That decision, too, was made only two weeks before launch, or just as integration testing was beginning. Which means that, in all likelihood, that functionality was *never* properly tested.

I’ll just add that one of the contractors being grilled said their first live test was when the whole system went live on October 1st.

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Another Palin Rumor?!

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Here’s the story:

Sarah Palin claimed today that Jesus Christ celebrated Easter during his time on Earth.

In an interview with Fox and Friends this morning, the former Alaska governor promoted her new book about the left’s “war on Christmas” and argued that all Christian holidays should return to the traditional versions practiced by Jesus.

“It makes me so gosh darn angry,” Palin explained. “The liberal left in this country has targeted Christian holidays and is trying to secularize them right out of existence.

“When Jesus celebrated Easter with his disciples there were no Easter bunnies or egg hunts. There were no Easter sales at department stores or parades in the street. Easter was a special time of prayer and Christian activism.

“Jesus would gather all the townspeople around and would listen to their stories about the meaning of Easter in their lives. Then he would teach them how to love one another, how to protest Roman abortion clinics and how to properly convert homosexuals.

“You can’t even do things like that these days without getting called out by some wacko left-wing human rights group. Christians had more freedom under Roman rule than we do now in our own country! We need to return Easter back to the way it was when Jesus was alive.”

Now, this story is from The Daily Currant, a Brit satire site that is even drier than the Onion. But it’s still a satire site.

Apparently, however, Piers Morgan doesn’t know this.

Oh, he says now he knew:


If you see any new references to this story in the wild, email me at Ask Charlie Martin.

(H/T to Treacher.)

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I Told You So (Healthcare.gov Edition)

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Can someone be cynically smug?

Back on October 10, I wrote in my science column on PJ Lifestyle:

So here’s a prediction. When the final story comes out — almost certainly not until after the end of the Obama Administration — what we’ll find out is this:

  • This was not ready for prime time and everyone technical knew it. It was political pressure that led to it being rolled out. (And remember the Challenger disaster if you think they wouldn’t have responded to pressure.)
  • What we’re seeing is the development code, probably pushed into the web site at about 11:02PM Eastern Time on September 30.

Most importantly, I will bet cash money that we will eventually find out the government was demanding major changes — like waivers and coverage changes — up to within a couple months of the rollout.

On October 12, the New York Times reported:

In March, Henry Chao, the chief digital architect for the Obama administration’s new online insurance marketplace, told industry executives that he was deeply worried about the Web site’s debut. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience,” he told them. ….

Confidential progress reports from the Health and Human Services Department show that senior officials repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time, blaming delayed regulations, a lack of resources and other factors.

Deadline after deadline was missed. The biggest contractor, CGI Federal, was awarded its $94 million contract in December 2011. But the government was so slow in issuing specifications that the firm did not start writing software code until this spring, according to people familiar with the process.  As late as the last week of September, officials were still changing features of the Web site, HealthCare.gov, and debating whether consumers should be required to register and create password-protected accounts before they could shop for health plans.

I’d like to take a lot of credit for this, but sadly, this one was obvious.


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I Told You So (Obamacare Edition)

Monday, October 14th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Back in March 2008, I wrote this on PJM in a post titled “Today’s Health Insurance Ain’t Insurance”:

Here’s where things start to get tricky, though. Some people — young people just out of school for example — aren’t making a lot of money, but then don’t really want to spend a lot of money on insurance. Normally, they wouldn’t have to: other than accidents and very rare diseases, a 25-year-old shouldn’t normally need anything more than minor maintenance and occasional hangover cures. The idea of the mandate, though, is that if you include these low-risk people in the whole insurance pool, the premiums they pay can be added back to the pot for older people and people with serious illnesses, which makes the insurance more “affordable” — for them.

It’s exactly the same situation as if we charge a 25-year-old the same amount for a year’s term life insurance as we charge his 75-year-old grandfather: it may make the insurance more affordable for Granddad, but it does so by overcharging young Elmo. Add in the “mandate,” so Elmo can’t opt out, and we have a universal care plan that forces Elmo to pay for services he doesn’t get so that Granddad can pay less for the services he gets. But it’s “voluntary” — you get to pick your insurance plan to some extent — and it’s not “tax-supported” because you are just paying the insurance company directly.

Today in Forbes, we see Cathy Reisenwitz, in a post titled “Millennials Are Opting Out Of Obamacare Because It’s Not Insurance,” saying:

The problem with this plan is that it hoses young, relatively poor people like me right when we least need high bills for services they’re not using. And it helps older, relatively rich people who should be able to afford the care they need. If America’s downtrodden and struggling young people are smart, they’ll opt out. Then it’ll be up to the federal government to fine them enough to make up for the shortfall.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me for five years, I’m an Obama voter.

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History of Successful Major Government Software Programs

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

A couple of the editors were interested in a bullet list of large-scale government software programs that have actually delivered on time.

I’m thinking.


“Although it’s taken 12 years and $3.24 billion so far, a decades-long effort to upgrade the Internal Revenue Service’s business systems is delivering value to taxpayers, the agency’s inspector general says in a new report, but security problems may be holding the efforts back.

The modernization program began in 1999, and involves integrating “thousands” of different hardware and software components. Among its goals were issuing refunds five days faster, offering electronic filing for businesses, web-based services for taxpayers and accountants and improved customer service.”



  • Sentinel Audit II: Status of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Case Management System (Redacte)

(Wikipedia) “Virtual Case File (or VCF) was a software application developed by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 2000 and 2005. The project was officially abandoned in January 2005, while still in development stage and cost the federal government nearly $170 million. In 2006, the Washington Post wrote “In a 318-page report, completed in January 2005 and obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act, [the Aerospace Corporation] said the SAIC software was incomplete, inadequate and so poorly designed that it would be essentially unusable under real-world conditions. Even in rudimentary tests, the system did not comply with basic requirements, the report said. It did not include network-management or archiving systems—a failing that would put crucial law enforcement and national security data at risk”[1]

This is hard.

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Colorado Recall Myths

Thursday, September 12th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

The politics of the big (big, big!) losses in the recall elections here in Colorado are still sorting themselves out. The attempts to spin it are so far about as effective as a cat trying to cover up on a linoleum floor.  Here, a local political reporter explains the myths. (I can’t embed any of these videos, but it’s worth following the links.)

Here are five myths about the recall election of two Democratic state lawmakers:

Myth #1: The National Rifle Association bought these recall wins.

The NRA contributed but it’s side was vastly outspent by gun control advocates trying to keep the Senators in office. That myth is just wrong on the math.

Myth #2: No one saw this coming.

Liberal polling company Public Policy Poling did, it just chose not to release its poll showing Senator Giron losing by double digits.

Public Policy Poling got skewered Wednesday by famed polling guru Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight who tweeted: “VERY bad and unscientific practice for PPP to suppress a polling result they didn’t believe/didn’t like.”

Myth #3: The results are all bad for Governor Hickenlooper.

With a slimmer majority in the State Senate, Democrats are less likely to send uncomfortably liberal legislation to the desk of the man trying to present a moderate image. Wednesday, the governor softened his tone on the gun control legislation he signed.

Myth #4: Recalls over politics are something new.

They’re not. Recalls have never been just about corruption. Witness Wisconsin last year and decades of recall attempts against governors of California.

Myth #5: The Colorado Republican Party won big.

The state party was along for the ride but make no mistake, the conservative grassroots drove the bus. They made these recalls happen.

And while their objectives were aligned with the party this time around, we know that’s not always so – and next time the party battles the grassroots; those roots have grown deeper.

Intensifying the impact of the recalls Tuesday night is how long it’s been since Colorado Republicans had a winning night like this. It’s been 10 years – 2002 – when Governor Bill Owens won in a landslide .

“Conan, what is best in life?”

“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.”

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Reflections on the Colorado Polls

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

People whose memory extends back to 2012 may recall I wrote a good bit about polls then. I noted at the time that the polls necessarily would have to be wrong one way or the other because they both showed very high Republican voter identification, registration, and enthusiasm, and yet showed Obama leading.

Sadly, I guessed wrong about which side of the polls was wrong.  I’m still not sure I understand why, although we have now seen many convictions for voter fraud (and many more reports of apparent voter fraud that were not prosecuted), the clear interference by the Adminsitration with anti-Administration political groups, and of course the repeated assertions in the legacy media that the only possible reason someone might vote against Obama was racism.  I’m led to the essentially untestable hypothesis that the election hinged on a very active voter suppression effort that kept a whole lot of those “very enthusiastic” GOP voters home.

Of course, what goes around comes around (no this isn’t a Buddhism column) and it turns out the Public Policy Polling got their own surprise in the Colorado recall elections:

We did a poll last weekend in Colorado Senate District 3 and found that voters intended to recall Angela Giron by a 12 point margin, 54/42. In a district that Barack Obama won by almost 20 points I figured there was no way that could be right and made a rare decision not to release the poll. It turns out we should have had more faith in our numbers because she was indeed recalled by 12 points.

What’s interesting about our poll is that it didn’t find the gun control measures that drove the recall election to be that unpopular. Expanded background checks for gun buyers had 68/27 support among voters in the district, reflecting the overwhelming popularity for that we’ve found across the country. And voters were evenly divided on the law limiting high capacity ammunition magazines to 15 bullets, with 47% supporting and 47% opposing it. If voters were really making their recall votes based on those two laws, that doesn’t point to recalling Giron by a 12 point margin.

We did find on the poll though that voters in the district had a favorable opinion of the NRA by a 53/33 margin. And I think when you see the final results what that indicates is they just did a good job of turning the election more broadly into do you support gun rights or are you opposed to them. If voters made their decision based on the actual pretty unobtrusive  laws that Giron helped get passed, she likely would have survived. But the NRA won the messaging game and turned it into something bigger than it was- even if that wasn’t true- and Giron paid the price.

But what’s interesting here, really, is two parts of this mea (non) culpa: first of all, the admission that he didn’t release the poll that was showing a big margin for recall — in fact, the recall was at the outside of his margin of error on the high side — because he “didn’t believe the results.” I’ll note, with a certain pleasant schadenfreude, that when I didn’t believe a poll, I said so and said why, and took my lumps later.

It’s a little hard to not observe, however, that the effect of a poll showing the results that far off would very likely have been to suppress the pro-Giron turnout. If you report polls where your side is winning, and suppress polls where your side is losing, one might just wonder whether you are an objective and trustworthy source.

The post doesn’t do a lot to reassure us, either. I mean where he says:

We did find on the poll though that voters in the district had a favorable opinion of the NRA by a 53/33 margin. And I think when you see the final results what that indicates is they just did a good job of turning the election more broadly into do you support gun rights or are you opposed to them. If voters made their decision based on the actual pretty unobtrusive  laws that Giron helped get passed, she likely would have survived. But the NRA won the messaging game and turned it into something bigger than it was- even if that wasn’t true- and Giron paid the price.

This looks to me like flat-out denial. To some extent he’s correct: as Dave Kopel points out, it was about something more than the “pretty unobtrusive” laws (which we in Colorado did find pretty damned intrusive, thank you very much). But at last count, the pro-recall groups were outspent about 8 to 1 by the anti-recall groups. Hell, the NRA was nearly matched by Mike Bloomberg alone, out of his own pockets.

So remember this. The next time a conservative finds a poll hard to credit, it might just be for good reason.

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Thoughts on Watching John Kerry on Fox News Sunday

Sunday, September 1st, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

It took some real talent for Obama to make me feel bad for Kerry. Kerry is a generally reprehensible person, but in this episode he had to:

  • explain why Obama was right to delay the action he clearly called for yesterday
  • lie straight-faced (“a horse walked into a bar…”) to claim that the Cabinet had been consulted before Obama changed tacks, when Chris Wallace was quoting the White House that the Cabinet hadn’t been consulted

as well as generally supporting the Presidential power that he and Obama ran against in their campaigns.

Just remember, at these prices, we call them escorts.

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Stupid Polling Tricks: Katrina Edition

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Here’s today’s “ZOMG those stupid Republicans” story at Talking Points Memo (repeated of course at Huffington Post and by any number of querulous and gullible people on Facebook:

A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government’s post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren’t sure who to blame.

Have a look at the poll. The question was “Who do you think was more responsible for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina: George W.Bush or Barack Obama?” The choices given were Obama, Bush, and don’t know. It’s the only question other than preference in the primary in a questionnaire given to Republican primary voters. Now, it doesn’t include either Kathleen Blanco, who lost her job after the states response sucked, it doesn’t include the crooked former mayor Ray Nagin, and it doesn’t make any sort of distinction about the time, so it could be read as the total response — and a little googling reveals that (1) there are still regular stories about the Federal governments weaknesses now and (2) that Obama has been President for almost five years now.

In other words, it was a poll question either completely incompetently phrased or carefully crafted to make sure they got exactly the story that people are falling for today.

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Who Is Wendy Davis?

Friday, August 2nd, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Contributor Mark Stuertz passes along this video about Wendy Davis, the new darling of the Democratic Party in Texas.

YouTube Preview Image

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Rachel Maddow Calls Obama a Liar

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

The next time someone tells you (as Rachel Maddow did yesterday) that the IRS targeting scandal is “discredited,” remind them that:

* The IRS apologized for targeting Tea Party groups


* A career IRS lawyer testified it was directed from Washington


* IRS Inspector General George says that it’s clear only conservative groups were targeted


* Obama himself said the targeting to conservative groups happened, was unacceptable



So when Rachel Maddow says the IRS scandal is “discredited,” let’s recall who she’s calling a liar.

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Facebook Follies Continue

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

In today’s exciting episode, Mike Williamson has had the same postings removed again for which Facebook apologized.

they re-removed the same posts…and this is AFTER they apologized for removing them.  This deserves a Wikipedia entry…

Banned for 24 hours this time.



We Removed Something You Posted


We removed this from Facebook because it violates our Community Standards:
  • post
    We Removed Something You Posted
    We removed this from Facebook because it violates our Community Standards:
    I think we can be bigger than the niggardly diggers looking for reasons to be offended. Post with vigor about chiggers and riggers and giggers.~~~~BWUAHAHAhahahahaha

    But not banned this time. Yet.

  • post
    Chiggers are almost as irritating as Congressmen or Facebook.
  • post
    I understand facebook likes chiggers. I don’t. It’s nothing personal. I believe chiggers have a right to exist. I believe nature has a reason for chiggers. I have never suggested chiggers are less respectable than other arthropods, or that they’re not entitled to exactly the same treatment as others. I just don’t like them personally.And if one were to attack me, I would feel perfectly justified in killing it in self defense.




You’re Temporarily Blocked From Posting


Because this is your second warning, you won’t be able to post anything on Facebook for 24 hours.
Note that your account could be permanently disabled if you continue to post things that violate our terms.



 I got a reply from Facebook (on background, so I can’t quote them directly) that said they’d already apologized about the Williamson thing, that the “Kill Zimmerman” pages were allowed because he’s a public figure and so the pages are covered under their fair comment policy, and that they have a robust reporting infrastructure with which they encourage people to report offensive posts.

They didn’t answer my fourth question.  I’ve enquired about the new Williamson block and will update when I hear more.

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Further Facebook Follies

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

An email I just sent to my press contact at Facebook:

I just got the following from Michael Z Williamson:

We removed this from Facebook because it violates our Community Standards:


I think we can be bigger than the niggardly diggers looking for reasons to be offended. Post with vigor about chiggers and riggers and giggers.

Of course, there have been recent stories about Kirk Cameron’s problems, eg, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ 2013/07/23/kirk-cameron- unstoppable-facebook-ban_n_ 3639835.html

With these in mind, I’d like to repeat my questions from last week:

  1. Is saying “chigger” really more offensive than the “Kill Zimmerman” page that Facebook refuses to remove? See this facebook search: https://www.facebook.com/ search/str/Kill%20Zimmerman/ pages-named
  2. Is “chigger” really more offensive than the multiple uses of the “n-word”? https://www.facebook.com/ search/str/nigger/pages-named
  3. What is Facebook’s procedure for dealing with reports of abuse?

Since my first piece, I’ve had a number of other people of conservative bent contact me about apparently innocuous posts that have been removed, and a whole bunch of people who have contacted me about the “Kill Zimmerman” pages which Facebook repeatedly has refused to remove, saying they don’t violate community standards. So I’d like to ask a fourth question:

4. Can Facebook positively state that they are not targeting “conservative” posters, and demonstrate this by noting some “liberal” postings that have been removed in error?

(Updated with a link to the first story, for convenience.)

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Video from Dallas: the “Justice for Trayvon” Rally

Sunday, July 21st, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

This just in from sometime PJ Media contributor Mark Stuertz:

YouTube Preview Image


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Facebook Follies: Blocked for Saying “Chigger”

Friday, July 19th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

It started yesterday, when SF author Michael Z Williamson was blocked by Facebook for 12 hours for using the word “chigger” in a post.  When his twelve hours were up — following massive derision against Facebook by all his friends — his block expired. He was promptly blocked again.

I wrote the FB press address asking the following:

[Press contact], it appears Williamson has been blocked *again* for using the word “chigger”. I continue to be interested in this and expect to go to press with it tomorrow. I’d very much like to have Facebook’s response. I’d also like to ask

1. Is saying “chigger” really more offensive than the “Kill Zimmerman” page that Facebook refuses to remove?  See this facebook search: https://www.facebook.com/search/str/Kill%20Zimmerman/pages-named

2. Is “chigger” really more offensive than the multiple uses of the ”n-word”? https://www.facebook.com/search/str/nigger/pages-named

3. What is Facebook’s procedure for dealing with reports of abuse? Are the people responding to the reports fluent English speakers in the case of reported pages in English?

Facebook responded to me as follows:

Mr. Williamson’s post was removed in error and once we were alerted of the mistake we worked quickly to rectify the situation. As our team processes more than one million reports each week, we occasionally make a mistake. We worked to rectify the error as soon as we were notified. We apologize for the inconvenience caused due to the removal of this content, and we have already taken steps to prevent this from happening in the future. Additionally, we have removed any blocks on associated accounts.

Williamson says:

I’m glad they were able to resolve it on review. They unbanned me two hours early.

I understand facebook likes chiggers. I don’t. It’s nothing personal. I believe chiggers have a right to exist. I believe nature has a reason for chiggers. I have never suggested chiggers are less respectable than other arthropods, or that they’re not entitled to exactly the same treatment as others. I just don’t like them personally. I keep my yard spic and span and would hate their presence.

And if one were to attack me, I would feel perfectly justified in killing it in self defense.

It’s also important for everyone to be aware of this chink in Facebook’s armor.

But wait, there’s more. Erin Palette was also blocked this morning, after Facebook responded to me, for the following bit of doggerel (reconstructed by Palette from memory, since Facebook of course removed it):

“I was once niggardly with a jigger full of chiggers. Tigger wanted that jigger with a vigor, but I refused. A Tigger with a jigger full of chiggers is a digger with rigor.” Something like that.

Basically, all the silly words I could think of that rhymed with chigger.

Palette comments:

English, Facebook, do you speak it? “Niggardly” is not a racist word, as a brief Googleing would indicate. Kindly grow a sense of humor along with a larger vocabulary.

I’ve asked Facebook for further comment, and clarification on my questions.  I’ll let you know what comes of that.

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A Quick Thought for European Leaders: Get a Grip

Monday, July 1st, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Today’s kerfluffle: Ed Snowden has revealed that, OMG, the US intelligence community collects intelligence from communications in Europe.

Somehow I can’t help but read that last in Claude Rains’ voice:

YouTube Preview Image

If this surprises anyone  in European governments, it’s because someone has somehow elected a moron who doesn’t read his own intelligence.

It’s actually all kabuki of course, or really more like noh theater — lots of exaggerated gestures and overdramatic masks while traditional words are read offstage.

Yes, I’m sure the US intercepts European communications, and Europe does their best to intercept ours, and both of them are trying to evesdrop on Russia, and Russia is trying to listen to everyone else.  That’s the way the game is played.

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