VodkaPundit

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Time to Impeach the IRS Chief?

June 25th, 2015 - 10:38 am
Not so honorable. (AP photo)

Not so honorable.
(AP photo)

Some House Republicans are considering impeaching IRS commissioner John Koskinen after this incident in the Lois Lerner investigation:

According to inspector general J. Russell George, IRS officials literally put Lerner’s hard drive through a shredder, destroying it without exhausting every means of attempting to recover her data. “IRS IT management determined the extra effort to recover data from Ms. Lerner’s hard drive was not worth the expense,” George says in his prepared testimony.

That decision was made even though a technician in the criminal investigations division of the agency had “noted some scoring on the top platter of the drive” while trying to assist the IT division in recovering the data. “He believed there were additional steps that could have been taken to attempt to recover data,” George says. That was in July of 2011, before Koskinen led the agency. The hard drive was destroyed in April of 2012, according to the inspector general’s best estimate.

George goes on to note that IRS employees also erased the backup tapes of the server that housed Lerner’s e-mails in 2010 and 2011, though he says he “did not uncover evidence” of any conspiracy to obstruct the investigation.

Don’t expect much to come of this, since the Supreme Court ruled today that the IRS doesn’t have to do what Congress tells it to do.

It’s Not a Mandate, It’s a Tax Subsidy

June 25th, 2015 - 8:38 am
(AP image)

(AP image)

So there you have it — under the Roberts Court, the law means what the IRS says it means.

We’re in dangerous territory with this one, and that’s on top of all of Washington’s other usurpations and predations too numerous to list.

UPDATE: It’s come to this, really.

Flash Springs Another Leak

June 25th, 2015 - 7:56 am

Unexpectedly:

Adobe has released an emergency software patch for Flash after it found a serious vulnerability being exploited by hackers.

The company said it had evidence of “limited, targeted attacks” and urged people to update their software immediately.

Flash is widely used across the web as a way of providing multimedia content.
This vulnerability – which enables hackers to take control of a computer – affects Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

I don’t have Flash installed on either my desktop or laptop, except for an “emergency” version built into Chrome — because there are still sites which rely on Flash, even though it’s practically malware.

I recommend you do the same.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 25th, 2015 - 6:45 am

♡bamaCare!!!’s highly-touted (by the Left) consumer co-ops are going bust:

Generous federal loans helped 23 cooperatives to get up and running. They have enrolled more than a million people, according to the National Alliance of State Health Co-ops. Their supporters believed that consumer cooperatives, which must meet the same regulatory requirements as private insurers, would provide better benefits and lower prices than commercial carriers.

In practice, most co-ops have significantly underpriced premiums and grossly underestimated medical claims. Many seek significant premium increases for 2016: 58% for individual plans in Utah, 38% in Oregon and 25% in Kentucky, for example.

Iowa’s CoOportunity Health, which operated in both Iowa and Nebraska, was the first to confront the hard reality of insurance economics as medical claims far outpaced premium income. After the co-op burned through $145 million in federal loans, an Iowa state court in February ordered the organization to be liquidated.

At least 120,000 members were forced to quickly find coverage elsewhere. The Iowa Insurance Division had this helpful advice: “Your coverage with CoOportunity Health will stop, and claims will not be paid after cancellation. If you do not purchase replacement insurance, you may be penalized by the federal government.”

That Means It’s Working™

It almost seems cruel to mention that the finances of Iowa’s busted co-op are actually in the middle of the pack — ten others have even worse loss ratios, and will likely need more tax dollars to remain solvent, or will go the same way as CoOportunity Health.

You and Your Racist Friend

June 25th, 2015 - 5:28 am

The headline isn’t quite apropos, but all I could come up with was the title of the old They Might Be Giants song.

The End of Antivirus [LINK FIXED!]

June 24th, 2015 - 2:04 pm

John McAfee — yes, that John McAfee — says the real computer security risk comes from lazy or unthinking human beings:

ThreatConnect, typical of the tech studies, posted a four page analysis of the OPM hack. It included discussions of malware packages that were possibly used and means of connecting the hack to the Chinese. It was highly technical, well thought out and cogently presented.

But the phrase “social engineering” was used only once, in the last paragraph, as a near aside to the main threat – suggesting that the hacked data could help socially engineer someone.

This shows the typical lack of comprehension, among the technical crowd, about the craft of social engineering.

Social engineering has become about 75 percent of an average hacker’s toolkit, and for the most successful hackers, it reaches 90 percent or more.
I can easily find an organization chart within OPM giving titles and names with little research. Once I have a target, the target can be “humanly” engaged. Using one example, I find the “dream” love partner, or the ideal friend, not by hacking into a database, but by observing eye movements and other body language over a small course of time and inserting that ideal person into the target’s path. From that engagement and its end products, comes the need for explicit technical materials that I must use to gain what I want. The more sophisticated the social engineering, the less is the need for high technology.

A simple social engineering hack might involve leaving a thumb drive on the pavement close to the driver door of a car. The thumb drive might be labeled “naked photos” or “first quarter profits”. The idea is to influence the driver to insert the thumb drive into his computer. From that point technology takes over and the majority of the remaining hack will be purely technical. On the other hand, the “dream love partner” hack mentioned above would most likely require very few technical resources once the target’s password or other info has been obtained.

Read the whole thing — and up your awareness level if you want to reduce the threat level.

News You Can Use

June 24th, 2015 - 12:51 pm
(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Good lord:

A Georgia special education teacher who was accused of holding an autistic boy upside-down and lowering him head-first into a trash can while comparing him to Oscar the Grouch says she was trying to calm the boy, not hurt him.

At a school system hearing Monday near Atlanta, Mary Katherine Pursley said the second-grader was screaming and upset April 30, and she was trying to “shake out the grouchy.”

Please tell me you know you’re not supposed to do that.

Pensioners chant slogans during an anti-austerity protest in Athens, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Greece's government defended Tuesday the billions worth of "harsh" new budget savings it has offered in talks with creditors, as some of the governing party's own lawmakers spoke out against them. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Pensioners chant slogans during an anti-austerity protest in Athens, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Greece’s government defended Tuesday the billions worth of “harsh” new budget savings it has offered in talks with creditors, as some of the governing party’s own lawmakers spoke out against them. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Greece has moved another step closer to default:

The leftist leader [Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras] flew to Brussels for a crunch meeting with the heads of the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank before eurozone finance ministers try to thrash out an agreement.

But at the last minute Athens said it had rejected new proposals that the EU-IMF lenders had issued in response to the eleventh-hour reform plan submitted by Greece this week to win approval for vital bailout funds.

Hardline Germany said there was a long way to go before any deal, while eurozone stocks dipped over doubts that an accord will be ready for EU leaders to rubber-stamp at a summit on Thursday.

“This strange position maybe hides two things: either they do not want an agreement or they are serving specific interests in Greece,” Tsipras said just minutes before the talks.

“The repeated rejection of equivalent measures by certain institutions never occurred before — neither in Ireland nor Portugal,” he tweeted, referring to bailouts to those two countries.

You get the feeling Tsipras is engaging in the age-old negotiating tactic of brinksmanship, hoping to scare Brussels (well, Berlin really) into a better deal for Greece. But make no mistake that the endgame remains the same, with a Greek default, whether orderly or not, likely followed by exit from the eurozone and possible partial entry into Russia’s sphere in influence.

Because the fact is that not only is Greece out of other people’s money, but the other people are just about out of their own money.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 24th, 2015 - 10:15 am

California is so Progressive that they’ve given up on old-fashioned notions like rewarding success and punishing failure. Now it’s $65,000 participation trophies for everyone!

Read:

The 1.4 million who signed up for an ObamaCare plan through Covered California, and who are paying a $13.95 fee every month for the privilege, might be interested to learn that Executive Director Peter Lee just got a 26.8% raise, plus a $65,000 bonus, which is bigger than the $53,000 bonus he received last year.

To put this in perspective, Lee’s base salary of $333,120 is 49% higher than the average health insurance CEO in the country, and 69% higher than all the CEOs in California, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

We don’t begrudge people for being well compensated for their success. But in this case, Lee is being rewarded by Covered California for what looks like a rather astounding string of failures.

Enrollment in the state exchange climbed only about 1% this year, leaving it 300,000 below Lee’s goal of 1.7 million. And because the exchange relies on enrollment fees to operate, low sign-ups put the exchange in financial jeopardy.

According to Covered California’s proposed budget, released in May, it expects to run an operating deficit of $98 million next fiscal year, and $41 million the year after that. And those numbers assume the exchange can wring 21% out of its budget over the next two years while sharply increasing enrollment.

Lee himself admitted in December that there are questions about the “long-term sustainability of the organization.”

Nice make-work if you can get it.

That Belongs in a Museum!

June 24th, 2015 - 8:39 am

The Confederate Battle Flag shouldn’t be flying from any government building, full stop.

That flag was raised in armed rebellion against our central government to defend the pure evil of human slavery.

The South, as I argued on Trifecta this week, has much to be proud of. This country’s best food and best music — some of the best in the world — trace their origins to the South. Ironically, the states of the old Confederacy have come to represent the best, sometimes I think the last, of our founding principles. The South is economically vibrant in the way the North once was, thanks in no small part to the crushing of that armed rebellion and the end of slavery.

While the South does indeed have much to be proud of, that battle flag isn’t part of it — at least not in any official way.

Jeb Bush when he was governor of Florida got it exactly right when he ordered the flag removed from state buildings, as this Washington Post story shows:

In 2001, one writer said Bush “risks the next election by taking the action he took on removing the flag.”

Yet Bush won the next election in Florida — and not everyone was as outraged by his decision to move the flag to a history museum.

One fellow Republican, from Orange County in the Orlando area, told Bush he disagreed with those in the party who had criticized his move.

“I believe that the action to remove the confederate flag was an appropriate and appreciated act of respect to many Floridians — especially African-Americans — for whom it holds a very different, and far less positive meaning,” he wrote in March 2001, a month after the flag came down. ”I applaud you for respecting those wishes and sensibilities from communities whose wishes and sensibilities have not always been respected.”

Just after the flag came down in 2001, a woman wrote Bush, “You have no right to impose your northern prejudices and misconceptions on the people of Florida and to snub your nose at its history.”

The governor replied that the flags would be “respectfully displayed” at the history museum.

Respectfully displayed in a museum — this, yes.

It’s one thing to remove the flag from government buildings, which is justifiably, perhaps correctly even, viewed as an endorsement of racism and slavery. Remember that the battle flag was raised by a Democratic legislature over the South Carolina statehouse, after a century’s absence, in defiance of the flowering Civil Rights Movement in 1962.

But now, almost inevitably, the Left is pushing to drop the flag down the memory hole, to scrub American history because they can, to blot out the First Amendment, to take a region with many things to be proud of and attempt to fill it with shame.

Read:

Following Walmart, Sears and eBay, mega online seller Amazon and crafts site Etsy say they will ban sales of Confederate flag merchandise, after the products experienced a surge in popularity.

Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. is joining the ban on Confederate flag sales, a spokesman for the company confirmed to ABC News, with its more than 2 million third-party sellers.

In the last 24 hours, the top five biggest sales rank gainers on Amazon.com, or “movers and shakers,” of the “patio, lawn and garden” category have been Confederate flag products, according to the website.

Will these retailers ban Che Guevara shirts? He did after all murder gays for being gay, inaugurate Cuba’s forced labor camp system, and worked hard to take common soldiers and peasants and turn them into “effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine[s].”

Will Amazon take down its collection of Communist flags, the ideology responsible for the murder of perhaps as many as 100 million human beings during the 20th Century?

Pages: 1 2 | 62 Comments»

Land of the Violent, Home of the Racist

June 24th, 2015 - 7:34 am

Master the Koran, Win a Sex Slave

June 24th, 2015 - 6:45 am
Syrian refugees gather at the Turkish border as they flee intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

Syrian refugees gather at the Turkish border as they flee intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

The latest in high-concept marketing from our friends in the Islamic State:

The shocking practice of giving away human beings as prizes, called “sibya,” was organized by the Da’wa and Mosques Department in Al-Baraka province in Syria in honor of the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan and was announced June 19 on ISIS Twitter accounts, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute and the Clarion Project, two independent research institutes that track social media accounts linked to terrorist groups.

An announcement on Twitter “begins with congratulations to ISIS soldiers and departments in the province upon the beginning of the month of Ramadan,” MEMRI wrote, “It then announces the upcoming Koran memorization competition, at which it says participants will be tested and given prizes accordingly.”

The statement lists the prizes planned for the top ten competitors, with the top three to each be awarded a female slave: ‘Winner of the first place [will be granted] (sibya) [a female slave who was captured at war],’” the translation by MEMRI read.

These “men” could be killed yesterday and it wouldn’t be too soon.

Tanks But No Tanks

June 24th, 2015 - 5:44 am
Lithuanian defense Minister Juozas Olekas, left, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, second left, Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser and Latvian Secretary of Defense Janis Sarts, right, attend a joint press conference after a meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. (AP Photo)

Lithuanian defense Minister Juozas Olekas, left, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, second left, Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser and Latvian Secretary of Defense Janis Sarts, right, attend a joint press conference after a meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. (AP Photo)

The US Army is sending 250 tanks and other armored vehicles to Eastern Europe:

Ash Carter, the Defence Secretary, confirmed the deployment today, saying armoured vehicles, weapons and artillery would be spread across six countries.

Mr Carter said the equipment could be moved around the region for training and military exercises, and would include Bradley fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzer artillery guns.

“We intend to move those equipment sets around as exercises move around,” he told a news conference.

“They’re not static. Their purpose is to enable richer training and more mobility to forces in Europe.”

Having prepositioned heavy equipment is great, but are the vehicles manned? As we discussed here just last week:

Nothing signals commitment like boots on the ground — provided those boots have real soldiers’ feet in them, and aren’t merely pre-positioned empty boots.

Pre-positioning equipment, as Boot notes, isn’t dumb. But the absence of real soldiers is like buying your longtime girlfriend a very nice ring, but not an engagement ring. She and everybody else will wonder, “What the hell does that mean?”

It’s impossible to say how Putin will view this move, although I’m not at all certain that he can be deterred by anything less than a full commitment to Poland and the Baltic States — which means sticking our men in those tanks, and keeping them there.

Man versus Algo

June 23rd, 2015 - 2:18 pm
(Shutterstock image)

(Shutterstock image)

Apple News will be the opposite of Darth Vader — more man now than machine:

Apple News, part of the upcoming iOS 9 operating system, aims to be the primary news source for users of the iPhone and iPad — likely at the expense of sources such as Facebook, Google and news apps such as Flipboard.

In a surprising move, Apple has unveiled it will be hiring experienced journalists to manage its news feeds — marking a departure from the algorithmic process used by rivals.

“Apple is eager to have news created by human beings and not algorithms — it fits in with the brand statement Apple has been making,” said Judd Slivka, a professor of mobile journalism at the University of Missouri.

“The expectation is they will put together a smart team that works well broadly across news and specific content areas.”

There’s no way of knowing if the News app will be any good, although most anything would be an improvement over the existing Newsstand. It’s less than an app, doesn’t quite work like a folder, and even the icon is fugly. It’s the least Apple-y app Apple has ever produced for iOS.

Whether or not News achieves Apple’s goals for it, it is part of an interesting trend at the company. Here’s a little something on the upcoming Music streaming service:

The app has a My Music section, which has a “For You” feature that provides recommendations of artists and curated radio playlists to users. Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue explained that For You wasn’t just algorithmically driven, that it also involved human curators.

Apple is spending big money on personnel — $3 billion to bring in Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine, plus oodles more on news editors and professional DJs. While everyone else is using algorithms to curate your news and your streaming playlists, Apple apparently thinks living human beings will give it a competitive advantage in its appeal to readers and listeners.

I hope they’re right, because it would be nice if someone, anyone would save us all from the banalities of Google News and Clear Channel radio. On the other hand, it’s hard not to think of John Henry.
(more…)

Let My Grecians Go

June 23rd, 2015 - 12:55 pm

George Will on the “constructively frightening example” being set by Greece:

How could one humiliate a nation that chooses governments committed to Rumpelstiltskin economics, the belief that the straw of government largesse can be spun into the gold of national wealth? Tsipras’ approach to mollifying those who hold his nation’s fate in their hands is to say they must respect his “mandate” to resist them. He thinks Greek voters, by making delusional promises to themselves, obligate other European taxpayers to fund them. Tsipras, who says the creditors are “pillaging” Greece, is trying to pillage his local governments, which are resisting his extralegal demands that they send him their cash reserves.

Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s finance minister, is an academic admirer of Nobel laureate John Nash, the Princeton genius depicted in the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” who recently died. Varoufakis is interested in Nash’s work on game theory, especially the theory of cooperative games in which two or more participants aim for a resolution better for all than would result absent cooperation. Varoufakis’ idea of cooperation is to accuse the creditors whose money Greece has been living on of “fiscal waterboarding.” Tsipras tells Greece’s creditors to read “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the Spanish Civil War. His passive-aggressive message? “Play nicely or we will kill ourselves.”

Progressivism always comes down to childish tantrums.

Wave Goodbye to the UPS Guy

June 23rd, 2015 - 11:41 am
Faster, please.

Faster, please.

Not today, not tomorrow — but someday not too long from now:

On July 17, the Federal Aviation Administration will allow a collaboration between NASA, Flirtey and Virginia Tech to fly unmanned aircraft to deliver pharmaceuticals to a free medical clinic in West Virginia. The fixed wing aircraft from NASA Langley and multi-rotor delivery drones from Flirtey will become the world’s first autonomous aerial delivery services.

The event organizers hope to prove that drone usage need not be nefarious or purely for enthusiasts. In fact, the goal of these drones is to bring life-saving meds to an under-served community.

“This is a Kitty Hawk moment not just for Flirtey, but for the entire industry,” said Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny in a statement. “Proving that unmanned aircraft can deliver life-saving medicines is an important step toward a future where unmanned aircraft make routine autonomous deliveries of your every day purchases.”

I was trying to think of the second most important use for delivery drones, after lifesaving drugs — and I’m not kidding when I tell you it’s pizza.

There’s nothing worse than being the last house on the delivery route, or getting the new driver who doesn’t know his way through the twisty lanes of your ‘burb, or just a good old fashioned traffic jam.

But a pizza drone could deliver your pizza in not much more time than it takes you to get a homemade pie from your oven to your table. The labor savings could be invested in multiple drones, insuring the last house on the route will be fewer houses away than it is now. In bigger cities, it might be possible for the Domino’s Drone to deliver to your window or fire escape, saving time that was once spent running down halls and up flights of stairs or waiting for elevators. Local pizza joints could even expand their business into distant neighborhoods or rural areas where delivery just isn’t currently practical.

I’ve watched as “30 minutes or free!” became “45 minutes or so” and now “You’ll get it when you get it.”

Or how about this: You’re at the park with your hungry kids, and you electronically flag down the pizza UAV with the GPS-enabled delivery app on your smartphone.

Hardly anybody needs their Amazon deliveries on the same day, but everybody wants their pizza as hot out of the oven as they can get it. And when it comes to luxury items (in the relative sense) like pizza delivery, wants trump needs.

Pizza is the killer app for delivery drones.

Tom Clancy Drool-Fest

June 23rd, 2015 - 10:03 am
Switchblade 1.0 (Image courtesy Aerovironment, Inc.)

Switchblade 1.0
(Image courtesy Aerovironment, Inc.)

Speaking drones, wait’ll you get a preview of Switchblade 2.0:

Switchblade was very popular with troops in Afghanistan and with SOCOM in all sorts of places they won’t discuss in detail. Switchblade has been so successful that the army has requested manufacturers to come up with a Switchblade 2.0. The new version (LMAMS or Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System) will be heavier (up to 2.2 kg/5 pounds) with up to 30 minutes endurance and a 9 kilometer range. The sensor must have night vision and be stabilized. It must also be able to lock onto a target and track it. The warhead must be capable of disabling light vehicles as well as being harmless against people 10 meters (31 feet) from detonation but lethal within 4 meters (12.4 feet). All this is possible with current technology and the Switchblade manufacturer (who also makes the Raven) has a head start but not a lock because there is nothing exotic about the basic tech. The trick is getting it all into one package and working.

All you really need is a couple of those and a remote-controlled launching mechanism for the hood of your car.

That might be enough to help get people to pay attention to all those “SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT” signs.

First OPM admitted that some four million personnel files were in foreign hands, but then it came our that number number was probably more like 14 million.

Now would you believe… 18 million? And would you believe OPM is still sticking by its original admission?

Of course you would:

FBI Director James Comey gave the 18 million estimate in a closed-door briefing to Senators in recent weeks, using the OPM’s own internal data, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter. Those affected could include people who applied for government jobs, but never actually ended up working for the government.

The same hackers who accessed OPM’s data are believed to have last year breached an OPM contractor, KeyPoint Government Solutions, U.S. officials said. When the OPM breach was discovered in April, investigators found that KeyPoint security credentials were used to breach the OPM system.

Some investigators believe that after that intrusion last year, OPM officials should have blocked all access from KeyPoint, and that doing so could have prevented more serious damage. But a person briefed on the investigation says OPM officials don’t believe such a move would have made a difference. That’s because the OPM breach is believed to have pre-dated the KeyPoint breach. Hackers are also believed to have built their own backdoor access to the OPM system, armed with high-level system administrator access to the system. One official called it the “keys to the kingdom.” KeyPoint did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

From there, things get worse:

OPM’s internal auditors told a House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee last week that key databases housing sensitive national security data, including applications for background checks, had not met federal security standards.

“Not only was a large volume (11 out of 47 systems) of OPM’s IT systems operating without a valid Authorization, but several of these systems are among the most critical and sensitive applications owned by the agency,” Michael Esser, OPM’s assistant inspector general for audits, wrote in testimony prepared for committee.

I was going to say Washington needs a reboot, but what it really needs is its hard drives scrubbed and a clean reinstall.

EXIT QUESTION: Will Team Hillary at some point attempt to spin her private email server as a security precaution against Chinese hackers?

Uber Is Now a Gun-Free Zone

June 23rd, 2015 - 8:30 am

If you carry a pistol, Uber won’t carry you:

“We seek to ensure that everyone using the Uber digital platform…feels safe and comfortable,” the new policy reads. “Uber and its affiliates therefore prohibit possessing firearms of any kind in a vehicle.” Those found violating the rule may lose access to Uber’s services.

The update was first reported by the New Republic, amid news of Wednesday’s shootings in Charleston, SC, where a 21-year-old white man opened fire at the historically black Emanuel A.M.E. Church, killing nine people.

Uber has noted, however, that its policy change was made June 10 — a week before the shootings occurred. The company said it made the change “after assessing existing policies and carefully reviewing recent feedback from both riders and driver-partners.”

I’d feel less safe in a traveling gun-free zone, a sitting duck at every red light.

Uber just lost my business.

The Evitable Mrs. Clinton

June 23rd, 2015 - 7:11 am
Oops, she did it again. (AP photo)

Oops, she did it again.
(AP photo)

You almost certainly know how the expectations game is played in electoral politics, because there are only three rules:

1) If you think you’re going to win, set expectations low. Your victory then appears even bigger than “expected.”

2) If you think you’re going to lose, set expectations even lower. Your loss won’t look so bad as “expected.”

3) If you know you’re going to lose, lower expectations for your opponent by dismissing the entire event as meaningless. Their win will mean less than “expected.”

At this early stage in the game — six months before the Iowa Caucus or the New Hampshire Primary, Team Clinton is already working Rule #2 in those early states. Democratic strategist (and self-described “Clinton supporter”) Maria Cardona went on ABC’s This Week to talk to Jonathan Karl about the threat posed to Hillary by Vermont Democratic-Socialist-Independent-Democrat Bernie Sanders:

“I don’t think we’ve seen more enthusiasm for any candidate, Democrat or Republican, than we’ve seen for Bernie Sanders,” Karl said. “Maria, what is going on … Hillary Clinton, supposed to be a coronation here. She now finds all the energy in the Democratic primary right now is with a 73-year-old self-described socialist from Vermont.”

Cardona laughed, saying the media thought this would be a coronation, not Clinton.

“Bernie is from a neighboring state,” she said. “We shouldn’t be surprised that there is so much enthusiasm for him, and in fact, we shouldn’t be surprised if he does very well in New Hampshire or in Iowa and perhaps even wins. I think this is good for the Democratic Party … As a Hillary supporter, I think she will be the nominee, but she will be that much better of a nominee and that much better of a general election candidate because of Bernie.”

“Let’s also remember no Democrat has broken 40 percent in Iowa unless you are from there or are unless you are an incumbent or a VP, so again, I think expectations need to be tamped down here,” Cardona added later.

Clinton lost to Barack Obama in Iowa to 2008, but “saved” her campaign by eking out a surprise win in New Hampshire five days later.

What’s interesting to note about the 2008 Democratic primary race is that Clinton actually won the popular vote by three quarters of a point, but lost in the delegate count.

How’d Obama manage that delegate coup? Team Clinton focused on winning the big headline-making primary states (ooh, shiny!). She won 21 of those (and a couple territories), including the Big Five: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

Team Obama focused on the black vote concentrated in the Deep South, and on the smaller caucus states where the voting process can be… slipperier. Also in the caucus states, enthusiasm can make a big difference, as voters talk to one another during the caucus process. Enthusiasm for “Black Jesus” and a perfect reading of the ground game allowed Obama to win 29 of those plus DC (and a couple territories).

Clinton went after primary voters, but Obama went after delegates. And it’s the delegates who choose the nominee.

In the end, Obama garnered 2,285.5 delegates to Clinton’s 1,974.

Game over, man.

The likelihood of Sanders being able to pull off the same kind of wins Obama got in 2008 is very low, given that Clinton leads in the national polls by an average of 50 points. Those 50 points are her lead over distant number two Bernie Sanders, not her total. But if you were advising him, given the enthusiasm he’s getting from the grassroots, you’d certainly urge him to try. The details are different from ’08, of course. Sanders isn’t going to garner the huge African-American support Obama got, making the South much more competitive for Clinton. But Sanders could very well negate that disadvantage by pressing his True Blue Progressivism with lefty voters in those Big Five states Clinton won in 2008. If Sanders takes three or four of those five, plus sweeps Massachusetts and the rest of New England — he’s a contender.

The odds are long, but they might not be impossible to overcome.

Pages: 1 2 | 18 Comments»

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 23rd, 2015 - 6:06 am

John Graham shows how ♡bamaCare!!! is causing massive premium hikes for younger buyers:

Last October, HealthPocket, an online insurance broker, measured the increase in premiums for every age group in 2014 versus the pre-Obamacare individual market and concluded they increased by double digits for every age group. The increase in rates for 63-year-olds was 37.5 percent for women and 22.7 percent for men. For 23-year-olds, the increase was 44.9 percent for women and 78.2 percent for men. There are other mandates driving up the cost of health insurance. Nevertheless, scholars at the Heritage Foundation conclude that Obamacare’s age rating restrictions increase premiums for younger adults by about one-third.

Obamacare disguises these true premiums by offering health insurers tax credits to reduce the net premium people pay, thus fooling many into thinking premiums have gone down.

You see how this works, don’t you?

Problem: Old people pay too much for insurance!

Solution: Make young people pay more!

New Problem: Young people pay too much for insurance!

Solution: Tax old people to pay for subsidies for young people!

Only to Progressives does this make any sense.

News You Can Use

June 22nd, 2015 - 3:13 pm
(Shutterstock photo)

(Shutterstock photo)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, comes a CDC report that it’s urine which causes your eyes to turn red in the swimming pool:

“Chlorine binds with all the things it’s trying to kill from your bodies, and it forms these chemical irritants. That’s what’s stinging your eyes. It’s the chlorine binding to the urine and sweat,” says the appropriately named Dr. Michael J. Beach, associate director of the CDC’s Healthy Water program.

Furthermore, reports Complex.com, the fabled dye that causes the water in the pool to change colors if somebody relieves their bladder in the water? It doesn’t really exist.

“It’s a myth. It’s about scaring people into not urinating in the pool,” Beach says.

If you need me, I’ll be on the chaise longue — the whole time.

Thought for the Day

June 22nd, 2015 - 2:28 pm

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

June 22nd, 2015 - 1:03 pm

Covered California — that’s the Once-Golden State’s ♡bamaCare!!! exchange — is going to collect customer data.

Lots of customer data.

And no, customers can’t opt out:

Covered California says this massive data-mining project is essential to measure the quality of care that patients receive and to hold health insurers and medical providers accountable under the Affordable Care Act.

The state in April signed a five-year, $9.3-million contract with Truven Health Analytics Inc. of Michigan to run the database.

The effort has raised questions about patient privacy and whether the state is doing enough to inform consumers about how their data will be used. There are also worries about security amid massive breaches at Anthem Inc. and other health insurers affecting millions of Americans.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said protecting sensitive information was a top priority and that consumers stand to benefit from the collection of medical data. He acknowledged the state had no plans to let consumers opt out and keep their records out of the database.

On the heels of the OPM personnel files breach and the California government’s reputation as a hive of scum and villainy, collecting and collating all those private health files in a single location seems like a perfectly swell idea.

Half-Assed Iraq Policy Going Fully-Assed

June 22nd, 2015 - 11:41 am
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, right, listens as Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, during a hearing on the U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, right, listens as Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2015, during a hearing on the U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

BI’s Pamela Engel says that the Obama Administration’s anti-ISIS effort suffers from a “crippling contradiction” which is only getting worse as time goes on:

The US training program for Syria to counter ISIS has not yet produced a single fighter.

The training failures highlight a massive contradiction that is crippling Obama’s strategy to combat Sunni extremist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

While the president insists that Sunnis are a crucial part of the plan to defeat ISIS, the administration is achieving little as the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad slaughters Sunnis in droves and the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad avoids arming and training Sunnis out of fear that they might one day rise up against Baghdad.

In Iraq, training efforts are stymied because SecDef Ashton Carter says, “We simply haven’t received enough recruits.” Given the Administration’s lackadaisical efforts in Iraq, compounded by Obama abandoning that country after 2011, and by years of White House overtures to arch-enemy Iran, it’s easy to understand why Iraqis might not be exactly enthused.

UPDATE: Of course another item popped up in my feed right after I’d hit the Publish button on this piece. Josh Rogin & Eli Lake have a scoop out of Iraq:

The U.S. military and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are getting closer and closer in Iraq, even sharing a base, while Iran uses those militias to expand its influence in Iraq and fight alongside the Bashar al-Assad regime in neighboring Syria.

Two senior administration officials confirmed to us that U.S. soldiers and Shiite militia groups are both using the Taqqadum military base in Anbar, the same Iraqi base where President Obama is sending an additional 450 U.S. military personnel to help train the local forces fighting against the Islamic State. Some of the Iran-backed Shiite militias at the base have killed American soldiers in the past.

In the end, Obama will let Iran have most of Iraq and obtain nukes.

Hallå, NATO?

June 22nd, 2015 - 10:25 am

Russia’s increasingly aggressive military posture has Swedes thinking of abandoning their two-century old tradition of neutrality and joining NATO:

Swedish officials have repeatedly accused Russian planes of threatening the country’s airspace, and several eastern European nations, including Sweden and Latvia, have suspected Russian submarines have entered their sovereign waters. Sweden’s military dispatched fighter jets in May to ward off Russian bombers that approached Swedish territory, Reuters reports.

Traditionally, Swedish citizens have expressed little interest in joining NATO, but recent tensions with Russia have stoked support. An October 2014 poll found that 37 percent of the nation’s population supported entrance into the alliance, while 36 percent of those surveyed opposed the move, Reuters reported.

Russia of course is none too happy with any of this:

Sweden will face military “consequences” if it decides to abandon its trademark neutrality and join the NATO alliance, Russian Ambassador Viktor Tatarintsev reportedly told a Swedish newspaper Thursday.

If countries were individual human beings, the conversation between Russia and Sweden would go like this:

Russia: Your neutrality is no protection!

Sweden: Maybe we should give up being neutral…

Russia: You’ll regret that!

I’m not going all Godwin on you with “PUTIN IS HITLER!” stuff, but Putin reminds me of Hitler in one small, limited way. Hitler in the beginning was great at the small picture stuff, knowing he could throw the dice on reoccupying the Rhineland, Anschluss with Austria, demanding the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia.

What Hitler sucked at was the really big picture stuff — how to end a war with Great Britain, what to do if the Soviet Union couldn’t be defeated in three months, figuring out what an alliance with Italy and Japan was actually good for.

Sure, he could unleash his Panzer divisions on Poland and France and score two big knockout wins in very short order, but he never seems to have contemplated the potential consequences of stirring up the entire world against Germany.

Putin has used eastern Ukraine to redefine the parameters of warfare as major nation-states have waged it since 1939. This has kept the West off balance and Ukraine at a convenient simmer, without forcing it the boil over into an all-out war Moscow can’t afford.

What Putin hasn’t figured out is how to bring the war in Ukraine to a successful conclusion, which might explain his big military buildup in the Kaliningrad Oblast wedged in between Poland and Lithuania:

“They’re making quite big military exercises in the Kaliningrad district [which is] very, very close to our neighborhood,” says Andrius Kubilius, a former Lithuanian prime minister. “So of course we are worried about such military developments very close to our borders.”

In part due to such concerns, NATO this month is carrying out military maneuvers in Poland and the Baltic States, a U.S. military convoy recently travelled across Eastern and Central Europe in a show of the defense alliance’s commitment to protect the region, and Washington is reportedly debating whether to store heavy military equipment in several Baltic and Eastern European countries bordering Russia.

The Kaliningrad region, which lies along the Baltic Sea in what was once East Prussia, has long held strategic value.

The plan seems to be to keep NATO off balance. Or maybe Putin is preparing for a real shooting war with the West. It’s impossible to say.

And then there’s the never-ending bluster:

Politicians and officials are in on the act, setting the tone with tough talk about Russia’s military and suggesting that, if it wanted to, Russia could turn up the heat in what many are calling a new Cold War with the United States and Europe.

“Tanks don’t need visas,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin proclaimed on national television in May as Western politicians expressed concern at Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic.

“Tanks don’t need visas” is an awesome tough-guy movie line — you can hear Arnold saying it, easy.

But eventually Punt has either got to start shooting, or the bluster and saber-rattling will go on so long that NATO (and neutrals like Sweden) will have to take his threats seriously — and take some kind of action greater than economic sanctions.

At that point, who knows what a short-sighted dice-tosser like Putin might decide to do.

Those Indian Air Force Blues

June 22nd, 2015 - 9:09 am
Indian Air Force MiG-21s in action. The MiG-21 has been in service since 1959, and the last one was produced in 1985. (AP photo)

Indian Air Force MiG-21s in action. The MiG-21 has been in service since 1959, and the last one was produced in 1985.
(AP photo)

Whenever you think of how broken our military procurement system is, comfort yourself with the knowledge that somebody else has it worse:

With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to visit Russia on July 7, speculation is swirling about the potential for a final agreement between the two countries regarding a jointly developed and produced Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). Since March, reports have circulated that India – faced with combat aircraft capacity pressures – is willing to exhibit greater negotiating flexibility with the Russians in order to move the program forward.

In addition to the non-stealth Dassault Rafale as its preference for a medium swing-role fighter, India has long viewed the FGFA as critical to meeting its air force’s advanced jet fighter requirements.

As centerpieces of India’s future strategic airpower component, both platforms are considered crucial in terms of providing more modern fighter options while also helping fill the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) goal of fielding 42-44 fighter squadrons by around 2027.

Officially the IAF currently fields 34 squadrons, but parliamentary reports indicate just 25 are operationally available. Even worse for the IAF, 14 of the supposed 34 squadrons are composed of aging MiG-21 and MiG-27s, due to be phased out of service by 2025 and 2020, respectively.

The new FGFA fighters are meant to help fill this emerging gap.

It’s not going very far out on a limb to say that it seems unlikely India will come close to its goal of fielding 42 fighter squadrons. And they certainly won’t get there by partnering with the Russians on a fifth-gen jet which the Russians have been forced to tacitly admit sucks. The Rafale won’t be produced in enough numbers to serve all of India’s needs, and the Indian Air Force is crazy (or at least desperate) if they think they’ll keep a significant number of MiG-21s flying for ten more years. The locally designed and built HAL Tejas is supposed to fill the gap left by the aging (and crashing) MiG-21 fleet, but it hardly seems a match for China’s growing fleet of Russian-built Su-30s and Chinese-built Su-30 knockoffs.

The MiG-27 is, charitably put, a pig.

India ought to be a prime candidate for F-35A exports, but their military’s close contacts with the Russians make that sale… problematical.

So it looks like the Russians and the Indians are stuck with one another, for all the good that will do either one of them.

Required Reading

June 22nd, 2015 - 7:54 am

Today’s RR is something of a twofer. First up is Zachary Keck’s review of Colin Dueck’s new book, The Obama Doctrine. As Keck notes, the first half is a vivisection of Barack Obama’s foreign policy and the second half is a broad plan for a GOP president starting in 2017. This being the primary season though, I was most interested in Dueck’s description of the major foreign policy strains within the GOP:

The first camp is the “conservative anti-interventionists” led by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who “are a significant political force and faction in relation to foreign policy issues within the Republican Party.” While Dueck believes that Paul is a serious presidential contender, and anti-interventionism is growing especially among the grassroots, he usefully points out that anti-interventionism is not even widely held among members of the Tea Party, much less the Republican Party as a whole.

At the same time, conservative nationalists have little patience for the “liberal internationalist tradition,” which they view as “naive, wasteful, unlikely to earn foreign gratitude, and threatening to U.S. national sovereignty.” Put differently, “conservative nationalists are comfortable with the military aspects of U.S. foreign policy activism…. [but] they are profoundly uncomfortable with the nonmilitary aspects of U.S. internationalism.”

The third and final foreign policy camp within the GOP is the conservative internationalists, which since Taft’s defeat in the 1952 primary have been the dominant force within Republican foreign policy. In outlining conservative internationalists, Dueck is careful to note the group is not monolithic. In particular, he pushes back against efforts to equate all conservative internationalists with neoconservativism, noting that “neoconservatives can be defined as one subset of conservative internationalists” (something he discussed in greater detail in his previous book). Traditional Republican realists like Henry Kissinger also fall within the conservative internationalist camp.

While they have lost some of their previous dominance, Dueck assesses that conservative internationalists “typically make up at least a third and sometimes a solid majority of voters inside the GOP,” depending on the issue. As such, which foreign policy vision the GOP ultimately adopts will come down to which two camps can align themselves together.

Dueck is correct, an alignment between the conservative internationalists and the conservative nationalists seems much more likely than the non-interventionists successfully aligning with anybody. That said, it would be useful in terms of good domestic policy and in pure election politics, if the non-interventionist wing were to get its way in domestic policy — its easier to imagine them aligning with the Tea party/conservative nationalists on eliminating domestic spying and similar abuses. In any case, such reforms might be the price demanded of the libertarian-right to come back to the fold after so many were chased away by the Bush 43 administration.

The second part of today’s Required Reading is Dueck’s book, or at least it is for me. I just added the Kindle edition to the top of my virtual reading stack.

Don’t Be Evil or Whatevs

June 22nd, 2015 - 6:19 am

Google is listening to pretty much everything through its Chrome web browser:

It looked like just another bug report. “When I start Chromium, it downloads something.” Followed by strange status information that notably included the lines “Microphone: Yes” and “Audio Capture Allowed: Yes”.

Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room.

This was supposedly to enable the “Ok, Google” behavior – that when you say certain words, a search function is activated. Certainly a useful feature. Certainly something that enables eavesdropping of every conversation in the entire room, too.

Obviously, your own computer isn’t the one to analyze the actual search command. Google’s servers do. Which means that your computer had been stealth configured to send what was being said in your room to somebody else, to a private company in another country, without your consent or knowledge, an audio transmission triggered by… an unknown and unverifiable set of conditions.

Google’s response to getting busted? Completely blasé, as you’ll see at the link. I’d sum up their response as, “It’s for your own good.” I’m really starting to hate that company.

I use Firefox and Safari as my main desktop browsers, depending on the job at hand. I keep Chrome installed for web applications which still depend on Flash. Normally I refuse to have Flash installed, as it’s a security nightmare and buggy enough to slow down your entire system. Flash has crashed more browser windows than I crashed sorority parties back in the day.

So while I won’t have Flash installed on my main browsers, it comes as an integrated part of Chrome. So on those few occasions when Flash is absolutely necessary, I’ll launch Chrome and use its built-in Flash. Then I get the hell out of Chrome, because I just don’t trust Google and I haven’t for a long time.

It seems my mistrust hasn’t been misplaced.

And as Flash continues its slow death, I’m thinking about removing Chrome altogether.

(H/T, Glenn.)

Αντίο, NATO

June 22nd, 2015 - 5:30 am

Turkey has been drifting away from the West for years. Hungary is practically begging to become a satellite of Moscow once more. Now it may be Greece’s turn:

With Greece now on the verge of bankruptcy, the US is also beginning to worry about the political fallout from a deeper crisis and the potential for Russia to gain increased influence over a Nato member.

As Washington tries to maintain a united western front in support of sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, a Greek default could provide Moscow an opportunity to sow new divisions among America’s European allies.

“You can easily see how geopolitically this would be a gift to Russia,” says Sebastian Mallaby at the Council on Foreign Relations. “You do not want Europe to have to deal with a Greece that is a member of Nato but which all of a sudden hates the west and is cosying up to Russia.”

Stalin couldn’t peel Greece away from the West, even with a guerrilla army of dedicated Greek communists. Putin may very well achieve Stalin’s goal, if you’ll excuse the expression, by default.