Wednesday's HOT MIC

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If you want a detailed look at how intense the non-wars were, this article from The Drive is a good place to start. So many bombs were dropped in the below-the-fold campaigns that "the Pentagon was reportedly digging into war reserves in Europe and Asia to make up for the shortfall regardless."

On Aug. 7, 2014, the United States kicks off air strikes against the brutal terrorists in Iraq, beginning attacks on its members in neighboring Syria the following month. But between August and November 2014, the Air Force saw between 11 and 19 percent of weapons either not have the intended effect or not detonate entirely, according to a briefing Air Force Major Brian Baker gave at the National Defense Industry Association’s Precision Strike Annual Review in March 2017. ...

The main reason for this was that the Air Force had initially shifted forces from Afghanistan, who had been primarily providing close air support and other counter-insurgency type missions, to the new fight in Iraq, he explained. By comparison, the situation in Iraq and Syria was “more similar to air interdiction – disguised as CAS [close air support].”

From troops in the open to enemies in caves.

Is Iran using deal money to pay for proxy wars as far afield as Europe?  The VOA says "an influx of cash that was the byproduct of the deal Iran struck with a group of world powers to curtail its nuclear program may not be changing the way Iran goes about wielding influence across the Middle East and beyond."

A top U.S. military official says rather than using any additional monies to invest more heavily in conventional forces, there are indications Tehran continues to focus on cultivating special operators to help lead and direct proxy forces.

“If anything, increased defense dollars in Iran are likely to go toward increasing that network, looking for ways to expand it,” U.S. Special Operation Forces Vice Commander Lieutenant General Thomas Trask told an audience in Washington late Tuesday.

“We’ve already seen evidence of them taking units and officers out of the conventional side that are working with the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) in Syria,” Trask added. “We’re going to stay focused on these proxies and the reach that Iran has well past Syria and Yemen but into Africa, into South America, into Europe as well.”

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin said at a White House press conference that the VA is "still in critical condition" and needs Congress to expand the program that allows vets to seek private health care options.

Washington Times:

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday that the agency is “still in critical condition” with patients waiting too long for services and a bureaucracy unable to fire poorly performing employees.

Mr. Shulkin, the only holdover from the Obama administration in President Trump’s Cabinet, urged Congress to give the agency more power to discipline employees and expand the Veterans Choice program that allows vets to get treatment from private-sector doctors and hospitals.

Current rules prevent the VA from suspending or firing employees in a timely manner, including a recent case where it took more than a month to fire a psychiatrist caught watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a veteran.

“Our accountability process are clearly broken,” said Mr. Shulkin, a physician.

He said that despite limitation in the law, the VA has moved to purge executives and others for poor performance and mismanagement.

The agency recently fired the medical director and other executives in the D.C. facility and the medical director and three other executive in the Shreveport, Louisiana, facility.

What's needed, of course, is a change in culture. The VA has tolerated and even rewarded employees for incompetence, mismanagement, and other transgressions that would have them packing their bags at any private business.

But ever since the scandal of falsified wait times at the Phoenix VA facility came to light, there has been a progression of VA secretaries who promised to change things and nothing has happened. I don't know if Shulkin is the answer. My feeling is the VA needs someone to kick ass and take names - to put the fear of God into managers and employees. It might result in a lawsuit by employees against the government because their boss is being mean to them. But then, the lesson it would teach VA employees might be invaluable.

Oh-oh!

The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas on Wednesday, in a sign that its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is ramping up in scope and intensity, according to people familiar with the matter.

The committee has subpoenaed the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency for information about what is called “unmasking.” Republicans on the committee have been pushing for a thorough investigation of how the names of Trump campaign officials became exposed in classified intelligence reports based off intelligence community intercepts.

Good for them. One of the main goals of the "Russians hacked our election" meme was to obscure the very real crimes of the Intelligence Community and the Obama administration in violating the law and, in effect, "wiretapping" innocent Americans in the name of national security.

 

As I just asked Byron York and the Washington Post on Twitter: in what meaningful sense is Kathy Griffin (whoever she is) an "artist?

 

Here's an except from Alyssa Rosenberg's piece in the WaPo:

Images like these are exceptionally provocative, but they’re not artistically out of bounds, and they can even be powerful if the artist manages to use them in service of a specific and clearly articulated point. Griffin isn’t the first artist to fail to hit that mark in the Trump administration, and she likely won’t be the last.

Griffin initially said that the photo shoot was meant to reference Trump’s comments about former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly that “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” The implication of Trump’s comments was clear: Kelly’s tough questions for him during a Republican primary debate must have been the result of some menstruation-induced emotional imbalance.

But an image of a bloody, beheaded Trump is a poor way to comment on this particular incident in Trump’s sexist oeuvre.

If the photo shoot was supposed to suggest that Trump is as volatile as he suggested Kelly was and that his volatility isn’t confined to a single, hormonal phase of the month, a decapitated head doesn’t exactly get that across. It’s an overly literal image: There is blood everywhere, but my understanding is that’s what happens when someone’s head gets cut off. Introducing violence into the equation actually takes away from the idea that Trump is as erratic and hypersensitive as a woman on the verge of her period. And in any case, suggesting that leans into a misogynist idea, rather than blowing it up. Comparing a man who degrades women to a woman might make him feel bad, but it still does so by endorsing his ideas.

What? Fair warning: Snoop Dogg also makes an appearance. The kicker:

But as protest art, incidents such as these ought to give the Trump administration a rare glimmer of hope. If artists can’t get beyond reflexive images of violence against the president, especially ones that undermine their arguments, then art won’t be much of a weapon against this presidency.

As Sam Goldwyn (or somebody) famously said: "if you want to send a message, use Western Union." Politicized art is no art at all; just ask all those Soviet composers and authors you never heard of.

 

Hidden message for the Russians.

Hillary Clinton joked that Trump's typo-turned-social-media-sensation "covfefe" is a "hidden message to the Russians." From NTK Network:

Hillary Clinton weighed in on what she thinks the meaning is behind President Trump’s Wednesday morning “covfefe” tweet, claiming she believes it was a hidden message for the Russians. Clinton made the joke during the Code Conference in Ranchos Palos Verdes, California on Wednesday.

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” President Trump tweeted out at 12:06 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Clinton weighed in saying she, “thought it was a hidden message to the Russians.”

Yes, it was a joke. You can watch the full video here.

Clinton's joke is revealing, however. Perhaps the Left is starting to recognize just how far-fetched their Red Scare has become. When Hillary Clinton can make light of the ordeal by joking about a typo being a secret message to the Russians, maybe some liberals will start to ease off the paranoia.

I know, that's way too optimistic. But one can dream.

This is hilarious: a map of the most misspelled words in each state.

Promises, promises.

Elon Musk: If President Trump Quits Paris Agreement, I’ll Quit White House Advisory Councils.

When his businesses stop accepting taxpayer subsides, then you'll know he's serious.

Former Jeopardy winner, children's book author and noted jerk on Twitter makes "joke" about Barron Trump's reaction to Kathy Griffin's sick photo stunt.

And keeps digging.

Did I mention that this man writes books for kids called "Junior Genius Guides"?

The New York Times is eliminating its Public Editor position, along with dozens of other jobs in a cost cutting effort to keep the Times viable.

The Hill:

The New York Times is eliminating its public editor position, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. announced in an internal memo Wednesday.

The position will end Friday when current public editor Liz Spayd leaves the paper. Huffington Post first reported the public editor elimination.

The public editor position was created in the wake of 2003 Jayson Blair fabrication scandal to act as an internal, independent watchdog on the Times, as well as an outlet for readers' concerns.

Public editors wrote regular columns critiquing the Times in the paper's op-ed section. But Spayd had been regularly criticized herself since taking over the position in 2016. After Spayd criticized the Times's sports coverage, the sports section took to its official Twitter account to slam her.

In his memo announcing the end of the public editor column, Sulzberger pointed to expanded article commenting and the wide availability of outside media criticism as reasons the Times's oversight duties have "outgrown" the public editor position.

"There is nothing more important to our mission, or our business, than strengthening our connection with our readers. A relationship that fundamental cannot be outsourced to a single intermediary," Sulzberger wrote.

"The responsibility of the public editor — to serve as the reader’s representative — has outgrown that one office. Our business requires that we must all seek to hold ourselves accountable to our readers. When our audience has questions or concerns, whether about current events or our coverage decisions, we must answer them ourselves," the memo continues.

To that end, we have decided to eliminate the position of the public editor, while introducing several new reader-focused efforts."

The Times says it will depend on an expanded commenting platform in the public editor's place.

Spayd and her predecessor, Margaret Sullivan, may not have done a very good job, but at least there was someone at the paper who listened to and acknowledged complaints from conservatives. Now, we must rely on "an expanded commenting platform" (snort).

But did the Public Editor position actually change the biased, slanted, partisan coverage offered by the New York Times? Of course not. So in that respect, it hardly matters that Ms. Spayd is out of a job and that the Times doesn't care about how its coverage is perceived by its readers.

To me, it's just one more indication that probably within my lifetime, traditional newspapers will disappear.