Monday, December 29, 2014

Cruising the Web

Business Insider has an interview with a defector from North Korea about the hacking program that they've been operating for years as they intensively train "cyber warriors" to be able to hack into the networks of all sorts of countries. It's really scary about how intensively they've been training programmers in hacking and creating viruses.

For all the brouhaha that the Democrats have created about the Koch brothers, AP reports that the Democrats are really the party raking in the cash from the richest donors.
For as often as Democrats attack the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch for their heavy spending on politics, it's actually the liberal-minded who shelled out the most cash in the just completed midterm elections.

At least, that is, among those groups that must disclose what they raise and spend.

Among the top 100 individual donors to political groups, more than half gave primarily to Democrats or their allies. Among groups that funneled more than $100,000 to allies, the top of the list tilted overwhelmingly toward Democrats — a group favoring the GOP doesn't appear on the list until No. 14.

The two biggest super PACs of 2014? Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC — both backing Democrats.

In all, the top 10 individual donors to outside groups injected almost $128 million into this year's elections. Democratic-leaning groups collected $91 million of it.

Among the 183 groups that wrote checks of $100,000 or more to another group, Democrats had a 3-to-1 cash advantage. The biggest player was the National Education Association, at $22 million. Not a single Republican-leaning group cracked the top 10 list of those transferring money to others.

Overall, for the campaign season that just ended, donors who gave more than $1 million sent roughly 60 cents of every dollar to liberal groups. Among the 10 biggest donors, Democrats outspent Republicans by an almost 3-to-1 margin.
These sums don't include the money given to super PACs that don't have to report their donations, but does anyone doubt that conservatives are the only ones taking advantage of those laws?

Joel Kotkin writes at The Daily Beast about how the Democratic Party has gotten away from the party's roots and become too elitist. He calls for them to return to become Truman Democrats again in order to appeal more to the middle class.

Wow. Rush Limbaugh really jumped the shark with his jumping into the Sony hacked email story by pontificating that Idris Elba can't play James Bond because the character written by Ian Fleming is supposed to be Scottish. Yeah, like any of the actors except Sean Connery who have played Bond have been Scottish. And M used to be a man, but somehow Judi Dench got to play the role. The examples that Rush gave in his monologue of counter examples were George Clooney playing Obama or Kelsey Grammer playing Mandela or Scarlett Johansson playing Condoleezza Rice. But those are real people and, their race is part of their story. Bond is, ya know, fictional and his race is not essential to his character. He's been played by British actors and Elba is British so clearly there could be a British Bond.

But most importantly, Elba is an excellent actor and I bet he'd make an excellent Bond. They wouldn't have to address race at all just as they don't address why James Bond keeps getting played by different actors every few movies. My husband and I have been watching The Wire this vacation and every time that Idris steals every scene he's in. And he's responded with class and humor to the rumors of his playing Bond. When I first read the speculation that Elba would play the next Bond, I was thrilled. That would be a bond I'd be interested in watching. Limbaugh doesn't know what he's talking about.

Obama's efforts to reset American foreign policy have not achieved any successes. And he's certainly demonstrated how little he understands the history that he's rejecting.

Stories like this are what is going to hurt Chris Christie the most if he decides to run. If he can't brag about his governorship of New Jersey, what does he have except some dated youtube videos?
Less than two months after a report was released that declared New Jersey has the worst tax climate for business owners, the state received more unwanted recognition.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council recently released rankings of how friendly each state is for the organization's constituents.

Not surprisingly, the Garden State fared poorly. In fact, only California finished with a worse score in the rankings the SBE&C compiled.
I realize that a lot of the reasons for the state's problems belong to the previous leadership and the Democratic state legislature. But a candidate needs achievements to run on and Christie just doesn't have many of those.

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GQ did an article on the "Craziest Politicians of 2014." Unsurprisingly for GQ, they had a lot of trouble of finding "crazy" Democrats and 17 of their 20 examples were Republicans. Kyle Smith at the NY Post helps them out by suggesting some Democrats they might have overlooked.

Glenn Reynolds refutes the idea that what makes a Congress successful is the number of laws they pass.
A recent article in The Hill described the now-adjourned 113th Congress as "historically unproductive," observing that "few Congresses have sent less bills to a president in 20 years."

This, I'm afraid, reflects a common journalistic belief that when legislatures are passing legislation, they're producing something valuable. But while it's true that when oil wells produce oil, or gold mines gold or automobile factories cars, those entities are being productive, it's not so clear that every time a legislature passes a law it's producing something of value. In fact, there's good reason to suspect just the opposite.

When Congress passes a law, it is pretty much always either limiting someone's freedom or spending taxpayer money. Sometimes those are good things: The civil rights laws of the 1960s took away the freedom to engage in racial discrimination, and the spending of World War II and the Cold War defeated the evils of Nazism and Communism.

But most congressional action doesn't rise to that level, and much of it — things like pork-barrel projects or bills that protect special interests from competition — is a net loss. Even worse, once legislation is enacted, it becomes very difficult to repeal. That's too bad. Bills that are passed generally limit freedom or spend money; repealing laws generally expands freedom and saves money.

What's more, the accumulation of laws creates a drag on both prosperity and freedom. Jonathan Rauch calls the problem Demosclerosis, in his excellent book of the same name: Special interest laws build up kind of like arterial plaque, eventually choking off freedom. Economist Mancur Olson calls the same phenomenon "the web of special interests." In his book The Rise and Decline of Nations, he suggests that this web will inevitably lead to economic and political stagnation, and can usually only be broken by some sort of catastrophic event, like a lost war or a revolution. Or we could just repeal some of the laws.

Jonah Goldberg has some good advice for the GOP's 2016 candidates: show, don't tell. Don't pretend to be a pundit.
I've heard nearly every 2016 wannabe tell conservative audiences about the importance of optimism. Jeb Bush is particularly high on it these days. He says the nominee must be "joyful." I agree. But stop telling me about the need for joyfulness and start showing me some frickin' joy!

One of the main reasons Republicans read their stage direction, I think, is that they see politics as a game. And, as a game, they don't take it as seriously as those who see politics as an obsession or even a religion.

This speaks well of them as human beings because it suggests that, unlike a lot of liberal Democrats, they don't think politics -- and by extension government -- is everything and all-important. That's a trait I want in a president. But it's a real problem in a presidential candidate.

So please, more show, less tell.

Hillary Clinton is working to make sure she doesn't lose support from the left side of her party. She has a delicate path to tread to keep them on her side without tying herself too closely to President Obama when so many in her party still are crazy about the guy. And she has to make sure that she doesn't move too far to the left in ways that would come back to bite her in the general election. Republicans face the same problem in their own primaries. The days when candidates could appeal to their base in the primaries and then move to the center for the general election without anyone noticing are long gone.

Barack Obama and his administration really have provided some true examples of Orwellian language. They seem to inhabit an alternate reality and have perfect confidence that, if they just assert something, the world will accept it as so.

The press is examining Jeb Bush's finances and the investments he's made and businesses he's been involved in since he left office. That's fine and certainly of interest. I just hope they show the same dogged curiosity about the Clinton finances.