Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cruising the Web

The WSJ explains the weaknesses in the request for an authorization of military force against ISIS.
The language would so restrict the President’s war-fighting discretion that it deserves to be called the President Gulliver resolution. Tie me down, Congress, please. Instead of inviting broad political support for defeating ISIS, the language would codify the President’s war-fighting ambivalence.

The draft is especially notable for its disconnect between military ends and means. The preamble contains a long and accurate parade of horribles about the “grave threat” posed by Islamic State. These include “horrific acts of violence” against women and girls, the murder “of innocent United States citizens,” and its intention “to conduct terrorist attacks internationally, including against the United States, its citizens, and interests.” Really bad guys.

But then the resolution proceeds to inform these killers about the limits of what the U.S. will do to defeat them. Mr. Obama wants Congress to put into statutory language that it “does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations”; and that “the use of military force shall terminate” in three years “unless reauthorized.”

The time limit alone is reason to oppose the resolution, as we’ve seen in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s deadline on U.S. operations there has given the Taliban confidence to wait us out. A time limit also tells our coalition allies that the U.S. commitment against ISIS could end no matter the state of war at the time. Mr. Obama has said himself that degrading and destroying ISIS may take years, yet his draft would force the next President to seek a new authorization in 2018.

As for ground troops, Mr. Obama is asking Congress to endorse a military strategy that his own generals have said may be deficient. In a letter to Congress elaborating on the draft authorization, Mr. Obama says his draft “would provide the flexibility to conduct ground operations” in “limited circumstances, such as rescue operations” or “the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership.” He says the resolution would only bar “long-term, large-scale ground combat operations” as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But then get ready to parse the meaning of “enduring” and “offensive” ground operations. Is enduring more or less than a year? Or a month? We’d guess that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders takes the under.

Don't blame Staples, blame Obamacare.
Demand curves slope downward. Which is to say, if you raise the price of something, people will be inclined to consume less of it. Those with a choice in the matter – say, a large office-supply chain with a mess of low-skilled part-time employees who are basically as interchangeable as toner cartridges in the greater scheme of office-supply things – will in fact consume less. If the thing that is getting more expensive is manpower, it will cut employees’ hours, circulate a lot of those dopey “do more with less” memos, and look for labor substitutes, like the banks did with those ATMs that haunt President Obama’s imagination....

With Obamacare, he created powerful economic incentives for companies such as Staples to keep part-timers under 25 hours – and to hire part-timers rather than full-time employees – and now he complains when companies respond to those incentives. Naturally, he cites executive pay: “I haven’t looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is,” he says, but affirms that he is confident that they can afford to run their business the way he wants them to run it.

Let’s apply some English-major math to that question. Ronald Sargent made just under $11 million a year at last report. Staples has about 83,000 employees. That means that if it cut its CEO’s pay to $0.00/annum, Staples would be able to fund about $2.61/week in additional wages or health-care benefits for each of its employees, or schedule them for an additional 22 minutes of work at the federal minimum wage. Which is to say, CEO pay represents a trivial sum — but the expenses imposed by Obamacare are not trivial.

On this issue, President Obama brings all of the honesty and integrity he applied to the question of gay marriage: He’s lying, and he knows he’s lying, and his apologists in the media know he’s lying, and Democratic time-servers and yes-men across the fruited plains know he’s lying. This isn’t about CEO pay – it’s about the economic incentives created by the health-insurance program that in the vernacular bears the president’s name. The president, with the support of congressional Democrats, effectively put a tax on full-time jobs, and on part-time jobs offering 30 hours per week or more. So we’re going to have fewer full-time jobs, and fewer part-time jobs offering 30 hours per week or more. This wasn’t cooked up in the boardroom at Staples – it was cooked up on Capitol Hill, with the eager blessing of Barack Obama. It’s not like they don’t know that there are economic tradeoffs necessitated by Obamacare — they know it, and they also know that, politically speaking, their supporters are cheap dates.

And yes, health care via one of the healthcare exchanges, even the least expensive, will still cost the customer more in out-of-pocket expenses than employer-provided insurance.

The federal health care exchanges are still not secure. If Sony and Anthem can be hacked, imagine what could be done with the health care exchanges. And they're not even bound to inform customers if hackers have gotten their sensitive information.
An article in The Hill reports that Social Security numbers alone are worth ten to twenty times as much as a credit card number. It says, “unlike credit cards, Social Security numbers are never reissued.”

At least Anthem notified its members that the breach had taken place, allowing them to take defensive actions to ward off violations. reports that the federal health exchange is under no obligation to notify users of any similar intrusions. The article reports that consumer advocates requested at least notification and investigation when a breach is detected, but the Department of Health and Human Services responded, “We do not plan to include specific notification procedures in the final rule. Consistent with this approach, we do not include specific policies for investigation of data breaches in this final rule.”

Wow! This is like hanging a “Breach Me” banner on the website. What could go wrong?
And these exchanges will be sharing this information all over the place. What could go wrong?

Look who's donating to Hillary: some of the most disliked companies in America plus a bunch of Wall Street bankers. But not the Koch, OK.

Gee, Hillary 2016 is looking a lot like Hillary 2008.

Well, of course. David Axelrod explains away Obama lying misleading the public about his views on gay marriage is that's just the ways leaders work. Why not lie when there are votes to be won?

Charles C. W. Cooke explains the real revelation behind Axelrod's admission.
And yet, by acknowledging that President Obama is little more than a run-of-the-mill politico, his apologists will at last bring down the curtain on his sordid little act. We are talking about a man, remember, who ran for office pretending that he was different. With Obama in the White House, it was avowed, there would be no partisanship or dishonesty or business as usual. Rather, there would be transparency and honesty and light and togetherness. Where there was hatred, Obama would sow love. Where there was injury, Obama would bestow his pardon. Where there was error, Obama would bring truth. Americans were not choosing a new president, the propaganda held, they were choosing a new era.

As we now know, it didn’t happen. Instead, the new president lied. Instead, he pretended that politics is optional and that he was above the fray, and he used the insidious cover of false pragmatism to advance his boilerplate agenda. The dissonance was breathtaking. One moment, he and his advisers were concluding that he would need to deceive the public about his stance on gay marriage if he wished to retain the support of the religious and of minorities; the next, he was out on stage, furrowing his brow, and looking plaintively to the heavens. Obama, David Axelrod tells us, believes that he is a poor “bulls****er.” The record shows another story.

In fact, to look back over the past few years is to conclude that Barack Obama is a bulls***er par excellence. Who among us will forget the sincere look that came into in his eyes as he told Rick Warren that, “as a Christian,” he believed that “marriage is the union between a man and a woman”? Who can disremember that talk of the “sacred union,” or his asseveration that “God’s in the mix.” “What I believe in my faith,” Obama suggested in 2004, “is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting.” This, as Axelrod confirms, was plainly false. In truth, Obama believed nothing of the sort, but had instead “grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage.”

Not very good at bulls****ing?

There is little to be gained by attempting to subcategorize different forms of dishonesty; nor is there a great deal to be achieved by playing Clintonian games with the question of what the word “lie” really means. And yet we can learn a great deal about a person by examining what he chooses to lie about. For Obama — the great progressive hero — the evidence here is damning. Consider, if you will, that we have just learned that the nation’s first black president put his own political ambitions before the aims of an endeavor that his champions insist is akin to the civil-rights movement. Consider, too, that we have learned that he did so repeatedly, calculatedly, and cynically. Worse of all, perhaps, consider that he appears to have done so by pretending that he was bound by deeply held religious beliefs that, in reality, he does not appear to have held.

“Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church,” Axelrod writes.

And so, hoping to keep their votes, Obama bit his lip and put his hand on his heart and played up the God talk to the little people who had flocked around his campaign. And then, wholly aware of what he had done, he went home for the day, and lamented quietly that he was a pathetic, opportunistic phony, who lacked the political courage to go as far in supporting gay rights as Vice President Cheney had gone.

There are no angels in politics — whatever they might tell you in November.

Larry Salzman and Robert Everett Johnson explain in Politico how perniciously the IRS acts in cases of civil forfeiture. There is something horrifying when our government resembles a Kafka novel.
hen Carole Hinders answered a knock at the front door of her home in August 2013, she was confronted by two IRS agents. They told her they had just cleaned out the entire bank account of the restaurant, Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Food, that Hinders had owned and operated in tiny Spirit Lake, Iowa, for the past 30 years. The IRS seized more than $32,000.
While Hinders stood in shock, the IRS agents told her that her cash deposits looked suspicious. Based on that suspicion alone, the IRS had authority to seize her entire bank account using a federal legal procedure known as civil forfeiture.

Hinders protested that she’d get a lawyer and fight the seizure. She still remembers the disdainful response of one of the agents: “Well, you can try.”

The government never alleged that Hinders’ money was the proceeds of illegal activity. In fact, Hinders has never been in trouble with the law in her life. The IRS took her money on the basis of an obscure banking law that requires banks to report all cash transactions of more than $10,000 to the U.S. Treasury Department. This banking law makes it illegal for account holders to “structure” deposits of less than $10,000 to avoid the filing of a report.

Even a casual investigation by the agents would have revealed that Hinders’ restaurant only accepted cash, which necessitated frequent cash deposits. But, seeing a pattern of deposits under $10,000, the IRS surmised that Hinders was evading the reporting law and grabbed her money on the principle of “seize first, ask questions later.”

Hinders is far from alone. Documents obtained using the Freedom of Information Act indicate that from 2005 to 2012, the IRS seized more than $242 million for suspected structuring violations in more than 2,500 cases. At least a third of those cases, like Hinders’, arose from nothing more than a series of cash transactions under $10,000, with no other criminal activity even alleged by the government.

The cavalier response by the IRS agent in Hinders’ case reflects a disturbing reality: The IRS and other federal agencies can use civil forfeiture to seize and keep a person’s cars, cash and other property without ever charging that person with a crime. To get property back, the person would have to prove his or her innocence in expensive and protracted litigation against the U.S. Department of Justice. The process can take years to complete.

Many business owners cannot go for months or years without access to their working capital, so they agree to coercive settlement terms proposed by the government.
This is an area where the new Congress should be able to act and stop the IRS from such actions.

So if NBC has long known that Brian Williams has been lying embellishing the truth and kept him on the air until his lies embellishments became public, why should anyone trust anything coming from NBC News ever again? Apparently, there was a debate among the NBC bigwigs about whether or not to fire Williams, but then they found out that there were more lies exaggerations and so decided to just suspend him instead. That makes sense. Maybe Williams can get David Axelrod to go on TV and say that is just what good leaders do.

Wired looks at the vaccine rates of children attending day care centers associated with Silicon Valley companies and finds that half of them have a "level of measles vaccination too low to provide herd immunity."

The Washington Post publishes a map of where the Holocaust is taught around the world. It's about what you might suspect.

Dominique Strauss Kahn - still despicable.