Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cruising the Web

The story about the cyberhacking of government employees keeps getting worse and worse. What timing to have this news on the eve of Xi's visit to the U.S.
The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday said hackers stole much more sensitive information from its servers than originally believed, disclosing millions more fingerprint records were stolen than previously estimated.

The office said hackers were able to steal the fingerprints of 5.6 million people, up from the 1.1 million estimate it offered more than a month ago. More than 20 million people lost their records as part of the breach, and OPM’s new estimate means that roughly one-quarter of all those affected lost fingerprint data, in addition to information about their health, financial history and families.

The fingerprint records were collected as part of background checks conducted since at least 2000 for some of the most sensitive government posts, including law enforcement, military, foreign service and judicial positions.

Security analysts have said the loss of fingerprint records could be a nightmare for some U.S. officials, particularly intelligence and military officers who are used to operating covertly and try to avoid leaving any trace of their actions.
Is it too cynical to suspect that OPM released this devastating news on the day of the Pope's arrival in hopes that the story would be buried?

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Donald Trump answers questions about his religion by asserting how religious he is. But he sure has a hard time expressing those religious beliefs. Check out this answer he gave to an interview on CBN about his thoughts on God.
Well, I say God is the ultimate. You know, you look at this. You look at this incr–here we are on the Pacific Ocean. How did I ever own this? I bought it fifteen years ago. I made one of the great deals they say ever, this land. I have no mortgage on it as you–I will certify and represent to you. And I was able to buy this and, you know, make a great deal. That’s what I want to do for this country. Make great deals. We have to. We have to bring it back, but God is the ultimate. I mean, God created this. And, you know, here’s the Pacific Ocean right behind us. So, uh, nobody, no thing, no there’s nothing like God.
Notice how he transitions so promptly from God to talking about how rich he is and what great deals he makes. Does that strike anyone as the natural expression of a true religious believer?

Taylor Millard at Hot Air asks a good question: "Why is it not okay for Obama to be thin-skinned but okay for Trump?" He provides several examples of the President getting very irritated in the face of any minor criticism.
Obama’s thin skin has prompted conservatives to derisively call him “President Stompy Foot!” and for good reason. But this sounds a lot like the current “front runner” for the GOP nomination Donald Trump. Trump is known for being particularly touchy about almost anyone criticizing him, including those who had praised him in the past.
He seems to stay up all night tweeting vitriol at anyone who criticizes him.
It wouldn’t be the first time Trump decided to attack someone who didn’t appear to like him. He suggested Megyn Kelly should take another vacation last night (24 hours after promoting his appearance on Fox and Friends), threatened to sue Club for Growth, and went after Rand Paul during last week’s debate pretty much unprovoked. Trump’s lashing out has Rich Lowry wondering why The Donald doesn’t just chillax.
It’s kind of sad to think of Trump sitting in his PJs and slippers at night with a warm glass of milk watching cable TV and feeling wounded by every jibe and slighting reference. But that’s evidently what the frontrunner for the Republican president nomination does.
Unfortunately, Rich he’s just taking a page out of Obama’s playbook. Throw a hissy fit over negative coverage, then retweet all the “BLARGY BLARG” outrage from supporters planning to boycott Fox....

To give Trump credit, he at least admits to being thin-skinned, but is that really the kind of leader Americans want? John McCain was asked about his temper during the 2008 race. Jennifer Rubin called Newt Gingirch a cry baby in 2012 and questioned whether his temperament was right for the Oval Office. Why can’t similar questions be raised of Trump? What happens if a President Trump meets Vladimir Putin and they don’t get along? Will Trump lash out on Twitter, then proceed to start implementing massive tariffs? Or will he just go nuclear? Is he going to start banning White House correspondents from the White House briefing room if they don’t do the kind of coverage he wants? If he does that, isn’t that breaking the First Amendment?

Maybe Trump really is hoping all the populist “anger and rage” will get him into the White House. But it just seems weird and unwise for “the base” to want their own version of Obama in the Oval Office. But maybe being thin-skinned, with a huge ego, a bombastic attitude, and a cult of personality is all it takes to win presidential elections these days. If that’s the case, then Odin help us all.
Josh Jordan envisions Trump's presidency.And if the tweets don't work, he'll threaten to sue critics or stick the FCC on them for daring to criticize him on TV. Just the temperament we want in a president. Rich Lowry said that Carly Fiorina “cut [Trump’s] balls off with the precision of a surgeon” and then tweeted that Fox News owes him an apology for using "such foul language on TV" and the FCC should fine him for saying "balls" on TV. And this is the guy whose big appeal is that he doesn't try to be all politically correct. Lowry ridicules Trump's thin skin.
How typical that Donald Trump wants to and thinks it's possible to censor political speech on cable TV. Just more proof that he's a true liberal pretending to be a conservative.

Sean Trende looks at the GOP field which was trumpeted as the deepest and most talented in decades. He counters the perception that it's just disintegrated.
The strength of the 2016 field lies in the fact that, although there are no Secretariats, there are an unusually high number of potentially derby-ready horses running.

Two relevant points follow from this. For starters, without a Secretariat, there is no one who can automatically squelch insurgent campaigns. To be more direct, no one can do this cycle what George H.W. Bush was able to do to Pat Robertson after Robertson finished ahead of Bush in Iowa. These insurgencies will linger, especially since Donald Trump, with years of communicating to average Americans through his television show, is stronger than many of the previous insurgents.

In addition, with everyone so tightly bunched, there is little incentive not to stick around, if a candidate can stomach carrying his own bags, a la McCain in 2007. On the one hand, yes, Chris Christie is stuck at two percent of the vote. On the other hand, he is six points out of third place. Why wouldn’t he stick around, at least through New Hampshire, especially after watching Carly Fiorina’s rise?

So top to bottom, this really does remain a strong Republican field – and one that is polling well in head-to-head matchups with Hillary Clinton. But without any overwhelmingly strong candidates, it really does remain anyone’s game.

I'm sure his Republican supporters don't care, but it is not only Hillary Clinton and other Democrats that Trump gave money to, but also Teddy Kennedy and all the lesser Kennedys. Now the Kennedys are surprised that he isn't a Democrat.
“I happen to know he gave not only to me but to other members of my family,” Kathleen Kennedy Townsend told The Daily Beast. A check of federal and state records confirms that a Donald J. Trump of New York gave a total of $3,000 to the Democrat Townsend in her failed gubernatorial bid in Maryland in 2002, plus $10,000 in donations to Senator Kennedy, Mark Kennedy Shriver, Joe Kennedy II, and Patrick Kennedy, who in 2005 is the most recent Kennedy recipient of Trump’s largesse. All of course are Democrats.

Billionaire businessmen famously hedge their bets, so Trump’s conservative supporters are likely to forgive him for giving to Democrats, even those with the high-profile Kennedy pedigree. The ones who are surprised are the Kennedys, who took Trump for a Democrat and are taken aback by some of his positions, particularly on immigration. “He has such charisma and presence and such ability,” says Townsend, who chairs the Democratic advocacy group American Bridge. “Why doesn’t he take such talents and build something instead of beating up on defenseless immigrants just trying to build a home for themselves?”

Townsend says she doesn’t know Trump personally, but other members of her family do, and they view his campaign as “out of character” with the man they thought they knew. “For anybody who knows him, he’s just playing,” she says. “If you look at the field, he’s a standout. I would hope he would use it to build something instead of tearing down immigrants.” Her message to Trump: “Use your skills; use your talents to lift people up.”

Trump’s affinity for the Kennedys is part practical, part celebrity worship. “He likes to be where the action is,” says a former Ted Kennedy staffer.
Ah, just what we need - a guy who is famous mostly for being famous kissing up to other famous celebrities whose fame comes solely from their last name.

With the news of how Scott Walker's campaign mismanaged his finances, the Rubio team is trumpeting how thrifty they are being.
“We’ve run such a lean campaign at times, taken knocks for it. But keeping control of the budget is such an important thing,” said Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for Rubio, the U.S. senator from Florida.

At an event hosted by Google and the National Review at Google’s Washington headquarters near Union Station, Sullivan boasted how every staffer has taken a pay cut to work for Rubio, how they sell bumper stickers and yard signs rather than giving them away, how Rubio flies commercial 95 percent of the time he travels (the other 5 percent is on a private jet) and how he, Sullivan, personally monitors every significant purchase.

“Every expense of over $500 in the entire campaign, I sign a piece of paper on. It is a giant pain in the ass,” he said, clearly pleased. Moments later, he said, “It’s working. It creates a culture and a mindset that’s very different.”

“It’s a state of mind. We’re all here for one person. It’s Marco. It’s not about us,” Sullivan said.
Maybe Rubio has learned something about thrift after his own personal financial woes.

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Joe Nocera contemplates both Trump and Fiorina's business records. Both attacked each other's records and Nocera says that they are both correct. Carly's leadership at HP was a failure no matter how she tries to spin it today. But Trump also did have four bankruptcies even though he tries to pretend interchangeably that he didn't or that this was totally normal.

Volkswagen's scandal is really just pulling back the curtain on how the EPA has regulated automobile emissions.
For years, automakers have been able to exploit lax testing systems in the U.S. and Europe. Regulators owe it to both car buyers and the environment to make these systems more rigorous.

As things work now in the U.S., carmakers test their own vehicles and send the results to the Environmental Protection Agency, whose engineers review them and, usually, apply a rubber stamp. The EPA allows manufacturers broad latitude in determining test conditions, an invitation to hanky-panky. The agency does some independent, random testing -- but on just 10 percent to 15 percent of new models. Only in rare cases does it test cars that have actually been driven off the lot.

The problems with this regime were obvious even before VW's shenanigans. In 2013, Consumer Reports found that 55 percent of hybrids and 28 percent of turbocharged cars fell short of their EPA fuel-efficiency ratings. Last year, the Justice Department reached a $350 million settlement with Hyundai and Kia for overstating gas mileage. Ford, Mercedes, Mini and other manufacturers have restated their official mileage ratings in the last three years, usually under threat of consumer lawsuits.

Europe, where automakers also test their own vehicles, has its own issues. Just before the VW scandal broke, a European environmental advocacy group released test results showing major discrepancies between lab and real-world emissions in cars made by BMW, Mercedes and Opel. The European Commission has announced that all passenger cars will be undergo "real world" emissions testing starting in 2017.
Hmmm. Sound familiar? If we couldn't trust Ford and VW to do their own testing, why should we trust Iran?

The WSJ explains why Hillary finally came out and announced her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline - not that anyone had been in any doubt as to her position.
Her reasoning is still worth noting. “I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is—a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change,” she told a community forum in Des Moines, Iowa. “And unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues.”

By “distraction” she probably means the pipeline is the kind of jobs vs. rich green donor issue that is difficult for a Democrat to navigate. The pipeline certainly wouldn’t be a distraction for the 2,000 or so construction and other workers it would employ, as well as the thousands of other indirect jobs it would spin off.

Mrs. Clinton’s belated Keystone candor continues her move to the left as she falls in the polls and Vermont Senator and avowed socialist Bernie Sanders gains. With Vice President Joe Biden looking like he may run, perhaps with the support of progressive heartthrob Elizabeth Warren, Mrs. Clinton wants to narrow his running room and funding base on the left.

Her move also highlights how government control over energy production in the name of climate change has become the main priority for the Democratic left. With health care increasingly an arm of the state, and higher education getting there as a new entitlement, limiting fossil fuels is the next great progressive frontier. If you want less North American energy production and higher electricity and transportation costs, Mrs. Clinton is saying that she’s your candidate.

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Well, there goes that lie about Planned Parenthood providing mammograms.
Hundreds of women called their local Planned Parenthood clinics Monday to schedule a mammogram, but none were able to successfully secure an appointment. That’s because the nation’s largest abortion provider doesn’t actually offer them.

The phone calls were part of “Schedule Your Mammogram Day,” an event organized by And Then There Were None, a pro-life organization, to raise awareness of Planned Parenthood’s deceptive claims on women’s health....

But in reality, there are 8,735 licensed mammography facilities in the United States, and Planned Parenthood operates none of them.

Jonah Goldberg defends Carly Fiorina's assertion during the debate about Planned Parenthood to combat the charge that no such video exists.
Most of the center’s videos involve hidden-camera conversations with current Planned Parenthood managers, as well as interviews with veterans of the abortion industry, discussing the selling of fetal body parts for research purposes. The video Fiorina probably had in mind included eyewitness descriptions accompanied by borrowed footage of a fetus dying in a metal bowl, its leg kicking, to illustrate the witness’s recollection of seeing precisely that in another case. That sort of juxtaposition might not fly on the nightly news, but it’s the sort of dramatic device used in documentaries all the time. It’s akin to a documentary maker interviewing a witness to Cecil the Lion getting shot, and using footage of another lion getting shot as an illustration. Fiorina’s critics want to claim that because she didn’t take into account these distinctions, she’s just making stuff up.

To this end they’ve become Jesuitical nitpickers, muddying the water to conceal the fact that late-term abortions offend the conscience when discussed or displayed with anything like journalistic accuracy. That’s probably why we get so little of it. Many of the media outlets that even bother to cover the videos have referred to the transferring of “fetal tissue,” not “organs” — the correct term for livers, hearts and brains. (“Tissue” is less suggestive of a human being than, say, “heart.”)

We’re also often informed that the videos weren’t merely “edited” but “highly edited.” Left out of such caveats is that the news reports passing along these descriptions come via highly edited newspapers, radio, and TV programs.

David Petraeus's testimony yesterday before Congress made the connection between our removal from involvement in the Middle East and the deadly results that have ensued and will continue.
In his first testimony before Congress since a personal scandal ended his government career four years ago, General Petraeus methodically deconstructed the “revolutionary upheaval that is unparalleled in modern history” across Iraq, Syria and Iran as traditional states ebb or collapse. The dangers multiply, he added, if the U.S. remains “ineffective or absent in the face of the most egregious violations of the basic principles of the international order” (his emphasis).

Featured nearby are excerpts of the General’s diagnosis of “inadequate” progress degrading ISIS in Iraq, as well as the U.S. abdication in the “geopolitical Chernobyl” that is Syria. He urged a stronger airstrike and special forces response to mitigate the civil war and refugee crisis—or else “the fallout from the meltdown of Syria threatens to be with us for decades, and the longer it is permitted to continue, the more severe the damage will be.”

These are the hard-won lessons of the civil-military surge that defeated al Qaeda in Iraq in 2007-08, and one of General Petraeus’s chief lieutenants in that effort is quitting in frustration: Former Marine four-star John Allen will end his year-long tour as the “special envoy” who tried to assemble a global coalition against ISIS.

General Allen had the credibility to prosecute a limited campaign against the would-be caliphate and an abiding moral obligation to the people under jihadist oppression. But he was micro-managed by the West Wing and National Security Council, which often overruled his requests for more resources and policy commitments, such as air-control teams on the battlefield to guide tactical bombing.

The larger problem at the top of the chain of command is that the Middle East’s crises threaten to undermine not merely regional stability but also U.S. interests world-wide. “The principal winners, thus far, have been the most ruthless, revolutionary and anti-American elements in the region,” as General Petraeus put it. They’ll continue to win until the U.S. changes strategy, or even articulates one.
The Washington Post agrees.
PRESIDENT OBAMA acknowledged the obvious this week: that to resolve the massive humanitarian emergency afflicting the Middle East and Europe, “we ultimately have to deal with the source of the problem, which is the ongoing crisis in Syria.” His administration then offered a remarkable illustration of why that hasn’t happened. A $500 million program launched last year to train moderate Syrian rebel forces, officials conceded, had been an abject failure. But, the White House contended, the president was not at fault because he had never believed in the strategy, anyway.....

At the root of what surely will be seen as the greatest failure of his presidency is Mr. Obama’s refusal to commit to a coherent plan for ending President Bashar al-Assad’s murderous assault on his own people. But this is not, as spokesman Josh Earnest contended, “something our critics will have to answer for.” Had Mr. Obama accepted the recommendation of his national security team in 2012 to arm and train Syrian opposition forces, or the many proposals to create safe zones where civilians could be protected from the regime’s barbaric barrel bomb attacks, much of the subsequent carnage, not to mention the flood of refugees now pouring into Europe, could have been prevented.

As it is, every consequence that Mr. Obama warned might come from U.S. intervention — including the rise of Islamic jihadists who now control much of Syria’s territory — has occurred in the absence of U.S. action. And the dangers are growing. Into the vacuum of American leadership has stepped Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, who has dispatched troops and equipment to Syria in an effort to force the world to accept his solution to the war, which is the creation of a new coalition to fight the Islamic State that includes the Assad government.

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Heather Wilhelm notes that all the attention on Donald Trump's shenanigans is hiding the disaster that has become the Democrats' nomination saga.
Trump distracts, meanwhile, from the slow-moving 100-car pileup quietly building on the Democratic side of the aisle. Hillary Clinton’s shady e-mail saga continues to unfold, with the FBI digging away as she continues to demonstrate that she might be the least likeable person ever to run for public office in America.

On Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” asked to describe “the real Hillary Clinton” in three words, she let loose her signature wild, unnatural, over-the-top cackle, then shouted like she’d suddenly lost her hearing: “I’m a real person!” In her puzzling next sentence, she compared herself to a movie star who gets photographed grocery shopping. Hillary freezes up and edges away when crying mothers ask questions at town halls; this week, when asked about Oprah as a candidate for the $10 bill, she joked about Oprah not being dead.

Then we have Bernie Sanders, the actual socialist with shockingly high poll numbers whose proposed programs would cost the United States around $18 trillion, according to a Wall Street Journal tally. Sanders may look and act like a cutesy mad scientist driving a rusty Volvo weighed down with peeling bumper stickers, but he’s gained serious support. He’s also won the devotion of over 100 celebrities, The Hill reports, including Will Ferrell, Danny DeVito, Steve Wozniak, Patch Adams, and—get ready—“all members of the band Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

You know you’re in bad shape when your potential savior is Joe “Eterna-Gaffe” Biden. While everyone waits for him to step in, the circus moves on—and Trump, like a giant, brass-framed, marble-sculpted Great Wall, hides the bulk of our nation’s left-wing ills. His shtick might finally be getting old; one can only Twitter-yell at Megyn Kelly, one hopes, so many times. One thing is certain: The left will sorely miss Trump if he ever rides off into the sunset. They can only hide their own crazies for so long.

David Frum revisits the history of how rising crime in the 1970s and 1980s that eventually led in the 1990s to the rise of Republicans across the country. The Democratic Party, under the leadership of New Democrats like Bill Clinton moved to show their strong stands on crime. Remember Bill Clinton returning during the campaign to sign the death warrant for Ricky Ray Rector. Then crime fell sharply between 1990 and 2010 and Democrats moved away from those strong positions. They are now strongly against the death penalty. Hillary has come out against mass incarceration. Bill de Blasio campaigned against stop-and-frisk. And now crime seems to be rising just as law enforcement has been relaxing. And this could become a political wedge issue among voters.
The crime resurgence has received comparatively little attention from national media. This may reflect the concentration of elite media in New York City—which has not (yet?) seen a reversal of the positive post-1990 trend. Or it may reveal the deep commitment of many in the media to the cause of curtailing police abuse. Whatever the reason, the disconnect between reported narrative—and so many Americans’ lived experiences—is opening a political gap similar to that of the late 1960s. Back then too, crime was rising. Back then, many also condemned the fear of crime as thinly concealed racial bigotry—only to be rebuffed again and again by voters who did not agree.

In the 2016 cycle, the Democratic Party and its presidential nominee may be even more vulnerable to the crime issue than they were in the 1960s.

The Democratic strategy for 2016 is whipsawed between two great political facts. The first is the party’s deep post-Obama dependence on African American votes. The second is the deepening divide between black Americans and all other Americans on issues of criminal justice.
And that strongly affects the position Democratic politicians must take on issues revolving around crime and justice.
A Democratic party so dependent on black votes is constrained to accept the de-incarceration, de-policing agenda of groups like #BlacksLivesMatter. But that brings us to the second profound political fact: the rejection of the de-incarceration, de-policing agenda by other groups, including other groups that aligned with Barack Obama and the Democrats in 2008.

A 2014 Los Angeles Times survey asked Californians whether local police were too aggressive and posed more of a threat than anything else: 42 percent of black voters said yes, as against 28 percent of Latinos, 21 percent of Asians, and 11 percent of whites. Only 12 percent of whites and 11 percent of Asians could recall a time in the past year when police had treated them unfairly as against 26 percent of blacks. Nationwide, over 80 percent of white millennials believe that crime remains a greater threat than police misconduct.

This is what Democratic leadership in Chicago has led to. This is what happens when politicians take the short-term route to political victory by giving union workers huge public pensions.
At Chicago’s City Hall, Mr. Emanuel proposed what he says are some $600 million in annual tax and fee increases, including $588 million in property tax increases phased in over four years. The Illinois Policy Institute says the real total in new property tax revenue over four years will be $1.768 billion in a fiscal 2016 budget of $9.3 billion.

All that cash will do little or nothing to improve city services. Mr. Emanuel says $543 million will fund pensions for firemen and police. The remaining $45 million by his calculation will go to cover capital improvements for public-school buildings.

Mr. Emanuel also proposed a potpourri of other new taxes on Tuesday, including $60 million on ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, charging city residents about $10 a month for garbage collection, a tax on e-cigarettes and $13 million in higher building permit fees.

Welcome to the city and state of Illinois that haven’t reformed pensions. Government unions refuse to compromise, arguing that higher taxes on the rich can pay the bill. But there aren’t enough rich to soak, so now Mr. Emanuel is whacking middle-class homeowners. Chicago still has $33 billion in unfunded commitments for pensions and retiree health care, so without reform he’ll have to keep whacking.

If crime rates continue to rise through 2016, identification as the “soft-on-crime” or “anti-cop” party may again haunt Democrats as it did a generation ago. Progressives may hope that they can hold together the Obama coalition with an embrace of social welfare, income redistribution, and new issues like universal pre-K. But those policies, too, potentially divide more than they unite.

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Oh, dear. WGN in Chicago chose a very unfortunate visual to illustrate their story about Yom Kippur. Doesn't anyone there have any knowledge of history and what that particular image represents?

This Yom Kippur is the 50th anniversary of the time Sandy Koufax refused to pitch in the first game of the World Series. This is a moment of character worth remembering.

Here is an interesting factoid.
Just a year after the word was added to the dictionary, the selfie is claiming more lives than shark attacks, according to a report by Condé Nast Traveler.
There have been dozens of deaths related to tourists taking selfies, according to Condé Nast research, compared with just eight confirmed shark-related deaths this year through August. And that’s just the widely reported cases involving tourism — there are likely far more non-tourist-specific cases, such as people taking selfies and Snapchat videos while behind the wheel of a car.