Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cruising the Web

This President becomes more and more annoying with his desperate attempts to blame anyone else besides himself for his low poll numbers on national security. Now in an NPR interview, he's blaming the media for hyping the public's fears.
Well, I think what's fair is that post-Paris you had a saturation of news about the horrible attack there. And ISIL combines viciousness with very savvy media operations. And as a consequence, if you've been watching television for the last month, all you have been seeing, all you have been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you....

INSKEEP: You referred to ISIL's sophisticated media operation and also referred to what Americans are seeing in the American media. Are you suggesting that the media are being played in a sense here?

OBAMA: Look, the media is pursuing ratings. This is a legitimate news story. I think that, you know, it's up to the media to make a determination about how they want to cover things. There is no doubt that the actions of ISIL are designed to amplify their power and the threat that they pose. That helps them recruit, that adds in the twisted thoughts of some young person that they might want to have carry out an action, that somehow they're part of a larger movement. And so I think that the American people absorb that, understandably are of concern.

Now on our side, I think that there is a legitimate criticism of what I've been doing and our administration has been doing in the sense that we haven't, you know, on a regular basis I think described all the work that we've been doing for more than a year now to defeat ISIL.
That is Obama's standard go-to excuse when the public doesn't fully appreciate how wonderful he's been. He blames himself for not doing a good enough job communicating to us rubes how truly successful he's been. So that's why the public was deceived about Obamacare or the stimulus or now how he's been doing fighting ISIS. Ed Morrissey has a spit-take reaction.
Gee, I don’t recall Obama complaining about media ratings when they covered his ridiculous claim that “al-Qaeda is on the run” back in 2012. He didn’t complain about ratings when he and Joe Biden claimed that the war in Iraq was over and that they had won it. Obama didn’t seem to mind the media coverage of his dismissal of ISIS in January 2014 as the “jayvees.” Suddenly, now that his administration has to answer for their deliberate ignorance while a regional threat metastasized, now it’s the media’s fault.

Beats acknowledging his own fault, I suppose, but it’s not going to fool anyone.

Is it possible to overhype a threat? Sure, and the media has a long and inglorious track record over many decades in doing so. (Remember alar?) However, ISIS isn’t just some small network of malcontents like the Baader-Meinhof gang — which managed to do a lot of damage despite their size — but a terrorist army that has erased international borders, has committed a series of genocides, and has just transitioned into international terrorism. They are seizing control of the failed state of Libya that Obama and Hillary Clinton created, and now represent a serious threat to Europe. They are infiltrating a stream of refugees that Obama wants the US to welcome, and meanwhile we’re failing at vetting individuals to keep violent jihadis out under Obama’s leadership.

If you’re not worried about those issues and aren’t holding a seven-year administration accountable for them, you’d have to be an idiot. And if the media didn’t report those issues, they’d be the “jayvee team.”

The problem in this case isn’t the media. It’s the man who wants to keep shifting responsibility from himself to any entity handy on his way to vacation.
In the same interview, he gives his explanation for why the Democrats lost the control of Congress in 2010. Apparently, it didn't have anything to do with outrage over Obamacare and the failed stimulus.
the truth of the matter is is that where Democrats have had problems is we had the misfortune of doing poorly in 2010 when there was redistricting, and in many of the successive elections Democrats have actually voted at higher rates. This was true in 2012, for example. There were more Democratic ballots cast for Democratic candidates than there were Republicans, but because of where Democrats live and where Republicans live, and because of the nature of the Senate, we ended up having problems.
Jim Geraghty is not impressed with Obama's take on his party's electoral losses.
The misfortune of doing poorly in 2010 . . .” as if the party tripped over a shoelace, or the weather was bad. He cites 2012 to argue that it was mostly redistricting that is holding back the Democrats, an assertion that has been refuted. (If you use the previous lines, the GOP still holds the House that year.) Democrats during Obama’s presidency lost eleven governorships, 13 U.S. Senate seats, 69 House seats, and 913 state legislative seats and 30 state legislative chambers. He’s still incapable of acknowledging that he’s taken steps that have made his party less popular in many states and sections of the country.
Geraghty also criticizes Obama for his diagnosis of why people have been attracted to Trump because they are feeling insecure about the economy and their own jobs.
Obama’s largely correct, but what’s fascinating is that Obama seems to see this as more random “misfortune” -- i.e, he doesn’t seem to see anything he could or should have done about it, or do about it now.

Mr. President, you’ve been in the Oval Office for seven years now! Doesn’t it bother you that after all this time on your watch, Americans are so full of anger, frustration, and fear? Doesn’t the fact that people are so receptive to Trump suggest that after all this time, your policies haven’t alleviated their problems and may in fact have exacerbated them?

When Obama feels like it, he’ll brag about the economy -- “This is progress! Step by step, America is moving forward! Middle class economics works!” -- and then a little while later, he’ll offhandedly admit wages have “flat-lined.”(Remember, Hillary said she would give Obama an ‘A’ on the economy.)

The progressive Left used to claim it was acting on behalf of working people, those blue-collar men. Now it is primarily a cultural party that evaluates those working-class men by the color of their skin or whether they’re members of a union. Under Obama, the Democratic party has become focused on the far-off threat of climate change, much more openly enthusiastic about an Australian-style national mandatory gun confiscation . . . it’s attuned to the concerns of activists angry at the police, college students angry that they have to pay back loans, angry at anybody who drives an SUV (except their own lawmakers) and anybody who has a private jet, except self-proclaimed environmentalist celebrities . . .
So is it any wonder that those voters who are worried about the economy don't see the Democrats as the answer to what ails them?

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Probably this is just another worry that the media is over-hyping instead of concentrating on Obama's wonderfulness.
Security researcher Brian Wallace was on the trail of hackers who had snatched a California university's housing files when he stumbled into a larger nightmare: Cyberattackers had opened a pathway into the networks running the United States power grid.

Digital clues pointed to Iranian hackers. And Wallace found that they had already taken passwords, as well as engineering drawings of dozens of power plants, at least one with the title "Mission Critical." The drawings were so detailed that experts say skilled attackers could have used them, along with other tools and malicious code, to knock out electricity flowing to millions of homes.

Wallace was astonished. But this breach, The Associated Press has found, was not unique.

About a dozen times in the last decade, sophisticated foreign hackers have gained enough remote access to control the operations networks that keep the lights on, according to top experts who spoke only on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.
Yup, those swell Iranians whom Obama trusts more than he trusts the U.S. Congress.

And Trump's buddy Putin is also in on the act.
In 2012 and 2013, in well-publicized attacks, Russian hackers successfully sent and received encrypted commands to U.S. public utilities and power generators; some private firms concluded this was an effort to position interlopers to act in the event of a political crisis. And the Department of Homeland Security announced about a year ago that a separate hacking campaign, believed by some private firms to have Russian origins, had injected software with malware that allowed the attackers to spy on U.S. energy companies....

The hackers have gained access to an aging, outdated power system. Many of the substations and equipment that move power across the U.S. are decrepit and were never built with network security in mind; hooking the plants up to the Internet over the last decade has given hackers new backdoors in. Distant wind farms, home solar panels, smart meters and other networked devices must be remotely monitored and controlled, which opens up the broader system to fresh points of attack.

Hundreds of contractors sell software and equipment to energy companies, and attackers have successfully used those outside companies as a way to get inside networks tied to the grid.
But DHS is on the case, so we shouldn't worry, right? And the same government that couldn't stop the hack of the Office of Personnel Management and all sorts of private companies in the past few years will try to assure us that they can handle this sort of cyber threat. So just ignore the attempts by cable news to scare us.

As Ted Cruz's poll numbers rise, he's going beyond flattering Donald Trump and now, as the NYT writes, he's starting to imitate him.
In ways cosmetic and substantive, Mr. Cruz has in recent days seemed to more closely resemble the man he has been chasing — or, more precisely, quietly drafting behind — for months.

Perhaps most notably, Mr. Cruz has sharpened his already uncompromising language, eager to retain his own hold on popular anger against the political class, and to demonstrate conservative purity amid attacks from Senator Marco Rubio over immigration and national security policies.

He has coined a new phrase, “undocumented Democrats,” to describe those in the country illegally, and beefed up sections of his stump speech focused on immigration. He expressed amusement that Mr. Rubio had at last described his views on immigration “not only on Spanish-language television but on English-language television,” echoing some far-right commentators who have suggested that Mr. Rubio is more willing to present himself as a pragmatist on the issue when speaking Spanish.

And in a turn that called to mind, for some, Gov. George Wallace’s famous 1963 refrain in praise of segregation during the civil rights movement, Mr. Cruz pledged to oppose legal status for undocumented immigrants “today, tomorrow, forever.”
I think the comparison to George Wallace on segregation is uncalled for. A little editorial comment, perhaps?

Cruz's campaign just seems cannier than the others.
Mr. Cruz, unlike Mr. Trump and most other candidates, has installed formidable ground-game operations across several states that vote on March 1, viewing the South as central to building a delegate lead. Mr. Cruz will continue his Super Tuesday tour this week in Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma, three more states that the campaign expects to be favorable turf for a conservative.

The trip has also contributed to Mr. Cruz’s vaunted data trove, aided by a text message campaign — plugged by Mr. Cruz from the stage — and a Santa Claus-based strategy to collect contact information. (The campaign has recruited actors to play Santa at every stop, allowing voters to pose for pictures that they can only access by entering their names, emails and ZIP codes on Mr. Cruz’s website.)

The weekend also included a Christmas flourish of another sort, with an assist from Mr. Trump. The campaign ran a campy parody ad in Iowa during Saturday Night Live, with the Cruz family reading Christmas tales like “How Obamacare Stole Christmas” and “Rudolph the Underemployed Reindeer.” The ad placement stemmed from an equal-time request made after Mr. Trump hosted the NBC program last month.

However, Cruz is vulnerable to the charge of flip-flopping as Cruz strives to capture the Trump supporters and knock out his main rival, Marco Rubio. Rand Paul seems ready to make that attack, but I don't know how many people are listening to Paul now.
This morning on CNN’s State of the Union, Rand Paul discussed his new web video that uses a short clip of Ted Cruz stammering when asked about whether he wanted the 2013 immigration bill to pass to contend that the Texas senator is a flip-flopper.

“He wanted the bill to pass, in fact, I was in the same category, I thought citizenship was too far, but the compromise would be no citizenship, but give people a legal status. That’s what Cruz was for. He’s been explicit about it. Now he says never. I think he should admit he changed his mid — he used to be for legalization, but not anymore. He’s done the same thing. He wrote an op-ed with Paul Ryan supporting Obama’s trade authority, and now he’s against that. He also said when he ran for office, the he wouldn’t support reauthorization of the Patriot Act, and then he voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act. So, on a number of issues, I think he wants to have it both ways, depending upon who he’s talking to.”
And Rubio is joining the pile-on.
Rubio broadened his attack by accusing Cruz of flipping on giving President Obama expedited trade-negotiation authority.

“There are multiple issues on which he’s tried to do these sorts of things. For example, when the free trade agreement was up he wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, he wrote it with Paul Ryan. And just three days later he flipped on it. I don’t know why. He got some pressure on the fast-track authority.”

In an April Wall Street Journal op-ed with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is now Speaker, Cruz wrote: “There are multiple issues on which he’s tried to do these sorts of things. For example, when the free trade agreement was up he wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, he wrote it with Paul Ryan. And just three days later he flipped on it. I don’t know why. He got some pressure on the fast-track authority.”

Cruz later reversed his support for a Senate bill that would have given Obama fast-track authority because of what he called a “corrupt” deal by GOP and Democratic leaders to ensure the authorization of the Export-Import Bank.

Rubio also panned Cruz for reversing himself by voting against $3 billion in cuts to a crop insurance program. Cruz initially voted for the proposed cuts, which were not popular with farms in agricultural states such as Iowa.

“He’s done it on votes on farm issues. In fact changed his vote on the floor of the Senate,” Rubio said. “If you’re going to attack someone on a policy issue, you need to be clear about where you stand on the issue and where you stood in the past.”

Rubio argued that while Cruz portrays himself as a straight-talker on the campaign trail, he is often willing to bend on tough votes.

“When you spend your whole time telling people that you’re a clear talker and you say what you mean and everyone else is a sellout but you’re the only purist, I think it’s fair to say, ‘Well hold on a second, here’s where you’ve been on the past on some issues and here’s where you are now,” he said.
My theory on the flip-flopping allegation is that people don't care if they guy they liked has flipped as long as he's come closer to the position they like. All they care about is the other guy's flip-flops. So people don't care about all the ways that Donald Trump has taken positions the opposite of what he's advocated earlier. I think it will be the same way. However, those who opposed the Gang of Eight bill, and they're a large number in the GOP primary electorate, won't ever forgive Rubio even though he now says he's changed his mind on how to approach immigration. Byron York details the efforts that Rubio took, as a member of the Gang, to block any attempt to water down their compromise bill. Those who like Rubio will forgive him while zeroing in on Trump and Cruz's flip-flops.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post gives Four Pinocchios to Ted Cruz's new immigration ad attacking Rubio. I don't think that will hurt him. Criticism from the MSM, even pointing out lies, doesn't seem to have much effect this year.

Jonathan Last theorizes that, "no matter who wins the Gop nomination," it's going to be a tough battle for Hillary. I agree with his analysis of Rubio's prospects against Clinton.
Watch Rubio on the debate stage and he looks like a creature genetically engineered in a lab to crush HRC. By dint of his youth and energy, he turns her greatest strengths into weaknesses. He's a devastatingly good debater. As he showed Tuesday night, he can take a punch. And his political instincts are brilliant.
Well, except for those instincts that led him to support and advocate a bill that would antagonize a lot of the GOP base. Imagine where his campaign would be now if he didn't have that blemish on his escutcheon. I don't think Cruz would have a chance. I'm not sure about Last's evaluation of how Cruz or Trump would do against Hillary, but I can hope he's right about Cruz. For my choice, I want the candidate most likely to defeat Hillary since I think her presidency would be a disaster for the country combining the worst elements of her husband's and Obama's presidencies with obnoxious feminist pieties thrown into the batch.

Meanwhile Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg News refutes the idea that Ted Cruz is an outsider candidate. He posits that Cruz is "the ultimate insider."
In the real world, Cruz is a Republican factional leader whose career has been firmly within the Republican party network. He clerked for two Republican judges. He practiced law in Washington for a law firm well-connected to Republicans on Capitol Hill. He worked for George W. Bush's presidential campaign, then had two jobs in Washington in the Bush administration. He was then appointed solicitor general of Texas by Rick Perry, who succeeded Bush as the state's governor. And Cruz has been a U.S. senator since January 2013. In Washington. At least when he isn't on the campaign trail.

Yes, Cruz has been hostile to other Republicans, most notably when he called the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a liar. And he has paid the price in the Senate: Some members of Congress are reportedly moving to endorse Marco Rubio in large part because they don't like the Texas senator and because they think he would be a poor general-election candidate. But the fact that people dislike him personally inside the Beltway is evidence that he’s well connected among insider Republicans. They couldn’t personally dislike him if they didn’t know him, could they?

Part of the confusion is that Cruz’s faction doesn’t have a name. They aren't quite “Tea Party” Republicans. And these days, they wouldn't call themselves that anyway. They do, however, call themselves “conservatives,” but that doesn’t help because (almost) all Republican party actors call themselves conservatives. We can call them “insurgents” or “radicals” or any number of things, but none of these terms works perfectly. Perhaps “Outsiders” -- capitalized, as if it was a name of a group calling itself that -- would work as well as anything else.

....Cruz, whatever his conflicts with some Republicans, wouldn’t be a total wild card in the Oval Office. He may be an Outsider, but he's a Republican insider.
That's why I wouldn't have qualms supporting him if he won the nomination, but would be really torn if Trump were the nominee. I guess he'd still be better than Hillary, but I think he'd be a disaster in so many other ways. I've usually ended up voting for the candidate I dislike the least, but Trump would truly define "clothespin vote" for me.

Now Cruz is attacking the WSJ
for their criticisms of him. This plays well with his whole Trumpian strategy of attacking the media whenever they criticize him. I don't think he'll be hurt by any of the WSJ editorials. Those who might be persuaded by what the Journal says are probably already a bit hesitant about Cruz. And editorial page editor Paul Gigot is right that they have also criticized Marco Rubio. And Gigot points out that Cruz has done his own fair bit to win the editorial page's support.

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I'm not so old that I can't remember how uncomfortable changing in the girls' locker room could be in front of a bunch of other high school girls. So I have a lot of sympathy with these girls in Palatine, Illinois explaining why they don't want a boy who identifies as a female to change in their locker room.
They would explain why, at 15 and 16 years old, changing alongside biological women is already hard enough.

“It is unfair to infringe upon the rights of others to accommodate one person,” the six girls, in a joint statement, told an audience of at least 500.

“Although we will never fully understand your personal struggle,” they said, addressing the transgender student, “please understand that we, too, all are experiencing personal struggles that need to be respected.”
The Obama Department of Education has threatened the school with losing its federal education funding if they don't allow the student, known as Student A, to change in the girls' locker room. The school's compromise of giving the student a separate room to change was not considered sufficient. A compromise with the federal government was finally reached which allows the student to change in the locker room behind privacy curtains. The high school girls are still uncomfortable with Student A walking to and from the privacy area while they're undressing. So now the school is installing more privacy rooms for those girls who are uncomfortable. Now the whole controversy has blown up into a national discussion.
Parents and students said they were frustrated to see the situation evolve from addressing the specific situation of Student A to a larger debate on transgender issues.

“It was kind of sad to see a bunch of people who didn’t care about the student; they just cared about getting their own agenda in place, and then they left,” the sophomore lacrosse player told The Daily Signal.

“It was very interesting to see,” she added. “It was very eye-opening about the world of politics.”

That day, the sophomore didn’t just learn a lesson in politics. She learned that speaking out about sensitive issues didn’t have to be so scary.

“I’m only a sophomore … my face will forever be known as the one who spoke out against Student A,” the student said of her concerns for the future. “I was worried I was going to ruin my time at my high school.”

Speaking out, they knew, could make them the public face of a very private issue.

It could lead their classmates to call them “bigots,” “insensitive,” and “homophobes.”

It's a tough situation all around. I think the solution is private dressing rooms for everyone! And the Department of Education can fund that.

While Hillary mislead the public about ISIS using Trump in their propaganda videos, they have used some prominent Americans in those videos - Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

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After watching the Democratic debate on Saturday night, the WSJ describes how "the Clinton Coronation continues." She certainly left herself vulnerable to Republican attacks, but of course Sanders and O'Malley and the journalists aren't going to call her on any of these remarks.
Asked about the soaring cost of premiums and deductibles under ObamaCare, she said, “Well, I would certainly build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act and work to fix some of the glitches that you just referenced.” Glitches? Her only solutions are to double down on government-mandated price controls and offer a new tax credit, but she’s admitting that the law will be changed in 2017 no matter who wins the election.

The former Secretary of State also left an opening when she said that regarding Syria and ISIS “we now finally are where we need to be,” and she embraced the new U.N. resolution. She may regret those words if next autumn the war is still raging or there are more terror attacks in the U.S.

None of this means Mrs. Clinton will be easy to beat next November. Her lack of strong competition means she can focus on her general election strategy, and she’s clearly itching to run against Mr. Trump. Republican primary voters may want to judge accordingly.

Holman Jenkins points out that Trump is going to have start spending money at some point. And then he'll have some decisions to make. Jenkins reminds us that Mitt Romney spend $44 million of his own money in failing to get the nomination in 2008. So far Trump has only spend $1.8 million of his own money through the third quarter.
His capital is not as deep ($10 billion) as he lets on. Forbes and Bloomberg News put his wealth at $2 billion to $4 billion. And assets that he could reasonably convert to cash are even less. Bloomberg puts the figure as low as $70 million, less than what several candidates in the race (Bush, Clinton, Cruz) and their super PACs already have raised.

And running is about to become a lot more expensive. When the campaign goes national after Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Trump would have to spend money on TV ads. To participate in widespread primaries and a convention fight he would have to hire staff. Mr. Trump, from day one, has likely never been down with any of that.

He won’t want to liquidate major holdings. He won’t want to sign his name to nine-figure mortgages. There’s a reason other candidates have been fundraising for years. Mr. Trump’s $3.7 million in “unsolicited donations” (average: $50) in the third quarter were nice, but these aren’t the makings of a major fundraising network even in the unlikely event that Mr. Trump could find an army of like-minded affluent Americans who want to support his campaign.
Jenkins also points out that he's lost business based on his insults of Mexican Americans and his anti-Muslim rhetoric. At what point will Trump decide he doesn't want to spend a lot more of his own money while losing money on his own investments?

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Oh, so this is why Hillary was late returning to the Democratic stage during the debate.
It's been revealed that Clinton returned late because she was using the restroom during the commercial break at St Anselm College. She reportedly had exactly one minute and 45 seconds to walk out of the gymnasium to the women's restroom, and exactly the same amount of time to return back to the stage.
However, instead of using the restroom right away to get back to the stage on-time, Clinton waited for it to be completely cleared out so that she wouldn't have to share the bathroom that had a few stalls available for usage, The Boston Globe reported.

Clinton, who seemingly displayed what her competition would call 'not your average American behavior,' had a staffer stationed strategically outside of the restroom to presumably avoid having to share, the Globe reported.
The unnamed staffer reportedly allowed Lis Smith, the deputy campaign manager for former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, to use the restroom moments before Clinton arrived.

Smith is the girlfriend of disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was forced to resign from his post in 2008 after spending more than $15,000 on prostitutes.
It's unclear why Clinton allegedly waited for the restroom to be completely cleared out since it included multiple stalls, and was a little further away than the men's restroom from the debate stage at the school.
So what's more surprising - that Hillary would risk coming back to the stage late so she didn't have to share the bathroom or that Eliot Spitzer found another woman to be interested in him?