Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cruising the Web

Deroy Murdock explains why early voting is a bad idea. We really saw the problems in Arizona's primary where Marco Rubio got 13.4% of the vote and Ben Carson got 2.7% because people had voted early before they dropped out. Voting early might be more convenient for voters and help cut down on waiting times on election day, but it also means that people aren't voting with the latest information.
Instead — what a concept! — voters should vote on Election Day. On that occasion, they should choose from among the candidates who actually still are running for office. Protest votes should be counted, of course, if drop-outs still appear on ballots. However, such votes should represent conscientious objections, not the pathetic echoes of choices rendered meaningless by subsequent events.

Voters who cast their ballots on February 24 knew nothing about the GOP debates on February 25, March 3, and March 10. They voted four days before Trump stumbled into hot water by very, very slowly distancing himself from the admiration of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. And, for whatever impact it might have had on their decisions, these voters were unburdened by knowledge of ISIS’s deadly attack on Brussels the morning of yesterday’s canvass and Tuesday afternoon’s stomach-churning disgrace: President Obama doing the wave with Cuban dictator Raúl Castro at a Havana baseball game, even as innocent Belgians bled and expired on gurneys after being attacked by Islamo-fascist scum.
This seems particularly true for primary elections when candidates are dropping out and when a voter is choosing among candidates who might not be all that different ideologically. Late-occurring events might make a difference in one's choice. In the general election, there are a lot of voters who might never vote for the candidate of the other party so events might not make a difference. But such events certainly could. I think back to 2000 when the news of George W. Bush's DUI 24 years earlier broke five days before the election. A lot of analysts think that, with the election so close and the continual coverage that the story received in the weekend before the election, votes swung to Al Gore and explain why Gore won the popular vote that year. People who had voted early wouldn't have had that information if it might have changed their vote. Maybe Gore would have won those few hundred votes in Florida if there hadn't been early voting.

I would certainly support limiting the time for early voting before a primary election and maybe cutting it back to just a couple weeks before the general election.

Even though Marco Rubio dropped out, he may still have power over the delegates committed to him from the places where he did win delegates. It depends on the state rules governing those delegates. As Eliana Johnson details, it's all very complicated. Some of them are unbound and can vote for whomever they want on the first ballot. There are 29 of them and the three remaining candidates are pushing hard to get there support. Some of them are bound to support him on the first ballot. Johnson estimates that there are 92 of those delegates. But they are freed up to vote their own choice after the first ballot. Some are bound for two ballots and then there are Alaska's five delegates who were split between Trump and Cruz. There are 34 delegates who are bound until Rubio releases them to either vote for another candidate or vote proportionally among the other candidates. So, in a closely contested election, Rubio might still have a small role to play.

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Poor Barack Obama. That whole Constitution and separation of powers thing is just so very frustrating.
President Obama said Wednesday it was “very frustrating sometimes for the president” and akin to “herding cats” to have separation of powers in the U.S. government.

Responding to a town hall question in Argentina about the 2016 election, Obama discussed the directions being taken by the Republican and Democratic Parties before expounding on the American political system.

“I also think that one of the great advantages of the United States system, even though it’s very frustrating sometimes for the president, is that power is distributed across a lot of different institutions,” Obama said. “It’s what we call separation of powers and decentralization.”

Obama explained the system of checks and balances, as well as the power of state governments and the private sector. He expressed chagrin at how this set-up made it difficult for the country “to change as rapidly as we need to” for certain situations.

“This makes it hard sometimes for America to change as rapidly as we need to to respond to changed circumstances or problems … It’s sort of like herding cats,” Obama said. “You’re constantly trying to get everybody to work together and move in the same direction at the same time, and that’s difficult.
Yeah, that is the whole point - to prevent rapid change. The Founders feared that politicians might be too quickly swayed by the passions of the people and so designed a system in which change can occur quickly in an emergency, but will usually be slowed down to allow more consideration. This is a feature, not a bug.

Here is a clip-and-save column to explain why Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president. Lisa Boothe reminds us of all the past Clinton scandals that damaged her reputation from Whitewater to her family's foundation and Benghazi. But it is with the story of her private email server that we have seen how she knowingly lied to the American people. She might be saved by the Obama Justice Department delaying the investigation until after the election or declining to prosecute, but it's clear that she violated the law for her own selfish purposes.
At a time of increased national security threats, Americans should not have to worry about the honesty and integrity of their president. When voters head to the polls this November, they should take pause and consider not just the candidates' policy platforms and experience but also whether they are ethically fit to be president of the United States.
As Roger L. Simon writes, FBI director James Comey and Attorney General hold her fate and the fate of the country in their hands.
The leading contender for the Democratic Party nomination is under investigation by the FBI on two basic tracks.

The first is for national security violations regarding her grossly negligent use of a private email server and unsecured BlackBerry (when traveling abroad!) for all her official business as secretary of state, including housing 22 emails on the server deemed so "top secret" that the State Department has refused to make them public. (There is much more, easily found on the Internet. Beyond even that, there is the matter of the erased hard drive with three thousand or so more emails of a self-described personal nature like "yoga lessons," which many assume the FBI has recovered and whose contents are yet to be revealed.)

The second, perhaps even more serious, malfeasance is various crimes related to what is popularly known as influence-peddling performed by then-Secretary of State Clinton with foreign nationals and officials in connection with her multi-million dollar family foundation. If true, for a normal citizen, conviction would likely result in multiple years in prison. David Petraeus has already suffered for similar, though lesser, crimes....

So when I write that FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch have the whole country in their hands, I mean it. Whatever conclusions they come to, assuming they come to the same ones, somehow the vast majority of our citizens must be convinced they have reached those conclusions honorably, fairly and correctly. This won't be easy, no matter what hints or leaks occur, but somehow that information must get out to every extent possible, because the public must be reassured. (Of course, if Clinton is indicted, a trial will go forward -- unless she is pardoned.)

If Comey and Lynch do not come to the same conclusion, if the FBI director recommends prosecution and the attorney general demurs, it's almost impossible to say what the result will be, except that it won't be good. It's already a foregone conclusion the disagreement would be leaked.

Most of all, anyone who cares about this country -- and that should mean Republicans and Democrats -- should not want a guilty Hillary Clinton in the White House. My greatest fear is that many of the Democrats would not or do not care, in which case our country is already in drastic, probably irreparable, free fall.

Although I was a registered Democrat at the time, I remember well that some courageous Republican leaders (notably Sen. Howard Baker) were among those most upset with Nixon and led the charge to get at the truth. (Some others, as we know, lied for him and ended up serving time).

As yet, I have not seen a single Democratic leader even ask a tough question of Mrs. Clinton, who has clearly lied to the public on these matters, if not under oath....

This is not only cowardice on the part of the Democrats. It's extreme disloyalty to the country and to their fellow Americans. Even Bernie Sanders, her opponent, shrugs his shoulders at this serious issue of American national security, feigning that nobody's interested when he knows that everybody is. What a creepy, disingenuous reaction for someone who portrays himself to be "above politics."

Many Democrats laugh and ignore it all -- after all, isn't everyone corrupt, they seem to be saying. But they are laughing on the grave of our country, and theirs. Imagine this. Imagine it's January 2017 and Hillary Clinton is being inaugurated as president with something close to half the public believing she should have been indicted. Imagine her first year in the White House with evidence of her culpability dribbling out from FBI agents and others. Some even start to go public with solid evidence. A bill of impeachment could come as early as the first one hundred days. Nothing like that has ever happened in the history of our nation. Short of nuclear war, it would be preoccupying our media every night. What would be the result? Wide-scale civil disobedience? A taxpayer rebellion? Worse?

What a catastrophe for the world at a time when American leadership is needed more than any time since World War II.

It's in their hands. And if Barack Obama sticks his hands in this, he can forget about a legacy. You can call Donald Trump Mussolini if you want. But under those circumstances, he won't hold a candle to Obama. (
We saw stories this week that Obama is urging Democratic donors to united behind Hillary Clinton. What is that but putting his finger on the scales for Hillary while his own administration is investigating her on criminal charges?

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Gosh, this GOP campaign gets more distasteful every day. On Tuesday night, we saw the Twitterverse erupt as Trump tweeted out a warning to Ted Cruz that he would "spill on the beans on your wife" because Trump was angry about an ad that run in Utah featuring Trump's wife Melania in a suggestive pose from her modeling days with the slogan "Meet Melania Trump, your next first lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday." Ugh. I agree with Jazz Shaw that this is an atrocious ad. Republicans should not be cheering an ad that targets the wife of a candidate.
Would we tolerate this being done to the wives of any of the other GOP candidates? What was Melania’s sin here? She worked as a model and had plenty of pictures of her attractive form published in many outlets. What does that have to do with Trump’s politics, positions and policies? For that matter, what, if anything, does it have to do with Melania’s? If someone were to “go after” Heidi Cruz over the fact that she worked for Goldman Sachs until recently, you could almost see the relevance if it were in the context of some sort of financial industry reform question or campaign finance debate, but even then you’re treading on thin ice.

This episode only goes to show that there are apparently no rules left when it comes to Trump and that doesn’t just apply to his own campaign. Those opposing him are willing to quickly run to places they would normally avoid if they believe there are points to be scored.
We saw how it hurt Marco Rubio to cross the line to make jokes about the size of Donald Trump's hands. I doubt if there were many in Utah who voted against Trump solely because of his wife. There were plenty of other reasons that Mormons would have been appalled by his candidacy; his wife didn't have to enter into it.

But then Donald Trump had to go even further by directly threatening to attack Ted Cruz's wife. And even though it was an anti-Trump PAC that ran the ad, and not the Cruz campaign, he continues to issue such attacks because that is just the type of bully he is. He tweeted out an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz next to one of his wife saying "No need to 'spill the beans' the images are worth a thousand words. How repellent is that? Ted Cruz had the appropriate response.But why are we even here? Every time I think that this campaign has reached its nadir, it goes lower.
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While the whole controversy over the San Bernadino's phone and Apple's refusal to help the FBI crack the security on the phone has maybe been a public relations coup for Apple by publicizing how secure their phones are, it might backfire on the company. Reports are that an Israeli frm, Cellebrite, is working for the FBI to crack the phone without Apple's aid.
The FBI has been contracting with Cellebrite to break through a locked iPhone, “according to experts in the field familiar with the case,” according to Ynet, online outlet of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot.

This would be a step in a much different direction in the FBI’s ongoing battle with Apple over the device belonging to Syed Farook, one of the perpetrators of December’s massacre in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead.

Cellebrite, considered a global leader in the field of digital forensics, hasn’t officially commented on their involvement with the FBI. However, The Verge reported the company has had a sole-source contract with the Bureau since the 2013, specifically to help with data extraction – the very task at hand in the San Bernardino case.

The FBI initially attempted to force Apple to crack the iPhone via an ongoing court battle, one which the company’s CEO Tim Cook said he was willing to carry all the way to Supreme Court, to defend the privacy of its customers.

Just as the two parties were scheduled to go to court on Tuesday, a federal judge agreed to the FBI’s request to postpone the hearing, after prosecutors announced that an unnamed "non-governmental third party" had presented a potential way to crack Apple’s flagship product without the company’s help.

If the third party successfully bypasses the iPhone’s security features, it could have business implications for Apple that go beyond this particular case.

Other tech giants – and as of this month, the Department of Defense – routinely set bounties for identifying and fixing exploitable flaws for outside hackers to claim. Facebook paid out almost $1 million total in such bounties to independent researchers who found bugs in 2015, and Google paid hackers $6 million in 2010.

Apple, however, doesn’t engage in this industry-standard practice, and hackers have turned to underground markets to sell knowledge of flaws in the company’s software that not even the company itself has, and this could be why the FBI is able to turn to third parties.

Our friends, the Iranians.
The Obama administration is expected to blame Iranian hackers as soon as Thursday for a coordinated campaign of cyber attacks in 2012 and 2013 on several U.S. banks and a New York dam, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

The Justice Department has prepared an indictment against about a half-dozen Iranians, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. It is one of the highest-profile U.S. indictments against a foreign nation on hacking charges.
Remember. This occurred before Obama signed off on the nuclear deal with them because he so trusts them to keep their word.

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