Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cruising the Web

Having traveled to Dallas and back to Raleigh this past Memorial Day weekend, I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively smoothly we got through TSA on a holiday weekend. At both airports, we got seven students through in about 20 minutes or less. Maybe it helped that we were at smaller airports at Raleigh-Durham and Dallas Love Field. However, TSA has still not demonstrated that they have a true handle on their task. The WSJ looks at the House bill addressing TSA problems in comparison to what the Senate Democrats want - more money, of course.
Senate Democrats want to pour even more cash into TSA for hiring thousands of new staff. But ask anyone who has ever hired an employee how easy it is to find 1,000 workers, and add that screeners spend weeks in Washington for training. That won’t help summer travelers.

A better solution is from the House Homeland Security Committee. Its bill directs TSA to reassign as screening staff some thousands of “behavior detection officers” who currently stare or bark at travelers. The bill also instructs TSA to reserve jobs like stacking bins for employees without security training, while giving local directors more flexibility in allocating staff than they generally have now. TSA must also consider deploying employees from headquarters, and the bill tells the agency to finish the private partnerships that might reduce the hassle of enrolling in expedited screening.

Here’s what the House should add: TSA runs a Screening Partnership Program, which in theory allows an airport to “opt out” of TSA and bring in a certified private security firm. In a 2011 report, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure compared Los Angeles data with a private operation running San Francisco’s airport. A contract screener in San Fran moved through 65% more passengers than TSA employees in L.A.

But only a handful of airports participate, as TSA chooses the security company and micromanages the contract. That isn’t a partnership. Congress could stipulate that an airport manage its own bidding and operations; the government would remain a safety regulator. Executives at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and elsewhere have floated dropping TSA, but without Congress that’s about as useful as hiring circus entertainers to distract the disgruntled, as San Diego International tried recently.
Of course, Democrats always see the solution as more spending instead of looking at ways to reform what is being done. Some of the proposals in the House bill just seem like common sense. I noticed a whole lot of people as we went through who weren't doing much beyond telling people where to stand in line. I also would recommend getting more people unloading their luggage into the bins earlier. Too many times, the guards were waiting for someone to finish taking off shoes or pulling out their computers while no one was going through the metal detectors or no luggage was going through the scanners. We were traveling in a group of nine and three of us got the pre-check dispensation. If they're going to give those out at random, why not give out more? Or if people are unwilling to pay $85 to get approved for pre-check, lower the price. There do seem to be possible reforms that could address the delays. Anything would be better than TSA's approach of blaming passengers for not being prepared for the waits and screening process. TSA supervisors seem to be annoyed that so many passengers don't have the procedure down yet 15 years after the rules were put into effect after 9/11.

So much of what is going on now is due to the misjudgments of TSA.
The TSA, already reeling from a number of high-profile security lapses, made critical choices about staffing resources and its expedited screening programs over the last year that failed to account for a surge in airline travel.

“The administration evidently was operating under some illusion that they could reduce the number of screeners and the budget at TSA,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told The Hill. “We’re paying the price for that now.”

Recent breakdowns at airports have been widely documented and are capturing the attention of Congress: three-hour wait times at security checkpoints, over 70,000 missed American Airlines flights and scores of passengers becoming stranded at airports overnight.

Lawmakers and officials are now scrambling to find solutions ahead of the busy summer travel months. About 2.6 million people are expected to travel through airports nationwide this Memorial Day weekend.

The problems can largely be traced to when the TSA began cutting back its staff, anticipating droves of fliers would sign up for its expedited PreCheck program. But enrollment numbers have largely fallen short.

The agency also is contending with high turnover rates, partly spurred by low morale at TSA.

Staffing levels have declined 10 percent, going from 47,147 full-time employees in 2013 to 42,525 in 2016, according to TSA data. Meanwhile, passenger volumes increased 15 percent during that time.

In its fiscal 2016 budget request, the administration proposed trimming $119 million and dropping 1,748 personnel – although appropriators have routinely given TSA more money than it asked for the past three years and will likely do so again this year.

During a budget hearing last year, then-TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway also boasted that the agency would be able to do more with less because of accelerated screening practices.
Yeah, that worked out well.

Meanwhile, we have this scandal at the Veterans Administration.
VA officials are now admitting the agency declared more than 4,000 living veterans, dead, cutting off their benefits. Navy Veteran Mike Rieker from Florida is one of them.

"The system failed, whatever they're doing doesn't work. It was supposed to be corrected and of course it wasn't," Rieker told Fox and Friends during a recent interview. "Things move at the speed of darkness at the VA."

"One of my biggest concerns is that there are a lot of people who don't know who to contact [when benefits are cut off]," Rieker, who was able to get his benefits back with help from a Congressman, continued. "You call the VA and they say, 'We'll investigate it,' and who knows how long that takes."
Think about these stories about the incompetence at TSA and the VA and then ponder how many liberals advocate increased government as a solution to every policy question. At some point, it is time to realize that government is not the most efficacious solution to every problem.

President Obama said in his Memorial Day speech yesterday
that the government needs to "do better" to help our veterans.
We need to "make sure our veterans get everything they earned, from good healthcare to a good job," said Obama who spoke during a Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Obama has repeatedly promised to do better for veterans.
Who has been head of the Executive Branch for the past seven years?

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Paul Mirengoff rejects Ruth Marcus's defense of Hillary's private server. Marcus had argued that it was a reaction to all the attacks and investigations that she has endured as First Lady. Mirengoff reminds us that her secretive behavior began even before her husband became president.
We know the explanation is false because Clinton engaged in similar behavior before she came to Washington as First Lady. I’m referring to her handling of her law firm’s billing records in the Castle Grande matter, which I discussed at length here,” in a post based mainly on the evidence developed by the Office of Independent Counsel that investigated “Whitewater.”

Clinton stole and/or caused to be destroyed the records that established her role as the attorney for participants in the fraudulent Castle Grande scheme. She did so to avoid the political price she feared would be exacted if, with candidate Bill Clinton decrying the “decade of greed” that had brought on the S&L scandals, she was exposed as having been the lawyer for a crooked S&L.

For this purpose, Clinton, working with Webster Hubbell and Vince Foster, stole hard copies of the billing records of the Rose law firm where they were partners. They erased the electronic version of these records. One set of the documents was later found in the White House, just outside Hillary’s private office, by an employee. Another set was found in Foster’s attic by his widow, some years after he committed suicide. Clinton’s time sheets (handwritten, as was the practice back in the day) were never found.

The theft of the billing records occurred on March 7, 1992. It was then that a story on Whitewater/Castle Grande by New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth “hit the wire.” That night, Rose Law Firm documents were passed to a Clinton campaign aide in the firm’s parking lot.

The theft of these documents thus preceded the ugliness of the Clintons’ eight years in the White House. It preceded the “endless investigations” of that era. It helped fuel some of these investigations.
This isn't a chicken and egg question. We have Hillary's ethically challenged behavior and then her actions to cover it up. The investigations followed her actions, not vice versa.

As William McGurn writes, Clinton and her supporters have reduced her defense to saying that she hasn't done anything criminal and so nothing else matters.
Chalk it up as one legacy of the first Clinton presidency, which has prepared the way for the second. Because by refusing to resign after being caught out in an affair with an intern, President Bill Clinton successfully lowered the bar for would-be President Hillary.

In his fight to remain in office, Mr. Clinton’s argument was that because sex between two consenting adults—even between the president of the United States and a subordinate 27 years his junior—wasn’t a crime, it was nobody’s business but his and his family’s. In this brave new world, even perjury turned out not to be a crime when Bill Clinton did it, because it was about sex.

Today the No Crime/No Foul defense defines the case for Mrs. Clinton. And she and her defenders have been invoking it for years.
That was her defense in the travel office scandal, Whitewater, and other scandals from the 1990s.
In a perverse way, it all works to Mrs. Clinton’s advantage. For so long as a criminal conviction is presented as the only possible disqualification for running for president, Mrs. Clinton will remain viable even if she does get indicted. In addition, the whole obsession with whether the FBI investigation will end up in an indictment helps deflect attention away from other key aspects of the server mess that themselves make pretty substantive claims for Mrs. Clinton’s unfitness.

Even putting aside the question of criminality, we know the following: While in a position of trust, Mrs. Clinton deliberately chose to put American security at risk by setting up her home server. In so doing, she also concealed what should have been public records from the American people. In the year since she’s been found out, almost every public statement she has made in defense of her actions has been exposed as false. And she refused to cooperate with investigators.

In short, this is a woman who never tells the truth when a lie will serve her purposes equally well.

What an extraordinary place this has left her party and her country. Here we are, six months out from the presidential election, and the Democratic nominee is under federal investigation.

It used to be, before the Clintons first moved into the White House, that having no criminal conviction was something that kept you out of prison. But the way Mrs. Clinton and her defenders talk, it’s almost as though it should make her president.

Bernie Sanders thinks that some of the Democratic superdelegates will be keeping Hillary's email scandal in mind and thus they will consider voting for him. Maybe that would have been more likely if Sanders hadn't dismissed the scandal in their first debate. By declaring that the American people are "sick and tired of hearing about her damned emails." He basically gave Democratic voters permission to ignore the story throughout the primaries and now he wants Democrats to take it into consideration? He's a bit late to the game.

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It's not going to help Hillary's campaign that Obamacare premiums are going up this year before the election. Hillary campaigns praising Obamacare and then offering some substance-free words about controlling spending.
Clinton has acknowledged that high costs remain a problem under ObamaCare, while defending the health law and its benefits overall.

“I think that the Affordable Care Act is a big step forward for the vast majority of Americans, but we have to look at out of pocket costs, co-pays, deductibles, premiums,” Clinton said at a roundtable discussion this month when a woman asked her about her premium increasing by $500.

When asked by another woman about premium hikes in March, Clinton noted at a CNN town hall that ObamaCare “has done a lot of really good things, but it has become increasingly clear that we are going to have to get the costs down.”
It might help if she explained how that is going to happen. Is she for the government setting prices for medical care? Does she advocate more government spending to subsidize the insurance companies? Just saying that we have to get the costs down means nothing unless we hear how she's going to do that.

Ah, just what so many people have thought. Protesters against the Vietnam War helped the North Vietnamese win that war and were, in fact, an integral part of their strategy.
In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day and President Barack Obama’s scheduled trip to Vietnam, a prominent Vietcong communist leader privately thanked American anti-war activists for helping defeat the U.S.-allied government in Vietnam in the 1970s, saying protest demonstrations throughout the United States were “extremely important in contributing to Vietnam’s victory.”

For Vietnamese guerrilla leader Madam Nguyen Thi Binh, who sent the private letter from Hanoi dated April 20, “victory” meant the communist takeover of South Vietnam. The letter addressed veteran American anti-war activists who gathered in Washington, D.C., at a May 3 reunion of radical “May Day” anti-war leaders....

In her letter, she extolled the American anti-war movement, saying it was “a key component” that advanced the communist takeover of South Vietnam.

“The Vietnamese people have great appreciation for the peace and antiwar movements in the United States and view those movements’ contribution as important in shortening the war,” she wrote and which was read to an assembled group of “May Day” anti-war activists in Washington, D.C....

Bill Cowan, who was a Purple Heart Marine platoon leader in Vietnam, told TheDCNF that U.S. troops were demoralized when the U.S. media only highlighted anti-war protesters and not the heroism of many of the Vietnamese who were trying to keep their country free.

“The media fueled the anti-war movement, empowering the protestors, the North Vietnamese, and the Vietcong,” he told TheDCNF.

“It was rare to have a ‘good news’ story about what was happening there,” Cowan said.

“I recall a reporter coming to interview me at the village I was living at and apologizing after she was done by saying, ‘You know, this story will probably never see the light of day. My editors will quash it because it has too many good things in here about what you guys are doing.’” Cowan told TheDCNF.

Fred Rustmann, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was deployed in Vietnam for two years and later assigned to cover the Paris Peace Talks where Binh was the chief Vietcong delegate, called her “a great propagandist.”

“She was really the propaganda arm of the Vietcong. And she was very effective. She was living in a villa in Paris in the southern suburbs, which was a very communist, socialist neighborhood,” Rustmann told TheDCNF in an interview. He said ironically Binh spent more time in Paris than in Vietnam.

In Paris, “she was regularly interviewing with leftist news organization. She had these leftist kids and try to influence them. I believe she met several times with Jane Fonda.”

Binh actually recalled in her latest letter many meetings she had with American anti-war activists.
It's nice of her to finally acknowledge that, whether or not they were conscious of it, the anti-war activists were actually an arm of the North Vietnamese strategy.

He might have wrapped up the nomination, but Donald Trump continues the behavior that helped him get to this point - insult people just because they haven't supported him or just annoyed him for some reason.
During his first big campaign swing since locking up the Republican presidential nomination, Trump went after an odd and seemingly random group of people — Democrats and Republicans, famous and obscure. There seemed little to gain politically from the attacks, and his targets were linked by just one thing: Trump felt they had all done him wrong.

So he blasted Republicans who have yet to endorse him, including Jeb Bush, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Mitt Romney, who Trump said “walks like a penguin.” He declared that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton doesn’t look presidential, and he went after her allies, especially Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom Trump continues to call “Pocahontas” even after being told the nickname is offensive. He mocked those protesting him and slammed reporters covering his candidacy.

During the four-day, four-state tour, Trump also went after people who were probably unknown to his supporters until he brought them up: Barbara Res, a former employee quoted in an article about his treatment of women, and U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is assigned to hear a fraud case against now-defunct Trump University.
I guess from his point of view this makes sense. It hasn't hurt him so far. But now he needs to win over more than the people who voted for him in GOP primaries and convince them that he has the character to be president. This sort of rant isn't going to do it for him.
Trump basked in the glow of being the presumptive nominee — and then launched into a 11-minute monologue about the federal judge assigned to handle a civil case against Trump University, which is accused of defrauding students.

“Everybody says it, but I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater,” Trump said. “He’s a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.”

Curiel sits on the federal bench in San Diego.

As Trump angrily rambled on and on — at one point, explaining why a law firm involved with the case has the name it does — the crowd grew quiet. Some turned their attention to their cellphones, while others looked around the room for something more interesting.

“The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that’s fine,” Trump said of Curiel, who was born in Indiana. “You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs, okay?”

Trump tried to tie the case back to his run for the White House, noting that it has been used in attack ads against him and comparing the legal system to the “rigged” nomination system. Trump said that he could easily settle the case but refuses to give in to litigious former students. A trial has been set for November.

“We’ll come back in November,” Trump said, finally wrapping up, to the delight of his crowd. “Wouldn’t that be wild if I’m president, and I come back to do a civil case?”
Yeah, wild indeed.

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This is just incoherent. Former Attorney General Eric Holder says that, yeah Edward Snowden endangered national security, but he still performed a national service.
"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made," Holder told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics....

"He harmed American interests," said Holder, who was at the helm of the Justice Department when Snowden leaked U.S. surveillance secrets. "I know there are ways in which certain of our agents were put at risk, relationships with other countries were harmed, our ability to keep the American people safe was compromised. There were all kinds of re-dos that had to be put in place as a result of what he did, and while those things were being done we were blind in certain really critical areas. So what he did was not without consequence."

Snowden, who has spent the last few years in exile in Russia, should return to the U.S. to deal with the consequences, Holder noted.

"I think that he's got to make a decision. He's broken the law in my view. He needs to get lawyers, come on back, and decide, see what he wants to do: Go to trial, try to cut a deal. I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done."

"But," Holder emphasized, "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate."
Is that now a successful defense for admitted criminals? "Sure, I broke the law your honor and harmed national security, but at least I got people talking, so please show me leniency." Yeah, I'm not buying the "provoked a national debate" defense.

Obama's new rule on overtime pay will endanger the jobs of young people who take jobs hoping to move up in a firm.
But the problem with trying to perform one job while simultaneously demonstrating aptitude for a bigger one is that it can require extremely long hours.

At the Washington offices of Burson-Marsteller, which handles public relations and polling for a variety of corporate and political clients, so-called associates typically make $40,000 to $50,000 a year, and often work well beyond 40 hours a week. Some are tasked with pitching in on 24-hour-a-day monitoring of media coverage for clients in addition to their usual work, which can keep them up late into the night.

Under the previous federal overtime rule, which applied automatically only to most employees making less than $23,660, those additional hours were essentially uncounted, making the young associates a relative bargain. Under the new rule, many of these staff members are to be paid time-and-a-half overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week, if their salary remains unchanged.

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538 did a survey of readers to find the most rewatchable movies. What is interesting is the differences between the choices of men and women. I'm not sure who the men are who love rewatching "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Sound of Music." In some order I would have voted for "The Godfather," "Casablanca," "The Great Escape," and "Patton."

I just finished showing films to my AP US History and European history classes. I showed them films that I've shown for several years and so those movies might fit my rewatchable list. My US History kids loved "Cinderella Man" so much that they were complaining when the class was over and they had to leave in the middle of a scene. And I've seen the movie several times already, but I still can't look away while it's on even though I could have been working on my computer. I showed my European History class this documentary which might rank as my favorite documentary - "The Other Dream Team." It's about the Lithuanian basketball team that competed at the 1992 Olympics. ANd it's also about life in Lithuania under Soviet domination and their brave and joyful struggle for independence. I just love listening to the players talk about what it was like to finally be able to play for a national team instead of being forced to compete under the Soviet flag. Sports and history in one documentary, what's not to like?