Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Cruising the Web

Kevin Williamson games out the chances that Julian Assange is telling the truth that Russia was not responsible for the hacks of the DNC and John Podesta. He touches on what I've wondered - how sure can Assange be that he actually knows who was responsible for the hacks. Couldn't the Russians have hacked those accounts and then used a cut-out to feed the results to WikiLeaks? Why should anyone take what Assange says as evidence of anything?
If Russian state hackers were in fact the people clever enough to phish out the password to John Podesta’s Gmail account, they probably didn’t pass on the information directly from the GRU or whichever conclave of Muscovite nefariousness was behind the deed. The Russians are, in general, pretty good at the sneaky stuff, having as they do a genuine gift for deviousness, and it is unlikely that they would have had any direct contact with WikiLeaks, instead of insulating themselves behind layers of intermediaries. In that case, Assange has a different but similar set of motives: He still doesn’t have a lot of friends, and he still doesn’t want to live in an embassy for the rest of his life, and he’s in need of a Plan B in the direst way. Why unnecessarily annoy Vladimir Putin and the incoming U.S. president? (You need not buy the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump is a Putin puppet to understand why he’d much prefer the source of those DNC e-mails be a cheesed-off Bernie Bro at the DNC instead of Russian spooks.) So, again, you have a pretty strong incentive to deny that Moscow was the source.
Williamson also points to the disturbing contrast to the Obama administration's response to these political hacks and the hacking by China of over 20 million federal employees through hacking the Office of Personnel Management.
here have been much more serious incursions, many of them linked to China, that present genuine national-security threats. But the Obama administration has for the most part sat on its thumb in response to those. The Chinese hack on the Office of Personnel Management was a much more substantial violation of our security, but so far as the waning Obama administration is concerned, stealing private (and, indeed, classified) information on 20 million people is nothing next to causing Debbie Wasserman Schultz a bit of public consternation.

By all means, investigate, and do so vigorously. If the Russians are engaged even in bush-league mucking about with our elections, then that should be exposed and responded to. We shouldn’t take Assange’s word on this one way or the other.

But in the end, the DNC leak is a jaywalking case that we’re prosecuting while our enemies are plotting something more like an electronic 9/11. If it takes embarrassing a few Democrats to get Uncle Stupid moving on this, so be it, but the sorry case of Hillary Rodham Clinton is the beginning of this story, not the end of it.
Obama spokesman Josh Earnest can't explain why the administration didn't take a similar retaliatory approach to the Chinese hacks of the OPM.
Karl then asked why Americans did not get the same public outrage and reaction that Russia is currently receiving when the Chinese hacked the OPM, compromising the records of around 22 million people. Karl said that the administration did “nothing publicly” in response.

“So, when the Chinese hacked OPM in 2015, 21-plus-million current and former government employees and contractors had their personal records stolen by the Chinese,” he said. “Why did the White House do nothing publicly in reaction to that happening? Which, in some ways, was even more widespread than what we saw here from the Russians.”

Earnest said that these situations are “malicious in nature, but materially different.”

Karl jumped back in to remind Earnest that over 20 million people were directly affected by the Chinese data breach into the OPM’s system.

“21 million people had their personal [inaudible] taken–fingerprints, social security numbers, background checks,” he said. “I mean, this was a far-reaching hack.”

Earnest said that he was not “downplaying the significance of it” but stressed, again, that it was “different” than Russia’s election interference.

He continued by telling Karl that he cannot comment on the private matters that Obama took in dealing with Beijing in this instance.

“But nothing was announced,” Karl said. “There was not a single step announced by the White House in response to that.”

“That is true,” Earnest replied. “There was no public announcement about our response.”

He reiterated that he cannot publicly speak to the response.

Karl then cited recent steps taken against Russia as a response for the Kremlin’s role in hackings against American political networks, which the intelligence community believes were meant to affect the 2016 election.

“But no diplomats expelled, no compounds shut down, no sanctions imposed, correct?” Karl asked.

“Uh, well again, I can’t speak to–” Earnest started before Karl fact-checked him.

“You don’t do that stuff secretly,” Karl said.

Earnest backed off, saying that when it comes to diplomats, those expulsions are made public.

He said this is something the administration takes seriously and that Obama did raise his concerns with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

Earnest continued to describe the progress made by the Chinese government to ensure “norms” in the cyber realm.

“But do you see how there’s just this widely different response?” Karl then said. “I mean, with the Russians, which, of course, is very politically charged, the White House takes this action, makes it public. With the Chinese, which was not so politically charged, but was absolutely as far-reaching a hack as we’d ever seen in this country, nothin public.”
Cheers to ABC's Jonathan Karl for asking the obvious question. Both hacks were terrible, but only one got a public response. I would bet that, in the grand scope of things, Americans care a lot more about 22 million people having all their personal data stolen than some political figures having their emails hacked. And the fact that their information was stolen from a federal agency should be all the more scary. If a federal employee's information isn't safe sitting in a federal agency computer, who else is at risk? It's a tremendously scary thought and this administration has been rather silent about the whole thing. It's as if a Democratic administration cares more about Democratic politicians and their aides' privacy than they do about 22 million federal employees. It's fine to argue that they have retaliated behind-the-scenes and I certainly hope that they have. However, they decided it wasn't enough to do something in secret against the Russians. That needed a public response - somehow I just wonder if that wasn't to appease public opinion rather than from any need of cyber-security policy.

The United Nations prepares to follow up on its actions against Israel. And Obama's decision not to veto its resolution on Israel has made this possible.
Critics who thought the U.S. opened the UN’s anti-Israel floodgates by abstaining on a vote condemning settlements last week say an obscure subsequent move by the world body to establish a “blacklist” of Israeli companies proved them right.

Lost amid the angry words that followed the Dec. 23 UN Security Council vote that critics called an American betrayal of Israel was a Christmas Eve appropriation of $138,700 to fund a database of companies doing business in the West Bank. The measure puts UN prestige behind the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, say critics.

“The types of data they are talking about acquiring would be to form the basis for future sanctions against companies that did business on the West Bank,” Fox News contributor and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told “That’s the only purpose of it that I can see.”

The request for funding, first adopted last April, would “investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which extends to East Jerusalem, and would “produce a database of all business enterprises” working in territories disputed between Israel and the Palestinians.
We'll see if the Trump administration will put some teeth into its statements of support for Israel.

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Regrets, he has a few. Chuck Schumer is now complaining that the Democrats unleashed the Kraken by nuking the filibuster of judicial nominees and political appointees.
Sen. Chuck Schumer lamented Tuesday the Democrats' move to diminish the number of senators needed to confirm Cabinet picks from 60 votes to 51, because the new rule now hurts his party.

"I argued against it at the time. I said both for Supreme Court and in Cabinet should be 60 because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship," Schumer, a New York Democrat and the incoming Senate minority leader, told CNN's Dana Bash. "I won on Supreme Court, lost on Cabinet. But it's what we have to live with now."
Yes, he did oppose the move, but not strongly enough to stop Harry Reid from going forward. Jazz Shaw points to the language Schumer used back in 2005 when the Republicans considered the same nuclear option in order to get Bush's nominees onto the courts.
“We are at the precipice of a crisis. A constitutional crisis. The checks and balances which are at the core of this democracy are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option. The checks and balances that say that if you get 51% of the vote you don’t get your way 100% of the time. It is amazing. It’s almost a temper tantrum.”
Unlike most of his colleagues who you saw in that video, Schumer mostly stuck to the same tune when the Democrats decided to actually modify the rules when they were back in power after the 2008 cycle. Granted, he didn’t give any fire and brimstone speeches about his own party members when they were apparently evaporating the checks and balances which are at the core of this democracy, but even staying silent was better than nothing I suppose.

Unfortunately for Senator Schumer, his partners in the Democratic Party didn’t exercise such consistency and restraint. They showed their true colors and demonstrated that if they didn’t get their way they were perfectly willing to pull the trigger. And when they eventually get back into the majority (which they will some day, be it sooner or later) they will be ready to do it again. If the GOP refuses to play by the same hardball rules we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

As for the objections of the Democrats, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You tossed the grenade, guys. We’re just pulling the pin.
Now that Schumer is threatening to filibuster Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, he's practically daring the Republicans to end the filibustering of Supreme Court nominees. I can sympathize with Republican senators who believe philosophically that the filibuster serves a useful purpose to protect the minority party and to ensure that nominees can have bipartisan support, but it's clear that the Democrats don't play that way when they're in control. The Republicans amazingly stuck together in blocking Merrick Garland's nomination; what did they think was going to happen if a Republican won the White House - that the Democrats would just roll over and let a GOP nominee onto the Court after the Republicans denied Obama his nominee? They must have known that this moment would happen and they'd have to nuke the filibustering of a Supreme Court nomination. We'll see if they have the courage to carry through on their strategy.

Steve Reilly has a horrific story
in USA Today about how teachers who have been let go for serious misdeeds have simply moved on and gotten jobs teaching in other locations.
Georgia officials revoked a teacher’s license after finding he exchanged sexual texts and naked photos with a female student and was involved in physical altercations with two others.

A central Florida teacher’s credentials were suspended after she was charged with battery for allegedly shoving and yelling at a 6-year-old student.

In Texas, a middle school math teacher lost his job and teaching license after he was caught on camera allegedly trying to meet a teenage boy in a sting set up by NBC’s nationally aired TV program To Catch a Predator.

All three of those teachers found their way back to the front of public school classrooms, simply by crossing state lines. They’re far from alone.

An investigation by the USA TODAY NETWORK found fundamental defects in the teacher screening systems used to ensure the safety of children in the nation's more than 13,000 school districts.

The patchwork system of laws and regulations — combined with inconsistent execution and flawed information sharing between states and school districts — fails to keep teachers with histories of serious misconduct out of classrooms and away from schoolchildren. At least three states already have begun internal investigations and audits based on questions raised during the course of this investigation.
Read the rest.

Obama's minions, most recently Valerie Jarrett, are trying to convince us that President Obama had a "scandal-free" administration. Pull another one.
This lie was already an insult to the American voter in 2011 with the Dealergate, DOJ Black Panther whitewash, Obamafication of NEA art, Sestak affair, politically expedient IG Gerald Walpin firing, misspent stimulus funds, DOJ’s secret astroturf propaganda unit, Shorebank, oilgate, Blagojevich/Rezko /Obama corruption, Obama's unaccountable czars, Fast and Furious, the Gibson Guitar Raid, Pigford, Solyndra and LightSquared scandals already on the books....

Obama's second term began with an explosion of them: DOJ spying on the media, IRS, NSA, State Department war on whistleblowers, four EPA scandals, Obamaphones, and the "gag order" at the Department of Energy.

As time went on we saw the VA scandal, massive ObamaCare lies, skewing of ISIS intel, Iran deception and ransom payment, Bowe Bergdahl, the EPA's polluting of the Colorado River, the GSA scandal, the Secret Service sex scandal, "government shutdown theater," and of course EmailGate. (links in original)
Of course, the Obamanians can get away with ridiculous claims of having been scandal-free since the media, which downplayed all these scandals in the first place, aren't going to bring them up now.

William McGurn posits that Donald Trump's opponents have set him up in an ironically lucky position.
Barack Obama. Remember President Obama’s vow that he wasn’t going to wait for Congress to act? Well, he didn’t. And it wasn’t just executive orders. On everything from the nuclear deal with Iran and the Paris agreement on climate change to fossil fuels, immigration and transgender bathrooms, the administration has relied principally on executive authority to impose the Obama agenda.

But as this editorial page has noted, what can be done by the pen can be undone by the pen. By relying on executive power instead of the hard work of persuading Congress to pass legislation, Mr. Obama has set Mr. Trump up for some wonderful photo-ops as the new president uses his own executive authority to undo large chunks of the Obama legacy....

Sally Jewell. Throughout the election Mr. Trump made coal miners his special cause, promising to restore mining jobs killed by Obama-era regulations. Interior Secretary Jewell is apparently hard at work making it easier for Mr. Trump to show he’s making good on his promise. The vehicle is an 11th-hour rule that would give federal regulators more power to deny coal-mining permits.

Here’s the gift: The rule goes into effect a day before Mr. Trump is sworn in as president. That leaves 60 legislative days for Congress to stop it from going into effect under the Congressional Review Act. Already Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that Republicans will use that act to kill the regulation. Which will likely end with a nice ceremony with Mr. Trump surrounded by grateful coal miners as he announces how he and his party have saved the industry from another coal-killing regulation.

Harry Reid. In 2013 the then-Senate majority leader was determined to stop the then-Republican minority from blocking Obama nominees. So he pushed through what the New York Times called “the most fundamental alteration of its rules in more than a generation.” Under the Reid rules, President Obama needed only a simple majority to get his nominees through, not the 60 votes to stop a GOP filibuster.

Plainly this made it easier for President Obama. But President Trump will enjoy the same advantage in a Congress where his party already has a majority in both houses.

Remember when there was all that talk that Paul Ryan was going to face serious opposition within the GOP caucus for being reelected as Speaker? It turned out that he won the vote with ease. In fact, there was only one GOP defector who didn't vote for Ryan. I guess all the Trump supporters who were angry at Ryan for his lukewarm support have gotten over it.

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France is delightful at this time of the year.
THE French government has been accused of hiding their inability to control the country’s sinister New Year’s Eve torching tradition as the interior ministry claimed the night passed “without any major incident” – but almost 1,000 cars were set on fire and destroyed.

On Sunday, the French officials chose to release a low figure of 650 destroyed cars which only indicated the vehicles that were “set on fire” – a figure which did not include those car[s] that were completely destroyed and engulfed in ensuing flames.

But the official figures revealed a 17 per cent rise since last year’s arson attacks, as a total of 945 parked cars were torched during the terrifying tradition.

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Comedian and actor Rob Schneider has been attacked on Twitter for the crime of tweeting out a picture of paella that he had made. Apparently, some people are appalled that an American celebrity would dare to culturally appropriate Spanish cuisine. Who knew that English-speakers are culturally appropriating the world's recipes because they unfairly have an advantage reading recipes, mostly in English, on the internet. You know that all the world's other problems have been solved when people are outraged that someone put chorizo in paella and dared to tweet about it. Nick Gillespie comments,
As the linguist John McWhorter has written, charging someone with cultural appopriation "has morphed into a handy way of being offended by something that should be taken as a compliment." That certainly seems to be the case here, unless Schneider is secretly part of an arch conspiracy to destroy Spanish cuisine and assimilate into some Hollywood borg of bland liberal whiteness.

There's another point that is typically overlooked in such discussions, which is simply this: All "culture" is based on appropriation. Yes, some people are more mindful than others and more serious or more playful in rummaging through source materials. And who among us doesn't look back at our initial attempts at cooking an "authentic" meal or writing an "authentic" song or story and laugh at our younger and less-sophisticated selves? Every time I hear ELP or Yes play classical music, I laugh at the to-my-mind sad attempts by great musicians to show that they are not just rock stars but classically trained. Sometimes our attempt at imitation leads to a deep study of the original sources and other times it leads to something totally different. Think of how Bob Dylan has assimilated and transmuted countless musical and literary traditions into something that is vastly influential and yet totally idiosyncratic; think of how what we consider yoga was essentially created by a Russian emigre who took it to mid-century American living rooms. This much I know for sure: Whatever constituted, say, Italian American or Irish American identity in 1915 is almost unrecognizable to me, and even less so to my kids, who are even more of an admixture shot through with world culture that was almost completely unavailable to me growing up in 1970s' America. My mother, who grew up speaking Italian and whose parents never learned English despite living in America for 60-plus years, wasn't overly troubled by Chef Boyardee's inedible canned ravioli (half of my childhood, we called it Tuesday dinner)....

Attempts to police cultural appropriation as a form of racism or oppression not only fail in practical terms, they are profoundly misguided,especially in an American context. They are also increasingly a way to smack down less-enlightened, less-rich, and less-privileged people, as when Oberlin students protested the inauthenticity of ethnic cuisine prepared by workers who almost certainly will never have the money or opportunity to attend such a place for education...

History is nothing if not a pageant of folly where the powerful dictate the terms under which "authentic" cultural and national identities are practiced; the Taliban famously banned men's haircuts fashioned after Leonardo DiCaprio's in Titanic and nail salons for women. Rock music was banned in the Soviet Union and Cuba as the apotheosis of Western decadence even as Beatles records were being burned in the South.

Tin-eared and uncharitable policers of cultural appopriation won't prevail any more than Soviet commisars managed to keep jazz and rock at bay or holier-than-thou puritans managed to keep their kids religious in 17th-century New England. But they can make the 21st century a little bit more dreary and constipated than it needs to be. Which is a damned, dirty shame.

The Kalorama region of Washington, D.C. is the trendy new location for the wealthy as both President Obama and Ivanka Trump will be moving in there. You can check out her new digs here. Here is the Obama's new house. If they were not in Washington, D.C., I'd live in either one - as long as I had someone to clean it for me.

This is depressing.
The first reprint of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in Germany since World War II has proved a surprise bestseller, heading for its sixth print run, its publisher said Tuesday.
The Institute of Contemporary History of Munich (IfZ) said around 85,000 copies of the new annotated version of the Nazi leader's anti-Semitic manifesto had flown off the shelves since its release last January.