Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Cruising the Web

As businesses line up to say that they're going to cut ties or keep ties with the NRA, Jon Gabriel explains why this is a bad idea.
All of the companies that decided to cave quickly learned that public pressure and boycotts are a two-way street. NRA members strongly criticized their shortsighted move and promised never to use their services again. Let’s just say there are a lot of corporate social media managers who didn’t get much sleep last weekend.

As this effort expands, there are now calls for credit card companies, banks and financial processing firms to refuse to do business with vendors who sell perfectly legal firearms and accouterments. Before this witch hunt ends, perhaps there can be two separate financial systems — one for Republicans and one for Democrats.

The NRA’s critics don’t understand that the group’s power doesn’t derive from minor discounts from travel companies or donations to politicians. It comes from the more than 5 million members who make up the organization.

These Americans of all races, religions and political parties are passionately dedicated to protecting their Second Amendment rights. They are highly informed and politically active, and often base their votes on that fundamental issue.

By cowering to a day of social media pressure, these companies are punishing 5 million potential customers simply for holding a common view in American politics — that the Constitution is the law of the land.

NRA members are just a small portion of the roughly 74 million gun owners in America. Are they to be chased out of the marketplace as well?
Our country is divided enough already. Do we want to be divided by which banks or credit cards are in political alignment with our ideologies?

The Washington Post reports on the difficulties that the Democrats are having now that the GOP tax cut is turning out to be more popular than they anticipated. The party assumed that they could use their media mouthpieces to persuade people that this was just a give away to the rich that would not benefit most people. Alas for them, it's just not working that way. The Post looks at the problems facing Senator Joe Donnelly, the Democrat up for reelection in Indiana, as he has to face constituents who seem to like having more money in their paychecks. Who knew people would feel that way about taking home more money?
But at the outset of the 2018 campaign season, Democrats’ early optimism appears less well founded here, where Democrat Joe Donnelly is facing a tough Senate reelection fight.

The new law is rising in popularity as businesses in Indiana and elsewhere trumpet bonuses and bigger paychecks. And while Donnelly and fellow Democrats struggle to craft a consistent attack on the law, Republicans — boosted by outside spending from groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and others — are united in touting the tax cuts and slamming moderate Democrats who voted against them.
Oh, those evil Koch brothers daring to inform people of the truth on the tax cuts instead of the way that the Democrats had been misleading them.

So Donnelly's approach is to tell people that they're getting that money at the expense of future taxpayers.
But the first-term senator contended that if voters understood the full implications of the legislation, they might be inclined to turn down those $1,000 bonuses or retirement-account contributions from Midwestern businesses such as Anthem, a health insurance firm, and Fifth Third Bancorp.

“Here’s the proposition that they’re not saying but that’s the truth,” said Donnelly, 62. “We’ll have a thousand dollars out there. And you’ll get that. And in return — and this is the part that goes unspoken — we’re going to send your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren the bill for that. They will pay it with interest, repeatedly, year after year after year, much of it going to the Chinese and others.

“If you laid that out and said, ‘Will you sign up for this?,’ not one person in my state would sign up for that,” Donnelly said. “Not one.”
Well, what if the question is turned around about government spending? We could make the same argument regarding spending as for tax cuts.

Meanwhile, Democrats running in red states are starting to worry that their party has moved too far to the left on guns. Some in the House want the party to move forward full throttle on gun control legislation. If they're from a safe district, this is a no-brainer position for them. However, there are Democrats from swing districts who probably don't welcome a wedge issue like this becoming front and center during an election year.

Dems introduce bill banning assault weapons

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Democrats will meet Tuesday morning in the Capitol to discuss their next steps on gun control as they wrestle with how to move forward following one of the deadliest mass shootings in the nation’s modern history.

The party is galvanized behind the idea that Congress should take action on gun control, but faces warnings from some Democrats that reaching too far could drive away voters in the swing districts they’ll need to retake the Speaker’s gavel.

A number of rank-and-file lawmakers view this month’s shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school as a potential tipping point in the years-long congressional stalemate over new gun restrictions. Shedding caution, this growing chorus of Democrats is calling for extensive reforms, including a ban on military-style weapons.

“Americans don’t own tanks or missiles, so why should our streets be flooded with weapons of war made for the sole purpose of killing people?” Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat who represents Parkland, said Monday in introducing a sweeping ban on assault weapons.

In a clear sign that House leaders don’t intend to shy away from an aggressive approach to the issue, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signed onto the ban as an original co-sponsor — a rare move for the minority leader prone to avoiding official endorsements of specific bills.

Still it comes as other Democrats warn that embracing aggressive new gun restrictions carries risks, particularly in conservative-leaning districts where gun rights are sacrosanct.

“It’s one of those fundamental issues that riles up American politics — it’s up there with abortion and immigration — and they need to be very careful,” said a former Democratic leadership aide. “If a Democratic candidate, or the party as a whole, overextends on this issue, then it becomes incredibly easy for the Republicans to play that up in a lot of districts.

“It’s easier to demagogue on this than to do something about it,” the aide added, “and you risk overreaching as a party if you try to make it a one-size-fits-all [issue].”
Of course, the same is true for Republicans running in swing districts. We'll really see a test of how potent gun control will be in the elections this year. Perhaps the public has moved to the left in the past decade or so. After all, the Democrats chose not to do anything when they had complete control of the Congress and White House from 2009 to 2011. They could have, but they feared doing something that would make them even more unpopular than Obamacare had made of them.

Ed Morrissey notes the problem with the bill that the Democrats have put forward
The bill prohibits the “sale, transfer, production, and importation” of semi-automatic rifles and pistols that can hold a detachable magazine, as well as semi-automatic rifles with a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds. Additionally, the legislation bans the sale, transfer, production, and importation of semi-automatic shotguns with features such as a pistol grip or detachable stock, and ammunition feeding devices that can hold more than 10 rounds.

Cicilline’s legislation names 205 specific firearms that are prohibited, including the AK-47 and AR-15.
Morrissey adds,
Almost every semi-automatic pistol has a “detachable magazine.” They have detachable magazines because they don’t have cylinders, which is what revolvers use. You have to detach the magazine to load ammunition into it, even if you only own one magazine per pistol. The only qualifier on this prohibition is that it applies to firearms “with a military-style feature,” which is left undefined. Does an improved sight (such as a laser sight) qualify as a “military-style feature,” even though it improves aim and makes the weapon safer to use in self-defense? Custom grips? Black-matte finish?

We don’t know, and it’s a safe bet that the people who wrote this bill know even less. Nor do they care; they want this bill to render most of the weapons held by legal gun owners illegal. It’s the basis for a massive gun grab....

This bill will be tremendously popular in the urban-coastal cores, which Democrats already hold. It’s not going to be popular at all outside of those progressive enclaves, where most of the 60-million-plus gun-owning households exist, and where voters know what a “detachable magazine” actually is. This bill and the Democratic hysteria getting whipped up behind it isn’t about fixing the problems that led to the Parkland school massacre — it’s a gun grab, pure and simple. It’ll be easy for “Republicans to play that up in a lot of districts” that Democrats need to win for a majority because it’s true.

Between “crumbs” and gun grabbing, Democrats really have set themselves up to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this midterm. If this bill goes nowhere, Democrats will likely run on the message that only a Democratic majority can get this bill passed. And you know what? Republicans will run on the exact same message. Good luck with that, Mrs. Pelosi.

Andrew Malcolm wonders when we're going to start retaliating for cybersecurity attacks. It seems that we have been hearing about hacking attacks every month or so. Malcolm reminds us of some of those attacks and there are some I wasn't aware of.
The Council of Economic Advisers estimated the other day that “malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016” involving “denial of service attacks, data and property destruction, business disruption (sometimes for the purpose of collecting ransoms) and theft of proprietary data, intellectual property and sensitive financial and strategic information.”

In 2015, the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management said it suspected hackers had breached its obviously inadequate cyber security to access the Social Security numbers and personal records of 4.5 million Americans. That sounded horrible.

Later we learned hackers spent months calmly copying OPM records, including security clearance information, of 21.5 million Americans. Then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he thought China was probably the culprit....

Most of the world’s financial transactions, for instance, transit five big cities; fully half flow through New York. Imagine the economic impact and unleashed global fears if hackers took down just part of Gotham’s financial or market operations for a few hours, perhaps even absconding with a few hundred million.

Not long ago, suspected Iranian hackers entered Saudi Arabia’s national oil company and erased virtually all its electronic records. In 2016, North Korea electronically lifted $81 million from Bangladesh’s Central Bank account in New York.

Last summer, according to U.S. and British intelligence, Russians planted the NotPetya virus in Ukraine to shut down a large portion of its electrical grid. It worked. But the virus escaped and scampered around the world, costing billions of dollars in damages.
Unless there is something going on behind the scenes, all we've done is condemn the perpetrators or maybe instituted some minor sanctions. Malcolm wonders why we aren't retaliating and raising the stakes such as was reportedly done with the Stuxnet virus targeting Iran's nuclear centrifuges. I sure hope that our side is working behind closed doors to develop our own cybersecurity retaliation.

In light of all that, this is really not acceptable.
US Cyber Command chief Adm. Mike Rogers told lawmakers on Tuesday that he has not been granted the authority by President Donald Trump to disrupt Russian election hacking operations where they originate.

Asked by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed if he has been directed by the President, through the defense secretary, to confront Russian cyber operators at the source, Rogers said "no I have not" but noted that he has tried to work within the authority he maintains as a commander.

While he did not agree with Reed's characterization that the US has been "sitting back and waiting," Rogers admitted that it is fair to say that "we have not opted to engage in some of the same behaviors we are seeing" with regards to Russia.
"It has not changed the calculus or the behavior on behalf of the Russians," Rogers said about the US response to Russia's cyber threat to date.
"They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior," he added.

ILya Shapiro writes today about a case the Supreme Court will hear today, Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, concerning a Minnesota law banning any clothing to the election polls that might be associated with a political views.
Yet in the North Star State, a button with the peace symbol, a shirt reading “Black Lives Matter,” or a hat with the word “Capitali$m” could each be grounds for being sent home by a poll worker. Further, the statute gives election officials broad discretion to ban any materials “promoting a group with recognizable political views.” So voters can’t even feel safe wearing shirts supporting the American Civil Liberties Union or the National Rifle Association.

In 2010 several Minnesotans attempted to vote while wearing clothes supporting the tea party. A poll worker told them they were breaking the law. They challenged the apparel ban, but the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals twice upheld it. On Wednesday the Supreme Court will hear the case, Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky.

The lower court mostly relied on Burson v. Freeman (1992), in which the high court upheld a prohibition against distribution of “campaign materials” and “solicitation of votes” in and around the polling area. But that ban was much more targeted than the one here. It was combating the historical practices of voter intimidation and election fraud that were especially prevalent before the era of standardized ballots. In Burson, the justices suggested that states could reasonably fear a return to the time when “approaching the polling place . . . was akin to entering an open auction place,” and that a ban on outright electioneering was tailored to meet that concern.

Minnesota’s ban, by contrast, finds no historical parallel. A generic pro-voting message like “Rock the Vote” is arguably a political statement forbidden by the law. But how could it possibly be construed as pressuring anyone to vote for a particular candidate? Whatever legitimate concerns the state may have about the electoral process, it can’t justify a ban on voters’ nondisruptive speech—let alone on unobtrusive paraphernalia that’s unrelated to any issue or candidate on the ballot.
It's amazing that this is even reaching the Supreme Court. Do Minnesota politicians think that their voters are so very fragile that the mere sight of a T shirt at the polling place will influence their vote? I find it hard to believe that the Court will uphold such an overbroad law banning free speech. There is quite a difference between handing out a brochure or even wearing a Clinton T shirt to the polls and wearing a T shirt for a cause. Such a sweeping ban does not fit the test for strict scrutiny which the Court applies to content-based speech. Such a limit on the basic right of free speech must be "narrowly tailored" to achieve the compelling government interest and this is anything but narrowly tailored.