Give Obama Fast-Track?!

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President Obama is negotiating again, this time it’s a trade pact with eleven Asian nations called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that he refuses to let anyone see. I find that problematic. For all his promises about heading the most open and transparent administration is history, he’s the most secretive and divisive president in my memory – and that includes Richard Nixon.

Currently, only members of Congress – and certain cleared staffers with high enough security clearances (and those staffers can only go with a member) – are allowed to go into a secret room in the US Capitol to read the text of ObamaTrade’s TPP component. And they may only read the text – they are forbidden to take notes, they may not take photographs or make copies or recordings, and they must sign a non-disclosure agreement upon leaving[1]. This is ridiculous. I’ve gone through this to view specifications on nuclear weapons that I was involved in manufacturing that required Q-clearance, a security clearance above crypto (which is above top secret). All of this for trade pact? Borderline paranoia.

What’s troubling about this whole circus is that Congress is about to vote on something called Trade-Promotion Authority (TPA) – or more popularly “fast-track.” What this does is confine Congress to a straight up-or-down vote. Under fast-track, Congress transfers its authority to the executive and agrees to give up several of its most basic powers. These concessions include: the power to write legislation, the power to amend legislation, the power to fully consider legislation on the floor, the power to keep debate open until Senate cloture is invoked, and the constitutional requirement that treaties receive a 2/3 vote[2]. And they’re about to green-light this fast-track approach for a pact that is being kept secret by the executive. Curious.

Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL-3) said: “We could wait another 18 months until this administration is out. You look at how they negotiated the release of the Taliban-5; you look at how they negotiated what they’ve done with Cuba; look at how they’ve negotiated what we’ve done with the Iran nuclear deal – I personally don’t want them negotiating anything else[3].”

Which brings me to the question: what are Republicans thinking about?

The unions are against TPP for all the usual reasons (they’re always against free trade). The Republicans are against secret negotiations by this administration for all of Representative Yoho’s reasons. They should take the stance that they cannot vote for any trade agreement that their constituents can’t see, and therefore, they cannot fast-track the issue. The unions are pushing Hillary to come out against TPP. If the Republicans come out against it (for any reason), that will put Ms Clinton in the position of agreeing with Republicans or going against unions (and possibly their Election Day infrastructure). Without seeing the text of the trade pact, we can assume it’s flawed – there are rumors that it contains all sorts of non-trade language about climate change, human rights issues, and bypasses sovereignty with international commission that would supersede US law. Normally, I don’t put much weight in rumors, but these fit right in with past history of this administration.

The Democrats always play electoral politics rather than governing; the Republicans should fight back for the rest of this term. The stakes are too high to cede this ground.


[1] See Matthew Boyle, Sessions to Obama: Why are You Keeping ObamaTrade’s New Global Governance Secret?, in Breitbart News, June 5 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Mike Lillis and Scott Wong, Trade supporters bullish as vote nears, in The Hill, June 7 2015, 0600EDT.

IRS Running Point for Flat Tax

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The latest roaches to scramble from the light of disclosure at the IRS comprise the host of employees who are delinquent on their own taxes but have been promoted, and given raises and bonuses. According to the Washington Post, more than 1,100 IRS employees who failed to pay their taxes received discretionary awards of more than $1 million in cash bonuses and more than 10,000 hours of extra paid vacation[1].

From weaponizing the agency through two election cycles, to the Byzantine incomprehensive complexity of our 4-million-word tax code, it’s obvious that nothing short of a clean-paper revamp of our tax policy will restore public trust in the way in which we finance our government. Put simply, our current tax system is irredeemable – nobody understands it; marvelously progressive on its face, it is undeniably regressive in practice; it demonstrably favors those who can afford the best lobbyists; voluntary compliance is largely limited to the degree that one can afford accountants and lawyers; and last but not least, all of this is administered by an incompetent and corrupt agency.

Objectively, the most reasonable solution is to establish a flat tax that could be filled out on an index card (what did you earn? Deduct the poverty line. Multiply by the tax rate. Done), and abolish 90% of the IRS down to those needed to run the computers that verify and calculate the three-line tax returns. Set the standard deduction at the poverty line, and eliminate all other credits and deductions. The function of the income tax should be to help fund government, not social engineering.

All of the agencies are running out of control – HHS clearly demonstrated its operatic incompetence in the ObamaCare rollout debacle; EPA is writing regulations aimed at strangling economic activity night and day; Education is trying to slip the thin edge of the government-takeover-of-school-curricula wedge under the door; Justice, while not gun-running into Mexico, is persecuting journalists; State is fatally ignoring ambassadorial pleas for security in lawless outposts (the fabled 3AM phone call came in and got the answering machine); the one exception, of course, is Defense, which is being budget-cut out of the ability to perform its core mission, let alone run off on any tangent. But the one government agency that touches us all, the IRS, must be reigned-in to have a prayer of restoring faith in government, and the only way I see to accomplish that in real-time is to simplify them out of a job.

This will never be done, however, because, unlike in the real world (where money is power), in Washington, the ability to allocate money is power – who I can take it from and who I can give it to. And our convoluted tax code is the prime benefactor to crony capitalists, overseen by their friends in Congress. These people will never clip their own wings.


[1] Gail Sullivan, IRS gave bonuses to employees who owed back taxes, in Washington Post, April 23 2015.

the Willful Economic Illiteracy of Liberals

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Of the many, many policies of liberals that defy economic common sense, the continual hue and cry for increasing the minimum wage is perhaps the most stunningly counterintuitive. Now, they want to more than double it from $7.25 an hour to $15, and claim that not only will this not cost jobs, it may lure some back into the workforce (those who have dropped out because of the current hopelessness of liberal botching of the recovery – which, of course, they don’t mention).

The main complaint seems to be that no one could be expected to live on $7.25 an hour, and they’re right. Minimum wage jobs are what economists call “entry level” jobs – as in what you do to establish that you are capable of showing up on time, completing a shift without stealing anything, and performing menial labor, requiring no experience, no skill, and no education (apart from what the company gives you to operate whatever you are supposed to operate). These are the jobs that give you the basis to look for your first real job.

Wrapping burgers in foil and putting them in sacks, or punching numbers on a cash register, or filling the soda machine are not careers, they are bottom-rung jobs that command bottom-rung wages. If the fast-food industry, or whatever minimum wage industry in which you find yourself, interests you, there are opportunities to advance within the chain, or with other similar outlets, but that just reinforces the concept of entry level, minimum wage jobs. If you prove more valuable to the company than flipping burgers, they will offer you a better job at better pay. That’s how the job market works.

Paying $15 an hour for a no-skill, no-experience, no-education job would put that worker at the level of biologists, auto mechanics, biochemists, teachers, geologists, roofers and bank tellers; more than some police officers; they would out-earn many firefighters. Fast food workers with starting salaries higher than many professional chefs is just silly. These are highly skilled jobs that require years of training and education. These are jobs which, in some cases, our society profoundly relies upon. Jobs with enormous responsibilities. Jobs that are considerably more complex and complicated than refilling the soda fountain at Roy Rogers. The idea that you could stroll into Hardee’s and be immediately rewarded with a salary higher than crane operators and medical lab technicians is devoid of sanity. Sure, as a human being, you’re priceless. As a child of God, you’re precious, a work of art, a freaking miracle. But your job wrapping hamburgers in foil and putting them in paper bags – that has a price tag, and the price tag ain’t anywhere close to the one our economy and society puts on teachers and mechanics. Don’t like it? You shouldn’t. It’s fast food. It’s menial. It’s mindless. It’s not supposed to be a career. It’s not supposed to be a living. An entry-level position, making roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s isn’t meant to be something you do for 26 years.

If your answer is to raise all other salaries commensurately, then you need be honest with the people and tell them that what you want to do is to make everything more expensive, and reduce the total number of jobs available. You want to lower the standard of living for everyone (including the now $15 an hour entry level people, who will find themselves right where they are today – not making enough to support a family). And God knows how many businesses you would drive into bankruptcy, putting all their employees out of work.

We get that liberals want to redistribute income, be it corporate or personal, but in order to justify their methodology, they engage in charmingly childish fiction – that doubling the wages of bottom-rung employees will not result in fewer bottom-rung jobs. It’s an economic fact that if you tax something – like bottom-rung jobs – you will get fewer of them. Price affects demand. A doubling of the price of something will affect demand for it. And doubling the price of something of low value will most certainly affect the demand for it. CBO estimates that a $15 minimum wage would cost ~500-thousand existing jobs, obviously making it harder for young people to enter the workforce (as opposed to the labor force, which they enter at age 16). Fewer job holders, more job seekers.

That our non-recovery finds a lot of over-qualified people in minimum wage jobs while there are jobs going asking, is a function of people not being qualified for the jobs that are available. This is not the fault of “the economy,” it’s the fault of parents, our schools and people being “too cool for school” when they are there.

a Non-Binding, Non-Specific, Non-Deal

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My goodness – all this fuss over a “deal” that says nothing (the State Department answer to every question Friday was, “that needs to be worked out”). They couldn’t even agree on a joint statement (a staple of these things) that all could sign. Hence, each participant has returned home to tout the “historic nature” of the agreement, each telling a different story.

The only thing that is clear after the birth of this thirteen-year non-agreement is that the official American position has shifted from “Iran will not be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons” to “We will bless Iranian nuclear weapons after ten years.” How did that happen? Somebody from the administration needs to answer that. Out loud.

One serious question that remains is, “Why is the Iranian ICBM program untouched by these negotiations? The only – only – purpose of an intercontinental ballistic missile is to deliver a nuclear warhead over great distance. Every nuclear power has explored the conventional use of ICBMs and found none. They are nuclear delivery platforms. Period. Additionally, there exists a plethora of related R&D programs underway in Iran – micro-shaped-charges (used to produce symmetrical implosions to detonate fusion warheads), re-entry vehicles, high-shock, miniaturized digital systems (used for sequencing and guidance electronics on extra-atmospheric warheads), neutron generators (nuclear triggers), etc – all untouched by the negotiations. The most probable explanation for these omissions is that we have decided to allow for a nuclear Iran and intend to contain them, a la the Cold War. If so, is there a strategy to do this in place? That’s not an unreasonable question.

We are saying that the relaxation of sanctions will be phased (presumably based on Iranian behavior), while the Iranians are saying the sanctions will be relaxed at the outset of the agreement. The administration needs to clear this up for the American people.

We have been repeatedly assured that will know what Iran is dong during the decade-long life of this proposed agreement, based on the efforts of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the main inspection regime for Iran’s nuclear program. What has been leaked (but unaddressed by the administration) is that Iran has refused “snap” inspections, whereby IAEA inspectors just show up and ask to be escorted to a particular site. Inspections, in other words, must be by appointment. If true, that blunts any serious assertion that we “know what Iran is doing.” If true, this would be a game-changing concession to Iran. The administration should explain the nature of the inspection regime agreed to thus far.

The questions about centrifuges and stockpiles gets into the weeds a bit – and I apologize for that, but they’re important – and both the administration and Iranians are hoping that this is just “too hard” for the American voters to understand. Here goes.

Uranium ore is ~0.2% uranium, which is ~0.7% U235. This material must be purified into “reactor-grade,” which is 2% to 5% U235, depending on the reactor design. The process starts by refining UO2 (uranium oxide, or yellowcake) into UF6 (uranium hexafluoride, or HEX), which is easily gasified for enrichment by cascades of centrifuges. The centrifuges are daisy-chained – each feeding the next – to further enrich the mix to higher and higher concentrations of the lighter U235 isotope. This process takes thousands of centrifuges to raise the concentration by the orders of magnitude necessary to ceramicize into fuel pellets for reactor fuel rods. “Weapons-grade” uranium is 90% or more U235, requiring even more extensive enrichment – vastly more cycles through the cascade, vastly more centrifuges, or some combination thereof. In this case, the end product is metalicized into castings that can be machined into bomb cores.

Iran has been conducting research and development at Fordow (their facility buried in a mountain) on more sophisticated centrifuges that are more efficient than the ones they are using at Natanz (their chief enrichment facility). This is an important aspect because as each centrifuge is better, the shorter the real-time needed to enrich a given amount of uranium to a given degree of enrichment. Iran currently has a stockpile of ~8.4 tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU), including some enriched to 20% purity. This would put them at around three months out from having enough highly-enriched uranium (HEU) for a bomb core, should they choose to do so. This stockpile could produce enough HEU for up to eight weapons.

Also, Iran has partnered with the Russian engineering firm Nikiet to build a heavy water reactor at Arak. This differs from their other reactors in that by using heavy water (D2O2), it can utilize “natural” uranium (HEX) as fuel – no need to enrich to 2-5%. The problem is that these reactors produce plutonium as a by product. Plutonium makes a better bomb core material than enriched uranium, and is necessary to fusion (thermonuclear, or hydrogen) warheads.

Sorry for that, but it’s necessary to understand the questions being asked, of which there are four very important ones. These talks began with an understanding that Iran would be allowed to operate around 430 centrifuges – enough to keep their uranium production line operating to feed their reactors with new fuel rods as needed – but that number is now acknowledged, without comment, to be around 6,000. This is a major concession to Iran, and the administration should explain the drastic increase.

The centrifuges over and above the permitted limit were to be destroyed (or exported), but we have said that they are now to be “deplumbed” – the daisy-chain connections removed. That change would require but three or four weeks to reactivate. Again, somebody should explain this reversal.

Iran’s stockpile of LEU was to be exported (presumably to Russia), but the framework speaks only of “neutralizing” it. This would consist of converting it to UO2, which is unusable in the enrichment process. But, as we have seen, UO2 is easily refined into HEX, which is gasified for enrichment. The combination of these two concessions means that Iran could be back in business in around six months instead of having to acquire the newer centrifuges by the thousands and then enriching enough HEX into LEU commensurate with today’s stockpile. A task that could take a year or longer.

Again, the starting assumption, not disputed by Iran at the time, was that the Arak reactor was to be modified so as not to produce usable amounts of plutonium (presumably by converting it to a light water reactor). We are saying this is the case, but Iran is saying that the Arak reactor will be “modernized.” If the administration is being truthful, the Iranian statement could just be spin for domestic audiences, we just don’t know. This should be clarified, because if we are only concentrating on weaponizing their uranium, we’re missing a vital part of nuclear weapon development and production.

We are also saying that Fordow will be closed, while Iran is saying that nothing will change there. This becomes important only if the advanced centrifuges are allowed to remain in place.

Back to non-weed questions, there is no mention of how disputes will be handled – we say it’s a nuclear weapons R&D facility, and they say it’s a shoe factory. Is there any protocol agreed to that will allow for these disputes to be resolved inside the ten-year life of the agreement? This needs to be clarified to the American public.

And lastly, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been told that there will be many classified addenda. Why? What can PRC, Russia and Iran know that our citizens cannot? There may be good reasons for this, but if so, they need to be stated publicly to remove confusion over what is being done in our name.

Sorry for the length of this, but I felt it necessary to discuss the issue in an objective, serious manner, and the issues raised by these questions are very important, especially if the president intends to complete this process without consulting Congress or the American people. As it sits right now, this agreement could completely break down the order of the Middle East, resulting in a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region. It’s a serious subject that deserves an apolitical examination.

PAK-FA

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The T-50 – probably soon to be the Su-37 – is Russia’s first true fifth-generation fighter, and will probably enter production just after the first of the year. It’s official designation at this stage is PAK-FA, short for Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks – Frontovoy Aviatsii (literally “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation”), meaning that is an undertaking of their experimental aircraft bureau, rather than purely a Sukhoi project. It is reportedly a low-observable (read: stealth) air superiority fighter that is highly maneuverable and equipped with clean-paper new engines. PAK-FA is, in other words, Russia’s answer to our F-22 Raptor.

It is said to be a Mach 2.3 platform that can supercruise (fly without afterburning) at Mach 1.6, will be armed with six air-to-air missiles, six air-to-mud bombs, and a 30mm cannon mounted in the wing root to the pilot’s starboard. It will reportedly be capable of carrying four anti-ship cruise missiles – all the above mentioned ordinance stowed in internal weapons bays. The platform will also be fitted with six removable (for stealth) under-wing hard-points for externally carrying an additional six missiles or bombs.

This aircraft will be added to the Changdu J-20 (PRC), as will the soon to be procured European fifth generation fighter, as the world’s air superiority fighter platforms. All very capable fighters (assuming all goes well with development and acceptance testing), but when you think about it, if one is clearly better – the other’s aren’t really “air superiority” platforms, are they?

The concept of air superiority became a clear doctrinal aspect of war planning during World War II when sweeping the skies of enemy fighter-bombers in the Pacific and obtaining denial to the Luftwaffe over the Normandy beaches yielded outcome-relevant advantages to blue forces. The idea is uncomplicated – deny the enemy air-access to the battlespace, and you spare your ground forces the perils of vertical assault. You convert the battlespace into a battleplane. You remove the Z-axis as a tactical concern. And if you have air superiority, you can undoubtedly menace the enemy in Z, converting the enemy’s defensive battleplane into a battlespace. Air superiority is a tactics-changing option to have, hence all major powers are trying to provide that capability to its military.

All of these platforms perform in rough equivalency; any qualitative difference will be found in the avionics – the sensor-to-pilot transfer of situational awareness. How far out can I see red forces? How far out can I lock on red forces? How close in can I get before red forces see me? Those kinds of things. The Raptor has the edge in all of these criteria – somewhat narrowly in the case of the European effort, more so with the Russian and Chinese offerings. The AN/APG-77 radars can detect a one square meter target at 150 miles, lock on to it at 93 miles, and fire on it any time after that. This in an aircraft that has the radar cross-section of a marble. The PAK-FA’s radar cross-section is ~0.5 square meter, slightly larger than a basketball. The F-22 will need to get within ~80 miles of a PAK-FA to see it, but can’t be seen by the PAK-FA until it’s within ~16 miles of it. Fatal difference for the PAK-FA. The F-22 would have long ago fired a missile at the PAK-FA and be off engaging another target.

Air superiority opens blue forces up for air-cav and armored-cav operations ahead of walking infantry, and allows for increased aerial surveillance of red force locations (while denying that ability to the enemy). As I say, it becomes an outcome-relevant advantage.

It is important to recognize that our technological advantage is still difference-making, but the window is closing. PAK-FA is a closer match to the F-22s performance envelope than the MiG-29 was to the F-15’s. It is imperative that we not begin to cut back on the research and development of advanced weapons systems at a time when our near-peer adversaries are increasing theirs. We have spent the last six years handing away America’s advantages and leadership, but this one – technological superiority – is of generational importance. Because technology is synergetic in nature (we use high-tech to invent higher-tech), a gap in capability tends to grow exponentially. Losing the lead here could take a generation or more to re-close (and more expensively than just maintaining the lead).

This is not just an Air Force problem. One of the reasons that it’s important that we maintain unquestionable military superiority is for Command of the Commons. As a result of winning World War II, America has assumed responsibility for assuring free travel and trade by providing area-denial to adversarial forces over the world’s sea lanes and within the world’s air lanes. These are known as the Commons – areas of space out of any nation’s control but necessary to peaceful interactions between them. This is why we need a 12-carrier Navy. This is why we need to base air assets in all theaters of national interest. This is why we need a rapid-response force, forward deployed somewhere on each oceanic shore. This is why we need the world’s best hunter-killer submarines. I would far rather have the United States guarding the Commons than, say, the Russians or Chinese. To understand how important Command of the Commons is, imagine how life complicates if Iran gains control of the Straits of Hormuz – 80% of Europe’s oil and 40% of its gas pass through those waters.

Rome, for all its flaws and arrogance, was a better steward of Europe than the Visigoths, Vikings or Hun. I am more comfortable for the world’s people with America, for its flaws and arrogance, being steward of the world’s trade routes than Russia or PRC – or having regional turf battles over them.

Groundhog Day all over Again

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NEWS FLASH! Donald Trump announced that is seriously considering running for president. What is this? Run number five? Six? The first few times can probably be chalked up to “… because I can.” The last one was a brilliant contract negotiating ploy – give me the deal I want, or I’ll run for office and leave you with a Golden Egg-sized hole in your schedule. This time might be different.

For starters, he has declined to renew The Apprentice franchise for another season of shooting. Now, the analyst in me wants to get a four-year Arbitron on the shows and Advertising’s spot-price for the shows, and how they compare to the last few seasons. Is he sacrificing a viable commodity or jumping off before the bottom falls out?

Nothing new or enlightening showed up in his announcement – the country’s going to hell in a hand-basket, the incumbent is an idiot, all others running for office are naïve, and so on – the usual campaign rhetoric. Only this time around … a case can be made. It seems a Venn diagram of Reality and Trump’s Rambling Screeds are beginning to show some overlap.

The true test will be the deadline for submitting detailed financials to the FEC for vetting divestitures (which could cause some problems with running his properties), this is when he jumped ship last time around. He has Chinese Walls around some investments, keeping some investors “our of sight” of other investors, and I don’t know how willing he is to make all of it public (financial records of candidates become public records).

In any event, a Donald Trump candidacy is always fun – he’s the Joe Biden of the right … always saying something you can’t believe any adult actually said that out loud. The only way he could become a threat to a serious candidate is if he self-financed more energetically that the PACs that will be running against him. For that, he would need to sell a lot of golf courses and hotels.

eGate Revisited

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Well, I thought this would be a news-cycle, maybe two, and not much beyond that. But then Ms Clinton had her presser on the subject and lied her tuckus off. The photo above is of Secretary Clinton on a C-17 flying to Libya in 2011, using her iPhone to examine something sent to her. If this was from someone at State, I’ll guarantee you it was classified. Hold that thought.

She began her treatment on eMails by saying, “There are four things I want the public to know. First, when I got to work as Secretary of State, I opted for convenience to use my personal eMail account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal eMails instead of two.” As it turns out, she carried four – her iPhone, a Blackberry, an iPad and a Mini-iPad. So that leaves one wondering what the hell she’s talking about. Plus, it takes about 30 seconds to set up a second eMail account on a cell phone. This first thing she wanted us to know makes no sense.

“Second,” she said, “the vast majority of my work eMails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department.” Well, again, not true. Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for DoS, acknowledged that auto-backup only started last month. There was no such system at State during Ms Clinton’s tenure. She lied.

“Third,” she continued, “after I left office, the State Department asked former Secretaries of State for our assistance in providing copies of work-related eMails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my eMails that could possibly be work-related, which totaled ~55K printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them.” Two things here. First is a repeat of the second lie (that State had archived her eMails to fellow State officials), and second, she supplied her version of official eMails by printing them onto 110 reams of printer paper instead of placing them onto a flash drive, where they would be a searchable, transferable record. This means that they must be gone through by hand, and entered by hand, drastically slowing down the process of searching for relevant documents. I would argue that, knowing the Clintons, this was the idea.

“We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work-related eMails and deliver them to the State Department.” It would be interesting to know just who “We” is. Turns out, it was her legal team, and they sorted the eMails by using key-word searches and deleting those which didn’t sift-out. Nobody read through them for content, just sorted by key-words (and we don’t know what key-words were used).

“At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal eMails … ” This violates the Federal Records Act’s non-destruction clause, which prohibits the employee from deleting anything that has not been vetted by DoS records security personnel. Here, she broke the law, minor infraction as it may be.

“Fourth, I took the unprecedented step of asking that the State Department make all my work-related eMails public for everyone to see.” Well, of course, eMails that have been scrubbed and vetted by her and her legal team could be released to the public. An “unprecedented step” without distinction.

During the questions from the press, Kahraman Haliscelik with Turkish Television asked, “[I]f you were a man today, would all this fuss being made be made?” To which she answered, “Well, I will – I will leave that to others to answer.” I might suggest ex-US Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration, who was fired after “The inspector general’s report specifically noted that Gration violated State Department policy by using a private, unsanctioned eMail service for official business.”

Later during the Q&A, a reporter was asking about the Secretary using a private server – one that she owned and operated – and asked if the State Department had “full access to it when you were secretary.” Ms Clinton simply ignored that part of her question and answered the second part, but the short answer is “No.” They had to ask her to send them in when they discovered they had no eMail traffic from Ms Clinton at all.

And still later, a reporter wanted to know, “Why did you wait two years? Why – why did you wait two years to turn those eMails over? The rules say you have to turn them over … ” To which Ms Clinton answered, “I don’t think – I’d be happy to have somebody talk to you about the rules. I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by.” Not true. Ms Clinton herself issued a department-wide edict that all personnel were to use .state.gov eMail (and fired an ambassador for not doing so), so there’s a rule she did not abide by. Also, her own records management handbook for DoS, which sets out a very specific process about how you remove records from the department’s control. Those rules require an exiting employee to “prepare an inventory of personal papers and non-record materials that you are proposing for removal” and then “request a review of those materials that you’ve proposed for removal.” She simply deleted “non-official” eMails from her server. Another rule she violated. Additionally, form OF-109 (part of the separation package upon leaving office) asks if you have turned over all materials and documents before leaving – if she checked “Yes,” she lied (a felony), and if she checked “No,” she would have been instructed to do so before leaving, so there’s a law she did not abide by. The Government Oversight Committee should subpoena her OF-109.

In answer to another question, Ms Clinton offered, “I did not eMail any classified material to anyone on my eMail. There is no classified material. So I’m certainly well-aware of the classification requirements and did not send classified material.” I have a problem with the “There is no classified material” part of her answer. Remember the photo at the top? She was on her way to Libya, reading her iPhone. If that was an eMail from someone at State, I’ll guarantee you it was classified. Also, her calendar, her itineraries and her daily agendas are all classified, and I guarantee she kept those on her server.

Additionally, Justin Cooper, a longtime aide to former President Bill Clinton, registered the clintonemail.com domain on January 13, a little more than a week before Hillary Clinton took office as secretary of state on January 21[1]. The first SSL certificate was issued for clintonemail.com on March 29th, according to Venafi, a security company that analyzes encryption keys and digital certificates. The SSL certificate is necessary to encrypt connections from smartphones and computers. Without that security, data would be flowing across the internet in plain text. During her first months in office until the certificate was obtained, Ms Clinton traveled to Japan, Indonesia, ROK, PRC, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey and Mexico [2].

In a rare example of making things worse by “explaining” them, Hillary Clinton managed to take the situation from about to be forgotten to a major concern for Democrats, who have placed all their 2016 eggs in the Clinton basket. Her performance raised so many more questions than it answered, and provided Trey Gowdy’s committee with a couple of new subpoenas to be sought.

I’m now not so sure this is just another Clinton-esque misadventure … this one could have legs.


[1] Meghan Keneally, Liz Kreutz and Shushannah Walshe, Hillary Clinton Emails: A Timeline of What Rules Were Allegedly Ignored, ABC News, March 6 2015, 1355EST.

[2] Martyn Williams, Hillary Clinton’s eMail system was insecure for two months, in ComputerWorld, March 11 2015, 1606PDT.

eGate

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The latest Clinton kerfluffle concerns Hillary’s use of a private eMail account during her tenure at State, for official as well as personal communication. More to the point, it is all kept on a private server located in her Chappaqua [NY] home.

With anyone else, this would probably be chalked up as a bad decision for which an explanation shouldn’t even be asked (any explanation could only cheapen “reason” to “excuse”). But the Clinton’s aren’t just anyone else. They could find a loophole in a stop sign. “That just means they’re good lawyers,” you say (which is probably what drove Shakespeare to intone “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” in Henry the Sixth). But one only looks for loopholes if one wants to do whatever it is that the law prohibits.

Plus, we have the justification in her own words. During an August 12 2000 über-event – $1,000 a ticket, $25,000 per couple if you wanted dinner – which was to benefit New York Senate 2000, a joint committee consisting of Hillary Clinton’s campaign committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the New York Democratic Party.  Event producer Peter Paul is videotaped sitting next to Hillary Clinton. The video begins with shots of the glitzy Hollywood fundraiser, about 13 minutes in, we hear[1]:

Ms Clinton: As much as I’ve been investigated and all of that, you know, why would I – I don’t even want – why would I ever want to do eMail?

Mr PAUL: No, no.

Ms Clinton: Can you imagine?

This would not be the first nor last time that Hillary Clinton expressed disdain for leaving paper trails. When it became inevitable that a department head couldn’t function in modern Washington without eMail, I think she thought she found a work-a-round: a totally captured system, under her control at all times. And that’s today’s problem. She’s turned around 55,000 pages of eMails over to State for clearance. Is that all of them? We don’t know. Any fundraising for the Clinton Foundation done here? We don’t know. Do any of them cover Benghazi? We don’t know. If not, are we to believe that while that catastrophe was unfolding no one – no one – eMailed anything to her? We just don’t know. The only way critics will be satisfied is for the physical server to be subpoenaed and examined by a computer expert to assure that no erasures had been made, and then for a trusted neutral party (an inspector general or judge) to vet the eMails before they go to State to clear for release, or the relevant committee. That probably won’t happen, and we probably will never know how forthcoming Ms Clinton will be in this matter. That is important because of the Clintons’ history for parsing, obfuscating, obstructing and generally resisting candid clarity, almost as a sport.

They have forfeited the presumption of innocence.

The degree of entitlement donned by the Clintons is demonstrated by her issuing a department-wide order that all personnel should use official eMail (*.state.gov), while she used clintonemail.com.

Now, is too much being made of all this? Absolutely. I would be shocked if anything untoward were to be found among the hidden eMails. I’m sure that Ms Clinton made sure that anything incriminating or embarrassing was conducted over secure lines (unrecorded satellite phones, etc) or face-to-face. One area that will have to be cleared up though, is Benghazi. She appointed the Review Board to “investigate” her department on the matter, and they conveniently didn’t call her or any of her top aides to testify. She is a blank slate on the subject (except for spreading the video lie). Trust me when I say that Chairman Gowdy will insist on seeing any and all Benghazi-related eMails. The press will be interested in anything relating to fundraising for the Clinton Foundation. Beyond that, all else is Republican preparing the 2016 battlespace.

This is being delightfully portrayed by Democratic pundits as reflecting a visceral fear of Hillary by Republicans, but I see it as exploiting the perceived weakness of the post-Hillary bench of Democrats. If Hillary can be discredited, Republicans see a politically weak field remaining. Aside from Jim Webb, I concur.


[1] Chad Merda, Hillary Clinton in 2000: Why would I ever want to do e-mail? Can you imagine?, in Chicago Sun-Times, March 4 2015, 1400CST.

the Roberts Court – Maybe

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Everybody knows that the “Roberts Court” has, in reality, been the Kennedy Court, in that Mr Justice Kennedy has been the swing vote in most important cases before the Court for quite a while. In 2012’s National Federation of Independent Business v Sabelius, Chief Justice Roberts took control of the Court and found for the government in broadly defining as a tax that which the letter of the law called a fee. A case in which Justice Kennedy sided with the conservatives in voting to strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.

I think that the Court is going to line up pretty much along party lines on King v Burwell – the conservatives agreeing that Congress meant what it wrote, and the liberals arguing that Congress was bluffing/careless in writing the Act – leaving Roberts as the deciding vote.

Pundits have been engaged in much hand-wringing over the implications of striking down the practice in favor of the language – “Oh, the carnage … the carnage!” is the tone of the hue and cry of the consequences of taking Congress at its word. That may be, but as Chief Justice Roberts noted in questioning counsel during orals on Wednesday, “it’s not beyond the ability of the states or Congress to fix it.” Besides, the job of the Court isn’t to help make a situation “better”, it’s to rule on the legality of actions taken by the defendant (i.e., the US government).

Roberts has gone to great lengths to not characterize the Court as a political body – hence his tortured ruling in NFIB v Sabelius – so I really won’t be surprised by a ruling, either way. But ruling against very plain language, coupled with public statements about the intent of coaxing states (“legislative intent”) to set up their own exchanges, will come close to sacrificing the Court’s credibility in favor of not deciding with the conservatives, even if they are right.

the Enemy that Dare Not Speak its Name

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Now to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s second topic for his March 3rd address to Congress – the shape of today’s Islamic jihad against the civilized world.

President Obama’s pathological revulsion of saying “Islamic” and “terrorism” in the same breath is near clinical denial. He’s the only adult in the world who can’t seem to connect the only two dots in the puzzle – ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, al Sahbaab, Hizbollah, Hamas, Abu Sayyaf, Ansar al Shari’ah, Haqqani Network, Islamic Jihad, and many, many more, have but one thing in common – they are all Islamist terrorist organizations determined to liquidate the Western World and its influence. The Islamic State (ISIS) has actually established what it considers to be the beginning of the new khalifat, or homeland for the khalif (the Islamic pope, if you will) and all the world’s Muslims. This effort, at times, takes precedence over the centuries-old Sunni-Shi’ite internecine war within Islam, as Shi’ite Iran cooperates with Sunni al Qaeda, Shi’ite al Quds fights side-by-side with Sunni Kurds, and so forth. To consider each of these groups separately and devoid of religious motivation is to cede victory to the movement as a whole.

Islamic apocalyptic supremism is a clear and present danger to all who do not buy into their hallucinatory worldview.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is dismayed at America’s new worldview because it comes at a time, and against an enemy, which maximizes Israel’s vulnerability to, not just a clear and present danger, but to annihilation. President Obama’s curious take on Islamic terror, in general, and Iran, in particular, all but throws Israel out into the street at a time of extreme peril. Mr Netanyahu is used to American (and European) child-like pursuit of a mythical Two-State “solution[1],” but Mr Obama’s desperate grasp for an Iranian deal, just any deal, presents a frightening prospective future for Israel – and ultimately for Europe and America itself. Mr Netanyahu sees the timelines for an Iranian bomb and the next American president as crossing too close for comfort. There is a real chance of either happening first. I think he wants to give Congress all information he can – some, I’m sure, from Mossad – so it can do what it can to delay the culmination of bad Iranian deal for as long as possible.

The Islamist movement shares with communism the belief that those who believe otherwise pose a mortal threat their ideology – it recognizes that it can’t compete in the marketplace of ideas – so those unbelievers must be destroyed. The difference between Islamism and communism is that the Islamists are far more overtly brutal then the communists. They are an armed force that has no compunction about overrunning sovereign states and slaughtering the inhabitants. The call for a return to some imagined Golden Age of Islamic rule is tempting to the dissatisfied youth of Muslim countries worldwide, and the highly publicized brutality is tempting to anti-social thugs wherever they are found. We are not at war with ISIS, we have been declared a mortal enemy by a worldwide Islamist movement. And while it may not be based on the majority of Muslims’ idea of proper Islam, it resonates with enough to pose a widespread danger that is based in the Qur’an. It is Islamic. They view it as a religious war. If we don’t, if we continue to take each instance in isolation, we will have no chance to defeat it.

You can’t beat an enemy you are afraid to admit exists. It’s just that simple.


[1] Which neither the Palestinians (who favor a One-State solution) nor the Israelis (who don’t see the Palestinians anywhere near ready to establish the civil institutions necessary to be a free-standing state) see as a realistic path.