Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

Good Analysis of the Failure That is ObamaCare

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

I know I just haven’t harped enough on the tremendous, stinking heap of fail that is ObamaCare, but just in case anyone was unclear on that, here’s Marc Thiessen with a solid rundown:

Historian David Maraniss notes, in Sunday’s Post, that President Obama came to office with the goal of changing “the trajectory of America” and leaving “a legacy as a president of consequence, the liberal counter to [Ronald] Reagan.”

On the foreign-policy front, he is the anti-Reagan for certain. Reagan defeated Soviet communism and left us a safer world; Obama presided over the rise and metastasis of the Islamic State and left us a far more dangerous one.

Domestically, Ronald Reagan told the American people: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ ” Obama wanted to convince Americans that they were not terrifying. And the way he was going to do it was through the only great liberal legislative achievement of his presidency: Obamacare.

He failed. Even before he leaves office, Obamacare has begun unraveling.

The law was passed over the objections of a majority of Americans, it is still opposed by a majority of Americans — and their opposition has been vindicated. Last week, UnitedHealth Group announced that, after estimated losses of more than $1 billion for 2015 and 2016 under Obamacare, the company was pulling out of most of its ill-fated exchanges.

In fact, commercial insurers across the country are hemorrhaging money on Obamacare at alarming rates. Health Care Service Corp. (which owns Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) has lost “well north of $2 billion” in its first two years — twice as much as UnitedHealth. Highmark, the nation’s fourth-largest Blue Cross plan, lost nearly $600 million in 2015. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has projected it will lose more than $400 million in the first two years, and the company has said it may leave the exchanges entirely next year.

The president promised these insurers taxpayer bailouts if they lost money, but Congress in its wisdom passed legislation barring the use of taxpayer dollars to prop up the insurers. Without the bailouts, commercial insurers are being forced to eat their losses — while more than half of the Obamacare nonprofit insurance cooperatives created under the law failed.

So what happens now? Because commercial insurers are not going to keep bleeding cash to prop up Obamacare, they have three choices: 1) scale back coverage, 2) raise prices or 3) get out of the exchanges entirely. More and more are going to choose option 3.

Does this mean that Obamacare is finally entering its “death spiral”? Not exactly. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Scott Gottlieb explains, while commercial insurers are starting to leave Obamacare, they are being replaced by Medicaid health maintenance organizations (HMOs) offering skimpy plans that mirror what they offer in Medicaid — our nation’s emergency health insurance program for the poorest of the poor.

This is a catastrophe for people stuck in Obamacare. According to a 2014 McKinsey survey, about three-quarters of those in the exchanges were previously insured on commercial plans, either through their employers or the individual market. They were doing fine without taxpayer-subsidized insurance but were pushed into Obamacare. They now face rising premiums and smaller provider networks — and as commercial insurers flee, they will increasingly be stuck in horrible, Medicaid-style plans.

This is not what the president promised when he sold Obamacare to the American people.

Snip.

With Obamacare, Obama wanted to restore America’s faith in big government. Instead, the opposite has happened. Today, 69 percent of Americans say big government is “the biggest threat to the country in the future” (ahead of big business or big labor). That figure, which is slightly down from 72 percent in 2013, is higher under Obama than it has been since Gallup began asking the question about 50 years ago. Obamacare has done more to discredit big government than 1,000 Reagan speeches ever did.

That, in the end, will be Obama’s enduring domestic legacy.

Read the whole thing.

De Blasio: Kickbacks, Unions, Cops, Hookers, Horses

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Just because current New York mayor Bill De Blasio is a left-wing loon doesn’t mean he’s not also corrupt up to his eyeballs:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has his sights set squarely on the political operative turned chief executive.

It’s a sprawling probe, but the main line appears to be following the money trail the Daily News’ Greg B. Smith, NY1’s Grace Rauh and others have extensively tracked since de Blasio ran for mayor in 2013.

That was when a union run by his cousin and a top donor to him both wrote six-figure checks to an anti-carriage horse group run by big developers that days later cut checks for the exact same amount to another group — very ironically named New York City Is Not For Sale — that promptly spent the cash, not disclosed until well after the damage was done, on TV ads that brought down then-frontrunner Christine Quinn.

Wait, Democrats and unions involved in corruption? What are the odds?

That happened just as de Blasio found religion on the carriage-horse issue, repeatedly vowing to end on “day one” of his administration an industry that very few New Yorkers saw as a scourge but that would open up what’s now vastly valuable land where the stables now sit on Manhattan’s Far West Side. The developer behind that push, Steve Nislick, wrote a “Shermanesque” statement to the Voice of the People last year vowing he wouldn’t personally profit from their closing.

And it’s not just ponies: “The feds are also looking at how the city helped turn a nursing home for AIDS patients into luxury condos and at a series of scandals involving hookers for top cops and diamonds for their wives.” Among many other transgressions.

That cops and hookers scandal (which took place on a plane to Las Vegas, a nice plus for a juicy sex and corruption story) involved Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, both of whom are De Blasio donors.

Given that Bharara took down former Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, there’s a good chance he’ll succeed in taking down De Blasio. Then it might finally be Andrew Cuomo’s turn in the barrel…

(Hat tip: Instapundit’s Twitter feed.)

LinkSwarm for April 22, 2016

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

As today is a made-up celebration called “Earth Day,” be sure to have beef for dinner…

  • Reminder: “Officials at VA’s Phoenix hospital manipulated wait-time data to make it appear they were connecting doctors and veterans seeking appointments much faster than they actually were. This was done so VA managers at the Arizona facility could keep getting generous performance bonuses. They got their bonuses but dozens of waiting veterans died.” So how did the VA address the problem? They hired someone accused of doing the exact same thing at another hospital.
  • Huge ObamaCare premium hikes are coming down the pike in 2017. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • “The largest health insurer in the U.S. has started pulling out of select Obamacare exchanges.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Eight more ObamaCare co-ops are about to bite the dust.
  • Meanwhile, ObamaCare is helping enourage opioid addiction.
  • Thanks to Obama’s supergenius management, the Taliban are now winning in Afghanistan.
  • “The National Labor Relations Board suspended a top-ranking Philadelphia official after receiving complaints that he helped raise money from unions for his pro-union charity.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Following a congressional subpoena over Benghazi, Hillary’s state department staff hid requested files in another department. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Is Rhode Island closing 66% of polling places for next week’s presidential primaries? Something smells.
  • How Ted Cruz could beat Hillary Clinton. “Clin­ton is en­ter­ing the gen­er­al elec­tion with glar­ing vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies of her own. Her im­age is tox­ic to Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents, and her pop­ular­ity among Demo­crats is now at an all-time low as a pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate, ac­cord­ing to Gal­lup’s polling. It won’t take a top-tier Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate to win.” Also: “Cruz con­sist­ently runs far more com­pet­it­ively against Clin­ton than Trump does.”
  • “It’s not just Wall Street banks. Most companies and groups that paid Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to speak between 2013 and 2015 have lobbied federal agencies in recent years, and more than one-third are government contractors, an Associated Press review has found. Their interests are sprawling and would follow Clinton to the White House should she win election this fall.”
  • Donald Trump jumps on the social justice warrior tranny bathroom bandwagon.
  • Evidently accused pedophile Terry Bean is the one whose organizations are pushing tranny bathroom bills down America’s throats. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Trump convention manager Paul Manafort engages in the time-honored traditional rhetorical device know as “lying your ass off.”
  • Thomas Sowell on campaign lies and dodgy statistics.
  • “Although our panel’s original estimates had Trump finishing with 1,175 pledged delegates, my revised deterministic projections have him at 1,155, and the probabilistic version has him at 1,159.”
  • Ted Cruz has done heavy organizing in California.
  • Man indicted for selling school supplies to Detroit schools he didn’t actually deliver…with the connivance of several principles receiving kickbacks. Now, remind me: Which party has controlled Detroit for half a century?
  • Venezuela instituting four hours of blackouts a day, in addition to the previously mentioned three day weekends. That socialist paradise just keeps
  • Brazil impeaches their President.
  • Won’t someone please think of poor, penniless Boeing?
  • When low-fat dogma trumped science: hamburger study data showed exacpt opposite of study’s conclusions.
  • Navy chief starving Marine air corps.
  • What Women Really Want Is The Patriarchy.”
  • ‘White Privilege’ Is a Racial Slur.”
  • Walden is less a cornerstone work of environmental literature than the original cabin porn: a fantasy about rustic life divorced from the reality of living in the woods, and, especially, a fantasy about escaping the entanglements and responsibilities of living among other people.”
  • Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano erupts. Popocatepetl is less than 50 miles from Mexico City…
  • Goldman Sachs pays $5 billion fine to “settle claims that it misled mortgage bond investors during the financial crisis.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Pratt & Whitney pushing a B-52 engine upgrade.
  • The woman who can’t remember her own past. (Hat tip: Bill Crider.)
  • Lileks: “Who wouldn’t want to lounge around in a set from a 1970s failed Gene Roddenberry pilot?” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Son, that’s no way to treat steaks. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Something Something Something Danger Zone

    Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

    “Dems fear their primary has reached danger zone”

    That’s the actual headline on this actual story from the Hill.

    This offers me a chance to cram as many Archer memes into one post as possible do an update on the Democratic Presidential race.

    The upshot of the piece is that the Democratic establishment was fine and dandy with Bernie Sanders when he had no chance of winning, but now that he’s kicking Hillary Clinton’s ass and actually threatening to upset her coronation, there’s finger-wagging and pearl-clutching like you wouldn’t believe.

    “Anxiety is rising among Democrats ahead of Tuesday’s primary in New York, with some fearing the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has reached a danger zone.”

    Translation: Sanders attacks are hurting Clinton. And we just can’t let that happen!

    “‘While this is the NFL, and everyone understands that it’s a full-contact sport, even in the NFL one gets a yellow flag for a late hit at the knees intended to hurt the other player,’ said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane.”

    I know you’ll be shocked, SHOCKED to learn that Lehane “served as a lawyer, spokesperson and expert in opposition research for the Clinton White House.”

    The Vermont senator has long drawn contrasts between himself and Clinton, but his attacks have grown more caustic of late, particularly with regard to the former first lady’s links to big financial companies.

    At a huge rally in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Sunday, Sanders said a speech Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs must have been delivered in “Shakespearean prose,” given the $225,000 fee she received.

    He was equally scathing during last week’s debate when Clinton insisted that, during her time as a New York senator, she had “called out” banks for poor mortgage practices.

    “Secretary Clinton called them out. Oh my goodness, they must have been really crushed by this,” Sanders responded. “And was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements? So they must have been very, very upset by what you did.”

    The left of the Democratic Party has long been uneasy about Clinton’s coziness with the corporate world. But the emphatic, persistent way in which Sanders is attacking her on the topic risks painting her as a cipher of Wall Street — and such a charge could drain liberal grassroots enthusiasm if she locks up the nomination.

    Translation: Queen Hillary owns Democratic voters, and that pipsqueak Sanders has no right to “drain liberal grassroots enthusiasm.”

    “‘I am worried about the increasingly harsh tone and tenor of this campaign [that could] turn off Sanders supporters in the general [election],” said strategist Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has endorsed Clinton. ‘I’m afraid they’re going to stay home.'”

    Funny how this piece keeps quoting Clinton toadies and Democratic insiders, isn’t it?

    How nice of The Hill to offer Hillary this in-kind donation…

    Texas vs. California Update for April 18, 2016

    Monday, April 18th, 2016

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup, with the top news being California’s hastening their economic demise with a suicidal minimum wage hike:

  • Jerry Brown admits the minimum wage hike doesn’t make economic sense, then signs it anyway. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Who is really behind the minimum wage hike? The SEIU:

    California’s drive to hike the minimum wage has little to do with average workers and everything to do with the Golden State’s all-powerful government employee unions.

    Nationally, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is known for representing lower skilled workers. But, of the SEIU’s 2.1 million dues-paying members, half work for the government. In California, that translates to clout with much of the $50 million SEIU spent in the U.S. on political activities and lobbying spent in California. In fact, out of the 12 “yes” votes for the minimum wage bill in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations on March 30, the SEIU had contributed almost $100,000 out of the three-quarters of a million contributed by public employee unions—yielding a far higher return on investment than anything Wall Street could produce.

    Unions represent about 59 percent of all government workers in California. Many union contracts are tied to the minimum wage — boost the minimum wage and government union workers reap a huge windfall, courtesy of the overworked California taxpayer.

  • “The impacts of the increase in minimum wage on workers at the very bottom of the pay scales might be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ramifications of the minimum wage increase.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Indeed, that hike will push government employee wages up all up the ladder.
  • “California minimum wage hike hits L.A. apparel industry: ‘The exodus has begun.'” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Texas’ job creation has helped keep the unemployment rate low at 4.3 percent, which has now been at or below the U.S. average rate for a remarkable 111 straight months.”
  • “Number of Californians Moving to Texas Hits Highest Level in Nearly a Decade”:

    “California’s taxes and regulations are crushing businesses, and there are more opportunities in Texas for people to start new companies, get good jobs, and create better lives for their families,” said Nathan Nascimento, the director of state initiatives at Freedom Partners. “When tax and regulatory climates are bad, people will move to better economic environments—this phenomenon isn’t a mystery, it’s how marketplaces work. Not only should other state governments take note of this, but so should the federal government.”

    According to Tom Gray of the Manhattan Institute, people may be leaving California for the employment opportunities, tax breaks, or less crowded living arrangements that other states offer.

    “States with low unemployment rates, such as Texas, are drawing people from California, whose rate is above the national average,” Gray wrote. “Taxation also appears to be a factor, especially as it contributes to the business climate and, in turn, jobs.”

    “Most of the destination states favored by Californians have lower taxes,” Gray wrote. “States that have gained the most at California’s expense are rated as having better business climates. The data suggest that may cost drivers—taxes, regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs—are prompting businesses to locate outside California, thus helping to drive the exodus.”

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • More on the same theme. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • It’s not just pensions: “The state paid $458 million in 2001 (0.6 percent of the general fund) for state worker retiree health care and is expected to pay $2 billion (1.7 percent of the general fund) next fiscal year — up 80 percent in just the last decade.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Texas border control succeeds where the Obama Administration fails. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • California and New York still lead Texas in billionaires. But for how long?
  • “The housing bubble may have collapsed, but the public-employee pension fund managers are still with us. If anything they’re bigger than ever, still insatiably seeking high returns just over the horizon line of another economic bubble.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • How to fix San Francisco’s dysfunctional housing market. “Failed public policy and political leadership has resulted in a massive imbalance between how much the city’s population has grown this century versus how much housing has been built. The last thirteen years worth of new housing units built is approximately equal to the population growth of the last two years.” Also: “The city is forcing people out. Only the rich can live here because of the policies created by so-called progressives and so-called housing advocates.” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • UC Berkley to cut 500 jobs over two years.
  • What does BART do faced with a $400 million projected deficit over the next decade? Dig deeper. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Stanton, California, is the latest California municipality facing bankruptcy. “One of the main reasons the city can’t pay its bills without the sales tax is that it gives outlandish salaries and benefits to its government workers.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Yesterday was Tax Freedom Day in Texas.
  • Politically correct investing has already cost CalPERS $3 billion. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “A federal jury on Wednesday convicted former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka of deliberately impeding an FBI investigation, capping a jail abuse and obstruction scandal that reached to the top echelons of the Sheriff’s Department.” (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Top California Democratic assemblyman Roger Hernandez accused of domestic violence.
  • Calls for UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi to resign, she of the supergenius “pay $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative postings about the pepper-spraying of students in 2011” plan.
  • California beachwear retailer Pacific Sunwear files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • California retailer Sport Chalet is also shutting down.
  • 75% of current Toyota employees are willing to move to Texas to work at Toyota’s new U.S. headquarters.
  • California isn’t the only place delusional politicians are pushing a “railroad to nowhere.” The Lone Star Rail District wants to keep getting and spending money despite the fact that Union Pacific said they couldn’t use their freight lines for a commuter train between Austin and San Antonio. The tiny little problem being that the Union Pacific line was the only one under consideration…
  • Media Watch Roundup

    Friday, April 15th, 2016

    A few media tidbits of interest have popped up as of late:

  • I missed this thumbsucker at BillMoyers.com on the decline of journalism from The Nation (no wonder I missed it) in March. It’s full of the usual “great old journalists can’t find jobs” laments, but the words “liberal” and “bias” are conspicuously missing from the piece itself, but not from the comments:

    Newsrooms — where journalists were supposed to have their finger on the pulse of their readership — were always an amazingly insular island where true-believing liberals dismissively looked down upon their readers as dim witted and beneath contempt.

    Today the mainstream legacy media, comprised of Liberal Democrats, continues to slant and suppress news and information to fit their agenda. Tom Blumer at NewsBusters gives the example of The Los Angeles Times that won’t publish any reader comments seen as denying or even expressing doubt about “climate change.”

    Print “news” is now little more than heavily-biased, Leftist agenda reporting designed to advance Liberalism, Leftism, Marxism, Socialism, and all their “ism” offshoots (Feminism, Environmentalism, Globalism, etc.). 50% of your potential readers despise you for your biases and the other 50% agree with you, but still see the bias and thus, don’t trust you.

    A big reason many people have turned away from traditional news sources such as papers, is the palpable hostility that so many journalists have for conservatives. Alienating a large part of your customer base isn’t exactly a winning business decision.

    But the writer does mention the phrase “social justice” in his piece…in the context of an ex-reporter who landed a job running a strip club…

  • No wonder being a newspaper reporter now ranks as the worst job in America. “Most reporters long ago stopped reporting and began advocating, generally for Democrats and left-leaning causes. The pride that journalists once took in being objective and remaining separated from the story practically disappeared. It became a profession almost devoid of ethics and was contributing to a decline in readership even before the Internet made life difficult for them.” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Layoffs at Salon. Wherever shall we find such insightful commentary as “Is Donald Trump a new Hitler?” now?
  • Via Moe Lane comes word that “Gabriel Snyder, the editor-in-chief at the New Republic who joined the magazine amid internal turmoil, is leaving his post.” The piece is full of the usual vacuous twaddle about what a great team he had assembled, etc. The piece notes that page hits are up, but fails to list how subscriptions (you know, the thing where readers actually pay to read your magazine; ask your parents if you’re unfamiliar with the term…) have been doing under the new TNR regime. In fact, I have been unable to find the any TNR circulation figure online after about 2010. If you can find them, drop me a line in the comments below.
  • Heh:

  • The War on the Little Sisters of the Poor

    Thursday, April 14th, 2016

    The Little Sisters of the Poor case, which will decide whether the Obama Administration can force Catholic nuns to pay for abortions by fiat, is before the Supreme Court.

    Some interesting developments:

    The government’s position in Zubik v. Burwell, the contraceptive mandate case, just got weirder. It is increasingly difficult to understand why the government has been litigating so long and so hard to force the Little Sisters and other religious organizations to perform acts they regard as contrary to their faith, when it now admits (however grudgingly) that it all was unnecessary.

    Of course, this ignores the possibility that the entire point of ObamaCare (and the administration’s specific interpretation of same) was to force Catholics and evangelicals to pay for abortion against their will. As Yuval Levin notes: “It is a culture war of choice on the part of the Obama White House.” That’s the reason this administration is willing to violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in order to punish the The Little Sisters of the Poor. As Instapundit noted: “They hate those groups and wanted to punish them.”

    Every knee must bend.

    LinkSwarm for April 11, 2016

    Monday, April 11th, 2016

    Greetings, and welcome to the week known as “Damn, I better finish my taxes.” Here’s a LinkSwarm:

  • Obama’s foreign policy genius exemplified: “In Syria, militias armed by Pentagon fight those armed by the CIA.”
  • If Republicans end up with a brokered convention, expect Ted Cruz, not Paul Ryan, to win the nomination. “[We’re] learning more and more about who those delegates are now that they’re being chosen. They’re not members of the Washington ‘establishment.’ Instead, they’re mostly grass-roots activists, and many of them want Cruz to be their next president.”
  • “Ted Cruz on Saturday clinched the support of every pledged delegate in Colorado, capturing all of the final 13 delegates who will go to the national convention in July and demonstrating his organizational strength in the all-important delegate race.”
  • Indeed, Team Trump screwed up in lots of places:

    From Thursday to Saturday, Trump suffered setbacks in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, South Carolina and Indiana that raise new doubts about his campaign’s preparedness for the long slog of delegate hunting as the GOP race approaches a possible contested convention. He lost the battle on two fronts. Cruz picked up 28 pledged delegates in Colorado. In the other states, rival campaigns were able to place dozens of their own loyalists in delegate spots pledged to Trump on the first ballot. This will matter if Trump fails to win a majority of delegates on the first ballot in Cleveland, as his delegates defect once party rules allow them to choose the candidate they want to nominate.

    If Donald Trump is as smart as he keeps telling us, how is it he can’t seem to hire anyone smart enough to know how each state’s delegate selection process actually works?

  • Hillary Clinton defends Israel against Bernie Sanders. Hillary finally takes the right side in an issue debate, but what do you want to bet that it hurts her, given the naked anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian bias among the Democratic Party’s activist base?
  • Thanks to the Magic Power of Socialism™, Venezuela is where Zimbabwe was 15 years ago. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Modern liberalism is dedicated to altering language to advance their agenda, not to mention hiding their many failures.
  • Naval security under Obama looks like it’s just as good as security in the rest of the Obama Administration. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • America assimilates Muslims much better than Europe.
  • Gun sales soar but “per capita criminal homicides committed with firearms are at their lowest point ever recorded since the FBI began formally tracking that information in 1960.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Millionaires are fleeing France. “Polls have shown that about 50% of all French people 18-34 years old, not just the millionaires and billionaires, would leave France if they could.” Why? “Blue model rot, deeply set in across Europe, is pervasive in France.”
  • “70 Tries After Seattle Raised Its Minimum Wage, I Still Can’t Find A Job.”
  • Conservative Rebecca Bradley defeated liberal activists Joanne Kloppenburg for a seat on the Wisconsin supreme court.
  • Thanks to global warming, sea levels are rising. And by “rising” I mean “falling.”
  • Dallas trying to screw property owners yet again.
  • Several ESPN writers are predicting an Astros-Cubs World Series. And the moon became as blood…
  • “New York taxi drivers to be banned from flirting with or ejaculating on passengers.” One of these things is not like the other/One of these things just doesn’t belong…
  • “Understanding Movement In Composition Through The Work Of Akira Kurosawa.”
  • Hillary’s Server, Guccifer, and Sid

    Sunday, April 10th, 2016

    Welcome to the second half of An All Sidney Blumenthal Weekend! (I’m sure that hook is just the thing to pull all the kids in for boffo sweeps ratings…)

    First some useful background on the state of play on Hillary’s email server scandal, via Kimberly Strassel at The Wall Street Journal (usual WSJ Google hoops apply):

    Hillary Clinton is good at imagining partisan plots, and to listen to her team, no less than several inspectors general, the intelligence community, and the entire Republican ecosphere are colluding to turn her home-brew email system into a fake scandal. To this conspiracy, she must now add the federal judiciary.

    In recent weeks, not one, but two, esteemed federal judges have granted an outside group—Judicial Watch—the right to conduct discovery into the origins and handling of her private email system. It’s a reminder that Mrs. Clinton’s biggest problem this election isn’t Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Her problem is a 1966 statute known as the Freedom of Information Act, and the judges who enforce it.

    The judges have taken unprecedented steps to resolve this case. It is exceedingly rare—almost unheard of—for a judge to allow discovery in a FOIA proceeding. This is a testament to how grave Mrs. Clinton’s email problem is. In the usual course of things, an outside group demands documents, a judge requires a federal department to hand them over, and the public learns something.

    In this case—as we all know—the problem is that the State Department doesn’t have the documents. Or rather, it can’t confirm that it has them all, because State left it to Mrs. Clinton and her aides to possess them, and then to unilaterally decide what to hand over. To Judge Royce Lamberth, this is cut and dry “evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith,” and the law demands a full accounting of how this situation came to be, what records exist, and where they are now.

    Speaking of the judge’s words, they too are a testament to Mrs. Clinton’s mess. Judge Lamberth was unplugged in his order, calling the former secretary of state’s email set up “extraordinary,” and slamming “constantly shifting admissions by the government and former government officials” about the setup. Judge Emmet Sullivan, the first to allow discovery, referred in his own hearing to Mrs. Clinton’s “totally atypical system” and noted that it “boggles the mind that the State Department allowed this circumstance to arise in the first place. It’s just very, very, very troubling.”

    “Troubling” is putting it mildly…

    Fueling the judges’ suspicions has been new evidence that Mrs. Clinton didn’t turn everything over. Judicial Watch recently obtained emails showing that State Department and National Security Agency personnel had big concerns with Mrs. Clinton’s early demands that she be allowed to use a BlackBerry for secure correspondence. They wanted her to sit at a computer in a secure facility—as everyone else does. These documents include a February 2009 email from then-Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills to her boss, crowing that State was coming around to Mrs. Clinton’s demands, and a return email the same day from Mrs. Clinton saying, “That’s good news.”

    These are clearly work-related emails. They speak to the question of Mrs. Clinton’s communications while at the State Department. They aren’t about yoga routines. And yet, guess what? That email chain was not included in the 55,000 pages of documents Mrs. Clinton turned over. Perhaps it was an oversight, but far more likely, the Clinton team—knowing the firestorm over a home-brew system—chose to withhold documents showing that State and NSA considered Mrs. Clinton’s email demands unsafe and unreasonable. What else did Mrs. Clinton choose to withhold from the public?

    What else indeed?

    Judicial Watch is hoping to use discovery to interview eight current and former State Department officials, including Ms. Mills, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, top State Department official Patrick Kennedy, and former State IT employees Bryan Pagliano (who is reported to have recently been granted immunity by the FBI). And yet in a hearing this week in Judge Sullivan’s court, State Department officials were already moving to limit or shut down what questions Judicial Watch could ask—including those pertaining to how classified information was handled on the system.

    Put another way, State wants to put off-limits the questions that are at the heart of the Clinton email scandal. And no surprise. The Judicial Watch discovery holds the potential to expose the many and varied ways Mrs. Clinton may have skirted the rules, and in turn to put enormous pressure on the FBI to act. These depositions meanwhile are currently set to happen this summer, right before the Democratic convention.

    The beauty of FOIA is that it is designed to bring things to light. Mrs. Clinton has grown talented at outfoxing investigators, Congress, inspectors general, the press. But she made the error this time of playing games with a law that federal judges take seriously, and that gives outside watchdogs real leverage.

    So what role did Clinton toady Sidney Blumenthal play in this “unsafe and unreasonable” secret email server? He’s the one that helped get it exposed via a Romanian hacker:

    One of the notches on Guccifer’s cyber-crime belt was allegedly accessing the email account of Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, one of Clinton’s most prolific advice-givers when she was secretary of state. It was through that hack that Clinton’s use of a personal account — clintonemail.com — first came to light.

    Former law enforcement and cyber security experts said the hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lehel Lazar, could – now that he’s in the U.S. – help the FBI make the case that Clinton’s email server was compromised by a third party, one that did not have the formal backing and resources of a foreign intelligence service such as that of Russia, China or Iran.

    And isn’t it interesting that hacker “Guccifer” has been extradited to the U.S. “at a critical point in the FBI’s criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email use”?

    Also this: “Guccifer has no programming skills and guessed passwords of prominent public figures after reading their biographies.”

    So Guccifer isn’t some computer criminal mastermind, he’s a lowly “script kiddie” doing password guess attacks. If he did obtained access to Hillary’s email server, then it’s a dead certainty that Russia, China and other intelligence services hacked it as well.

    (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

    The Panama Papers’ Clinton-Putin Connection Part 2

    Saturday, April 9th, 2016

    It turns out that there’s another Clinton-Putin collection revealed by the Panama Papers in the form of ubiquitous Clinton toady Sydney Blumenthal:

    Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Georgian billionaire and former prime minister of the Caucasus state, is also named in the Panama Papers, which is believed to be the largest leaks of financial documents in history. A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ivanishvili appeared in the Hillary Clinton email dump through her longtime friend Sidney Blumenthal.

    Blumenthal, who played a middle-man role for Clinton, passed along a memo from Ivanishvili ahead of the 2012 Georgian elections. Ivanishvili was head of the Georgian Dream party, which successfully ousted then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a U.S. ally.

    Snip.

    According to Blumenthal’s email, [former Clinton ambassador to Germany John] Kornblum was “working with the political party in Georgia opposing Saakashvili.”

    Kornblum made the case that the U.S. should consider distancing itself from Saakashvili. He also asserted that the regime was cracking down on opposition parties, such as the Ivanishvili-controlled Georgian Dream coalition.

    “There is a real chance Saakashvili could lose,” Kornblum wrote. “He is doing everything possible to avoid that indignity, including harassing Georgian Dream in ways described in the letters.”

    “If Saakshvili clearly steals the election, there could be public discontent, violence and maybe a ‘wag the dog’ scenario with Russia,” he added.

    In a memo passed to Blumenthal through Kornblum, Ivanishvili urged Clinton to support Georgian Dream.

    “The first step back to the path of democracy must be an open and fair election that offers the hope of a peaceful transfer of power,” Ivanishvili wrote. “Recent polls suggest that Georgian Dream can make this happen, if the authorities give democracy a chance.”

    Yes, because “peaceful democracy” and “Putin stooges” go together so well. And who wouldn’t want to ally with an America whose Secretary of State is willing to intervene in local elections on behalf of their political enemies?

    Of course, betraying allies and comforting enemies has pretty much been the modus operandi of Obama/Clinton/Kerry foreign policy.

    It is unclear if Blumenthal was paid for connecting Kornblum and Ivanishvili to Clinton. It is also unclear whether Ivanishvili directed Kornblum or Blumenthal to reach out to Clinton. Additionally, it is unclear how Clinton responded to the memos.

    But as Gawker reported, attorneys with expertise in the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which governs foreign lobbying, say that Blumenthal and Kornblum should have registered as lobbyists.

    Blumenthal frequently emailed Clinton with items ranging from political gossip to in-depth intelligence briefings gleaned from his deep reservoir of intelligence community sources. He lobbied heavily on behalf of a company called Osprey Global Solutions, which sought contracts in post-Gaddafi Libya.

    And this is not the last time that Blumenthal will be mentioned here this weekend…