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[BOOKS] The Silencers 

The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech, by Kimberly Strassel (Twelve Press, 396 pp., $30)

I Find that Offensive!, by Claire Fox (Biteback Publishing, 179 pp., $14.95)

Fred Siegel writes: 

…Strassel’s chapters on the politicization of the IRS in Obama’s hands make for a striking summary of Chicago skullduggery. In 2012, an election year, the IRS, led by liberal operative Lois Lerner, systematically sidelined conservative (often Tea Party) organizations. The broadest and deepest scandal in IRS history is more than three years old, but there is little chance that Obama’s Chicago-ized Justice Department will hold anyone accountable. Strassel also discusses the attempts led by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Dick Durbin of Illinois to criminalize criticism of the standard-issue UN position on Unknownclimate change. The senators insist that manmade climate change is a matter of “settled science.” But climate is always changing, and science is never settled.

[Order Kimberly Strassel’s book  “The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech from Amazon.com]

In late 2008, after Democrats took control of all three branches of government, the Left realized, writes Strassel, that it could use the federal bureaucracy to deploy campaign finance laws selectively against its opponents. The Left could also call upon “the extraordinary new power of the Internet and social media” to convince “a credulous public” that its assaults on opposition political activity “were aimed at ‘cleaner’ and ‘more open’ elections.” This dynamic constitutes what Strassel calls “the modern intimidation game” that “now defines American politics.”

[Read the full review here, at City Journal]

In Wisconsin, Democrats enraged by Governor Scott Walker’s successful effort to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees played the intimidation game even while out of power. The state’s Progressive-era laws, designed to ensure fair elections, and its unique Government Accountability Board were turned against conservative activists who supported Walker. Democratic Party county prosecutors pressed an array of lawsuits and used armed sheriffs’ deputies to stage early-morning raids, guns drawn, on the homes of conservative activists suspected of having marginally violated state campaign finance laws—in this case, the heinous crime of having outside committees coordinate campaign expenditures with Governor Walker’s cover_9781849549813electoral efforts. Further, the accused were forbidden by state law of telling anyone, except their lawyers, about the raids. Most of this, as Strassel accurately notes, was “simple harassment.”

[Order Claire Fox’s bookI Find that Offensive!from Amazon.com]

As for real wrongdoing, the Obama administration, as Strassel explains, has slow-walked documents required for the investigation into the IRS scandals and the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious fiasco, in which the federal government inadvertently armed Mexican drug cartels. Moreover, the House committee examining the Benghazi debacle still doesn’t have tens of thousands of Hillary Clinton emails. But the investigation did inadvertently expose the former secretary of state’s home-brewed email server. Read the rest of this entry »

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Legislating from the Bench: Court Strikes Down Wisconsin Right-to-Work Law 

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Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Twenty-four other states have such laws.

Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker as he was mounting his run for president, was struck down Friday as violating the state constitution.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, also a Republican, promised to appeal the decision and said he was confident it would not stand. Schimel has not made a decision on whether to seek an immediate suspension of the ruling while the appeal is pending, spokesman Johnny Koremenos said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Associated Press

“We are confident Wisconsin’s freedom-to-work law is constitutional and will ultimately be upheld.”

Governor Scott Walker, on Twitter

Three unions filed the lawsuit last year shortly after Walker signed the bill into law. Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Twenty-four other states have such laws.

The unions argued that Wisconsin’s law was an unconstitutional seizure of union property since unions now must extend benefits to workers who don’t pay dues. Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust agreed.

“Once again, a liberal Dane County judge is trying to legislate from the bench. No one should be forced to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.”

— Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester

He said the law amounts to an unconstitutional governmental taking of union funds without compensation since under the law unions must represent people who don’t pay dues. That presents an existential threat to unions, Foust wrote. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Big Shakeup’ in Iowa Poll: Cruz Soars to Lead

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Seven weeks from the caucuses, Ted Cruz is crushing it in Iowa.

The anti-establishment congressional agitator has made a rapid ascent into the lead in the GOP presidential race here, with a 21 percentage-point leap that smashes records for upsurges in recent Iowa caucuses history.

Donald Trump, now 10 points below Cruz, was in a pique about not being front-runner even before the Iowa Poll results were announced Saturday evening. He wasted no time in tearing into Cruz — and the poll — during an Iowa stop Friday night.

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Ben Carson, another “Washington outsider” candidate, has plunged 15 points from his perch at the front of the pack in October. He’s now in third place.

[Read the full story here, at demoinesregister.com

“Big shakeup,” said J. Ann Selzer, pollster for The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll. “This is a sudden move into a commanding position for Cruz.”

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Cruz, a Texas U.S. senator famous for defying party leaders and using government shutdown tactics to hold up funding for the Obamacare health care law and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, was the favorite of 10 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers in the last Iowa Poll in October. He’s now at 31 percent. Read the rest of this entry »


A Speechwriter’s Analysis: How Donald Trump’s Language Works For Him

It’s not just what Trump says; it’s how he says it.

Barton Swaim worked for the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford (R), from 2007 to 2010. He is author of “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics.” 

Barton Swaim writes: every political commentator in America has now written at least one piece attempting to explain the mystery of Donald Trump’s appeal. Most have dealt with the man’s demeanor, his talent for attracting media coverage and his disdain for party and
4131qAuqI0L._SL250_intellectual elites. Some of these I find cogent.

The thing I find most distinctive about Trump, though — and perhaps it’s at least a component of his success so far — is the structure of his language.

[Check out Barton Swaim’s book “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics” at Amazon.com]

Everybody senses that Trump doesn’t speak like other politicians. But how is his speech different, exactly? Is it just the swagger, the dismissive tone and clipped accent? Maybe in part. Trump does seem emotionally engaged in a way none of his competitors do; he is perpetually annoyed — exasperated that things aren’t as they should be — but somehow also good-humored about it. (Chris Christie and John Kasich seem perpetually annoyed, too, but there is nothing funny or cheerful about their versions.)

To get at what makes Trump’s language different, take a look at the shape of his sentences. They don’t work the way modern political rhetoric does — they work the way punchlines work: short (sometimes very short) with the most important words at the end.

 “Some of his answers last only a few seconds, some are slightly longer, but almost all consist of simple sentences, grammatically and conceptually, and most of them withhold their most important word or phrase until the very end.”

That’s rare among modern politicians, and not simply because they lack Trump’s showmanship or comedic gifts. It’s rare because most successful modern politicians are habitually careful with their language. They are keenly aware of the ways in which any word they speak may be interpreted or misinterpreted by journalists and partisan groups and constituencies and demographic groups.

Trump’s sentences end with a pop, and he seems to know instinctively where to put the emphasis in each one.

And so in important situations — situations in which they know a lot depends on what they say or don’t say — their language takes on (at least) two peculiar characteristics. First, their syntax tends to abstraction. They speak less about particular things and people — bills, countries, identifiable officials — and more about “legislation” and “the international community” and “officials” and “industry” and “Washington” and “government.”

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

Second, their sentences take on a higher number of subordinate clauses and qualifying phrases — “over the last several years,” “in general,” “in effect,” “what people are telling me,” and so on. This is the kind of language you use when you’re aware that your words might be misinterpreted or used against you.

“Politicians are frequently too careful with their language, and this conscientiousness can begin to sound like deceit or cowardice. When they rely too heavily on abstractions, when they avoid concrete nouns, when all their statements seem always hedged by qualifying phrases, they sound like politicians, in the worst sense of the word.”

When used well, it conveys competence and assures listeners that the speaker thinks coherent thoughts and holds reasonable positions. It suggests that the speaker cares about the truth of his claims. But politicians are frequently too careful with their language, and this conscientiousness can begin to sound like deceit or cowardice. When they rely too heavily on abstractions, when they avoid concrete nouns, when all their statements seem always hedged by qualifying phrases, they sound like politicians, in the worst sense of the word. To my ear, anyway, Hillary Clinton sounds this way almost all the time. Read the rest of this entry »


TIME Cover: Donald Trump Has Landed

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Republican Presidential Race 2016

Michael Scherer writes: There are some things you just can’t do in politics, not at the presidential level, anyway.

This is a game like any other, with rules honed over decades by the pros in blue blazers clutching focus-group results: Be likable. Don’t make enemies. Respect the party elders. Avoid funny hats. And never wear white bucks or French cuffs to the Iowa State Fair, a flyover fantasy­land of cholesterol and common decency where the life-size butter cow grazes behind glass with the life-size butter Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly.

That’s why Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wore jeans to pose atop the hay bales this year. Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina featured pink plaid—­Farmer Jane meets Disney princess—and Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton dug up a blouse of blue gingham, hoisting her pork chop on a stick like a blue ribbon for authenticity. They all played it well, adhering to the sacred promise that if they pretend to be like everyone else, voters might think they actually are.

Then a buzzing came across the sky. A $7 million Sikorsky helicopter, sent over six states in at least four hops by its billionaire owner, descended in tight circles on the crowd, the name of the Republican front runner for the 2016 presidential nomination emblazoned on the tail. Donald John Trump, at roughly 25% in the national GOP polls, about twice his nearest rival, emerged in Des Moines with his golden mane encased in a big ruby baseball cap, his cuffs flashing diamond links and his shoes shining brighter than bleached teeth. Read the rest of this entry »


RETURN OF THE SPEECH POLICE: 2012 It was the IRS. This Election? Watch the DOJ

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You won’t read much about it in the Beltway press corps, but a behind-the-scenes effort is under way to lobby the Federal Election Commission and Justice Department to stifle free political speech the way the Internal Revenue Service did in 2012. Don’t be surprised if the subpoenas hit Republican candidates at crucial political moments.

“Justice’s involvement elbows in on the regulatory province of the FEC, an agency explicitly designed with a 3-3 partisan split to prevent it from being co-opted by one party. And that’s the point. Democracy 21 says it is lobbying Justice because the FEC has become ‘dysfunctional.'”

In late May the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 asked the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his Right to Rise Super PAC for violating campaign-finance law. According to the letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “If Bush is raising and spending money as a candidate, he is a candidate under the law, whether or not he declares himself to be one.”

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“We don’t recall any such cry when the FEC dismissed a similar complaint against the Ready for Hillary PAC regarding an email sent by the independent group to a list-serve provided by Friends of Hillary.”

The theory behind this accusation is campaign “coordination,” the new favorite tool of the anti-speech political left. Earlier this year the Justice Department invited such complaints with a public statement that it would “aggressively pursue coordination offenses at every appropriate opportunity.”

Under federal law, illegal coordination occurs if a campaign expenditure (say, a TV ad) mentions a candidate by name in the 120 days before a presidential primary, or if it advocates for a candidate and if the candidate and Super PAC have coordinated the content of the ad.

March 27, 2014: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016, during a education panel discussion at Advanced Technologies Academy, in Las Vegas. Bush is the chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which promotes expanding charter schools and vouchers to allow students to attend private schools. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jeff Scheid)

“The liberal accusers say Mr. Bush is over the line because the law defines political contributions and expenditures as money spent ‘for the purpose of influencing an election.'”

The liberals claim that a Super PAC raising and spending money in favor of a Bush candidacy should be treated as coordinated expenditures, making them de facto contributions to his campaign. Candidate is the operative word here, a designation that has always been applied to those who announce they are running for public office.

“The problem with that argument is that in Buckley v. Valeo the Supreme Court ruled that the ‘purpose of influencing’ language was unconstitutionally vague unless it refers to advertising that calls for the election or defeat of a candidate.”

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer says Mr. Bush should be considered a candidate who is illegally coordinating because if you asked “100 ordinary Americans” if he is a candidate, they will say yes. What a bracing legal standard. What would the same 100 Americans have said about Hillary Clinton in 2013, or Ted Cruz in high school? Where is the limiting principle?

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Under actual law, a politician becomes a candidate for federal office when he declares he is, and when he has raised or spent more than $5,000 on the candidacy. Read the rest of this entry »


Fred Barnes: The Coming Democratic Panic

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Watch what happens if Hillary Clinton falls behind in the polls

Fred Barnes writes: When a CNN poll last week showed Hillary Clinton leading Rand Paul by a single percentage point (48-47) and only three points ahead of Marco Rubio (49-46) and Scott
Walker (49-46), it was mildly shocking. In April, her lead over the three Republican presidential candidates had been in double digits: Paul (58-39), Rubio (55-41), and Walker (59-37).

But wait. If the next CNN survey shows Clinton actuallybehind one or two or three of the GOP candidates, it won’t be just shocking. It will send Democrats into a near-panic over the possibility of losing the White House in 2016, even with their preferred candidate, Clinton, as nominee.

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“Stonewalls can work, but not forever and not in the midst of a presidential campaign. A minimal requirement of candidates is that they converse with the press. It looks bad when they don’t. It looks like they’re hiding something.”

Such a poll result isn’t far-fetched as we watch Clinton’s campaign deteriorate. True, head-to-head matchups this early in the presidential cycle are almost never predictive. But in this case, PANTSUIT-REPORTit’s the psychological impact that matters.

That Clinton’s candidacy is in trouble is indisputable. She’s not threatened with losing the Democratic nomination—at least not yet. She has the well-financed Clinton machine and a national network of supporters on which she can rely. The campaigns of her Democratic opponents are small and weak in comparison.

[Read the full text here, at The Weekly Standard]

But the rationale for her bid for the presidency, the strategy of her campaign, and the tactics she’s adopted—all have failed to stop her steady decline. The expectation of Clinton’s glide
into the White House in 2016 is gone.

** FILE ** Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, during the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People  in Washington in this July 19, 2006 file photo. When Obama heads to Africa for a five-nation tour this week, he will take with him one credential no other U.S. senator can claim - and which, he says, may make Africans listen to what he has to say.  Obama is a son of the continent. His late father was a goat herder who went on to become a Harvard-educated government economist for his native Kenya. That connection, he hopes, will give a special resonance to his words. "One of the messages I'm going to send is that, ultimately, Africa is responsible for helping itself," Obama said in an interview Wednesday Aug. 16, 2006. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

“What is the rationale for her candidacy? President Obama had a big one in 2008. He would reform Washington, end polarization, promote bipartisanship, and bring about change. As a campaign message, it was appealing. As we now know, his real intentions were different.”

In place of a rationale, there’s an assumption that her prominence, her résumé, and the likelihood of her becoming the first woman president would make her a uniquely appealing candidate. They haven’t. She’s a terrible candidate. She has not only failed to attract big crowds. She’s having trouble raising big money from those described by Politico as “rich liberals.”

“But Obama had a rationale for seeking the presidency. Clinton doesn’t.”

The old adage that opposites attract may apply in her marriage. Bill Clinton is charming, has wonderful political instincts, is a compelling speaker, and has a common touch. She lacks all four. Also, Bill is dynamic. She is lifeless as a candidate. Read the rest of this entry »


THE PANTSUIT REPORT: Hillary is the Favorite Among Millionaire Voters

Hillary-Toast

Hillary Clinton is the favorite U.S. presidential candidate among millionaire voters and would win a head-to-head contest with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, according to the third CNBC Millionaire Survey conducted in March that was released today.

“Of course, support from millionaires may be more of a liability than strength in the current age of populist politics. Hillary has said she wants to “topple” the wealthiest Americans and has attacked CEO pay.”

The survey, which polls 750 Americans with a net worth of $1 million or more, found that 53 percent of millionaires would vote for the Democratic ex-Secretary of State, PANTSUIT-REPORTcompared with 47 percent for the GOP presidential hopeful, in a hypothetical general-election match-up. Clinton had the support of 91 percent of Democratic millionaires, 13 percent of Republican millionaires and 57 percent of Independent millionaires. (Tweet this)

When asked about the broader field of candidates, Clinton got the most support, with 36 percent of millionaires. Jeb Bush came in second with 20 percent, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with 8 percent, and Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) with 7 percent.

“Being seen as the favorite candidate of millionaires could clash with her efforts on the campaign trail to be seen as the advocate of the working class and poor.”

Read MoreThese are the real masters of the election domains

Within the broader field, Republican candidates received a total of 49 percent of the vote, suggesting that the race could tighten as Republicans coalesce around a single candidate.

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Clinton had the most support among younger millionaires, with 70 percent of millionaires age 48 or younger backing Clinton in a head-to-head race with Jeb Bush. Among millionaires age 70 or older, Jeb Bush wins with 57 percent of the vote.

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The poll revealed that females show more support for Hillary Clinton, while males show more support for Jeb Bush. Clinton wins 51 percent of male millionaires and 58 percent of female millionaires. Bush wins 49 percent of male millionaires and 42 percent of female millionaires. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Kelly File: Bullied by People with Badges: The Wisconsin Constitutional Atrocity

Via Nancy French, Twitter

This is a great segment on the Wisconsin Constitutional atrocity on Megyn Kelly’s show last night… featuring David French and his viral article on National Review

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[The vital article: Wisconsin’s Shame: ‘I Thought It Was a Home Invasion’]

[Also see – Wisconsin’s Shame: Even Salon Agrees the Raids Were Wrong]

[More – ]

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Source: patheos.com

Follow Nancy on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Also see – Wisconsin Democrats Using “John Doe” Laws To Terrorize Conservatives]

More –  David French’s bio and archive on National Review


Unintended Consequences: President Obama Gives Walker Campaign Unexpected Boost

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Inexperienced President with Abysmal Foreign Policy Record and Negative Polls Reflecting Low Public Trust Tries to Give Foreign Policy Advice to Popular GOP Candidate

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would be taking a foolish approach if he follows through with vows to revoke a nuclear deal with Iran if elected president. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Associated Press Obama was asked in an NPR News interview about Walker’s recent comments that he would reject any deal Obama reaches on his first day as president.

Dana-Tweet

As Former White House Press Secretary and The Five Co-Host Dana Perino notes, Bush 43 ignored candidates.

Obama says if the president’s ability to strike agreements starts being questioned, it will be a problem for allies and embolden U.S. enemies. He says he’s confident anyone knowledgeable enough to be elected president won’t take that approach. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] THE PANTSUIT REPORT UPDATE: Hillary Supporters Starting to Squirm

Game Change and Double Down co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann held a focus group with loyal Clinton supporters in New Hampshire. The results? Like Janeane Garofalo in a nylon pantsuit, moist and squirmy.

Hot Air‘s Noah Rothman writes:

…On Wednesday, it was discovered that the substandard security protocols applied to Clinton’s personal email system were so poor that it was vulnerable to “spoofing.” Meaning that a foreign intelligence service could easily PANTSUIT-REPORThave hijacked her email system and impersonated Clinton in electronic communications with her aides or associates inside the American diplomatic community.

Clinton will one day have to answer for all these charges. When she does, she will have to explain in granular detail why she behaved as callously as she has. If the press doesn’t force her into it, a Republican on a debate stage in October of 2016 will. And while the Beltway looks at the polls and shrugs, Clinton’s grassroots supporters are apparently far more disturbed by her behavior and its implications.

Recently, Game Change and Double Down co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, in partnership with the polling firm Purple Strategies, traveled to New Hampshire where they held a focus group with loyal Clinton supporters. Read the rest of this entry »


Jeb Bush Facing Resistance From Some Conservative Voters

NOT-jeb-NO
Patrick O’Connor writes: Jeb Bush has a challenge in winning over Republican voters.

Some 42% of Republican primary voters say they couldn’t see themselves supporting Mr. Bush for the GOP presidential nomination, compared with 49% who said they could, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.

The results underscore an early theme of the Republican nominating contest: Mr. Bush might be the favorite of many top donors and operatives, but he faces hurdles in appealing to the party’s voters, giving him little room to maneuver in what promises to be a crowded field.

Of potential presidential candidates tested in the Journal/NBC poll, three others—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie , businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham—drew more resistance among people who plan to vote in a Republican primary.

Some 74% of GOP primary voters say they couldn’t see themselves supporting Mr. Trump, compared with 23% who were open to backing him. Some 57% said they wouldn’t likely back Mr. Christie, compared with 32% who were open to the idea.

For Mr. Graham, of South Carolina, 51% of GOP primary voters said they couldn’t see themselves supporting him, compared with 20% who could. Other likely GOP candidates produced lower levels of opposition. Full results of the poll will be released Monday at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

In contrast with Mr. Bush’s position among Republicans, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton maintains a relative stranglehold on the Democratic nomination, with 86% of Democratic primary voters saying they could see themselves supporting her and just 13% saying they couldn’t. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Big Government – Especially Big, Corrupt Government – Fights Back When it Feels Theatened’

FILE - In this May 22, 2013 file photo, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit that decides whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups, listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lerner, the official at the center of the agency’s tea party scandal is retiring. Lerner headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status when she was placed on paid leave in May. While she was in charge, the agency acknowledged that agents improperly targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

…Government has, so far, stood up to everyone who came in promising to reform it, shrink it, or even make it perform with a modest degree of competence.  Stood up to them and backed them down and chased them out of town. It is tougher and meaner than anyone it has had to deal with. 

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Vastly tougher than Barack Obama who retreats behind a pose of insouciance, as though running the government with a degree of managerial competence is much too pedestrian a role for him….

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Scott Walker, on the other hand, seems actually to relish the role. And maybe even to enjoy the fight. The venomous quality of the attacks on him is pretty clear evidence that his enemies fear him…

They’ve had enough of the big vision stuff. Right now, they’ll take toughness and competence...(read more)

Weekly Standard


Hillary Email Scandal: TMZ Doing the Job the Media Won’t

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John Noltenolte writes: When it comes to the current scandal surrounding Democrat Hillary Clinton, the gossip/celebrity site TMZ is doing the job the mainstream media won’t. In the search for answers, TMZ was willing to send a staffer to the airport in the hopes that Ms. Clinton would answer questions about the scandal brewing around her decision to use only a private email hosted on her private server while serving as Secretary of State.

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Two questions:

  1. Why wasn’t the mainstream media camped out with TMZ in the hopes of getting some answers?
  2. Why isn’t this video of Hillary refusing to answer running every fifteen minutes on cable news? I haven’t seen it once.

[Also see – How pathetic is THIS? Hey, MSM, ‘TMZ just ate your lunch’ on Hillary emails]

The answer of course is simple: Democrats sure got it good. Read the rest of this entry »


Chris Cillizza: The Hillary Clinton Email Story Just Keeps Getting Worse for Her

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Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail address that she used while secretary of state reinforces everything people don’t like about her, argues The Post’s Chris Cillizza, and is very dangerous to her presidential ambitions

Chris Cillizza writes: Hard on the heels of the New York Times scoop Monday night that Hillary Clinton exclusively used a private email account to conduct business as Secretary of State comes this report Wednesday morning by the Associated Press:

The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails — on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state — traced back to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua, New York, according to Internet records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The highly unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official physically running her own email would have given Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, impressive control over limiting access to her message archives. It also would distinguish Clinton’s secretive email practices as far more sophisticated than some politicians, including Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, who were caught conducting official business using free email services operated by Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.

Uh oh.

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There’s any number of problematic phrases in those two paragraphs but two stand out: 1)”impressive control over limiting access to her message archives” and 2) “secretive email practices as far more hillary-eyessophisticated than some politicians.”

“This wasn’t some garden variety home email system; it was “sophisticated” in ways that went well beyond what candidates like Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin — both of whom used private email accounts to do official business — put in place.”

Let’s take them one by one.

The first phrase speaks to the suspicion that has long hung around the Clintons that they are always working the angles, stretching the limits of how business can be conducted for their own benefit.  It seemed clear that Clinton went out of her way to avoid the federal disclosure requirements related to email by never even setting up an official account. That she took it another step and created a “homebrew” email system that would given her “impressive control over limiting access” is stunning — at least to me — given that she (or someone close to her) had to have a sense that this would not look good if it ever came out.

“That level of sophistication speaks to the fact that this was not thrown together at the last minute; instead it was a planned manuever to give the Clintons more control over their electronic correspondence.”

Yes, her allies have maintained that she turned over more than 55,000 pages of emails from her time as Secretary of State. But, the decisions over which emails to turn over were made by Clinton and/or her staff. That’s not exactly the height of transparency for someone who is the de facto Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. Read the rest of this entry »


Rise of the Robots: Next for DARPA? ‘Autocomplete’ for Programmers

nextfordarpa

Writing computer programs could become as easy as searching the Internet. A Rice University-led team of software experts has launched an $11 million effort to create a sophisticated tool called PLINY that will both “autocomplete” and “autocorrect” code for programmers, much like the software to complete search queries and correct spelling on today’s Web browsers and smartphones.

“The engine will formulate answers using Bayesian statistics. Much like today’s spell-correction algorithms, it will deliver the most probable solution first, but programmers will be able to cycle through possible solutions if the first answer is incorrect.”

— Chris Jermaine, associate professor of computer science at Rice

“Imagine the power of having all the code that has ever been written in the past available to programmers at their fingertips as they write new code or fix old code,” said Vivek Sarkar, Rice’s E.D. Butcher Chair in Engineering, chair of the Department of Computer Science and the principal investigator (PI) on the PLINY project. “You can think of this as autocomplete for code, but in a far more sophisticated way.”

retro-computer-kitchen-dream

Sarkar said the four-year effort is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). PLINY, which draws its name from the Roman naturalist who authored the first encyclopedia, will involve more than two dozen computer scientists from Rice, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the company GrammaTech.

“Imagine the power of having all the code that has ever been written in the past available to programmers at their fingertips as they write new code or fix old code. You can think of this as autocomplete for code, but in a far more sophisticated way.”

— Vivek Sarkar, Rice’s E.D. Butcher Chair in Engineering

PLINY is part of DARPA’s Mining and Understanding Software Enclaves (MUSE) program, an initiative that seeks to gather hundreds of billions of lines of publicly available open-source computer code and to mine that code to create a searchable database of properties, behaviors and vulnerabilities.

Rice team members say the effort will represent a significant advance in the way software is created, verified and debugged.

computer lab

“Software today is far more complex than it was 20 years ago, yet it is still largely created by hand, one line of code at a time. We envision a system where the programmer writes a few of lines of code, hits a button and the rest of the code appears. And not only that, the rest of the code should work seamlessly with the code that’s already been written.”

— Swarat Chaudhuri, assistant professor of computer science at Rice

He said PLINY will need to be sophisticated enough to recognize and match similar patterns regardless of differences in programming languages and code specifications. Read the rest of this entry »