Sunday, September 30, 2012
Obama planning to bypass Congress again
The White House is preparing to direct federal agencies to develop voluntary cybersecurity guidelines for owners of power, water and other critical infrastructure facilities, according to people who said they had seen recent drafts of an executive order.
The prospective order would give the agencies 90 days to propose new regulations and create a new cybersecurity council at the Department of Homeland Security with representatives from the Defense Department, Justice Department, Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Commerce, a former government cyber-security official told Reuters.
"It tells those who have the ability to regulate to go forth and do so," said the person, who is currently outside the government and spoke on condition of anonymity in order to preserve access to government officials.
The draft executive order includes elements of what had been the leading cybersecurity overhaul bill in the Senate, which was defeated this summer amid opposition from industries opposed to increased regulation.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, an independent and one of the principal authors of that bill, on Monday urged the White House to issue such an order.
"The Department of Homeland Security has clear authority, if directed by you, to conduct risk assessments of critical infrastructure, identify those systems or assets that are most vulnerable to cyber attack and issue voluntary standards for those critical systems or assets to maintain adequate cybersecurity," Lieberman wrote to President Barack Obama.
The document has been circulating among the agencies and might go to top officials for their comments as soon as this week, another person involved in the process said.
A spokeswoman for the administration's National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, confirmed that an order was being considered but would not provide details. "We're not commenting on the elements," Hayden said.
Former White House cybersecurity policy coordinator Howard Schmidt said the proposed order would also ask DHS to confer with independent agencies, such as electric regulators and others that don't answer to the president, to see who would take responsibility on cybersecurity.
The hope, said Schmidt, who has seen a recent draft, is that if those agencies won't let DHS act they would do it themselves, as the Securities and Exchange Commission did in October when it issued guidance on when companies should disclose cyber attacks.
The Commerce Department and the Pentagon declined to comment. Spokespeople for Lieberman and for Senator John Rockefeller, another Democratic leader on the issue who has asked for an executive order, said their offices had not been given copies of the draft.
Cybersecurity has become a major issue in Congress and for the White House, with intelligence officials warning of constant exploration of protected computer systems by hackers and both past incursions and the likelihood of more damaging future attacks on electric plants, banks and stock exchanges.
As of two weeks ago, the planned order did not include any penalties for companies that fail to adhere to the standards. or rewards for those who do. "There are no carrots or sticks," one person with a recent copy said.
If the order emerges before the election in November, it could become an issue in the campaign. Leading Republicans faulted the Lieberman bill as too onerous. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also criticized that bill, declined to comment on Monday on the merits of a prospective order.
But Lieberman said his bill had been watered down in pursuit of a compromise and asked in his letter Monday that Obama explore means for making the standards mandatory.
Both Lieberman and administration officials have said they will still seek legislation, which could go further in many ways. It might, for example, provide liability protection for companies that share information with government officials or that meet the standards but still get hacked.
Media Bias, Elections and Economics
The would-be president continues to complain bitterly about media favoritism. His advisors, according to an article in yesterday's FT, criticize media "fawning" as interfering with official duties. The article sites media advantage coupled with opaque campaign financing as a threat to an otherwise "reliable" voting system. Because the president has the media in his pocket, control of government purse strings and threat of retribution against those that vote against him, a key adviser calls the upcoming election "David against Goliath."
The article I'm referring to was written about the upcoming election in Venezuela and about the heavy-handed tactics, including a fawning media at the disposal of Hugo Chavez.
Of course it would be easy to see why those comments in the first paragraph could be attributed to Mitt Romney's campaign, which hasn't mentioned just how bias media coverage has been, but it's as obvious as that controversial touchdown call on Monday night. The thing is, with so much rah-rah from mainstream media outlets that find the silver lining in all the news, it seems to have caught on in polling (also mostly biased) and yesterday's consumer confidence survey. But that faux sense that all's well wasn't enough to keep the market elevated.
Everyday this European crisis is like A Christmas Carol in that we get the benefit of seeing how our future could be if we remain on this current path. This current path is mostly about fiscal irresponsibly, fading demands for rigor in education, manners, and the embrace of a mindset that we are less able to care for ourselves so government should step up to the plate. Riots broke out in Spain as that nation gets closer to instituting austerity that means less welfare and more responsibility. This nation is in the midst of healing decades of socialistic policies that have diminished past glory and erased future glory unless a lot of pain can be tolerated.
I'm not sure if it can, and this is why Americans must pay attention. Do we have the guts to suck it up? At some point, that test will be upon the nation. All prior generations faced down challenges that could have destroyed the country. Our current generation is enthralled with television shows spawned from young men punching women in the face and children being exploited. I still think it's in America's DNA to do the right thing at the moment of truth. My worry is that that moment could come soon, making the challenge less difficult. I didn't say easy, but consider what's happening in Europe. It feels like we're jumping off a five-story building if we really tackle our problems or waiting for it to become a ten-story fall.
Americans have been able to put their heads in the sand for so long, but those people in Spain stumbling around the streets were doing that a couple years ago with a bottle of wine and joy rather than with Molotov cocktails and blind rage. Yesterday, I think the reality of it all hit the stock market, which reverted back to its historic role of harbinger of the future rather than another tool to celebrate mediocrity. But, I don't know that it was Spain that spooked the market as much as its neighbor-Portugal
Portugal has a center-right government that came up with a plan that asked workers to contribute more to their own social security while allowing businesses to contribute less to the general welfare fund. The plan is designed to spark job creation in the nation with 15.6% official unemployment rate (US is the same).
After succumbing to the riots and in order to hit debt targets of its 78.0 billion bailout, Portugal's leaders will now raise taxes on income, investments (cap gains), assets and even gas emissions. The masses might be appeased but the nation moves a giant step closer to economic doom. Those postponed riots will reemerge in greater force when government can no longer pay for the welfare state and businesses have been sucked dry. From a competitive point of view this means the best and brightest will leave for Brazil and other countries but don't underestimate many working poor looking for opportunities and not handouts, they will leave as well.
The gift for Americans not too busy watching Big Ang is we see how hard it is to do the right thing even when it's clear any other choice is a short term pain reliever at best. This is a center-right government; what happens when they vote back in the socialists? What happens when Spain votes back in the socialists?
What happens when America votes back in the socialists? Spooked Stocks
I think this is what the stock market saw yesterday. How ironic is it that on a day when a couple of key (second tier) economic reports came in well above consensus the market suffers one of its worst sessions of the year. This is how the stock market works. The rest of the world is slowing although growing at pace we dream about and the domestic economy isn't ready to carry the world. Heck, the domestic economy can't even create 200,000 jobs a month and the stock market is worried. Of course the happy news yesterday on all the media outlets from radio to newspapers is the possibility of 700,000 temp hires for the holidays. Last year it was 670,000.
Media favoritism works wonders in politics and even the stock market to a certain point. I closed out a couple of losers yesterday and have been aggressively taking profits on trading ideas in part to raise funds. We are not panicking but paying attention to a wakeup call barely audible because of all the other noise.
Introducing The New Polling Firm of Madoff, Marist, Quinnipiac and Ponzi
After a few weeks spent tracking down and questioning pollsters and the reporters of polls, I can assure the reader that pollsters are the modern-day alchemists. They promise to turn numbers into predictive gold. We'd all like to believe these magical powers exist, but we shouldn't. The pollsters of 2012 just don't know who is going to win in November any more than did the pollsters of 1980 know that Ronald Reagan was headed towards a landslide in that late-breaking year.
I'd like to believe Scott Rasmussen that the race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is tied. Democrats would like to believe Quinnipiac (used by the New York Times and CBS) or Marist (used by the Wall Street Journal and NBC) that Obama has surged to a lead in Ohio and other key battleground states. They'd also like to believe that Gallup's finding that the president has a six-point lead among registered voters means a six point win in five weeks.
But none of these beliefs are good journalistic practice.
(Gallup's tracking poll changes to a "likely voter screen" next week, and then it will make the most sense to average Rasmussen and Gallup and conclude that is the true "state of the race," though even that average is still subject to incredible volatility in the closing five weeks of the campaign.)
There are plenty of data points to encourage Republicans, and these are genuine data points as opposed to the junk food offered up by Quinnipiac and Marist, which derived their predictions from samples that included enormous Democratic voter margins in key states, pro-Democratic turnout margins that were even greater than those achieved in Obama's blowout year of 2008..
Two data points that warm GOP hearts and undermine the junk polls: (1) Absentee requests in Ohio by Democrats are trailing their 2008 totals --often by a lot in key Democratic counties like Cuyahoga County; and (2) overall voter registeration for Democrats in the Buckeye State is down dramatically from 2008.
These two bits of info undermine the credibility of the Obama booster polls, as did the interviews I conducted with key leadership from both polls and with other informed observers.
The data on absentees and registration point to a fall off in enthusiasm for the president from the highs of 2008, a result both of his epic failures as president and of the fact that the second time around isn't nearly as exciting as casting a vote for the first ever African-American president.
The conversations with the experts are the most revealing, however, and the Manhattan-Beltway media elite has really failed to do even minimal homework here, choosing instead to go with the conclusions of the people they have paid to give them data, thus outsourcing their work.
In this respect big media resembles nothing so much as investors in Bernie Madoff's funds. Madoff never got asked tough questions by his investors or the SEC, and thus he rampaged through his clients' cash.
Big news organizations that turn off their skepticism and write checks to polling firms are doing the same thing and for the same reason: They lack the skills to do their own analyses, and they don't want to be thought stupid for asking obvious questions.
I don't mind admitting I don't know why a sample should include 10% more Democrats than Republicans, so I ask --and ask and ask. This is what journalists do. Unless, apparently, they have paid for the product or want badly to believe it is true.
But don't believe me. Read the interviews.
Here's the transcript of the conversation I had with Quinnipiac's Peter Brown from early August.
Here's the transcript of the conversation I had with Marist's Lee Miringoff from mid-September..
I have talked polling with Michael Barone twice, on September 17 and onSeptember 26, and once with the Weekly Standard's Jay Cost, also onSeptember 26.
I also spent a lot of time with the National Journal's Director of Polling Reporting, Steven Shepard, on Septmeber 25, and that transcript is here.
Here are the key takeaways from all these conversations.
The pro-Obama pollsters don't have answers as to why their skewed samples are trustworthy beyond the fact that they think their approach to randomness is a guarantee of fairness, and they seem to resent greatly that the questions are even asked. Like Madoff would have resented questions about his stunning rate of return.
Barone notes that percentage turnout by party in a presidential year hasn't been much greater for the president's party than it was in the preceding off-year, which makes samples outstripping even the 2008 model of Democratic participation "inherently suspicious.".
Cost notes that Romney is winning the independent vote in every poll, which also makes big Obama leads suspect.
And my conversation with Mr. Shepard, whose employer National Journal has a reputation for the best non-partisan work inside the Beltway, didn't find any academic, disinterested support for the proposition that party identification cannot be weighted because of the inherent instability of the marker.
The biggest unanswered question of all: If party ID is so subject to change that it should not be weighted according to an estimate of turnout, why ask about it at all? And if it is for the purpose of detecting big moves, as Mr. Shepard argued, why not report that "big move" in the stories that depend upon the polling?
Over the next few weeks, the junk polls will start tweaking their samples and dancing around that fact in order to come closer to reality. Too late. The sample controversy has penetrated into the public's mind, and Quinnipiac and Marist are marked as either rubes or rogues unless the huge democratic turnout advantage materializes on November 6.
In the meantime, if you see a story on a poll that doesn't tell you the partisan make-up of the sample, note to yourself that the reporter is missing the most interesting bit of data to most readers.
Just as Bernie Madoff used to hide the real story.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:40 AM