Never embarrass Vladimir Putin

March 6, 2015
"I won"

“Leave no witnesses”

Because you won’t get a second chance:

Russian secret services may have executed the troops suspected of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, say sources involved in the investigation of the crash over eastern Ukraine.

The Dutch-led probe is leaning towards a conclusion that a BUK missile fired from rebel-held territory downed the Boeing 777, killing all 298 on board.

And it is highly likely the aircraft was shot out of the sky by Russian military personnel, according to a report by the Netherlands’ state broadcaster NOS, citing anonymous sources in the police and the group of investigators working on the probe into the plane’s loss.

‘My sources believe that these people might have changed their identities or even been executed by Russian secret service in order to hide everything,’ said Dutch journalist Robert Bas.

(…)

And they’re taking “active measures” to make sure they know what the investigators know:

Sources close to the investigation also complain they are under siege from persistent attempts by Russian secret services to hack their computer system and plant spyware software on their smartphones, reported NOS.

Phones and laptops used by investigators in Ukraine had to be ‘destroyed’ subsequently because they were infected with spyware, it was claimed.

Even home communications devices of police officers on the investigation were removed because they were ‘contaminated’, it was alleged.

Well, what else would you expect from a country run by an ex-KGB colonel who thinks the fall of the USSR is the great geopolitical catastrophe of the age?

This report shows again that, to use a baseball analogy, we’re dealing with a foe who plays hardball, while our leaders aren’t even playing softball. They’re playing Tee-ball.

Only this game has no “mercy rule.”

 

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Ebola: What is so hard about a travel ban?

October 16, 2014
Ebola virus

Ebola virus

Honestly, it seems like the most commonsense move in the world: If Ebola is rampant in West Africa, you bar incoming flights and passengers from that region until the disease is brought under control. After all, the disease was introduced into Houston Dallas by a man flying from West Africa. If he hadn’t been allowed in, there would be no people sick with Ebola in Houston Dallas, now.

But, that’s not how this White House operates. At a White House briefing yesterday after the President (finally) held a meeting on Ebola, press secretary the latest Mouth of Sauron, Josh Earnest, was asked about the possibility of imposing a travel ban. Here’s his response:

At today’s briefing, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked why it was still OK to allow flights from the three West African countries that comprise Ebola ground zero — Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone — if it was risky for [nurse Amber] Vinson to hop on a commercial flight from Ohio.

“There’s a multilayered screening protocol that’s in place to ensure that individuals that may have symptoms consistent with Ebola are not even able to board planes in West Africa,” Earnest said.

A travel ban “is not on the table at this point.”

“Shutting down travel to that area of the world would prevent the expeditious flow of personnel and equipment into the region, and the only way for us to stop this outbreak and to eliminate any risk from Ebola to the American public is to stop this outbreak at the source,” Earnest said.

“So we are mobilizing significant resources to make sure that supplies and personnel can get to the affected region and start meeting the needs of the affected region so that we can stop the outbreak there. And that’s why, right now, the travel ban is not on the table.”

There’s a word to describe Earnest’s response that begins with “bull,” but this is a family show. First, the guy from Liberia carrying the disease showed no symptoms until after arriving in Dallas Houston, thus the “multi-layered” screening process Earnest mentions probably would not have caught him. Second nurse Vinson, who had been treating the infected Liberian, had a mild fever and was allowed to fly anyway, even after reporting herself to CDC. Who’s to say similar mistakes wouldn’t be made by far less sophisticated personnel in Dakar or Monrovia?

As for interfering with needed personnel and equipment reaching the affected countries, that is utter nonsense. Any necessary planes can be given the needed clearances easily, and procedures can be put in place for quarantining crew and disinfecting equipment. What a ban would stop is a casual traveler bringing the virus back with him — just as has already happened!

This is malfeasance in office that goes beyond incompetence and verges, in my non-legal opinion, on criminal negligence. And if Chief Executive Obama won’t take the necessary executive action , then Congress should haul its collective butt back to Washington and pass legislation that does impose a ban.

Really, this shouldn’t be hard.

PS: Be sure to read the whole article. Obama’s “statement” is a marvel of bureaucratic blather, verbal “jazz hands” meant to hide the fact that he has, again, done nothing about a potential crisis.

UPDATE: Edited because I placed “patient zero” in Houston instead of Dallas. Not sure which city would be more offended.


The IRS wants to tax your frequent flyer miles and hotel points

May 27, 2014

taxes IRS shakedown

It’s as if the agency was worried it wasn’t hated enough.

Writing at Reason, Ira Stoll reports that the Internal Revenue Service is looking at taxing rewards points offered by airlines and hotel chains:

Just in time for your summer vacation, the IRS is getting ready to toughen the tax treatment on frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty reward programs.

The IRS announced in 2002 that it wouldn’t try to go after individuals for income taxes on frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty points earned on company-paid business trips. Yet the temptation to wring some tax revenue out of the vast non-dollar economy of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Marriott Rewards points, American Airlines AAdvantage miles, Delta Skymiles, and so on is apparently so great that that the government just cannot resist.

Sure enough, the Tax Foundation, a research group that tracks tax issues, flags a recent post on the View From the Wing blog that runs under the provocative headline, “The IRS Looks To Be on the Verge of Imposing a Big Tax Burden on Loyalty Points.”

The IRS’s plans are vague, but they have airlines and hotel owners concerned enough about the issue that they reportedly sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. “The IRS’ proposal to alter the tax treatment of loyalty programs will impose a significant new tax on existing and future loyalty points that travel customers enjoy and rely upon,” said the letter, according to a report in Politico. “Any change or clarification of loyalty program accounting should be made through the legislative process, not IRS promulgation.”

Frequent flyer mile fanatics got a wake-up call on the issue back in 2012 when Citibank sent IRS Forms 1099, documenting “miscellaneous income,” at a rate of 2.5 cents a mile, to customers who had signed up for an American Airlines-branded credit card and gotten 40,000 AAdvantage miles as a bonus. It was an unpleasant surprise to cardholders who thought they were getting a free trip, not an unwanted extra tax bill.

I’ll say. I rarely rack up enough points for a free flight or hotel night, but I know plenty of people who fly a lot and who rely on those points to help cover the occasional vacation. Suddenly taxing them not only diminishes their value as a customer-retention tool, but also burdens the consumer by imposing a monetary cost for a non-monetary reward. (Sure, the points have “value,” but it’s not like real income. Just try paying for a meal with airline points…)

Stoll covers several problems with this plan, but I’ll add one of my own: this is another example of the gradual bureaucratic usurpation of legislative power that’s grown to be such a problem since the Progressive Era. Congress writes laws that allow regulatory agencies to create rules for their implementation, but agencies, like bureaucracies everywhere, constantly push the bounds of that authority to accumulate ever-greater power to themselves, to the point whereat they’re no longer writing rules, but actually making law in place of the elected legislature. Which, for progressive ideology, is a feature, not a bug. (1)

Although, perhaps “usurpation” is too strong a word. After all, congresses dominated by both Democrats and Republicans have gone along with this, even if they didn’t agree with progressive ideology, passing vague legislation and letting agencies “fill in the blanks.” It’s a tempting bit of laziness: as Washington accumulated more power to itself, Congress had to deal with more and more, until it became expedient to let someone else deal with the details. And it gives them political cover: It wasn’t your congressman who decided to tax your airline miles, it was the IRS. Left unsaid is how generations of congressmen and senators have enabled this.

Of the many reforms our government needs, congress reclaiming its power to make laws and reining in the bureaucracy —especially the IRS!— is high on the list.

Footnote:
(1) The basic idea is that democratically-elected legislatures are too prone to public passions, too full of unqualified people, to be trusted with governance. Progressives prefer unelected, dispassionate boards of technocrats who would practice scientific management of public affairs. They may be right about the problems of legislatures, but I think the last century has shown their solution is even worse.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


CNN’s dumbest news question, evar

March 20, 2014

And yet CNN wonders why its ratings are in the tank…

Watts Up With That?

And we thought this one was bad:  CNN talking empty head (Feyerick) asks Bill Nye if approaching Meteor was a result of global warming….

OK that set the stage, what could be dumber than that? Now study the picture below, and ask yourself, what’s wrong with this picture? Note the plane, a Boeing 777.

black_holes_777_CNN

And here is what was said: 

View original post 117 more words


(Video) The 12 Banned Items of Christmas

December 26, 2013
I said, no fun allowed!

No guacamole on the flight!

So, okay, it’s now the day after Christmas, but there’s still a lot of traveling going on, so ReasonTV has created this video guide to those things the TSA will and will not let you take along on a flight.

(Slightly R-rated)

There, that clears things up, doesn’t it? And it’s so nice to know the TSA has thought this list through so carefully.

Happy flying!


Off for the holiday

November 27, 2013
"On the road again..."

“On the road again…”

I’m off for the Thanksgiving holiday, and the loyal Public Secrets minions have been unchained from their desks through Friday, so no new items until Saturday at the earliest.

Assuming I can recapture those escaped sla… er… round up my loyal minions by then, of course.

Enjoy the holiday! smiley eating gluttony


The greatest issue facing America: a cruise-ship passengers’ bill of rights

March 18, 2013

And Chuck Schumer is on the case:

Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the cruise ship industry to adopt a “bill of rights” to guarantee passengers certain protections while aboard their ships.

The New York Democrat says Sunday he’ll be asking industry leaders to voluntarily adopt the guidelines which include guarantees that ships have sanitary conditions, back-up power, medical staff and other standard procedures.

Schumer’s plan would also include the right to a full refund if a trip is abruptly canceled due to mechanical problems.

And thus we see the modern Democratic Party’s priorities in action: no budget from the Senate in more than 1,400 days? Bah! The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea? Don’t waste my time! Food-stamp usage at an all-time high while labor force participation is at a record low? Small potatoes, friend.

No, as we see from the senior senator from New York’s example, what really matters is grandstanding whenever possible and wherever cameras and mics are available, so that you can pretend you’re fighting for the little guy and convince enough saps to vote for you again.

This also shows the different mindset of the limited government advocates on the one hand, and the statists on the other.

Limited Government Advocate:

“A company that provides poor service will eventually put itself out of business, and those who feel harmed by it have access to the civil courts. Annoying as these incidents are, it’s really none of the federal government’s business, and we should get back to tending to what properly is.”

Statist:

“This is an outrage! People need our protection against evil corporations; the government must do something! What? They already have redress under the law? They can take their business elsewhere? Insufficient! We must pass new laws, because that’s what we’re here for — to pass laws! Not in our purview? Nonsense! We’ll pass a law to make it our business! Call a press conference!”

Is it any wonder people are disenchanted with our political class, when so many of them ignore the real problems we face and instead go chasing butterflies?

via Liberty Unyielding

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)