Friday, August 14, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Servers for Indictments

Happy Friday, folks.  Let’s get to it.
China on Thursday sought to ease the turbulence its depreciating currency, the renminbi, has set off in global markets, even as it pushed the renminbi lower for the third day in a row.
China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, set the renminbi’s official exchange rate to the dollar lower by 1.1 percent on Thursday, bringing the total devaluation since Tuesday to 4.4 percent, the biggest drop in decades.
China would like to continue producing pretty much all of the manufactured goods on the planet, which means that it needs to keep its exports cheap.  This move effectively lowers the wages of Chinese workers relative to the rest of the world, but it will make commodities more expensive.  That’s only a big deal for China domestically to the extent that it affects consumer gas prices.  I’ve no idea what percentage of Chinese drive on a day-to-day basis, but we’d feel it if something similar happened to the dollar here in the U.S.  
Of course, the second-order effects may also shake equity market outside of China, but while that may make headlines, it’s not actually the important part of this story.
It's a three-part bargain that goes roughly like this:
Part 1: The federal government should give money directly to states so they can refund their colleges and universities.
Part 2: The states need to quit their budget-slashing ways, and likely increase their funding for higher ed, much the same way that they cover a minimum amount of Medicaid spending.
Part 3: In order to qualify for the new wad of federal cash, colleges will need to keep their prices down.
This, more or less, was the basic outline of President Obama's plan for free community college, which he unveiled right before the State of the Union. It's also the core of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' plan to eliminate tuition at all public colleges. And now, it's the centerpiece of Hillary Clinton's big new proposal to bring down the cost of higher education, which she unveiled Monday
To discourage schools from loading students with too much debt, for instance, she would fine institutions whose graduates can't pay back their loans, a currently bi-partisan idea known as "skin-in-the-game" that would make much of the higher-ed world howl in protest.
Promotional image from Wells Fargo.  They would like to loan you some money.  
The conservative backlash says that we should just let the market set tuition prices without interference or aid from the government, and yeah, I’ll admit that this would work fine if what we really wanted was degrees going only to those who could either earn a scholarship or afford to pay cash.  Which is to say a shitload fewer people with college degrees.  In the real world, though, that system serves to make class mobility even more challenging than it already is for anyone stupid enough to have been born to working class parents.  Folks ought to know better than to choose poor parents, but most people still do it, and unfortunately, we still have to function as a society.  Moreover, the default conservative solution—punishing people for choosing the wrong parents in utero—neglects the reality that higher education is a basic requirement for many kinds of middle class employment.  This means that college demand is likely to remain static irrespective of cost because regardless of having started with limited means, most people would still like to be at least moderately comfortable someday.  I know what you’re thinking—screw them, the greedy bastards—but really, that is what they want.  Like it or not, college is the best way forward for many.
Which is where we are today.  I’ll agree that there are a lot of jobs that probably shouldn’t require college, and I’ll further agree that formal education is no substitute for practical experience.  None of this addresses reality.  College is too expensive, and lots and lots of kids are graduating with enormous mounds of debt.  Think about that what you will, but we’re only going to be able to ignore it as a society up until the point when those permanently indebted people have to start supporting our Social Security payments.  That gives us maybe twenty-five more years of the current system, plus or minus five.  However, given the choice of “pay me now” or “pay me later”, you’d be a fool to bet on anything other than “pay me later”.  Which means that this shit isn’t going to change any time soon.
To this I’ll add a note about the future: if you ask me, Sarah Palin’s Death Panels look pretty likely for some point right around the time when I’ll be eligible for them.  By then, the current younger generation will have been taking crap from folks my age for so long that they’ll be super-excited to finally give something back.  For what it’s worth, I don’t expect that to be very pretty.
3. Jem & the Holograms (2nd Trailer)

I have no idea what to think about this.  Given that I have my very own 12-year-old singing sensation living right in my own home, however, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be in the audience on opening night.  My fear is that reaction to the movie’s first trailer was so amazingly negative that they’ve somehow bolted a whole second (sci fi-lite) story onto the original screenplay, creating an irredeemable mess from what was a previously generic but forgivable piece of small-town-girl-makes-good.  
It’s weird, right?  The original story—small town girl makes good with the help of her father’s robot—seems like such an obviously better story, but I guess that’s just not the way that Hollywood thinks about girls.  They can like singing, or they can like robots, but they can’t like both.  Unfortunately, I’ve got no idea how to explain this to theactual girls I have living in my house, both of whom like both singing and robots.
Two of the four classified messages discovered in emails turned over to the State Department by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were labeled "top secret," the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Tuesday.
Clinton's emails have been under scrutiny since it was revealed that she used a private server in her home to send and receive messages when she was secretary of state.
Context, via PolitiFact.Com:
"Using a personal email account exclusively is a potent prescription for flouting the Federal Records Act and circumventing the Freedom of Information Act," [Daniel] Metcalfe [former director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Information] said. "And there can be little doubt that Clinton knew this full well."
In response to a State Department request last year, Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of emails and documents from her private email server, leaving out emails and documents that she said were of a personal nature, like wedding and funeral plans. She later said she deleted these personal emails…
[T]he fact that Clinton’s staff -- rather than a State Department federal records officer -- chose which emails to destroy is "honestly breathtaking." Her private employees don’t have the authority to decide what does or doesn’t count as a federal record. Further, when she was making these choices, she was acting as a private citizen, not a government employee.
The general would like to remind Secretary Clinton that
giving classified information to friends is a bad idea.
A lot of people seem to think that this isn’t a big deal, but that’s only because they don’t know very much about how classified material is supposed to be handled.  In fact, this is getting dangerously close to what got General David Petraeus in trouble, and if it’s true that Clinton’s attorney was found in possession of a thumb drive with Top Secret: Compartmentalized data, it could easily lead to an indictment and even jail time.  Look at it this way: Clinton’s people decided which emails to turn over, and even from that hand-picked assortment, investigators still found four that were labeled Top Secret!
Now that the FBI is involved, nothing short of a pre-emptive presidential pardon is going to stop this investigation from becoming a major issue regardless of its politics, and it doesn’t look like the President wants to do Secretary Clinton any favors.  
Speaking personally, I think an indictment looks likely.
[Judge Richard ]Berman asked the type of questions Patriots fans have been dying to ask of those who have acted as judge and jurors and penalized the Patriots quarterback for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal.
Chief among them: “What is the evidence of a scheme or a conspiracy?”
NFL attorney Daniel Nash couldn’t provide a sufficient answer to that query, saying there was no direct evidence linking Brady.
That ultimately led Berman to conclude: “There is no finding in this case that there was anything done by Mr. Brady (in the AFC Championship Game)…”
“Turns out, Mr. Brady did better with higher inflated balls than underinflated balls,” the judge said. “You might say he got no competitive advantage.”
Ouch.  Due process is a bitch.
The Bradys, via Instagram
My read on Wednesday’s action is that the judge fired a warning shot fired at the NFL.  They can either settle in a reasonable manner, or he’s going to hand them their asses publicly.  Granted, he asked a couple of tough questions at Brady’s team as well, but ultimately, Brady’s not the one who has to prove something.  The burden of proof is and always has been on the NFL, and they’re not even close.
Army is holding its first open practice for season ticket holders on Saturday, and my buddy Chris and I will be in the stands.  The over/under on wins for the Army team this season is four, but the schedule is decidedly tougher than it was last year, and the team lost a lot of experience to graduation.  

Granted, this was supposedly a good recruiting year, but it's hard to see how a bunch of new recruits are going to translate to additional wins now.  By way of comparison, Army had exactly one former three-star recruit on its roster last season, and that was FB Larry Dixon.  He was far and away the best player on the team.  The class of 2019 has several three-star recruits all on its own, but despite the increased athleticism, it's hard to imagine the new guys being particularly impactful right now.  True impact from college freshmen is unusual at traditional colleges.  I doubt it's easier at West Point, where plebes have a lot to learn and worry about than just their sport.  Still, Army has at least seventy-five plebes on its roster and just over sixty-five upperclassmen, so the new guys will clearly be called on to contribute.  Areas of need include Safety, Cornerback, and Tailback, and there are some definite opportunities at Tight End, Fullback, and even Quarterback.  

That's a lot of need!

The good news is that it looks like Army's defense is going to be much more athletic than it was.  From the outside, it seems as though Coach Monken's staff has put its emphasis on improving that side of the ball first.  It's a good idea because Army blew so many games in the fourth quarter last season.  However, we still don't know who the quarterback is going to be, and although there are several candidates, it's unclear how those guys will perform when the pressure is on.  I don't know that we're necessarily going to see a lot tomorrow that tells us about how the would-be QBs handle pressure, but I'm personally looking forward to seeing Yearling Ahmad Bradshaw work.  He's supposed to have blistering speed, but I've never seen him throw, now do I know how well he manages the Option.  Part of me hopes that he wins the job outright, and part of me is praying that Firstie AJ Schurr can stay healthy all season and finally live up to the hype.  Either would be fine, but it would be good if we got a clear, unequivocal decision.  That never happened last year.

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  1. As both an IT person and someone who has had to deal with classified info, I couldn't agree more with your views on it; though I think I did comment the first time that most folks wouldn't "get it", and that seems to be how it's going down so far. I wasn't even considering the FOIA angle at the time, but in learning more about that particular law through recent work it seems that using a non-government email server actually doesn't actually let you "dodge" the requirement; it just means all your personal emails can potentially be part of the public record as well. So... yeah, no matter how you slice it this thing was mishandled by her and her staff.

    1. At this point, I don't see how they avoid an indictment, though I'm starting to think that indicting Secretary Clinton herself is unlikely. As a friend put it over the weekend, she needs a "Scooter Libby" to take the fall. Given the basic facts, though, it seem unavoidable that somebody is going down.