Misguided Photo; DNC Gets It Wrong

The DNC, (Democratic National Committee) in an effort to show its “support” for US veterans, posted the photo shown below as an indication of that support. Of course, when your intent is purely political and you really don’t support veterans, you may get it wrong as in this photo of Polish Veterans taken in Poland in 2011. Of course, to a Democrat, a uniform is a uniform, they are all the same, right? Shame on them for not knowing an American military uniform from a Polish uniform, The two are very different in color and design.

Notice Anything Wrong With The Photo The DNC Used To Appeal To America's Veterans?

UPDATE: Why Baseball Players Win and Football Players Lose. Update

“Brady Wins, Why I Was Wrong” was posted today.
I posted <a href=”http://clarkgriffithblog/2015/08/27″>Here</a&gt; and article on why Brady will lose his arbitration and why baseball players win theirs. Powerlineblog.com was kind to post it in their picks section and Paul Mirengoff added this comment.


Clark Griffith explains why he thinks “Tom Brady will lose and baseball players win.” It’s because “in Major League Baseball, grievances are heard and decided by an impartial arbitrator. In the National Football League, the person who hears and decides grievances is the commissioner.”

I want to focus on a more general question: Why has the Major League Baseball Players Association consistently negotiated more favorable contracts on a full range of issues than its counterpart, the National Football Players Association? One explanation, which comes through in Clark’s piece, is that the baseball players hired smarter people early on.

I don’t dispute this. However, I have a more general theory: baseball players are more ornery than football players (and, for that matter, basketball players).

Football and basketball stars become heroes at an early age. They are worshiped in high school (and sometimes before), courted extravagantly by college recruiters, pampered in college, and then (if they’re good enough) placed directly into the luxurious life of the big leagues. (To be fair, though,a great many come from poor or lower middle class backgrounds.)

Baseball players are less celebrated in high school and college (if they attend). And they almost always enter the profession via the minor leagues, where they typically spend several years (quite possibly five or more if they become professionals right out of high school).

The minor leagues are a grinding, humbling experience. The pay is low, the towns lack glamour, and the bus rides are long, tedious, and not very comfortable.

Thus, my theory goes, when baseball players finally make it, they have a fortitude that their more spoiled counterparts in football and basketball lack. That’s why they are more likely to hang tough in negotiations, as they did most famously during the 1994 labor dispute when the baseball season was lost.

I learned from my father, a labor organizer, that ultimately union leaders are only as tough as they can persuade their members to be. I believe that, at least until now, the leaders of the baseball union have found it easier than their counterparts in other sports to persuade their members, most of whom come up the hard way, to be tough.

What Mirengoff says about baseball player toughness is true. As batters they stand against nine opponents alone, to face the pitcher.  This toughness in play is also toughness in negotiations and I have negotiated deals with players and they don’t quit.

I attribute this to the games them selves. Football players are taught from the first day to act as a unit and obey the coach. When the whistle blows, they do push ups.  Not so baseball players who play the most grueling schedule of 162 games, that test physical and mental toughness. They lose 40% of the games if they’re good, are put out 70% of the time if they are good hitters. They play, pitch and field as individuals, alone. Read <a href:”https://clarkgriffithblog.com/2013/03/13&#8243;.>Baseballs-timeless-appeal</a.

We can’t forget about the owners. The NFL is a true partnership. They have to stand together. Not so baseball owners who, historically, have found the top 1/3 in market size doing all they can do to crush the bottom 2/3. Having a bad labor deal, helped this plan.

With all this in mind, if the baseball players had hired Ed Garvey and the football players had hired Marvin Miller and his lawyer, Dick Moss, the positions of the unions would be reversed.  Talent is talent, especially in the major leagues.

A Discussion of Team Chemistry in Baseball; The Essential Element

I have spent a career watching baseball teams as they win and lose. The pivotal event was in 1965 when I watched the Minnesota Twins win the American League pennant.

What was pivotal was that the players took over the team and generated the focus and drive that won the pennant. This player generated focus on winning is baseball culture and that is what wins pennants, not just the individual talent of the players. Baseball with its 162 game schedule, requires this sort of focus and it is player generated, no manager, general manager or owner, with the exception of Charlie Finley, has ever been able to create this chemistry.

Below is a discussion of Chemistry in baseball in the prospective of the current season.


By Bob Nightengale

From field to front office, many believe chemistry still matters in baseball
Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports 1:34 p.m. EDT August 24, 2015
In a sport where the desire to quantify every movement only grows with each season, it is a sabermetric aficionado’s worst nightmare.

You can’t measure it. You can’t define it. You can’t put a number on it.

We’re talking about clubhouse chemistry, and the culture that can raise a major league team to extraordinary heights without having the biggest payroll or most talent.

“It’s really undervalued,’’ St. Louis Cardinals veteran starter John Lackey told USA TODAY Sports, “especially in today’s world with all of the numbers guys.”

We can put all kinds of numbers on players’ talent, from RBI to WAR, to ERA to FIP, but when it comes to the heart and soul of a clubhouse, there remains no measuring stick.

“The numbers guys can’t quantify that one,’’ Lackey said, “so they don’t want to believe in it.’’
Key questions as baseball’s pennant chase turns into a sprint

You want to know what chemistry and culture is about, peek inside the San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse. They’ve won three of the last five World Series. Maybe they’ve had the best manager in Bruce Bochy, and GM too in Brian Sabean, but never have they had the best talent.

“We’re in a game today where everybody wants to think they can formulate, or come up with some kind of number,’’ says Giants starter Jake Peavy, who like Lackey, has won World Series titles with two organizations. “You turn on some of these baseball shows, and nobody wants to talk about the San Francisco Giants, because numbers can’t explain how we won last year.

“They don’t want to talk about clubhouse chemistry.

“Come on, how to do you put a number on a guy like (Chicago Cubs backup catcher David Ross) and what he brings to the clubhouse? This guy hit (.184) last year, and he got multiple two-years deals on the table. Why is that?’’

Indeed, you step into the Cubs’ clubhouse these days, and no one is talking about Ross’ .186 batting average and seven RBI. They’re too busy raving about his powerful influence on a club featuring four rookies in the everyday lineup.

“He means so much to every single person in here,’’ Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.

Go ahead, try to put a number on that.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals have the two finest records in baseball. If you go by the numbers, the Royals were supposed to win just 72 games this year, according to Baseball Prospectus’ projection system, PECOTA. The Cardinals, who have had more injuries to key players than any team, shouldn’t be leading their division, let alone be on pace to eclipse 100 victories, if you go strictly by sheer talent.

“People that don’t understand what team chemistry means don’t work in baseball,’’ Toronto Blue Jays ace David Price said. “It makes me mad, because obviously they don’t know how important it is. Ask the Giants. Ask the Royals. Ask the Cardinals.

“You look at the Giants, and they’re not more talented than everyone else every year, but they’re so close, and together. The Cardinals are the same way. They definitely have talent, but they’re no more talented than a lot of the teams they’re beating every day.

“The Cardinals are unbelievable. They lose their ace (Adam Wainwright). They lose their No. 3 and No. 4 hitters in (Matt) Adams and (Matt Holliday). And they’re still winning. They’re just unreal.

“It’s the same thing as the Royals. Yeah, they have talent, but you can tell how close they are by watching them. I pay attention to all of that.’’
Blue Jays cap sweep of Angels with 12-5 win

The Blue Jays placed more emphasis on a player’s character than any time in GM Alex Anthopoulos’ tenure. He shipped out the guy who didn’t fit in. He chose character over talent. There’s a reason why 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins is now in the Blue Jays’ bullpen instead of Jonathan Papelbon.

“We really, really, emphasized that,’’ Anthopoulos said, “more than we ever have. It’s the first time we ever put that level of emphasis on it. The focus of the offseason was that we were going to change the mix a little bit. It’s not diving on anybody else, but it wasn’t working.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s still talent and production first, but the other component is almost as important. Just because you have all good people doesn’t mean you’re always going to win. There are plenty of guys who have a 6-plus ERA who are tremendous clubhouse guys, but they’re sitting at Triple-A.

“Every team goes through ups and downs, and I think with a better clubhouse and with better character, that allows you to handle the downs a lot. That’s the separator. So rather than the floor caving in on you, you stay afloat.

“We’ll find out if it works.’’

Certainly, adding a guy like Price at the trade deadline, and having MVP favorite Josh Donaldson the entire season, may have something to do with the Blue Jays’ success, too. Yet, manager John Gibbons can’t stop raving about Donaldson’s leadership skills, and Price is revered throughout the game.

For whatever reason, the Blue Jays are 18-4 since consummating the Price deal.

“We were looking for a special type of player, even if it meant passing on some talent,’’ Anthopoulos said, “making sure every player we acquired fit.

“I think it’s important David Price fit into in the clubhouse, but let’s don’t forget he’s got a (2.40) ERA, too.’’

Sure, you’ve got to have talent to win, but talent alone doesn’t guarantee a thing. If the standings were based strictly on talent, you think the Washington Nationals would be trailing the New York Mets by five games? You think the Los Angeles Dodgers, and their $307 million payroll, would be only up 1 ½ games on the Giants? You think the Texas Rangers would be winning the second wild-card spot, or that the Minnesota Twins – projected to lose 92 games – would be just 1 1/2 games out of the wild-card race?

“If you have good clubhouse chemistry, you going to win,’’ New York Yankees veteran starter CC Sabathia said. “It’s not something you can fake. It’s real.

“You look at the Giants. Those guys love each other, and they win. They get a guy like Peavy. You see what (Tim) Hudson has meant for them. It’s the real thing.’’
Sure, numbers are fine for fantasy leagues, but if you want to truly define a player’s value, or recognize the importance significance of clubhouse culture, it’s time to wake up and embrace character, too.

“I think we’re losing part of our game because so many of these people in charge don’t have the scouting background or playing background,’’ Peavy said. “All they have is a great education and they’re really good at math. Some of these front offices crunch all of these numbers, and think they’ve got it all figured out.

“I don’t know the formula for winning, but I do know what it means when teams are inseparable, enjoy their time together, care for each other, and play for the higher cause. I’ve seen it. I’ve been part of it.

“You can have all of the education you want, and break down every number you want, but unless you get to know what’s inside a player, you really don’t know the player.’’

The Royals certainly noticed the tepid external expectations. Public relations director Mike Swanson, in his recent pre-game notes, reminded everyone of Baseball Prospectus’ projected 72-90 record. The Royals have already won a league-leading 75 games, and could clinch their first division title in 30 years by Labor Day.

“Fortunately, games are won on a field and not on paper,’’ Swanson wrote in the Royals’ notes distributed to the media, “thus a computer ‘time out’ might be appropriate for some.”
“We had our Moneyball movie, and they didn’t even win,’’ Peavy said of the Oakland Athletics. “How about let’s make a movie about the good ol’ fashioned baseball people, and how they judge team chemistry, and put together guys that fit in.

“How about a movie about a team that actually wins in the end?’’

The Most Amazing Features of Star Trek.

“‘Star Trek’ says that it has not all happened, it has not all been discovered, that tomorrow can be as challenging and adventurous as any time man has ever lived.” –Gene Roddenberry

Nearly half a century ago, a new vision of humanity’s future first graced the world’s consciousness: the vision of Star Trek. The brainchild of creator Gene Roddenberry — who would’ve been 95 today — it ran contrary to the dominant ethos of its time of a world filled with the pollution and destruction of humans, overrun with selfish, unethical behavior, war, strife and conflict. The future that people feared was one of nuclear winter, unsafe air and water, unethical treatment of one another and of technology further and further separating us from our humanity.

And against that cultural backdrop was born the series of Star Trek.

Image credit: Star Trek: The Original Series, from the episode “Operation Annihilate”.

This was a very different future from the one envisioned by most of his contemporaries; this was a future where technology existed to further the peaceful goals and ideals common to all humans. This was a future where the boundaries of states, nations and cultures were transcended. This was a future where the dream of the United Nations was extended to not just all of Earth, but to a myriad of planets beyond our Solar System. Where we peacefully coexisted, shared technology and resources, and where the accumulation of wealth or power was no longer a driving force in anyone’s life.

And the way we achieved that — in the Star Trek Universe — was through developments that benefitted us all.

Image credit: Karl Urban as “Bones” McCoy in Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Fall ill? Medical technology has advanced so far that all you need is the state-of-the-art equipment and a savvy doctor, and you’ll be cured in no time.

Need to communicate with someone on another world? Sub-space communication puts them within reach, at just the tap of a button on your shirt.

Can’t understand their language? A “universal translator” renders that completely irrelevant, with on-the-fly translation of languages occurring instantaneously.

Need to travel someplace a long distance away? Warp drive and a transporter will get you there in no time.

And what’s perhaps most surprising is that many of these “fantastic dreams” of the 1960s have become a reality today.

Image credit: ©2015 KGO-TV, of the “Scanadu” medical tricorder.

The Medical Tricorder of Star Trek is not only real, it’s cheap and can scan you for all sorts of illnesses and ailments. The Star Trek communicator has been far superseded by smartphone and bluetooth technology today, so much so that “Star Trek communicator replicas” seem like a steampunk accessory today. Universal translators aren’t quite a reality yet, but we’ve made huge strides, and it will doubtlessly not be long (maybe a generation at most) before we’re actually there.

Image credit: From the Star Trek Deep Space Nine Technical Manual, viahttp://www.neutralzone.de/database/Federation/Station/Communication/SubspaceRelayStation04.htm.

Sub-space communication — aside from the fact that “sub-space” doesn’t exist — runs into the problem inherent to special relativity: no signal can move faster than light. If you want to send any information from one location in spacetime to another, you are limited by the distance in spacetime the signal must travel and the universal speed limit: the speed of light.

Quantum entanglement can “cheat” this light speed, but can’t send any information, because the entangled particles needed to be created in an entangled state and then brought apart limited by the speed of light.Measurements you make to one particle will affect the outcome of the other, but this doesn’t transmit any information; sending a signal is not something you can do (at least, with our current understanding) via entangled particles.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user AllenMcC.

Warp drive, too, is a bit of a stretch: thanks to some recent advances in general relativity, we’ve discovered a spacetime solution that admits faster-than-light travel from one location to another by the creation of a literal “warp field” within a bubble. There are huge obstacles that need to be overcome before this becomes a reality, however, including:

  • the ability to create and then un-create this configuration of spacetime,
  • the ability to place complex matter within it without destroying it,
  • and the ability to accomplish all of this without requiring an energy source greater than, say, the entire mass-energy content of the Sun.

People are working on this, of course, but creating an ad hoc solution in general relativity is a very different story from having this be feasible technology.

Image credit: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images.

But most shockingly, the transporter of Star Trek seems to be one invention that’s forever beyond our reach, much to the chagrin of world travelers, would-be bank robbers and forbidden lotharios everywhere. While quantum teleportation is a real phenomenon, it’s very different to have a single particle tunnel through a small barrier than it is to have an entire person or macroscopic object broken down — particle by particle — and then reconstructed, identically and still alive, in another location.

To even dream of doing that would require not only putting all the particles that make you up back together in the same configuration, but with the same positions and momenta that they had before you were teleported. Think about the difference between a living human and a corpse of a human: there are no particles that are necessarily different; it’s simply the way those particles are positioned and moving in that configuration.

But physics won’t let you do that.

Image credit: Henry Salles of http://uncertainty-principle.info.

You see, there’s an inherent uncertainty between momentum and position for every particle, requiring that if you know one of those traits to a certain degree of precision, the other one becomes inherently uncertain so that the product of the two is always finite and non-zero. Lawrence Krauss, in his book The Physics of Star Trek, correctly identifies that one would need some type of hypothetical “Heisenberg Compensator” to account for this, which seems to violate the fundamental rules of quantum mechanics.

No matter how far technology advances, it will always be bound by the laws of nature.

Dumbrowski Takes Over the Red Sox

I’ve been a David Dumbrowksi fan since  I met him at the beginning of his career.  He was fired by the Tigers two weeks ago and I knew he would be quickly hired by smart baseball people. The Red Sox ownership, Tom Werner and John Henry,are such people. Below is a discussion of this hiring.

From Darell Rovell at ESPN.

We’ll never know if Ben Cherington was going to figure out how put the Red Sox back together again.

The Sox were unwilling to wait any longer.

In the most stunning move of their ownership since they took control in the spring of 2002 and fired general manager Dan Duquette, principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner hired Dave Dombrowski as president of baseball operations last night.

And while the official press release said Cherington “declined the opportunity to continue as general manager,” let’s not get caught up in semantics like we all did when Terry Francona moved on.

The Red Sox fired Cherington as soon as they decided to hire Dombrowski.

They didn’t have to announce it, and they don’t have to run from it.

If you’re looking for a new voice, you’ve stopped listening to the old one.

“We had reached a clear internal consensus that we needed to enhance our baseball operation,” Werner in a statement.

Dombrowski was too good, too distinguished, too experienced to pass up. And if that meant Cherington had to leave, well, that’s the cost of “a clear internal consensus.”

To say Cherington turned down the opportunity to stay technically is true, but hopefully the Red Sox will not waste a single phone call, email or text trying to spin his departure. There is no need to disguise what Dombrowski’s arrival meant to Cherington’s fate.

Dombrowski wielded more power in Detroit as the Tigers president and general manager than Cherington ever did here when he worked under Larry Lucchino, Henry and Werner. And while Dombrowski most likely would not have minded Cherington working for him, why would the latter want to abdicate his current power and be relegated to a glorified assistant to a president?

When Theo Epstein replaced interim GM Mike Port, who helped run the show after Duquette left, he inherited a franchise in good shape, a far cry from the state of the current team.

Then, the Sox had Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, and the farm system basically was stripped save for a few notable exceptions.

Epstein helped rebuild the farm system but with some savvy moves supplemented the big league team and voila, the Sox won it all in 2004 and 2007.

Cherington took charge after 2011, oversaw the miracle 2013 championship and built a stacked farm system, which Dombrowski now inherits along with budding superstars Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts.

“The Red Sox baseball operations group and Ben Cherington deserve extraordinary credit for the young, talented players that have broken through at the major league level, and I see outstanding potential in the talent still developing our minor leagues,” Dombrowski said in his first statement as president.

The Red Sox did not want to fire Cherington as the team began to head toward its third last-place finish in the past four seasons. But they were not going to spite themselves when Dombrowski became available earlier this month while the Sox were playing the first-place Yankees in the Bronx.

The Red Sox were surprised by Dombrowski’s sudden availability, but they already were deep into soul-searching mode, having already pushed out (fired) president and CEO Lucchino a few days earlier.

Loyalty has its limits within any organization.

Lucchino understands that, just as Cherington does.

It doesn’t make the Red Sox’ decision wrong.

It does make it hard.

“Ben Cherington is one of the finest individuals I have ever worked with, possessing a maturity and integrity second to none,” Henry said in a statement.

And Werner, too, applauded Cherington on his way out, especially for the 2013 season.

“Ben’s steady hand was at the tiller of that remarkable journey,” Werner said. “We appreciate his many years of service, his substantial contributions to our organization over many years, and his willingness to assist Dave with the transition.”

The transition is all but done.

Cherington was incredibly steady, competent and accomplished.

But the Red Sox sent him packing. They found somebody else they wanted more.

And in the big leagues, that’s called doing business.

Jim Kaat’s Career is Hall of Fame Quality

Consistency, longevity key Kaat’s career

Kaat’s career marked by consistency, longevity

MINNEAPOLIS — Despite recording 283 victories over a career that spanned a remarkable 25 seasons, pitcher Jim Kaat spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot without being voted in.But the Baseball Writers Association of America passed over Kaat each year until his eligibility finally ended in 2003. His first bid on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot in 2005 was also unsuccessful.

In 2007, the left-hander is getting another chance at a ticket to Cooperstown as one of 27 players and 15 managers, executives and umpires who are candidates for election by the Hall’s veterans.

In the Major Leagues from 1959-83 with the Senators, Twins, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals, Kaat was 283-237 lifetime with a 3.45 ERA. Currently 29th on the all-time victories list, he had three 20-win seasons, which included a career-high 25 victories for Minnesota in 1966. He was also a three-time All-Star and earned his lone World Series ring as a reliever with St. Louis in 1982.

Kaat is also listed as 13th all-time with 625 games started and 24th all-time with 4,530 innings pitched.

One of the best all-time defensive players at his position, Kaat won 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1962-77. He is tied with former Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson for most Gold Gloves in a career.

The Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee electorate is made up of 84 members, including the 61 living Hall of Fame players. Candidates must receive 75 percent of the vote to be elected, which is no easy feat. No candidate received enough votes for election in 2003 or 2005.

The Hall of Fame will reveal the results of this year’s election on Feb. 27 with enshrinement day scheduled for July 29 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Cyber War and Why Hillary’s Unsecured Server Is Important

For the past year, the attention of policymakers and pundits following the Middle East has been absorbed with the twin problems of Iran’s nuclear program and the Islamic State. At the same time, however, another threat emanating from the region has quietly metastasized with potentially significant repercussions for America and its allies. Consider that since June 1:

• The U.S. Army’s public website was taken offline due to a Distributed Denial of Service attack by Syrian hackers;

• Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon publicly confirmed that Hezbollah was behind a “Volatile Cedar,” a three-year cyber-spying campaign targeting Israel, Western countries, and other Middle Eastern states;

• WikiLeaks published 70,000 documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry believed to have been among a half million documents stolen by Iranian hackers; and

A group of hackers claiming affiliation with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took down the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ website and threatened its director.

In May, the State Department issued an unprecedented security report warning U.S. businesses operating abroad of Iran’s rapidly improving cyberwarfare capabilities. Since 2012, Iranian hackers have attacked oil and gas companies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar; launched an extended campaign against American banks (“Operation Ababil”) including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America; and infiltrated the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps’ Intranet in 2013. From 2012-2014, Iran’s “Operation Cleaver” targeted some 50 companies in 16 countries, representing 15 industries “including oil and gas, energy and utilities, transportation, hospitals, telecommunications, technology, education, aerospace, defense contractors, and chemical” companies. A recent study by the American Enterprise Institute and cybersecurity firm Norsefound a 115 percent increase in attacks launched from Iranian Internet protocol addresses from January 2014 to April 2015.

Iran is only one of many adversaries targeting U.S. and regional allies’ computer networks. Before its take-down of the Army’s website in June, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) had defaced the U.S. Marine Corps’ recruiting website, knocked out websites belonging to media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post, and even hijacked President Obama’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. This January, on the same day President Obama delivered a major address on cybersecurity, ISIL-affiliated hackers seized control of CENTCOM’s official Twitter and YouTube accounts. The self-proclaimed “CyberCaliphate” has since hackedNewsweek’s Twitter account and replaced live programming on France’s TV5 Monde with pro-ISIL propaganda. And during both 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense and last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, Israel came under massive cyber-attack from the hackers collective Anonymous and state-sponsored groups such as the SEA.

This is not to say the United States and its allies are helpless in this new realm of conflict. In addition to disabling insurgent computer networks, U.S. forces hacked into al-Qaida in Iraq’s cellphone network to send fake texts directing insurgents to locations where they were subsequently targeted. In February, cybersecurity researchers at Kaspersky announced the discovery of perhaps the most sophisticated cyber-attack to date, as a group of hackers labeled “the Equation Group”—and presumed to be affiliated with the NSA—hid spyware deep into computer hard drives, with the highest infection rates in Iran. Israel retaliated against Hezbollah in 2006 by hacking the terrorist group’s television station, Al Manar, and disrupting its information operations campaign. Israel also used a cyber-attack to disable Syrian air defenses in 2007’s Operation Orchard that destroyed the nuclear reactor under construction at Kibar. On the defensive side, Israel’s cybersecurity sector was responsible for at least $6 billion in exports last year, exceeding Israel’s sales in conventional weapons systems. And, of course, America and Israel (allegedly) jointly conducted the most successful cyber-operation to date—“Operation Olympic Games”—which inserted the Stuxnet virus into Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility and caused the destruction of nearly one thousand centrifuges.

It is clear that followers of events in the Middle East must now keep one eye on the cyber domain while tracking the region’s conflicts and rivalries. Less clear, perhaps, is why the broader community of cyber and national security experts should pay greater attention to cyberwar in the Middle East. After all, Russian cyber-criminals steal billions of dollars every year and have pilfered in 1.2 billion (yes, that is a “b”) passwords in a single hack, and Chinese hackers are believed to have stolen personal information on 21 million Americans who have worked for the U.S. government. Why should we care if another hacker from the Middle East has hijacked yet another Twitter site and filled it with pro-jihad, anti-Zionist/anti-American propaganda?

There are at least three reasons why this advent of cyberwar in the Middle East has troublesome implications for U.S. strategic interests. First, whereas Russia and China have the resources to build conventional army, air force, or ballistic missile programs unthinkable for most Middle East actors, the entry costs to acquiring a significant cyber-capacity are low enough to allow the Middle East’s weaker states—or nonstate actors—to obtain capabilities that threaten U.S. and allied interests. Terrorist groups like Hamas or the Islamic State might not have good enough hackers in-house, Rami Efrat, former head of Israel’s National Cyber Bureau recently told a conference at Georgetown University, but “unfortunately they are able to go to the dark net, to the deep web, to get it as a service and to buy the most sophisticated zero-day attacks.” David DeWalt, former chief executive of McAfee, concurs: “Offensive tools are so available that sometimes they can be purchased on eBay and sometimes on the dark net. It takes thousands or tens of thousands of dollars; it doesn’t take a lot of means or expertise.”

Second, cyber-attacks allow potential adversaries to bypass America and its regional allies’ military forces in order to directly target civilian infrastructure and economic targets. Experts point out that although Russia and China have greater capabilities for cyber-warfare, they have focused largely on stealing U.S. military secrets or cybercrime. Conversely, Iran’s hackers are targeting critical infrastructure and developing the ability to cause serious damage to the U.S. power grid, hospitals, or the financial sector. “The Chinese are engaged in cyberespionage,” says Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer at Mandiant. “We know what lines they will and will not cross. But a country like Iran is much more willing to be destructive. They go ahead and delete computers, they corrupt them, and they cause a lot of trouble.” Iran’s attack on Saudi Aramco destroyed 30,000 computers, and the 2014 attack on the Sands Corporation’s computer servers—presumably in retaliation for tough anti-Iran rhetoric by chairman Sheldon Adelson—caused $40 million in damages. Iran’s cyber army is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which not coincidentally also oversees Iran’s support for terrorism abroad. Thus, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate hearing in February that although Iran has “lesser technical capabilities in comparison to Russia and China,” its pattern of destructive attacks demonstrates it is a “motivated and unpredictable” cyber-actor.

In fact, recent history suggests that Tehran’s offensive cyber-capacity has dramatically evolved in sophistication and scope. For example, a normal DDoS attack involves between 10,000-15,000 packets per second, a number that refers to the amount of data flowing into a system. The “Brobot” botnet that the Iranian “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters” utilized in the 2012 bank hacks, however,attacked at a rate of 50 million packets per second, a figure dwarfing the 2007 Russian cyber-militia attack that crippled Estonia. Whereas prior to 2012 Iranian cyber-attacks were largely limited to simple website defacements, FireEye says that by 2014 the Iranian-based “Ajax Security Team” had transitioned to malware-based espionage. One former U.S. official described the 2013 Navy attack as “a real eye-opener in terms of the capabilities of Iran to get into a Defense Department system and stay in there for months.” And during Operation Cleaver, Iranian hackers employed a sophisticated set of cyber tools, allowing them not only to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence on various entities, but also to potentially disrupt and destroy targeted systems. These advances prompted security firmCylance to dub Iran “the new China.” Although this may be an exaggeration, former Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt nevertheless told CNN that Iranians are “extremely talented” in cyber warfare.

In sum, Iran’s demonstrated willingness to conduct destructive cyber-attacks, its ability to offset U.S. and allied military superiority in the region through cyber-war, its dearth of equivalent targets for deterrence or retaliatory attacks, and the Islamic Republic’s strategic culture favoring asymmetric or indirect conflict over conventional war mean that it poses at least a great a threat of initiating a “catastrophic” attack against U.S. or allied critical infrastructure as technically superior Russian and Chinese hackers. As Stewart Baker, former general counsel for the National Security Agency, argues: “Cyber-war just plain makes sense. … We used to worry about Russia and China taking down our infrastructure. Now we have to worry about Iran and Syria and North Korea. Next up: Hezbollah and Anonymous.”

Given its declared intent to strike civilian targets in America, Israel, and other U.S. regional allies, one could add ISIL to that list as well. FBI Director James Comey told the Aspen Forum on July 22: “We’re picking up signs of increasing interest” in the use of cyberspace as a vector for terror attacks. “Logic would tell us, as we make it harder and harder for human beings to get into our country to do bad things, they will hit on photons entering our country to do bad things.” Yet as Israeli cyber-war expert Gabi Siboni notes, ISIL’s “main effort to date in cyberspace has focused on psychological warfare by generating fear through flooding the Internet with video clips portraying the brutal acts of beheading and mass executions.” The jihadists’ skill at conducting information operations by exploiting social media thus far has outstripped their capacity for cyber-attacks. ISIL’s media arm Al Hayat has produced hundreds of films—including many high-quality productions involving Hollywood-style techniques and special effects—to promote the group’s propaganda. The militants are adept at spreading their message using Western-based social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, and SoundCloud. ISIL has a vast network of “fanboys” who do nothing besides watching social media and disseminating the group’s online propaganda, and it is estimated that ISIL’s followers have as many as 90,000 accounts on Twitter, allowing it to disseminate links to digital content hosted on other online platforms. If their accounts get closed down, they simply register under new names. ISIL has also cleverly organized “hashtag campaigns” to raise its online profile and uses social media “bots” to hijack popular hashtags such as #Brazil2014 during the World Cup. The number of Westerners fighting alongside ISIL in Syria and Iraq could number in the thousands, thanks in large part to Twitter and Facebook. Al-Qaida’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri trumpets the importance of information operations, famously telling Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a 2005 letter, “We are in a battle, and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.” Governments are thus beginning to see winning the Internet as central to the fight against terrorism.

The Internet may be particularly important in the Middle East, where the United States depends on information communications technologies for critical military and civilian services far more than our strategic rivals or potential adversaries. This asymmetric vulnerability is less pronounced toward Russia and China, whose economies are more closely integrated with America’s and who would have more to lose from retaliatory cyber-attacks. As former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell warned Congress in 2010: “We’re the most vulnerable. We’re the most connected. We have the most to lose.”

To its credit, the Obama Administration has acknowledged the dangers cyber-war poses to America’s interests and allies in the Middle East—President Obama pledged support to the Gulf States to defend against cyber-attacks from Iran, and during his recent trip to Saudi Arabia to sell the Iran nuclear deal Secretary of Defense Ash Carter discussed cyber security with King Salman. Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, has reportedly tried to persuade America’s Gulf Cooperation Council allies into working together to protect against cyber-attacks, and CENTCOM has issued a request for information for contractors to help its Joint Cyber Center with all aspects of “theater planning synchronization. And Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas recently visited Tel Aviv and signed an agreement  promoting cooperation on cyber security with Israel.

Yet our regional allies are understandably skeptical of the president’s promises. Besides past retreats from redlines in Syria and the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, during 2012’s “Operation Ababil” attacks on the U.S. financial sector, the Obama Administration not only rejected an option to hack into the adversary’s network in Iran and squelch the problem at the source, but refused to even deliver a diplomatic demarche to Tehran for fear of prompting more attacks. The massive OPM breach came after the president issued an executive order on cyber security in February 2013 with the declared purpose of securing federal computer networks, suggesting that although the administration talks a good game on cyber security it is less adept at translating directives and statements into effective policies.

Finally, given that Iran reportedly devoted $1 billion dollars to its cyber-warfare efforts while under the yoke of sanctions, the sanctions relief provided by the nuclear deal with Tehran provides the IRGC with a financial windfall for its growing cyber-warfare endeavors. Unlike obtaining weapons of mass destruction or other prohibited weapons systems, this dangerous capacity can be developed outside the watchful eye of inspectors and without concern for U.N. Security Council resolutions. Maintaining vigilance and working with our regional partners to address the widening array—from Iran to ISIL to Anonymous—of cyber threats emanating from the Middle East will remain a significant challenge for the remainder of this administration and for the next president as well.

What You Need To Know About Hillary’s Email Server Issue

From the Wall Street Journal:

Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct public business while serving as secretary of state, followed by the deletion of information on that server and the transfer to her lawyer of a thumb drive containing heretofore unexplored data, engages several issues of criminal law—but the overriding issue is one of plain common sense.

Let’s consider the potentially applicable criminal laws in order of severity.

It is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than a year to keep “documents or materials containing classified information . . . at an unauthorized location.” Note that it is the information that is protected; the issue doesn’t turn on whether the document or materials bear a classified marking. This is the statute under which David Petraeus—former Army general and Central Intelligence Agency director—was prosecuted for keeping classified information at home. Mrs. Clinton’s holding of classified information on a personal server was a violation of that law. So is transferring that information on a thumb drive to David Kendall, her lawyer.

Moving up the scale, the law relating to public records generally makes it a felony for anyone having custody of a “record or other thing” that is “deposited with . . . a public officer” to “remove” or “destroy” it, with a maximum penalty of three years. Emails are records, and the secretary of state is a public officer and by statute their custodian.

The Espionage Act defines as a felony, punishable by up to 10 years, the grossly negligent loss or destruction of “information relating to the national defense.” Note that at least one of the emails from the small random sample taken by the inspector general for the intelligence community contained signals intelligence and was classified top secret.

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Main Street Columnist Bill McGurn on the race for the Democratic nomination. Photo credit: Getty Images.

To be sure, this particular email was turned over, but on paper rather than in its original electronic form, without the metadata that went with it. If other emails of like sensitivity are among the 30,000 Mrs. Clinton erased, that is yet more problematic. The server is now in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose forensic skills in recovering data in situations like this are unexcelled.

The highest step in this ascending scale of criminal penalties—20 years maximum—is reached by anyone who destroys “any record, document or tangible object with intent to impede, obstruct or influence the proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States . . . or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter.”

So, for example, if Mrs. Clinton caused to be wiped out emails that might have been anticipated to be of interest to a congressional committee, such conduct would come within the sweep of the statute. That, by the way, is the obstruction-of-justice statute, as revised by the Sarbanes-Oxley law, passed by Congress in 2002 while Mrs. Clinton served as a senator, and for which she voted.

All of this is not to suggest that Mrs. Clinton is in real danger of going to jail any time soon. All of these laws require at least knowing conduct, and the obstruction statute requires specific intent to impede at least a contemplated proceeding. It is not helpful to Mrs. Clinton’s cause that the emails finally turned over to the State Department were in paper rather than electronic form, which makes it impossible to search them—and easier to alter them—and would thus tend to impede rather than advance a congressional investigation.

Further, we won’t know whether permanent damage was done by the email erasure unless someone manages to examine the thumb drive in the possession of Mr. Kendall. The actual erasure of material appears to have been done by one or more of Mrs. Clinton’s aides, and we can certainly expect some or all of them to dive, if not be thrown, under the bus. Nonetheless, these statutes serve at least to measure the severity with which the law views the conduct here.

The common-sense issues in this matter are more problematic than the criminal ones. Anyone who enters the Situation Room at the White House, where Mrs. Clinton was photographed during the Osama bin Laden raid, is required to place any personal electronic device in a receptacle outside the room, lest it be activated involuntarily and confidential communications disclosed.

Mrs. Clinton herself, in a now famous email, cautioned State Department employees not to conduct official business on personal email accounts. The current secretary of state,John Kerry, testified that he assumes that his emails have been the object of surveillance by hostile foreign powers. It is inconceivable that the nation’s senior foreign-relations official was unaware of the risk that communications about this country’s relationships with foreign governments would be of particular interest to those governments, and to others.

It is no answer to say, as Mrs. Clinton did at one time, that emails were not marked classified when sent or received. Of course they were not; there is no little creature sitting on the shoulders of public officials classifying words as they are uttered and sent. But the laws are concerned with the sensitivity of information, not the sensitivity of the markings on whatever may contain the information.

The culture in Washington, particularly among senior-executive officials, is pervasively risk-averse, and has been for some time. When I took office as U.S. attorney general in 2007, members of my staff saw to it that I stopped carrying a BlackBerry, lest I inadvertently send confidential information over an insecure network or lest it be activated, without my knowledge, and my communications monitored.

When I attended my first briefing in a secure facility, and brought a pad to take notes, my chief of staff leaned over and wrote in bold capital letters at the top of the first page, “TS/SCI,” meaning Top Secret, Secure Compartmentalized Information—which is to say, information that may be looked at only in what is known as a SCIF, a Secure, Compartmentalized Information Facility. My office was considered a SCIF; my apartment was not.

The point he was making by doing that—and this is just the point that seems to have eluded the former secretary of state—is one of common sense: Once you assume a public office, your communications about anything having to do with your job are not your personal business or property. They are the public’s business and the public’s property, and are to be treated as no different from communications of like sensitivity.

That something so obvious could have eluded Mrs. Clinton raises questions about her suitability both for the office she held and for the office she seeks.

Mr. Mukasey served as U.S. attorney general (2007-09) and as a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York (1988-2006).