In the typical manner of modern liberalism, Laurie David, the producer of environmental agitprop An Inconvenient Truth, is not so concerned about the environment when it comes to her own property. (Via Instapundit.)
PJ O’Rourke explains why the love affair with cars is over; they’re just too important now:
Cars didn’t shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We’re way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies, corrupt political machines, rampant criminality and the pointy-headed busybodies. Cars gave us our dragoons and hussars, lent us speed and mobility, let us scout the terrain and probe the enemy’s lines. And thanks to our cars, when we lost the cities we weren’t forced to surrender, we were able to retreat.
Truer words were never spoken.
The London Times reports:
An Egyptian cabinet minister who offered to burn Hebrew books last year entered the final straight as favorite for leadership of UNESCO Friday in the face of fierce opposition from Jewish groups and intellectuals in Europe.
Farouk Hosni, 71, an artist who has served as Culture Minister for 21 years, apologized this week for his book-burning call and is still deemed front-runner among seven contenders for the post of director-general of the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
A book burner as the UN chief for education, science, and culture. That seems about right.
The Taliban have fled the Pakistani army’s advance on the main town in the Swat Valley, delivering the military a strategic prize in its offensive against militants in the country’s northwest, commanders said Saturday.
The President and his spokesman both admitted that Sotomayor spoke poorly when she said “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” However, both said that her statement was taken out of context. The problem with that contention is Sotomayor’s statement was not an isolated one. It’s from her peroration in an entire speech dedicated to the impact of race and gender on judging. This was basically the thesis of the entire speech.
The bottom line is, this is exactly what the president said he wanted, a justice whose life experience gave her “empathy.” The problem is she expressed it in too direct a fashion, making it clear how ugly the idea is.
The right tack for Republicans to take is not to try to block Sotomayor’s appointment. They can’t do it anyway. Also, who’s to say that the next nomination would be better? Rather, as Glenn Reynolds suggested on PJM Political, the Republicans should use this as a teaching moment. They should open a debate on whether justice should be guided by race and gender, or whether perhaps impartial justice might be better. That’s a debate that Republicans can win, and start to correct the misapprehension that many Americans have of this administration.
The Justice Department says this is no big deal:
The Washington Times reports:
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.
The incident – which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube – had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.
Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.
The lawyers also had ascertained that one of the three men had gained access to the polling place by securing a credential as a Democratic poll watcher, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Washington Times.
The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20.
A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections. . .
The three men named in the complaint – New Black Panther Chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, Minister King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson – refused to appear in court to answer the accusations over a near-five month period, court records said. . .
Court records show that as late as May 5, the Justice Department was still considering an order by U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell in Philadelphia to seek judgments, or sanctions, against the three Panthers because of their failure to appear. But 10 days later, the department reversed itself and filed a notice of voluntary dismissal from the complaint for Malik Zulu Shabazz and Mr. Jackson.
Apparently, President Obama’s political appointees at the Justice Department think that a suitable penalty for blatant voter intimidation (by Democrats) is a court order not to do it any more.
This scandal may have legs. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, is demanding answers.
Riehl World View spots a dishonest hit piece at the HuffPo. (Shocking, I know.)
Since the Riehl World View post, the HuffPo has improved its headline a little bit, replacing its original false headline “Rob Portman Escorted Out Of VA Hospital For Campaigning” with one that merely insinuates a falsehood “Rob Portman Leaves VA Hospital After Being Told That Campaigning There Is Illegal.” The new headline is technically truthful, in that it accurately expresses the chronological order of two unrelated events.
With a professor of constitutional law as president, one might have hoped for better than this. On the blog of the special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, he indicates that the White House will restrict the manner in which citizens can petition their government:
Section 3 of the Memorandum required all oral communications between federally registered lobbyists and government officials concerning Recovery Act policy to be disclosed on the Internet; barred registered lobbyists from having oral communications with government officials about specific Recovery Act projects or applications and instead required those communications to be in writing; and also required those written communications to be posted on the Internet. . .
Following OMB’s review, the Administration has decided to make a number of changes to the rules that we think make them even tougher on special interests and more focused on merits-based decision making.
First, we will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process.
Apparently, the White House intends to prohibit citizens from speaking to their government about the stimulus bill. Let’s never hear any more nonsense about the left and its concern for civil liberties.
ASIDE: It’s telling that an administration with very little regard for transparency (other than lip service galore) would suddenly see the light when the spectre of public comment rears its ugly head.
Beyond restricting the manner of public comment, the White House also wishes to restrict its content:
Second, we will focus the restriction on oral communications to target the scenario where concerns about merit-based decision-making are greatest –after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made. Once such applications are on file, the competition should be strictly on the merits. To that end, comments (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet for every American to see.
(Emphasis mine.) Who could argue with limiting public discourse to the merits? Well, there’s the question of who determines merit in public discourse. The White House, presumably. But beyond that, the Constitution authorizes no such restriction anyway. If I want to criticize a project on some worthless grounds like astrology or numerology, that’s my right.
The best that can be said about this is their means (posting comments publicly) is unlikely to achieve their ends (restricting discourse). But look out for their future means.
(CREDIT: Title borrowed from ShopFloor.)
A San Diego TV station reports:
A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold Bible studies in their home, 10News reported.
Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.
Broyles said, “The county asked, ‘Do you have a regular meeting in your home?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say amen?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say praise the Lord?’ ‘Yes.'”
The county employee notified the couple that the small Bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of County regulations, according to Broyles.
Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed “unlawful use of land” and told them to “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit” — a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
I’m sure San Diego County will back away from this very quickly. But more than that, someone should be fired. It’s not good enough simply to back away from intimidation when you’re called on it.
UPDATE: The county is indeed backing down. They’re not admitting any wrongdoing yet, but claim to be investigating.
There’s a fact not to lose sight of here. The county says that this was a routine code enforcement gone awry. Indeed, it went very far awry if the county official was investigating the religious practice of the participants. But set that aside; let’s suppose it didn’t happen that way, or consider a hypothetical case in which the official behaved “properly.” The county is still on very shaky ground. According to my understanding of the law, strict scrutiny applies even for unintentional impairment of freedom of religion. That is to say, the county must make accommodations for religious gatherings that it might not make for other gatherings.
Australia may be backing away from nationwide internet censorship:
THE Rudd Government has indicated that it may back away from its mandatory internet filtering plan.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy today told a Senate estimates committee that the filtering scheme could be implemented by a voluntary industry code.
Senator Conroy’s statement is a departure from the internet filtering policy Labor took into the October 2007 election to make it mandatory for ISPs to block offensive and illegal content.
Responding to questions from shadow communications minister Nick Minchin on how the government may go about imposing the internet filtering scheme, Senator Conroy said that legislation may not be required and ISPs may adopt an industry consensus to block restricted content on a voluntary basis.
I sure hope so. We’ve already seen the system used to suppress political content.
The Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) has ordered a student to cease her efforts to organize a student group supporting gun rights, and labeled those efforts “academic misconduct”:
FIRE Press Release
PITTSBURGH, May 27, 2009—A student who wants to form a gun-rights group at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) has been threatened with disciplinary action for her efforts. Student Christine Brashier has turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help after reporting that administrators banned her informational pamphlets, ordered her to destroy all copies of them, and told her that further “academic misconduct” would not be tolerated. . .
In April, CCAC student Christine Brashier created pamphlets to distribute to her classmates encouraging them to join her in forming a chapter of the national Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) organization at CCAC. The handbill states that the group “supports the legalization of concealed carry by licensed individuals on college campuses.” She personally distributed copies of the flyer, which identified her as a “Campus Leader” of the effort to start the chapter.
On April 24, Jean Snider, Student Development Specialist at CCAC’s Allegheny Campus, summoned Brashier to a meeting that day with Snider and Yvonne Burns, Dean of Student Development. According to Brashier, the deans told Brashier that passing out her non-commercial pamphlets was prohibited as “solicitation.” They told Brashier that trying to “sell” other students on the idea of the organization was prohibited.
CCAC also told Brashier that the college must pre-approve any distribution of literature to fellow students, and that pamphlets like hers would not be approved, even insisting that Brashier destroy all copies of her pamphlet. . .
When Brashier stated that she wanted to be able to discuss this policy freely on campus, she was told to stop doing so without the permission of the CCAC administration. Dean Burns reportedly said, “You may want to discuss this topic but the college does not, and you cannot make us.” Brashier was then told to cease all activities related to her involvement with SCCC at CCAC and that such “academic misconduct” would not be tolerated.
FIRE wrote CCAC President Alex Johnson on April 29 about these violations of Brashier’s First Amendment speech and association rights, pointing out that her free speech in no way constituted solicitation, that CCAC is obligated to permit students to distribute literature and may not ban it on the basis of viewpoint or content, and that if CCAC recognizes student organizations at all, it must recognize an organization that supports concealed carry on campus. FIRE requested a response by May 13, and CCAC responded only by promising a reply from either CCAC or the Allegheny County Solicitor’s office at some “reasonable” future time. Two weeks have passed since that promise, leaving the First Amendment in jeopardy at CCAC.
Suppressing free speech is disgraceful. And, at a public college, illegal as well. But even worse is threatening students with bogus charges of academic misconduct. Anyone who would do that has no business at all running an academic institution.
Out of the three people frequently considered to be on President Obama’s short list (Sotomayor, Diane Wood, and the formidable Elena Kagan), it’s interesting that Obama chose by far the least talented. It’s also interesting how open he was about the paramount role played by biography in that decision. And if there’s any doubt what he was getting at with all the biography talk, Sotomayor has made it explicit.
The Independent, a British left-leaning paper, doesn’t understand America. Its recent article on Scientology on trial in France opens:
The Church of Scientology in France went on trial today on charges of organised fraud. Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.
(Emphasis mine.) (Via the Corner.)
That’s not how it works in America; we don’t register religions here. Scientology is protected, not by some sort of government registration, but by the First Amendment.
Of course Scientology is a preposterous fraudulent cult, but that’s beside the point. Cults are legal in the United States. What will bring Scientology down is its history of imprisoning and killing people.
Last week Arthur Laffer had a column on the ease for wealthy individuals to move to escape excessive state taxation. Today’s there’s a coda to that column. After Maryland instituted a millionaires’ tax their millionaires are disappearing:
Maryland couldn’t balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O’Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were “willing and able to pay their fair share.” The Baltimore Sun predicted the rich would “grin and bear it.”
One year later, nobody’s grinning. One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. . . On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year — even at higher rates. . .
No doubt the majority of that loss in millionaire filings results from the recession. . . The Maryland state revenue office says it’s “way too early” to tell how many millionaires moved out of the state when the tax rates rose. But no one disputes that some rich filers did leave. It’s easier than the redistributionists think. Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, notes: “Marylanders with high incomes typically own second homes in tax friendlier states like Florida, Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia. So it’s easy for them to change their residency.”
Yet another bogus NYT story:
Edmund Andrews, Times financial reporter, is promoting a new book claiming to detail his personal journey through the dark underside of easy mortgages and financial distress.
The NY Times gave him space in the NY Times magazine to talk up his story and his book. But missing from the story is any mention of the fact that his wife has filed for personal bankruptcy not once, but twice. For a story about personal finances, that is a staggering omission, leading to some absurd phoniness in the Andrews tale.
How did the book happen? Clark Hoyt, the NYT ombudsman, explains:
In the fall of 2007, Andrews went to his editors with a book proposal. He wanted to tell how the subprime mortgage crisis happened — greedy lenders, regulators who looked the other way and people like himself who made foolish choices.
Though the timing was terrible for The Times — Andrews was the main Washington reporter on the story — he burned to illuminate a national crisis through his personal experience. And he had another strong reason: He needed money.
“I was desperate,” he said. He still is. Seven months behind on his mortgage, he may lose his home unless “Busted,” which comes out this week, is a hit.
So the book arose in circumstances that maximize the likelihood of an ethical breach, and was nevertheless okayed by the editors. Thanks for the explanation. I have to say, Hoyt has a unique ability to write defenses of the New York Times that make it seem even worse than before.
Fox News reports:
President Obama has asked for an internal investigation of a photo-op featuring the presidential jet that sent thousands of New Yorkers running for their lives — and sent officials in Washington, D.C., running for political cover.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday Obama was “furious” when he heard about the incident and has ordered a deputy chief of staff of find out “why that decision was made and to ensure that it never happens again.”
Perhaps the White House’s decision to change the White House military office director from a career military position to a political appointment might have played a role?
In a statement that can only be described as bizarre, President Obama claims that our fiscal problems are the result of our failure to establish universal health care:
Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we’ve made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we’ve seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.
In the real world, massive entitlement programs cost the government money. In the Obama world, apparently they somehow save money.
Last week’s pair of national-security speeches from President Obama and former Vice-President Cheney amounted to something of a debate. Like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the participants spoke at length on a single topic, and did so back-to-back. With modern technology, a joint appearance was not necessary for the press to cover both speeches as a single event.
Since Cheney’s speech was scheduled first, and then the president decided to schedule his at the exact same time, the White House must have thought that a debate served their purposes. Perhaps that’s because he had the advantage of staging (setting his own speech at the national archives) and knew that the press would edit his remarks more favorably than Cheney’s. Nevertheless, the president seems to be losing the debate.
A new Rasmussen poll, out today (via Instapundit), indicates that the public disagree with the president decision to close the Guantanamo prison by a 49-38 margin, and disagree with the president’s contention that the prison has damaged national security by a 51-25 margin. By a 57-28 margin the public opposes moving the Guantanamo detainees to US prisons. The poll didn’t ask about releasing them in the United States (as proposed by the Attorney General), but given these numbers it seems safe to assume that public opinion would be overwhelmingly against it.
Support for the president’s position has been steadily eroding since Inauguration Day. In January 42% supported keeping the prison open. The number has risen to 46% in April, and then to 49% today. Meanwhile, the number who believe the prison will “very likely” be closed has dropped to 15%, down from 49% last November.
I’m delighted to see a real debate take place in American politics. The events that we call “debates” with their two-minute statements are truly shabby affairs, designed for sound bites rather than substance. In a real debate, the strength of the case is paramount. I wish this would happen more often.
POSTSCRIPT: In a related item, another poll seems to show “the more Dick Cheney talks, the more Americans seem to like him.” (Via Instapundit.)
A Pentagon report concludes that one in seven of those detainees released from the Guantanamo prison have already returned to terrorism. This is all the more troubling when you consider that those were the detainees that were considered safe to release. More troubling still, the report’s release is being held up for political reasons, reports the New York Times:
An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are engaged in terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.
The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against the transfer or release of any more detainees as part of President Obama’s plan to shut down the prison by January. Past Pentagon reports on Guantánamo recidivism have been met with skepticism from civil liberties groups and criticized for their lack of detail.
The Pentagon promised in January that the latest report would be released soon, but Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said this week that the findings were still “under review.”
Two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the report was being held up by Defense Department employees fearful of upsetting the White House, at a time when even Congressional Democrats have begun to show misgivings over Mr. Obama’s plan to close Guantánamo.
The NYT dutifully relates the skepticism of civil liberties groups for the report’s lack of detail, adding:
Among the 74 former prisoners that the report says are again engaged in terrorism, 29 have been identified by name by the Pentagon, including 16 named for the first time in the report. The Pentagon has said that the remaining 45 could not be named because of national security and intelligence-gathering concerns. . .
The Pentagon has provided no way of authenticating its 45 unnamed recidivists, and only a few of the 29 people identified by name can be independently verified as having engaged in terrorism since their release. Many of the 29 are simply described as associating with terrorists or training with terrorists, with almost no other details provided.
Of course, you would expect that much of the report would be based on sensitive information that the Pentagon would not want to make public. Nevertheless Thomas Joscelyn points out that several recidivists can be verified through public sources. And these recidivists are costing human lives. For instance, one detonated a suicide bomb in Mosul, killing 13 Iraqis and wounding 42 others.
Remember, the releasees so far are the ones that were deemed safe to release. What happens when we start releasing the others?
(Via Power Line.)
Well, Obama really didn’t really want to give this speech. He had to. I mean, he wasn’t elected to be a national security president. He is a domestic president, and that’s his agenda.
But his hand was forced because there was an open rebellion in Congress over the Guantanamo issue. The senators wanted a decision, and he gave them an essay. The senators wanted a president, and he gave them a professor.
What he did was he outlined the five categories of prisoners in Guantanamo, an interesting exercise that you would expect out of a graduate student, in which you have got those who can be tried in regular courts and those who have to be in military tribunals, and those that will not be taken by allies, as if any allies are taking them, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, a freshman in college could tell you that.
And then he says the fifth category, those whom you cannot try, either because the crimes are committed but the evidence is tainted, or because they have not yet committed a crime but they sure as hell will if released, there are those whom you cannot try and you cannot release. And then he says, “And that’s the really difficult issue.”
No kidding. I mean, who would have thought that was the problem about these prisoners? Of course everybody knows that.
So what was his answer? He doesn’t have an answer. What he says is he is going to work with Congress and work out a framework of detaining these people.
I think that’s right. We’ve frequently seen polls say that the public likes President Obama much more than his policies. This was an effort by the president to paste an extra measure of his personal popularity onto a policy no one wants.
Plus, Peter Wehner notices the hypocrisy of the president’s choice of venue:
I couldn’t help but notice that during his speech yesterday, President Obama spoke in reverential terms about the Constitution. Yet when it comes to his own judicial philosophy — and, I expect, to his Supreme Court nominee — the Constitution will be viewed with a great deal less veneration. It will be seen as a “living” document, one that has no fixed meaning and can be reinterpreted for any reason at all, with new rights being manufactured out of thin air and rights enumerated in the Constitution conveniently ignored.
This sounds wrong:
You may not know it, but if you have a wireless router, a cordless phone, remote car-door opener, baby monitor or cellphone in your house, the FCC claims the right to enter your home without a warrant at any time of the day or night in order to inspect it.
That’s the upshot of the rules the agency has followed for years to monitor licensed television and radio stations, and to crack down on pirate radio broadcasters. And the commission maintains the same policy applies to any licensed or unlicensed radio-frequency device.
“Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske. That includes devices like Wi-Fi routers that use unlicensed spectrum, Fiske says. . .
George Washington University professor Orin Kerr, a constitutional law expert, also questions the legalilty of the policy.
“The Supreme Court has said that the government can’t make warrantless entries into homes for administrative inspections,” Kerr said via e-mail, refering to a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that housing inspectors needed warrants to force their way into private residences. The FCC’s online FAQ doesn’t explain how the agency gets around that ruling, Kerr adds. . .
Refusing the FCC admittance can carry a harsh financial penalty. In a 2007 case, a Corpus Christi, Texas, man got a visit from the FCC’s direction-finders after rebroadcasting an AM radio station through a CB radio in his home. An FCC agent tracked the signal to his house and asked to see the equipment; Donald Winton refused to let him in, but did turn off the radio. Winton was later fined $7,000 for refusing entry to the officer.
In the wake of the Chrysler-UAW deal, investors are becoming reluctant to lend to heavily unionized firms.
Arthur Laffer (yes, that Laffer) takes a look at capital mobility and state taxes. His results should be no surprise:
Here’s the problem for states that want to pry more money out of the wallets of rich people. It never works because people, investment capital and businesses are mobile: They can leave tax-unfriendly states and move to tax-friendly states.
And the evidence that we discovered in our new study for the American Legislative Exchange Council, “Rich States, Poor States,” published in March, shows that Americans are more sensitive to high taxes than ever before. The tax differential between low-tax and high-tax states is widening, meaning that a relocation from high-tax California or Ohio, to no-income tax Texas or Tennessee, is all the more financially profitable both in terms of lower tax bills and more job opportunities.
Updating some research from Richard Vedder of Ohio University, we found that from 1998 to 2007, more than 1,100 people every day including Sundays and holidays moved from the nine highest income-tax states such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio and relocated mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax, including Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas. We also found that over these same years the no-income tax states created 89% more jobs and had 32% faster personal income growth than their high-tax counterparts.
Did the greater prosperity in low-tax states happen by chance? Is it coincidence that the two highest tax-rate states in the nation, California and New York, have the biggest fiscal holes to repair? No. Dozens of academic studies — old and new — have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses.
The Obama administration succeeded in bullying Chrysler’s major private creditors out of objecting to the Chrysler-UAW deal, but the state of Indiana is objecting on behalf of the retirement plans of its teachers and state police.
This is very good news. Despite the deal being illegal, the administration was on the verge of getting away with it, and setting a terrible precedent in the process. Now there should be a real hearing in court.
Wow. Whenever you think you’ve heard it all, you’re wrong:
Beverly Anderson is mad as hell. She just started to get tickets for parking in her own driveway. That’s right. The District of Columbia is ticketing people who park their cars in their own driveways. . .
What does the law say?
“Any area between the property line and the building restriction line shall be considered as private property set aside and treated as public space under the care and maintenance of the property owner.”
Basically what that means is most property owners in the District don’t own the land between their front door and the sidewalk, but they are responsible for taking care of it. It’s why you can get a ticket for drinking beer on your front porch in the Nation’s Capital. You’re technically on public space. It’s also why the city can ticket you for parking in your own driveway if you don’t pull your car deep enough into the driveway beyond the façade of your house or building.
To be clear, we’re not talking about people who park in shallow driveways and let the rear of their cars block the sidewalk. The cars are off the road, off the sidewalk and in the driveway – just not far enough back for the city. . .
When Anderson complained to a supervisor at DPW she was told that she could lease the property from the District and avoid future tickets.
The District of Columbia wants to lease people their own driveways. This is what happens when a government has no fear of its constituents.
Megan McArdle tells it like it is:
So what about California? A reader asks. Ummm, that’s a tough one. No, wait, it’s not: California is completely, totally, irreparably hosed. And not a little garden hose. More like this. Their outflow is bigger than their inflow. You can blame Republicans who won’t pass a budget, or Democrats who spend every single cent of tax money that comes in during the booms, borrow some more, and then act all surprised when revenues, in a totally unprecedented, inexplicable, and unforeseaable chain of events, fall during a recession. You can blame the initiative process, and the uneducated voters who try to vote themselves rich by picking their own pockets. Whoever is to blame, the state was bound to go broke one day, and hey, today’s that day!
California must be allowed to suffer the consequences of its bizarre irresponsibility and go bankrupt. If the federal government bails out California it will be beginning of the end of our federal system. California will become a subsidiary of the federal government, and in return will obtain a massive subsidy from the responsible and only-moderately-irresponsible states.
Worse, once California has shown that there’s no need to manage your own budget, other states will surely follow the same path, and ultimately be taken over as well. The precedent will be set that states effectively can exchange local control for a massive federal subsidy. In time, independent state government will be just too expensive for all but the reddest of red states.
We’ve become accustomed to our economic dominance in the world, forgetting that it wasn’t reckless deals and get-rich-quick schemes that got us there; but hard work and smart ideas -quality products and wise investments. So we started taking shortcuts. We started living on credit, instead of building up savings.
President Obama, ASU commencement address
Credit cards have long been a very good deal for people who pay their bills on time and in full. Even as card companies imposed punitive fees and penalties on those late with their payments, the best customers racked up cash-back rewards, frequent-flier miles and other perks in recent years.
Now Congress is moving to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers, who have become a prime source of billions of dollars in fee revenue for the industry. And to make up for lost income, the card companies are going after those people with sterling credit.
Banks are expected to look at reviving annual fees, curtailing cash-back and other rewards programs and charging interest immediately on a purchase instead of allowing a grace period of weeks, according to bank officials and trade groups.
“It will be a different business,” said Edward L. Yingling, the chief executive of the American Bankers Association, which has been lobbying Congress for more lenient legislation on behalf of the nation’s biggest banks. “Those that manage their credit well will in some degree subsidize those that have credit problems.”
(Via Hot Air.)
It’s a basic principle that anyone (even a politician) should be able to understand that you get more of whatever you subsidize.
UPDATE: The bill passed the House 361-64, so I suppose this has to be considered bipartisan foolishness.
UPDATE: Yingling also made this key point, quoted by the Washington Post but not the NYT:
“This bill fundamentally changes the entire business model of credit cards by restricting the ability to price credit for risk,” said Edward L. Yingling, the chief executive of the American Bankers Association. He said that lending would become more risky and that, “It is a fundamental rule of lending that an increase in risk means that less credit will be available and that the credit that is available will often have a higher interest rate.”
I’m no fan of Harry Reid, to say the least, but this AP story on three supposed Reid gaffes just isn’t right. The first two “gaffes” (regarding the health of Democratic senators) are dubious, and unimportant even if he was wrong. Then, the substantive one:
Reid also mangled his party’s position on the congressional news of the day, that Senate Democrats would join their House counterparts in withholding the money President Barack Obama needs to close the Guantanamo Bay prison until Obama comes up with a plan for relocating its prisoners.
But Reid went further than saying he wanted to see a plan for the money before Congress approves it. “We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States,” he said.
No one, of course, was talking about releasing terrorism suspects among the American populace. Imprisoning them, perhaps, but not releasing them.
I truly wish this were true. We certainly shouldn’t be talking about releasing terrorism suspects among the American populace. But we are:
Attorney General Eric Holder said some detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may end up being released in the U.S. as the Obama administration works with foreign allies to resettle some of the prisoners.
The gaffe here belongs to the AP, not Reid. As far as Reid goes, I just wish we could trust that he really means it.
Rhetoric meets reality:
Senate Democrats have decided to pull $80 million from the $91 billion war spending request — money President Obama had requested to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by Jan. 22, 2010.
A senior Democratic Senate aide told FOX News the caucus will pull the money and await a plan for closing Guantanamo before putting forward any funding. The caucus pulled back after it was hit hard in recent weeks by criticism from Republicans about the lack of a plan for closing the prison. . .
The House withholds all funding in its supplemental bill.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Britain’s parliamentary expense scandal claimed its biggest casualty on Tuesday when the speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, announced his resignation after politicians broke centuries of protocol and demanded he step down.
Mr. Martin, who has become a symbol of politician’s attempts to stop details of their expense claims being made public, made a short statement to the House of Parliament Tuesday afternoon announcing he will resign on 21 June. . .
On Monday, Mr. Martin — who as speaker heads the body that administers Parliament and has responsibility for politicians’ expenses — had dug to hold on to the post, even as MPs from all political parties called for his resignation. . .
Mr. Martin’s resignation marks the first time that a speaker has been forced from office since 1695; the role dates back to the 13th century. But allies of the speaker said that politicians were making him a scapegoat for a scandal that they are all involved in. . .
Mr. Martin’s near nine-year rule as speaker has been controversial for many years. Mr. Martin, who as speaker also acts as a moderator in House of Commons debates, was accused of showing bias towards MPs of his former party, the Labour Party, in debate. This year Mr. Martin hit the headlines after allowing police in to search the Common’s office of Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green, who was accused of leaking information.
But it was his attempts to keep expense information out of the public domain that have led to his recent troubles. Mr. Martin even took the case to the U.K.’s high court in a bid to stop details coming out.
The AP reports:
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has admitted to using a paragraph virtually word-for-word from a prominent liberal blogger without attribution.
Dowd acknowledged the error in an e-mail to The Huffington Post on Sunday, the Web site reported. The Times corrected her column online to give proper credit for the material to Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall.
The newspaper issued a formal correction on Monday and corrected the version that appears online.
Interestingly, though, Dowd contends that she didn’t actually do anything wrong. First, let’s look at the actual copy. Here is Josh Marshall’s version:
More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Here is Dowd’s version (from a screenshot here):
More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.
I’ve marked the changes in bold, and you can see that the two are virtually identical. There’s no way to deny that this passage was cribbed from Marshall. Here’s where the story gets interesting.
Rather than simply say that she meant to credit Marshall and made a mistake, she tells a different story:
josh is right. I didn’t read his blog last week, and didn’t have any idea he had made that point until you informed me just now. i was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent — and I assumed spontaneous — way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column. but, clearly, my friend must have read josh marshall without mentioning that to me. we’re fixing it on the web, to give josh credit, and will include a note, as well as a formal correction tomorrow.
As Plagiarism Today observes, Dowd is claiming that she remembered 41 words verbatim from a 43-word quote that she heard spoken aloud once in the middle of a conversation, when the person who spoke it was also repeating it from memory. That simply isn’t believable. But perhaps by “talking to a friend” she actually means receiving email from a friend.
Anyway, let’s accept Dowd’s story at face value. Suppose Dowd did believe that those were her friend’s words, rather than a prominent blogger. Did she obtain permission to use her friend’s words? It’s not plagiarism only when you copy a prominent blogger. It’s very hard to believe that the friend would have given her permission to use his words in a column without it occurring to him to mention that they were not actually his words.
But let’s set that aside as well. Let’s assume that Dowd obtained permission to use her friend’s words verbatim, and the friend simply forgot that they weren’t his own words. This is the best possible light we can put Dowd in. Under all these assumptions, is what she did okay?
In an academic setting, it is certainly not. You can’t claim someone else’s words as your own, even with their permission. If you quote someone, you must make it clear that it is a quote, and give proper attribution. The failure to do so is plagiarism.
But, for the New York Times it seems it’s okay. Politico’s Michael Calderone put the question to them:
That raised other issues about whether it’s common practice for Dowd to use entire passages from friends in her column without attribution. And when I sent a follow-up email about this to Dowd, she didn’t respond. . .
So I put the question of whether this is common practice for columnists before Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal, who passed me along to PR. But now I’ve now received a statement supporting Dowd from spokesperson Diane McNulty.
Maureen had us correct the column online as soon as the error was brought to her attention, adding in the sourcing to Marshall’s blog. We ran a correction in today’s paper, referring readers to the correct version online.
There is no need to do anything further since there is no allegation, hint or anything else from Marshall that this was anything but an error. It was corrected. Journalists often use feeds from other staff journalists, free-lancers, stringers, a whole range of people. And from friends. Anyone with even the most passing acquaintance with Maureen’s work knows that she is happy and eager to give people credit.
I don’t understand how the fact that Marshall has no problem means the Times doesn’t do anything further. The paper has its own standards to upkeep regardless of who’s complaining or not.
I think Calderone is right (except for the part about the NYT having standards to maintain). What we have here is a black-and-white case in which Maureen Dowd knowingly was using someone else’s words without attribution. The New York Times, when asked specifically about the matter, says that’s okay. One might think that, in the wake of the Jayson Blair fiasco, they might be a little more cautious.
POSTSCRIPT: It’s not relevant to the plagiarism, but it seems necessary to mention that Marshall’s remark is BS. Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in March 2002. At that time, the Bush Administration was already actively deliberating what to do about the Iraq problem. When else were they going to interrogate him? You can’t interrogate someone you don’t have.
Tickets at the new taxpayer-financed Yankee Stadium are a wee bit overpriced:
Ticket prices at the new Yankee Stadium are so high that if a New Yorker wants to watch a Mariners/Yankees game from the best seats, it would be a lot cheaper to fly to Seattle, stay in a nice hotel, eat fancy dinners, and see two games.
- Option 1: Two tickets to Tuesday night, June 30, Mariners at Yanks, cost for just thetickets, $5,000.
- Option 2: Two round-trip airline tickets to Seattle, Friday, Aug. 14, return Sunday the 16th, rental car for three days, two-night double occupancy stay in four-star hotel, two top tickets to both the Saturday and Sunday Yanks-Mariners games, two best-restaurant-in-town dinners for two. Total cost, $2,800. Plus-frequent flyer miles.
Well, I guess we didn’t really need a secret bunker for the Vice-President:
Vice President Joe Biden, well-known for his verbal gaffes, may have finally outdone himself, divulging potentially classified information meant to save the life of a sitting vice president.
According to a report, while recently attending the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, an annual event where powerful politicians and media elite get a chance to cozy up to one another, Biden told his dinnermates about the existence of a secret bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory, which is now the home of the vice president.
The bunker is believed to be the secure, undisclosed location former Vice President Dick Cheney remained under protection in secret after the 9/11 attacks.
The small justice to be found here is that this time Biden is only endangering himself. Of course, it won’t stay that way for long. No doubt they’ll soon be breaking ground on a new secret bunker, at significant cost. Perhaps Biden’s spin should be that this is his contribution to the stimulus effort.
I’ll bet the President wishes he could keep Biden in a secure, undisclosed location.
UPDATE: A Biden aide is denying the story, saying it’s just a room, not a secret bunker. But Eleanor Clift’s story was quite explicit. We’ll see what she says now.
Income is more disproportionately distributed in the US than in Western Europe. In 1998, for example, the richest 1 per cent of Americans took home 14 per cent of total income, while in Sweden the figure was only about 6 per cent. Wealth concentration is another matter, however. The richest 1 per cent of Americans owned about 21 per cent of all wealth in 2000. Some European nations have higher concentrations than that. In Sweden-despite that nation’s egalitarian reputation-the figure is 21 per cent, exactly the same as for the Americans. And if we take account of the massive moving of wealth offshore and off-book permitted by Sweden’s tax authorities, the richest 1 per cent of Swedes are proportionately twice as well off as their American peers.
I think this underscores the fact that America is the nation of new money, while Europe (or Sweden at least) is about old money. In America, the land of opportunity, an entrepreneur can start a business that makes his or her fortune, and literally millions do. Opportunity leads to income inequality, because most people (due to lesser talent or inclination) will not become entrepreneurs. In Europe, great wealth tends to be inherited to a much greater extent. You can see this in the numbers above; how else can you get wealth inequality without income inequality?
What this illustrates is that income equality shouldn’t even be a goal. All income equality does is keep people from becoming rich. It bars the gates to affluence. Instead, the goal ought to be freedom, to place no obstacles in front of any person’s right to realize his or her potential. Naturally, some people will become rich. That’s a good thing.
POSTSCRIPT: Yes, I realize that by using Baldwin’s numbers to highlight a difference rather than a similarity I am missing his point.
The Economist reports:
HIS government espouses “21st-century socialism” and claims to stand for the working class. Yet Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, has never been a fan of his country’s trade unions. He portrays them as corrupt vestiges of a capitalist past and of the previous political order. Ever since he was first elected, in 1998, he has sought ways to bring them to heel. Having first tried and failed to take over the main trade-union confederation, he encouraged a pro-government rival. Now he wants to bypass the unions altogether, by establishing in their place “workers’ councils” that amount to branches of the ruling Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
A bill in the government-controlled National Assembly would eliminate collective bargaining and give powers in labour matters to the new councils. “The government’s policy is the total elimination of the union movement,” says Orlando Chirino, a former chavista who is one of the architects of the Labour Solidarity Movement, a new group which embraces unions from both sides of the country’s political divide and which defends union autonomy.
If this is surprising, you’re looking at Hugo Chavez the wrong way. Chavez is a totalitarian. He wants all power to rest with the government, under his control. Whatever he might feign to the people, his mission is not to serve the working class; his mission is to amass power for himself. Labor unions represent a power base distinct from his own, so he must destroy them.
The collapse of Detroit’s giants is a tragedy, affecting tens of thousands of current and former workers. But the best way to offer them support is directly, not by gerrymandering the rules. The investors in these firms are easily portrayed as vultures, but many are entrusted with the savings of ordinary people, and in any case all have a legal claim that entitles them to due process. In a crisis it is easy to put politics first, but if lenders fear their rights will be abused, other firms will find it more expensive to borrow, especially if they have unionised workforces that are seen to be friendly with the government.
It may be too late for Chrysler’s secured creditors and if GM’s lenders cannot reach a voluntary agreement, they may face a similar fate. That would establish a terrible precedent. Bankruptcy exists to sort legal claims on assets. If it becomes a tool of social policy, who will then lend to struggling firms in which the government has a political interest?
and his effort to crack down on business taxes:
No one doubts that America’s corporate-tax system is a Byzantine mess of high statutory rates and oodles of exemptions. But much of that complexity is caused by the divergence between America’s system of taxing its firms (and citizens) on their worldwide income and the territorial system used by most other countries. Mr Obama’s proposals, particularly his partial reversal of firms’ ability to defer taxes, would add yet more complexity. Nor is there much evidence that they would boost domestic job creation, as the administration claims. In fact, by raising the tax bills of American firms and putting them at a disadvantage beside their foreign peers, Mr Obama’s tax changes may reduce domestic job creation and even induce companies to move offshore.
In truth this plan is less an economic downpayment than a political one. Mr Obama needs more tax revenue, and corporate America’s foreign profits are an appealing pot of cash.
It seems that President Obama’s fiscal policies are modeled after his personal finances:
A close examination of their finances shows that the Obamas were living off lines of credit along with other income for several years until 2005, when Obama’s book royalties came through and Michelle received her 260% pay raise at the University of Chicago. This was also the year Obama started serving in the U.S. Senate. . .
In April 1999, they purchased a Chicago condo and obtained a mortgage for $159,250. In May 1999, they took out a line of credit for $20,750. Then, in 2002, they refinanced the condo with a $210,000 mortgage, which means they took out about $50,000 in equity. Finally, in 2004, they took out another line of credit for $100,000 on top of the mortgage.
Tax returns for 2004 reveal $14,395 in mortgage deductions. If we assume an effective interest rate of 6%, then they owed about $240,000 on a home they purchased for about $159,250. This means they spent perhaps $80,000 beyond their income from 1999 to 2004. . .
The Obama family apparently had little or no savings during this period since there was virtually no taxable interest shown on their tax returns.
In 2003, they reported almost $24,000 in child care expenses and, in 2004, about $23,000. They also paid about $3,400 in household employment taxes each year. And as Michelle stated, they spent $10,000 a year on “extracurriculars” for the children.
These numbers clearly show the Obamas were living beyond their means and they might have suffered financially during the decline in housing prices had they relied on taking ever larger amounts of equity from their home to pay the bills.
But in 2005, Obama’s book sales soared and the royalties poured in. Michelle explained, “It was like Jack and his magic beans.”
Without those magic beans, the Obama family would have eventually suffered the consequences of too much debt.
It seems that the president is relying on magic beans to do the same for our country as they did his family.
BONUS: In light of Mr. Obama’s reliance on magic beans to save his finances, James Taranto sees some chutzpah in Obama’s ASU commencement address:
We’ve become accustomed to our economic dominance in the world, forgetting that it wasn’t reckless deals and get-rich-quick schemes that got us where we are, but hard work and smart ideas–quality products and wise investments. We started taking shortcuts. We started living on credit, instead of building up savings.
Having been definitively contradicted by the CIA, Pelosi is now accusing the CIA of lying. This is very much the pot calling the kettle black, since we now know that Pelosi was indeed told about waterboarding, despite her claims to the contrary. She’s clearly hoping that by counterattacking she’ll be able to distract the press from her own lies.
UPDATE: On Pelosi’s press conference, Charles Krauthammer comments:
Well, her news conference today was an utter disaster. She was nervous. She was shifty. Her syntax was incomprehensible. And there were times when she had had to refer to her original statement because she couldn’t remember what the current truth — her current truth was.
It reminds me of a line in a Graham Greene novel in which a spy says “I prefer to tell the truth. It’s easier to memorize.” Well, she didn’t have it memorized. You had a sense that if you’d attached a lie detector to her in that news conference, it would have short circuited.
Look, her problem was this. She was internally contradictory with one point. Within 30 seconds she contradicted her own statement on what she had heard from her staff in February ’03. She was contradicted by the evidence of others like Porter Goss.
Her charge of the CIA lying to her is utterly implausible. Why would it lie to her and tell all the others the truth? It makes no sense at all.
UPDATE: Steny Hoyer won’t back Pelosi’s allegations.
UPDATE: Leon Panetta backs the CIA:
Panetta, President Obama’s pick to run the clandestine agency and President Clinton’s former chief of staff, wrote in a memo to CIA employees Friday that “CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed,'” according to CIA records.
UPDATE: The WSJ comments:
On the merits, it seems highly implausible that the CIA would have lied to Mrs. Pelosi. Briefings are attended by more than one agency official, and a legislative liaison typically writes up a summary memo describing significant exchanges. Agency careerists hardly loved the Bush Administration after the Iraq WMD fiasco, and the controversy over “torture” has raged for years. If the CIA had misled Congress on a matter that was so politicized, surely someone in the agency would have leaked it long before now, if only to deflect blame onto the unpopular (and soon to depart) Republicans.
Mrs. Pelosi is now caught in a humiliation of her own design that will only escalate if she insists on an interrogation “truth commission.” To adapt a famous phrase, we’re not sure her reputation can handle the truth.
This Washington Post chart, showing that our national fiscal outlook is either terrible (if you believe the White House) or appalling (if you believe the CBO), has been popular throughout the blogosphere:
Last March, the OMB director insisted that his estimate was better than the CBO estimate. But now, the OMB concedes that the CBO estimate was right, at least for this year, and next year is creeping up toward the CBO estimate as well:
This week, the Obama administration revised its own budget estimates and raised the projected deficit for this year to a record $1.84 trillion, up 5 percent from the February estimate. The revision for the 2010 fiscal year estimated the deficit at $1.26 trillion, up 7.4 percent from the February figure.
It’s an article of faith among the left — promoted during John Kerry’s failed presidential campaign — that General Eric Shinseki, formerly Army Chief of Staff and now VA Secretary, was fired for testifying to Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq. If only President Bush had listened to General Shinseki, they cluck, Iraq might never have become such a mess.
Of course, the story is false. General Shinseki retired when his term as Chief of Staff ended on schedule. Also, Shinseki was wrong; the Surge stabilized Iraq with 160 thousand troops, far less than any reasonable interpretation of “several hundred thousand.”
Nevertheless, Shinseki had a point. Defeating the insurgency in Iraq ultimately required an increase in troop levels. The Surge was primarily a change in tactics, but it required additional troops to carry it out. Although he was wrong about the magnitude, he was right that we needed more than we had.
With this in mind, consider three facts:
- Today we are trying to replicate the Surge in Afghanistan.
- General David McKiernan, the US commander in Afghanistan, says he needs 30 thousand additional troops. President Obama agreed to send 17 thousand, a little more than half of what General McKiernan requested.
- General McKiernan was fired on Monday. (For real, unlike General Shinseki.)
Defense Secretary Gates says that McKiernan was not fired over his troop requests. Whether that’s true is anyone’s guess. (Personally, I’m inclined to believe it, because I’m inclined to believe Gates is an honorable man.) But the parallel between this true story and the Shinseki myth is striking.
Whatever the reason McKiernan was fired, the fact remains that the commander on the ground says we need more troops than the President is willing to send. This story is feeling awfully familiar.
UPDATE (12/5): Corrected the number of US troops at the peak of the surge to 160 thousand, which does not affect the argument in any material way.
The Economist has an interesting article on the technologies with which the military is experimenting to build military bases on the sea.
President Obama is right that releasing more photos of detainee abuse would make the war effort harder and would not help increase our understanding of what had happened there. All it would do is provide more propaganda ammunition to America’s enemies. I was going to post to that effect, but before I got a chance to do so, I read an eye-opening analysis by Andy McCarthy.
The background is the question of whether the Obama administration is bringing a new argument to the court or simply taking up the Bush administration’s case. The question is important because the court already ruled against the Bush argument, and the Obama administration failed to appeal. McCarthy explains that the answer is the latter (despite Robert Gibbbs’s hapless efforts to argue otherwise), which places the administration into an awkward legal position. He then continues:
Why all the legerdemain? Because . . . Obama is using this litigation as a smokescreen. He’s now getting plaudits for reversing himself and his Justice Department (which, in contrast to the Bush Justice Department, didn’t want to fight this case at all — just wanted to release the photos). But he is still trying to get away with voting present — which is to say, he is hiding behind the judges.
It is in Obama’s power, right this minute, to end this debacle by issuing an executive order suppressing disclosure of the photos due to national security and foreign policy concerns. As I’ve noted, there’s no need to get into a Bush-era debate over the limits of executive power here. In the Freedom of Information Act, indeed, in FOIA’s very first exemption, Congress expressly vests him with that authority. . .
Besides being simple, issuing such an order would be a strong position and the screamingly obvious right thing to do. But it would also be a fully accountable thing to do, and that’s why President Obama is avoiding it. He realizes — especially after he surrendered details of our interrogation methods to the enemy — that he can’t afford to undermine the war effort again so quickly and so blatanly; but his heart is with the Left on this — that’s why he agreed to the release of the photos in the first place and why he is trying to prevent mutiny within his base. So here’s the game: Obama tells those of us who care about national security that he is taking measures to protect the troops and the American people, but he also tells the Left that he hasn’t made any final decisions about the photos and that the question is really for the courts to decide. That’s why he carefully couched yesterday’s reversal as a “delay” in the release of the photos.
We’re happy as long as the photos stay under wraps, but the wink to the Left is his signal that if, after further review, the courts continue to hold that disclosure is required under the FOIA section the government has invoked — which is not the executive order provision but a section relating to the withholding of records “compiled for law enforcement purposes”— he may just shrug his shoulders and release the photos.
It doesn’t seem that the straddle is working. Not only is President Obama being savaged by the left, but he’s going to run into real trouble in court. McCarthy summarizes:
One last thing: I think the court rulings have been bad so far, but good or bad, I can assure you that federal judges don’t like to be toyed with. Supreme Court justices may not mind if the administration treats the media like a lap-dog and the public like we’re a bunch of rubes; but, regardless of their political leanings, the justices have goo-gobs of self-esteem, and they will not take kindly to being treated like pawns in the Obamaestro’s game.
UPDATE (5/22): It appears that Congress may bail out the president on this issue.
Nancy Pelosi’s already-threadbare denial that she was briefed on enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding is now completely tattered. Last week, her hair-splitting denial (claiming that she was told only of the possibility of future use of EITs, not past use) was proven false by CIA memos. Then, she revised her denial to say that she was never told about the use of waterboarding specifically.
That was never very plausible, since the CIA memos said the briefing included “a description of particular EITs that had been employed,” and therefore must have included waterboarding. But this point was still not conclusively resolved since the memo did not actually list the EITs that were discussed.
A source close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now confirms that Pelosi was told in February 2003 by her intelligence aide, Michael Sheehy, that waterboarding was actually used on CIA detainee Abu Zubaydah.
This appears to contradict Pelosi’s account that she was never told waterboarding actually happened, only that the administration was considering using it.
Sheehy attended a briefing in which waterboarding was discussed in February 2003, with Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, who took over Pelosi’s spot as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
The latest version of Pelosi’s denial is that she was never briefed personally about waterboarding:
This source says Pelosi didn’t object when she learned that waterboarding was being used because she had not been personally briefed about it — only her aide had been told.
As noted above, this is almost certainly untrue. Also, even if it is true, her previous denials were still lies. Her earlier denial of “we were not, I repeat, we were not told” contained none of the current provisos.
More to the point, it’s pathetic. You have to be told personally to take action? No, she knew what has happening and did nothing.
UPDATE: The long chain of updates regarding Pelosi’s bizarre allegation that the CIA lied to her was getting unwieldy, so I lifted it out to a separate post.
Last January, the President’s economic advisors made some predictions about the course of the economy with and without the President’s stimulus plan. This may have been unwise, because it gives us a benchmark by which to measure how well the stimulus is working. As noted on the Innocent Bystanders blog (via Instapundit), we are just about where we were predicted to be without the stimulus package:
As you can see, unemployment is tracking the “Without Recovery Plan” curve predicted by the President’s own team. In fact, we’re slightly worse.
This will come as no surprise to those who heard economist Robert Barro’s caution that for peacetime stimulus, the Keynes multiplier is “insignificantly different than zero.” That means that spending all that “stimulus” money accomplishes nothing at all, other than spending the money. All that has been accomplished is a massive accumulation of debt, unprecedented in history without a world war:
The Washington Post is continuing to dig into the no-bid government contracts obtained by John Murtha’s nephew, Robert Murtha. The younger Murtha’s claims that his influential uncle was not involved turn out (surprise!) to be untrue:
[Robert Murtha] has maintained that his uncle played no role in his defense-related work, much of it secured without competition. Newly obtained documents, however, show Robert Murtha mentioning his influential family connection as leverage in his business dealings and holding unusual power with the military. . .
In e-mails obtained by The Post, Robert Murtha told a business partner in 2001 that there were conditions for “keeping funds flowing.” Part of the federal work, he said, must be channeled to Johnstown, Pa., his uncle’s home town.
“This has been a requirement for what I do to get dollars through,” Robert Murtha wrote in an e-mail to a senior official with NMS Imaging of Silver Spring, the lead contractor on a project to produce biological test kits. . .
He warned in an e-mail that failing to move work to Johnstown could jeopardize “financial rewards” for all parties. “Everyone on your side and on my side benefit from this, without having invested anything,” he wrote.
An interesting wrinkle in the Scare Force One incident, courtesy of the LA Times:
In a statement, the White House said President Obama accepted the resignation of military office director Louis Caldera. Caldera, a former Army secretary, took responsibility for the Air Force flyover that sparked 9/11-echo panic in lower Manhattan on April 27. . .
The political cost can’t yet be calculated. Obama supporters won’t care. But the fact is against advice from the outgoing Bush administration, Obama’s team changed Caldera’s White House job classification from a career military officer to a political appointee.
(Emphasis mine.) (Via LGF.)
POSTSCRIPT: Questions are also being raised about what they were trying to accomplish in the first place. It hardly seems possible that the plan really was for a fighter pilot to take pictures out of the cockpit of his F-16 in flight. That’s so stupid it strains credulity. (Via Instapundit.)
The leaks from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility in the investigation of John Yoo and Jay Bybee not only violate Justice Department rules but also violate federal law. The OPR is permitted to release only the final report, and even that only after Yoo and Bybee’s attorney’s have had a chance to comment. The leaks issuing from the “Office of Professional Responsibility” are not only unethical, but criminal. (George Orwell, call your office.)
So, let’s review the status of the investigation into the “torture memos”:
- The OPR leaks are a criminal violation of the Privacy Act.
- John Yoo cannot be sanctioned anyway, because too much time has elapsed for a complaint against him.
- Professional sanction would have been (and is, for Bybee) extremely unlikely in any case, as it would require a finding that no reasonable lawyer could have produced their reasoning. That finding is nearly impossible, if for no other reason than:
- The Obama-Holder Justice Department has argued the legal theory propounded in the “torture memos” in its filing in Demjanjuk v. Holder.
- And, by a 10-3 margin, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has adopted that same legal theory in Pierre v. Attorney General.
What we are watching cannot be described in any terms other than as a partisan witch-hunt.
POSTSCRIPT: The Washington Post argues that the leaks in the case are insufficient, and the OPR should release all the raw material from its investigation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Post gets its wish, but let’s not forget that what they’re asking violates federal law.
I find this news astonishing:
As prices fell and cable and satellite firms began to bundle DVRs with other services, their popularity soared. According to Nielsen, a media-research outfit, 29% of American homes now have one. . .
Yet those households do not use them nearly as much as one might expect. Families with DVRs seem to spend 15-20% of their viewing time watching pre-recorded shows, and skip only about half of all advertisements. This means only about 5% of television is time-shifted and less than 3% of all advertisements are skipped. Mitigating that loss, people with DVRs watch more television.
Tivo is great because it puts me, rather than the broadcasters, in charge of my viewing habits. To a good approximation, I watch only pre-recorded shows. And why would you watch commercials if you don’t have to? My pre-schooler complains that the TV is broken if a commercial ever comes on. How is it possible that most people are happy to watch programs when they are told to watch, and are happy to be interrupted every few minutes? I don’t get it.
It seems that it has become national policy that our homeland security efforts shall in no way be allocated according to where the risks are. For example, keep an eye on those returning veterans, who are all likely to become terrorists.
And, if you’re going to beef up security at the Mexican border, at points along which it is literally a war zone, you have to beef up security at the Canadian border as well:
High above the rugged border, an unmanned Predator B drone equipped with night-vision cameras and cloud-piercing radar scanned the landscape for signs of smugglers, illegal immigrants or terrorists.
Armed agents checked the identification of border crossers while radiation sensors and other devices monitored vehicles entering by road. Soon, a new network of telescopic and infrared video cameras mounted atop 80-foot-tall metal towers will rise above critical locations.
The beefed-up border security is not taking place along America’s chaotic southern border – riven by drug smuggling, gun running and illegal immigration – but, rather, its traditionally boring northern boundary with Canada. . .
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the get-tough policy clear in recent comments.
“One of the things that we need to be sensitive to is the very real feeling among southern border states and in Mexico that if things are being done on the Mexican border, they should also be done on the Canadian border,” Napolitano told a conference in Washington.
“In other words, we shouldn’t go light on one and heavy on the other.”
(Via the Corner.)
In addition to uselessly offending our Canadian neighbors, this idiocy costs real money. They would have done better just burning piles of money, but they were probably concerned about the carbon emissions.
Nancy Pelosi is lying about not being briefed on enhanced interrogations. CIA memos show that Pelosi was briefed specifically on instances in which waterboarding had been used, contradicting even her hair-splitting denial. Fox News has the story:
The CIA now says that Nancy Pelosi was briefed about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, back in 2002, which seems to contradict what Speaker Pelosi said at a news conference two weeks ago:
We were not, I repeat, we were not told that waterboarding or any other of these other enhanced interrogations methods were used.
A CIA memo also describes an intelligence briefing where Pelosi was present when enhanced interrogation techniques (or EITs) were discussed. It reads:
Briefing on EITs including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities, and a description of particular EITs that had been employed.
. . .
Until recently Ms Pelosi’s office had always acknowledged that she had been briefed in September 2002 on the enhanced interrogation techniques. It was only recently that she offered a different account suggesting that she knew they were going to be used but not that they had been used. But the official record of the briefings released by the Director of National Intelligence indicates the briefings were indeed on the particular techniques that had already been used on Abu Zubayda. . .
The bigger story here . . . is how many other lawmakers who are now critical of the program were fully briefed themselves and raised no objections at the time. . .
There were 40 briefings in all, starting early on with the top Democrats and Republicans on the intelligence committees. Sen. Jay Rockefeller for instance was repeatedly briefed, as was Jane Harman who took over Pelosi’s spot on the House intelligence committee. In one briefing after another, . . . the official log shows the techniques were “described in considerable detail including how the waterboard was used.” . . .
In fact, from the beginning of the program in 2002 until it became public in the fall of 2006, . . . the house held 13 votes to authorize intelligence funds without anyone demanding changes or even raising objections. Only when it leaked out did those who already knew about it start saying how horrible it had been.
Glenn Reynolds has a roundup.
President Obama’s decision to release the “torture memos” is looking like a major political blunder (and it is clear it was a political decision). Soft on terror but standing on high moral principle may be a workable position. Soft on terror but dishonest and hypocritical is not.
And don’t forget, this isn’t the last revelation. The administration is still refusing to release any of the results of those interrogations. That has allowed the administration to cling to the second leg of their two-legged stool, the idea that the interrogations didn’t accomplish anything anyway. How long until that information leaks?
UPDATE: Even more busted, if that’s possible:
A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended a CIA briefing in early 2003 in which it was made clear that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were being used in the interrogation of an alleged al-Qaeda operative, according to documents the CIA released to Congress on Thursday. . . Michael Sheehy, a top Pelosi aide, was present for a classified briefing that included Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking minority member of the House intelligence committee, at which agency officials discussed the use of waterboarding on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida.
A Democratic source acknowledged yesterday that it is almost certain that Pelosi would have learned about the use of waterboarding from Sheehy.
The AP has the tragic and troubling story of Australian teen’s death after becoming lost in the wilderness. He called for help on his cell phone, but the 911-equivalent operators were focused more on satisfying the demands of the software than on getting him help.
Mandatory fields when entering data into software are always annoying, but this time they cost a boy his life. Until the day comes (possibly never) that computers can exercise sound judgement, humans must be able to override their demands, particularly in systems on which lives depend.
It’s a classic Venezuelan story: the state oil company stops paying oil contractors, so the oil contractors stop operating their facilities, so the government steps in to seize the contractors and their assets. It seems that the usual process for Chavez to confiscate private property was too time consuming, so he instituted a new process whereby he can confiscate property instantly.
I hope Chavez is happy with the oil facilities he has, because he’s ensuring that he’ll never have any more.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) is making another try at the Global Online Freedom Act, which is intended to keep US companies from assisting with oppression in other countries. The legislation is prompted in part by Yahoo’s cooperation in identifying Chinese dissidents, which resulted in long prison sentences for the dissidents.
Assuming the 2009 version is similar to the 2007 one, the legislation is pretty mild, actually. It does very little on the censorship front, merely requiring that companies keep track of their censorship and report it to the US government. It also forbids them from blocking web sites supported by the US government.
It does better in regard to personally identifiable information, prohibiting its release in Internet-restricting countries, except for legitimate law enforcement purposes, which specifically do not include “control, suppression, or punishment of peaceful expression of political or religious opinion.” It also gives victims a right of action against the company in federal court, without regard to citizenship. All this is limited, however, by an authority given to the president to waive the provisions for any country.
Smith’s last effort passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2007 and was placed on the calendar, but never reached the House floor (which was controlled by Democrats).
ABC News reports:
Disgraced top Democratic Party fundraiser, Norman Hsu, pled guilty Thursday to charges of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of at least $20 million. The government asserted that Hsu intertwined his scheme with his political activity and pressured his investors to contribute to his favorite political candidates, including then Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. . .
Hsu, 58, has been in jail since his arrest in 2007. He told a federal judge that he is pleading to ten counts of mail and wire fraud.
Hsu was indicted after a suspicious pattern of bundled campaign contributions in 2007 raised alarms. At that time it was also discovered that Hsu had been a fugitive from a 1992 warrant, a fact that had escaped notice for 15 years despite his high profile political fundraising.
Megan McArdle comments on the folly of default:
A government, of course, can default whenever it wants, under any terms it wants. It is limited only by the prospect of future difficulties in borrowing money. But in times of duress, politicians–especially in emerging markets–are willing to deal with that comfortably far-off possibility, rather than find the money to pay the creditors now.
One of the big whiffs of my career–and every journalist has one of these eventually–was the time I wrote and filed a piece stating that Argentina was of course not going to default on its debt to the IMF, because that would be so obviously, phenomenally, stupid. Three hours later, Argentina defaulted on its debt to the IMF, and I stayed up half the night rewriting.
I also wrote that I thought it probably wouldn’t actually make good on its threats to squeeze its foreign creditors down to less than thirty cents on the dollar, because that was so clearly going to starve the country of capital as it tried to recover from a financial crisis. Argentina willfully flouted my impeccable reasoning, and wrote its foreign creditors down to less than thirty cents on the dollar. I call that spite.
And for a while, it all seemed to be working. . . [Now,] the government is running out of money–not in the vaguely doom-ridden sense in which you and I talk about coming Medicare deficits, but in the sense that it is now looting its pension system because that’s the only remaining source of ready cash. . . Argentina has no access to the credit markets at all except through state agencies with real assets. That means that it may very shortly have to run an aggressively contractionary fiscal policy in a contracting economy. Financial assets are fleeing the country, and the yield on its existing debt has risen to levels that signal a horrifyingly high risk of default.
What Argentina did wasn’t different in kind from what other emerging markets have done. It was different in degree. It bought short term prosperity at long term risk. Argentina didn’t use the respite to build a more productive economy; it used it to do social spending that kept the Kirchner’s in power. Now its citizens will pay the price.
She goes on to make a worrying comparison to Chrysler.
The White House has announced its budget cuts. I can’t tell if it’s simply bad reporting, but every cut mentioned in the Washington Post’s story (and NPR’s story is similar) is very small: $400 million (that’s the big one), $142 million, $66 million, $35 million, $1 million, and $632 thousand (!).
Then there’s this:
The proposed cuts, if adopted by Congress, would not actually reduce government spending. Obama’s budget would increase overall spending; any savings from the program terminations and reductions would be shifted to the president’s priorities.
But the more likely outcome, budget analysts said, is that few to none of the programs targeted by Obama will be terminated. Presidents from both parties have routinely rolled out long lists of spending cuts — and lawmakers from both parties routinely ignore them.
Sheesh. Come back when you’re serious.
The Business Insider reports:
Earlier this week, we ran a number of stories about how Steve Rattner allegedly threatened hedge funds that refused to drop their opposition to the Obama administration’s Chrysler plan.
We asked the White House to comment, and after three days it has become apparent that they have no plans to respond. The White House has denied earlier charges that it threatened to use the White House press corps to ruin the reputation of a firm that was opposing its Chrysler plans.
By refusing to comment on our subsequent story about additional threats, the White House appears to be backing away from its earlier denial. If the threats weren’t made, why not just repeat the earlier denial? That would be easy enough.
ABC News reports:
It appears John Yoo cannot be disciplined or disbarred for writing those memos, even if the Office of Professional Responsibility says it has evidence he should be.
That’s because OPR’s five-year investigation—carefully timed for release only as Bush was leaving the White House and Obama was coming in—dragged on too long. As a result of that timing, OPR blew the deadline for referring possible misconduct allegations against Yoo.
John Yoo is admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania. But the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board, which would investigate any complaints against him, imposes a four-year limitation for complaints.
Yoo wrote the memos in 2002 and 2003. This is 2009. You do the math.
(Via the Corner.)
The OPR delayed its report to a time when it would generate maximum political impact, but could no longer result in any consequences. Obviously, there is only one way that makes sense, and that’s if the sole purpose of the investigation is the political impact.
The “Office of Professional Responsibility” is sounding profoundly ill-named.
Hah. Ha hah. Hah ha ha ha:
An expedition team which set sail from Plymouth on a 5,000-mile carbon emission-free trip to Greenland have been rescued by an oil tanker. . .
The team, which left Mount Batten Marina in Plymouth on 19 April in a boat named the Fleur, aimed to rely on sail, solar and man power on a 580-mile (933km/h) journey to and from the highest point of the Greenland ice cap. The expedition was followed by up to 40 schools across the UK to promote climate change awareness.
But atrocious weather dogged their journey after 27 April, culminating with the rescue on 1 May after the boat was temporarily capsized three times by the wind.
(Via the Corner.)
ABC News reports:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah in September 2002, according to a report prepared by the Director of National Intelligence’s office and obtained by ABC News.
The report, submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee and other Capitol Hill officials Wednesday, appears to contradict Pelosi’s statement last month that she was never told about the use of waterboarding or other special interrogation tactics. Instead, she has said, she was told only that the Bush administration had legal opinions that would have supported the use of such techniques.
Congressional investigators say some foreign intelligence analysts believe U.S. intelligence is underestimating Iran’s progress toward designing a nuclear warhead before Tehran halted its program in 2003.
The foreign analysts believe that Iran ended its work because it had made sufficient progress, not because of international pressure, as the 2007 U.S. national intelligence assessment concluded.
The report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not identify its sources, referring only to “intelligence analysts and nuclear experts working for foreign governments.” It says some research was conducted in Israel, which has been publicly critical of the 2007 U.S. assessment.
The foreign analysts believe “intelligence indicates Iran had produced a suitable design, manufactured some components and conducted enough successful explosives tests to put the project on the shelf until it manufactured the fissile material required for several weapons,” the report says.
Clearly this is just more warmongering from the neocons, like, er, John Kerry.
Megan McArdle and Glenn Reynolds, with apologies for the nested quotation:
THE KING’S SHILLING:
This is troubling, because it’s now clear that the worry many of us had at the time of the bank bailouts has come true: the government is using its intervention in the banking system to pressure banks to give special deals to the government’s special friends. . . . Countries that use their banking systems this way don’t get good results.
Not for the country. For the political crowd in charge it can be pretty sweet.
We are hardly Zimbabwe, or even Venezuela. But if we keep using TARP to create a sort of ‘Most Favored Borrower’ status, we’ll erode the safeguards that keep election to office in America from being the kind of giant spoils system that’s common in much of the world.
We didn’t used to be a place where it was necessary to remind people that we are not Zimbabwe or Venezuela. But we’ve crossed that line already . . .
I have nothing to add to that.
The Obama adminstration is using the “torture memos” in court. That’s right, the same legal reasoning that was so bad its authors should be prosecuted, or at least disbarred, forms the legal basis of the DOJ’s filing in Demjanjuk v. Holder.
Andrew McCarthy explains that the core of the 2002 Office of Legal Counsel argument is that torture is a “specific intent” crime, meaning that it requires an “evil motive to inflict severe pain and suffering.” Although the memo’s legal guidance was officially withdrawn in 2004, the Obama administration is still using its reasoning, even while publicly excoriating it.
McCarthy also makes an another interesting observation. Last year, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, adopted that same 2002 OLC reasoning by a vote of 10-3 in Pierre v. Attorney General. Indeed, they were fully aware that they were doing so.
One gets the idea from the media that the torture memos are thoroughly discredited. It’s hard to reconcile that with the fact that the Obama administration is still using their legal theory, and indeed that theory is binding legal precedent in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. It’s also hard to believe the kind of hypocrisy that would publicly press for prosecution and/or disbarment for authoring a legal theory one is using in court oneself.
Who is charge of oversight for the bailout and stimulus? We are. It sounds like an Iowahawk satire, but it’s not:
So just who’s tracking that $787 billion in taxpayer money that President Obama and the Democrat-led Congress are doling out? You are. Or you’re supposed to be, anyway.
“We are, in essence, deputizing the entire American citizenry to help with the oversight of this program,” said Rep. Brad Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology’s subcommittee on investigations and oversight.
So, too, said Earl Devaney, the ex-cop who’s now chairman of the Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board, charged with tracking the torrent of cash now pouring out of federal coffers.
“I’m going to have millions of citizens to help me,” he said, comparing run-of-the-mill Americans to inspectors general, the high-ranking officials charged with ferreting out waste and abuse in federal agencies.
“I’m going to have a million little IGs running around,” the chairman said Tuesday after his testimony before the subcommittee.
And perhaps that’s just as well, given the turnout of the panel tasked with keeping track of thousands of millions of dollars. Just three of the 10 members bothered to show up for the subcommittee’s second meeting, dramatically titled “Follow the Money Part II.”
Five of seven Democrats skipped the meeting. One of three Republicans skipped it, and another attended just part of the meeting.
An armed student saves the day:
A group of college students said they are lucky to be alive and they’re thanking the quick-thinking of one of their own. Police said a fellow student shot and killed one of two masked me who burst into an apartment.
Channel 2 Action News reporter Tom Jones met with one of the students to talk about the incident.
“Apparently, his intent was to rape and murder us all,” said student Charles Bailey.
Bailey said he thought it was the end of his life and the lives of the 10 people inside his apartment for a birthday party after two masked men with guns burst in through a patio door.
“They just came in and separated the men from the women and said, ‘Give me your wallets and cell phones,’” said George Williams of the College Park Police Department.
Bailey said the gunmen started counting bullets. “The other guy asked how many (bullets) he had. He said he had enough,” said Bailey.
That’s when one student grabbed a gun out of a backpack and shot at the invader who was watching the men. The gunman ran out of the apartment.
The student then ran to the room where the second gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Calvin Lavant, was holding the women.
“Apparently the guy was getting ready to rape his girlfriend. So he told the girls to get down and he started shooting. The guy jumped out of the window,” said Bailey.
The gunman said he had enough bullets. Had this been a “gun-free” zone, such as most college students live in, these ten students would be dead.
It’s not just one person alleging White House threats over the administration’s Chrysler plan any more. The Business Insider reports:
Creditors to Chrysler describe negotiations with the company and the Obama administration as “a farce,” saying the administration was bent on forcing their hands using hardball tactics and threats.
Conversations with administration officials left them expecting that they would be politically targeted, two participants in the negotiations said.
Although the focus has so been on allegations that the White House threatened Perella Weinberg, sources familiar with the matter say that other firms felt they were threatened as well. None of the sources would agree to speak except on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of political repercussions.
The sources, who represent creditors to Chrysler, say they were taken aback by the hardball tactics that the Obama administration employed to cajole them into acquiescing to plans to restructure Chrysler. One person described the administration as the most shocking “end justifies the means” group they have ever encountered. Another characterized Obama was “the most dangerous smooth talker on the planet- and I knew Kissinger.” Both were voters for Obama in the last election.
(Via Hot Air.)
Whether or not the White House made the threats, it has certainly followed through.
The New York Post reports:
The $328,835 snapshots of an Air Force One backup plane buzzing lower Manhattan last week will not be shown to the public, the White House said yesterday.
“We have no plans to release them,” an aide to President Obama told The Post, refusing to comment further.
The sole purpose of the secret photo-op, which sent thousands of New Yorkers running for cover, was to take new publicity shots of the presidential jet over the city.
Via Best of the Web, which adds, “apparently the Obama administration’s policy is to release photos only when doing so might pose a danger to national security.”
UPDATE: Bowing to inevitability, the White House has released a photo. They also dismissed a scapegoat.
CBS’s Mark Knoller tried to explain this, but his explanation boils down to “we’re not supposed to stand up, but for Barack Obama we forgot.” I don’t think that really changes much, although I suppose it makes it unconscious adulation for President Obama, rather than an intentional slight to President Bush. I’m not sure which is worse.
Two defense officials said there have been four incidents in the past month in which Chinese-flagged fishing vessels maneuvered too close to two unarmed ships staffed by civilians and used by the Pentagon to do underwater surveillance and submarine hunting missions. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss some of the incidents and details that the Pentagon has not yet released.
The Pentagon did release a brief statement on the latest incident in which two Chinese fishing vessels came to within 30 yards of the USNS Victorius Friday as it was operating in the Yellow Sea.
Also, this is a little odd:
After incidents in March that included similar though less aggressive Chinese maneuvers, the Pentagon protested to Beijing officials and issued a strong public statement calling the Chinese actions harassment.
But on Tuesday, Whitman declined to characterize what the Chinese vessels were trying to do, saying only that their actions were “unsafe and dangerous.”
Asked why the tone of the U.S. statement was muted this time, he said: “We will be developing a way forward to deal with this diplomatically.”
Chinese harassment has worsened, and we respond by ratcheting down our protests. Let’s think about the incentive structure this creates.
John Murtha’s nephew is receiving millions in no-bid defense contracts:
Last year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services. With its long corridor of sparsely occupied offices and an unmanned reception area, Murtech’s most striking feature is its owner — Robert C. Murtha Jr., 49. He is the nephew of Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has significant sway over the Defense Department’s spending as chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Robert Murtha said he is not at liberty to discuss in detail what his company does, but for four years it has subsisted on defense contracts, according to records and interviews. . .
Over the years, John Murtha has proudly claimed credit for using his Appropriations Committee seat to steer hundreds of millions in Pentagon work to companies in his district, many of them fledgling enterprises run by campaign contributors. . .
Murtha’s power has had beneficial effects within his family. His brother, Robert C. “Kit” Murtha, built a longtime lobbying practice around clients seeking defense funds through the Appropriations Committee and became one of the top members of KSA, a lobbying firm whose contractor clients often received multimillion-dollar earmarks directed through the committee chairman. Robert C. Murtha Jr. of Murtech is Kit Murtha’s son. . .
Murtech received its contracts primarily from the Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala., which has been generous to companies in John Murtha’s district and enjoys a close relationship with the congressman through a mutual interest in breast cancer research. . . The command awarded its first storage contract to Murtech without competitive bidding, paying $1.4 million a year.
Business and Media writes:
On CBS’s May 3 “60 Minutes,” correspondent Scott Pelley, who once compared global-warming skepticism to Holocaust denial, gave the plaintiff of a $27-billion frivolous lawsuit against Chevron a public relations victory with his report.
Pelley’s report featured a suit filed by the Amazon Defense Coalition, a group described as “eco-radicals,” who are trying to squeeze $27 billion from Chevron for environmental cleanup that the nation’s government signed off on more than a decade ago. Pelley described ADC as working on behalf of 30,000 villagers, although there are only 48 named plaintiffs, to win funds for so-called environmental damage in Ecuador’s rain forest from then-Texaco Petroleum’s (Texpet) operation of oil well sites.
Business and Media documents several dishonest elements in the piece, just one of which being:
Throughout Pelley’s account, footage was shown that included at least 13 images of currently polluted pits, none of which were Texaco-remediated sites, but weren’t attributed to PetroEcuador either. According to [Chevron representative Donald] Campbell, the polluted sites Pelley featured were PetroEcuador’s Lago Agrio 5 and one of the Shushufindi sites.
“In Texas, for example, pits like this one are supposed to be temporary, isolated from fresh water, and soon after emptied and backfilled,” Pelley said, showing a site PetroEcuador had agreed to remediate under their agreement with Texaco. “But in Ecuador this pit has been here for 25 years and we found it’s actually designed to overflow into streams.”
Only 10 seconds of footage was shown from only one Texaco-remediated site, but Pelley had told Chevron he was too busy to visit a Texaco-remediated site personally.
“If Pelley would have spent 60 minutes at a Texaco-remediated site, he would have had a different story,” Campbell said.
That’s in part because PetroEcuador has a horrendous environmental record with more than 1,000 oil spills since 2000. In 2006, BusinessWeek said the company had “suffered an oil spill every two days this year.”
(Via Power Line.)
UPDATE (6/9): The Economist gets the story straight.
The Las Vegas Sun reports:
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller announced Monday that voter registration fraud charges have been filed against an organization that works with low-income people and two of its employees in its Las Vegas office.
The complaint includes 26 counts of voter fraud and 13 counts for compensating those registering voters, both felonies.
The Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, Inc., also known as ACORN, operated a Las Vegas office that helped register low-income voters last year.
Thomas Lauria, attorney for Chrysler creditors that are refusing to accept the Obama administration’s plan (in which senior creditors would give up their claims in order to feather the bed of the UAW), has filed a motion arguing that the administration’s scheme is unconstitutional.
I’m not a lawyer, but I have to say that the argument sounds compelling. It seems that the Supreme Court, in Louisville Joint Stock Land Bank v. Radford, found that creditors have a 5th Amendment right to property that cannot be set aside by a change to the law (such as TARP):
1. The bankruptcy power, like the other great substantive powers of Congress, is subject to the Fifth Amendment.
2. Under the bankruptcy power, Congress may discharge the debtor’s personal obligation because, unlike the States, it is not prohibited from impairing the obligation of contracts; but it cannot take for the benefit of the debtor rights in specific property acquired by the creditor prior to the Act.
3. The Fifth Amendment commands that, however great the Nation’s need, private property shall not be taken even for a wholly public use without just compensation.
4. If the public interest requires, and permits the taking of property of individual mortgagees in order to relieve the necessities of individual mortgagors, resort must be had to proceedings by eminent domain, so that, through taxation, the burden of the relief afforded in the public interest may be borne by the public.
5. The provisions added to § 75 of the Bankruptcy Act by the Act of June 28, 1934, known as the Frazier-Lemke Act, operate, as applied in this case, to take valuable rights in specific property from one person and give them to another, in violation of the Constitution.
I’ll be looking for commentary from the law bloggers, but this makes it sound as though the senior creditors’ position is very strong. The Chrysler deal looks to me likely to go down.
POSTSCRIPT: Can you imagine furor if the government were to (as the Radford decision says they must) use tax money to compensate the creditors, all for the benefit of the UAW? It’s hard to picture that happening. Still, many things have already happened during the past year that seemed impossible.
Iraq’s Kurdish regional government on Sunday condemned an Iranian air raid against alleged separatists inside Iraq but also called on Kurdish militants to cease cross-border attacks. . .
Two days ago was the anniversary of the Belgrano incident in the 1982 Falklands War. In it, a British submarine sank the ARA General Belgrano, an Argentine cruiser. Bizarrely, the sinking generated a controversy over whether it was appropriate, because the Belgrano was outside the British exclusion zone at the time. The Argentine junta predictably declared it a war crime, but the charge was also taken up by British anti-war types.
To suppose that an Argentine military target anywhere in the world should have been immune from attack is incomprehensible to me. Any policy to limit the conflict in hopes of preventing its escalation was the choice of the British government, not a right that could be called upon by the enemy. In fact, this was made clear by a British communique:
In announcing the establishment of a Maritime Exclusion Zone around the Falkland Islands, Her Majesty’s Government made it clear that this measure was without prejudice to the right of the United Kingdom to take whatever additional measures may be needed in the exercise of its right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
At is turns out, the British navy had very good reason to sink the Belgrano beyond the (already sufficient) aim of destroying the enemy’s military assets. The day before the Belgrano was sunk, it was given the order to attack British ships, and that order was intercepted by British intelligence.
The following year, Prime Minister Thatcher was questioned about the incident on BBC television. The persistent and hostile questioning led Thatcher to proclaim:
I think it could only be in Britain that a Prime Minister was accused of sinking an enemy ship that was a danger to our Navy.
Perhaps in 1983 it could only be in Britain, but times change. Today, that kind of idiocy exists throughout America, from the media to the government. People seem to see war as some sort of elaborate game, and fighting to win is tantamount to cheating.
POSTSCRIPT: Thatcher’s remarks on the incident are featured in a BBC audio slideshow, commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of her coming into office. (Via the Corner.) It really makes you lament the quality of conservative leadership today.
Here’s a shocker; the Taliban isn’t honoring its end of the bargain with Pakistan:
Pakistan’s military on Sunday accused the Taliban of “gross violation” of a peace accord covering a large segment of its northwest after several acts of violence over the weekend.
The allegations came as the northwest province’s government said it was fulfilling its end of the deal by establishing an Islamic appellate court for the area, though a cleric mediating the pact rejected the panel. . .
Under the peace deal struck in February, the government agreed to impose Islamic law in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas that make up the Malakand Division. The pact appeared to embolden the Taliban in Swat, who soon entered the adjacent Buner district.
This should serve as a lesson to those who think we can make ourselves inoffensive to our enemies. Even a Muslim country like Pakistan that cedes a swath of its territory to sharia law can’t make itself inoffensive to its enemies.
Should serve as a lesson, but won’t.
Churchill historian Richard M. Langworth fact-checks the president:
In his press conference of 29 April, in response to a question on the disclosure of top secret memos on the use of “enhanced interrogation methods,” Mr. Obama said:
I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, ‘We don’t torture,’ when the entire British—all of the British people—were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat….the reason was that Churchill understood — you start taking shortcuts, over time, that corrodes what’s best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.
While it’s nice to hear the President invoke Sir Winston, the quotation is unattributed and almost certainly incorrect. While Churchill did express such sentiments with regard to prison inmates, he said no such thing about prisoners of war, enemy combatants or terrorists, who were in fact tortured by British interrogators during World War II.
The word “torture” appears 156 times in my digital transcript of Churchill’s 15 million published words (books, articles, speeches, papers) and 35 million words about him—but not once in the subject context. Similarly, key phrases like “character of a country” or “erodes the character” do not track.
Obama seems to have been misled by Andrew Sullivan’s recent article in The Atlantic, “Churchill vs. Cheney.”
(Via Power Line.)
Relying on material from Andrew Sullivan was unwise.
Portugese special forces thwarted a Somali pirate attack, capturing 19 pirates. Then, after consulting with Portugese authorities, they released them.
Reports the New York Times. Obviously, I think that’s appropriate.
POSTSCRIPT: In a conversation yesterday, I mentioned that Google has abandoned its “don’t be evil” slogan. My friend remarked that he thinks now it’s “don’t be evil, on net.” Is Google still in the black, so to speak? I think they probably are, but they may need a moral bailout soon.
A man whose case sparked a furious legal debate over whether the government can hold terrorism suspects indefinitely entered a surprise guilty plea, admitting to training in al-Qaida camps and coming to the nation’s heartland a day before Sept. 11.
Ali al-Marri, 43, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiring to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization. A second charge of providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization was dropped.
The most surreal aspect of the Plame-Novak-Armitage affair was the spectacle of watching liberals and journalists acting outraged at the leak of a CIA agent’s identity, something they supported in every other instance in recorded history. Here’s further evidence that their outrage was merely a one-off, prompted by the unusual circumstance that it could be used against a Republican administration:
According to current and former government officials, the CIA’s secret waterboarding program was designed and assured to be safe by two well-paid psychologists now working out of an unmarked office building in Spokane, Washington.
Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell, former military officers, together founded Mitchell Jessen and Associates.
Both men declined to speak to ABC News citing non-disclosure agreements with the CIA. But sources say Jessen and Mitchell together designed and implemented the CIA’s interrogation program.
The Washington Post reports:
More than two dozen states, including Maryland, as well as the District, have not stocked enough of the emergency supplies of antiviral medications considered necessary to treat victims of swine flu should the outbreak become a full-blown crisis, according to federal records. . .
The Strategic National Stockpile, created during the Clinton administration a decade ago to provide a federally coordinated response to disasters, maintains a massive collection of antibiotics, vaccines, gas masks and other supplies in a dozen secret locations. The program was expanded in 2004 to include drugs needed in a pandemic and is designed to link with stockpiles kept by state governments, pharmaceutical companies and federal agencies.
But the District, Maryland and 26 other states are 10 million dosages short of the levels that the federal government has determined they should have in their stockpiles for a pandemic. The drugs — in this case, Tamiflu and Relenza — would be used to treat the illness, not to prevent it.
(Via the Corner.)
Unfortunately, the article does not give the list, beyond saying that Maryland and DC are on it and Virginia is not, and they don’t link to the full list either. That’s quite an omission for a national paper.
A Ravenstahl campaign ad — where the mayor claimed to cut city taxes — is now off the air, while his opponents attack his credibility. . .
Here’s part of the ad:
“Mayor Luke Ravenstahl — he balanced the budget, stopped adding to the city debt, eliminated the city gross receipts tax, and reduced the parking tax.”
But those tax changes were required by the state, and Dowd accused Ravenstahl of voting against the Act 47 plan to implement those tax cuts.
“When the city council actually had to vote for the Act 47 plan, this mayor voted against it twice,” said Dowd in the debate.
Although the ad has been pulled, Dowd has posted it on YouTube.
That’s the allegation of Tom Lauria, a bankruptcy lawyer opposing the Chrysler restructuring plan:
One of my clients was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under the threat that the full force of the White House Press Corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight.
This is a stunning allegation, going to the heart of our supposedly independent press. Personally, I can believe it. Considering how willing the press corps has been to take direction from the administration (the White House spokesman gave them a “strong A”), it’s a very believable threat. And it would be surprising if the bare-knuckles Chicago politicians running the White House would choose to leave a weapon on the table.
The question now is whether the press will investigate this allegation. Their integrity (what’s left of it) is at stake.
UPDATE: The client is now denying it too. This doesn’t really prove anything, since no one would want to admit to being bullied by the White House, and it would surely get them all the bad publicity they would have been trying to avoid. However, we’re left with nothing but Lauria’s say-so at this point.
FURTHER UPDATE: After a second look, I agree with the Business Insider that the client, Perella Weinberg, is not denying the allegation. The Weinberg statement merely says that Weinberg did not change his position due to threats; it does not say that no threats were issued. Indeed, it appears to be worded carefully to avoid doing so.
FINAL UPDATE: It’s not just Lauria now.
The NYT reports:
The Obama administration is moving toward reviving the military commission system for prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, which was a target of critics during the Bush administration, including Mr. Obama himself.
Officials said the first public moves could come as soon as next week, perhaps in filings to military judges at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, outlining an administration plan to amend the Bush administration’s system to provide more legal protections for terrorism suspects. . .
Senior officials have emphasized that they prefer to prosecute terrorism suspects in existing American courts. When President Obama suspended Guantánamo cases after his inauguration on Jan. 20, many participants said the military commission system appeared dead.
But in recent days a variety of officials involved in the deliberations say that after administration lawyers examined many of the cases, the mood shifted toward using military commissions to prosecute some detainees, perhaps including those charged with coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”
Barack Obama’s principled opposition to military commissions was just empty pandering? Who could have predicted it?
UPDATE: A good summary from Darren Hutchinson:
- Obama and members of his administration have embraced the use of rendition. Many of Obama’s most ardent defenders blasted progressives who criticized Obama on rendition as jumping the gun. Today, their arguments look even more problematic than in the past.
- Obama has invoked the maligned “state secrets” defense as a complete bar to lawsuits challenging potential human rights and constitutional law violations.
- Obama has argued that detainees at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan do not qualify for habeas corpus rights, even though many of the detainees at the facility were not captured in the war or in Afghanistan.
- Even though it no longer uses the phrase “enemy combatants,” the Obama administration has taken the position that the government can indefinitely detain individuals, whether or not they engaged in torture and whether or not they fought the United States on the “battlefield.” This logic combined with the denial of habeas to detainees in Afghanistan could make Bagram the functional equivalent of Guantanamo Bay.
If the New York Times article is accurate, then the use of military tribunals issue will join the list of policies that Obama has endorsed, despite the loud liberal criticism that Bush received when he did the same things.