Iran to try British embassy staffers

July 4, 2009

Iran continues to try to change the subject from its rigged election to sinister outside influence:

A senior Iranian cleric said Friday that the British Embassy employees arrested in Tehran in recent days would be put on trial on unspecified charges of acting against Iran’s national security, a move immediately denounced by members of the European Union.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the conservative Guardian Council, said in a Friday prayer sermon that the employees, all of them Iranian nationals, would “definitely be tried.” They are accused of taking part in or promoting weeks of unrest after the June 12 presidential election, which was marred by allegations of massive vote-rigging.

(Via LGF.)


Liberalism run amok

July 4, 2009

Escaped convicts in Britain cannot be identified, out of concern for the criminals’ privacy.

Palin to resign

July 3, 2009

Story here. The big question is why. There’s no way that resigning during your first term as governor is a bid for higher office, so it seems like the only possibilities are scandal or some sort of family problem. The left, of course, is assuming it’s scandal. I don’t think so, but there’s no need to speculate. If it’s scandal, we’ll find out soon. Either way, Palin’s political career is done.

UPDATE: It seems that a lot of people see this as a career move. If so, it’s a crazy one. Occasionally, crazy turns out to be crazy-like-a-fox, but usually it’s just plain crazy.

The LA Times learns nothing

July 3, 2009

Judge Alex Kozinski has been unanimously cleared of misconduct by a special committee of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The background is here. Briefly, Kozinski was accused of making sexually explicit material available on a public web site. In truth, Kozinski had an improperly secured private file server on which some member of his family had stored some distasteful (but not illegal) files among many other innocuous ones.

In its opinion, the committee not only cleared Kozinski of misconduct, but criticized the press for misrepresenting the case:

In June 2008, a public controversy followed the publication of a Los Angeles Times article that alleged the Judge had maintained a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photographs and videos. The Judge requested this investigation into his personal conduct.

Some media reports in June 2008 suggested that the Judge maintained, and intended to maintain, a public website, as that term is commonly understood — a presentation of offensive sexually explicit material open for public browsing. This investigation has established, however, that such a characterization is incorrect.

The LA Times was principally responsible for the story, and even now refuses to correct the record. In its story on the court’s report, it bizarrely fails to mention that Kozinski was cleared, instead preferring to focus on the fact that court admonished Kozinski for failing to quickly fix the problem once he became aware of it.

Beyond that, the LA Times not only failed to report that it had been rebuked by the court, but actually repeated the misrepresentation that drew the rebuke:

Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, was admonished by a panel of his colleagues, in a report made public today, for posting sexually explicit material on a publicly accessible Internet server.

First of all, this statement is literally untrue, in that Kozinski was not admonished for saving the material, but for failing to promptly rectify the situation when he became aware of it.

More importantly, it implies that the material was placed there for public consumption. It does so in two ways: through the choice of the inaccurate word “posting,” and through its description of the server as “publicly accessible” rather than as “improperly secured.”

This is some of the most flagrant media dishonesty you’ll ever see without forged national guard documents. Bury the lede, bury the rebuke of your reporting, and repeat the smear that drew the rebuke. That’s the LA Times.

Drunken sailors

July 3, 2009

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Spending by lawmakers on taxpayer-financed trips abroad has risen sharply in recent years, a Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records shows, involving everything from war-zone visits to trips to exotic spots such as the Galápagos Islands.

The spending on overseas travel is up almost tenfold since 1995, and has nearly tripled since 2001, according to the Journal analysis of 60,000 travel records. Hundreds of lawmakers traveled overseas in 2008 at a cost of about $13 million. That’s a 50% jump since Democrats took control of Congress two years ago. . .

The Journal analysis, based on information published in the Congressional Record, also shows that taxpayer-funded travel is a big and growing perk for lawmakers and their families. Some members of Congress have complained in recent months about chief executives of bailed-out banks, insurance companies and car makers who sponsored corporate trips to resorts or used corporate jets for their own travel.

Although complete travel records aren’t yet available for 2009, it appears that such costs continue to rise. The Journal analysis shows that the government has picked up the tab for travel to destinations such as Jamaica, the Virgin Islands and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. . .

Often, lawmakers combine trips to war zones with visits to more tranquil spots. In February, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of Democratic lawmakers to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan for a day. Before landing in Kabul, the eight lawmakers and their entourage of spouses and aides spent eight days in Italy, spending $57,697 on hotels and meals.

(Emphasis mine.)

Unpacking the numbers, congressional junketing increased 12% per year from 2001 to 2007. In 2007 it jumped to 22% per year.

And speaking of government waste, there’s this item:

Members of Congress said Thursday that details of their expense claims wouldn’t be posted online before mid-November at the earliest — two and a half months later than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said they would be published in an electronic format for the first time.

Ms. Pelosi set an August 31 deadline for putting information about expenses claimed by members of the House of Representatives on the Internet, in an announcement reversing a longstanding policy of providing the information only in books totaling about 12,000 pages a year. The Senate has not announced any plans to put its expenses claims online.

The speaker’s announcement last month followed a series of Wall Street Journal articles on bonus payments and expense claims for luxury cars and high-end technology made by congressional offices.

Signs of the times

July 3, 2009

On the occasion of the latest unemployment jump, it seems appropriate to re-run the charts of our economy:




We’re in trouble, and our government is making things worse.

The honeymoon is over

July 3, 2009

The latest Rasmussen poll shows President Obama falling to earth:

  • A slim majority still approve of the president’s job performance, but by a narrower margin (53-46) than President Bush (52-34) on July 3, 2001.
  • More strongly disapprove of the president (35) than strongly approve (33).
  • Only 42% rate the president excellent or good on economic issues, against 39% poor.
  • A strong majority say that the stimulus has not helped; 31% say it helped, 30% say it hurt, and 31% say it had no impact.
  • A majority disapprove of the president on national security (44-55) (not in the free article, related by Ed Morrissey).
  • Independents oppose the president by a wide margin (either 75-23 or 68-31) (also related by Morrissey).

Americorps scandal continues

July 3, 2009

Byron York reports that Republicans are still demanding answers, and the White House is hinting that it may invoke executive privilege.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)

“Cyber-bullying” case dimissed

July 3, 2009

The judge in the case against Lori Drew has dismissed the case. Regardless of how contemptible Drew is, this is a good thing. What she did wasn’t against the law, and the proper response is to fix the law, not to trump up charges against her. The trumped-up charges they came up with — criminalizing violations of click-through terms-of-use agreements — threaten us all. Orin Kerr explained, back when this travesty began.

UPDATE: The judge sums up the case thusly:

“It basically leaves it up to a website owner to determine what is a crime,” said [Judge] Wu on Thursday, echoing what critics of the case have been saying for months. “And therefore it criminalizes what would be a breach of contract.”

(Previous post.)

Honduran Article 239

July 3, 2009

Octavio Sánchez, formerly Honduran minister of culture, explains what the Honduran constitution actually says about Zelaya:

Under our Constitution, what happened in Honduras this past Sunday? Soldiers arrested and sent out of the country a Honduran citizen who, the day before, through his own actions had stripped himself of the presidency.

These are the facts: On June 26, President Zelaya issued a decree ordering all government employees to take part in the “Public Opinion Poll to convene a National Constitutional Assembly.” In doing so, Zelaya triggered a constitutional provision that automatically removed him from office.

Constitutional assemblies are convened to write new constitutions. When Zelaya published that decree to initiate an “opinion poll” about the possibility of convening a national assembly, he contravened the unchangeable articles of the Constitution that deal with the prohibition of reelecting a president and of extending his term. His actions showed intent.

Our Constitution takes such intent seriously. According to Article 239: “No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform [emphasis added], as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”

Notice that the article speaks about intent and that it also says “immediately” – as in “instant,” as in “no trial required,” as in “no impeachment needed.”

Continuismo – the tendency of heads of state to extend their rule indefinitely – has been the lifeblood of Latin America’s authoritarian tradition. The Constitution’s provision of instant sanction might sound draconian, but every Latin American democrat knows how much of a threat to our fragile democracies continuismo presents. In Latin America, chiefs of state have often been above the law. The instant sanction of the supreme law has successfully prevented the possibility of a new Honduran continuismo.

(Via Power Line.)

I’ve looked up article 239 on-line and this is accurate. As it is undisputed that Zelaya did indeed propose to change the law to allow himself a second term, this resolves the question conclusively.

UPDATE: In case one had any lingering questions about whether the army’s action was legal, it turns out that article 313 of the Honduran constitution empowers the supreme court to use the military to carry out its rulings. So that’s that. (Via Instapundit.)

(Previous post.)

Extreme Makeover: Cap-and-trade edition

July 2, 2009

The cap-and-trade bill will require private residences to satisfy energy efficiency standards set by the EPA. Existing residences will not be grandfathered, and must be retrofitted before a house can be sold or remodelled.

Nearing bottom?

July 2, 2009

The unemployment rate increased just 0.1% in in June.


Hooray, I guess.

Washington Post sells access

July 2, 2009

This sounds bad:

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to “those powerful few”: Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer was detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he felt it was a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff.”

With the newsroom in an uproar after POLITICO reported the solicitation, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said in a staffwide e-mail that the newsroom would not participate in the first of the planned events — a dinner scheduled July 21 at the home of Publisher and Chief Executive Officer Katharine Weymouth.

The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — was a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.

(Via Instapundit.)

I’m sad to see this happen. The Washington Post has been the most respectable of the liberal daily papers.  I’m also surprised to see that the Post has learned nothing from all the news it covers:

In response to requests for comment, The Post issued a statement that stopped short of canceling the event.

Kris Coratti, communications director of Washington Post Media, a division of The Washington Post Company, said: “The flier circulated this morning came out of a business division for conferences and events, and the newsroom was unaware of such communication. . . As written, the newsroom could not participate in an event like this. We do believe there is an opportunity to have a conferences and events business, and that The Post should be leading these conversations in Washington, big or small, while maintaining journalistic integrity. The newsroom will participate where appropriate.”

If these people read their own paper they would know how this always goes. They are going to have to cancel the event eventually, and the sooner they do it, the better off they’ll be.

UPDATE: The Post’s publisher has read the writing on the wall and cancelled the event.


July 2, 2009

Comedians who can’t find anything to make fun of in President Obama should check out the latest from the Onion. (Via Instapundit.)

Justice: Honduran army acted legally

July 2, 2009

Rosalinda Cruz, a justice of the Honduran supreme court, says that the army acted on a legal arrest warrant:

“The only thing the armed forces did was carry out an arrest order,” Cruz, 55, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Tegucigalpa. “There’s no doubt he was preparing his own coup by conspiring to shut down the congress and courts.”

Cruz said the court issued a sealed arrest order for Zelaya on June 26, charging him with treason and abuse of power, among other offenses. . .

The arrest order she cited, approved unanimously by the court’s 15 justices, was released this afternoon along with documents pertaining to a secret investigation that went on for weeks under the high court’s supervision.

(Via Legal Insurrection, via Instapundit.)

We really shouldn’t be calling this a coup any more. Beyond the fact that Honduras doesn’t have our Posse Comitatus act, what exactly is our complaint now?

(Previous post.)

Iranian state broadcast heightens vote-rigging suspicion

July 2, 2009

The Daily Mail reports:

In the latest development, images have emerged of suspicious ballot papers which appear to show the re-elected president’s name written in the same handwriting on many sheets.

Some have also claimed that the papers were suspiciously crisp and unfolded.

The images were shown as part of footage of a recount, broadcast on Iranian state television to supposedly assuage concern over the results.

(Via Instapundit.)

Oops. When you’re producing a video to show fair vote-counting, you need to film while you’re counting the real ballots.

Spending the TARP

July 1, 2009

Last year’s financial bailout package was, strictly speaking, an investment. The federal government was going to buy up toxic assets, and some day sell them. That never happened, and instead the money was spend to buy equity in banks and bankrupt automobile companies. Still, TARP was an investment. To be sure, it was mostly a bad investment, but we will see some proceeds eventually. In the long run, it might even break even. If not, the cost will certainly be defrayed significantly from the original $700 billion. And all the proceeds go directly to reduce the national debt.

For Barney Frank (who happens to be one of the people most responsible for the financial crisis in the first place), repaying that money is unacceptable. Frank wants to take any TARP proceeds and spend it on his own priorities. In fact, he actually wants to use TARP proceeds to muck with the housing market some more. (No joke!)

Not paying off debts you were scheduled to pay off is the same thing as borrowing. So, what this is, is a stealthy liberal spending plan in the neighborhood of $700 billion (an amount that was considered enormous just one year ago). It should get public scrutiny commensurate with that.

(Via Power Line.)

Lieberman opposes “public option”

July 1, 2009

From this article, it sounds as though there is a very good chance of defeating the so-called health care “public option.” Without the federal government “competing” with private insurers, and inevitably driving most of them out of business, the prospect of “reform” is merely terrible.

(Via the Corner.)

POSTSCRIPT: You know you’re dealing with Orwellian terminology when you need three sets of scare quotes in two sentences.


July 1, 2009

Iran is now claiming that the murder of Neda Soltan was staged. No surprise, since Ahmadinejad had already announced what the outcome of the “investigation” would be, but it’s still disgusting.

(Previous post.)

Bailing out Inouye

July 1, 2009

The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye’s [D-HI] staff contacted federal regulators last fall to ask about the bailout application of an ailing Hawaii bank that he had helped to establish and where he has invested the bulk of his personal wealth.

The bank, Central Pacific Financial, was an unlikely candidate for a program designed by the Treasury Department to bolster healthy banks. The firm’s losses were depleting its capital reserves. Its primary regulator, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., already had decided that it didn’t meet the criteria for receiving a favorable recommendation and had forwarded the application to a council that reviewed marginal cases, according to agency documents.

Two weeks after the inquiry from Inouye’s office, Central Pacific announced that the Treasury would inject $135 million. . .

Inouye said he was not attempting to influence the outcome. . . Inouye reported ownership of Central Pacific shares worth $350,000 to $700,000, some held by his wife, at the end of 2007. The shares represented at least two-thirds of Inouye’s total reported assets.

(Via Hot Air.)

The FDIC won’t say why they changed their minds, but the timing is striking:

Internal FDIC e-mails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that Luong’s question was referred from San Francisco to FDIC headquarters in Washington. . . The internal e-mails show that the application had been forwarded to an inter-agency council headed by the Treasury Department that reviews cases in which a bank did not meet the criteria for a federal investment. . .

Shortly after the Inouye staffer’s phone call, the council approved Central Pacific’s application.

Despite smelling really bad, Inouye’s action does not violate the rules that Congress set for itself:

Such contacts by members and their staff do not violate the rules Congress has established to govern itself. “Congress has never been willing to adopt strong conflict-of-interest rules for its members, but for the most part, has left it up to each member to decide for themselves whether they have a potential conflict of interest,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a watchdog group.

The most similar known case comes from the House. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) arranged a meeting between regulators and OneUnited of Massachusetts, a bank in which her husband held shares. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who did not own shares in the company, subsequently inserted language into the bailout bill that effectively directed the Treasury to give special consideration to that bank.

There’s also this:

The crush of calls from Capitol Hill on behalf of specific applicants led the Treasury to announce earlier [this] year that it would start releasing a weekly list of congressional inquiries. It has yet to do so.

I understand. I’m sure it takes a long time to set that sort of thing up.

Honduras defiant

July 1, 2009

Despite international pressure, Honduras refuses to return would-be-dictator Manuel Zelaya to power:

Honduras’ interim leader warned that the only way his predecessor will return to office is through a foreign invasion, setting up a dramatic showdown with the ousted president who is preparing to come home accompanied by world leaders.

(Via Hot Air.)

Also, there’s this additional wrinkle:

His foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, threw a wild card onto the table, telling CNN en Espanol that Zelaya had been letting drug traffickers ship U.S.-bound cocaine from Venezuela through Honduras. Ortez said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was aware of Zelaya’s ties to organized crime.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne could neither confirm nor deny a DEA investigation.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal reviews what Zelaya was up to. Bottom line, democratic institutions in Latin America are not so strong that they need not be defended. (Via Instapundit.)

(Previous post.)

Bad to worse in Iran

July 1, 2009

Iran has begun executing dissidents. Also, they’re putting female militia on the streets to help break up protests. Their job is to beat women so that male militia don’t have to do it.

(Via Hot Air.)

Clinton and Obama on Iran

July 1, 2009

This is a good example of why I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged President Obama for two days to toughen his language on Iran before he did so, and then was surprised when he condemned Iran’s crackdown on demonstrators last week, administration officials say.

At his June 23 news conference, Mr. Obama said he was “appalled and outraged” by Iranian behavior and “strongly condemned” the violence against anti-government demonstrators. Up until then, Mr. Obama and other administration officials had taken a softer line, expressing “deep concern” about the situation and calling on Iran to “respect the dignity of its own people.”

Behind the scenes, the officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing internal deliberations, said Mrs. Clinton had been advocating the stronger U.S. response, but the president resisted. When he finally took her advice, the aides said, he did so without informing her first. . .

“It was a happy surprise,” one administration official said. “It was echoing the line the secretary had been pushing for a couple of days.”

Another official said Mr. Obama apparently did not make the final decision to go ahead with the tougher stance until shortly before his remarks.

(Via Hot Air.)

Not only is President Obama not taking advice from Hillary Clinton, it seems they aren’t even talking. This strengthens the appearance that Clinton was nominated for political reasons, not because she holds the president’s confidence.