Calumny

September 30, 2009

Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that America would be better off under a Chinese-style autocracy, because then Republicans couldn’t obstruct needed action on global warming and health care. In Friedman’s latest, he laments how attacks from the “far right” are creating a culture in which someone surely will try to kill the president.

As proof, he points out that some yahoo put a poll on his Facebook page asking whether the president should be assassinated. (The Secret Service is investigating.)

Well! That is pretty bad. Still, one guy on Facebook isn’t exactly the same thing as the CBS television network, is it? The Late, Late Show, produced by David Letterman and broadcast by CBS, had this to offer in response to George W. Bush’s nomination:

kilborn-snipers-wanted

Neither is it the same as a feature film about the assassination of President Bush, or a column in the Guardian, a left-wing British paper, calling for President Bush’s assassination if he were re-elected:

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod’s law dictates he’ll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr – where are you now that we need you?

(The Guardian later apologized and took down the column, but you can still find it here.)

It certainly isn’t the same thing as Democratic elected officials such as New York State Controller Alan Hevesi joking about killing President Bush. (His audience lapped it up.) Or John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential candidate, seemingly joking about killing President Bush. (To be fair, it’s not entirely clear what he meant, as is often the case with John Kerry. However, it seems safe to assume that mere unclarity wouldn’t buy a pass from Thomas Friedman if the shoe were on the other foot.)

But if it’s yahoos you want, Zomblog has an endless parade of leftists calling for President Bush’s assassination.

Of course, it’s not really the yahoos that concern Friedman. It’s the attacks from throughout the “right fringe” who are “smearing” the president as a socialist. (Gosh, why on earth would you call someone socialist just because he nationalizes banks, insurance companies, auto companies, and auto parts companies; wants to nationalize health care and set energy prices; and is open to nationalizing newspapers?) Somehow, Friedman insinuates, those “smears” are going to lead to violence (although the years of talk of violence from the left did not). Exactly how, he won’t say. Nor will Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Contessa Brewer, or the rest pushing this calumny.

At long last, Democrats control nearly every lever of power in Washington. And yet they are having difficulty carrying out their progressive agenda because they are losing the public debate. Repeatedly accusing the opposition of lying (when they generally were not) didn’t help, so they need a new strategy to neutralize the opposition. This is it.

UPDATE: The Secret Service has found that the assassination poll was posted by a juvenile, and posed no threat to the president.

UPDATE: More threats against President Bush.

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Senate committee rejects amendments on abortion and illegal immigration

September 30, 2009

The president has insisted that his health care plan will not cover abortion, and it will not insure illegal immigrants. Anything to the contrary, he says, is a lie.

Today, the Senate Finance Committee had a chance to back up that pledge. It did not. It voted, largely along party lines, against an amendment to bar federal funding for abortion. And it voted, along party lines, against an amendment to proof of identity when singing up for federal healthcare programs.

It’s not for no reason that the public doesn’t believe the president.


Court to rule on gun rights

September 30, 2009

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear McDonald v. Chicago, which hopefully will result in a ruling on whether the Second Amendment applies to the states.

(Via Instapundit.)


More ACORN voter fraud

September 30, 2009

Although it moonlights as a facilitator for child prostitution and human trafficking rings, ACORN’s bread-and-butter is election fraud. Today we have two new ACORN election fraud scandals. One is in Las Vegas, where ACORN illegally paid cash incentives for voter registrations, and the other is in Troy, New York, where an ACORN subsidiary forged dozens of absentee ballots.


Four thousand more troops to return from Iraq

September 29, 2009

AP reports.


It’s a pity they can’t both lose

September 29, 2009

A New York court has thrown out Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS.


Anne Applebaum: liar or laughingstock?

September 29, 2009

This is interesting. Roman Polanski, a movie director who has been on the lam since pleading guilty to statutory rape in 1978. (Testimony indicates the crime was far worse, but statutory rape is what he was convicted of, so we’ll go with that.) For the past 30 years, Polanski has been living in France — who refused to extradite him — making movies and travelling internationally, but avoiding the US and UK.  Last Saturday, Polanski was detained for extradition by Swiss authorities. A variety of people are horrified by this development, apparently believing that three decades in France is punishment enough.

One such person is Anne Applebaum, a columnist and blogger for the Washington Post. Applebaum called the arrest “outrageous” and said that Polanski has paid for his crime in “many, many ways”. For example, he was unable to go to Hollywood to receive his Oscar. Well, boo hoo. She also said his decision to flee justice was mitigated by an “understandable fear of irrational punishment” because he was a Holocaust survivor. So surviving the Holocaust is a get-out-of-jail-free card? I suspect that most Holocaust survivors would be offended at the idea.

Here’s where the Applebaum sub-story gets interesting. Patterico (a blogger who works for the LA DA’s office) revealed that Applebaum’s husband is the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who is personally lobbying to get Polanski released. (Polanski is a dual citizen of France and Poland.) Applebaum was happy to disclose her connection to Sikorski a week ago when it made her sound important, but did not do so in this case where it gives her a conflict of interest.

In response, Applebaum wrote another post expressing her deep offense at the suggestion that she had a conflict of interest. Following the standard playbook, she began her rebuttal by quoting an offensive piece of hate mail and insinuating that it is typical of the response. With the context established (people who disagree with her are evil), she then addressed the Sikorski angle. The most relevant portion (as quoted by Patterico) read:

Also, when I wrote the blog I had no idea that my husband, who is in Africa, would, or could do anything about it, as Polanski is not a Polish citizen.

(You won’t find this sentence in her post now, as I explain below.)

Her claim that Polanski is not a Polish citizen is simply wrong, but beyond that, Patterico pointed out that the Washington Post article linked from her original post reported the Sikorski angle:

Polanski also received support from Poland. . . “I am considering approaching the American authorities over the possibility of the U.S. president proclaiming an act of clemency, which would settle the matter once and for all,” said Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, according to the PAP news agency.

Subsequent to that, Applebaum revised her defense to read:

However, I will also note that at the time I wrote the blog item, I had no idea that the Polish government would or could lobby for Polanski’s release, as I am in Budapest and my husband is in Africa. (My editors later added a link to a news story that mentioned him.)

She made this substantial revision without marking an update, which is very shoddy practice in the blogosphere, but we’ll set that aside. What are we to make of her defense? There are two possibilities. First, she could be lying. Second, she is telling the truth and thoroughly incompetent. Let’s run down what she is asking us to believe:

  • She spouted off without familiarizing herself with the facts (Polanski is a Polish citizen).
  • She has less idea what her husband is doing in regards to the very subject she is writing about than an unrelated blogger. In fact, she has less idea than anyone who reads her own newspaper.
  • She wrote her blog post without including a single link to any news story covering the affair. The post’s sole link was added by her editors.

In short, Applebaum wants us to believe that she blogs without making even a cursory effort to know what she is talking about. She might do better to say she lied.

POSTSCRIPT: Since it won’t do for me to go on at such length without expressing any opinion on the underlying controversy, I’ll just say that rapists should always be brought to justice, even if they avoid capture for thirty years. If there was some sort of misconduct in the case, as Polanski’s apologists allege, a court is the only institution competent to consider it. Also, the victim’s wish that Polanski not be punished is not germane. There may be crimes for which the victim’s reluctance to pursue justice is dispositive, but statutory rape is not one of them.

(Via Instapundit, who adds: You can tell a lot about a governing class from who it’s willing to cover for.)


How to improve civility

September 28, 2009

Frank J. has some tips for liberals on how to calm angry conservatives. This suggestion was my favorite:

Call them racists: If we shout “Racist!” every time they say something, maybe they’ll finally reflect on the racism that motivates them against a black president and give up whatever silly cause they think they’re pushing. If they dispute the racism accusation, point out how sensitive they are about the charge and how that further proves it’s true (people who really aren’t racist shouldn’t have any problem with being called racist). If further evidence is needed, point out to them that the president is black and they are white and that it’s obvious to everyone that a white person saying bad things about an underprivileged black person is quite racist. If the conservative isn’t white, though, this can be confusing. Make sure to give that person a pamphlet describing the political views he is supposed to have based on his race. If the person doesn’t read the pamphlet, you might have to try using a racial slur. It’s okay, if the person deserves it.

(Via Instapundit.)


Support for health care reform hits new low

September 28, 2009

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, support for the Democratic health care plan has hit a new low, at 41%. Opposition is steady at 56%.


Obama to make Olympic pitch

September 28, 2009

President Obama will be travelling to Copenhagen for a day to make a pitch for the 2016 Olympic games to come to Chicago. Some people are upset about this, saying the president has important matters he should be attending to.

I disagree. The way I see it, any time he spends schmoozing the IOC is time he’s not working to nationalize our economy and alienate our allies. Sure, the president’s stature may suffer if the IOC picks someone else, but it can’t suffer more than it already has from the president’s own policies.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru thinks that Obama already knows Chicago has won, and is headed to Copenhagen so he can claim the credit.


New Iranian missile can reach Europe

September 28, 2009

AP reports:

Iran tested its most advanced missiles Monday to cap two days of war games, raising more international concern and stronger pressure to quickly come clean on the newly revealed nuclear site Tehran was secretly constructing.

State television said the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls Iran’s missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of the medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles. Both can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles, putting Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe within striking distance.

The president’s decision to scrap missile defense in Europe, ostensibly because Iran isn’t working on long-range missiles, looks even more idiotic now.


Stop her before she helps again

September 28, 2009

Apparently, it’s illegal in Michigan to be a good neighbor:

A West Michigan woman says the state is threatening her with fines and possibly jail time for babysitting her neighbors’ children.

Lisa Snyder of Middleville says her neighborhood school bus stop is right in front of her home. It arrives after her neighbors need to be at work, so she watches three of their children for 15-40 minutes until the bus comes.

The Department of Human Services received a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home. DHS contacted Snyder and told her to get licensed, stop watching her neighbors’ kids, or face the consequences.

“It’s ridiculous.” says Snyder. “We are friends helping friends!” She added that she accepts no money for babysitting.

(Via Instapundit.)

Neighbors helping neighbors? Obviously this must be stopped.

A DHS spokesman says that law is designed to protect children. I suppose they think the children would be safer left unattended.


Obama won’t look at McChrystal report

September 28, 2009

General McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, has submitted his report requesting additional troops in the theater, warning the mission would likely fail without them. But President Obama won’t look at the report, it’s been shelved until the White House wants it:

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has submitted a request for more troops, a spokesman said Saturday, but the Pentagon will hold it while President Barack Obama decides what strategy to pursue.

Don’t be fooled by the pretense that the Pentagon will hold the report; the Pentagon works for the president. If he wants the report, he can have it. Indeed, there are without question plenty at the White House who have seen it already. This is just a political dance to keep the report at arm’s length for the time being.

This is sheer idiocy. The Obama administration has been in office for over eight months. Any other president would have thought about Afghanistan already. (Unfortunately, Obama cannot “even fake an interest in foreign policy”.) Moreover, if they really thinking about Afghanistan strategy right now, wouldn’t it be useful to see the commanding general’s assessment? Is the president really committed to deciding in ignorance?

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: McChrystal has met with Obama only once since taking command.


Bad faith

September 28, 2009

Clark Hoyt, the NYT ombudsman, has a formula when addressing complaints about his newspaper’s misconduct. First, he admits the paper made a mistake, then he denies it did so in bad faith. But lately, he’s had cases in which the NYT’s bad faith has been so blatant that it’s been necessary to withhold some of the facts. A few weeks ago, he did so in a small scandal involving David Pogue, the NYT’s technology columnist, and now he’s done so in the ACORN scandal.

He begins his latest column this way:

ON Sept. 12, an Associated Press article inside The Times reported that the Census Bureau had severed its ties to Acorn, the community organizing group. Robert Groves, the census director, was quoted as saying that Acorn, one of thousands of unpaid organizations promoting the 2010 census, had become “a distraction.”

What the article didn’t say — but what followers of Fox News and conservative commentators already knew — was that a video sting had caught Acorn workers counseling a bogus prostitute and pimp on how to set up a brothel staffed by under-age girls, avoid detection and cheat on taxes.

As James Taranto points out, this is only half true. Indeed, the NYT’s version of the AP article did not say anything about the sting. But the AP article did:

ACORN fired two employees who were seen on hidden-camera video giving tax advice to a man posing as a pimp and a woman who pretended to be a prostitute. Fox News Channel broadcast excerpts from the video on Thursday. On the video, a man and woman visiting ACORN’s Baltimore office asked about buying a house and how to account on tax forms for the woman’s income. An ACORN employee advised the woman to list her occupation as “performance artist.”

In a statement, ACORN Maryland board member Margaret Williams said the video was an attempt to smear ACORN, and that undercover teams attempted similar setups in at least three other ACORN offices. Williams said no tax returns were filed and no assistance was provided.

The NYT actually edited the AP article to remove the information explaining the controversy. (“All the news that’s fit to print”!) That fact alone makes the denial of bad faith unworkable. No wonder Hoyt keeps it from the reader.

This incident, like the earlier Pogue incident, makes it crystal clear that Clark Hoyt’s job has nothing to do with holding his paper accountable. His purpose is to cover for his paper’s misdeeds, in order to reassure the NYT’s remaining readers that it is behaving responsibly. In other words, he is just another dishonest NYT journalist.


Smart diplomacy

September 25, 2009

The London Times reports:

Barack Obama has at last granted Gordon Brown a formal one-to-one meeting as the two men try to play down reports of a rift in their relations.

The Prime Minister will be given his meeting at 4pm today (9pm BST) following the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. . .

The two men put on a show of friendship for the cameras in New York yesterday as part of the damage limitation exercise after the White House described reports of a snub as “totally absurd”. . .

Neither side denied, however, that British officials made repeated efforts to secure a formal meeting before Mr Brown arrived in the United States this week, nor that Mr Obama and the Prime Minister had held a private conversation in a UN kitchen.

The British PM shouldn’t have to plead for a meeting with the president. Was the president “too tired” again?

POSTSCRIPT: More on the 15-minute kitchen meeting that wasn’t at all a snub here.


Lies, damn lies, and Paul Krugman

September 25, 2009

Paul Krugman has a new deeply dishonest column, this time on cap-and-trade. Iain Murray gives the thing the full treatment; I want to focus on a single passage that one can appreciate without being familiar with the ins and outs of the cap-and-trade debate:

Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.

Thus, last week Glenn Beck — who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of the G.O.P. — informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar — and similarly false — claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.

The “needless to say” is an exquisite touch. Of course nothing so damaging could be real.

Well, first let’s establish the facts: You can find the documents here. I blogged about them here.

Why does Krugman claim the documents don’t exist? He doesn’t say. Probably, he means that they don’t precisely fit the description since (1) some of the documents predate the Obama administration, (2) the documents do not exactly constitute a study, and (3) the analysis predates Waxman-Markey so it does not refer to the specific legislation. Therefore, it’s not literally an (1) Obama administration (2) study (3) of Waxman-Markey. Alternatively, he may mean that the $1787 figure, referring to the direct cost of carbon permits, doesn’t apply to the actual bill that passed the House, which gives most of the permits away. (According to the documents, the cost of higher energy prices will be comparable, but that cost is not estimated to the same precision.)

That may be what Krugman means, but he says none of this. He won’t lay out the facts and let the reader decide for himself, because the reader might not draw the conclusion he wants. Instead, he implies the documents don’t exist at all. But they do exist, and he knows it. His statement that “no such study exists” is, at best, true in only a hyper-technical way.

But Krugman goes further, and calls Beck a liar. Being wrong in a hyper-technical way does not constitute lying. (And this is assuming that Beck was wrong at all, which isn’t clear. Krugman does not offer a quote, much less a verifiable link, just his own vague summary.)

I am sick and tired of watching the Democrats falsely accuse people of lying. Making predictions with which Democrats don’t agree isn’t lying. Pointing out unintended but predictable consequences of legislation isn’t lying. Making mistakes isn’t lying, and making basically true statements that contain hyper-technical errors certainly isn’t lying. Calling someone a liar for one of the above, that is lying.

Krugman opens his column this way:

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

Ah yes, the civility and intellectual honesty. I can hardly bear the irony. Krugman, heal thyself.

(Via the Corner.)


All Obama, all the time

September 25, 2009

Politico reports:

Just to put some of the numbers in perspective, Obama has logged 124 television interviews so far in his presidency, compared with about 40 interviews at this point for Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. And the television networks have been generous with their nightly news coverage of the president — in the first four months of the presidency, they gave him 28 hours, compared with eight hours for Bush in his first term.

(Via the Corner.)

That’s a 37:1 ratio in interviews, and a 42:1 ratio in TV evening news coverage.


Our foreign policy is deeply unserious

September 25, 2009

Michael Ledeen comments:

Obama, Sarkozy, and Brown are shocked. Except that they aren’t. They’ve known about it for years. They only told us about it when the Iranians, having discovered that we knew what they were up to in Qom, told the IAEA. So what’s all the faux garment rending and chest pounding about?

Once the Iranians confessed, the West had a choice: Either we knew or we didn’t. If we didn’t, our intelligence agencies were even more incompetent than we thought. If we did, somebody might ask why we were pretending there was hope that the Iranian regime might eventually cooperate.

In other words, they knew things were much worse than they were saying, and in order to avoid embarrassing questions, Western leaders feigned outrage and promised — yet again — to be tough. . .

Meanwhile, the president’s diplomatic ire is not aimed at Iran, a tyrannical enemy. He’s focused on Israel and Honduras. Two democratic allies.


FCC embraces network neutrality

September 25, 2009

The FCC is preparing to impose network neutrality on the Internet. Despite what the WSJ says in its headline, this is not a boon for consumers and Silicon Valley. I explain why here and here.

(Previous post.)


Officials hate accountability

September 25, 2009

The blogosphere is abuzz about the video Allahpundit uncovered two days ago of school kids being taught to sing President Obama’s praises. In an ACORN-esque display of tune-deafness, the school superintendent made this statement:

Superintendent Christopher Manno said in a written statement Thursday that the taping itself was out of order, but failed to address whether the lesson was approved. “The recording and distribution of the class activity were unauthorized,” he wrote in a note to parents and the media.

Nothing to say about the “lesson”, but he’s upset that the video went out. Listen Mr. Manno: the problem is not the fact that you were caught!

With the increasing ubiquity of video cameras, and the means easily to distribute information over the internet, we can expose our officials’ malfeasance in ways we never could before. The days when they enjoyed our unthinking trust are over. We’ve learned how wrong we were.

UPDATE: The principal is standing by the “lesson”.

UPDATE: This is not the first outrage from the Burlington Township School District.

UPDATE: They have succeeded in taking the video down, but you can find the lyrics here.


Since everything is better under government management

September 25, 2009

Argentina is nationalizing its professional soccer league.


Halo 3: ODST

September 25, 2009

Popular Mechanics has an interesting article about how Halo 3: ODST came to pass. The article is right that ODST did a great job of creating a new game with Halo 3 gameplay but a very different feel.

But they also make a mistake by crediting ODST with the idea of rapidly developing a new story on an existing engine. The idea goes back at least as far as Half-Life 2 Episode One (great game, awful name). And it’s been used in several shooters since, including GRAW 2 and Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

I also think the staying power of ODST isn’t going to be in the new campaign — which is actually a little too short — but the new “firefight” mode, which pits a team of human players against wave after wave of AI attackers. Firefight isn’t original either. It’s a copy of the “Horde” mode in Gears of War 2, but I think it’s better executed than the Gears of War version.


Obama Guantanamo policy in tatters

September 25, 2009

Closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay turns out to be not so easy after all:

With four months left to meet its self-imposed deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Obama administration is working to recover from missteps that have put officials behind schedule and left them struggling to win the cooperation of Congress.

Even before the inauguration, President Obama’s top advisers settled on a course of action they were counseled against: announcing that they would close the facility within one year. Today, officials are acknowledging that they will be hard-pressed to meet that goal.

The White House has faltered in part because of the legal, political and diplomatic complexities involved in determining what to do with more than 200 terrorism suspects at the prison. But senior advisers privately acknowledge not devising a concrete plan for where to move the detainees and mishandling Congress.

Which is exactly what the Bush administration tried to tell them:

Before the election, Craig met privately with a group of top national security lawyers who had served in Democratic and Republican administrations to discuss Guantanamo Bay. During the transition, he met with members of the outgoing administration, some of whom warned him against issuing a deadline to close the facility without first finding alternative locations for the prisoners. . .

“The entire civil service counseled him not to set a deadline” to close Guantanamo, according to one senior government lawyer.

They had no plan. Nevertheless, the president and White House counsel decided that if they merely set a deadline, it would magically ensure that they would have a plan when the time came.

Good intentions do not constitute a policy.

(Via Instapundit.)


Unconvinced

September 25, 2009

The president and his surrogates have been trying hard to convince the public that his health care plan will not contain “death panels”, will not cover illegal immigrants, and will not fund abortions:

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. (Applause.)

There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You lie! (Boos.)

THE PRESIDENT: It’s not true. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up — under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place. (Applause.)

Despite his efforts, the latest CBS/NYT poll indicates that the president has failed to convince the public on the first two. (Oddly, they did not poll on the question of abortion coverage.) And this is despite CBS/NYT being among the most severely biased polls. (ASIDE: CBS/NYT overestimated Obama’s margin of victory more than any other major poll except Newsweek. Even the Fair model, which does no polling and doesn’t know who the candidates are, did better.)

At this point, it seems safe to say that the public has heard the president. They simply do not believe him.

(Via Instapundit.)


Wanted: one tin-foil hat

September 24, 2009

The Miami Herald reports:

It’s been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He’s sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and “Israeli mercenaries” are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.

“We are being threatened with death,” he said in an interview with The Miami Herald, adding that mercenaries were likely to storm the embassy where he has been holed up since Monday and assassinate him. . .

Zelaya was deposed at gunpoint on June 28 and slipped back into his country on Monday, just two days before he was scheduled to speak before the United Nations. He sought refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, where Zelaya said he is being subjected to toxic gases and radiation that alter his physical and mental state.

(Via Hot Air.)

This is the guy that the Obama administration thinks should be running Honduras.


The continuous campaign

September 24, 2009

(Via Hot Air.)


Ouch

September 24, 2009

Environmentalists have succeeded in banning the light bulb. Their next target: toilet paper.

(Via the Corner.)


A reflection on ACORN and modern liberalism

September 24, 2009

One puzzling thing about the ACORN scandal is why so many ACORN offices were willing to involve themselves in such a preposterously flagrant criminal enterprise. A deep disregard for the law is part of it, obviously, but that’s not a sufficient explanation. Unlike voter fraud, child prostitution is not a core mission of ACORN (I hope!), so why did they involve themselves?

I think the answer goes to the nature of modern liberalism. Unlike conservatism or libertarianism, modern liberalism is not really an ideology. Rather, modern liberalism is an alliance of various interests, and it’s difficult to express any principle that those interests have in common. For example, the liberal umbrella contains both feminists (who favor women’s rights, ostensibly at least) and multiculturalists (who defend oppression of women throughout the world, particularly in the Muslim world).

In short, while the right sees the world in terms of right-and-wrong or free-and-unfree, the modern liberal generally sees the world in terms of us-and-them. As we have seen often this year, liberals will see the exact same policy promulgated by both Bush and Obama negatively in the former instance but positively in the latter.

How does this explain ACORN? An under-reported aspect of O’Keefe and Giles’s investigation is the manner in which O’Keefe introduced himself. He introduced himself as a law student who intended to use the profits from his side business (child prostitution) to finance his run for Congress. By presenting himself as an aspiring liberal politician, O’Keefe identified himself to ACORN as one of them. This, I suspect, made all the difference. In the absence of any moral standard or respect for the law, ACORN was willing to go the extra mile for anyone on its side.

The phenomenon is not limited to ACORN. We can see it in the response of Congressional Democrats to the scandal. Of course, most Democrats voted with the Republicans to cut off ACORN funding. But the most liberal Democrats, 75 of them, voted to continue ACORN funding despite everything. Harry Reid also blocked a Senate investigation. Why? To them, government is a matter of us-and-them. Whatever ACORN had done, ACORN was on their side.

We also see it in the response of the mainstream media. Despite the story being incredibly juicy, the liberal media did everything it could to avoid reporting it. (Of course, it would have been the top story for days had it been a conservative group.) Once they were forced to report the story, they tried to balance it with dirt on O’Keefe and Giles. There being no real dirt available, they tried to smear them as racists.

But the motives of O’Keefe and Giles aren’t actually relevant to what ACORN did, and even if the smears were true it still wouldn’t excuse ACORN’s conduct. So why report it that way? Because the modern liberal sees the world through the lens of us-and-them, not right-and-wrong. In an us-and-them world, the nature of the whistleblowers is relevant. If the other side can be shown to be bad, that amounts to a full exoneration.

(Previous post.)


No judicial review for red-light cameras

September 24, 2009

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, you can’t beat a ticket from a red-light camera, even when you’re obviously innocent. As far as a local news team could determine, there is no court that will review them.

ASIDE: The title of the story isn’t quite apt. This isn’t a case of “guilty until proven innocent”; it’s “guilty even if proven innocent”.

(Via Instapundit.)


ACORN to sue O’Keefe and Giles

September 23, 2009

Suing is the stupidest thing ACORN could possibly do right now. I honestly thought that would keep them from doing it. Bring on the discovery!

UPDATE: Some legal commentary here.

UPDATE: Some more legal analysis here.

(Previous post.)


Laws-for-ads

September 23, 2009

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) blows the whistle on a quid pro quo in the closed-door health care negotiations:

I’ll tell you — if someone negotiated a deal with me and I agreed to put up say, 80 dollars or 80 million dollars or 80 billion dollars and then you came back and said to me a couple of weeks later — no no, I know you agreed to do 80 billion and I know you were willing to help support through an advertising campaign this particular — not even this particular bill, just the idea of generic health care reform? No, we’re going to double — we’re going to double what you agreed in those negotiations to do. That’s not the way — that’s not what I consider treating people the way I’d want to be treated.

(Via Instapundit.)

Trading a deal on legislation for advertising dollars has to be illegal, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?


A courageous stand against transparency

September 23, 2009

The AP reports:

Senate Finance Committee Democrats have rejected a GOP amendment that would have required a health overhaul bill to be available online for 72 hours before the committee votes.

(Via Instapundit.)

The reason Democrats gave is that, under the amendment, they would be required actually to write the bill before voting on it. I am not making this up.


Library of Congress completes Honduras report

September 23, 2009

A new report by the Congressional Research Service Law Library of Congress confirms that there was no coup in Honduras, just a constitutional transfer of power:

“The Supreme Court of Honduras has constitutional and statutory authority to hear cases against the President of the Republic and many other high officers of the State, to adjudicate and enforce judgments, and to request the assistance of the public forces to enforce its rulings.”

—Congressional Research Service, August 2009

Ever since Manuel Zelaya was removed from the Honduran presidency by that country’s Supreme Court and Congress on June 28 for violations of the constitution, the Obama administration has insisted, without any legal basis, that the incident amounts to a “coup d’état” and must be reversed. President Obama has dealt harshly with Honduras, and Americans have been asked to trust their president’s proclamations.

Now a report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides what the administration has not offered, a serious legal review of the facts. “Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system,” writes CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez in her report.

(Via Volokh.)

The United States, for some unfathomable reason, is trying to end the constitutional order in Honduras, not save it.

UPDATE: The report is here. It was actually done by the Law Library of Congress, not the CRS, which is a different branch of the Library of Congress. (Via Volokh.)


Our foreign policy

September 23, 2009

Nations whose leaders can get a US visa:

  • Iran
  • Libya
  • Burma
  • just about any other dictatorship, junta, or kleptocracy

Nations whose leaders cannot get a US visa:

  • Honduras

I’m seeing a distinct lack of principle here.

(Via Hot Air.)


Iranian AWACS crashes

September 23, 2009

This could prove convenient:

Iran’s sole Simorgh AWACS aircraft was lost during a military parade Sept. 22, one of two Iranian military aircraft that crashed in Tehran while participating in a display to mark the anniversary of the start of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

But I think Israel Matzav and Instapundit are misreading the article when they call it Iran’s only AWACS. I read it to say the crashed plane was Iran’s only AWACS of that type.


CBO contradicts Obama on Medicare cuts

September 22, 2009

The AP reports:

Congress’ chief budget officer is contradicting President Barack Obama’s oft-stated claim that seniors wouldn’t see their Medicare benefits cut under a health care overhaul.

The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.

(Via Instapundit.)


The cash-for-clunkers disaster

September 22, 2009

Two economists have analyzed the cash-for-clunkers program and found that its economic costs outweighed its benefits by $1000 per car:

With per vehicle environmental benefits at $596 and the costs at $2,600 per vehicle, the clunker program is a net drain on society of roughly $2,000 per vehicle. Given the approximately 700,000 vehicles in the program, we estimate the total welfare loss to be about $1.4 billion. The welfare loss would be even greater if we fine tuned our estimate of the social cost per gallon to account for the spatial mix of clunkers. Clunkers, especially the trucks that comprise a large percentage of the traded-in vehicles, may have been retired disproportionately from rural locations where the social costs of pollutants are significantly lower. Also, if the average value of clunkers exceeds our conservative figure of $1000, then cost of the program would be higher. Even if the environmental gains were double our estimate, the net drain would still be close to $1 billion. While a more rigorous analysis would no doubt adjust these figures, we doubt that the basic conclusion would change.

(Via the Corner.)

We literally would have been better off if the government had simply burned $1 billion in cash.


Economic illiteracy

September 22, 2009

CBS News has an article about five health care promises that the president won’t keep. For two of them that’s a good thing, including this one:

Allow Drug Importation

During the campaign, Mr. Obama said his plan (PDF) would “Allow consumers to import safe drugs from other countries” because “some companies are exploiting Americans by dramatically overcharging U.S. consumers.”

As noted above, the Obama administration secretly conceded to forgo the importation of cheaper drugs in its deal with the pharmaceutical industry.

(Via Instapundit.)

Indeed, Obama did make that promise (one doesn’t want to trust CBS for this sort of thing):

Allow consumers to import safe drugs from other countries. The second-fastest growing type of health expenses is prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies should profit when their research and development results in a groundbreaking new drug. But some companies are exploiting Americans by dramatically overcharging U.S. consumers. These companies are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging Americans a 67 percent premium. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will allow Americans to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower outside the U.S.

This is sheer foolishness, as basic economics will tell you. In fact, one doesn’t need to know any economics; mere common sense should tell you that we cannot realize real savings by shipping a product to Canada and back.

What is happening here is called price discrimination. This happens when the supplier of a product or service sells it at a different price to different customers. This can only arise with an uncompetitive market (typically a monopoly); a competitive market will compete away such price differences. Also, it can only arise when the supplier is able to segment his market into (at least) two parts and prevent arbitrage between the segments.

Price discrimination is not inherently bad. Abstractly, it leads to more efficient resource allocation. (In the limit, called perfect price discrimination, commodities are supplied in the same quantity as they would in a competitive market.) Concretely, it lowers prices for those who are less able to afford a commodity, and raises them for those who are better able to afford it. A classic example is different rates at museums and zoos for children, adults, and seniors. (Progressives ought to be all in favor of this!)

Prescription drug companies have been able to break their market into U.S. and Canadian segments. (Additionally, many drugs are sold at an even lower price in Africa.) They then sell the drugs more cheaply in the less wealthy market segment, Canada. (An additional complication arises from Canada’s monopsonistic drug purchasing, but that doesn’t affect the analysis.)

So what will happen if we permit drug reimportation (i.e., arbitrage)? At a small scale, nothing at all. If the drug companies gain more from price discrimination than they lose from arbitrage, they’ll stick with it. But suppose we allow drug reimportation on a national scale? Then the drug companies’ ability to segment their market is gone, and price discrimination will disappear overnight.

That means that U.S. and Canadian prices will equalize at some price in the middle. We won’t see much benefit though. Since the U.S. market is much larger than the Canadian market, price discrimination has not affected our price significantly. Therefore, the new price will be imperceptibly lower than the U.S. price.

In summary, large-scale drug reimportation would screw Canada over, while obtaining no significant benefit for us. If this proposal were ever to see the light of day (and fortunately it appears it will not), we could expect Canada to fight hard against it. Barack Obama’s campaign call for reimportation was either economic illiteracy, or (more likely) simple demagoguery.

POSTSCRIPT: As I recall, John McCain supported reimportation as well; not that that matters any more.


Obama dithers on Afghanistan

September 22, 2009

Remember during the campaign when Obama wanted to strengthen his national security credentials and we were told that he would refocus the war effort on Afghanistan after the “distraction” of Iraq? Yeah, I didn’t believe it either. McClatchy reports:

Six months after it announced its strategy for Afghanistan, the Obama administration is sending mixed signals about its objectives there and how many troops are needed to achieve them.

The conflicting messages are drawing increasing ire from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan and frustrating military leaders, who’re trying to figure out how to demonstrate that they’re making progress in the 12-18 months that the administration has given them.

Adding to the frustration, according to officials in Kabul and Washington, are White House and Pentagon directives made over the last six weeks that Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, not submit his request for as many as 45,000 additional troops because the administration isn’t ready for it. . .

In Kabul, some members of McChrystal’s staff said they don’t understand why Obama called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” but still hasn’t given them the resources they need to turn things around quickly.

Three officers at the Pentagon and in Kabul told McClatchy that the McChrystal they know would resign before he’d stand behind a faltering policy that he thought would endanger his forces or the strategy.

“Yes, he’ll be a good soldier, but he will only go so far,” a senior official in Kabul said. “He’ll hold his ground. He’s not going to bend to political pressure.”

(Via Long War Journal.)

That stuff about Afghanistan was a campaign promise. He probably never intended to keep it.

POSTSCRIPT: Remember that Gen. McKiernan, the previous commander in Afghanistan, requested more troops months ago. He was subsequently fired. The reason given was Gen. McChrystal was the best man for the job.

UPDATE: Rich Lowry: “It’s hard to imagine a starker demonstration of bad faith on an important issue of national security.”


Mob veto at Chapel Hill

September 21, 2009

A troubling incident at UNC-Chapel Hill: A student group is unpopular in certain circles. Those people threaten the group’s faculty advisor. The faculty advisor remarks that he is able to defend himself. Chancellor Holden Thorp calls the remark “highly inappropriate” and induces him to resign as the group’s faculty advisor. The student group will soon be forced to close if they cannot find a new advisor.

UNC ought to be sticking up for free speech on campus, rather than collaborating with the mob to shut down a student organization. UNC ought to be disciplining threats against its faculty, not the faculty who are being threatened. Very, very badly done.


A liar from the word go

September 21, 2009

Dan Rather was just as bad at telling the truth in 1963 as the day he finally got fired. (Via the Corner.)


Free speech is dead in Britain

September 21, 2009

A Christian couple in Britain is facing criminal charges for offending a Muslim woman:

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang are awaiting trial accused of breaching public order by insulting a guest at their hotel in Aintree, Liverpool, about her religion.

The couple, who are members of an evangelical congregation, were arrested by police after getting into a discussion with the woman about the differences between Christianity and Islam earlier this year.

Mrs Vogelenzang, 54, is understood to have described Muslim dress as putting women into “bondage” while her husband, 53, allegedly described the Prophet Mohammed as a “warlord”. . .

The guest complained to Merseyside Police who called the couple in for an interview. They were questioned twice before being charged with a religiously aggravated public order offence.

They appeared before magistrates last week where they denied the charges and are due to go on trial later this year. If found guilty they face a fine and a criminal record.

(Via Volokh.)


Busted

September 21, 2009

Fox News reports:

A proposed requirement that all Americans buy health insurance does in fact include a “tax” increase, according to the Senate — even though President Obama insisted Sunday that it “absolutely” does not.

Obama gave ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos a stern talking-to Sunday for suggesting that the mandate to buy health insurance would amount to a tax. He even taunted the host for citing the dictionary definition of “tax” to make his point.

“The fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now,” Obama said.

But the language of the health care reform plan proposed by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., explicitly labels the penalty attached to the mandate as an “excise tax.”

Penalties for failing to obtain coverage would range from $750 to $3,800 under the plan. This is addressed in a section labeled: “Excise Tax.”

“The excise tax would apply for any period for which the individual is not covered by a health insurance plan with the minimum required benefit,” the Baucus plan says.

It’s not the way he stretches (and breaks) the truth that sets President Obama apart, most politicians do that. What sets Obama apart from other politicians is the sanctimonious manner in which he demeans those who call him on it.


If you can’t beat ’em, silence ’em

September 21, 2009

Having failed to win the public debate on health care reform, the Obama administration has moved on to trying to silence its critics. The AP reports:

The government is investigating a major insurance company for allegedly trying to scare seniors with a mailer warning they could lose important benefits under health care legislation in Congress.

The Health and Human Services Department launched its investigation of Humana after getting a complaint from Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a senior lawmaker usually viewed as a reliable ally of the insurance industry.

“It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject — particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform,” Baucus said Monday, disclosing the HHS investigation.

Humana Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is cooperating with the investigation and stopped the mailer earlier this month, company spokesman Tom Noland said Monday.

It’s unlikely to stop here. Remember, Obama’s organization was threatening his critics even before he was elected president.

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: More here. (Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: I thought that for-profit companies have weaker free-speech protection than other organizations, but it seems I was mistaken. Apparently the distinction is not based on the speaker, but on the sort of speech. Commercial speech (that is, speech that proposes a commercial transaction) is offered less protection than other sorts of speech. (I see no justification for even that distinction in the Constitution, but never mind.) Since Humana’s mailer is political speech, not commercial, it is Constitutionally protected.


WPost libeling O’Keefe?

September 21, 2009

Scott Johnson is accusing the Washington Post of  inventing a James O’Keefe quote to make him appear to have a racial motive in exposing ACORN.

UPDATE: The Post corrects:

This article about the community organizing group ACORN incorrectly said that a conservative journalist targeted the organization for hidden-camera videos partly because its voter-registration drives bring Latinos and African Americans to the polls. Although ACORN registers people mostly from those groups, the maker of the videos, James E. O’Keefe, did not specifically mention them.

(Via Power Line.)

I guess in journalist-speak “incorrectly said” = “made up”.

UPDATE: More.

(Previous post.)


Another Democrat for attacking Israel

September 20, 2009

In a recent interview, Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski shows some of the wisdom that helped make the Carter administration such a smashing success. He pronounces that if Israel decides to take out Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the United States should shoot down their planes:

Q: How aggressive can Obama be in insisting to the Israelis that a military strike might be in America’s worst interest?

Brzezinski: We are not exactly impotent little babies. They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?

Q: What if they fly over anyway?

B: Well, we have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse.

ASIDE: Brzezinski refers to the USS Liberty incident during the 1967 Six-day War in which Israeli jets attacked a US Navy ship, causing major damage and 34 deaths. The ensuing investigation found that the incident was a tragic mistake, and Israel paid millions in restitution. Nevertheless, some (apparently including Brzezinski) believe that Israel attacked the ship deliberately.

Fortunately, I can’t see the president giving such an order. Not only would such an attack be catastrophic to US-Israel relations (already severely damaged by the president), it would make President Obama a hostage to fortune. Anything that Iran would do with its nuclear weapons would be Obama’s inescapable, personal responsibility.

POSTSCRIPT: As horrifying as it may be, Brzezinski’s proposal is moderate compared to that of Obama foreign-policy adviser Samantha Power, who has called for the US to invade Israel and impose a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

(Via the Weekly Standard.)


Great moments in constituent relations

September 19, 2009

Last May, I wrote to my state representative, Paul Costa (D), about the incident in which the Community College of Allegheny County trampled the free-speech rights of one of its students. Rep. Costa is a graduate of CCAC, so I thought he might be concerned. Well, he wasn’t. Costa never even replied to my email, but I’ve just discovered that he did add me to his spam list. What a jerk.


Anglicans win another one

September 19, 2009

In the second major victory this week for Anglicans seeking to leave the Episcopal Church, the South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled in favor of All Saints Parish Waccamaw, against the Episcopal Church USA and the Diocese of South Carolina. There are two main parts to the ruling:

First, the court applied “neutral principles” to the case. This means that the case is judged in exactly the same manner as if it were a secular organization. In the older “deference” approach (which has been deprecated but not forbidden by the US Supreme Court), the court must determine if the church is “hierarchical” or “congregational”, and defer to the ecclesiastical authorities in the former case and to the congregation in the latter. Since the Episcopal Church would presumably be found to be hierarchical, a deference approach would favor the Episcopal Church.

Second, the court found that Episcopal Church cannot impose a trust over property to which it has no title, as it purported to do with the Dennis Canon:

Furthermore, we hold that neither the 2000 Notice nor the Dennis Canon has any legal effect on title to the All Saints congregation’s property. A trust “may be created by either declaration of trust or by transfer of property….” Dreher v. Dreher, 370 S.C. 75, 80, 634 S.E.2d 646, 648 (2006). It is an axiomatic principle of law that a person or entity must hold title to property in order to declare that it is held in trust for the benefit of another or transfer legal title to one person for the benefit of another. . .

For the aforementioned reasons, we hold that title to the property at issue is held by All Saints Parish, Waccamaw, Inc., [and] the Dennis Canons had no legal effect on the title to the congregation’s property.

This is huge. In South Carolina it looks like a conclusive victory for Anglicans, nullifying the Dennis Canon.

(Via Stand Firm in Faith.)


Iranian protesters adapt

September 19, 2009

Iran has brutally suppressed anti-government rallies, but the protesters have found a way to adapt. They turn out for officially sanctioned rallies (mostly anti-Israel) and turn them into opposition rallies. (Via Hot Air.)


Mayor bars police chases

September 19, 2009

The mayor of Wellford, SC has prohibited police from chasing criminals:

The Mayor of Wellford is defending her policy which bans police officers in that city from chasing suspects. Sallie Peake says the policy also includes vehicle chases along with pursuits on foot.

A memo issued on September 2nd from Peake to all Wellford officers reads:

“As of this date, there are to be no more foot chases when a suspect runs. I do not want anyone chasing after any suspects whatsoever.“ . . .

Peake says she issued the mandate because several officers have been injured during chases, driving up insurance costs for the town.

(Via Hot Air.)

What could go wrong?


Fake but accurate

September 19, 2009

An anecdote that the president used prominently in his health care speech is bogus:

President Barack Obama, seeking to make a case for health-insurance regulation, told a poignant story to a joint session of Congress last week. An Illinois man getting chemotherapy was dropped from his insurance plan when his insurer discovered an unreported gallstone the patient hadn’t known about.

“They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it,” the president said in the nationally televised address.

In fact, the man, Otto S. Raddatz, didn’t die because the insurance company rescinded his coverage once he became ill, an act known as recission. The efforts of his sister and the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan got Raddatz’s policy reinstated within three weeks of his April 2005 rescission and secured a life-extending stem-cell transplant for him. Raddatz died this year, nearly four years after the insurance showdown. . .

The patient’s sister, Peggy M. Raddatz, testified before the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee June 16 that her brother ultimately received treatment that “extended his life approximately three years.” Nowhere in the hearing did she say her brother died because of the delay.

On learning of the error, the White House quickly issued a correction and apologized for spreading misinformation.

Ha ha! Just kidding:

Obama aides say the president got the essence of the story correct.


Shameless

September 18, 2009

AP reports:

Gov. Deval Patrick said Friday that President Barack Obama had personally talked to him about changing the Senate succession law in Massachusetts, and White House aides were pushing for him to gain the power to temporarily replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy amid the administration’s health care push.

A month after a White House spokesman labeled the issue a state matter, Patrick said he and Obama spoke about changing the law as they both attended Kennedy’s funeral in Boston last month. He also said White House aides have been in contact frequently ever since and pushing for the change so they can regain their filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.

The Obama administration is very good at espousing high principles, and completely unable to adhere to them.


Economic vandalism

September 18, 2009

The Economist is belatedly realizing it is one of the rubes:

YOU can be fairly sure that when a government slips an announcement out at nine o’clock on a Friday night, it is not proud of what it is doing. That is one of the only things that makes sense about Barack Obama’s decision to break a commitment he, along with other G20 leaders, reaffirmed last April: to avoid protectionist measures at a time of great economic peril. In every other way the president’s decision to slap a 35% tariff on imported Chinese tyres looks like a colossal blunder, confirming his critics’ worst fears about the president’s inability to stand up to his party’s special interests and stick to the centre ground he promised to occupy in office.

This newspaper endorsed Mr Obama at last year’s election (see article) in part because he had surrounded himself with enough intelligent centrists. We also said that the eventual success of his presidency would be based on two things: resuscitating the world economy; and bringing the new emerging powers into the Western order. He has now hurt both objectives.


Obama’s health-care deficit “pledge”

September 18, 2009

Charles Krauthammer writes:

[In his address, President Obama said] “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future,” he solemnly pledged. “I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future. Period.”

Wonderful. The president seems serious, veto-ready, determined to hold the line. Until, notes Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, you get to Obama’s very next sentence: “And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize.”

This apparent strengthening of the pledge brilliantly and deceptively undermines it. What Obama suggests is that his plan will require mandatory spending cuts if the current rosy projections prove false. But there’s absolutely nothing automatic about such cuts. Every Congress is sovereign. Nothing enacted today will force a future Congress or a future president to make any cuts in any spending, mandatory or not.

Just look at the supposedly automatic Medicare cuts contained in the Sustainable Growth Rate formula enacted to constrain out-of-control Medicare spending. Every year since 2003, Congress has waived the cuts.

So this pledge is a complete fraud.


ACORN CEO calls O’Keefe racist

September 18, 2009

She says only a racist would use a prostitution sting on a predominantly black organization. (Cue to 2:00 here.) I guess the race card is all they have left.

(Via Hot Air.) (Previous post.)


CIA directors blast investigation

September 18, 2009

Fox News reports:

Seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency on Friday urged President Obama to reverse Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to hold a criminal investigation of CIA interrogators who used enhanced techniques on detainees. . .

The letter was signed by former directors Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet, John Deutch, R. James Woolsey, William Webster and James R. Schlesinger.

Incidentally, that is all the former CIA directors still living other than Robert Gates (who is in the president’s cabinet), President George H. W. Bush (who is generally silent on politics today), and Stansfield Turner (Jimmy Carter’s CIA director who is best known for decimating its human intelligence resources).


Another pledge broken

September 18, 2009

The Obama administration is not following its own announced policy on Freedom of Information Act requests. See the update here.


Appeals court overturns another campaign finance regulation

September 18, 2009

Jonathan Adler has the story.


Health care disapproval hits new high

September 18, 2009

In the latest Rasmussen poll, 56% disapprove of the Democratic health care reform plan, including a near majority (44%) that strongly disapprove. Those who strongly disapprove outnumber the 43% who approve at all (even weakly).

UPDATE: The RNC has a rundown of public opinion on health care reform. (Via Free Market Mojo.)


Poll: cut off ACORN

September 18, 2009

A new Rasmussen poll indicates that hardly anybody likes ACORN: 67% have an unfavorable impression against just 15% favorable. Even liberals are divided: 35% favorable vs. 38% unfavorable. A majority (51%) say that Congress should cut off all funding for ACORN; just 17% say Congress should continue funding them.

(Previous post.)


The dividends of smart diplomacy

September 18, 2009

The Polish prime minister refused the White House’s call to tell him that the US will renege on missile defense. (Via Instapundit.)

During the past administration, we were frequently told that our foreign policy was losing us friends and influence. In the end, however, there was no real evidence of that. Certainly no one stopped taking our calls!

On the geopolitical stage, nations look out for number one. If they disagree with our policy toward a third party or the environment or whatever, they might issue a communique or try to obstruct us at the UN, but that’s usually where it ends. They don’t risk their relationship with the United States over something like that.

We lose friends when we screw them directly. Sadly, after just eight months of the Obama administration, the list of nations we have screwed is already pretty long: Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Honduras, Israel, Mexico, Poland, and the UK.

President Obama calls this “smart diplomacy”.


Protection racket

September 18, 2009

The Baucus health care bill contains a big new tax on medical devices and diagnostic instruments, equal to half the industry’s R&D budget. The Wall Street Journal tells the story of how it happened:

This tax also offers an instructive lesson in the perils of industry dealmaking in President Obama’s Washington. Convinced by the White House that legislation was inevitable, most of the health-care lobbies decided to negotiate and pay ransoms so Democrats would spare their industries greater harm. Sure enough, the device maker lobby, AdvaMed, was among the “stakeholders” that joined with Mr. Obama in a Rose Garden ceremony in May and pledged to “save” $2 trillion over 10 years to fund his program. . .

But the word on Capitol Hill is that AdvaMed’s tribute wasn’t handsome enough for Mr. Baucus’s tastes. The massive new tax—which wasn’t a part of any of his policy blueprints released earlier this year—is in part retaliation. Partly, too, the device makers simply don’t have the same political clout as the other big players, making them an easier mark. Old Washington hands are saying the device lobby made a “strategic mistake” by not offering Mr. Baucus more protection money, but the real mistake was trying to buy into the ObamaCare process, instead of trying to defeat its worst ideas outright.

(Emphasis mine.)

Our government is being run like the mob. “Nice industry; it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”


Jay Leno on ACORN

September 18, 2009

(Previous post.)


The truth about czars

September 17, 2009

Honestly, I’m not too concerned about the proliferation of new czars in the Obama administration. But many people are, including an increasing number of Democrats. Now the White House is firing back at its critics, calling them liars:

Last week, when the President addressed the Joint Session of Congress in a speech on health reform, he referred to some of the untruths – okay, lies – that have been spread about the plan and sent a clear message to those who seek to undermine his agenda and his presidency with these tactics: “We will call you out.” So consider this one of those calls.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen with increasing frequency and volume issues raised around the use of “czars” by this Administration. Although some Members have asked serious questions around the makeup of the White House staff, the bulk of the noise you hear began first with partisan commentators, suggesting that this is somehow a new and sinister development that threatens our democracy. This is, of course, ridiculous. Just to be clear, the job title “czar” doesn’t exist in the Obama Administration. Many of the officials cited by conservative commentators have been confirmed by the Senate. Many hold policy jobs that have existed in previous Administrations. And some hold jobs that involved coordinating the work of agencies on President Obama’s key policy priorities: health insurance reform, energy and green jobs, and building a new foundation for long-lasting economic growth.

As usually seems to be the case, it is the White House that is being dishonest. The crux of its defense is three arguments:

  • Many czars are confirmed by the Senate.
  • Many czars existed in previous administrations.
  • Some czars are really important.

The third isn’t germane to the complaints, so let’s set it aside. As for the first two, a handy guide from the Washington Post lays out the true distribution of czars:

wpost-czars

So according to the Washington Post, President Obama has more than doubled the number of czars, and just one of the new czars faces Senate confirmation.

As I said, I don’t care all that much. But I do care that the White House calls people liars when they are the ones being dishonest. That’s just despicable.

(Via Hot Air.)


House defunds ACORN

September 17, 2009

345-75.

UPDATE: Hmm:

It’s a typical these-voters-are-such-rubes stunt; the House and Senate voted to defund ACORN on different bills.

The Senate bill is a housing bill, the House bill the federal takeover of student loans. Each bill will wind up in conference committee where the ACORN ban can be quietly stripped out, behind closed doors and secure from prying eyes.

UPDATE: A House GOP aide explains:

“On Thursday, we surprised the House Democrats by offering the ‘Defund ACORN Act’ as the motion to recommit on the government takeover of the student-loan-industry legislation,” the aide says. “Frankly, the motion was not germane, and we expected Democratic leaders to raise a point of order against it. But, in the face of the overwhelming public outcry against ACORN, they decided not to fight it. Now comes the hard part — though the House has effectively passed the ‘Defund ACORN Act,’ it is on a bill that has not passed the Senate, and there’s no guarantee that it would survive a Democrat-controlled conference committee. We’re going to have to continue to work to keep the pressure on, while Democrats try to make this issue go away. We’ve won a battle, but the war goes on.”

(Previous post.)


Iran can build bomb

September 17, 2009

The AP reports:

Experts at the world’s top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press. . . It appears to be the so-called “secret annex” on Iran’s nuclear program that Washington says is being withheld by the IAEA’s chief.

(Via the Corner.)

What an excellent time to abandon missile defense.


Court rules for Anglicans in Fort Worth case

September 17, 2009

Dioceses seeking to leave the Episcopal Church have scored a major victory:

In a hearing today in the 141st District Court, Judge John Chupp granted the Diocese partial relief under Rule 12 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. He ruled that attorneys Jonathan Nelson and Kathleen Wells do not represent the diocese or the corporation which have realigned under the Province of the Southern Cone. He denied a second aspect of Rule 12 relief which would have removed the plaintiffs’ diocese and corporation from the lawsuit filed April 14, 2009.

The judge also ruled that neither the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church nor the Constitution and Canons of this diocese prohibit withdrawal from TEC and realignment under another province. Further, he found that the Diocese had done so at its November 2008 annual convention, saying that “they [the members] took the diocese with them.” The action of the November convention was not, he said, ultra vires and void, as the suit’s plaintiffs have argued. He declared, too, that the Diocese had taken its property with it in realignment. He said he did not consider any court ruling concerning a realigning parish to be applicable in the present case, and he said that he considered it “self-serving on [the part of TEC] to say that [Bishop Iker] abandoned his job.” . . .

Commenting on today’s ruling, Bishop Iker said, “We are pleased that Judge Chupp has recognized the legitimacy of the vote of our Diocesan Convention in November 2008 to withdraw from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church and has ruled that we had the legal right to amend our Constitution in order to do so.”


The horrific cost of cap-and-trade

September 17, 2009

A secret Treasury Department analysis of the cost of the cap-and-trade bill has been made public:

The Obama administration has privately concluded that a cap and trade law would cost American taxpayers up to $200 billion a year, the equivalent of hiking personal income taxes by about 15 percent.

A previously unreleased analysis prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury says the total in new taxes would be between $100 billion to $200 billion a year. At the upper end of the administration’s estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year.

A second memorandum, which was prepared for Obama’s transition team after the November election, says this about climate change policies: “Economic costs will likely be on the order of 1 percent of GDP, making them equal in scale to all existing environmental regulation.”

The documents (PDF) were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute and released on Tuesday.

(Via Hot Air.)

A 15% tax hike. I can see why they didn’t want the analysis to become public. The White House’s public estimate, $175 per year, was an order of magnitude too small.

I also suspect that even the secret analysis severely lowballs the cost, since government analyses usually rely on static assumptions about the economy’s behavior.

UPDATE: Jonathan Adler says the facts are a little more complicated than this might suggest. The $100-$200 billion estimate doesn’t really apply to the bill being considered now in Congress. The figures that would apply to the current bill are still being kept secret and were redacted in the document. So the Treasury Department’s secret analysis is still secret.

Adler goes on to point out that the redaction of part of the document is not consistent with the Freedom of Information act, much less the president’s announced policy on FOIA requests.

Adler’s explanation also shows that my speculation above was accurate, but didn’t go far enough. The cost figure does not include any effects on the economy, whether under static or dynamic assumptions.

UPDATE: The document is now unredacted. A key portion reads (with underlining to mark the formerly redacted portion):

While such a program can yield environmental benefits that justify its costs, it will raise energy prices and impose annual costs on the order of tens (and potentially hundreds) of billions of dollars.

Another reads:

Domestic policies to address climate change and the related issues of energy security and affordability will involve significant costs and potential revenues, possibly up to several percentage points of annual GDP (i.e. equal in size to the corporate income tax).


Maxine Waters: investigate Tea Party racism

September 17, 2009

It’s no surprise to see Maxine Waters playing the race card; that and the crazy card are the only cards in her hand. Her latest is a call for an investigation of Tea Party racism.


Obama abandoning missile defense in Europe

September 17, 2009

It’s now official; another enemy appeased, several more friends betrayed. The sheer folly of it infuriates me, even though it’s been obvious for some time that this was coming.

I wonder if President Obama is turning up efforts to appease Russia (so far failing dismally), or he is just acting on his own antipathy toward missile defense. Whether or not Russia was his motivation, missile defense at least could have been a major bargaining chip, but Obama is giving it up for nothing at all.

Certainly no one will be fooled by the Pentagon’s threadbare justification: that new intelligence shows that Iran is focusing on short-range weapons now, so we’re adjusting to the threat. (Intelligence on Iran has been oh so terrific, hasn’t it.) If that were the real reason, we would be arranging to set up missile defense in the Middle East.

UPDATE: The Czechs are not happy:

The former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, said: “This is not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence. It puts us in a position wherein we are not firmly anchored in terms of partnership, security and alliance, and that’s a certain threat.”

(Via the Corner.)


ACORN video #5

September 17, 2009

The latest ACORN video is from San Diego. In it, the ACORN staffer actually gives advice for how to smuggle underage prostitutes across the Mexican border. This time, O’Keefe and Giles’s are unusually blatant about their imaginary criminal plans, perhaps because they wanted to test the limits of what ACORN would involve themselves in. Indeed, the staffer in this one seemed to be a little uncomfortable with the conversation, not that it stopped him from helping.

It’s also worthy of note that San Diego, like New York, was on ACORN’s list of cities in which O’Keefe and Giles supposedly failed:

This recent scam, which was attempted in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia to name a few places, had failed for months before the results we’ve all recently seen.

(Emphasis mine.)

(Previous post.)


Separation of powers is back in

September 17, 2009

Last year, when the Executive branch set aside the law, that was evidence of incipient dictatorship. What a difference an election can make:

The Justice Department has declared that President Obama can disregard a law forbidding State Department officials from attending United Nations meetings led by representatives of nations considered to be sponsors of terrorism.

Based on that decision, which echoes Bush administration policy, the Obama administration sent State Department officials to the board meetings of the United Nations’ Development Program and Population Fund in late spring and this month, a department spokesman said. The bodies are presided over by Iran, which is on the department’s terror list. . .

Justice Department officials pointed out that when Mr. Obama signed the legislation containing the provision in March, he issued a signing statement reserving a right to bypass any portions of the bill that restricted his power to conduct diplomacy.

(Via Instapundit.)

The president has every right to do this; the constitution has separation of powers for a reason. (Whether it’s wise in this case is another matter.) But I do have to take a short trip down memory lane:

President Obama tried to overturn his predecessor again on Monday, saying he will not use bill signing statements to tell his aides to ignore provisions of laws passed by Congress that he doesn’t like. . .

Obama sent a two-page memo to department heads saying he would only raise constitutional issues in his signing statements and do so in “limited circumstances.” . . . In his memo, Obama asked aides to work out constitutional problems before Congress acts.

Michelle Boardman, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, said the Bush White House tried to do just that. She said it is the executive branch’s responsibility to point out conflicts between newly passed laws and the Constitution.

Obama “will discover for himself just how infrequently Congress shows any interest in removing unconstitutional provisions,” she said.

Indeed he has.


Whoa

September 16, 2009

The White House is distancing itself from ACORN, and ACORN is suspending operations. Congratulations to O’Keefe, Giles, and Breitbart. (Via Big Government.)

I guess we’ve learned where the line is. Voter fraud is one thing, but abetting traffickers in child prostitutes was just too much.

UPDATE: The “council” that will do ACORN’s audit is, er, decidedly friendly. Bottom line:

Presumably the point of this absurd whitewash-slash-“audit” is to create enough cover for Democrats to say they deserve a second chance, which is all the more reason why it’s important for Big Government to keep the clips coming. The more there are, the more systemic this is, the more pathetic the idea of some investigative panacea becomes.


Jon Stewart on the ACORN scandal

September 16, 2009

It takes a fake journalist to give the scandal the treatment it deserves.

(Previous post.)


Opposition to health care nationalization hits new high

September 16, 2009

The bounce from the president’s speech has now completely evaporated and opponents of health care nationalization have regained the momentum, according to the latest Rasmussen poll. At 55%, disapproval is at a new high, while approval matches its previous low at 42%.

The president is responding with an unprecedented media blitz. I think we’re already seeing diminishing marginal returns.


Poll: opposing health care reform is not racist

September 16, 2009

A new Rasmussen poll asks whether opponents of the president’s health care reform plan are racist. Just 12% said yes, while 67% said no. The party breakdown is interesting. While 88% of Republicans and 78% of independents said opposing the president is not racist, only 39% of Democrats agreed. An equal number of Democrats weren’t sure, while nearly a quarter (22%) of Democrats said opposing the president is racist.

(Previous post.)


Baucus bill contains “co-ops”

September 16, 2009

The Baucus health care bill ditches the public option, but contains “co-ops”, which are pretty much the same thing. We’ll see if anyone is taken in by them.


Obama’s school speech was revised

September 16, 2009

When President Obama announced his plan to give a speech to school students, many people were concerned. This is a president who observes no distinction between campaigning and governing, and whose administration has already shown a willingness to use the organs of government for propaganda. Moreover, the lesson plan issued by the Education Department explicitly used the speech as an opportunity for political indoctrination.

But, under public pressure, the Education Department rescinded the lesson plan and the speech itself ultimately proved innocuous. Democrats pounced, saying that conservatives’ concerns were unjustified and frankly a bit crazy.

As I (and others) pointed out at the time, we had no way of knowing what the speech would have said if not for the public uproar. For all we knew, the public uproar may well have been the reason the speech was innocuous.

Now we do know. The Washington Post reports that the president’s speech was cleaned of controversial content, exactly as we speculated:

When critics lashed out at President Obama for scheduling a speech to public school students this month, accusing him of wanting to indoctrinate children to his politics, his advisers quickly scrubbed his planned comments for potentially problematic wording. They then reached out to progressive Web sites such as the Huffington Post, liberal bloggers and Democratic pundits to make their case to a friendly audience.

(Emphasis mine.) (Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


NYT on the ACORN scandal

September 16, 2009

The New York Times has broken its silence on the ACORN scandal, and they pretty much tell the story straight. I suppose they deserve a little credit for that, even if the story ran on page A14.

Nevertheless, there is one paragraph that is worthy of note:

In a statement over the weekend, Bertha Lewis, the chief organizer for Acorn, said the bogus prostitute and pimp had spent months visiting numerous Acorn offices, including those in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia, before getting the responses they were looking for.

You’ll notice that the NYT does not use a direct quote. The full statement is here, and this is the relevant part:

This recent scam, which was attempted in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia to name a few places, had failed for months before the results we’ve all recently seen.

(Emphasis mine.) You’ll notice New York on ACORN’s list of places where the sting had failed, but it was left off of the NYT’s version of the list. Why? Because New York is the one that proves ACORN’s statement was a lie. Immediately after ACORN released its statement, O’Keefe released the video of his visit to a New York office.

Leaving New York in the list eliminates the value of ACORN’s statement as a rebuttal, so the NYT struck it. Most organizations don’t get such a favor.

ACORN, by the way, has removed the entire statement from its web site.

POSTSCRIPT: The NYT article also contains this gem:

Robert L. Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, called the tactics used to go after Mr. Jones and Acorn “McCarthyite,” and said the critics were harping on minor failings and distorting records that over all were admirable. “This is dangerous stuff,” Mr. Borosage said. “I don’t think progressives will sit back and let this gain momentum.”

Hmm. Abetting the importation of child sex slaves from Central America is a “minor failing”?

(Previous post.)

UPDATE: Duane Patterson noticed the same thing. (Via Power Line.)


Doctors oppose health care nationalization

September 16, 2009

A new poll out from IBD/TIPP contradicts the White House’s claim that doctors support health care nationalization. It found, to the contrary, that:

  • 65% of practicing doctors oppose the plan.
  • 71% disagreed with the proposition that “the government can cover 47 million more people and that it will cost less money and the quality of care will be better.”
  • 45% would even consider quitting if the plan passes!

Another interesting tidbit that I didn’t know: the American Medical Association represents just 18% of physicians.

(Via Instapundit.)


    No Snowe

    September 16, 2009

    Olympia Snowe (R-ME) says she will not support the health care bill. This leaves Democrats with no Republican support at all, and also leaves them short of 60 votes even if they get every Democratic vote.

    Also, Reid makes it clear that he will use reconciliation to pass the bill. Under the Senate’s rules, reconciliation cannot be used for non-budget items — such as the public option, individual mandates, and employer mandates that make up the heart of the bill — but I’m sure we can expect Democrats to ignore the rules.

    (Via Instapundit.)


    Rise of the uncouth

    September 16, 2009

    Required reading, from Victor Davis Hanson.

    (Via Instapundit.)


    ACORN video #4

    September 15, 2009

    James O’Keefe has released yet another video of ACORN criminal behavior. That makes four now: Baltimore, DC, Brooklyn, and now San Bernadino, California. I’d say he has pretty well demolished ACORN’s claim that this is just a few bad apples.

    And Hannah Giles hints of more to come:

    1. Ask A Question: What if a “prostitute” and her alleged law school boyfriend walk into ACORN seeking housing for an underage brothel to fund his future congressional campaign?
    2. Do Background Research:
      1. Learn as much about ACORN housing procedures and protocol as possible.
      2. History of ACORN and their effect on the United States
    3. Construct a Hypothesis: ACORN is corrupt and it is in their nature to promote and disguise illegal behavior.
    4. Experiment: Baltimore, DC, Brooklyn, San Bernardino, and…
    5. Analyze and draw a conclusion.

    (Emphasis mine.) (Previous post.)


    Required

    September 15, 2009

    (Via the Corner.)


    Sex offender registration

    September 15, 2009

    I’ve long been uncomfortable with the idea of registering sex offenders who have served their full sentence. Whatever the courts may have ruled, it doesn’t seem constitutional to impose penalties on criminals beyond what the criminal courts impose.

    The Economist points out another problem: existing laws go much further than can be justified on public safety grounds, registering people who are no threat to society. Not only do they needlessly ruin lives, but they also make sex-offender registries ineffective, because it’s impossible to tell who the real dangers are.


    Venezuela to develop nuclear technology

    September 15, 2009

    Another totalitarian regime rich in gas and oil wants to develop nuclear energy for no clear reason. As with Iran, Russia is helping them.

    But don’t suggest that Hugo Chavez is looking to build nuclear weapons. That would be alarmist.

    (Via Power Line.)


    The Chinese tire tariff

    September 15, 2009

    Charles Krauthammer explains it:

    The way that the president has presented it is really remarkable. He doesn’t lie. He is too smart. He deceives.

    This is incredibly deceptive. He said, as we just heard, he says — all I’m doing here is enforcing trade agreements. That would make you think that the Chinese have done something wrong, that they had dumped a product or they had undercut or subsidized. In fact, not.

    This provision in the tariffs on tires are treated entirely by the U.S. Trade Act section 425 which allows the slapping on of a tariff simply in response to a surge of imports, even if it’s not illegal or done underhandedly — simply a surge. We have had a surge of imports. So it is not as if the Chinese are in violation of anything.

    What is the effect of it [the tariff]? It is only done in the name of unions. The tire companies are against the tariffs.

    What a time to be starting a trade war.


    Opposing Obama = racism

    September 15, 2009

    Not the worst aspect of the Obama presidency, but easily the most tedious, is how any opposition to President Obama is called racist:

    Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst last week is drawing new recriminations from his colleagues, with a member of the Congressional Black Caucus suggesting that a failure to rebuke the South Carolina Republican is tantamount to supporting the most blatant form of organized racism in American history.

    In an obvious reference to the Ku Klux Klan, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Tuesday that people will put on “white hoods and ride through the countryside” if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. . .

    New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in her column Sunday that Wilson’s outburst convinced her that racial angst is the underlying motive among Obama critics like Wilson.

    “I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer … had much to do with race,” she wrote. “But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted ‘liar’ at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.”

    Wilson didn’t use any racial language; he merely said (accurately) that President Obama was lying. The only thing wrong with it was he was interrupting the president’s speech.

    Conservatives and libertarians that oppose the president don’t care about his race; we care about his policies and the damage they will do to our country. It’s people like Johnson and Dowd that see him primarily as a black president. If they want to see racism, they need to look in a mirror.

    (More here and here and here.)

    UPDATE: Jimmy Carter too.

    UPDATE: Heh: Dissent is the highest form of patriotism racism. (Via Instapundit.)


    Incompetence

    September 15, 2009

    The age-old question regarding media failure is its cause: incompetence or malice? Charles Gibson, the ABC anchor, made the case for incompetence when he said this morning he didn’t even know about the ACORN scandal, or the Senate’s vote to cut off ACORN’s funding.

    (Via the Corner.) (Previous post.)


    ACORN illegal in Maryland

    September 15, 2009

    There’s a new wrinkle in the ACORN scandal; ACORN has no license to operate in Maryland:

    STATE OF MARYLAND
    Department of Assessments and Taxation . . .

    I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS FOR REFORM NOW, INC., A ARKANSAS CORPORATION, IS NOT IN GOOD STANDING WITH THIS DEPARTMENT FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:

    THE AUTHORITY OF THIS CORPORATION TO DO BUSINESS IN MARYLAND WAS FORFEITED BY THIS DEPARTMENT ON NOVEMBER 16, 2006.

    (Previous post.)


    The ACORN scandal

    September 15, 2009

    (I’m late in reporting this story, because I didn’t have the time to give it the treatment it deserves. And my how the story has grown in the meantime.)

    ACORN, the community-organizing and voter-fraud organization, has long been savaged for its various criminal activities. On September 9, they hoped they had gotten in front of their bad reputation when they turned in eleven of their workers for forging voter registrations. This, they argued, was proof that ACORN could police itself:

    “Over the last five years thousands of dedicated people have worked or volunteered with Florida ACORN. . . Fortunately, our quality control managers and the systems we developed ensured their ability to spot the isolated wrongdoing by these 11 workers who tried to pass off phony forms instead of doing their work.”

    The very next day, James O’Keefe went public with the results of his hidden camera investigation. (Transcript here.) O’Keefe went to an ACORN office in Baltimore posing as a pimp. He brought along Hannah Giles who posed as a prostitute. They spun a tail of various criminal activities, including fraud, child prostitution, and human trafficking. ACORN was all too happy to help. For example, the ACORN consultant suggested that Hannah list her occupation as “performance artist”, she recommended that they understate their income to the IRS, and she gave them advice on how to conceal their underage prostitutes (imported from El Salvador) from the authorities.

    ACORN denied everything:

    A spokesman for ACORN, Scott Levenson, when asked to comment on the videotape, said: “The portrayal is false and defamatory and an attempt at gotcha journalism. This film crew tried to pull this sham at other offices and failed. ACORN wants to see the full video before commenting further.”

    ACORN’s denial proved premature. First, it rang hollow when ACORN quickly fired the staffers. Then, O’Keefe released his second hidden camera investigation, in which he and Giles told the same story at an ACORN office in DC. (Transcript here.) Again, the staffers were happy to help. ACORN quickly fired those staffers as well.

    Desperate to get in front of the scandal, ACORN issued a statement accusing Fox News of racism. (ACORN erroneously gave Fox credit/blame for O’Keefe’s work, presumably because Fox News is unpopular among its base of support.) That’s right, ACORN abets trafficking in underage prostitutes, and Fox News is somehow racist for reporting the scandal. The small consolation for ACORN is that most of the media was not so “racist”, and ignored the whole affair. At first.

    ACORN still had its supporters. The state attorney in Baltimore issued an amazing statement indicating that it had no plans to prosecute ACORN, but it would investigate criminal wrongdoing by O’Keefe! (It seems that hidden microphones are illegal under Maryland law, but the state attorney had not previously prosecuted journalists for hidden camera investigations.) It’s not surprising to learn that Patricia Jessamy, the state attorney in question, is a Democrat who served on a steering committee for the Obama campaign.

    But the Census Bureau, which had a controversial deal with ACORN to assist in the census, had heard enough. Citing “worsening negative perceptions” (I’d say so!), it cancelled its deal with ACORN.

    ACORN continued to try to defend itself. It issued a statement threatening legal action against Fox News. That is almost certainly a bluff (and a clumsy one), because — aside from having no case — the last thing ACORN wants is for someone to have the opportunity for discovery. The statement also said:

    “This recent scam, which was attempted in San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia to name a few places, had failed for months before the results we’ve all recently seen.”

    This turned out to be a lie, at the very least in regards to New York, as we learned when O’Keefe released his third video. In the third video, O’Keefe and Giles told the same story (fraud, underage prostitution, human trafficking) at an ACORN office in New York, and again received their assistance.

    That was finally too much for Congress. The Senate voted 83-7 to cut off funding for ACORN and the House is due to consider similar action shortly. (Among the seven who voted with ACORN was Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey. His father must be rolling in his grave. Roland Burris (D-IL), who is only in the Senate because Democratic leaders quashed proposals for a special election, is another.) Meanwhile, the Brooklyn DA’s office says they will be taking a look, and ACORN may be vulnerable under RICO as well. (It’s hard to imagine Eric Holder approving an investigation of ACORN though.)

    The question now is, what happens next?

    UPDATE: What happens next is a fourth video.


    Hypocrisy

    September 15, 2009

    Democrats are ready to rebuke Joe Wilson (R-SC) for his (accurate but out-of-order) outburst during the president’s speech:

    House Democratic leaders have decided to formally discipline Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., on Tuesday for his jeer last week at President Obama during a joint session of Congress. . .

    Wilson bellowed “You lie!” at Obama during his address. It’s against House rules to call the president a “liar” or accuse him of “lying” when the House is in session.

    It’s against the rules to call the president a liar, is it? I’ll be interested to see how Pete Stark (D-CA) votes on the resolution. The Democrats never rebuked him for repeatedly calling President Bush a liar from the House floor.

    (Via Instapundit.)


    Got one

    September 15, 2009

    Fox News reports:

    Navy Seals from US Special Operations Forces conducted a raid in southern Somalia on Monday that killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of 4 co-conspirators wanted in the 2002 bombing of an Israel owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, two senior U.S. military officials told Fox News.

    Ten days ago President Obama signed the Execute Order for Nabhan, who since 2006 was on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists. He was also wanted for the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya in 1998.

    (Via Instapundit.)


    DOJ refuses to cooperate with Black Panther inquiry

    September 14, 2009

    In June, the US Civil Rights Commission indicated its intention to investigate the dismissal of charges in the Black Panther voter-intimidation incident, and requested the Department of Justice’s cooperation. After ignoring the commission’s letter for weeks, the DOJ has written back indicating that it will not cooperate. (Unbelievably, they claim that they couldn’t possibly cooperate until they complete their internal investigation.)

    Naturally, the response infuriated the commission (which has subpoena power), and may prompt it to designate the affair as the subject for a year-long study and special report. Given that, what on earth could the DOJ be thinking? Everyone knows it’s not the offense but the cover-up that does real damage.

    (Previous post.) (Via Instapundit.)


    The lights are going out in Britain

    September 14, 2009

    The UK’s government (in office since 1997) is even more incompetent than I ever dreamed. Great Britain is facing a looming shortage of power-generating capacity and will probably begin seeing brownouts as soon as 2013.

    Most of Britain’s nuclear plants will have reached the end of their service life and be shut down without being replaced. About half of Britain’s coal-fired plants will be shut down because of pollution controls. Nuclear and coal together account for 45% of Britain’s electricity.


    Chavez continues media crackdown

    September 14, 2009

    I’m not sure if this constitutes news any more, but Venezuela is continuing to tighten its suppression of the media. Some lowlights:

    On August 1st, 34 radio stations were taken off the air for allegedly failing to submit the proper paperwork to the broadcasting regulator. In all, more than half the country’s 656 privately owned radio stations face fines and possible closure on this ground. Their owners say they have tried for years to update their paperwork, with no response from the authorities.

    and:

    The attorney-general, Luisa Ortega, unveiled a draft law against “media crimes” which proposes jail terms of up to four years for vaguely worded offences such as “prejudicing state security” or the “mental health” of the public. Not just reporters and media owners, but anyone expressing himself in the media (or failing to report news the authorities consider essential) may face prosecution. The right to free speech must be “regulated”, Ms Ortega said.


    White House claims one million jobs saved

    September 14, 2009

    The WSJ reports:

    The White House Council of Economic Advisers said Thursday the $787 billion stimulus plan kept one million people working who would otherwise not have had jobs. . . The report, which had been delayed for a month, is the first estimate from the Council of Economic Advisers on the issue of whether stimulus spending has saved jobs that otherwise would have been lost. . .

    The council said it compared current economic indicators to projections of the direction they were headed before the stimulus plan was passed.

    What an unadulterated load of crap. Here is a comparison of where the economy was headed before the stimulus (by the Obama administration’s own analysis) with where it went:

    stimulus-vs-unemployment-august


    Wind power kills birds

    September 14, 2009

    A WSJ piece says that wind power plants are killing between tens and hundreds of thousands of birds yearly. I don’t necessarily care all that much, but it’s very strange that wind power gets a pass, while other power technologies get prosecuted for killing birds on a scale several orders of magnitude smaller.


    Religious freedom in politics upheld

    September 12, 2009

    A New York federal court has rejected a truly odious separation-of-church-and-state lawsuit. In Incantalupo v. Lawrence Free School District, the plaintiffs sought to bar a school board from enacting a policy (tax cuts) that were generally favored by Orthodox Jews and generally opposed by others. They alleged that cutting taxes would give Orthodox Jews more money to spend on private religious schooling, and therefore the tax cuts violate the separation of church and state.

    The court rightly rejected this appalling argument:

    Indeed, by objecting to lower taxes because they might help some people afford yeshiva education, Plaintiffs’ Complaint, on its clear face, seeks to create , not cure, a First Amendment Equal Protection violations. Plaintiffs do not claim, nor could they, that supporting lower taxes and less school spending by itself violates the First or Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, under Plaintiffs’ reasoning, no claim would lie against political conservatives who ideologically disfavor spending on public schools, or retirees who have no children in the public school system and want lower taxes to boost their discretionary income.

    Rather, Plaintiffs believe that the School Board’s actions are problematic entirely because the School Board members are Orthodox Jews who are motivated, in part, to help other Orthodox Jews pay yeshiva tuition by lowering their tax burden. In short, Plaintiffs seek to deny Orthodox Jews political rights possessed by every other group in the United States: the right to mobilize in support of religiously neutral government policies, and then have those policies enacted through normal democratic processes.

    I’m glad to see that the court made the right decision in this case, but it’s not the only such case in the pipeline, or even the worst. In this case the plaintiffs were just a bunch of bigoted yahoos, but there’s a similar case filed by the ACLU against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that case, the ACLU seemed to argue that an organization receiving government money could not refuse to spend that money on abortion, if its refusal would be for religious reasons.


    UK training Libyan special forces

    September 12, 2009

    The Telegraph reports:

    For the past six months Britain’s elite troops have been schooling soldiers working for Col Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which for years provided Republican terrorists with the Semtex explosive, machine-guns and anti-aircraft missiles used against British troops during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

    Sources within the SAS have expressed distaste at the agreement, which they believe could be connected to the release of the Lockerbie bomber. . .

    Gordon Brown has faced claims that his Government helped engineer Megrahi’s release to promote Britain’s commercial interests, particularly energy, in Libya.

    Downing Street has denied the allegations, but Jack Straw, the Justice Minister, has admitted that trade was a factor in deciding to include Megrahi in an earlier prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.

    What could go wrong?

    (Previous post.)