ACLU reverses on free speech

April 30, 2010

The ACLU’s old position on restrictions on campaign contributions (as quoted in a WSJ op-ed) was:

Limitations on contributions or expenditures made by individuals or organizations for the purpose of advocating causes or candidates in the public forum impinge directly on freedom of speech and association. Their implementation poses serious dangers to the First Amendment. They should be opposed in candidate as well as referenda elections.

That position was right. “Campaign contributions” is simply like-minded people pooling their money to fund their speech. Limits on campaign contributions are no more or less than a limit on free association and speech.

That position put the ACLU at odds with the bulk of the liberal establishment, who want to limit free speech. In fact, liberal politicians tried to cap expenditures as well as contributions (that is, the actual speech, and not just the free association to fund speech) but was blocked by the Supreme Court.

That probably made for awkward moments at dinner parties. Anyway, whatever the reason, the ACLU Board of Directors has voted to reverse its position. The ACLU is now officially okay with limits on free speech.

FCC can’t “reclassify” the Internet

April 30, 2010

Some liberals have urged the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a “telecommunications service” in order to circumvent the court ruling barring the FCC from imposing network neutrality. Larry Downes says it’s not so simple.

(Previous post.)

At a certain point you’ve seized enough power

April 30, 2010

President Obama says “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

Oh? How much is enough, precisely? Last year, Barack Obama earned $5,623,690, according to his tax return. Is $5.6 million per year enough? Apparently not. If a smaller amount were “enough” you would expect that he would have given away the excess. He did not. In fact, he gave less than 6% of his income to charity.

So whatever the “enough money” point is, I guess it’s higher than $5.6 million per year.

POSTSCRIPT: Let me add a more serious response: Of course there are diminishing marginal returns to earning more money, but what point is enough is an individual decision. Does Obama have any appreciation for the concept of an individual decision?

Moreover, does Obama not understand that people trying to make money is what drives the economy? When people decide they’ve made enough, they stop growing the economy and creating jobs. That’s bad, remember?

(Via Instapundit.) (The title is borrowed from Scott Johnson’s excellent rejoinder.)

Good thinking

April 30, 2010

The UN has elected Iran to a seat on its women’s rights commission. I guess they felt that con was underrepresented.

Incidentally, the election was carried out by acclamation. The United States could have blocked it, or at least forced a vote, but chose not to.

UPDATE: Officials say there was no mechanism by which this could have been blocked. Everything is settled in UN back-room deals.

Activision is a bunch of weasels

April 28, 2010

Activision Blizzard (which owns the Infinity Ward studio) is withholding promised bonuses for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in an effort to force employees to stay and work on Modern Warfare 3. The effort doesn’t seem to be working; 26 employees have left Activision so far since the Infinity Ward meltdown began.

The Call of Duty franchise isn’t dead, but it’s probably put out its last good game. With Infinity Ward going down the tubes, the franchise will probably end up in the hands of the Treyarch studio, which developed the series’s bad installments.

Much of the Infinity Ward studio is reforming as Respawn Entertainment. Unfortunately, it looks like Respawn will be a part of EA, which is also a bunch of weasels.

Palin cleared yet again

April 28, 2010

Yet another ethics complaint against Sarah Palin has been dismissed. She has been cleared 26 times, with 1 complaint still outstanding. Palin said:

My reaction upon reading the opinion in this matter was not what I expected. Though I’m always pleased with the results of these investigations that prove the false allegations wrong, and I appreciate the detailed reasoning set forth in this recent opinion, I was primarily disappointed that the State of Alaska, the Attorney General’s office, and others, still have to spend time and resources addressing the abusive onslaught of frivolous complaints directed against me—even after I left office.

(Via the Corner.)

NYT op-ed based on wrong bill

April 28, 2010

On Monday the NYT published a hyperbolic op-ed by Linda Greenhouse attacking Arizona’s new immigration law. The whole piece was based on an error:

And in case the phrase “lawful contact” makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. “A person is guilty of trespassing,” the law provides, by being “present on any public or private land in this state” while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented.

This is false. The trespassing provision was stripped from the bill before it passed, as the NYT concedes in its correction:

An earlier version of this Op-Ed essay referred incorrectly to the provisions of the new Arizona immigration statute. The version of the bill signed by the governor no longer includes a section under which undocumented immigrants would be guilty of trespassing for being on Arizona soil.

Oops. Is it too much to expect that a “Distinguished Journalist in Residence” at Yale Law School might actually read the bill, or at least determine its provisions, before trashing it? Apparently so.

Anyway, the NYT has corrected the piece by deleting the offending paragraph, but without that paragraph the piece makes no sense. Greenhouse calls Arizona a police state, saying:

Wasn’t the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa?

Actually “distasteful” is far too mild a word. (But why limit your attention to bygone eras in the Soviet Union and South Africa? How about today’s UK? Oh, but the UK is run by progressives. Hmm.) However, if the law applies only to those who are arrested for a crime — as it does — that description really doesn’t apply. So now the piece is a hyperbolic expression of outrage (yes, it does compare the law to the Holocaust, if obliquely) without any hook to hang that outrage on.

POSTSCRIPT: I feel compelled to remind my readers that I’m a proponent of open borders. I’m not concerned about Latin American immigrants changing the nature of our society or whatever. Unfortunately, open borders are incompatible with the welfare state. If we cannot prevent immigrants from becoming a drain on public finances (as seems to be a political and/or legal impossibility), we have to restrict immigration to those who can earn their keep. Personally I would rather fix the government and open the borders, but it’s not up to me.

In any case, if we have immigration controls, Arizona is within its rights to turn over illegal immigrants that it arrests for other crimes to the federal government for deportation. As I understand it, that’s what the Arizona law does. Not being familiar with the debate, I’m not sure if I would support the bill. It certainly wouldn’t be a priority for me. But I also certainly don’t see it as some sort of Nazi-esque outrage.

UPDATE: This was probably an honest (if stupid) mistake. But Greenhouse’s errors aren’t always innocent.

Medicare Actuary pans Obamacare, part 2

April 27, 2010

Last week I noted the report from the Medicare Actuary, which said that Obamacare will cost much more than predicted. Here’s some more of the report’s interesting conclusions:

  • 14 million people will lose or drop their employer-sponsored health care. This is greater than the number who will gain it. (Page 7.)
  • Of the 34 million people who will become insured for the first time, more than half will obtain that coverage through Medicaid. (Medicaid reimbursements are so low that many doctors don’t take it.) (Page 6.)
  • 12% of insured workers will be in “high-cost” plans and subject to the excise tax in 2019, and the percentage will increase “rapidly” after that. Consequently, the excise tax provision is likely to be modified. (Pages 12-13.)
  • The excise tax on “high-cost” plans is the main provision that will tend to reduce costs. (If it actually happens.) The effect of most of the provisions to control health care costs will be “small” or “negligible”, or cannot be estimated. (Pages 12-13.)
  • The funding for high-risk pools will be exhausted within 1 to 3 years. Consequently, unless additional funding is provided, that program will probably end before other coverage kicks in. (Page 15.)

Price controls

April 27, 2010

In order to carry out the reconciliation shuffle, Democrats had to abandon their ambitions of putting overt price controls into their health care nationalization bill. That’s fortunate, because price controls are a complete disaster in Massachusetts. Naturally, Democrats are now working to bring Massachusetts’s woes to the rest of the country.

POSTSCRIPT: The additional irony is that the bill did contain price controls that will push up rates for most customers.

Politics of division

April 27, 2010

Barack Obama, July 2004:

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America–there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America–there’s the United States of America.

Barack Obama, April 2010:

This year, the stakes are higher than ever. It will be up to each of you to make sure that young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again.

The outrage expands

April 27, 2010

The Prince George beating scandal expands, with even more official misconduct:

After the iPhone video of McKenna’s beating emerged, investigators subpoenaed 60 hours of surveillance video from the College Park campus police. The only video police couldn’t manage to locate was the one from the camera aimed squarely at the area where McKenna was beaten. Funny how that works. Campus police claimed that a “technical error” with that particular camera caused it to record over the footage of the beating. As public pressure mounted, police later found what they claimed was a recording of the lost video. But two minutes of that video were missing. Coincidentally, those two minutes happened to depict key portions of McKenna’s beating. The kicker? The head of the campus video surveillance system, Lt. Joanne Ardovini, is married to one of the cops named in McKenna’s complaint.

This looks really really bad.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Maryland, officials tried to prosecute a man for recording a police officer making an overly aggressive traffic stop. (Don’t they realize how bad this looks?) And it turns out that they had no case:

In fact, under Maryland law what Graber did isn’t actually a crime. For a recording to be illegal, one of the parties being recorded must have a reasonable expectation of privacy. A cop, acting as a cop, with his gun drawn, while standing alongside a public roadway, has no such expectation. On April 15th, Graber was released and the charges against him were dropped. As he told Miller, “The judge who released me looked at the paperwork and said she didn’t see where I violated the wiretapping law.”

But that didn’t stop the police from jailing the man for over a day and searching his home. Worse:

Graber was harassed, intimidated, illegally arrested, and jailed for an act that clearly wasn’t illegal. According to Graber, the name of the judge who signed off on the raid of his parents’ home doesn’t appear on the warrant. As Graber told Miller, “They told me they don’t want you to know who the judge is because of privacy.” If true, that statement is so absurd it’s mind numbing. A judge issued an illegal warrant for police to invade the private residence and rummage through the private belongings of a man who broke no laws, and we aren’t permitted to know the judge’s name in order to protect the judge’s privacy?

The authorities in Maryland are out of control.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE (9/28): Four months later, the charges against Graber have been dropped.

Democrats covered up actuary report?

April 27, 2010

UPDATE: The Medicare Actuary says there is no truth to this report. (Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: The Spectator is standing by its story, sort of, saying that although the actual report had not been delivered, the data underlying it had. I have no idea whether or not that’s true, but in any case it’s not what they said originally. This gives the media an excuse (if they needed one) not to pursue the story, so I think this story will go away quickly. (Via Instapundit.)

Whether or not the Spectator is right now, there’s a lesson here: details matter. If you work for the MSM, you can afford to get the details wrong at first. If you’re on the outside, you have to get them right.


Last week I noted that the Democrats had hurried through a vote on the health care nationalization bill before the Medicare Actuary could complete his report, which ultimately found that the bill would raise costs, not lower them. Now a far more serious allegation has been made, that the Democrats actually had the report and covered it up:

The economic report released last week by Health and Human Services, which indicated that President Barack Obama’s health care “reform” law would actually increase the cost of health care and impose higher costs on consumers, had been submitted to the office of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the Congressional votes on the bill, according to career HHS sources, who added that Sebelius’s staff refused to review the document before the vote was taken.

“The reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote,” says an HHS source. “Which is actually the point of having a review like this, you would think.”

The analysis, performed by Medicare’s Office of the Actuary, which in the past has been identified as a “nonpolitical” office, set off alarm bells when submitted. “We know a copy was sent to the White House via their legislative affairs staff,” says the HHS staffer, “and there were a number of meetings here almost right after the analysis was submitted to the secretary’s office. Everyone went into lockdown, and people here were too scared to go public with the report.”

In the end, the report was released several weeks after the vote — the review by the secretary’s office reportedly took less than three days — and bore a note that the analysis was not the official position of the Obama administration.

If these allegations are substantiated, this is a huge scandal. Will the press investigate?

(Via Instapundit.)

Pennsylvania scores on campus free speech

April 26, 2010

Glenn Reynolds is proud of his institution, the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, for quickly acting to protect free speech on campus and preserve its green-light rating from FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). FIRE’s press release says UT Knoxville is “one of only a handful of schools to receive FIRE’s most favorable ‘green light’ rating for protecting free speech on campus.”

My institution, Carnegie Mellon University, also has a green light, and I was curious who the rest of the handful were so I assembled the list:

  • Bucks County Community College (Pennsylvania)
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania)
  • Cleveland State University (Ohio)
  • The College of William and Mary (Virginia)
  • Dartmouth (New Hampshire)
  • Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of South Dakota
  • University of Tennessee – Knoxville
  • University of Utah

One quickly notices a few things: (1) Not very many schools defend free speech. (2) Most of these are public schools; just three of the eleven (CMU, Dartmouth, Penn) are private. (3) Over a third are in a single state, Pennsylvania, the only state to have more than one. (4) Despite the high esteem in which the institutes of higher learning of Massachusetts and California are held, there’s not one from either state.

Crony capitalism at its worst

April 25, 2010

Ed Morrissey:

The importation of toys with lead paint from China two years ago prompted Congress to pass the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), requiring extensive independent testing of all products sold — or resold — for children. The new regulations threatened to put small manufacturers and thrift shops out of business, thanks to the onerous burden of test costs. But what about the big manufacturer that actually put 2 million contaminated products on shelves? Mattel gets a waiver from testing requirements — again.

The legislation passed in response to Mattel’s misconduct is driving Mattel’s competition out of business but exempting Mattel itself. This is an outrage, but it’s also typical. Big business pretends that it opposes new regulation, but usually it secretly loves regulation because it forces smaller competition out of business.

Think about this as Democrats say they are going to punish Wall Street. The big firms are crying all the way to the bank, so to speak.

(Via Hot Air.)

Hacker finds hidden arrest video

April 25, 2010

A security expert arrested illegally by Seattle police proved that the police were lying when they claimed the recording of his arrest had been deleted. (Via Instapundit.)


April 24, 2010

GM is paying off its bailout debt using other bailout funds. Evidence of progress at GM this is not.

UPDATE: The new definition of chutzpah: paying off 10% of your debt and then authoring an op-ed entitled “The GM Bailout: Paid Back in Full”.

The consequence of idiocy

April 24, 2010

President Obama’s repeated disdain for America’s special relationship with Britain may soon be bearing consequences. Britain’s far-left third party has soared in the polls, and is using Obama’s ambivalence toward the special relationship as justification for ending it. The Washington Post explains:

Mr. Clegg’s stance on those issues could make some in Washington nervous. In a speech this week he called for a shakeup in relations between the United States and the United Kingdom and described as “embarrassing the way Conservative and Labor politicians talk in this kind of slavish way about the special relationship.” He added that there were “profound differences” between the two countries and argued that the Obama administration had already written off the idea that Britain was a special ally. “If they are moving on, why on earth don’t we?” he said.

Intentionally or not, Mr. Obama has offered support for Mr. Clegg’s argument: His relatively chilly relationship with Mr. Brown, including several perceived snubs, has been a persistent theme of British news coverage. Yet the United States can hardly afford a weaker or less friendly Britain at a time when it is still fighting two wars and when diplomacy with states such as Iran, North Korea and Syria is failing.

(Emphasis mine.)

Would it have been so hard to treat the Prime Minister and the Queen with respect, to repudiate State Department statements that the special relationship was over, and to express support for British oil claims off the Falklands coast? No, it wouldn’t have, but he didn’t.

During the Bush administration, there was a lot of idle talk about how President Bush was damaging relations with our allies. Obama has actually done it.

(Via Power Line.)

A day late and a dollar short

April 24, 2010

Six months later, Steny Hoyer (the House Democratic leader) admits it was wrong to call people protesting health care nationalization “un-American“:

“That was not a good phrase, not a good use of language, it was not correct,” Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said. . . Mr. Hoyer said he made a mistake in reading the op-ed too quickly and approving it.

Nancy Pelosi did not join him in retracting the smear.

(Via Big Government.)

Don’t be evil?

April 24, 2010

My distrust of Google had recently started to wane a little, but it’s back now. The Register reports:

Google’s roving Street View spycam may blur your face, but it’s got your number. The Street View service is under fire in Germany for scanning private WLAN networks, and recording users’ unique Mac (Media Access Control) addresses, as the car trundles along. . .

Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said internet users shouldn’t worry about privacy unless they have something to hide.

(Via Instapundit.)

This film is not yet rated

April 24, 2010

I recently saw a film entitled This Film is Not Yet Rated, an attack documentary against the MPAA film ratings board. Despite being generally pre-disposed to dislike the MPAA, I found the film thoroughly unconvincing.

The basic problem with the movie is that it doesn’t understand what censorship is. Censorship is not when someone fails to forge the business deals necessary to produce and disseminate his speech. Were that the case, millions of aspiring writers and directors would be being “censored” all the time when no one agrees to produce their movie. No, censorship is when a group of people do forge the consensual business deals necessary to produce and disseminate speech, and a third party comes in to stop it. That third party is typically the government, but of late it has often been Muslim pressure groups bringing threats of violence.

There’s no third party in the MPAA system. If a theater wants to show an NC-17 movie, no one is stopping them, and some do. However, most theaters have voluntarily decided not to show movies rated NC-17, and most advertising media have voluntarily decided not to air commercials for such movies. These companies have made the business decision to trust the MPAA’s ratings, and consequently an unfavorable rating keeps producers from forging the business deals needed to garner a wide audience. This isn’t censorship; it’s free enterprise.

In one astonishing interview, a lawyer who (honest to God) is labeled as a “First Amendment Attorney” says that we would be better off with a government censorship board than the MPAA. At that point it became pretty clear not to take the movie seriously.

The movie does make one allegation that might hold water: it claims that the MPAA is much easier on studio films than independent films. The movie’s evidence is not exactly airtight, but the charge is quite plausible since the studios fund the MPAA. If true, it’s still not censorship, but it is anti-competitive behavior that is probably illegal. But if anyone has ever sued the MPAA over its ratings on anti-trust grounds, I can’t find evidence of it.

But apart from that point,  the whole movie takes a far more indignant tone than it is entitled to. The MPAA reviews movies, and they don’t like the reviews.

The movie does argue convincingly that the MPAA ratings are fairly arbitrary. They also argue that the ratings favor some potentially objectionable material over other (e.g., violence over sex, and heterosexual sex over homosexual sex). Most of those preferences seem unsurprising, since in most cases the raters seem to be reflecting the prevailing social mores.

A summary of the movie would be incomplete if it did not mention the investigation plot. The movie takes issue with the fact that the raters’ identities are unknown, and much of the movie is dedicated to a private investigator’s effort to learn their identities. The effort is successful, and it turns out the demographics of the raters are not precisely what is suggested by the MPAA. (For instance, most of them do not have young children.)

A summary would also be incomplete if it did not mention that parts of the movie are very difficult to watch. The movie is rife with clips from scenes of various movies than earned them NC-17 ratings. The apparent reason for the inclusion of these clips is to ensure that the movie itself received an NC-17 rating. The narrator/director pretends to be upset by this utterly unsurprising development, but without it the film could not have its third act in which he laughably attempts to fight the rating.

At least I can still despise the MPAA for its support of copyright extension and the DMCA.

Medicare Actuary pans Obamacare

April 23, 2010

Surprise, surprise. The Medicare Actuary says that health care nationalization will cost more than projected:

President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law is getting a mixed verdict in the first comprehensive look by neutral experts: More Americans will be covered, but costs are also going up. . .

But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president’s twin goal of controlling runaway costs, raising projected spending by about 1 percent over 10 years. That increase could get bigger, since Medicare cuts in the law may be unrealistic and unsustainable, the report warned. . .

In addition to flagging provider cuts as potentially unsustainable, the report projected that reductions in payments to private Medicare Advantage plans would trigger an exodus from the popular alternative. Enrollment would plummet by about 50 percent. Seniors leaving the private plans would still have health insurance under traditional Medicare, but many might face higher out-of-pocket costs. In another flashing yellow light, the report warned that a new voluntary long-term care insurance program created under the law faces “a very serious risk” of insolvency.

So the new law drives health care costs up, even if you assume Medicare reimbursements will be cut, which of course they won’t be. The full report is here. No wonder Democrats wouldn’t wait for the report before passing the bill.

BONUS: Kathleen Sebelius admits that she has no idea what the bill’s high-risk pools will cost.

POSTSCRIPT: The report did say that the bill would extend health coverage to 34 million more people, but as people will discover, coverage is not necessarily the same thing as access. At a talk I attended yesterday, Allan Meltzer pointed out that the bill does nothing to expand the supply of health care. Primary-care physicians are already underpaid, and the bill assumes their pay will be cut further. Thus, expanding coverage merely moves the long lines for treatment out of the emergency room and into the physician’s office where all of us can enjoy them.

UPDATE: In fact, most of the newly insured would be in Medicaid, which many doctors won’t accept because the reimbursement rates are so low.

Most mortgage debt wasn’t for houses

April 23, 2010

We’ve long heard that most of the so-called victims of the mortgage crisis are people who bought houses they couldn’t afford, which tends to make us unsympathetic to such “victims”. It turns out that narrative isn’t true; most of the “victims” are even less sympathetic than that:

One of Alan Greenspan’s lesser-known contributions to the annals of the credit crisis was a pair of studies he co-authored for the Fed, sizing up exactly how much Americans borrowed against their home equity in the bubble and what it was they were spending their newfound (phantom) wealth on. Greenspan estimated that four-fifths of the trifold increase in American households’ mortgage debt between 1990 and 2006 resulted from “discretionary extraction of home equity.” Only one-fifth resulted from the purchase of new homes. In 2005 alone, U.S. homeowners extracted a half-trillion-plus dollars from their real estate via home-equity loans and cash-out refinances. Some $263 billion of the proceeds went to consumer spending and to pay off other debts.

Only a fifth of the explosion in mortgage debt was actually people buying houses! Four-fifths was people extracting money from their houses, and about half of that went to consumer spending and other debts.

(Via Will Collier.)

Obama hikes taxes on the poor

April 23, 2010

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office finds that 3 million low- and middle-income taxpayers will be forced to pay the penalty for failure to obtain health insurance. The report finds that 3 million taxpayers earning up to 5 times the poverty line will be paying an average of $633 in penalties. (Five times the poverty line is $54k for an individual, and $110k for a family of four.) Worse, 400 thousand who are actually below the poverty line will be paying an average of $500 in penalties. That’s right, 400 thousand taxpayers in poverty will still be uninsured, and will also have to pay penalties.

All of those are people to whom President Obama pledged he would not raise their taxes. An additional 900 thousand people over 5 times the poverty line will be paying the penalty, but the CBO report does not break that total up further. A few of those people are earning over the $250k threshold (about 23 times the poverty line for an individual, or 11 times for a family of four) at which Obama said tax increases would begin.

The CBO estimate indicates that 45% of the penalty collections will be from low- and middle-income taxpayers under 5 times the poverty line.

Obama lied about Blagojevich

April 23, 2010

Court filings in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption case that were improperly redacted show that President Obama and others in the White House lied repeatedly about their contacts with the corrupt ex-governor.

Obama said on December 9, 2008:

I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.

But that same day Jake Tapper noted that on November 23, 2008, David Axelrod had said:

I know he’s talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.

That led to a hasty denial from the transition team:

An Obama aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, took back David Axelrod’s remark last month that Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich had spoken recently.

“What the president-elect said today is correct, David Axelrod misspoke,” the aide said.

And Axelrod issued a semi-retraction:

I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.

Obama’s initial statement, his staff’s denial, and Axelrod’s retraction are now shown to be lies by court filings obtained by Chicago’s NBC affiliate. Those filings were supposed to be heavily redacted to obscure all the juicy revelations, but the redaction was done improperly. NBC summarizes those revelations:

  1. Obama may have lied about conversations with convicted fraudster Tony Rezko.
  2. Obama may have overtly recommended Valerie Jarret for his Senate seat.
  3. A supporter of President Obama may have offered quid pro quo on a Jarrett senate appointment.
  4. Obama maintained a list of good Senate candidates.
  5. Rahm Emanuel allegedly floated Cheryl Jackson’s name for the Senate seat.
  6. Obama had a secret phone call with Blagojevich.

I find it amazing that Obama ever tried to maintain that he had not talked to Blagojevich about the seat. I find it even more amazing that he tried to maintain he had not talked to Blagojevich at all. Of course he talked to Blagojevich, and of course he talked to him about the seat. It’s inconceivable that he wouldn’t. But I guess he thought that the proof could be kept under wraps, and without proof the matter would go away. It worked until now.

Is it a big deal that the president and his staff lied repeatedly about his contacts with Blagojevich? One would think so. Selling a US Senate seat is a big scandal, even for Chicago, and Obama has placed himself into it. Will it be treated as such? Probably not.

(Via Instapundit.)

Pot, meet kettle

April 22, 2010

President Obama says:

A free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it.

Oh, surely not. Everyone knows that’s the job of government.

Congress to keep its health insurance

April 22, 2010

Two weeks ago it was discovered that Congress accidentally stripped itself of its health insurance as part of the health care nationalization bill. The Congressional Research Service noted that the Congressional health plan would be shut down immediately, but the new exchanges (though which Congress is to acquire its health care) won’t be created for years.

But, as anyone would predict, the government has decided to set aside the law. (After all, why should Congress be bound by its own laws?) Here is the entire announcement:

In response to your inquiries, this is to advise you that the Office of Personnel Management has concluded that Section 1312(d)(3)(D) of the Affordable Care Act, Public Law No. 111-148, is not effective until the state exchanges referenced in section 1312(d)(3)(D)become operational. The provision accordingly has no current effect upon the eligibility of Members of Congress or their staffs to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Members and their staffs are eligible to continue to participate fully in the FEHBP. Accordingly, the responsible employing offices within Congress should continue to process the enrollments of Members and their staffs in FEHBP plans.

You’ll note that the announcement contains not one word of legal argument in support of its conclusion, saying merely that “the Office of Personnel Management has concluded”.

This outrage is expected, but it’s an outrage nonetheless.

Someone ought to sue. Sure, it would be petty, but it’s important that the people who passed this bill without reading it face the consequences of their malfeasance.

(Via the Corner.)

POSTSCRIPT: As long as we are tossing the law aside, I wish the Office of Personnel Management could issue an announcement that would let the rest of us keep our health insurance too.

ACORN ban reinstated

April 22, 2010

Human Events reports:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has issued a stay on the December 2009 injunction by Clinton-appointed Judge Nina Gershon that declared the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) funding ban was unconstitutional.

The result of the stay is that the Congressional funding ban will go back into effect, and ACORN will not receive taxpayer dollars while the court reviews the case.

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: The Supreme Court has turned down ACORN’s appeal. (Via Big Government.)


April 22, 2010

Forget about winning the time slot. Keith Olbermann isn’t even the most popular host of his own program.

The “we’re screwed” chart of the day

April 21, 2010

President Bush was bad. President Obama is really, really bad:

(Via Paul Ryan.)

Iran deploys troops to Venezuela

April 21, 2010

A new Pentagon report reveals.

Appeasement isn’t working. Sounds like we need more appeasement!

(Via Hot Air.)

White House hides from health care

April 21, 2010

After the Democrats passed their health care nationalization bill in the face of strong public opposition, they tried to put a brave face on the public outrage, arguing that the public would like the bill once they came to understand it. Democrats, we were told, would be delighted to campaign on the issue.

That has turned out to be pure spin. The White House is now treating the issue like the millstone it is, and wants to talk about anything but:

Three months ago, at a private meeting of nervous House Democratic lawmakers, President Obama promised to put the full weight of his office behind the marketing of the health-care bill once it became law.

“We’ve spent so much time talking about the House bill versus the Senate bill that we haven’t been able to talk about how great the bill is overall. Once we have a final bill, we can really talk about how it’s going to help Americans,” Obama said at the time.

But since April 1, the subject has hardly escaped his lips publicly, and it looks like the entire month of April might go by without a presidential event focused on health care.

The White House announced Tuesday that his next swing through Main Street America — a trip to Iowa, Missouri and Illinois next week — will focus on jobs and the economy as Obama meets with small-business owners and farmers.

There was no mention of health care in the announcement.

(Via Hot Air.)

Current events

April 21, 2010

Ridiculous. Who ever heard of a parasite saying thank you?

(Via Power Line.)

Iran could have ICBMs in five years

April 20, 2010

Fox News reports:

“With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” says a new 12 page unclassified report prepared by the Department of Defense on the Iran Military Threat.

Meanwhile, we have no strategy for dealing with Iran.

Clinton compares Tea Party to Oklahoma City bombers

April 20, 2010

Bill Clinton’s op-ed last weekend did accomplish one thing. I had begun to look back wistfully at the Clinton administration as a time when a Democratic president was generally competent. His op-ed reminds me why I despised him so much at the time.

The purpose of Clinton’s piece is to try to stigmatize opposition to the government, and in so doing, marginalize the Tea Party movement in which that opposition is concentrated. In the piece, he compares the Tea Party movement to the Oklahoma City bombers. Naturally, he writes it very carefully, never actually accusing anyone in particular of violence. But the message is clear: those people are dangerous. Some of them are going to resort to violence, and then all of them are culpable for “demonizing the government.”

This sort of guilt-by-tenuous-association usually starts after the violence takes place. That was Bill Clinton’s modus operandi after the Oklahoma City bombing when he spent years exploiting it to demagogue the right. But now Clinton knows that the likelihood of actual violence is very low. (In fact, virtually all the actual violence is being directed at Tea Partiers by the left, union thugs mostly.)

So now Clinton’s indulges in some pre-emptive guilt-by-tenuous-association. There is no actual violence being perpetrated by Tea Partiers, but they’re guilty all the same:

We should remember that there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedoms and the public servants who enforce our laws. . .

As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.

A few years ago, the left went apoplectic about Ari Fleischer’s remark after 9-11 that Americans should “watch what they say”. (In fact, the remark was taken out of context and referred to one politician’s statement that anyone wearing “a diaper on his head” should be investigated.) Now we have Bill Clinton saying the same thing, and this time it’s fully in context.

POSTSCRIPT: Mark Tapscott adds:

Clinton’s argument that criticism of government by peaceful citizens participating in Tea Party demonstrations leads to domestic terrorism like the Oklahoma City bombing really is nothing new. Monarchs and others in government have been using that line to silence their critics for hundreds of years.

(Via Instapundit.)

If you’re not terrified, you’re not paying attention

April 19, 2010

According to a memo by Defense Secretary Gates, the U.S. has no strategy for dealing with Iran:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course. . .

Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed.

I guess we should be glad that President Obama has realized, however belatedly, that we cannot afford to bet everything on his quixotic effort to change Iran’s course using overtures of friendship.

(Via Hot Air.)

Recovery interrupted?

April 19, 2010

Initial unemployment claims fell steadily throughout most of 2009, but since November 2009 there’s been no discernible trend:

(Click on the graph if the quotes are hard to read.)

It also seems to be surprisingly hard to say what the “break-even” point is for new unemployment claims. My google search found that everyone uses a different number, but recently numbers in the vicinity of 400k-425k seem to be the most common.

(Via Hot Air.)

Politics in a nutshell

April 16, 2010

On the verge of a bipartisan deal on financial reform, Democrats scuttled the talks, deciding they would rather have an election issue than a bipartisan deal.

Fine, I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked the bipartisan deal anyway.

Obama tied with Ron Paul

April 16, 2010

According to Rasmussen, 42% would vote for Barack Obama, 41% for Ron Paul. Wow.

That’s particularly striking when you consider that Paul would lose much of the right. I don’t think I could bring myself to vote for either.

(Via Power Line.)

Individual mandate as privacy violation

April 16, 2010

One of the lawsuits against health care nationalization raises an interesting argument against it: the individual mandate requires that people disclose private health information to insurance companies. The privacy argument might have more sway with the courts than the enumerated powers argument. (Not that it should, but we have the courts we have.)

Britain is not a free country

April 16, 2010

Forget about guns, Swiss Army knives are illegal in Britain:

A disabled caravanner who kept a penknife in his glove compartment to use on picnics has blasted the authorities after being dragged through court for possessing an offensive weapon. Rodney Knowles, 61, walks with the aid of a stick and had used the Swiss Army knife to cut up fruit on picnics with his wife. Knowles yesterday admitted possessing an offensive weapon at Torquay Magistrates Court. He was given a conditional discharge.

It wasn’t even on his person. Police found it in his car’s glove compartment along with other tools.

(Via the Corner.)

No budget resolution?

April 16, 2010

Politico reports:

Congress is poised to miss its April 15 deadline for finishing next year’s budget without even considering a draft in either chamber.

Unlike citizens’ tax-filing deadline, Congress’s mid-April benchmark is nonbinding. And members seem to be in no rush to get the process going.

Indeed, some Democratic insiders suspect that leaders will skip the budget process altogether this year — a way to avoid the political unpleasantness of voting on spending, deficits and taxes in an election year — or simply go through a few of the motions, without any real effort to complete the work. . .

Congress has failed to adopt a final budget four times in the past 35 years. . . If the House does not pass a first version of the budget resolution, it will be the first time since the implementation of the 1974 Budget Act, which governs the modern congressional budgeting process.

Failing to adopt a budget resolution is probably bad for sound budgeting, but there’s a small silver lining. Without a budget resolution, Democrats can’t use reconciliation to ram their next insane scheme through the Senate.

(Via the Corner.)

Smart diplomacy

April 16, 2010

You can add the EU to the list of allies President Obama has screwed:

When the United States and European Union first signed their Open Skies aviation agreement in 2007, the U.S. airlines got the better of the deal, winning immediate access to European markets in return for promises for concessions in the future. European airlines, such as British Airways, warned that this made them hostages to fortune. As it turns out, they were right. The U.S. once again is giving in to protectionist tempation. President Obama should quickly change course and move toward truly free skies.

We are so screwed

April 15, 2010

You think that the budget deficit increased from $459 billion in 2008 to $1,414 billion in 2009? Think again. The budget numbers you see bandied about on the news are computed the basis of cash, not accrued, so they don’t take into account liabilities that are incurred today but won’t be spent until later.

The Financial Report of the United States Government reports the accrued numbers, and they are really grim. Including entitlements, the net position of the US Government was -$50.153 trillion in 2007, -$53.174 trillion in 2008, -$57.334 trillion in 2009. So the real deficit was $3,021 billion in 2008 and $4,160 billion in 2009.

In terms of GDP, the net position was -356% in 2007, -368% in 2008, and -402% in 2009. The deficits were 21% in 2008 and 29% in 2009. Another way of looking at it is the difference in percentages, which tells us how much our debt worsened in relation to our ability to pay: 12% from 2007 to 2008, and a whopping 34% from 2008 to 2009.

Unfortunately, none of that is the bad news. The bad news is that this all assumes current policy (e.g., no fixes to Medicare reimbursements or AMT), which absolutely isn’t going to happen. The worse news is that this doesn’t include Obamacare, so the 2010 report will be even worse.

(Via Instapundit.)

Waxman says never mind

April 15, 2010

Henry Waxman (D-CA) is cancelling the tongue-lashing for CEOs that adhere to generally accepted accounting principles:

A House Energy and Commerce Committee spokeswoman tells me that Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has indeed cancelled the April 21 subcommittee hearing in which CEOs were to testify about Obamacare. So far, the only indication of this change appears on the committee’s website is on the Republican minority ranking member’s site. In fact, the hearing still appears on Waxman’s committee calendar for that day. . .

The CEOs, required by law to be honest about earnings projections, re-stated their bottom lines in reaction to Obamacare’s passage, earning the ire of Waxman and other Democrats.

Hearings on this matter would likely have proved an embarrassment to the Democrats and helped drag out discussion of Obamacare’s unexpected ill effects.

It’s a pity; I was looking forward to the heaings. They would have been a serious embarrassment for Democrats, since the CEOs were doing precisely what is required of them by law. As Megan McArdle explained at the time:

Accounting basics: when a company experiences what accountants call “a material adverse impact” on its expected future earnings, and those changes affect an item that is already on the balance sheet, the company is required to record the negative impact–”to take the charge against earnings”–as soon as it knows that the change is reasonably likely to occur.

This makes good accounting sense. The asset on the balance sheet is now less valuable, so you should record a charge. Otherwise, you’d be misleading investors.

The Democrats, however, seem to believe that Generally Accepted Accounting Principles are some sort of conspiracy against Obamacare, and all that is good and right in America.

(Via Instapundit.)


April 14, 2010

President Obama has struck a nuclear deal with Russia. That deal sets a warhead limit that is smaller than the number we have but greater than the number Russia has. It obtains no commitment from Russia to back sanctions against Iran, and it puts missile defense on the table.

Is there anything about this deal that’s good for us? Honestly, I’m wondering. Obama can’t be this stupid, can he?

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pipeline

April 14, 2010

Russia and Germany are colluding to screw eastern Europe again. This time, though, there may be a happy ending.

Smart diplomacy

April 14, 2010

President Obama’s approach to foreign policy is now clear. The open hand of friendship is just for our enemies; friends get screwed. The list of countries we’ve screwed was already pretty long (Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Honduras, Israel, Mexico, Norway, Poland, and the UK), and now we can add Georgia:

Forty-seven world leaders are Barack Obama’s guests in Washington Tuesday at the nuclear security summit. Obama is holding bilateral meetings with just 12 of them. . . One of those left out was Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia, who got a phone call from Obama last week instead of a meeting in Washington. His exclusion must have prompted broad smiles in Moscow, where Saakashvili is considered public enemy no. 1 — a leader whom Russia tried to topple by force in the summer of 2008. . .

Saakashvili’s exclusion from the bilateral schedule is striking considering his strong support for U.S. interests, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Georgia sent as many as 2,000 troops from its tiny army to Iraq. It will soon have nearly 1,000 in Afghanistan; 750 are being sent to fight under U.S. command. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke noted last month that Georgia’s per capita troop contribution would be the highest of any country in the world.

Obama thanked Saakashvili for that help in their phone call last week. But according to a Georgian account of the call, Obama didn’t say anything about Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO, or about Georgia’s interest in buying defensive weapons from the United States.

(Via Hot Air.)

Whether we like it or not

April 14, 2010

President Obama:

Whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower.

I’m guessing he had his teleprompter off for that one.

(Via Instapundit.)


April 13, 2010

This is an outrage:

Prince George’s prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation of three county police officers who beat an unarmed University of Maryland student with their batons after a basketball game last month in an incident that was caught on video and surfaced publicly Monday, authorities said.

County police also ordered an internal affairs investigation of the three officers, Maj. Andy Ellis said. Ellis said the inquiry would also focus on a county officer who filed official charging documents that are contradicted by the video. . .

Charging documents say McKenna and Donat provoked the beating by attacking officers on horseback. The video clearly shows the officers rushing McKenna and beating him, although the teenager had not touched any of the mounted units.

The charging documents also say that the horses injured McKenna and Donat and make no mention of the beating by the officers. The video shows no aggression by the horses.

The unprovoked beating under cover of authority is bad enough, but then they fabricated a story to justify their attack. These people need to go to prison. The other officers that stood by and watched it happen need to be fired too, but there’s no way that will happen.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: This incident proves that we should be recording the authorities all the time. Nevertheless, in the very same state (Maryland that is), a man is being prosecuted for recording the police. (Via Instapundit.)

Government-run medicine

April 13, 2010

The UK’s National Health Service will allow Muslim doctors and nurses to opt out of hygiene rules:

Female staff who follow the Islamic faith will be allowed to cover their arms to preserve their modesty despite earlier guidance that all staff should be “bare below the elbow”.

The Department of Health has also relaxed rules prohibiting jewellery so that Sikh members of staff can wear bangles linked with their faith, providing they are pushed up the arm while the medic treats a patient.

The Mail on Sunday reported the change had been made after female Muslims objected to being required to expose their arm below the elbow under guidance introduced by Alan Johnson when he was health secretary in 2007.

The rules were drawn up to reduce the number of patients who were falling ill, and even dying, from superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

When government runs medicine, proper medical practice is just one consideration, and not even the primary one. That’s our future.

(Via Power Line.)

The feel good story of the day

April 13, 2010

Providing proof-positive that Congress didn’t read the health care bill before it passed it, it turns out that Congress accidentally stripped itself of its health insurance. Members of Congress and some of their staff are required to participate in the exchanges, but, as written, they lose their current insurance now and the exchanges won’t exist for years.

This is the first thing about the bill that I like.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: The NYT writes:

The confusion raises the inevitable question: If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?

Obviously not.

We still don’t want health care nationalization

April 12, 2010

If Democrats thought that opposition to health care nationalization would go away once the bill was passed, they are to be disappointed. According to a new Rasmussen poll, opposition to the health care travesty continues to harden. Today, 58% support repealing the bill, against just 38% who oppose repeal. On the day of the vote, the numbers were 54/41.

Supporters of repeal also have the advantage of fervor: 50% strongly support repeal, against just 32% who strongly oppose it.

Bring on the rationing

April 12, 2010

Now that health care nationalization has been passed, the left can drop the pretense that rationing is unthinkable. The New York Times opines:

How can we learn to say no?

The federal government is now starting to build the institutions that will try to reduce the soaring growth of health care costs. There will be a group to compare the effectiveness of different treatments, a so-called Medicare innovation center and a Medicare oversight board that can set payment rates. . .

From an economic perspective, health reform will fail if we can’t sometimes push back against the try-anything instinct. The new agencies will be hounded by accusations of rationing, and Medicare’s long-term budget deficit will grow.

So figuring out how we can say no may be the single toughest and most important task facing the people who will be in charge of carrying out reform. “Being able to say no,” Dr. Alan Garber of Stanford says, “is the heart of the issue.”

(Via Instapundit.)

Health reform will fail if we can’t sometimes ration care? Now they tell us.

Nuclear folly

April 12, 2010

President Obama’s new nuclear doctrine is insane. Since the United States abandoned chemical and biological weapons, our policy has been that weapons of mass destruction form their own category. Any nation using WMDs against America could expect to face nuclear retaliation, that being the only form of WMDs we now have. This served as a good deterrent.

Obama apparently thinks that we are somehow safer if we reassure the world that they can use WMDs against us without facing retaliation in kind. That is simply insane.

Charles Krauthammer elaborates.

Romer: stimulus performed exactly as expected

April 12, 2010

The Hill reports:

The federal stimulus act has performed “exactly” as the Obama administration expected it to, Council of Economic Advisers Chairwoman Christina Romer said Sunday. . .

“I think it has done exactly what we would say it would do,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Really? Let’s take a look at Romer’s own prediction that she made on behalf of the incoming administration in January 2009 as part of the effort to sell the stimulus boondoggle:

This handy chart (from Innocent Bystanders) overlays the Obama administration’s prediction (dark blue) with actual numbers (red) and the administration’s current prediction (green). The administration’s worst-case scenario, if their stimulus were not enacted, is shown in light blue. Romer herself (with Jared Bernstein) prepared everything in blue, and the green is based on her House testimony (with Geithner and Orszag) last month.

Clearly, the stimulus did not perform as we were told. Unemployment immediately soared well above the no-stimulus curve — to say nothing of the curve we were promised — and shows no sign of getting back down to either curve in the near future. That light blue curve is looking pretty good now.

So if Romer says that the stimulus performed exactly as the administration expected, we have to ask: Is she lying now, or was she lying then? It’s one or the other.

(Via Instapundit.)

Internet “reclassification”

April 12, 2010

I guess I should have expected this. If you’re determined to nationalize the internet, why let defeat in Congress and in court stop you?

The U.S. could regain its authority to pursue both network neutrality and widespread access to broadband by formally reclassifying Internet access as “telecommunications services,” a former adviser to President Obama said in a published report on Sunday.

Susan Crawford, who was a special assistant to the President for science, technology and innovation policy, wrote in the New York Times that, before it can reclassify Internet access, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has to prove “good reason”. . .

Crawford said if Internet access is reclassified as “telecommunications services” rather than as “information services,” it would make it easier to tell providers of high-speed Internet access what to do.

(Previous post.)

Corrupting the process

April 12, 2010

Of course, Barone’s first rule applies, but still, it’s striking. And that’s without even looking at the health care process.

(Via Innocent Bystanders.)


April 12, 2010

The Economist quips:

Politicians use the tax code to encourage things they like, such as driving hybrid cars, and to discourage things they don’t like, such as work.

Price controls

April 11, 2010

I read that the final health care nationalization bill passed last month abandoned overt price controls. I sure hope that’s true, because in Massachusetts, price controls are doing what they always do, creating shortages:

This week it became impossible in Massachusetts for small businesses and individuals to buy health-care coverage after Governor Deval Patrick imposed price controls on premiums. . .

The Massachusetts small-group market that serves about 800,000 residents shut down after Mr. Patrick kicked off his re-election campaign by presumptively rejecting about 90% of the premium increases the state’s insurers had asked regulators to approve. Health costs have run off the rails since former GOP Governor Mitt Romney and Beacon Hill passed universal coverage in 2006, and Mr. Patrick now claims price controls are the sensible response to this ostensibly industry greed. . . Until the matter is resolved, the insurers have simply stopped selling new policies.

Massachusetts is countering by trying to coerce insurance companies to sell coverage at a loss:

A court decision is expected by Monday, but state officials have demanded that the insurers—under the threat of fines and other regulatory punishments—resume offering quotes by today and to revert to year-old base premiums.

Got that? Massachusetts’s price controls have made it so that its insurers would prefer to stop doing business. Now the state is trying to force them to continue doing business against their will. The Soviets tried the same thing, and they had to build walls to keep people from leaving.

Smart diplomacy

April 10, 2010

Victor Davis Hanson tries to figure out President Obama’s foreign policy. He also predicts what will happen next (nothing good).

Bad pitch

April 10, 2010

This is a cheap shot, but I’m going to indulge it anyway. Compare and contrast:

(Cue to 0:45 on President Bush’s first pitch if you’re impatient.)

I was going to forgo this, but for this interview:

The interesting thing about this interview isn’t that President Obama can’t name any White Sox players, despite the White Sox supposedly being his favorite team. (Okay, he’s only posing as a baseball fan, but who cares.) The interesting thing is how he reacts to the question. He instinctively falls back on his stock and trade: class warfare. He praises the White Sox as “real blue-collar baseball” as opposed to the Cub fans “up at Wrigley sipping wine.”

(Via Instapundit.)

POSTSCRIPT: Obama’s take on this is particularly phony since he represents the Democratic Party’s wine track, and was only able to take up the blue-collar banner after he defeated Hillary Clinton.


April 10, 2010

Our legislated, regulated lives.


April 9, 2010

To edit your profile on Verizon’s web site, you need both your password and the answer to your “secret” question. I don’t think they are correctly understanding the principle behind the secret question.

Since secret questions are insecure and I never lose passwords, I often put random junk into the secret question field. That worked out poorly for me in this case.

Good news, bad news

April 8, 2010

Wired has an article about Apple’s upcoming iPhone OS 4.0.  The good news is it will support multitasking. The bad news, multitasking won’t work on the original iPhone or the 3G. Boo.

Pelosi “explains” health care

April 8, 2010

Don’t worry about how it works, she says:

“It’s like the back of the refrigerator. You see all these wires and the rest,” said Pelosi. “All you need to know is, you open the door. The light goes on.”

This exemplifies the Democratic Party’s disdain towards the American people as well as anything I’ve seen.

POSTSCRIPT: Probably she doesn’t know how the bill works herself.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: Refrigerators aren’t all that complicated, actually.

(Via Instapundit.)

The Texas curriculum controversy

April 7, 2010

A reader asked me to comment on this story, on how some historians are apparently upset over the new history curriculum mandated for the state of Texas by the Texas board of education. I’ve not been following the story. My sole exposure to the controversy was a completely pointless argument about whether Friedrich Hayek’s work was important enough to merit inclusion in the economics curriculum. (Answer: I’m not sure that you need to be studying particular economists at all. But if you are, Hayek is obviously one of the giants, if only for his work on price signals. Liberals don’t like him because his work argues against central planning.) In regards to history I’ve read nothing, but I can make a few quick comments.

First, the very fact that there is a controversy argues against centralized control of education. If curriculum choices are made locally, schools can decide for themselves what to teach. If a particular school makes a bad choice, it’s no big deal because its influence is limited. Unfortunately, some big states (notably California and Texas, and no doubt some others) centralize curriculum decisions for their entire state. That’s a horrible idea, and this illustrates why.

Second, the story is not very helpful in explaining what the board is doing that historians disagree with. The story contains not a single quotation of any historian making a specific objection. Instead, the story relies on vague, unsourced, indirect quotes (“historians say. . .”). That sort of weaselly writing is first cousin to the standard ploy for editorializing in a news story (“critics say. . .”).

Third, as to the substance, the article only mentions a few specific points and I have to guess what the controversy is:

  • The curriculum plays down the importance of Thomas Jefferson. If true, that’s pretty stupid. The debate between the Jeffersonians and the Hamiltonians was very important in the early years of the republic. Even though Hamilton ultimately won the debate, I don’t see how you can tell the story without Jefferson. Plus, Jefferson was president for two terms. But I’m trusting the Post’s description here. If, on the other hand, the curriculum merely says that Hamilton’s vision won out over Jefferson’s, it’s no more than the truth.
  • The curriculum questions the separation of church and state. This is too vague to respond to. Certainly there was no such separation in most of the states, and whether it was intended to exist in its modern form even at the federal level isn’t clear. I could easily see this being good or bad, depending on what it actually says.
  • The curriculum says the government was infiltrated by communists during the Cold War. This is no more than the truth. If anything, the curriculum makes a mistake by relying on just the Venona decrypts. Alexander Vassiliev’s notebooks (hand-copied from the KGB’s files) are even more conclusive. On the other hand, if the curriculum tries to use that fact to rehabilitate McCarthy, I disagree with that. I’m not aware of any evidence that McCarthy’s witch-hunt did any good at all to balance the harm it did, and even if it did, the ends do not justify the means.
  • The curriculum says Reagan should get more attention. Duh.
  • The curriculum does not include hip-hop. I really don’t care. Call me a philistine, but I don’t see why trends in music should be part of the mandatory history curriculum in the first place.
  • The curriculum places Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address alongside Lincoln’s. What do you expect from a southern state? Actually, it might be interesting to contrast the views of north and south this way. (Or perhaps not. I’ve never read Davis’s address so I can’t say.) Anyway, it seems possibly defensible. It’s not as though they’re putting something alongside the Gettysburg Address.

In short, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Texas board of education is doing something stupid here, but I’m not going to take the Washington Post’s word for it. In any case, get rid of central control over schooling and the whole controversy disappears.

Court rules against network neutrality

April 6, 2010

The Court of Appeals for DC has ruled unanimously that the FCC does not have the power to impose network neutrality:

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a big victory for Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company. It had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose so-called “net neutrality” obligations on broadband providers.

The ruling also marks a serious setback for the FCC, which is trying to officially set net neutrality regulations.

This is a good thing for technology, as I explain here and here. It’s obviously a good thing for property rights, and it’s also good for the rule of law, as the FCC had no authority to do what it was trying to do:

Because the FCC “has failed to tie its assertion” of regulatory authority to any actual law enacted by Congress, the agency does not have the authority to regulate an Internet provider’s network management practices, wrote Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

(Via Hot Air.) (Previous post.)

IRS says no increase in threats

April 6, 2010

Another narrative debunked:

The country’s chief tax collector pushed back Monday against assertions that working for the Internal Revenue Service has become more dangerous as a result of growing anti-government sentiment and the recent passage of President Obama’s health care plan.

“No, the risk has not increased,” IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said. “There has been a lot of stuff in the press about increased threats, which is actually inaccurate.”

Fears that IRS employees could be targets soared after a Feb. 18 incident in which a disgruntled Texas software engineer flew a small plane into the side of an IRS facility in Austin. One longtime agency employee was killed in the attack.

Some liberal groups and bloggers also have raised fears that anti-tax and anti-government rhetoric employed on talk radio and by protesters within the “tea party” movement could incite violence against IRS agents.

I think that part of what’s going on is projection. When certain leftist groups get as angry as we are now, they do resort to violence, as witnessed by “anti-war” and anti-globalization riots.

(Via Instapundit.)

Disaster, as predicted

April 5, 2010

The problem with mandating coverage of pre-existing conditions is that it encourages people to sign up for “insurance” just when they need expensive treatment. And, as the Boston Globe reports, the problem is no longer hypothetical:

Thousands of consumers are gaming Massachusetts’ 2006 health insurance law by buying insurance when they need to cover pricey medical care, such as fertility treatments and knee surgery, and then swiftly dropping coverage, a practice that insurance executives say is driving up costs for other people and small businesses.

This is exactly what we predicted would happen in Massachusetts, and exactly what will happen nationwide under health care nationalization. Note that Massachusetts has an individual mandate, such like the new national regime:

The problem is, it is less expensive for consumers — especially young and healthy people — to pay the monthly penalty of as much as $93 imposed under the state law for not having insurance, than to buy the coverage year-round. This is also the case under the federal health care overhaul legislation signed by the president, insurers say.

Massachusetts is “fixing” the problem in the standard liberal way, by further restricting people’s freedom:

Governor Deval Patrick recently filed legislation that state regulators believe will help fix the problem, by restricting insurance enrollment to twice a year for people who buy on the open market.

Massachusetts residents will now be able to buy insurance only when the government says they can. And when that has an unforeseen consequence, they’ll come up with something else to restrict people’s freedom further.

Moreover, it doesn’t even solve the problem. Limiting when people can sign up for insurance doesn’t keep people from dropping it when they want, and even if they did force people to stay in a plan for a full six months, the extra three months of premiums would be no more than a drop in the bucket compared to what the ne’er-do-wells cost.

(Via Best of the Web.)

A slice of America

April 5, 2010

A new Gallup poll finds the demographics of the Tea Party movement are very similar to the nation as a whole. Tea Party supporters are essentially identical to the nation in age, education, and employment. As compared to a typical adult, a Tea Party supporter is slightly less likely to be a minority (21% versus 26%), slightly less likely to be female (45% versus 55%), and slightly less likely to earn less than $30k/year (19% versus 25%).

The only areas in which the Tea Party movement differs greatly from the nation as a whole are political. A Tea Party supporter is slightly more likely to be an independent than the typical adult (43% versus 40%), but — unsurprisingly — is much more likely to be a Republican than a Democrat. Still, 8% identify as Democrats.

Bottom line, the narrative promoted by Democrats and parroted by the legacy media in which Tea Party supporters are a white-male fringe group is wholly untrue.

(Via Instapundit.)

Hook, line, sinker

April 5, 2010

Another blow to the vaunted fact-checking prowess of the New York Times:

Welcome to April 2nd. And that means a deconstruction of what happened on April Fool’s Day when I announced that I was going to become the official White House law blogger.

The basic idea was this: A bunch of law bloggers would try to punk the political bloggers, whose reputation is to grab any old rumor and run with it. Fact checking hasn’t always been the strong suit of this community.

But the political bloggers, to their collective credit, didn’t bite, despite wide dissemination of the story. Not on the right or the left. Instead it was the vaunted New York Times that ran with the story without bothering to check its facts.

To be fair, given the effort he put into the prank, I would have been fooled. I do my fact-checking using Google, not by contacting sources. So, it seems, does the New York Times.

(Via Instapundit.)

Tea Party outpolls Obama

April 5, 2010

According to Rasmussen, 48% say that the Tea Party movement is closer to their views than President Obama; 44% say Obama is closer. Among independents, the gap is wider: 50-38.

UPDATE: Oh my: four in ten tea partiers are Democrats or independents. (Via Instapundit.)

Nexis is not kind to Chris Matthews

April 4, 2010

Byron York on the Chris Matthews’s curious inability to remember the left’s rhetoric during the last administration:

In the Bush years, we often heard the phrase “Bush regime” from some quarters of the left. So Limbaugh applied it to Obama.

Apparently some people didn’t get it. On MSNBC, Chris Matthews appeared deeply troubled by the word. “I’ve never seen language like this in the American press,” he said. . . The use of the word ‘regime’ in American political parlance is unacceptable, and someone should tell the walrus [Limbaugh] to stop using it.”

Matthews didn’t stop there. “I never heard the word ‘regime,’ before, have you?” he said to NBC’s Chuck Todd. “I don’t even think Joe McCarthy ever called this government a ‘regime.'”

It appears that Matthews has suffered a major memory loss. I don’t have the facilities to search for every utterance of Joe McCarthy, but a look at more recent times reveals many, many, many examples of the phrase “Bush regime.” In fact, a search of the Nexis database for “Bush regime” yields 6,769 examples from January 20, 2001 to the present.

It was used 16 times in the New York Times. . . [and] 24 times in the Washington Post. . . Perhaps Matthews missed all of those references. If he did, he still might have heard the phrase the many times it was uttered on his own network, MSNBC. For example, on January 8 of this year, Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak said that, “In George Bush’s regime, only one million jobs had been created…” . . .

Finally — you knew this was coming — on June 14, 2002, Chris Matthews himself introduced a panel discussion about a letter signed by many prominent leftists condemning the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror. “Let’s go to the Reverend Al Sharpton,” Matthews said. “Reverend Sharpton, what do you make of this letter and this panoply of the left condemning the Bush regime?”

Oops. Perhaps Joe McCarthy never called the U.S. government a regime, but Chris Matthews did. And a lot of other people did, too. So now we are supposed to believe him when he expresses disgust at Rush Limbaugh doing the same?

They don’t remember this stuff because it seemed reasonable to them when they were the ones saying it.

UPDATE: “Even Chris Matthews doesn’t listen to Chris Matthews.

A pre-existing condition

April 2, 2010

As long as we are requiring coverage of pre-existing conditions in the health insurance industry, I think we should do it for all forms of insurance. In particular, for power line insurance. To get my power service repaired, I would really much rather pay a few dollars than 10 grand. The power company can pass the cost on to the rest of its customers, right?

Cleaver retracts spitting charge

April 2, 2010

Emanuel Cleaver now admits that no one spit on him at the Tea Party rally against health care nationalization. In fact, he how claims that he never made the charge, which is a lie:

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s office released the following statement:

For many of the members of the CBC, like John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver who worked in the civil rights movement, and for Mr. Frank who has struggled in the cause of equality, this is not the first time they have been spit on during turbulent times.

This afternoon, the Congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The Congressman would like to thank the US Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the others Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care. After all the Members were safe, a full report was taken and the matter was handled by the US Capitol Police. The man who spat on the Congressman was arrested, but the Congressman has chosen not to press charges. He has left the matter with the Capitol Police.

Presumably Cleaver is backing off the charge since a video surfaced showing that it was false.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)

Transfer payment

April 1, 2010

There’s been some buzz about an analysis of the Democratic stimulus package, showing that the stimulus bill spends much more in Democratic districts than Republican districts. But this is old news. Last December I noted an econometric analysis that showed that a district’s propensity to elect Democrats was the only statistically significant predictor of stimulus spending. Economic variables such as unemployment had no impact at all.

UPDATE: I see now it’s actually the same study, updated with more recent data.

More drilling? Nope.

April 1, 2010

I was surprised to see President Obama support additional domestic oil drilling. I needn’t have. As it turns out, the stuff about new drilling is mere posturing. In truth, his proposal restricts domestic drilling. (More here and here.)

But, as far as I know, the Obama administration is still financing offshore oil exploration in Brazil.

UPDATE: Still more here.

Too many choices? Obama is on the case

April 1, 2010

A provision in the health care nationalization bill is forcing restaurants to reduce the size of their menus.