Kagan dropped constitutional law requirement

May 31, 2010

Elena Kagan, as dean of Harvard Law School, removed constitutional law from the required curriculum and replaced it with courses on international law. That’s an ominous indicator of the sort of jurisprudence she would bring to the high court.

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Justice Kennedy strikes again

May 31, 2010

A major factual error in the Supreme Court’s Graham v. Florida decision underlines the fact that the court should limit itself to questions of law, and should leave the gathering of facts to those who are qualified to do it.


California voters support Arizona law

May 31, 2010

Interesting.


When humanitarians attack

May 31, 2010

The “humanitarians” attempting to run the naval blockade into Gaza got what they wanted: a violent confrontation, dead activists, and a propaganda victory. It remains only to refute the lies.

The Israelis say that their soldiers were attacked; the “humanitarians” say they never attacked anyone. This is a binary proposition; one of them is lying. We cannot fall back on the comfortable but false notion that the truth is somewhere in between.

The New York Times paints it as a he-said-she-said, who-can-say? situation:

The Israeli Defense Forces said more than 10 people were killed when naval personnel boarding the six ships in the aid convoy met with “live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs.” The naval forces then “employed riot dispersal means, including live fire,” the military said in a statement.

Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement, speaking by telephone from Cyprus, rejected the military’s version.

“That is a lie,” she said, adding that it was inconceivable that the civilian passengers on board would have been “waiting up to fire on the Israeli military, with all its might.”

“We never thought there would be any violence,” she said.

But the NYT is ignoring the key piece of evidence, a video released by the IDF that proves they were attacked. As these things always are, it’s grainy and it’s somewhat hard to tell what’s going on, but you can clearly see the “humanitarians” swarming the soldiers, attacking them with clubs, and throwing things that explode:

Another IDF video shows the Israeli Navy offering to dock the ship at Ashdod and transport the supplies into Gaza under their observation. The “humanitarians” refused, because this mission wasn’t actually about getting supplies into Gaza.

At this hour the NYT is still running the same story, which does not mention the IDF video. One cannot adopt a position of “balance” between the truth and a lie (at least, not without lying oneself).

It does strike me that the Israelis committed a major tactical error in the way they boarded the ship. By rappelling onto the ship a few at a time, they created a situation in which their first soldiers were outnumbered and vulnerable to attack. That created a melee that led ultimately to deadly force.

I’m no expert, but it strikes me that they would have been better off approaching by boat, so they could board many soldiers at once with water cannons at the ready. I’m not sure why they didn’t. Perhaps they didn’t believe the “humanitarians” would attack them. If so, they won’t make that mistake again. (More here.)

UPDATE: More details on what went wrong here. (Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: A new IDF video is even clearer:

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: IHH, the Turkish group that organized the “humanitarian” flotilla, is a branch of I’tilaf Al-Khayr (“Union of Good”), a group created by Hamas and designated by the US Treasury as a terrorist organization. More background on IHH here.

UPDATE: Changed the link for the Israeli account to a better story. The original link was to this story.

UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff makes a good point:

It’s easy to get your side of the story out first if (1) you already know you’re going to start a fight and (2) you are willing to lie about what happened. As ever, the Palestinian side met both of these criteria last night. The Israelis, by contrast, did not know in advance that they would be assaulted, though they probably should have placed a higher probability on this outcome than they did.

More importantly, the Israelis did not want to present an account of the battle until they could verify all of the details. This is understandable — the government stands to be crucified by the MSM and the international community if it gets any detail wrong. Hamas, the PA, and their supporters face no such risk.

UPDATE: This video shows that the Israelis did try to board by sea first, and were repelled. It still strikes me as odd that fast-roping from a helicopter would be easier, but I’ll admit that I know little about it.


D’oh

May 30, 2010

An editor at the Atlantic writes a story relishing the arrest of Kenneth Starr for operating a Ponzi scheme. It never occurs to him that Kenneth Starr the crooked Hollywood investment adviser might not be the same person as Kenneth Starr the former Appeals Court judge and independent prosecutor.

So the editors are the big advantage of the mainstream media over blogs? Quis edet ipsos editores?

(Via Professor Bainbridge.)


Voter anger is not driven by economic concern

May 29, 2010

Interesting:

Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but that brightening outlook hasn’t softened their outrage over the country’s direction and its political leadership, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

Two-thirds of those surveyed this week describe themselves as “angry” about the way things are going in the USA, the highest percentage in the decade the question has been asked. By nearly 2-1, they would rather vote for a candidate who has never served in Congress over one with experience.

(Via Instapundit.)


Rogue states

May 29, 2010

President Obama is willing to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, without precondition, because “the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them . . . is ridiculous”. In fact, “it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them”.

But he won’t meet with the governor of Arizona. Some regimes are simply beyond the pale.


He was supposed to be competent?

May 29, 2010

In Peggy Noonan’s latest Wall Street Journal column, “He Was Supposed to be Competent”, she channels public dismay at the Obama administration’s lack of competence, most recently in regard to the Deepwater Horizon spill. She makes a good point here:

His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: “Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust.” Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet the need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: “We pay so much for the government and it can’t cap an undersea oil well!”

She’s right that Barack Obama promised that, under him, government could do pretty much anything. Merely by nominating him for president, “the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”. He could not deliver on that promise.

But I’m with John Hinderaker in wondering why the public bought that Obama messianic nonsense in the first place. He was supposed to be competent? Why would we think that? This is a man who had no experience running anything before he was elected to the White House. His sole government experience was four years as a back-bencher in the US Senate, preceded by seven years of voting present in the Illinois Senate. His main qualification was delivering riveting speeches from the teleprompter.

The irony to this is that the discontent with President Obama’s performance is somewhat unfair. True, there are legitimate questions about why the administration exempted BP from environmental-impact analysis, how booms are being allocated, and about Obama’s strange disengagement and cluelessness. But ultimately there’s little that the federal government can do in a disaster like this.

In a different situation I would be defending the president, but in this case, Obama has made his bed. He over-promised what government can do, and he joined his party in shamelessly demagoguing Hurricane Katrina. In at least one speech he combined the two:

As we rebuild and recover, we must also learn the lessons of Katrina, so that our nation is more protected and resilient in the face of disaster. . . In Washington, that means a focus on competence and accountability – and I’m proud that my FEMA Administrator has 25 years of experience in disaster management in Florida, a state that has known its share of hurricanes. And across the country, that means improving coordination among different agencies, modernizing our emergency communications, and helping families plan for a crisis.

Now he is reaping the whirlwind.

(Previous post.)


O’Keefe exonerated

May 29, 2010

The AP breathlessly reports that James O’Keefe has pled guilty to a misdemeanor:

Four conservative activists accused of trying to tamper with the phones in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses.

We all know that criminals who plead guilty to lesser charges are very often guilty of the more serious charges. That certainly seems to be what the AP is trying to insinuate by leading its story with the original charges against O’Keefe. Would you guess from this story that O’Keefe was actually exonerated of trying to tamper with the phones?

O’Keefe has always maintained that he was trying to orchestrate a conversation for a new hidden camera video, and had no intention of tampering with the phones in any way. What the AP doesn’t want you to know is that the government’s investigation confirmed O’Keefe’s story. The Assistant US Attorney, Jordan Ginsberg, conceded in court that:

In this case further investigation did not uncover evidence that the defendants intended to commit any felony after the entry by false pretenses despite their initial statements to the staff of Senatorial office and GSA requesting access to the central phone system. Instead, the Government’s evidence would show that the defendants misrepresented themselves and their purpose for gaining access to the central phone system to orchestrate a conversation about phone calls to the Senator’s staff and capture the conversation on video, not to actually tamper with the phone system, or to commit any other felony.

Again, O’Keefe was exonerated in court of any intent to tamper with the phones, or commit any other felony. But the Associated Press doesn’t think the reader need to know that.

And it’s not just the AP. Despite signing the document, Ginsberg tried to avoid reading the key paragraph in court. O’Keefe’s attorneys were forced to insist. And Ginsberg also left out of his press release the minor fact that O’Keefe had been exonerated of all the serious charges.

Why don’t the AP and the US Attorney’s office want the public to know that O’Keefe was exonerated? (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.)

UPDATE: O’Keefe gives a full account of what happened.


Chutzpah

May 29, 2010

The unauthorized biographer/stalker who rented the house next door to Sarah Palin is concerned about his privacy.


Doctors reverse on female “circumcision”

May 28, 2010

The New York Times reports:

The American Academy of Pediatrics has reversed its decision last month regarding the practice of female circumcision by immigrants from some African, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. The academy had suggested in a policy statement that doctors be given permission to perform a ceremonial pinprick or nick on girls if it would keep their families from sending them overseas for the full circumcision.

Background on what the academy had been saying here.

(Via Hot Air.)


Editor repeats: Congressmen don’t lie

May 28, 2010

Despite all the well-deserved mockery he received, the “Investigative Editor” of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau is standing by his position that Congressmen can be trusted to tell the truth:

I say we checked it out and stand by the story and really, and I mean this, can’t believe that anyone – congressman or garbageman – would make up this fact that one of the nastiest racist terms was hurled.

He simply can’t imagine that a Congressman could make up a racially charged incident for political purposes. In fact, he was so sure, he wouldn’t even talk to an eyewitness who contradicted his service’s reporting. This guy is in charge of investigative reporting.

(Previous post.)


Eyjafjallajokull disruptions unnecessary?

May 28, 2010

The massive flight disruptions after Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption may have been unnecessary. (More here.)


“Top priority”

May 28, 2010

The New York Times seems to know more about how the administration is handling the Deepwater Horizon spill than the president does, despite it being his “top priority”.

(Previous post.)


Hukou

May 27, 2010

The Economist has an interesting article on China’s oppressive Hukou system, which dictates where people are officially supposed to live. Half the people who live in China’s cities are officially rural residents. They live as second-class citizens, unable to obtain education, health care, housing, or good employment.


This is the SEIU

May 27, 2010

When Tea Party protesters gather in a public place to protest government overreach, it’s dangerous latent terrorism. But apparently it’s fine when the SEIU buses 500 protesters literally to the front doorstep of a bank executive’s home.

But here’s the particularly sinister aspect of this protest: it was not intended for media consumption. It was purely for intimidation:

Sunday’s onslaught wasn’t designed for mainstream media consumption. There were no reporters from organizations like the Washington Post, no local camera crews who might have aired criticism of this private-home invasion. With the media covering the conservative Tea Party protesters, the behavior of individual activists has drawn withering scrutiny.

Instead, a friendly Huffington Post blogger showed up, narrowcasting coverage to the union’s leftist base. The rest of the message these protesters brought was personal-aimed at frightening Baer and his family, not influencing a broader public.

(Via Power Line.)


Liberals don’t like the term “Obamacare”

May 27, 2010

Interesting. This seems to indicate a lack of confidence that their health care nationalization bill will prove to be a political plus.


Boston Police shielded terrorist

May 27, 2010

The problem with an official policy of ignoring criminals is some criminals are actually dangerous:

In an alarming example of how sanctuary cities can protect terrorists, a Pakistani man arrested for the Time Square bombing admitted on a city license application that he entered the U.S. illegally and authorities took no action.

That’s because he applied for the cabbie license in a state (Massachusetts) that openly protects illegal immigrants from deportation. Local law enforcement agencies throughout Massachusetts have don’t-ask-don’t-tell policies regarding illegal aliens and in this case the Boston Police Department has for years known that the terrorist, So Pir Khan, was in the country illegally.

Khan was recently arrested in an FBI terror sweep for his involvement in the Time Square bombing earlier this month. The Boston cab driver is one of three men who funneled money to the fellow Pakistani terrorist (Faisal Shahzad) who tried to blow up New York’s Time Square with a series of bombs hidden in a sports utility vehicle.

The Boston Police is lucky that Shahzad’s bomb failed. If he had succeeded in his plans, heads would be rolling in Boston over this. As it is, it’s a non-story. Until the next time.

(Via Patterico.)


Washington Post botches the Texas curriculum

May 27, 2010

Ann Althouse notes that the Washington Post’s story on Texas’s new social studies curriculum is highly misleading. I was unimpressed by the author’s (Michael Birnbaum) earlier effort on the subject, but this one is even worse.

POSTSCRIPT: I’m not defending the Texas Board of Education. My earlier thoughts on the controversy (mostly that there shouldn’t even be a mandatory state curriculum) are here.


Volcker, Hauser’s law, and a VAT

May 27, 2010

If the definition of a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth, Paul Volcker committed a major gaffe in a recent speech. Volcker (one of President Obama’s chief economic advisers) cited Hauser’s law and compared it to the current rate of federal spending. He noted that the federal government always collects about 18.5% of GDP in tax revenue regardless of tax rates. When spending was around 20%, this meant a modest deficit, but spending is now around 25% or more. That means enormous deficits.

Hauser’s law observes you can’t get tax collections to 25% by tinkering with tax rates or adding a few new taxes; we need a different system to fund today’s government. And that, Volcker concludes, means a VAT. He says there is no prospect of getting government spending back to 20%. (Well, he is a Democrat.)

POSTSCRIPT: I actually understood Hauser’s law to say that government collected 19.5% of GDP, but that difference doesn’t matter to Volcker’s point.

(Via Instapundit.)


Congress eliminates embarrassing transparency

May 27, 2010

The Agriculture Department used to maintain a database of recipients of federal “farm subsidies” (payments to owners of arable land for not farming). No more. The information in the database was consistently embarrassing, so the Democratic Congress eliminated it in 2008.

(Via Instapundit.)


Watch this space for more sedition

May 24, 2010

The Boston Globe reports:

Governor Deval Patrick, even as he decried partisanship in Washington, said today that Republican opposition to President Obama’s agenda has become so obstinate that it “is almost at the level of sedition.”

I guess that we are supposed to take comfort in the “almost”. The current level of dissent is okay, barely, but any more and it will be time for a crackdown.

(Via the Corner.)


LA Times shares a planet with Sean Penn

May 24, 2010

In an article plugging Fair Game, the new Sean Penn alternate history movie, the LA Times has some trouble with the facts:

Starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, “Fair Game” is part spy thriller, part domestic drama, and tells the story of Valerie Plame, played by Watts, the undercover CIA operative whose name was leaked to the media by the Bush White House in an effort to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson (Penn). Wilson had publicly accused the administration of misrepresenting evidence of an Iraqi nuclear arms program in the run-up to the Iraq war. The administration retaliated by “outing” his wife as a CIA operative, ruining her career and, some argued, violating a law that forbids exposing CIA agents on the grounds it jeopardizes the lives of field agents.

Let’s see: Plame’s name was not leaked by anyone at the White House, but rather by Richard Armitage, who worked at the State Department. Armitage was a moderate and leaked her name accidentally, rather than out of any effort to punish anyone. It’s true that Wilson made various public allegations, but the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan report found that he lied. And, it’s awfully rich for the left to pretend, in this one case only, that they care about exposing the identities of CIA agents.

As they say, everything is spot on aside from that.

(Previous post.) (Via Big Government.)


Thomas Friedman: idiot

May 24, 2010

Thomas Friedman continues to fantasize about fascism. Well, at least he’s consistent.

Seriously, why do people pay attention to this guy?

UPDATE: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell agrees that we should be China for a day.

UPDATE: By the way, how on earth does Friedman think that limiting our dictator to a single day is going to protect democracy? One day is enough. The first time the Venezuelan legislature made Hugo Chavez a dictator, he issued all his decrees in one month. The second time he issued all his decrees in a single day.


Opposition to Obamacare spikes

May 24, 2010

Rasmussen reports that opposition to Obamacare is nearing two-thirds:

Support for repeal of the new national health care plan has jumped to its highest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 63% of U.S. voters now favor repeal of the plan passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in March. Prior to today, weekly polling had shown support for repeal ranging from 54% to 58%.

Currently, just 32% oppose repeal.

Interestingly, strong support for repeal is holding steady at a near majority (46%). Weak opposition to repeal is also holding steady at hardly anyone (7%). The shift comes from a big drop in strong opposition to repeal, which fell from a third to a quarter, and a corresponding rise in weak support for repeal. Thus, it seems as though the key support for health care nationalization is eroding.

The shift could be explained by some major recent revelations that Obamacare is even worse than previously thought. On the other hand, it could be just a polling blip. If opposition falls back into the 54-58% range, you can count on the media reporting it as softening opposition.


Make them stop

May 24, 2010

The Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to ban manufacture and sale of drop-side cribs. But even that’s not enough for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who wants to get rid of the existing ones too.


Network neutrality: two proposals

May 23, 2010

In my last post, I argued that the network-neutrality proposal being pushed by the FCC is deliberately vague, and would give the FCC the power to do whatever it feels like. Consequently, to avoid costly litigation, ISPs would find it necessary to treat all packets identically, despite claims that the proposal would not do so.

I framed my post as a response to an open letter to the FCC written by Vint Cerf (often called the “father of the internet”) and others. Yesterday, Cerf (or someone identifying himself as him) wrote me to say:

Your blog offers nothing constructive. Have you a proposition?

Thanks for asking! Yes. I have two proposals. The first one will be no surprise to regular readers of this space, but I suspect that Cerf is not, so I’ll go through that one first.

My first proposal is: let people do what they want. The broadband providers own the wire/fiber; let them use it as they see fit. If they do something stupid, like block access to certain sites, allow the market to punish them accordingly. This proposal is very easy to implement, as it means preserving the status quo.

As I’ve written before, the threat of broadband providers shaking down content providers and blocking their sites if they don’t pay is entirely hypothetical. (The threat of government overreach, on other hand, is not.) No broadband provider is doing this now, and I see the likelihood of anyone doing it in the future as very slim. One reason providers are unlikely to try such a thing is the history of the Comcast incident. Some people suggest that the incident proves that the broadband companies are a danger to the free flow of information. Actually, the incident proves just the opposite. (First of all, Comcast was trying to improve user performance, and was simply doing it in a stupid way, but that’s not the point. The market does not require that participants be angels, which they most certainly are not.) Customers got angry when they found out that Comcast was throttling BitTorrent, and Comcast was forced to back down. The market process worked exactly as it is supposed to.

I don’t personally see the need for more than this, but many people do. Some simply want to extend government control over the internet, but others are in earnest.

For people in the latter category, I have a second suggestion: Use the power of the market to force broadband providers to commit to neutrality. The best way to do this would have been to trademark the term “internet” and not permit a broadband provider to use the term unless they abide by standards from some established body like the IETF. That way, network neutrality could be enacted by that standards body. Its decisions would be unlikely to stifle innovation because (1) it’s an open body, (2) it’s not run by the government, and (3) any future standards for Quality of Service would probably go through that body anyway.

Importantly, any broadband provider would be free to ignore the standard, but then they would be unable to market their product as internet service. In order to make a profit, they would need to convince customers that they were offering something better. If they were blocking sites that refused a shakedown, they would have a hard time making that case. On the other hand, if they were providing a new innovation forbidden by an ossified standards body, they probably could make the case.

It’s much too late to trademark the term “internet” now, but we can still do something similar: Have a standards body offer a network-neutrality seal-of-approval to providers that abide by neutrality. Customers would have to be taught to look for the seal, but I don’t think that would be a problem. If Google and others were to take the money that they are spending to lobby the government and instead spend it to advertise a neutrality seal, I think they would have a very easy time making the sale. (And if they couldn’t, that might just mean that the public doesn’t care about network neutrality.)

The broadband providers would be delighted to cooperate because (1) currently they would all receive the seal, and (2) it would lift the threat of government action.

This model has succeeded in the past. For example, Underwriters Laboratories is a private organization that has been certifying products (mostly electrical) for safety for over a century. No one is required to abide by their standards, but those denied the seal have a hard time selling their products.

So that’s my proposal: let free people do what free people will do, and leave the government out of it.

(Previous post.)


The FCC’s network-neutrality kangaroo court

May 21, 2010

I was surprised to learn of a letter that Vint Cerf and others wrote to the FCC in support of network neutrality last October. Cerf wrote:

One persistent myth is that “network neutrality” somehow requires that all packets be treated identically, that no prioritization or quality of service is permitted under such a framework, and that network neutrality would forbid charging users higher fees for faster speed circuits. To the contrary, we believe such features are permitted within a “network neutral” framework, so long they are not applied in an anti-competitive fashion.

I was surprised by this, because my understanding is that’s exactly what network neutrality is. But rather than argue semantics, let’s go to the FCC’s proposed rules and see what they say. How do you write a rule that dictates that all traffic must be treated equally, while still allowing you to treat some traffic differently than other traffic where appropriate?

You can’t. So here’s what they say instead:

Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service must treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner.

There are two keys phrases here, “reasonable network management” and “nondiscriminatory”. The latter is not defined at all. The former purports to be defined, but the definition is circular and in any case it leaves open the definition of “reasonable”:

Reasonable network management consists of:
(a) reasonable practices employed by a provider of broadband Internet access service to:
(i) reduce or mitigate the effects of congestion on its network or to address quality-of-service concerns;
(ii) address traffic that is unwanted by users or harmful;
(iii) prevent the transfer of unlawful content; or
(iv) prevent the unlawful transfer of content; and
(b) other reasonable network management practices.

So we can see that the FCC’s rule is no rule at all, because it never defines “nondiscriminatory” or “reasonable”. So how is the FCC going to enforce a policy that is ill-defined? The rule doesn’t say, but the FCC’s chairman Julius Genachowski explained at a speech at the Brookings Institution in September 2009 (page 13):

I will propose that the FCC evaluate alleged violations of the non-discrimination principal [sic] as they arise on a case by case basis, recognizing that the internet is an extraordinarily complex and dynamic system. This approach within the framework I am proposing today will allow the Commission to make reasoned, fact based determinations based on the internet before it, not based on the internet of years passed or guesses about how the internet will evolve.

Here’s the rub. Genachowski recognizes that there is no way to make a rule that ensures the good intended consequences of network neutrality while averting the bad unintended consequences. It’s good that he recognizes that, since legislators and regulators typically don’t, but what he proposes is even worse. He proposes, essentially, that there be no well-defined rule at all. Instead, the FCC will decide what’s okay on a case-by-case basis, using nothing but vague principles as a guide.

Returning to Cerf’s letter, he writes:

Many now-successful companies have deployed their services on the Internet without the need to negotiate special arrangements with Internet Service Providers, and it’s crucial that future innovators have the same opportunity. We are advocates for “permissionless innovation” that does not impede entrepreneurial enterprise.

I wholeheartedly agree with the principle of “permissionless innovation”, but that’s exactly not what the FCC’s policy would ensure. It does require that future innovators negotiate their innovations; it just makes the other party to the negotiation the FCC rather than ISPs.

Moreover, while the prospect of an ISP standing in the way of innovation is purely hypothetical, the prospect of a government regulator standing in the way of innovation is nigh inevitable. Those with political connections will have their way and any innovation that threatens them will be stamped out. Today’s innovator is tomorrow’s entrenched interest.

A few brave innovators may try to run the FCC gauntlet, but, for the most part, technology companies will avoid costly battles with government regulators. Rather than innovating, they will simply adopt a policy that they know will pass muster. And that means treating every packet the same.

That’s why Cerf is wrong. His internet expertise is unquestioned, but his faith in government regulators is naive. Empowering a government agency to pass judgement on future internet innovation is a terrible idea.

(Previous post.)

UPDATE: Cerf responds.


A tax credit to oppose

May 20, 2010

Tax cuts for business tend to be pro-growth, but it’s not hard to imagine one that would be anti-growth. For example, you could offer a tax cut for refusing to hire more workers. That would be stupid, right? No one would ever do such a thing.

Well, yes, it’s stupid, but that hasn’t kept Democrats from doing exactly that:

Zach Hoffman was confident his small business would qualify for a new tax cut in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law. But when he ran the numbers, Hoffman discovered that his office furniture company wouldn’t get any assistance with the $79,200 it pays annually in premiums for its 24 employees. “It leaves you with this feeling of a bait-and-switch,” he said.

When the administration unveiled the small business tax credit earlier this week, officials touted its “broad eligibility” for companies with fewer than 25 workers and average annual wages under $50,000 that provide health coverage. Hoffman’s workers earn an average of $35,000 a year, which makes it all the more difficult to understand why his company didn’t qualify.

Lost in the fine print: The credit drops off sharply once a company gets above 10 workers and $25,000 average annual wages.

A tax credit you lose if you hire more than ten workers, to encourage people to keep their businesses small. Brilliant!

The real problem here is nomenclature. In truth, tax cuts and targeted tax credits are entirely different things. Tax cuts are modifications to general tax policy. Targeted tax credits are government spending concealed in the tax code. It doesn’t even matter if the targeted recipient pays no taxes; usually they make them refundable.

Democrats are putting their payoffs in the tax code more and more often because it sounds better to the public to call them “tax cuts” than “government spending”. We need to stop letting them get away with that.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: More here. (Via Instapundit.)


Dodd’s double reverse

May 20, 2010

An example of the high principles with which financial regulation is being considered:

Dan noted yesterday that Sen. Chris Dodd snuck in a (literally) eleventh-hour amendment to the Senate’s financial-regulation bill which would have allowed a group of federal officials who oppose Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s derivatives amendment to quietly “study” it to death.

Dodd apparently thought he could safely do this without affecting Lincoln’s chances in her primary race, but Lincoln failed to win outright and must win a runoff. So now Dodd has pulled a double reverse and issued a “nevermind” via Twitter: He will not bring up his amendment to Lincoln’s derivatives bill after all.

This is all about election posturing.


Ugh

May 20, 2010

Steward Baker writes:

Imagine that data from your unsecured wireless router has been mistakenly collected by a Google Street View car as it trundles down your street.  The company admits that it shouldn’t have done that.  In order to cure the privacy violation, you want Google to:

(a) Destroy your data

(b) Turn all your data over to German government officials

You can learn everything you need to know about the European privacy bureaucracy from the answer to this question.


Tom Shales is confused

May 19, 2010

The Washington Post’s army of editors and fact-checkers seems to have fallen down when it comes to Tom Shales’s piece on the end of Law and Order:

Fred Thompson, who growled around for a few seasons as a DA and later ran for Congress, never seemed to be doing much beyond playing himself: an old grouch.

Let’s see. Thompson was first an attorney, then an actor (he got his start playing himself in a movie about a case that brought down a corrupt governor), and then he was elected to the US Senate. After eight years in the Senate, he retired and joined the cast of Law and Order. He played the DA for six seasons, and then retired to run for president.

I don’t remember much growling either, but I’ll agree Arthur Branch did have a lot in common with Fred Thompson.

(Via the Corner.)


The EPA speaks

May 18, 2010

Most people use DVRs wrong

May 18, 2010

A study finds that television viewers with DVRs still watch live TV almost all the time (85%). I find this simply astonishing. I don’t even know when the programs I watch come on.


Hauser’s law revisited

May 18, 2010

David Ranson revisits Hauser’s Law in a new Wall Street Journal op-ed. Tax receipts as a percentage of GDP continues to remain essentially constant, regardless of tax rates:


Economics proceeds apace

May 18, 2010

Massachusetts’s health care law is destined to be a case study in Economics 101 textbooks:

  1. Massachusetts passes a law that mandates coverage of pre-existing conditions (and also institutes other expensive mandates).
  2. Adverse selection: People learn to game the system, by purchasing coverage when they need expensive treatment and dropping it immediately afterward.
  3. Prices skyrocket.
  4. Massachusetts imposes price controls.
  5. As always, price controls create shortages. Insurers refuse to issue new policies at the mandated rates.
  6. Massachusetts forces insurers to resume issuing new policies, at the mandated rates.
  7. Insurers post huge losses.

That’s where Massachusetts is now. In part 8, insurers stop doing business in Massachusetts. In part 9, Massachusetts institutes a public option. Since there is no private insurance, the public option is de facto single payer. In part 10, Massachusetts’s deficit skyrockets. In part 11, health care rationing is instituted.

Massachusetts could turn back at any point. But if they don’t, each step in this progression is inevitable. It’s basic economics.

The United States is still at step one. Let’s turn back now.


Connecticut back in play?

May 18, 2010

Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic nominee to succeed the corrupt Christopher Dodd in the Senate, lied about serving in Vietnam. The surprising thing is the New York Times reported it.

(Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: Blumenthal’s effort to play this off as a misunderstanding of ambiguous statements isn’t going to wash.

UPDATE: More. Blumenthal is violating the first rule of holes.


Welcome to the club

May 17, 2010

The Economist reports:

ON A recent trip to America, Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president, could not resist the temptation to needle his hosts. Just before the visit his American counterpart, Barack Obama, had secured Congressional approval of a plan for a dramatic expansion of the country’s health-insurance market. Observing that America is the only wealthy country to lack universal health coverage, Mr Sarkozy sniffed: “Welcome to the club of states who don’t turn their back on the sick and the poor.”

Look here, Monsieur Grenouille Président. America does offer treatment to the sick and the poor through hospital emergency rooms. (And despite the new law, that’s where their treatment is likely to remain.)  If you want to see what it looks like to turn your back on the sick and the poor, I suggest looking a bit closer to home:

The death toll in France from August’s blistering heat wave has reached nearly 15,000, according to a government-commissioned report released Thursday, surpassing a prior tally by more than 3,000. . .

The bulk of the victims — many of them elderly — died during the height of the heat wave, which brought suffocating temperatures of up to 104 degrees in a country where air conditioning is rare. Others apparently were greatly weakened during the peak temperatures but did not die until days later.

The new estimate comes a day after the French Parliament released a harshly worded report blaming the deaths on a complex health system, widespread failure among agencies and health services to coordinate efforts, and chronically insufficient care for the elderly. . .

The heat wave swept across much of Europe, but the death toll was far higher in France than in any other country.

How did it happen? Neglect:

The immediate flush of media attention last week centered on the sexier political debate over the slow and initially dismissive reaction by the conservative government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, much of which was on holiday as the death toll mounted. Raffarin has refused to accept any blame, while President Jacques Chirac was bizarrely silent — and on vacation in Canada — for the duration of the heat wave. When he finally addressed the crisis in televised remarks last Thursday, Chirac avoided finger pointing, instead emphasizing that “family solidarity [and] respect for the aged and handicapped” are necessary to avoid future tragedies. Doctors and health experts, the people no one listened to during the heat wave, are telling a larger, darker story. The heat wave only made visible, they say, a crisis that had been under way for years: a chronically under-funded and understaffed elder care system combined with a national habit of shutting senior citizens out of sight and mind. . .

The majority of this summer’s victims were found dead in homes they occupied alone — or were brought to emergency rooms too dehydrated and weak to be saved. The August vacation period had lowered the staffing levels of rescue squads and hospitals. And well before that, many elderly people had already become cut off from regular human contact.

I hope we’re not joining Mr. Sarkozy’s club. I fear we are.


The State Department is populated by idiots

May 17, 2010

Sheesh:

The United States and China reported no major breakthroughs Friday after only their second round of talks about human rights since 2002. . .

[Assistant Secretary of State Michael] Posner said in addition to talks on freedom of religion and expression, labor rights and rule of law, officials also discussed Chinese complaints about problems with U.S. human rights, which have included crime, poverty, homelessness and racial discrimination.

He said U.S. officials did not whitewash the American record and in fact raised on its own a new immigration law in Arizona that requires police to ask about a person’s immigration status if there is suspicion the person is in the country illegally.

This is appallingly stupid in at least three different ways:

  1. If they want to cite some fashion in which the United States violates its people’s rights, they have plenty of opportunities. Instead of any of those, they reached for the Arizona law, which merely requires that authorities check suspects’ immigration status when they have a reasonable suspicion they might be illegal aliens and it is practical to do so. (And checking immigration status is accomplished simply by asking for a driver’s license, which authorities do all the time already.)
  2. Even the ways in which the United States does violate its people’s rights bear no comparison to what China does.
  3. Suppose we pretend that the Arizona law actually is a human rights violation, and suppose further that we pretend it is a violation on a par with harvesting organs from political prisoners or various other atrocities regularly perpetrated by the Chinese government. How on earth does it benefit us to raise the issue?

I think there must be something in the water at Foggy Bottom that causes brain damage.

(Via Power Line.)


Obamacare will jam emergency rooms

May 16, 2010

Wait, this isn’t what Democrats said would happen:

The new healthcare law will pack 32 million newly insured people into emergency rooms already crammed beyond capacity, according to experts on healthcare facilities.

A chief aim of the new healthcare law was to take the pressure off emergency rooms by mandating that people either have insurance coverage. The idea was that if people have insurance, they will go to a doctor rather than putting off care until they faced an emergency.

People who build hospitals, however, say newly insured people will still go to emergency rooms for primary care because they don’t have a doctor.

“Everybody expected that one of the initial impacts of reform would be less pressure on emergency departments; it’s going to be exactly the opposite over the next four to eight years,” said Rich Dallam, a healthcare partner at the architectural firm NBBJ, which designs healthcare facilities.

“We don’t have the primary care infrastructure in place in America to cover the need. Our clients are looking at and preparing for more emergency department volume, not less,” he said.

This is not a hypothetical; it’s exactly what happened in Massachusetts:

Massachusetts in 2006 created near-universal coverage for residents, which was supposed to ease the traffic in hospital emergency rooms.

But a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians found that nearly two-thirds of the state’s residents say emergency department wait times have either increased or remained the same.

A February 2010 report by The Council of State Governments found that wait times had not abated since the law took effect.

Obamacare is a catastrophe in waiting. Fortunately, it’s not too late for us to repeal the thing and avert the catastrophe.

(Via Instapundit.)


Nixon blocked Soviet nuclear attack on China?

May 16, 2010

So claims a new article sanctioned by China’s communist party. According to the article, the USSR notified the United States of its planned attack against China and asked the US to remain neutral. Nixon responded that any Soviet attack on China would be deemed as the beginning of a general attack, and the US would respond.

I have no idea if it’s true or not, but it’s very interesting.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: More here.


Obama losing ground with US Jews?

May 16, 2010

I agree with Weasel Zippers that the best explanation for this story is President Obama is losing ground with American Jews:

The Obama administration has “screwed up the messaging” about its support for Israel over the past 14 months, and it will take “more than one month to make up for 14 months,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said on Thursday to a group of rabbis called together for a meeting in the White House.

The administration is obviously not concerned with Israeli opinion. Israeli opinion on Obama fell to within the margin-of-error of zero nearly nine months ago, but that brought about no effort to improve the “messaging”. In fact, Obama delivered his most overt slight yet to Israel just two months ago.


Chutzpah

May 15, 2010

The Finger-Pointer-in-Chief says:

“I will not tolerate any more finger pointing.”

I suppose he means finger pointing by other people.


Heh

May 15, 2010

(Via Hot Air.)

Some more serious thoughts along these lines here.


The Democratic definition of “entrepreneur”

May 15, 2010

Nancy Pelosi says the health care nationalization bill is “entrepreneurial”, because under it you can quit your job and still have health care.

Being a real entrepreneur is much, much harder under Obamacare because of the strangling web of regulations, mandates, and taxes. But to Nancy Pelosi, an “entrepreneur” is anyone without a real job.


Don’t be evil

May 15, 2010

Google has been collecting data on internet traffic passing over personal wi-fi networks:

Google Inc. said an internal investigation has discovered that the roving vans the company uses to create its online mapping services were mistakenly collecting data about websites people were visiting over wireless networks.

The Internet giant said it would stop collecting Wi-Fi data from its StreetView vans, which workers drive to capture street images and to locate Wi-Fi networks. The company said it would dispose of the data it had accidentally collected.

Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research for Google, wrote in a blog post that the company uncovered the mistake while responding to a German data-protection agency’s request for it to audit the Wi-Fi data, amid mounting concerns that Google’s practices violated users’ privacy.

Google had previously said it was collecting the location of Wi-Fi hot spots from its StreetView vehicles, but not the information being transmitted over those networks by users.

“It’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) Wi-Fi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products,” wrote Mr. Eustace. “We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake.”

They say it was accidental, and maybe it was (although we have no way to know). But that doesn’t let them off the hook. Even in the most benign reading, this is a company that collects so much data that it can accidentally spy on you.

I also think they need to explain in greater detail how they are going to dispose of the data.


Holder hasn’t read Arizona law

May 14, 2010

In the Obama administration, knowing what you’re talking about is optional:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who has been critical of Arizona’s new immigration law, said Thursday he hasn’t yet read the law and is going by what he’s read in newspapers or seen on television.

Mr. Holder is conducting a review of the law, at President Obama’s request, to see if the federal government should challenge it in court. He said he expects he will read the law by the time his staff briefs him on their conclusions.

“I’ve just expressed concerns on the basis of what I’ve heard about the law. But I’m not in a position to say at this point, not having read the law, not having had the chance to interact with people are doing the review, exactly what my position is,” Mr. Holder told the House Judiciary Committee.

This weekend Mr. Holder told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that the Arizona law “has the possibility of leading to racial profiling.” He had earlier called the law’s passage “unfortunate,” and questioned whether the law was unconstitutional because it tried to assume powers that may be reserved for the federal government.

The law that he hasn’t had time to read is all of 18 pages long.

(Via Hot Air.)


Budget deficit balloons

May 12, 2010

AFP reports:

The US government suffered a wider-than-expected budget deficit of 82.69 billion dollars in April, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. It was nearly four times the deficit chalked up a year earlier and the largest ever recorded in April. Most analysts had expected the April deficit, the 19th consecutive month of federal red ink, to be about 52 billion dollars. . .

“The federal government normally runs a surplus during April because of personal income-tax payments but is running a deficit now because of the recovery from the recession and the policy response,” said Augustine Faucher, director of macroeconomics research for Moody’s Economy.com.

That’s 59% higher than projected, and what’s particularly appalling is April includes tax day.


US still has no interrogation capacity

May 12, 2010

Over a year after President Obama disbanded the CIA’s interrogation program, we still have nothing to replace it:

In February 2009, after two wars and years of confusion over the best way to interrogate a terrorist, the U.S. created a special unit called the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) to relearn how to get critical information from suspects in custody.

Fifteen months later and in the wake of the failed car-bombing in Times Square, the question now is: where are they?

The HIG was supposed to bring together all that the U.S. had learned about getting prisoners to talk, the intent being to make the nation’s intelligence sector more effective. Based on a recommendation by a fact-finding intelligence panel, it was to be an interagency group staffed by the best interrogators in government — with broad powers to travel and decide interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis.

More importantly, the HIG was to report directly to the National Security Council — ending a longtime bureaucratic war between the CIA and the FBI over who would control interrogations, a battle that had damaged intelligence operations.

Now, after a rocky start, sources say the secretive unit is almost up and running. But just how functional it is remains a matter of some dispute.

Five months ago, after the Christmas Day arrest in Detroit of the alleged “underwear bomber” Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, intelligence watchers were stunned to learn that the HIG not only didn’t participate in his interrogation, but it was not yet operational. And now, despite reports that the HIG has been involved in the Times Square bombing case, intelligence sources say it is still a work in progress.

(Emphasis mine.)

Marc Thiessen’s book explains how dangerous and inexcusable the administration’s failure is.


Delta airlines sucks

May 12, 2010

Delta Airlines loses a dog, lies about it, and finally offers a $200 refund (the charge to transport a dog). To add insult to injury, they offer the $200 refund in the form of a travel voucher.


No representation for NY-29

May 11, 2010

New York Governor David Paterson (D) doesn’t want to hold a special election to replace Eric Massa (D), who resigned in disgrace in March. In case you couldn’t guess, NY-29 is a Republican district (R+5).

UPDATE: Oh geez. Paterson is going to schedule the special election for November, keeping the seat open for 240 days.


Obama cites special relationship in statement

May 11, 2010

I’m glad to see that President Obama cited the special relationship with the UK in his remarks on David Cameron’s election as Prime Minister:

As I told the Prime Minister, the United States has no closer friend and ally than the United Kingdom, and I reiterated my deep and personal commitment to the special relationship between our two countries – a bond that has endured for generations and across party lines, and that is essential to the security and prosperity of our two countries, and the world.

Obama’s damage to US-UK relations was very nearly disastrous. If Brown had succeeded in clinging to power in a Lib-Lab coalition (which he nearly did), it would have given Nick Clegg a lot of influence over foreign policy. Clegg is openly skeptical of the special relationship, citing Obama’s disdain as justification.

As a minimum, Obama needed to deliver some remarks as he did today. We’ll see where Obama and Cameron go from here.


CBO lowballed Obamacare costs

May 11, 2010

Surprise! The CBO now says that the health care nationalization bill will cost much more than it projected when Congress passed the bill:

Congressional Budget Office estimates released Tuesday predict the health care overhaul will likely cost about $115 billion more in discretionary spending over ten years than the original cost projections.

The additional spending — if approved over the years by Congress — would bring the total estimated cost of the overhaul to about $1 trillion.

The Congressional Budget Office expects the federal agencies to spend $10 billion to $20 billion over 10 years on administrative costs to implement the overhaul. The CBO expects Congress to spend an additional $105 billion over 10 years to fund discretionary programs in the overhaul. . .

The CBO estimated in March that the net cost of the overhaul would be $788 billion over 10 years, but cautioned that it couldn’t make an estimate of the discretionary costs without more time and information.

That’s 15% more than its earlier projection. And note that the new estimate still doesn’t account for worst of the gimmicks: the Medicare reimbursement cuts that will never happen, the double-counting, and the back-loaded spending.

Yep, we had to pass the bill to find out what was in it.

(Via the Corner.)


Fannie Mae gets another bailout

May 11, 2010

Another $8.4 billion, in addition to the $76 billion it has already received. That will bring the total bailout for the two Democratic darlings to $145 billion, easily the most expensive part of the bailout. And Fannie Mae says (p. 13) that things will not turn around in the foreseeable future:

Given our expectations regarding future losses and draws from Treasury, we do not expect to earn profits in excess of our annual dividend obligation to Treasury for the indefinite future. As a result of these factors, there is significant uncertainty as to our long-term financial sustainability.

(Via Reason.)

Thank you Barney Frank! Well, at least the Democrats have learned their lesson.

Ha ha! Just kidding! President Obama last year pledged to cover any and all of Fannie and Freddie’s losses through the end of his first term. Also, the Wall Street “reform” bill does nothing at all in regard to Fannie and Freddie. With a blank check from the government and no government scrutiny, Fannie and Freddie have absolutely no reason to get their ship in order. But that’s okay, because Fannie and Freddie shower Democrats with campaign money.


How not to write a news article

May 10, 2010

This story might be about an outrageous violation of freedom of religion, but it’s definitely an example of bad journalism. Read the story and try to figure out exactly what actually happened. Were individuals at the Port Wentworth Senior Citizens Center being forbidden to pray before meals (Ed Morrissey reads it that way), or weren’t they? The story certainly implies that they were, but it never comes right out and says it.

It seems pretty clear that something is wrong there, but it’s hard to comment without understanding what exactly happened.


The Post moves left

May 10, 2010

The Washington Post is moving hard left:

The once-cautious Washington Post has begun to invest heavily in the liberal blogosphere, transforming its online presence – through a combination of accident and design – into a competitor of the Huffington Post and TalkingPointsMemo as much as the New York Times.

The Post’s foray into the new media world received some unfavorable attention last weekend when its latest hire, Dave Weigel, who covers conservatives, referred to gay marriage foes as “bigots.” But the resulting controversy brought into relief a larger shift: The Post now hosts three of the strongest liberal blogs on the Internet, and draws a disproportionate share of its traffic and buzz from them, a significant change for a traditional newspaper that has struggled to remake itself.

I’m sad to see this happen. The Washington Post has long been the most respectable of the major liberal papers. Sometimes they even deviated from liberal orthodoxy. But that aspect of the Post seems to be dying.

One recent story illustrates a microcosm of the Post’s shift. The Post ran a story about how the Obama administration exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from environmental scrutiny. Would the New York Times, or any other major liberal paper have run such a story? Certainly not. But then the Post sent the story down the memory hole.

I also think that the Post is making a blunder. Just in terms of Hotelling’s law, the Post had a good position as the rightmost of the leftist newspapers. That is the best position to capture a lot of readers. Why would they want to move left, and give that position to another paper?

(Via Power Line.)


Holder proposes revising Miranda

May 9, 2010

I don’t usually play the Imagine-if-a-Republican-had-said-it game, because frankly it’s usually just too obvious. But occasionally something really stands out: Can you imagine the outcry if a Republican had proposed revising Miranda?!

Attorney General Eric Holder said that Congress should “give serious consideration” to updating the Miranda warning which requires law enforcement officials to inform suspects of their rights – including the right to remain silent.

In an interview on “This Week,” Holder said that the U.S. needs to exam whether the current rules regarding Miranda warnings give law enforcement agents the “necessary flexibility” when dealing with terrorism cases.

Holder’s proposal is both right and wrong. I think it’s right to revise Miranda, because it goes much too far. For example, under Miranda, if you fail to read a suspect his rights, it’s assumed he doesn’t know them and any questioning is assumed coercive, even if that suspect is, say, a criminal law professor. That’s just silly.

But that’s an argument for revising Miranda in general. Revising it in the manner that Holder seems to be proposing is a very bad idea. Law enforcement personnel should not be able to set aside constitutional rights (and that’s what we’re assuming Miranda is, if we aren’t willing to revise it in general) in certain sorts of cases. That’s the sort of reasoning we see in the UK, where Parliament has been whittling away citizens’ rights to the point where they have hardly any left.

We can obtain the information we need while protecting the integrity of law enforcement by recognizing that there are two different sorts of agents: law enforcement and intelligence. Law enforcement abides by rules to ensure that the rights of suspects in civilian court are not violated. Intelligence obtains the information we need to protect the country, but that information might not be admissible in civilian court.

When the terrorist in question is a US citizen (such as Shahzad), there are still some problems, to be sure. These are matters that Congress needs to take seriously and try to craft a solution to. One idea would be to establish a “Chinese wall” between intelligence and law enforcement in such cases to prevent the proceeds of interrogation from tainting a prosecution. But we have to concede that we might sometimes have to forgo prosecution in order to protect innocent lives.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration can’t contemplate a course such as this, because they are fully invested in applying the law enforcement paradigm to terror cases. Holder’s own proposal implicitly acknowledges that the law enforcement approach is inappropriate for terror cases, but unfortunately he is compounding the problem by compromising the integrity of law enforcement rather than reversing his fundamental error.

(Via Instapundit.)


Media losing influence

May 8, 2010

A new Fox News poll shows significant support the Arizona illegal immigration law: 61% of those with an opinion supported the law, against 38% opposed. (That’s from the poll numbers; I’m not sure where the story found the number 27%.) More significantly, the public believes by a wide margin (64%-15%) that the Obama administration should wait and see what happens, rather than try to block the law. Even Democrats share that opinion (52%-26%).

Glenn Reynolds explains why this is so significant:

Forget the Arizona bill itself. What this poll says is that despite weeks of national-media coverage that was unrelentingly negative, calling the bill racist, drawing Nazi analogies, etc. — only 15 percent are really against it. Sorry guys — you’re still talking, but people aren’t listening.

POSTSCRIPT: Another interesting tidbit from the poll: The public feels that the main concern about illegal immigration is burdening public services (44%), not taking jobs from Americans (19%) or changing the culture (3%), etc. As I’ve said before, my only objection to unrestricted immigration is that it is incompatible with the modern welfare state (and I’d rather fix the welfare state). The tenor of reporting on the issue certainly gives no hint that a wide plurality agrees with me.


“Unprecedented” screwups in Hutaree case

May 8, 2010

The Detroit News reports:

In a development described as “unprecedented,” a federal court official in Detroit filed an affidavit today with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, saying he wanted to correct claims made by prosecutors in the Hutaree militia case.”This affidavit is being submitted to correct the record, and any misunderstanding (Assistant U.S. Attorney) Mr. (Ronald) Waterstreet had about our conversation,” Chief Pretrial Services Officer Alan Murray said in a court filing.

“Contrary to Mr. Waterstreet’s belief, the court-ordered ‘home detention’ does not allow unmonitored release the entire day,” Murray said in the affidavit. “The Global Positioning Satellites System allows a defendant to be monitored, at all times.”

Murray also said his office has forms and procedures for assuring someone else takes possession of firearms belonging to third-party custodians assigned to the defendants, and his office “has a safe with the capacity to handle the third-party custodians’ firearms, if necessary.” . . .

“The type of electronic monitoring imposed is wholly inadequate to effectively supervise the defendants,” Waterstreet said. “Moreover, there is no requirement that third-party custodians turn over any firearms they have to a law enforcement agency, and no means of verifying that they have removed firearms from the home.”

(Via Instapundit.)


Funny

May 7, 2010

Tom Wilson played Biff in the Back to the Future movies:

(Via Ace.)


Teleprompter considered harmful

May 7, 2010

Are stupid TV people really as stupid as they seem? In the case of Rick Sanchez, yes.

POSTSCRIPT: Sanchez is a bad guy, so go ahead and indulge the schadenfreude.

UPDATE: More.


The jobs report is not good news

May 7, 2010

We are being told that today’s jobs report is good news, and that the uptick in unemployment (to 9.9%) is okay because it’s being caused by people re-entering the labor market. Even some on the right are saying this.

But that story doesn’t seem to wash. If it were true, you would expect to see some improvement in the broader “U-6” measure of unemployment. U-6 includes “marginally attached” workers (those who would like to be working but aren’t looking right now, which includes but is not limited to discouraged workers) and those who are working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time work. In fact, U-6 worsened for the third straight month. U-4 and U-5 (measures in between the official rate and U-6) also worsened.

(Via Instapundit.)


The IMF bailout, or, how to argue that 108 billion equals zero

May 7, 2010

While Congress debates a financial overhaul bill that is supposedly going to put an end to the bailout culture, let’s remember the one-year anniversary of the $108 billion IMF bailout:

Congressional leaders agreed Tuesday to calculate the cost of a new U.S. contribution to the International Monetary Fund in a relatively inexpensive way, paving the way for possible Congressional approval within weeks.

The Obama administration has pledged a $108 billion contribution to the IMF, as part of a $500 billion global boost to IMF resources. The White House has argued that this is a necessary contribution to global financial stability and would send a signal that there is enough money to help prevent struggling countries from becoming further enmeshed in economic crises. Congressional approval would put pressure on European nations, China, Brazil and others to increase their lending to the IMF.

The bailout didn’t pass until later in the year, but one year ago Congress made the key decision to keep the bailout off-budget:

But the U.S. contribution became entangled in arcane — though politically important — budget math. The White House had argued that the action shouldn’t be characterized as a $108 billion expenditure, which would make it difficult to sell at a time when Congress has recently passed a series of multibillion-dollar spending bills.

The U.S. wouldn’t provide a lump sum, but would essentially make a line of credit available to the IMF, which the fund could draw on when it needed to make loans to other countries. In theory, the U.S. would hope to get the money back. So the White House argued that the budgetary impact should be calculated at zero.

That’s right, the Democrats decided that the IMF bailout didn’t cost anything because we were supposed to get all the money back. (And these people want to regulate risk on Wall Street?!)

Good grief. The IMF is sending $40 billion to Greece. (Our share is about $6.8 billion.) Whatever you think of the chances of Greece righting their ship, you have to imagine there’s at least a decent chance that the IMF is never going to see that money again. Our risk is not zero. Not even close.

POSTSCRIPT: One might have thought that a $108 billion off-budget bailout of foreign countries would have been a tough bill to pass, but the Democrats thought of that. They voted to attach the bailout to the troop funding bill.


Reclassification is a go

May 7, 2010

If I’m understanding this WSJ story right, the FCC really is going to go ahead and claim that the internet is a telephone system so they can regulate it.

(Previous post.)

UPDATE: More here.


CNN: lazy or dishonest?

May 7, 2010

Peter Weiss says a recent CNN story on medical tourism is completely bogus:

CNN reports a man couldn’t find a better quote for his surgery than a price ten times higher than the going rate. This is bad enough to put all CNN health reporting in question.

I can’t verify the details, but one can’t help noticing that CNN didn’t actually report anything about the price of the service beyond what the man claimed. It’s anyone’s guess whether they didn’t bother to look, or suppressed what they found.

(Via Instapundit.)


1099s for everyone!

May 6, 2010

Another hidden provision in the health care nationalization bill adds a massive new tax compliance burden:

An all-but-overlooked provision of the health reform law is threatening to swamp U.S. businesses with a flood of new tax paperwork.

Section 9006 of the health care bill — just a few lines buried in the 2,409-page document — mandates that beginning in 2012 all companies will have to issue 1099 tax forms not just to contract workers but to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year.

The stealth change radically alters the nature of 1099s and means businesses will have to issue millions of new tax documents each year. . . Under the new rules, if a freelance designer buys a new iMac from the Apple Store, they’ll have to send Apple a 1099. A laundromat that buys soap each week from a local distributor will have to send the supplier a 1099 at the end of the year tallying up their purchases.

This is so costly, and so unnecessary, it’s doesn’t seem possible for it to be in good faith. Mark Tapscott’s theory that this is a first step toward a VAT seems plausible.

(Via the Corner.)


You’re not fooling us

May 6, 2010

A Rasmussen poll finds that the public is wise to the debt commission:

Only 18% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to lower the federal budget deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Sixty-nine percent (69%) are not willing to have their taxes raised to deal with deficits that are projected to rise to historic levels over the next decade. . .

But most voters think President Obama’s new bipartisan deficit reduction commission is more likely to recommend tax increases than spending cuts to meet the growing deficit, and 78% expect Congress to raise taxes if the commission recommends it.

Even if the president and Congress raise taxes to reduce the federal deficit, 58% of voters think they are more likely to spend the money on new government programs.

(Emphasis mine.)

I find that last finding interesting and a little surprising. A majority understands what is going on here: the purpose of the commission is not to cut the deficit; it’s purpose is to get a VAT in place to fund a further expansion of government.

(Via Instapundit.)


Obama administration gave BP a pass

May 6, 2010

The Washington Post reports:

The Interior Department exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental-impact analysis last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.

The decision by the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) to give BP’s lease at Deepwater Horizon a “categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on April 6, 2009 — and BP’s lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions — show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the Gulf.

For the record, the Obama administration was in office on April 6, 2009.

Cheap shot? Well, yes. The regulators probably had a good reason for exempting BP, and this certainly was a very low-probability event. (My understanding is we still don’t know why the oil rig exploded.) But if our national practice is to blame the president for everything that happens under his watch, we have to pin this on President Obama. After all, President Bush was held responsible for a hurricane and faulty levee construction in New Orleans.

POSTSCRIPT: Glenn Reynolds notes that the Post has spiked this story.


CNN still confused over Duke lacrosse affair

May 6, 2010

CNN calls the Duke lacrosse affair a “sex scandal”. Wrong. As we well know now, the affair was not a sex scandal or a rape scandal, it was an official misconduct, media failure, and political correctness scandal.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: And not just CNN; also ABC, AP, and the Washington Post.


Terrorist expatriation

May 6, 2010

I like Joe Lieberman and Scott Brown, but their Terrorist Expatriation bill is a very, very bad idea. It would allow the government to strip Americans of their citizenship if it can show by a preponderance of the evidence (not beyond a reasonable doubt) that they provided material support for terrorism.

To lower the evidential bar is a terrible idea on general principles (and is certainly unconstitutional), but it’s particularly troubling in light of the government’s recent behavior in the Hutaree militia case.  In that case, it appears that the government arrested several people for nothing more than discussing their fantasies about overthrowing the government. Unless the government has more evidence in reserve, this people will probably go free. But, if the government needed to show only a preponderance of the evidence, that would be another matter entirely. They might be able to make their flimsy case stick.

As Glenn Reynolds argues,

We need a bright-line distinction between citizens and noncitizens to reduce the temptation of political abuse. This blurs that distinction, which is a bad thing.


Economists: stimulus didn’t help

May 6, 2010

CNN reports:

The recovery is picking up steam as employers boost payrolls, but economists think the government’s stimulus package and jobs bill had little to do with the rebound, according to a survey released Monday.

In latest quarterly survey by the National Association for Business Economics, the index that measures employment showed job growth for the first time in two years — but a majority of respondents felt the fiscal stimulus had no impact.

Actually, calling it “a majority” is lowballing the finding. In fact, 73% said the stimulus bill has had no impact to date. Further, 68% say that the second stimulus bill (the one called the “jobs bill”) will have no effect either.


Dodd-Shelby

May 5, 2010

The Dodd-Shelby amendment to the financial overhaul bill actually sounds reasonable, so I suspect I’m misunderstanding it. Is that overly cynical?

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: Stephen Spruiell agrees that it really is pretty good. Way to go Shelby. It’s a pity he couldn’t fix the rest of the bill.


Now they tell us

May 5, 2010

The CBO says that the Medicare “doc fix” will cost $276 billion through 2020, 33% more than previously projected.


Freddie Mac needs another bailout

May 5, 2010

Freddie is asking for $10.6 billion, on top of the $50.7 billion it’s been given already. Thank you Barney Frank!

(Via Hot Air.)


Bad omen

May 5, 2010

Michael Rubin writes:

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani has called Iran “Iraq’s Real Friend.”

Whenever any Iraqi politician — Chalabi, Talabani, Maliki, Barzani, Muqtada al-Sadr or anyone else — hugs Iran, there’s a tendency in Washington to say “Aha! They were pro-Iranian all along.” This is dead wrong. They’re all politicians and can waffle with the best of them.

The real issue is that these politicians are barometers of power. Iraqi politicians are survivors, and they will align themselves with and accommodate power while fleeing weakness. No one will sacrifice himself to be pro-American if America is weak.

Some day historians will look back and wonder whatever possessed us to work so hard to minimize our influence in Iraq, and the Middle East in general.


Well that explains it

May 5, 2010

Some have wondered Faisal Shahzad managed to board a plane for Dubai after he was placed on the no-fly list. Apparently Emirates never checked the no-fly list.

There need to be some repercussions for Emirates failing to follow the most basic security protocols. I wonder if there will be.


Ah, the civility

May 4, 2010

ABC News reports:

Three days after he decried the lack of civility in American politics, President Obama is quoted in a new book about his presidency referring to the Tea Party movement using a derogatory term with sexual connotations.

Once again, the Tea Party people are much more civil than their critics.

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Robert Gibbs refuses to comment.


McClatchy editor: Congressmen don’t lie

May 3, 2010

Power Line’s Scott Johnson asked James Asher, the “Investigative Editor” of McClatchy’s Washington bureau if he was going to investigate his service’s inaccurate coverage of four Democratic legislators’ unsupported allegations of racial slurs at the Tea Party protest of Obamacare. (No evidence has yet surfaced that supports their allegations, and several videos have surfaced that cast doubt on their allegations.)

Asher responded:

There is no reason to. The criticism is based on a video tape that depicted a different time and not the incident.

One of the many videos of the non-incident that have circulated depicts the wrong time (or so we’ve been told). Those who wish to ignore the evidence have used that video as an excuse to do so. Then he concludes:

And we feel confident that the congress members would not concoct their stories.

They feel confident that Congressmen would not lie. Wow.

UPDATE: The saga continues.

UPDATE: The following videos are really revealing. The first one includes two videos: the Congressmen entering the building (that’s the one that we’re told is the wrong video) and earlier leaving it. Interestingly, only the wrong video seems to fit the Congressmen’s description (i.e., with Rep. Cleaver part of the procession). In any case, neither video supports the allegation of racial slurs.

The second video follows the Congressmen from many angles on their way out the building. (That’s the “right” direction, we’re told.) Three weeks after the incident, Rep. Carson changed his story to say that the racial slurs were loudest when he crossed the street, so it includes video from across the street as well. Again, none of it supports the allegation.

Rep. Carson said the racial slurs came from “hundreds of people”, and Rep. Cleaver said it was a “chorus”, but no hint of it is discernible on any video. Andrew Breitbart has offered a $100k bounty to anyone who could produce evidence that this happened (or if Carson could pass a polygraph). The bounty remainds unclaimed.

Moreover, many people are unaware that there is an underground subway connecting the Congressional office buildings to the Capitol. (I’ve ridden it; it’s sweet. It must have cost a fortune.) There’s no reason why so many Congresspeople would have chosen to walk through hostile, supposedly violent crowds that day unless they were looking for an incident.

All of which leads to a conclusion that is unthinkable (to McClatchy), these Congressmen concocted the entire incident.

(Previous post.)


Har, har, har

May 3, 2010

Am I the only one that thinks jokes about your own misconduct aren’t really funny? For example, President Obama:

Of course, that’s not the only thing that we’ve been accused of socializing this year. You might have heard we passed a health care bill and — (applause.) Is that Roger Ailes applauding out there? (Laughter.) Some Republicans have suggested that the bill contains a few secret provisions. That’s ridiculous. There aren’t a few secret provisions in the health care plan — there are, like, hundreds. (Laughter.)

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: On the other hand, the Washington Post gives Obama grief about how he broke the etiquette of the function by using his routine to mock his opponents, rather than poke fun at himself:

Barack Obama, the Insult Comic President, was up to his old shtick Saturday night. Breaking with presidential punch line tradition for the second consecutive year, Obama dropped zinger after zinger on his opponents and allies alike at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. . . Except for a mild joke pegged to his falling approval ratings, Obama mostly spared Obama during his 14-minute stand-up routine. . .

Obama’s derisive tone surprises and dismays some of the people who’ve written jokes for presidents past.

“With these dinners you want the audience to like you more when you sit down than when you stood up,” says Landon Parvin. . . “Something in [Obama’s] humor didn’t do that,” he said Sunday.

Parvin advises his political clients to practice a little partisan self-deprecation when they make lighthearted remarks: “If you’re a Democrat, you make fun of Democrats and go easy on the Republicans; if you’re a Republican, you do the opposite,” he says.

Barack Obama takes himself too seriously to poke fun at himself. Even his one self-deprecating joke (about his falling approval ratings) was outward looking, not really about himself.

Anyway, just to be clear, the hundreds-of-secret-provisions joke isn’t at his own expense, it’s at our expense. He’s saying “Look what I did to you! Ha ha.” It’s like Homer Simpson laughing about his latest cruel prank against Flanders, or Ted Kennedy telling Chappaquiddick jokes.

(Via Hot Air.)


Yet another UK free speech arrest

May 3, 2010

The Telegraph reports:

Dale McAlpine was charged with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of “sins” referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships.

The 42-year-old Baptist, who has preached Christianity in Wokington, Cumbria for years, said he did not mention homosexuality while delivering a sermon from the top of a stepladder, but admitted telling a passing shopper that he believed it went against the word of God.

Police officers are alleging that he made the remark in a voice loud enough to be overheard by others and have charged him with using abusive or insulting language, contrary to the Public Order Act.

Mr McAlpine . . . was taken to the police station in the back of a marked van and locked in a cell for seven hours.

Sadly, this happens all the time in today’s UK: 1, 2, 3, 4. It’s sad to see the society that invented individual liberty abandoning it.

(Via Hot Air.)


Wall Street bill would regulate the Internet

May 3, 2010

Another power grab:

The Federal Trade Commission could become a more powerful watchdog for Internet users under a little-known provision in financial overhaul legislation that would expand the agency’s ability to create rules.

An emboldened FTC would stand in stark contrast to a besieged Federal Communications Commission, whose ability to oversee broadband providers has been cast into doubt after a federal court ruled last month that the agency lacked the ability to punish Comcast for violating open-Internet guidelines.

The version of regulatory overhaul legislation passed by the House would allow the FTC to issue rules on a fast track and permit the agency to impose civil penalties on companies that hurt consumers. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has argued in favor of bolstering his agency’s enforcement ability.

(Via Hot Air.)


Oh geez

May 3, 2010

Apparently not a joke:

DO NATURE FILMS DENY ANIMALS THEIR RIGHT TO PRIVACY?

Imagine if a film crew, without your permission, stormed into your home and filmed you in your most private moments. Makers of wildlife documentaries do just that to non-human animals, and are denying these animals their right to privacy, according to new research published in the current issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies.

(Via the Corner.)


A shifting basis for Obamacare

May 3, 2010

Supporters of Obamacare are not so confident of its constitutionality as they pretend:

A”tell” in poker is a subtle but detectable change in a player’s behavior or demeanor that reveals clues about the player’s assessment of his hand. Something similar has happened with regard to the insurance mandate at the core of last month’s health reform legislation. Congress justified its authority to enact the mandate on the grounds that it is a regulation of commerce. But as this justification came under heavy constitutional fire, the mandate’s defenders changed the argument—now claiming constitutional authority under Congress’s power to tax.

This switch in constitutional theories is a tell: Defenders of the bill lack confidence in their commerce power theory. The switch also comes too late. When the mandate’s constitutionality comes up for review as part of the state attorneys general lawsuit, the Supreme Court will not consider the penalty enforcing the mandate to be a tax because, in the provision that actually defines and imposes the mandate and penalty, Congress did not call it a tax and did not treat it as a tax.


A ray of hope regarding Iran

May 3, 2010

A couple of months ago, I heard an interview with Israeli ambassador Michael Oren in which he suggested that, in the aftermath of Iran’s fraudulent election, the Iranian people would blame their leaders and not the west for any hardships they faced from sanctions in response to Iran’s nuclear program. This Telegraph story seems to confirm that theory.

Of course, this doesn’t help us unless we can get sanctions in place. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be any prospect of Russian cooperation on sanctions, what with President Obama giving them everything they want without it.

(Via the Corner.)


The scam deepens

May 3, 2010

A Treasury Department press release on GM’s supposed repayment of its bailout debt gives no indication that it paid off only a fraction of its debt, and did so using untapped bailout funds:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced that General Motors (GM) has fully repaid its debt under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). GM paid the remaining $4.7 billion of the total $6.7 billion in debt owed to Treasury. The repayment comes five years ahead of the loan maturity date and ahead of the accelerated repayment schedule the company announced last year. . .

“We are encouraged that GM has repaid its debt well ahead of schedule and confident that the company is on a strong path to viability,” said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

In fact, GM “repaid” the $6.7 billion loan using other bailout funds in an $17.4 billion escrow account. Remarkably, the New York Times is on the story:

AS we inch closer to a clearer understanding of the products and practices that unleashed the credit crisis of 2008, it’s becoming apparent that those seeking the whole truth are still outnumbered by those aiming to obscure it. This is the case not only on Wall Street but also in Washington.

Truth seekers the nation over, therefore, are indebted to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who in recent days uncovered what he called a government-enabled “TARP money shuffle.” It relates to General Motors, which on April 21 paid the balance of its $6.7 billion loan under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. . .

G.M. also crowed about its loan repayment in a national television ad and the United States Treasury also marked the moment with a press release: “We are encouraged that G.M. has repaid its debt well ahead of schedule and confident that the company is on a strong path to viability,” said Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary.

Taxpayers are naturally eager for news about bailout repayments. But what neither G.M. nor the Treasury disclosed was that the company simply used other funds held by the Treasury to pay off its original loan.

Those are strong words from the NYT in favor of a Republican and against a Democrat.

But there’s more. Reading Grassley’s letter (at the bottom of the first page), it looks to me as though the scam is even deeper than reported. If Grassley has the facts straight, by “repaying” the $6.7 billion loan from escrow, GM unlocked another $5.1 billion in escrow funds which will now be turned over to GM.  So after the whole money shuffle, not only has GM not repaid a cent, but it actually ends up with more money in the bank.

So this is actually the exact opposite of what GM and the Treasury claimed. GM wasn’t repaying $6.7 billion; it was actually drawing a new $5.1 billion bailout.

(Via Hot Air.)


What we said all along

May 1, 2010

Obamacare is going to cost people their health insurance:

Documents unearthed by [Waxman’s] investigation highlight companies that are considering dumping employees from their current health-care plans in the face of new costs from the health-care law. President Obama repeatedly promised his health-care law would let Americans keep their current insurance if they’re happy with it.

A March 3 internal Verizon memo on the impact health-care law said new taxes on insurance companies and health-care equipment manufacturers will be passed onto employers through higher prices.

Facing such increased costs, employers like Verizon “may consider exiting the health-care market and send employees to the exchanges,” the memo says.

Under the law, companies would pay fines for not providing insurance companies coverage. But, the Verizon memo said, the fines would be “modest” compared to providing coverage for employees.

In a March 25 e-mail, John Deere’s director of labor relations, Kenneth Hugh, said, “We ought to look at … denying coverage and just paying the penalty … we would need to figure out which one was more expensive.”

This is what opponents of the bill said would happen all along. By the time the bill was passed, its supporters weren’t even denying it. At first they said “You won’t lose your insurance”, but by the end their promise was delicately and legalistically phrased: “Nothing in the proposal forces anyone to change the insurance they have.” Perhaps nothing in the bill requires it, but it does make it happen.

ASIDE: Actually, it’s not even true that nothing in the bill requires that you give up your insurance. If you’re insurance does not satisfy the government’s requirements, it’s not allowed.

Anyway, Henry Waxman started his investigation and scheduled hearing when he thought that Verizon, Deere and other were trying to score political points against Obamacare. In fact, the opposite was true. Their announcements were inarguable and legally required, and we now know they were actually holding back the really bad news. No wonder Waxman cancelled his hearings; I’m sure he wishes he could undo his investigation as well.

(Via the Corner.)


Obama: government good, dissent bad

May 1, 2010

AP reports:

President Obama took aim Saturday at the angry rhetoric of those who denigrate government as “inherently bad” and said their off-base line of attack ignores the fact that in a democracy, “government is us.”

Oh please. The government and its allies have long since learned to thwart the will of the people. The public (that’s “us”) didn’t want the bailouts, the stimulus, or health care nationalization. The government did it all anyway.

But that’s not even the point. Even if we stipulate the absurd proposition that our government always — or even usually — carries out the will of the people, that still doesn’t mean the government is good. On the contrary, the majority is often more than happy to trample the rights of the individual. That’s why the government’s power must be limited, whether it’s carrying out the people’s will or not.

Alas, the mechanisms our system used to provide to limit the power of government (delegated powers, checks and balances, separation of powers) have failed. Today, everything is called interstate commerce and the government does whatever it chooses.

Oh, but that’s not even the worst of President Obama’s remarks:

Obama used his commencement speech at the University of Michigan to respond to foes who portray government as oppressive and tyrannical — and to warn that overheated language can signal extremists that “perhaps violence is … justifiable.”

Back to this canard again. If you’re angry at government, you’re promoting violence. Even if you’re not promoting violence, you’re still promoting violence. (But that’s just for now. When Republicans are in power, “overheated language” is merely dissent.) This sort of cynical attempt to marginalize a mainstream movement opposed to government overreach is a good example of why people are so angry.