The cost of anti-anti-terrorism

November 28, 2010

Take a look at this picture:

This crowd was attending a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Oregon, and it’s likely that every one of them would be dead if the anti-anti-terrorists on the left had had their way.

The event was the target of a bombing plot hatched by Mohamed Mohamud, a Somali-born US citizen. After becoming radicalized, Mohamud contacted an Islamic terrorist group in Pakistan. The FBI became aware of their contacts, and contacted him, pretending to be associates of the Pakistani terrorists. The FBI gave him a nonfunctional bomb and arrested him after he tried to detonate it.

We haven’t been told exactly how the FBI became aware of Mohamud’s contacts with the Pakistani terrorists (and it’s good we haven’t), but it seems likely that the government intercepted their messages. Communications such as those, between foreign terrorists and Americans, are the ones we most need to know about. They are also the ones that the left feels strongly we shouldn’t listen to.

No one (well, almost no one) questions the government’s right (indeed responsibility) to capture the communications of foreign terrorists. However, many feel that whenever those terrorists receive a call from the United States, the government should stop listening until it obtains a warrant.

ASIDE: As I understand it, the law provided that the government could listen to communications between foreign powers and US citizens, but a legal gray area arose because Al Qaeda is not a foreign power. The Bush Administration contended that the authorization for military force, which effectively declared war against Al Qaeda, gave the president the authority to use any means against Al Qaeda (including wiretapping) that it would use against a nation-state with whom we are at war.

Fortunately, the terrorist surveillance program survived, albeit on a shorter leash. (Barack Obama voted against it 2007, but voted for it when it was renewed in 2008.) Which brings us to today. If the FBI had not learned of Mohamud’s efforts, it seems very likely he eventually would have made contact with real terrorists and probably would have succeeded in his plot.

Some earnestly feel that listening to conversations between foreign terrorists and persons inside America without a warrant constitutes an unacceptable breach of our civil rights. I can respect that, although I disagree. But let’s be clear about the cost: every one of the people in that photograph. And this is just one incident.

POSTSCRIPT: There’s one additional wrinkle in this story: The city of Portland voted in 2005 not to cooperate with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Portland is now reconsidering that decision, but even now they won’t admit they were wrong. Rather, the mayor says he feels better about it now that Obama is president. (Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: We’ve now seen the anti-anti-terrorists’ rebuttal. Astonishingly, they are blaming the FBI. They are saying that if the FBI hadn’t interfered, Mohamed Mohamud would have limited himself to writing angry letters to the editor or something.

This is delusional. Common sense should suffice to recognize that, but if not, we could read the actual story:

Mohamud also indicated he intended to become “operational,” meaning he wanted to put an explosion together but needed help. The two met again in August 2010 in a Portland hotel.

“During this meeting, Mohamud explained how he had been thinking of committing some form of violent jihad since the age of 15,” the affidavit says. “Mohamud then told (the FBI operatives) that he had identified a potential target for a bomb: the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square on Nov. 26, 2010.”

The FBI operatives cautioned Mohamud several times about the seriousness of his plan, noting that there would be many people, including children, at the event, and that Mohamud could abandon his plans at any time with no shame.

“You know there’s going to be a lot of children there?” an FBI operative asked Mohamud. “You know there are gonna be a lot of children there?”

Mohamud allegedly responded he was looking for a “huge mass that will … be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.”

To summarize: Mohamud hatched the plot himself, and was only looking for a bomb to set off. The FBI tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined.

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Another blasphemy prosecution in Britain

November 26, 2010

A 15-year-old girl has been arrested for burning a copy of the Koran. But even more troubling, perhaps, is the fact that the BBC story on the incident spends half its text on how terrible it is to burn Korans, and not one word on the idea that maybe a free country shouldn’t be prosecuting people for free speech.

(Via Hot Air.)


Honorific resolutions on the way out?

November 26, 2010

The LA Times reports:

Celebratory bills — honoring historical figures, or a town’s anniversary, or a major local attraction — are a big part of House business. Incoming Republican leaders say they’re a waste of time.

Waste of time? Certainly. That’s why Congress should do many more of them. The time Congress spends on this sort of thing is time Congress isn’t doing any damage.

(Via Hot Air.)


IRS targeting pro-Israel groups

November 26, 2010

Z Street, a pro-Israel non-profit organization, alleges the IRS is delaying its tax-exempt status and may reject it for taking a pro-Israel position. According to the complaint:

The plaintiff in this case, Z STREET, is a nonprofit organization devoted to educating the public about the facts relating to the Middle East, and that relate to the existence of Israel as a Jewish State, and Israel’s right to refuse to negotiate with, make concessions to, or appease terrorists. The case is brought because, through its corporate counsel, Z STREET was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z STREET’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel, and further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

(Emphasis mine.)

If the allegations are true (and they are detailed and specific), this is a shocking, unconstitutional overreach, even for this administration.

(Via Pajamas Media.)


$1.17

November 25, 2010

A new study finds that, since World War 2, every dollar of additional tax revenue has come with $1.17 in additional spending. It’s a “sucker play” to try to balance the budget using tax hikes, even before you consider that tax hikes depress the economy.

(Via TaxProf.)


Troubling

November 25, 2010

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s infamous anti-Israel tantrum at Davos last year wasn’t spontaneous after all. The notion that Erdogan was reacting to anything that happened on-stage was mere pretense.


Remember the Alamo

November 25, 2010

The Texas state police are at war with Mexican drug cartels. Naturally the Obama administration is pulling National Guard troops from the border.


Enemy of the state

November 24, 2010

Mark Ames (I’ve never heard of him before, but apparently he makes a living accusing the Koch brothers of astroturfing various causes, like the Tea Party and opposition to invasive TSA searches, since no one could possibly oppose runaway spending, nationalized health care, or invasive pat-downs without getting a paycheck from the vast right-wing conspiracy) has this to say about me:

Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state: they are against promoting American citizens’ general welfare and against policies that create a perfect union. Like Communists before them, they are actively subverting the Constitution and the American Dream, and replacing it with a Kleptocratic Nightmare.

Wow. Democrats call me unpatriotic all the time (most recently Paul Krugman), but this is the first time I remember being called an enemy of the state. By definition! I would be amused to see that definition.

(Via the Daily Caller.)


Google search bias

November 24, 2010

Benjamin Edelman has done a study of Google search results that he says proves that Google intentionally biases their results. I’m not sure if his analysis proves the case or not, but it certainly doesn’t surprise me. Years ago a friend at Google told me that they adjust their search results to favor certain sites, like Wikipedia.

“People like Wikipedia,” he explained.

(Via Instapundit.)


Krugman attacks my patriotism

November 24, 2010

Paul Krugman says those who oppose the Fed’s new policy of printing money to buy long-term bonds “want the economy to stay weak”, just as China and Germany do.

It’s funny how the left always accuses the right of attacking their patriotism, when they are the ones who actually do it.

BONUS: Tom Maguire points out that Krugman was quite concerned about monetizing the debt when Republicans were in power. (And, back then, we weren’t even doing it.)


The trouble with lawfare

November 24, 2010

An instructive story:

When I was in Iraq, we did not have a single M.P. (military police) on our base. Our work was done with cavalry scouts and armor officers, and they did a magnificent job and took great care in their work. But they’re not detectives, there were no Miranda warnings, and they cannot be held to that standard. It’s absurd. They’re war-fighters, not cops.

I vividly remember the day I learned that lesson. It was early in the deployment, and I had a lot to learn. We’d brought in a few detainees, and I was surveying the evidence packets. I approached the troop’s First Sergeant (most senior noncommissioned officer) and said, “First Sergeant, do you think we can get some more stuff on these guys? Could we go out and interview some additional witnesses? I’d like better Iraqi sworn statements.”

He gave me a look that I can best describe as respectful incredulity, and said: “Sir, we grabbed those guys after a troop-level raid in a hostile zone after riding over and through a known IED ambush. That operation took weeks to prepare, all of my guys risked their lives, and we were lucky enough to pull it off without anyone dying. You’re saying you want us to stop our other operations to plan another raid to maybe find one or two more people to give sworn testimony? People who won’t live another day in that village if they’re seen talking to us?”

I felt like an idiot for asking the question.


Don’t trust Jimmy Carter

November 23, 2010

Michael Rubin notices an outright lie in Jimmy Carter’s anti-Israel book. (This is old, actually, but I’m only now finding it.)


Act of war

November 23, 2010

North Korea is turning the crazy up to a dangerous new level:

North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South’s military went on top alert.

In what appeared to be one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-53 war, South Korean troops fired back with cannon, the government convened in an underground war room and “multiple” air force jets scrambled.


Government nearly reopened oil spill

November 23, 2010

AP reports:

The cap that eventually stopped the oil from flowing was nearly pulled about a day after it was installed in mid-July because pressure readings looked so low that they indicated a leak elsewhere in the system. BP wanted the cap left in place and the well to stay shut, but government science advisers were firm and near unanimous in wanting the cap removed because of fear of a bigger, more catastrophic spill, the report said. . .

Before the cap was put in place, officials had established pressure levels that would tell them whether everything was OK, there was trouble and the cap had to be removed immediately, or whether it was a wait-and-see situation. The pressure readings were in the wait-and-see zone, but political appointees discussed it further and there was a push to remove the cap. Coast Guard Admiral Kevin Cook urged officials to give the cap more time, then Hsieh’s analysis swayed them.

To Paul Fischbeck, a professor of decision science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, this part of the report was scary.

“It became a political decision that they didn’t want to risk having this big blowout,” said Fischbeck, who wasn’t part of the commission. “You set up a logical reasonable process and in the heat of the moment all these factors creep in and it pulls you off what you had logically decided to do. And that is very dangerous when it happens.”

The disaster was averted by one scientist who took a cell-phone picture of the pressure readings and sent it to a colleague for advice.

(Previous post.)


Cordoba House applies for 9/11 recovery funds

November 23, 2010

Good grief:

Developers of the controversial Park51 Islamic community center and mosque located two blocks from ground zero earlier this month applied for roughly $5 million in federal grant money set aside for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

It’s becoming very hard to argue that the Cordoba House project is anything other than a deliberate provocation.

(Via the Corner.) (Previous post.)


Good news, bad news

November 22, 2010

The good news is our government hasn’t been negotiating with the Taliban.

The bad news is they didn’t know that:

For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the repeated appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

People have been worried about a repeat of the Carter administration. That’s starting to look like a best-case scenario.

(Via Instapundit.)


Whoa

November 22, 2010

Every single one of the 95 candidates who pledged to support network neutrality lost.

(Via the Corner.) (Previous post.)


FARC loses another leader

November 22, 2010

Colombia notches another one:

The leader of the leftist guerrilla group known as FARC is dead, after a rebel camp was attacked, Saturday. . . Authorities soon identified and confirmed Ramirez was among the dead. His body was discovered by ground troops in the aftermath, once the area was secured.

(Via Instapundit.)


Caveat emptor

November 22, 2010

The General Motors IPO is exempt from the anti-fraud laws that ordinarily apply to IPOs.


Charlie Wilson, call your office

November 22, 2010

President Obama’s latest foreign policy brainstorm: getting the Russians back into Afghanistan. Sadly, I am not making this up.

(Via Power Line.)


Stupidity

November 22, 2010

John Yoo, in commenting on the Ghailani debacle, mentions something I had not known before:

In the middle of a hot war, though, releasing intelligence can be disastrous, because it informs the enemy of our knowledge, capabilities and intentions. That’s what happened when federal prosecutors tried the plotters of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in civilian court. Al Qaeda learned which individuals the U.S. suspected of being in its organization, so it had an enormous intelligence advantage in planning future plots.


Good thinking

November 22, 2010

The TSA chief disregarded advice to “get out ahead” of the controversy over the TSA’s new invasive screening procedures, deciding it would be better to spring them on the public without warning. He explained:

Doing so would have provided a “roadmap or blueprint for terrorists” to avoid detection by using other airports where the new technology wasn’t in place, Pistole said.

Rather than publicize the changes, Pistole said he made a “risk-based” decision to roll it out first and “try to educate the public after we did that.”

Which might have made sense, if their screening were actual security, rather than security theater. If they actually wanted to catch terrorists, they would look at what the Israelis do. Problem is, the Israelis do psychological profiling, and any process with the word “profiling” in it probably won’t pass political correctness.

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: More on how the Israelis do security.

(Previous post.)


TSA pat-downs will cost lives

November 21, 2010

The Hill reports:

The recent public ire toward the TSA’s new pat-down and body imaging screening methods is likely to cause more people to drive automobiles and forego airline travel, say two transportation economists who have studied the issue. . .

“Driving is much more dangerous than flying, as you are far more likely to be killed in an automobile accident mile-for-mile than you are in an airplane,” said Horwitz. “The result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway.”

(Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: According to a Cornell University study, the TSA’s old inconveniences (far less intrusive than what they’re doing now) resulted in 520 deaths per year of people that chose not to fly. That’s four full 737s.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Refudiated

November 21, 2010

There’s just something about the combination of insufferable smugness and being dead wrong. When Sarah Palin complained about Gawker (some kind of gossip blog, I gather) publishing excerpts from her new book without permission, Maureen O’Connor (the copyright infringer) turned the smug up to 11:

Sarah: If you’re reading this—and if you are, welcome!—you may want to take a moment to familiarize yourself with the law. Try starting here or here. Or skip the totally boring reading and call one of your lawyers. They’ll walk you through it.

The two links were to explanations of the fair use doctrine, which O’Connor evidently doesn’t understand nearly so well as she thinks.

There are four factors that a court considers when deciding fair use: the transformative nature of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the substantiality of the use, and the use’s economic impact. Gawker does poorly on all four (even the first factor, which is their strongest), but especially on the second. An unpublished work is a very weak case for fair use, since authors have the right to control the first public revelation of their work. (O’Connor would have known this if she actually read either of the links she smugly suggested to Palin.)

The story ends with a delightful smackdown for the smugly ignorant O’Connor: a restraining order from a federal judge.

(Via Ruby Slippers.)

UPDATE (11/25): The judge’s opinion confirms my brief analysis; Gawker’s post did poorly even on the transformation test:

As to the first factor, defendant had not used the copyrighted material to help create something new but has merely copied the material in order to attract viewers to Gawker. See Campbell v. Acuff- Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569, 578-79 (1994). As noted above, defendant essentially engaged in no commentary or discussion.

and loses big on the nature of the copyrighted work test:

As to the second factor, the excerpts used by defendant come from an unpublished work, substantially weakening defendant’s fair use claim.

And now Gawker has given up its fair use claim and is settling the lawsuit. They’ve also updated the page to delete O’Connor’s mockery.

BONUS: Oliver Willis — who was probably right about something once but I have no idea when it might have been — mocks Palin:

sarah palin thinks leaking book excerpts is illegal. sweet jesus, she aint quick.

Uh huh.


It never ends

November 20, 2010

Control of the New York State Senate is not decided yet. Democrats can retain control (and thereby keep complete control of the state government) if they win the three outstanding seats. Unfortunately for them, Republicans are leading in two of the three races.

In one of the races, the Republican candidate (Mark Grisanti) leads the Democratic incumbent (Antoine Thompson) by 821 votes. Naturally it’s time for . . . a mysterious find of uncounted ballots!

Usually this means that someone “finds” a bag of uncounted ballots in a basement somewhere, but in the Empire State they think bigger. How does two uncounted voting machines sound?


Another GM bailout

November 20, 2010

GM gets a $45.4 billion tax break. For comparison, the original GM bailout was $50 billion.


Pelosi can’t find the high road with GPS

November 20, 2010

Nancy Pelosi mocks Speaker-elect John Boehner for tearing up on election night.


Napolitano defends body scanners

November 19, 2010

In an op-ed for USA Today, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the controversial body scanners:

Rigorous privacy safeguards are also in place to protect the traveling public. All images generated by imaging technology are viewed in a walled-off location not visible to the public. The officer assisting the passenger never sees the image, and the officer viewing the image never interacts with the passenger. The imaging technology that we use cannot store, export, print or transmit images.

(Emphasis mine.) The last part, at least, is not true. In fact, the TSA requires its machines to have the capability to retain and export images. According to the TSA, that capability is used only for training, and is disabled before the machines are delivered to airports.

Should we believe them? Well, there’s good reason for skepticism. The US Marshals Service has admitted that it surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of body scanner images. Frankly, the Marshals Service is a much more professional operation than the TSA. Moreover, the fact that the Secretary is (at least) misleading the public about the capabilities of its technology does not inspire confidence.

All of this might be tolerable if the machines and the pat-downs were stopping terrorists, but there’s no reason to believe that. As Glenn Reynolds puts it, the whole process is security theater, not security.


A smoking gun

November 18, 2010

Judicial Watch has uncovered a smoking gun that proves that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez was (at the very least) wrong when he testified that no political appointees were involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation charges against the Black Panthers:

COMMISSIONER KIRSANOW: Was there any political leadership involved in the decision not to pursue this particular case any further than it was?

ASST. ATTY. GEN. PEREZ: No. The decisions were made by Loretta King in consultation with Steve Rosenbaum, who is the Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Judicial Watch obtained emails showing that Thomas Perrelli (the Associate Attorney General, which is the DOJ’s 3rd-ranking official and obviously a political appointee) discussed the matter at length with Sam Hirsch (one of Perrelli’s deputies, and other political appointee).

The exchange begins:

From: Hirsch, Sam
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2009 9:12 PM
To: Perrelli, Thomas J.
Subject: Fw: New Black Panther Party Update

Tom,

I need to discuss this with you tomorrow morning. I’ll send you another email on this shortly.

If you want to discuss it this evening, please let me know which number to call and when.

The exchange contains two-and-a-half pages of redacted material and ends “Thanks. Sorry you had to stay so late.”

Thomas Perrelli is Thomas Perez’s immediate boss.

Perez must be called to account for his inaccurate sworn testimony, and with the new Congress, I expect he will be. If Perez wants to claim that he knew nothing of his boss’s involvement in the case, let him do so.

(Via Big Government.) (Previous post.)


Bring on the battle

November 18, 2010

Ramesh Ponnuru says we needn’t worry that 2011 will be a replay of 1995, with the president winning the public-relations battle against a Republican Congress.


Restore the humanities

November 18, 2010

John Ellis writes that we should not save the humanities, but restore them:

It is important to grasp the fact that the cry we are now hearing (“save the humanities”) is not about saving the humanities. It is rather about saving the faculty, who long since destroyed them, from the devastating consequences of their own foolish actions. It asks for a bailout, so that those same people can continue enjoying the fiefdoms they created to replace what once were departments of the humanities. And to respond favorably to that appeal would be folly.

Yet the crisis does need a response–but not the one that is asked for. Now that this day of reckoning has arrived, the appropriate cry should be: “restore the humanities.” That rather different slogan would suggest that we should take hold of these failed departments where enrollment has collapsed following abolition of the humanities, and bring them back to health.


Truth-o-meter fails again

November 18, 2010

I’ve noted before that the St. Petersburg Times’s “Truth-o-meter” is useless, as it grades largely on the politics of the speaker, rather than the truth of the statement. They rate true statements as false when they come from the right, and false statements as true when they come from the left.

The latest example comes in regard to Senator-elect Rand Paul’s (R-KY) statement:

The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year.

The facts:

Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.

So Paul is right. But not according to the “Truth-o-meter”, which rates Paul’s accurate statement as false. According to the St. Petersburg Times, we should be looking at pay only, not at total compensation. (ASIDE: Much of the discrepancy between federal and private employees comes from federal employees’ extremely generous benefits.) Looking at total compensation (i.e., what the employees actually cost) is an “exaggeration of the numbers”.

Keep in mind, if they wanted to argue the point, they have various intermediate ratings available to them: “mostly true”, “half true”, and “barely true”. Even “mostly true” would be a harsh judgement for an entirely accurate statement, but it would give them a hook to hang their nuance on. Calling it outright false is simply wrong.

(Via Mark Hemingway.)


Justice goes 1 for 285

November 18, 2010

Ahmed Ghailani, who participated in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania (killing over 200 people), has been convicted on one count. He was acquitted on the other 284 counts, including all the murder charges. Ghailani could still be (and hopefully will be) sentenced to life in prison. Nevertheless, this result has to be seen as a failure of Eric Holder’s scheme to try terrorists in civilian courts.

Some will try to argue that this result is a success, since Ghailani was convicted of something and could serve life in prison. (For example, Greg Sargent gives it a stab.) But even the New York Times sees how flimsy that spin is:

While Judge Kaplan could still sentence Mr. Ghailani to a life sentence, even some proponents of civilian trials acknowledged that his acquittal on most of the charges against him was damaging to their cause because it was a stark demonstration that it was possible that a jury might acquit a defendant entirely in such a case. Several critics explicitly noted Mr. Holder Jr.’s vow that “failure is not an option” in the prosecution of accused conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks.

(Earlier reflections on the show trials here.)


Chutzpah

November 16, 2010

Charles Rangel walks out of his ethics trial. Then, after the committee convicts him, he complains that the proceeding wasn’t fair: he wasn’t even in the room!


Waivers galore

November 15, 2010

If Obamacare were working as promised, would 111 firms be getting waivers?

Of course, a lot of those waivers turn out to be payoffs for big Democratic supporters, including the SEIU.

(Previous post.)


Imperial Washington

November 15, 2010

It is said that Imperial Rome exported armies and imported grain. Plundering the provinces for the benefit of the capital is a time-honored practice for empires. With that in mind, consider this news: Seven of the ten richest counties in America (including the top three) are in the Washington, DC area.

It’s not our foreign policy that is imperialistic; it’s our domestic policy.

(Via Instapundit.)


Because we needed new ways to waste money

November 15, 2010

Federal government sues itself. Lawyers win.


Are hope and change substitutes for competence?

November 15, 2010

It’s easy to mock the new Newsweek story that asks “Is the Presidency Too Big a Job?” As Glenn Reynolds puts it:

Nope. Just for the inexperienced guy with no management experience that we elected.

Or this:

The 9/11 terror attacks, in some ways, made being president easier. Struggles over education and agriculture that had mired George W. Bush’s first year in office were replaced with just one big expectation: to keep America safe.

This is Dilbert-esque! President Bush managed to do it, so it must have been easy. Oh yeah? If it’s so easy, why isn’t President Obama doing it?

But as much as Kathleen Maloney’s article tries to acquit Obama of incompetence and write off Bush’s accomplishments as trivial, her article centers around one serious point. She recognizes that our government is too big; “bloated” as she puts it. (Actually, she puts it “too bloated”. I guess a little bit of bloat is just right.)

She’s right. Indeed, the unmanageability of powerful central government is a theme that Friedrich Hayek (whoever he is) recognized over half a century ago.

But how does that acquit Obama? Even if we stipulate that the government is too big to be manageable by anyone, shouldn’t he then be trying to shrink it? Instead, he’s hell-bent on bloating it further.

POSTSCRIPT: Underscoring Maloney’s inability to see Obama’s incompetence as a unique problem, she generalizes from one data point:

Moreover, the number of speeches presidents now give—Obama delivered 57 in October alone, (including some fundraisers), written by a staff of seven speechwriters—can dilute the power of each one.

No, not “presidents”, just Obama. It has frequently been observed that Obama gives an astonishing number of speeches. I wonder if Obama might find the government more manageable if he weren’t spending his time giving two speeches a day.


Suu Kyi released

November 13, 2010

The Burmese junta has released Aung San Suu Kyi, for now.


Obamacare hikes premiums at Boeing

November 13, 2010

More premium hikes resulting from health care nationalization.


EU is anti-anti-terror

November 13, 2010

The European Union is working to prevent the United States from using reservation data to screen air travelers for potential terrorists. They are actually making diplomatic efforts to keep third parties (notably Pakistan) from giving the United States the information we need. And they are doing so in violation of a written promise not to do so.

This is an outrage.


Economist still taken with Obama

November 13, 2010

This was The Economist’s take on the midterm elections:

What are these people on? President Obama said that, if Republicans won, there would be hand-to-hand combat on Capitol Hill. He said “[Republicans] can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.” He spoke of the need for Democrats (Latinos in particular) to “punish their enemies“. Where are they seeing this bipartisan hand of cooperation?

Evidently, the Economist is still taken with this guy. They are still seeing what they want in him, rather than what is. Most of America has figured him out by now, but across the pond it seems they are still under his spell. (It’s very strange, after all of Obama’s inexcusable slights to the British, but often love isn’t rational.)


The crisis that wasn’t

November 13, 2010

We’re told that Obamacare has solved the crisis over pre-existing conditions. Let’s take a look:

Mr. Obama declared at the time that “uninsured Americans who’ve been locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition will now be able to enroll in a new national insurance pool where they’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable health care—some for the very first time in their lives.”

So far that statement accurately describes a single person in North Dakota. Literally, one person has signed up out of 647,000 state residents. Four people have enrolled in West Virginia. Things are better in Minnesota, where Mr. Obama has rescued 15 out of 5.2 million, and also in Indiana—63 people there. HHS did best among the 24.7 million Texans. Thanks to ObamaCare, 393 of them are now insured.

States had the option of designing their own pre-existing condition insurance with federal dollars in lieu of the HHS plan, and 27 chose to do so. But they haven’t had much more success. Combined federal-state enrollment is merely 8,011 nationwide as of November 1, according to HHS.

Eight thousand people?! We nationalized our health care system for eight thousand people?!

For eight thousand people, we could have instituted high-risk pools and left it at that. But that wouldn’t have accomplished the left’s aspirations to put the government in charge of our health care.


Why Joe Miller is (sort of) right

November 12, 2010

Joe Miller’s campaign for Senate hinges on getting 11 thousand write-in votes for Murkowski disqualified, mostly for misspelling her name. For example, many people spelled her name “Murkowsky”.

On one level, this sounds stupid. The intent of “Murkowsky” votes is clear. But it turns out that Alaska law is quite strict. It requires that write-in votes write the name “as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy”. It adds that “The rules set out in this section are mandatory and there are no exceptions to them.”

One might argue (and I would agree) that this law is foolish. But it is clear.

I argue that election law ought to be observed punctiliously. Elections are zero-sum, adversarial situations. (They are much like trials in this regard.) One cannot bend the rules with disadvantaging one party. The only way to treat all parties fairly is to observe the rules scrupulously. It is legitimate to challenge the law as illegal, but it is too late after the election has been conducted to challenge the law as unwise.

That said, American election jurisprudence does not seem to agree with me. The law very often seems to be thrown out on the basis of vague principles. For example, in the 2002 Torricelli-Lautenberg switcheroo, the New Jersey Supreme Court set aside the state’s election law (which forbade the switch), based on the principle that voters deserved two major-party candidates, and the decision was upheld in federal court. (On the other hand, in a nearly identical situation in 2006, the courts ruled that Tom DeLay could not be replaced on the ballot, so perhaps the real principle is just to set aside rules when doing so favors Democrats.) So while Joe Miller has the law on his side, I think he is unlikely to win.

Finally, although Miller has a case, I wish he wouldn’t pursue it. I wish he would think about the moral element here. If he prevails to win the seat, it will be over the express will of the voters. Is a seat won under such circumstances really worth having? Certainly there are many that feel the answer is yes (e.g., Al Franken). But I would hope for better from a Tea Party candidate.


Nuclear forensics

November 12, 2010

Scientists are learning how to trace the origin of a nuclear weapon by examining the aftermath of its blast. This is very important, since it seems all-but-certain that Iran will soon be a nuclear power. For us to have any hope of deterring Iran from turning nuclear weapons over to terrorists, we need the capacity of tracking those weapons back to them.

(Via Instapundit.)


Best bill title ever

November 10, 2010

I spotted this one while scanning the list of bills in Cato’s analysis of “sunlight before signing”: The XXXXXX Act of XXXX. Cnet News explains:

It was supposed to be some routine election-year largesse from Democrats: a $26 billion spending measure to aid two of the party’s core constituencies, labor unions, and government workers.

But a watchdog Web site on Sunday evening spotted an unusual feature of the legislation, which the Senate approved by a 61-to-39 vote last week.

It doesn’t actually have a name. Congress’ official Web site calls it the “______Act of____” . . . Elsewhere, it’s referred to as the “XXXXXX Act of XXXX.”

Some say that Congress doesn’t bother to read bills before voting on them. I can’t imagine where they would get such an idea.


Sunlight before signing

November 10, 2010

Cato has an analysis of how well President Obama has fulfilled his “sunlight before signing” promise. After a pathetic performance during his first year in office (4.8% observance), his second year in office was a marked improvement (65% observance).

Of course, 65% only looks good by comparison to 4.8%. And in regards to major bills, it’s almost zero.


Obama abandons Afghanistan deadline

November 10, 2010

President Obama may be coming to his senses:

The Obama administration has decided to walk away from what it once touted as key deadlines in the Afghanistan war in an effort to de-emphasize the president’s pledge that he would begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011, administration and military officials said Tuesday.

And there’s this:

Another official said the administration also realized in contacts with Pakistani officials that the Pakistanis had concluded wrongly that July 2011 would mark the beginning of the end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

That perception, one Pentagon adviser said, has persuaded Pakistan’s military — key to preventing Taliban sympathizers from infiltrating Afghanistan — to continue to press for a political settlement instead of military action.

“This administration now understands that it cannot shift Pakistani approaches to safeguarding its interests in Afghanistan with this date being perceived as a walkaway date,” the adviser said.

Which is exactly what opponents of the deadline said all along. Think of the time and damage that could have been saved if Obama had listened to us at the outset. But that’s just not his way.

(Via the Corner.)


Muslims oppose Cordoba House

November 10, 2010

According to a new Gallup poll, fewer than half (43%) of American Muslims support the Cordoba House project (aka Ground Zero Mosque). A greater number (44%) think either that the project should be moved to another location, or that it should be turned into a different sort of project.

Michael Totten observes:

This tells us two things. Opposition to the project isn’t based on mere bigotry. And American Muslims are not a monolith.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


IG report confirms moratorium allegations

November 10, 2010

The Interior Department’s Inspector General confirms that the White House altered a report on drilling safety in a way that made it appear, erroneously, that White House’s drilling moratorium had been peer-reviewed:

The Interior Department’s inspector general says the White House edited a drilling safety report in a way that made it falsely appear that scientists and experts supported the idea of the administration’s six-month ban on new drilling.

The inspector general says the editing changes resulted “in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed.” But it hadn’t been. The scientists were only asked to review new safety measures for offshore drilling.

The report stopped short of finding that the administration violated the law. It found that:

The Department has not definitively violated the [Information Quality Act]. For example, the recommendation for a moratorium is not contained in the safety report itself. Furthermore, the Executive Summary does not indicate that the peer reviewers approved any of the Report’s recommendations.

(Emphasis mine.) This is strange. Perhaps the executive summary did not explicitly indicate peer review of the recommendations, but the report found (pages 7-8) that the White House reordered the executive summary so that the reference to peer-review appeared immediately after the moratorium recommendation, where originally the two were well-separated.

Thus, after the executive summary recommended a moratorium, the very next paragraph began:

The recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering. Those experts, who volunteered their time and expertise, are identified in Appendix 1. The Department also consulted with a wide range of experts from government, academia and industry.

Any reasonable person would conclude that the “recommendations” in question were the ones in the immediately preceding paragraph.

So how could the IG find that “the Executive Summary does not indicate that the peer reviewers approved any of the Report’s recommendations”? Apparently she puts a lot of weight in the difference between “peer-reviewing” the recommendations and “approving” them. That’s a pretty feeble distinction, if you ask me.

Perhaps Ms. Kendall had in mind what happened to the last inspector general to cross this White House.

(Previous post.)

POSTSCRIPT: Another interesting tidbit from the IG report: The administration has claimed privilege over all the documents relating to this incident. (Page 7.)

Nothing says “we did nothing wrong” like claiming executive privilege.


One step forward, one step back

November 10, 2010

The United Nations has rejected Iran’s bid to join the UN Women’s Rights panel. It approved Saudi Arabia’s bid instead.


Wither the crisis?

November 9, 2010

Jonathan Adler remarks on how the environmental movement is hurting its cause, at least if stopping global warming is really its cause:

If everything calls for the same big government solution, why does it matter what the problem is?  If progressives really believe climate change is an impending catastrophe — not just a problem worth addressing but a potential apocalypse — and seek to enlist conservatives to their cause, they should pursue consensus efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including efforts to stimulate technological innovation or proposals for revenue-neutral carbon taxes (see, e.g., herehere and here).  Yet Hendricks’colleagues at CAP excoriate any and all who deviate from the progressive climate orthodoxy or espouse anything short of dramatic government intervention throughout the economy.  Environmentalists will be more successful enlisting conservatives (and many moderates) to their cause once they become more focused on solutions, and less insistent on government control.

I’ve thought much the same thing myself. The politicians and activists who tell us global warming is a crisis don’t act like it’s a crisis. If they really saw a crisis, they would be willing to make compromises to achieve action. We don’t see anything of the kind.

They don’t offer concessions in other areas, like supporting a pro-growth agenda, in order to obtain limits on greenhouse gases. They don’t accept a revenue-neutral carbon tax in place of the hugely unpopular cap and trade scheme. They oppose geoengineering research. They won’t abandon their irrational opposition to nuclear power. In fact, they won’t even compromise their ocean views to build wind farms.

In short, the environmentalist politicians and activists seem interested in fighting global warming only to the extent that doing so furthers government control over people’s lives. When the crisis becomes severe enough that they act like it’s a crisis, I’ll sit up and take notice.


Ha ha ha ha

November 9, 2010

Joe Biden is holding a closed meeting on government transparency.


Illinois slow-walking Kirk certification

November 8, 2010

They claim they can’t finish the paperwork until a week into the lame-duck session. Shameless. But I guess that’s the Chicago Way.


By petard, hoisted

November 8, 2010

Smart diplomacy

November 8, 2010

Can’t anybody play this game?

Tensions between the White House press corps and Indian security boiled over on the third day of President Obama’s visit, prompting press secretary Robert Gibbs to threaten to pull President Obama out of his bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. . .

At one point, according to Wilson’s pool report, Gibbs had his foot lodged in the door to the meeting as Indian security officials pushed hard to shut it. In an angry shouting match, Gibbs asked the officials if they were going to break his foot as he repeated his threat to pull Obama.

(Via Althouse.)


Strategic cheese reserve

November 8, 2010

Another brilliant idea from our federal government:

For years, the federal government bought the [dairy] industry’s excess cheese and butter, an outgrowth of a Depression-era commitment to use price supports and other tools to maintain the dairy industry as a vital national resource. This stockpile, packed away in cool caves in Missouri, grew to a value of more than $4 billion by 1983, when Washington switched gears.

In 2010 dollars, that’s $8.8 billion of cheese and butter tucked away in caves!

(Via Volokh.)


Above the Galilee

November 8, 2010

If you’ve got some free time, read Michael Totten’s report on the Golan Heights.


Palestinians try to stop rescue of Arab boy

November 8, 2010

Palestinians attack an Israeli ambulance trying to save a Palestinian boy:

Jerusalem area Arabs once again have stoned two Israeli Magen David ambulances trying to help neighbors. This time, the medical rescue vehicles were trying to save an Arab boy who fell five floors from his home in El Azaria, a village between the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of French Hill and nearby Maaleh Adumim.

Magen David medics were resuscitating the youth when attackers began to pummel them with rocks from all directions, breaking the windshield.

Golda Meir once reportedly said “Peace will come when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us.” Rarely do you see that illustrated so literally.

(Via Instapundit.)


Reid campaign violated the law

November 8, 2010

The Reid campaign broke the law by coordinating its get-out-the-vote effort with corporate and union interests.

I’m sure Eric Holder will get right on this. . .


On the Obamacare challenge

November 8, 2010

Ilya Somin summarizes the state-of-play of the challenges to health care nationalization.

(Via Instapundit.)


What we want

November 6, 2010

Less government, please:

A new IBD/TIPP poll on public attitudes suggests that Tuesday’s event was less an election than an intervention: Stop what you are doing; you’re hurting us all.

A majority of the public wants Washington to stop the spending that has exploded the budget deficit. In a listing of top priorities for Congress, cutting the deficit by cutting spending came in No. 1, cited by 53%. (Fully 73%, including a majority of Democrats, said this is a “high priority.”)

#2 was to revise or repeal Obamacare.


FASB seeks to encourage litigation

November 6, 2010

The Economist reports:

IT IS as if every homeowner were obliged to publish a map showing burglars the easiest way into his house and where his valuables are stored. That is how American businesses view a proposal that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) floated in July. The FASB wants to force firms to publish detailed information about what they might get sued for and how much it might cost them. This would provide a how-to guide for lawyers looking for targets. . .

Worse, companies would have to keep an eye out even for the “remote” possibility of expensive litigation: for example, by watching scientific journals for findings that could later result in lawsuits. Then, once a proceeding has begun, the FASB rules would have companies reporting expert testimony on the potential liabilities they face. It would also force them to reveal, in certain circumstances, the amount of insurance they have bought to cover potential damages.


Something is wrong in Philly

November 6, 2010

This is an outrage: Philadelphia police arrested a man, confiscated his guns, and deleted pictures from his cell phone for “being insolent” and refusing to obey their orders. They were ordering him to stop “loitering” at a bus stop.

Note to Philly cops: You work for us. You are not our masters.

(Via Instapundit.)


Cornell and Dartmouth shame non-givers

November 6, 2010

This sure is stupid:

In an effort to spur gifts among young soon-to-be alumni, students at two Ivy League institutions are trying a different approach: publicizing the names of seniors who don’t contribute to their class gift.

With lists supplied by college administrators, student volunteers at Dartmouth College and Cornell University circulated the names of students who had not donated to senior-gift drives. The programs relied on students to single out their peers to meet high participation goals.

Not everyone participated happily. The single student from Dartmouth’s 1,123-student Class of 2010 who did not contribute this year was criticized in a column in the college newspaper and on a popular blog, which posted her name and photograph.

In addition to being wrong, this is incredibly short-sighted. In order to coerce a tiny contribution for a class gift, they are all but guaranteeing that these people will never give again.

(Via Instapundit.)


WMD finds in Iraq

November 6, 2010

The Iraq war documents published by WikiLeaks show that US troops have found several caches of chemical weapons, some as recently as 2007. But (unsurprisingly) there are no reports of any major stockpiles being discovered. It’s still unknown what became of the stockpiles Saddam had in 1998.


Thorium reactors

November 6, 2010

Popular Mechanics has an interesting article on the promise of Thorium nuclear power.


How to stop Obamacare

November 6, 2010

A must-read for all GOP congressmen.


Down memory lane

November 5, 2010

President Obama in January, on why Democrats didn’t need to worry about a 1994-style electoral blowout (as quoted by retiring Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR)):

Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.

Given that Bill Clinton lost “only” 54 seats in 1994, I’ve got to agree with Obama.


Wow

November 5, 2010

The outgoing 111th Congress considered every single piece of legislation under a closed (or partially closed) rule, the first ever to do so. Amazing.


In which I defend Keith Olbermann, sort of

November 5, 2010

Keith Olbermann has been suspended indefinitely, without pay, from MSNBC. Did NBC realize that this unhinged, vitriolic, ultra-leftist was making them look bad? Alas, no.

Olbermann was fired for violating NBC News’s policy forbidding its journalists from making political contributions. That policy is stupid and hypocritical. The reason for the policy is not to ensure fairness in the newsroom, which is clearly does not. If Olbermann hadn’t made those contributions, he would be every bit the same unhinged, vitriolic, ultra-leftist.

The reason for the policy is to give the network deniability. When a journalist gives to Democratic causes, it’s hard to deny that that journalist favors Democrats, but when the journalist’s position is shown only by the slant of his or her work, it becomes disputable. Many people will, with a perfectly straight face, deny the imbalance of the media.

So the policy is hypocritical. Moreover, applied to Keith Olbermann, it’s just stupid. No one could suggest with a straight face that Olbermann is fair. So what does it matter if he gives to Democratic causes?

It does point out that Olbermann is a complete hypocrite, since he attacked Rupert Murdoch, the founder of Fox News, for making political contributions to Republicans. But this doesn’t exonerate MSNBC, because Olbermann wasn’t fired for being a hypocrite.

I’m happy to see Keith Olbermann out of work, but he should have been fired for the right reason. This isn’t it.

UPDATE: As Bill Kristol puts it:

NBC doesn’t have real news standards for MSNBC—otherwise the channel wouldn’t exist. It’s a little strange to get all high and mighty now.


Montana bans payday lending

November 5, 2010

This is sheer idiocy. If payday lenders didn’t provide a valuable service, people wouldn’t use them. And if they could operate more cheaply, competition would force them to do it. (Even non-profits such as Goodwill have to charge nearly 300% interest on these sorts of loans.)


San Francisco bans Happy Meals

November 5, 2010

In other news, San Francisco is still crazy. The city has banned Happy Meals in the name of “food justice”.

You can’t make this stuff up. And you wouldn’t want to.

(Via the Corner.)


He’s just not that into you

November 5, 2010

Suburbanites, President Obama doesn’t care much for you:

Many of the administration’s most high-profile initiatives have tended to reflect the views of urban interests – roughly 20 percent of the population – rather than suburban ones.

When the president visits suburban backyards, it sometimes seems like a visit from a “president from another planet.” After all, as a young man, Obama told The Associated Press: “I’m not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me.”

More recently, Obama made clear that he is more interested in containing suburbia than enhancing it. In Florida last February, the president declared, “the days of building sprawl” are “over.”

His “the suburbs bore me” line was from his law school days. Highlighting that might be a cheap shot, if there were any evidence he had changed his mind. But the quote from February shows that, if his disinterest in the suburbs has faded, it’s only because it has become hostility.

Question: why is so much of the left hostile to the suburbs? In all seriousness, I don’t understand it. It’s not environmentalism; the hostility predates the rise of environmental concern over commuting. Is it just that concentrated people are easier to control?

(Via Instapundit.)


Busted

November 5, 2010

ABC invited Andrew Breitbart to be part of their election night coverage. Then, after — or possibly because of — outcry from the left (they really, really don’t like him), ABC retracted the invitation. They claimed that it was because Breitbart had been misrepresenting his role:

We have spent the past several days trying to make clear to you your limited role as a participant in our digital town hall to be streamed on ABCNews.com and Facebook. The post on your blog last Friday created a widespread impression that you would be analyzing the election on ABC News. We made it as clear as possible as quickly as possible that you had been invited along with numerous others to participate in our digital town hall. Instead of clarifying your role, you posted a blog on Sunday evening in which you continued to claim a bigger role in our coverage. As we are still unable to agree on your role, we feel it best for you not to participate.

But Breitbart released the correspondence, showing that he had been told that the town hall (which was never referred to as a “digital town hall”) would air on the network:

ABC News is conducting a live event from Phoenix, Arizona for our election night special on Tuesday, November 2nd 2010. I am looking for political figures and newsmakers to appear in our Town Hall style panel. . .

The Town Hall is hosted by ABC correspondent David Muir and Randi Zuckerberg from Facebook, as well an ASU student leader. The audience will consist of 150 students equipped with laptops and Ipads who will participate in online political conversations. . .

This program will broadcast on the ABC Television Network, abcnews.com, ABC News Now, and ABC News Radio.

The show will be live on the web and ABC News Now as well as on the network from 4:00pm till 11:00pm MST.

We would love for you to be a part of our program, and please let us know what we can do to accommodate your needs.

(Emphasis mine.) Additionally, Breitbart’s participation was confirmed by an ABC News producer to Media Matters (who weren’t happy about it one bit):

Media Matters has confirmed that noted propagandist Andrew Breitbart will provide analysis for ABC News during their election night coverage.

After Breitbart’s BigJournalism.com website reported that Breitbart would “be bringing analysis live from Arizona” for ABC, Media Matters confirmed his participation in a town hall meeting anchored by ABC’s David Muir and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg that will be featured in the network’s coverage.

Asked about Breitbart’s history of unethical behavior and misinformation, ABC News’ David Ford told Media Matters: “He will be one of many voices on our air, including Bill Adair of Politifact. If Andrew Breitbart says something that is incorrect, we have other voices to call him on it.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Clearly, Breitbart was not misrepresenting his role to anyone. He and others were told that he would be on the air. Either ABC was confused about their own plans or they changed them. Either way, they shouldn’t be saying that “Mr. Breitbart exaggerated the role he would play.” Clearly, that isn’t true.

If ABC News can’t even report its own affairs honestly, how can we trust them for the rest of the news?


Down with gerrymandering

November 5, 2010

The United States House of Representatives is not a representative body. In a representative body, the people would choose their representatives. That’s not how the House works today. In fact, it works almost the exact opposite: the representatives choose their people.

With today’s gerrymandering processes, politicians start with the desired outcome and draw districts to match. Being constrained by the census, they have to leave a few districts competitive, but in most cases the result is foreordained. It’s rather like a twisted form of proportional representation, except that a lot of people are deliberately put into districts that will never represent them, in order to obtain the desired overall outcome.

In the wake of Tuesday’s GOP wave, Republicans now control the districting process in a great many states. The Wall Street Journal predicts that Democrats, now bereft of its traditional gerrymandering advantage, will embrace reform. If so, Republicans should go along.

Yes, it’s tempting to stick it to the other side, now that the shoe is on the other foot, but we should show that we’re better than that. This isn’t a case of unilateral disarmament hurting our cause (as when term-limit advocates observe term limits on themselves and thereby disappear their own movement); there is good reason to suppose that districting reform could be permanent. (Although Nancy Pelosi did sponsor a ballot initiative to reverse California’s districting reform.)

As we (hopefully) move forward into a time of reform, I want to make a proposal. John Fund, writing positively of reform, remarks:

While there’s no way to take politics entirely out of redistricting, its influence can be limited.

Actually, I think it might be possible to take politics out entirely. Here is how I suggest redistricting should work:

  1. The law should establish an objective metric for compactness. For example, the sum of the squares of the circumferences of the districts, plus a penalty every time a district boundary crosses a county line. Exactly what the metric is doesn’t matter all that much; what is important is that it admit objective calculation.
  2. Anyone at all can propose a district map. All proposals in which every district contains the same number of people (within some specified tolerance) will be considered.
  3. All the proposals are evaluated according to the metric, and the one with the best metric is implemented.

In this scheme, parties would be welcome to make proposals that enhance their own representation, but they would be unlikely to prevail. The winning proposal would probably come from a team of computer scientists with a supercomputer.

UPDATE: Gerrymandering 101.


Another gun rights victory

November 5, 2010

The DC Court of Appeals overturns DC’s ammunition ban.


And so it begins. . .

November 5, 2010

Connecticut has a razor-close governor’s race undecided on election day? It must be time to starting finding bags of uncounted ballots.

Somehow, I feel like I’ve watched this show before.


Heh

November 4, 2010

I’m seeing this two years late, but it’s the perfect send-off for the Joe the Plumber incident:

(Via the DC Trawler.)

POSTSCRIPT: Ted Strickland, the Ohio governor who condoned the illegal fishing expedition through Joe Wurzelbacher’s confidential information, has been given the heave-ho by Ohio voters.


What’s to celebrate?

November 4, 2010

When your pitcher has hit the last six batters before finally being pulled, you’re glad to see him go, but it’s not exactly cause for celebration.


Congratulations, Tea Party

November 4, 2010

According to NBC (as related in the Atlantic; I couldn’t find the original article), 113 of 129 Tea Party candidates for the House of Representatives won.


What’s $32.2 billion among friends?

November 3, 2010

Oops:

The Social Security Administration asked its inspector general to investigate how a $32.3 billion mistake skewed its statistics on 2009 wages in the U.S.

Two people were found to have filed multiple W-2 forms that made them into multibillionaires, an agency official said yesterday. Those reports threw statistical wage tables out of whack and, in figures released Oct. 15, made it appear that top U.S. earners had seen their pay quintuple in 2009 to an average of $519 million.

The agency yesterday released corrected tables that showed the average incomes of the top earners, in fact, declined 7.7 percent to $84 million each.

POSTSCRIPT: Daniel Foster notes that an NYT column based entirely on the erroneous figures has yet to be corrected.

UPDATE: The NYT has now corrected:

An earlier version of this column incorrectly described the situation of the small group of Americans earning $50 million or more annually. Their incomes declined by 7.7 percent between 2008 and 2009; they did not quintuple.

Still, no note is made of how the correction pulls the rug out from under the entire column.


I ♥ Scalia

November 3, 2010

From the oral arguments in Schwarzenegger v EMA:

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Is there — you’ve been asked questions about the vagueness of this and the problem for the seller to know what’s good and what’s bad. California — does California have any kind of an advisory opinion, an office that will view these videos and say, yes, this belongs in this, what did you call it, deviant violence, and this one is just violent but not deviant? Is there — is there any kind of opinion that the — that the seller can get to know which games can be sold to minors and which ones can’t?

MR. MORAZZINI: Not that I’m aware of, Justice Ginsburg.

JUSTICE SCALIA: You should consider creating such a one. You might call it the California office of censorship. It would judge each of these videos one by one. That would be very nice.


Bernanke starts the presses

November 3, 2010

The Fed is announcing $600 billion in quantitative easing, which is economist-speak for printing money.


The morning after

November 3, 2010

A great night for Republicans, picking about 60 seats and the majority in the House, 6 seats in the Senate, about 9 governors, and several state legislatures. A great night for the Tea Party, with Senate wins in Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (plus all-but-uncontested South Carolina and Utah) and scores of House wins. The execrable Alan Grayson went down to a well-deserved thrashing, RINO-turned-independent Charlie Crist was defeated handily, and the Obamacare vote-switchers were decimated.

Still, I can’t help being wistful about what might have been. Candidate selection and gaffes allowed Democrats to keep some seats that Republicans should have been able to take in this year’s climate. And, although it wasn’t a surprise by election day, California’s bloody-mindedness is just astonishing, to send back to Sacramento the man who three decades ago set in motion the fiscal mess that plagues that state today.

On the other hand, my home state of Pennsylvania executed a very welcome about-face. We turned the governor’s seat, the Senate seat, 5 House seats, and the state House to Republicans. The GOP already controls the Pennsylvania Senate.

The high notes of the evening for me were Pat Toomey’s (R-PA-elect) gracious acceptance speech and Marco Rubio’s (R-FL-elect) inspiring acceptance speech.

The most important speech of the night was from Speaker-to-be John Boehner (R-OH). He made clear that he gets it: America did not embrace the Republicans and the big-government policies of their last stint in power; America repudiated the Democrats and gave the GOP a second chance. Hopefully, the scores of Tea Party representatives in his caucus will help him remember that.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru finds a silver lining in a small cloud on a bright day:

Republican victories last night were amazing judged by any standard other than that of the inflated expectations some conservatives had in the days leading up to the election. But the upside of the high-profile disappointments Republicans have just experienced is that they will nip any triumphalism in the bud. If Republicans had swept all before them, they would have entered the 2012 cycle overconfident.

UPDATE: Another such silver lining: David Kopel points out that, given a Democratic Senate, keeping Reid as majority leader is good for gun rights. The alternative would have been majority leader Schumer, who is strongly against gun rights.


Schwarzenegger v EMA

November 2, 2010

In non-election news, the Supreme Court today heard argument on whether video games are protected speech.


Whoa

November 2, 2010

UPDATE: The Pentagon says this isn’t true. They won’t say how much it will cost, though.

The president’s trip to India is going to cost $200 million per day.

There’s no question that the president needs to travel, and he certainly has fences to mend with India, but does it really have to cost that much? Andy McCarthy notes that in 2000, a multi-country Asia trip by Bill Clinton cost $50 million total.


The enthusiasm gap

November 2, 2010

One last poll before the election (hopefully) concludes tonight: A Gallup poll finds the greatest enthusiasm gap between parties on record. In the wave years of 1994 and 2006, the enthusiasm gap was 9 points. This year, the gap is 19.

For the past few months, the Democrats have been openly pandering to their base, trying to gin up their base. It appears that their efforts have backfired, galvanizing the opposition more than their own side.

(Via Campaign Spot.)


No on 19

November 1, 2010

At the eleventh hour, I just learned some troubling information about California’s proposition 19. It would not only make marijuana legal, which I support, but it would also make marijuana smokers a protected class. It would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against pot smokers — even for smoking on the job — unless they could prove that smoking pot impaired their job performance. Employers should not have to go through that kind of rigmarole to hire clean and sober workers.

As a libertarian, I have to urge a no on 19. Pity.


Prediction

November 1, 2010

My final prediction for today’s election: In the House, Republicans will win a lot of new seats and take control of the chamber. (I don’t follow the House enough to guess a specific number, but with a 12-point advantage on the generic ballot, it’s not going to be close.) In the Senate, Republicans will keep all their seats, and win Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, for a net gain of eight. Dino Rossi (the Republican) will lead narrowly in Washington on election night, but Washington’s Democratic fraud machine will ultimately carry Murray to victory.

UPDATE: Pretty close. The biggest surprises were Colorado (which I expected to win), Pennsylvania (which was closer than I expected), and Illinois (which I expected to be closer). In the House, we did indeed win big. Although I didn’t have the guts to say it, I was expected 60-65 pick-ups, and it appears as though that estimate was maybe a hair low.


Dems outspend GOP in House races

November 1, 2010

Wait a second, this doesn’t fit the narrative:

Democratic candidates and their allies spent $142 million on television advertising across all House races in the general election, compared with $119 million by Republican candidates and their backers. In the Senate, Republican candidates and their allies outspent Democrats, $159 million to $120 million.

The Democratic advantage on television spending in House races was something of a revelation, given all the attention that has been garnered this year by the staggering expenditures by Republican-oriented independent groups after a Supreme Court ruling in January that lifted restrictions on corporate political spending.

But it appears that the Republican-leaning groups were able to make a significant impact in many House races by leveling the playing field for underfinanced Republican challengers, who in previous elections might have had little chance against Democratic incumbents.

In other words, the narrative was BS.

(Via Hot Air.)


It’s all in the reflexes

November 1, 2010

President Obama says that “the other side” (presumably Republicans) isn’t interested in fighting AIDS:

We’re funding global AIDS. And the other side is not. So I don’t know why you think this is a useful strategy to take. I think it would make a lot more sense for you guys to go to the folks who aren’t interested in funding global AIDS and chant at that rally, because we’re trying to focus on figuring out how to finance the things that you want financed, all right?

This is a bizarre attack, since President Bush launched a huge, well-regarded campaign against AIDS in Africa. A peer-reviewed academic study found that the campaign saved over a million lives.

Is Obama simply ignorant of Bush’s achievements fighting AIDS? No, he’s not:

President-elect Barack Obama doesn’t often offer praise for President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, but on Monday he offered the outgoing head of state accolades for battling AIDS in Africa.

“I salute President Bush for his leadership in crafting a plan for AIDS relief in Africa and backing it up with funding dedicated to saving lives and preventing the spread of the disease,” Obama said in taped remarks to the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health.

I think what you’re seeing here is Obama’s basic reflex. When under attack (he was responding to hecklers), he blames Republicans and the truth isn’t a factor.


Rally to restore fatwas

November 1, 2010

At Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity”, one featured performer was Cat Stevens, a.k.a. Yusuf Islam, who is notorious for endorsing the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie:

Robertson: You don’t think that this man deserves to die?
Y. Islam: Who, Salman Rushdie?
Robertson: Yes.
Y. Islam: Yes, yes.
Robertson: And do you have a duty to be his executioner?
Y. Islam: Uh, no, not necessarily, unless we were in an Islamic state and I was ordered by a judge or by the authority to carry out such an act – perhaps, yes.

[Some minutes later, Robertson on the subject of an protest where an effigy of the author is to be burned]

Robertson: Would you be part of that protest, Yusuf Islam, would you go to a demonstration where you knew that an effigy was going to be burned?
Y. Islam: I would have hoped that it’d be the real thing

Shortly thereafter, Stevens/Islam told the New York Times that he stood by his comments. (Now he claims he was only joking.)

This is what Stewart considers sanity?

POSTSCRIPT: The rally to restore smugness.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll has the video.

UPDATE: Jon Stewart reportedly stands by the decision to include Stevens.

UPDATE: The site with the article on Stewart standing by Stevens is down, but you can see the article in the Google cache.


Smart diplomacy

November 1, 2010

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley sent a birthday greeting to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urging him to release the two American hikers they have been holding since July 2009. He conducted this delicate foreign diplomacy over Twitter.

In the Obama administration, amateur hour never ends.